Monday 28 April 2014

Scene Simpatico

In a scene where your character gets angry, you want the reader to share that anger. If the character is scared, you want the reader to feel that fear. If a character being interviewed for a job feels nervous and his leg is bouncing up and down, it’s very rewarding to be told by a reader that their knee started sympathy-bouncing when they were reading that scene.

Putting the reader into a character's shoes by having them experience the same emotion is a powerful tool and a great way to form a connection between story and audience. But this isn’t always just a simple matter of describing what the character is experiencing and hoping the reader will be immersed into their world.

Moreover, not all states of mind are equally interesting to be immersed in. An insane character, a disoriented character, a bored character, these can all be accurately conveyed, but should they be?

Monday 21 April 2014

Getting Characters Going


It doesn’t matter what kind of character is at the centre of a story, they will all face the same fundamental issue. Something needs to be done and they have to be the one to do it.

The world needs saving, a toy needs buying, or a heart needs winning, but before you get to that, first the character has to make the determination that they are going to act rather than give up and go home.

Whether they succeed or fail depends on the story you want to tell, but whether they try is not up for debate, because otherwise you wouldn’t have a story. So you have to have a character that decides to act and keep going no matter what. But what is that makes them unable to walk away? Understanding what drives them will provide you with a core element of the character, and the driving force behind your narrative.

Monday 14 April 2014

All Character, No Plot


Occasionally I will get questions from new writers and by far the most common concern plot. The aspiring novelist will have a very strong grasp of who they want to write about and where proceedings will be set, but actually coming up with a plot seems daunting.

For some people the events that take place are the first things they come up with, but if that isn’t how it works for you then having an intimate knowledge of your main character is still an excellent route to working out what the story will be about.

Bear in mind that even the most inexperienced of writers is still a hugely experienced reader. We have all been reading, hearing and watching stories for many years. But while everyone feels confident in their ability to judge whether those stories are good, bad or indifferent, when it comes to our own writing it becomes much more tricky to gauge.

If you have a strong sense of how a story will go that’s all well and good, but if you don’t then here are three steps that will help demystify the process.

Monday 7 April 2014

What Struggle Means For Character

As readers we like to see characters struggle. It’s entertaining and thrilling. But that’s what it’s like for the reader. For the character, struggle serves another, less obvious purpose. One that can easily be overlooked.

When a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, it is frail and weak. But it has to use up all the energy it has to break out of the little prison its caterpillar-self made.

However, if you were to lend a helping hand and make an incision in the side of the cocoon, enabling the butterfly to emerge quickly and easily, the butterfly would die.

Because that immense effort isn’t just there to make life hard, it’s there to give the butterfly the strength it needs to be able to fly. By struggling against its surroundings, the new body is able to stretch and flex and gain power.

Struggle provides the conditioning necessary to meet future challenges.
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