Monday 31 March 2014

Story, Character and Contradiction


Human beings are full of contradictions. We want what we don’t have. We get tired of what we struggled to get. We say one thing but do another.

It’s not just people who behave this way, throughout the universe things are happening that aren’t supposed to be happening. We think we know how something works and then it does something completely different.

We like patterns, we like working out the rules and being able to predict events. But there’s always an exception to the rule. An anomaly will arise. The unexpected will turn up with alarming regularity. And when this happens our reaction is to take a closer look. We are fascinated by contradiction and want to examine it for answers, even when there are none to be had.

This urge is powerful and is just as strong in the fictional world as it is in the real one.

Monday 24 March 2014

The Three Dimensions of Character

A well-rounded character who feels like a real person is obviously what we all want to write. Sometimes this naturally occurs, maybe because the character is based on a real person or on an archetype of the genre. In some cases they may be based on another fictional character from a favourite book.

The writer feels comfortable with writing about them because they know exactly who they’re writing about.

There’s no reason why that approach won’t work. Obviously there’s the danger of creating a cliché or stereotype, but even then that can work if the story is strong enough.

If, however, you want to write a character from the ground up, a character who is as real as any person living, yet wholly your own creation, then there are three aspects you need to know in depth: the physical, sociological and psychological.

Monday 17 March 2014

Double Dipping Tension

Tension is an important part of any story. You want the problems gripping your characters to also grip your readers. But tension is not a one off thing that you can create and leave to do its job.

If tension remains at a steady state it decreases over time. If a guy is in a locked room waiting for the killer to come back and finish the job, and he waits, and waits, then he’s eventually going to stop freaking out. He might even get a little bored.

You either have to face the problem (leading to some kind of resolution) or escalate the tension in some way. But even then not all tension is created equal.

Monday 10 March 2014

Motivating Your Inner Writer

You’re writing your story, maybe you’re a few days in or perhaps a few weeks, and suddenly you feel the compulsion to do the dishes. Or the laundry. Or tidy up that closet. And if, like me, you aren’t overly fond of housework or tedious chores, it may occur to you that it’s rather odd that you now feel compelled to do something you dislike rather than do the thing you’ve loved since you were a kid.

Not that writing can’t be a frustrating endeavour, but why would you actually want to do that menial job you usually find any excuse to avoid doing? Why not go do something fun? Or nothing at all? Seems a bit strange, no?

There is in fact a pretty simple reason why, and once you understand it, it can actually make it easier to get your head back in the game.

Monday 3 March 2014

Setting as Part of Story


You want readers to feel like they’re in the world of your story. When the character enters a place, you want the reader to feel like they too have entered that place.

How you do this would seem fairly straightforward. You describe everything the character sees and hears and smells and tastes and touches, right?

But you may have noticed that while description of setting in a good book is immersive and entertaining, when you write something like that in your own story it can often feel longwinded and unengaging.

You paint a clear picture of the world but it’s like you’re not actually in the picture, you’re just viewing it from a distance. So how do you close that gap so the reader is pulled into the setting rather than skimming over it?

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