Thursday 28 June 2012

Give Characters Interesting Anecdotes


If you want readers to know about your character’s past, put it in the form of an anecdote.

Don’t just tell them her parents split up when she was nine, have her remember how they bought her a talking doll before telling her the cat had been run over, a princess outfit before telling her Nana had cancer, and a bike before telling her they were getting a divorce. And now, every time someone gives her a present, she feels like running screaming from the room.

Fact and figures, names and dates don’t mean anything to readers.

Monday 25 June 2012

The Real Reason Writers Need To Read

There’s a specific skill you gain from reading widely — not just the stuff you like — that is an essential tool to becoming a better writer.

Critiquers, beta readers, editors, they read your WIP and offer you advice and opinion and maybe even suggest solutions. But how do you know if they’re right? 

And what about when different people offer you conflicting advice? Who’s right then?

Thursday 21 June 2012

Writing Great Characters


You know how important a great main character is to a story. Sherlock Holmes or Elizabeth Bennett or Becky Sharp. Whether they’re fighting at the edge of a cliff or having a quiet moment of reflection or making a total ass of themselves, you want to be there with them. That’s the sort of thing you want to create, right?

Monday 18 June 2012

What Makes Your Character Think That'll Work?

If a character’s family is in dire financial straits and our hero decides to rob a bank to pay off the debts that are threatening to make his family homeless, you can probably accept that as a plot for a certain kind of story.

However, if you start writing that story with just that information what you will get is a pretty flat, unengaging tale. The key element missing from the summary I provided above is why — why does the MC come up with that solution?

If you don’t know that, you don’t have a story.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Bedding-In The Premise

Any idea, no matter how crazy, can be made to work in a story. As long as you set things up well enough, the reader will buy whatever you’re selling.

That doesn’t mean providing any old nonsense will work, but it does mean any old nonsense can be made to work, whether it's how the impossible murder was committed, or why the billionaire fell for the 6/10 brunette, or the guy who claims victory by using The Force.

The important thing to remember is it’s the stuff during the build-up that will make or break the story, not the explanation after the fact.

Monday 11 June 2012

Waiting For A Story To Get Going

Story is about character. There’s what happens to the character, and there’s what the character does (not necessarily in that order).

Of these two key elements, what the character DOES is far more important than what is DONE TO the character.

Readers want to engage with a character who makes decisions and choices and takes action.

If it’s all about what happens TO the character, then chances are it’s going to turn out to be a boring story.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Writing Websites I'd Like To See

While there are a million websites, blogs and forums offering advice on writing, publishing and what to read, I feel there are some areas of the writing experience that are sorely underrepresented on the interwebs.

The following are some suggestion for anyone out there looking to start the next must-visit website for writers, but just can’t think of what to base it around.

Monday 4 June 2012

A Good Scene Isn’t Written, It’s Dramatised


Every scene has a purpose. Once you know that purpose, and you make sure the scene fulfils that purpose, job done, right?

Not quite.

If a man is needs money and he goes to an ATM and gets some cash, and the purpose of the scene is to get him from broke to not broke,  then what you have is a dull scene.

Whether you tell me about him getting his money, or you show me him getting his money, it will be just as dull either way.

What the scene lacks isn’t purpose or clarity or action or a character with a goal, what it lacks is drama.

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