Sunday, January 15, 2023

How Do You Create Characters Your Readers Need to Read About? Be Present.


It’s good to be present in the moments of your life, and it is also good to be present in the moments of your story and your character’s lives. That’s it. You want to communicate to the reader who your character is then what they do, what they see and don’t see, think and don’t think, feel and don’t feel, is everything. Sure, you can roll in backstory, their past, but even here what’s important is how whatever happened in their past made them feel and think and how that shaped them. I had two grandmothers: both of them were poor, uneducated, and married the wrong men. One was bitter and that bitterness filled whatever room she was in. The other was joyous, interested, funny and that filled whatever room she was in. My point: to make you understand each character what happened to them isn’t enough.  To make your reader’s understand what happened to them isn’t enough. You have to show the reader their inner lives.

 

I think you do this by being present in the telling/showing. You try to express to the reader what the character’s reactions are to what is happening in a scene. You get in your character’s mind and you make things happen and you work to make sure your character’s actions and reactions —physically, emotionally, and intellectually— are authentic. That’s how you build a character your reader will want to read about.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

How To Be Prolific

 HOW DO YOU BE PROLIFIC?

You write a lot. 

OK, but how do you write a lot?

You have to focus.

OK, but how do you focus?

Now we’re getting to it. And I have to warn you. It’s easy to fool yourself about how much you actually write. So one way to focus is to document how much you actually write. 

SPOILER ALERT: you most likely think you spend more time writing than you do because all those little breaks, even just looking at your email or going to the kitchen to make coffee or grab a little snack or going to the bathroom TAKE TIME. Your writing time. So be exact. How much time do you write?

There are two reasons this is important. If you know how much time you’re writing, then you can figure out how many words you write, on average, in a certain amount of time, say an hour. It will motivate you to compete with yourself if you’re like me. BUT here’s the more important, in my opinion, reason. You can’t just turn writing on and off like your turn the water on and off at your kitchen sink. Doesn’t work that way. If you get distracted while you’re writing, you lose your focus and when you lose your focus your writing speed and, often, writing quality go way down. When you lose focus you lose momentum.Writing is going well. It’s like coasting down a hill. But you stop. You interrupt. When you come back, you aren’t going down a hill. You aren’t even on a flat straightaway. You’re going uphill. You just looked at your email and you’re going uphill.

Sucks, right?

You want to be prolific? It’s easy. Write a lot. Write going downhill. Don’t allow interruptions. 

WHAT TO DO: Short version: avoid distractions/ MAKE WRITING TIME WRITING TIME.

1.    Get yourself to a place where others won’t interrupt you. Set an amount of time to write before you take a break. Some like sprints of 15-20 minutes. I get going and I prefer to keep writing for an hour or an hour and a half before I break.

2.    DO not interrupt yourself. No checking messages. No looking at facebook or whatever your social media preference is. No looking up questions the manuscript brings up by visiting google or websites (do that after writing time).

3.    Some people mediate for a couple minutes before writing and some visualize the scene they’re about to write and some spend a couple minutes writing out what might happen in the scene and what it moves forward (plot, character, setting?)—this would be me. DO something to get yourself into the scene and then write it.

4.    Keep track of how much you write in each session. There will be some variation but you should get more words and better words as your focus gets stronger.

 

 Good luck,


Brian

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Make Discovery process work for You

 Fellow Discovery Writers (sometimes known as pantsers, a term that does not describe our process and was likely started by outliners)—do not allow the outliners to make you feel less. Your method is as relevant to the struggle of writing a novel as those who sit down and roman numericize (figuratively or literally) to a nice neat plan of story.

 

Truth bomb: most of us do some discovering and some outlining when it comes right down to it-though usually more one than the other- but for purposes of this blog entry let me just advocate for my brothers and sisters who discover their way to novel writing.

 

Five points to help you make your Discovery process work for you.

 

1.     Write the very first draft of your discovery quickly and with a carefree attitude. By this I do not mean take a “let them eat cake” attitude toward your reader or good writing habits. I mean realize that you are finding your way (hence the word discovery) and that you will go wrong here and there. Write that first draft in weeks, not months. Fast and furious.

2.     Realize as you’re writing that first draft that you will go wrong in several. places. Write yourself notes when you’re unsure about plot points. Leave the final decision for the next draft.

3.     Sometimes you may realize you have a choice at a certain point: maybe the character leaves home or maybe she stays thinking to help her mother with her drug habit and leaves later after failing—you’re not sure which way works better. Try both or choose one but leave open the possibility of the other.

4.     In my first drafts, I’m working on what names work for places and people etc.… They often change. That’s OK. Sometimes finding the right names takes a while. Let your people talk to each other. Sometimes hearing their voice, in relation to another voice or voices, can be helpful in learning character.

5.     BE OPEN all the way through your draft. That’s key. But finish. You have to finish. My first drafts are generally around 20-25K because some chapters I’ve written a scene and then described what comes next in the chapter. You’re writing fast so if you get stopped just write that you’re unsure how to finish the chapter—if necessary.

6.     BONUS POINT—one of the realities of discovery writing is that you’ll need more drafts than an outliner. Another reason to make draft 1 short and with many possibilities.  I usually writer three drafts, a revision, and a polish. I can still write a novel in 3-4 months.

 

Good luck and good writing, 

 

Brian

 

Friday, November 11, 2022

How Do You Make People Care About Your Characters? It's really pretty simple, really.

There are, as with every aspect of writing, many ways to achieve success in making people care about your characters. You can make them like them by having them do things that your reader approves of or you can make your character get the reader's empathy by having bad things happen to them and then having them find ways to overcome the bad things.  You can make your character active. Readers like characters that try to do things, solve things, stand up when others are sitting down. There are all kinds of ways to create characters that engage readers. Try the above if you haven't.

But I said I was going to make it simple and here is my simple take. And I direct this, in particular, to my fellow discovery writers, those whose process is to discover story, setting, and, yes, character, through the act of writing drafts and not outlines—find your narrators inner voice.

Find your narrator's inner voice. Maybe you will have to overwrite in your first draft a bit for this or maybe you'll have to add in later drafts of your discovery drafts to get the voice down—depending on what kind of writer you are. But what I mean by inner voice is that voice we all have going on in our mind all the time. And when we're not alone, when we're involved in some act,  or reaction, it's still going on. It's at this time, in a scene in a novel, that your characters inner voice will be SHOWING rather than TELLING if they're acting and reacting to what's happening. It's the tone and content of these thoughts that will reveal character.

OK, here's the simple: people will care about almost any character if they get to know that character. We can care about some awful characters (Tony Soprano, think Game of Thrones, etc...) if we get to know them.  We don't have to even really like a character, just find them interesting and understand motivations. Let that inner voice reveal the character. 

Good Writing,

Brian

Friday, October 21, 2022

No More Outliner Envy for Me. Discovery Writer All The Way, Baby

 

Greetings Campers,

No more Outliner envy for me. It just doesn't work. Lord knows I've tried. But I have given up because it's not who I am. Discovery writer all the way, Baby. You gotta be what you've got to be. 

Need some inspiration? Here's a classic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN-3A-I2jxU 

Say you're like me. You are not an outliner. Just no question. Can't be done. You are a discovery writer, sometimes called a seat of the pantser, and you've accepted your way.

I've been writing about how I try to find places in my fiction where I create special moments, emotional ones, mm's (memorable moments), for the reader. Think of any fiction you love and you'll think of certain moments that really stand out to you. You create those moments by building up to them, setting them up with a series of moments, foreshadowing what is to come for a chapter or ten or sometimes a whole novel, and then delivering some kind of payoff. You can look at any fiction you love and see these moments.

For example, LORD OF THE RINGS, has many.  Think of what led to that final moment when Frodo throws the ring into the fire. But you likely remember many more. One I remember, especially emotional, is when Gandalf is shouting "You shall not pass" and gets whipped from the bridge by the monster from the deep. The loss in that moment of Gandalf is like a punch to the face. 

So now I want to add another point to this. If you can imagine several of these emotional moments before you get writing OR as you're working through your five/six day flashdraft,(see below) then you have given yourself a great push forward and likely saved yourself a lot of time.

I'm not talking about an outline. I'm just talking about coming up with a few special emotional moments on one page before you write your first draft. You just use what works as your discover your story in your flashdraft. 

Say you have the Gandalf scene. You think about what might lead up to it and you do a little reverse design. What can you make happen to get there? 

Having a few ideas like this (sort of like points on a map but do not think plot, think cool moments, emotional outcomes) before your start your flashdraft (see earlier blog entries for complete explanation) can save you even  more time and help you make the right choices.

Good writing

Brian

On a more personal note. I have a new novel (third in a trilogy) coming out this week. It's Scifi fantasy with aliens and dogs and lots more. Out on the 27th on Amazon. First novel free for three days after to celebrate the publication.

 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09X7GQJSJ?ref_=dbs_p_mng_rwt_ser_shvlr&storeType=ebooks


My dog, Gandalf, has a role as Velcro1 and Velcro2 in all three books.


Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Want To Know Moments

 Set up Want To Know Moments. 

Not what you want to know and not what your character wants to know. I'm talking about the reader.  You know that person on the other side of your writing. The one who actually reads what you wrote.We don't talk about the reader much but we should. I get the "I write for myself" argument. I do write for myself . But what I've learned as I've gone along is that I have to think about the reader too, especially when focusing on the storytelling side of things.

There are many ways to engage a reader BUT you must keep them  wanting to turn, no, excited to turn the page. Cool world building, complex characters, good language  are important but you need narrative momentum, you need the WANT TO KNOW MOMENTS, to keep the reader reading. It's a skill and an art to build a story. But creating want to know moments will go a long way.

Think of small things, big things, medium size things that you plant in your story that the reader will want answers about. Some of these might be fairly immediate. In the same chapter. Some might be a thing the reader wants to know through the whole novel. Your skill at setting these up and developing them, showing progress, and then giving resolution (THE PAYOFF) will be an enormous part of the success of your storytelling.

An example might be a relationship between two characters. Think of a simple Rom-Com. Two characters meet, they don't like each other or they do but regardless something gets in the way of their starting a relationship. We're all so familiar with this plot how can it ever work? Because the reader WANTS TO KNOW...How will it work? Specific skills at developing a relationship that in a Rom-Com we all know will work out is what I'm talking about. All along the way will be small WANT TO KNOWS and you, as a writer, will make the characters work through them. Then there's a satisfying moment. A first kiss. But it doesn't work out so the setback sets out another WANT TO KNOW MOMENT. They get back together...etc...You see— it's foreshadowing and resolution again and again to the ending.


Think Lord of the Rings. There's the big WANT TO KNOW...will Frodo be successful in destroying the ring... but think of all the other small WANT TO KNOWS that are set up and answered in the story.

You need many tools in your toolbox to write a novel. Understanding  the importance of WANT TO KNOW and learning how to foreshadow and build up to an answer, a resolution, is an important one.

Keep Writing,

Brian

Monday, September 19, 2022

Be What You've Got To Be: Discovery writer or Outliner

     

 Be what you’ve got to be. Try outlining and discovery writing (some call this pantsing as in flying by the seat of your pants) if you don’t know which you have to be. Figure it out. But don’t try to be an outliner just for the security of it if  it’s not the way you work. You’ll do outlines that don’t get you anywhere or that take you to the wrong places. 

 

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO FLY BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS OR, as I prefer to call it DISCOVERY WRITE, if that’s the kind of writer you are.

 

However, I can save you some time if that’s the kind of writer you are. I suggest you look at the first couple of drafts as discovering your story. Don’t get caught up in trying to keep most of a first draft that is really just you discovering your characters, setting and plot. If you do that, you’ll end up with a poorly crafted novel.

 

You have to work your way through drafts, carefully throwing out any bit that isn’t part of what you’re trying to build. You have to be a bit ruthless in this regard. You have to be open to cutting absolutely anything that gets in the way. It may take you (as it takes me) three drafts to actually get to the revision draft.

 

That’s why I make my first draft a zoom draft—because I realize I will get great ideas and good characters and good plot points but that I will throw out much of a first draft. The second draft I usually keep about half but really start to get down what my novel is and who is in it and what happens. Third draft the book stretches out some and it’s the first draft I feel like, Hey, I might actually have a book. Then it’s revision drafts—fast.

 

Sounds long. I can do all this in under four months.

 

You can be a discovery writer and still write well and fast if you have the right process.

 

Good luck writers. Hope this is helpful.

 

Brian