I am referring to uniqueness. I have written so many nauseating clichés I am thankful I didn’t hurl on my keyboard. Even though there are certain character types, if my readers can’t recognize my characters by what they do or what they say then I have failed.
I suggest that you install some characteristics of your characters into those characters and not into others. Make one tell bad jokes ever so often. Make one more spontaneous. It is usually easier for us to install good characteristics, especially if we do our protagonists. I have discussed it a bit. It is important to note the important cracks and flaws that makes your specific characters good characters.
It may be as simple as a gesture, or a cliché of that character. If you use his or her POV you can really use it to your advantage. When taking age in to consideration you must remember what it was to be a child. Often you misunderstood adults’ actions or sayings. As authors we need to embrace differences rather than strive for unity.
One of my characters has this habit of pacing and another one smokes. Another one seldom loses his temper. Some say stupid things and other are wise. Don’t overuse these traits as they will become your own clichés. Rather let your readers be drawn to a character they may think of more as a person with flaws and uniqueness.
It can boil down to almost anything. A character’s walk, talk, mannerisms and POV (thinking of descriptions and perceptions)
It is how you can be certain that your characters will be remembered by readers.
The Fall Way back in his mind he remembers the
a distant memory like the winter
and the joy he felt when
he sprung to action his mind
wired with springs and steam
he wrote and
and the black on the white
A true time of sunshine…
For him it was sublime
but then his dream came true
and now the pages are paper
and the dates and deadlines
killed an innocent dream
characters lost as his smile fades away
There are so many great authors out there with their fancy vocabulary and writing prowess. Do I really think I stand a chance to compete with them?
Yes, and yes, this may be overconfidence, but I feel like I will. This is not my main concern however. I just want to write a novel worthy of reading. My main aim is to entertain and if this goal changes then I have failed. The money I’ll make will be a bonus and a way to feed the author, but if things get out of control… if I am that good, will my writing diminish? Will I become a cash grabber that doesn’t care about quality? I told my brother to shoot me if that happens… I probably shouldn’t have said that. I just feel like I owe my characters and readers a great story.
So do you think you’ll make it? Come on, just because you aren’t published does not mean you aren’t any good and, no I am not a hipster either. Some popular authors have blown me away. Hugh Howey’s Wool was so good I could not think to criticize it when I read it. I read Killing Floor by Lee Child and I loved it.
They deserve respect, but I don’t want to write like them. I want to write like me. Sure, I will polish my skills, but if I try to be like them there is a good chance I’ll forget my voice. Maybe it’s just the paranoia speaking. You don’t know how good you can be if you try to replicate someone else. I am not saying you shouldn’t learn from them and in fact this is inevitable as you pick up certain qualities of other writers as you read their work. Just don’t forget you… your dream and to write what you feel like writing.
An overconfident man will fail, but try and succeed sometimes. A man constrained by fear will wither away. I bet some Chinese dude said this once. Fine, I made it up.
A fearful writer will often not complete a novel. What are the readers going to say? How are they going to react? While I am writing my novel this question seldom comes to me… seldom I said for it does sometimes and when it does I feel my Writy senses going weak. I feel constrained by an invisible power getting a hold. So I remind myself that I have a novel. This is mine and even if you aren’t going to read it some day. I am, and boy what a story.
Faults entering all reputation. FEAR, it causes more mistakes than it helps. Rather write like a mad person and edit later. Editors aren’t constrained and if you edit you can do it with a warm cup of Joe and a smile, whilst knowing what you wrote was done. You gained something which fear would not allow you to have.
Ask any newbie driver like me how I feel on the road when I drive better. Some will tell me I felt brave because I did well, but I tend to place the chicken first… before the egg (ironic isn’t it cause you know… chicken) The result of confidence is action and we writers know that sound. The sound of the keys. The endless typing to please and to entertain. If you are going to experience fear you better be writing horror and your story will have to dictate this. The truth is that we are all scared sometimes, but also that we must know how much it limits our capabilities. You will never know your full potential, ever, but you will know more about it if you gain confidence.
How does one gain confidence? Write often and I mean daily. Try to write like you are the best, because I know I am not… when I am writing I am. It gives an author wings. Come on people, we authors, who can create fictive universes can’t control fear? Tell me something that isn’t fiction.
I wonder how you are going to react to this post… Not.
This is something that all authors struggle with sometimes, because each author has to ask how much punishment their protagonist can handle.
If you are a thriller writer with a super strong good guy surrounded by gunfire sometimes and tough fights… it really makes you think. If a bullet strikes said good guy, your fictive world’s realism comes into question. How bad are his wounds?
Of course this is not only related to physical scars, but emotional ones as well and let us not forget the goals of the character. How much stress can your good guy handle? Is he the only one with these capabilities? If he is no super hero then there are many ways to show that your protagonist is a mortal. I have run into this problem once. I want my protagonist to take part in battles going in guns blazing… but unfortunately bad guys can aim. I agreed and he was shot once, but he is a man and any man will tell you that being shot is no picnic. So I had to think how the wound will affect his movements and such. At first I didn’t and I said to myself, ”Whoa this guy is acting like a tank.” I finally rejected a few gunfights and focused on his strengths. He wound up getting another wound, a stab wound. The fact is my protagonist was destined to be wounded after all the fights he had been in. I have to keep some things real.
Moving on to goals. It feels silly if the whole world has to rely on my main character considering he is a mere man. He has to share some of his objectives. I have no choice. I make him miss shots and I make other characters complete goals. Even though the POV is usually around him… I want to keep things somewhat real. There is tendency among writers to ignore the accomplishments of other characters and what does this do? It makes your hero look like bigger tank.
Few protagonists have the privilege to act like tanks, because most of them aren’t. Most readers enjoy flaws much more. Sure some characters are wounded much more easily than others. Other heroes, though human can take a huge beating. They may also fight well, but I want you to be careful. I know there is a beloved Superman. I also know that he is not the favorite hero out there. If you created a tank you limit the true emotions your character can feel.
”Sure, you are afraid Little Joe, sure the guns scare you… even though you took out a battalion man alone.”
Readers wont buy this. So you, buy this. Get an RPG or a shaped explosive. Destroy the protankanist.
“Where words fail, music speaks.”
Hans Christian Anderson said this. This author probably had his reasons for saying this and they may not be the same reasons I agree with him.
Leo Tolstoy had this to say about music: “Music is the shorthand of emotion.” He is the guy that wrote War and Peace. I agree wholeheartedly with this quote, because I found it to be true. Many authors listen to music when they write, others do not. I do. I use it to evoke fictive emotions when I feel like I lost attachment to my characters. I don’t need it, but it helps me in many ways. When I am not emotionally involved in a scene my writing sucks. Usually I am, but if I am not I grab my earphones and get to it. Even if those emotions are false or even if they are real, they keep me writing and I find it more entertaining that way.
On other occasions I hear a sweet melody and I imagine a scene where that may work. Movies don’t need music, yet composers play a massive role in most. Sometimes praised and other times ignored. I will tell this to anyone out there that most of the time you get emotional watching a film may be because of the music. Not always, but it plays a huge part in that. What would the Gladiator be without the soundtrack?
I know that I can’t accomplish what composers can to make my readers emotional, but I can do the next best thing- evoke an emotional author. An author’s belief in his characters will probably limit the belief of his readers in those characters. We want our readers to enjoy our work. Though this is only a tool, I will recommend it to any author that struggles to find their work real. Those fictive feelings result in writing as if those feelings were real and this is where readers won’t know the difference. (Many of you won’t even call the emotion of music, fictive)
So with or without music, don’t forget the importance of emotion.
You, yeah you. The writer, the reader or blogger. I dare you to disagree with me. Come on. I dare you to tell me that a certain viral word among writers does not display the plague that haunts us. Procrastination… it sounds so fancy yet so demoralizing.
Why are authors among the top procrastinators out there? We are supposed to be the ones that love are work so much that it should keep us from interacting with the real world. We should not avoid it. If we avoid it, it is a sign that we don’t like our work and I can tell you that most authors do.
I have my school work and you probably have a day job. How should we make time? Simple: set time aside.
“Thanks a lot… you are a genius.”
You do know you are currently reading my blog. Instead of wasting time reading what a random kid has to say about writing go and beat the clock. Should I have said that? If you are still there, here is another tip.
Prioritize, most of the time I see authors complaining on twitter. That is ironic, because not only are they tweeting and Googling too much that they forget the ticking clock, but they are complaining. Suck it up and write. If you want to know why I started writing so early this may be the greatest reason.
I probably have more time than you. I said probably, taking in to account the average age of a blog reader and so forth. I know a lightning bolt may strike me at any moment. I have a long writing career ahead of me and I don’t plan to waste too much time.
If you fall in love with your own work it really helps. I am starting to neglect my TV too often, but I’ll be okay. You know you have a good balance when your wife or family wants you to make time with them and stop writing. If you handle your writing like another job or maybe your only job, it helps. The fun thing is that you have the privilege to love this job.
This is my own title. I consider this my hybrid of plotting and pantsing.
Confused? You needn’t be. I have a rough outline in my mind and I customize this outline every day of my life. That means character arcs and endings are ideas. I don’t write them. I ponder. I only do this because it gives me direction.
Like all good road trips it is not only about the destination. This is where my pantsing kicks in. As long as I write to certain climatic points I am satisfied. I do not want to debate the outliner and pantser thing. I only feel that…we… the grey plotters do not get help. In a way this is better. Does the painter ask the painter next door how he should paint? I am not talking about skill or technique.
I am here to reassure the grey plotters to continue their pursuit of writing stories just as they wish. I tell myself that if I lost a story, I would plot. If my mind wasn’t capable of handling 30 characters, their places, their role and their importance. I would draw a map. The pantsers that fail are the ones who don’t think enough about certain aspects. They fail to do the little plotting that needs to be done. They fail to plot in their minds.
”Now, wickidy whoa, Son, you are failing to realize the pros of outlining and the cons of pantsing.”
Do I really? First things first. The greatest advantage of being a grey plotter and pantser is that I am way closer to a reader than any outliner. I am in a sense the first beta reader. I honestly don’t plan much. A death of a character is as heart wrenching as any of your favourite characters’ on the big screen. I have just as much fun writing as I do watching my favorite movies. If I write a paragraph that sucks. Guess what happens. I as a ”beta reader” edits it on the spot. (not finally, but it definitely helps)
I know hardcore outliners would tell me I have massive editing to do and that I will rewrite it a lot of times more. Do I now? It sounds like the outliners know my mind… when they don’t. They will also tell me that I have a lot more plot holes. Interesting… now stop right there. I told you a great advantage of grey plotting. We are readers. Do you mean to tell me that a moviegoer or reader needs to watch a film or read a book a lot of times to pick up plot holes. That is pathetic. Sure, minor errors will need an edit. Give me a minute and I can write down every single major plot hole of my first draft.
I don’t know about you… but I feel like I have a better grip on my story than many outliners have. Alas, it is only a method. A method I am happy with.
Last time I discussed the hook. Now we head on. The Line (aka the body)
What makes a line stronger than another? What makes it possible for the fisherman and fish to keep in contact? Why do some lines snap and let the fish get away and others don’t?
Readers will often complain about a boring plot or character.The truth is that the line is complicated. A line has to be strong. So what does it take to keep hold of a captive readership? Honestly honesty and creativity and technique. Assuming you have hooked the reader, you need to start to reel them in. Start by making conflict clear and build on that. The tension levels should vary and sometimes descriptions should be given.
Now this calls for balance. I am not going to tell you what that balance should be nor should I as I believe that each author knows their shortcomings. See, conflict is like the good fight a fisherman puts up with the fish. Giving them slack sometimes and then reeling them in.
The reel is a very important tool. For me the reel is my subtle revelations and relationships between characters. If they don’t work my readers won’t bother going further. When I say subtle revelations… this is personal. This is my technique. I do not bombard the reader with details. I slip them in. I give the readers chance to appreciate the fight. Because unlike regular fish in the writer world… the fish really want it. So when the action and dialogue are too much I give them time to relax and enjoy my fictive world. I give details. Like I said before… these fish are smart.
They know what they are fighting. They are headed towards a certain end. The line should keep them interested in the end. “But they don’t know the end.”
And neither should they, but you should give them an idea of what the journey holds. It is in these details that the fish should start to think what is going to happen next. Foreshadowing of course. Sorry, I can’t put this in a metaphor. Unless you have seen a crazy fisherman jumping up and down…
”I’m gonna eat you with butter and bread.”
Foreshadowing has to be subtle. If not, the line snaps immediately and the fish will tell his school not to bite that enticing hook.
On originality. It is not that important. Creativity is. You should show the reader what makes your line better. Throw in an unexpected twist. At the end if the line there will be air and the journey will continue.
For now… keep on fishing and biting.
Guess what I am thinking about… I’ll put it in a limerick
I once saw a man that got his pants in a knot…
he was a writer that started to plot
He plotted away and
got his way
his love for pantsing… he forgot
Of course. An authors blog would not be complete with at least one discussion of plotters and pantsers. The plotters are the people who outline. They create characters and arcs and the story on paper. Without having to put a word into their novel. Pantsers sit down and write.They are free spirited and sometimes too much. Creativity gets a boost. They are renowned for being the ones that will more often than not hit the dreaded BLOCK.
(it does look more intimidating with capital letters) The other valid criticism is that the pantsers have more editing to be done. I guess someone should tell that to Lee Child. He is a famous pantser that has claimed to have not edited one of his novels. I suppose he had not meant spelling as that is mandatory.
I have a saying about outlining and pantsing We all a plot. You may plot on white and I will plot in grey… matter.
So, you got me. I am a pantser. How couldn’t I be? I know it is a subjective matter, but it works for me. I sit down and write. Have I had bumps? Yes, very seldom though. I have not met the BLOCK yet. I don’t think I will. My stories are mere destinations and climatic points. I won’t say I do not outline. I am just good at keeping my ideas safe in my mind. I think about my story daily. So, in a sense it is outlining, but even that is not my secret for keeping my first novel alive without a block. My story started on an impulse. I was inspired by TV and video games. Not even a novel.(gasp) I just knew the ending from very early on. It is something I worked on for almost a year only in my mind.(the ending) I have never written it down. I have never changed it. The ending is my destination and the body… that is my road trip. It is my journey and I love every second of it.
I am not saying that outliners are better or worse. It is just something I don’t want to do. When I write it is like a movie playing in my mind. Outliners are the ones that have the fanciest GPS in their car. Telling them exactly how the trip is going to work, but many of them also do a little pantsing. It is only natural. Of course you get your extremists that won’t agree with me. What I do know is that both types of writers will face the same challenges. If you are an outliner… I highly recommend reading KM Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success. She is hands down the best teacher out there I know and to top it off… a great author.
The name outline can mislead you. It is not the outside that is important, but the main thread. Get a good idea of where the novel is heading. It will be good if you start by thinking of possible endings. Also keep themes in mind. Thus, keep in line. This goes for both types of writers.
Outliners can get caught up in their ways and that can limit the potential of a great story. My brother is a pantser who told me that he is turning. I respect that… from a distance. Doesn’t matter what kind of writer you are. You should weigh up the odds and don’t forget your passion. If either pantsing or outlining is causing trouble in your writing. Stop and search for balance.