Monday, 30 September 2013

Inside Inner Conflict

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A character who knows exactly what to do and is happy to do it makes for little in the way of tension and drama.

Giving a character emotional and ethical issues to wrestle with adds depth both to the character and the story.

When dealing with the struggle that goes on inside a character there are three main areas to consider:

1. The difference between inner conflict and plain old dithering.

2. Demonstrating to the reader what’s going on inside a character’s head without resorting to endless inner monologues.

3. How do you make internal conflict as interesting and entertaining as external conflict?

I’m going to look at each of these in turn, hopefully suggesting some useful techniques for making the most of this element of storytelling.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Multi-Dimensional Character Building

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We all want to write characters that have depth and complexity. We want them to feel like real people who struggle with decisions and choices, and we want the reader to be curious about what path they’ll take.

The problem is that if you give characters all the reactions and moods of a real person, they can turn into a confusing muddle of contradictions.

Conversely, if you try to streamline a character’s motivations and goals in an attempt to create a strong throughline which the reader can clearly identify and follow, that can make the character seem one-dimensional and robotic.

How, then, do you make a character feel fully formed and yet at the same time easy to engage with? 

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Exaggeration of Story

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Once upon a time there used to be small bookshops on every street corner, run by helpful, wizened booksellers full of advice and oak shelves piled high with leatherbound tomes.

We have to fight to make sure Mr Barnes and Mr Noble and all those other those sweet, cardigan-wrapped, bespectacled and wild-haired book pedlars don’t end up penniless and destitute, right?

Hardly. The kind of rhetoric you hear in defence of the poor booksellers being steamrollered by Amazon is pretty much the same as the rhetoric back in the 90s when those same booksellers (Borders, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble) were crushing their smaller counterparts with huge book superstores.

But the down on his luck little guy makes for a much more compelling argument.

Which is a lesson all storytellers can learn from. If you want to make a point strongly, if you want characters to be memorable and for the stakes to feel high, there is one simple way to do it: exaggerate.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

How to Learn Story Structure Without Even Trying

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Guest post by K.M. Weiland (@kmweiland): 

Here’s a secret about story structure that you may not have realized: You already know it. 

Many authors are intimidated by the mere thought of structure. As if writing isn’t already enough of a juggling act, now we’re expected to also make certain our plot fits into some nebulous framework. It can be daunting, to say the least.

But here’s the great thing about structure: it’s neither nebulous nor difficult to learn. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Make Readers Appreciate The Wait

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Keeping things from the reader is an important part of storytelling. They should read the book wanting to know what’s going on, who’s behind it all and where the story will end up. If everything’s clear from the outset it becomes predictable and boring.

Suspense and tension are created by selectively feeding information to the reader and leaving some facts out.

When done right it makes for an exciting and engaging experience.

When done wrong it can be confusing and tedious.

Deciding how much to reveal and when to do it is a tricky thing to get right. Here are some techniques you can use to help ensure the reader doesn’t lose interest while you dangle bits of info in front of them.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Bad Characters Do Bad Things

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A well-written villain can make all the difference in a story, but does that mean a complex portrayal of a character who believes in what they’re doing just as much as the hero? Or does it mean a guy with a black hat who’s a horrible bastard?

Intellectually we would probably all claim to prefer the antagonist with depth, but in reality people don’t particularly want their villains to be assorted shades of grey.

The idea of a specific, clearly defined baddie is very appealing. Seeing them get their comeuppance creates a sense of great satisfaction. The more uncompromising the depiction of them as evil, the easier it is to enjoy their downfall or even their death.

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