Posted in Writing

Character Motivation

I have talked about having motivation to write but there’s an even bigger motivation that you have to keep in mind. Hence, the title. A few months ago I was told that one of my characters was lacking motivation. My reader couldn’t tell why (let’s call her Person A) she was putting herself in danger. Since Person A is the lead in this story, I knew that this was a very serious problem. How can I engage with the reader if they don’t know why my characters acts the way she does?

It’s not like I didn’t interrogate Person A until her ears bled. I knew all about her childhood trauma and even took step to mention that in the story. I even wrote a short story about her childhood trauma. That information ended up lacking and I’m very glad that someone pointed it out to me. An extra pair of eyes is always helpful.

The way I fixed this situation was by typing some lines that literally said why my character was putting her life in danger. I made it seem like she was also having her own moments of doubts before realizing her motivation. This might seem like the easiest – in my humble opinion- route to take but sometimes you can’t get away with it. Sometimes you just have to rethink your character or your plot. Actually, I hope this works out. If not, I have to go back and write an write a scene that gives more information about Person’s A motivation.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of types of motivation; inner and outer motivation, villain motivation, etc. Not only does motivation give a deeper sense of who the character is but it also helps move the plot forward. If the character has a clear goal then most of the plot should fall in. Motivation and plot go hand in hand.

So if your character’s motivation doesn’t come across, it’s best to take a step back and dig a bit deeper and ask why. I found this cool link here that has a lot of other links for character development and questionnaires. Enjoy.

Posted in Methods, Writing

Increasing Word Count

While rewriting a project, currently called Crimson Queen, it hit me that I only have less than 40k words. Plus, it’s a fantasy novel. Double punch. Make it triple. Right off the bat I knew that I could beef up my description a bit, perhaps add some flashbacks, and do a little more world building. When I really think about, perhaps my plot is too linear and needs more conflict than what I currently have.

Thinking back on what must have been my thought process was that I was more focused on the plot and making sure I didn’t get lost somewhere in the chapters. In practice, I think I was off to a good start. Most first drafts aren’t going to be perfect and mine is no exception. Perfection comes in many rewrite (IMHO). I talked about telling versus showing a few weeks ago and this ties back to that. Rewriting parts of a book that shows what the character is going through (he was anxious) with good description (his heart thundered in his chest. Every breath was strained) then it you add more words to your story.

Below are some suggestions that I have found, used and will used in future projects if the occasion calls for it again:

Pacing

Have you ever gotten to a really good part in your story and you just wanted to put it on the page? I have. Just recently I wrote a scene where a Council looked over information and discussed about the explosion in town and, although I don’t have the full word count, I’m sure it is less than 500 words. It’s fine to want to have everything on paper but going back and rewriting the scene to add tension, conflict or something that moves the story forward will help on the long run.

Subplots

I like subplots. To me, they add conflict and tension between characters that might even distract them from their main goal. It prevents the story from being too linear and they’re also a way for you to develop and/or flush out your character whether it’s your protagonist or not. Or you can develop these subplots further.

Minor Characters

We interact with a lot of people over the course of the day and they have a story of their own. The people in your stories are no exception. I’m guilty of not giving my minor characters enough page time and they pop in and out because the plot demands it. Give them more page time and have them talk or interrupt your character when their on their way visit a family member in the hospital. Or something like that.

New Characters

This kind of goes hand in hand in minor characters. These can be anyone from a friend from the past, a new guy, the guy that lives next door but you just noticed. There’s always an opportunity to complicate things for your character. That first prize art contest, have a new guy show up and he can paint/draw anything. Make him/her a rival and see where that goes.

Description

Use with care. Beef up those scenes that might need an extra push to make the world seem alive. When your characters are talking, don’t let them stand on white space. Have them move around the room or store. Have them pick up things. Do you stand still when you talk to someone? I don’t.

Complications

Nothing should go according to plan. That’s a motto I live by. Well, not really but I do some times. Saying that, if your character is racing to the hospital (different example, I promise) because his/her friend just cut their finger on a razor, you bet you have to pull them over or have their tire get a flat. This does sound cruel but you get the gist. Nothing should be easy because it isn’t.

Anything else I miss? What do you do to increase your word count? What works for you? What doesn’t? Thanks for stopping bye. Until next time.

 

Posted in Methods, Writing

It’s all in the details

On the path to rewriting a project I’ve been working on for a long time, I began to think of a basic question: how was bread made? Off to the internet I went searching for answers and, not only did I get the information, I learned about the type of bread different social classes ate and the different ingredients that went into making bread. Somewhere in the midst of those paragraphs, any hype I once had about the impact of bread in my story vanished.

Not only did I realize that I have been out of the researching game for a while, I also thought about the actual impact bread would have in the story. What difference would it make to have those small details? For some project, say historical fiction, those types of details would definitely be important and I’m sure readers would call you out on it if it wasn’t right. But in my case, when I really thought about it, mentioning bread wouldn’t make much of a difference. If for example, I turned my story into a rags to riches story and bread was one of the ways that would reveal to the reader how out of place my character is then you bet I would research bread throughout history.

Today, I’m here to say that basics matter. I guess that seems obvious but at the same time, it’s not something that pops out right away. At least, in my case, it doesn’t. Some writers have everything planned out from what their characters ate on a particular morning to the type of underwear they were at night – if they do at all. If you’re like me, however, I tend to focus on the plot and how to get my story on paper first before I deal with all the small details.

I’m not saying that I don’t do research for my stories; when it comes to weapons, I research everything; time period, the way they were made, who used them, everything. Looking at lore, clothing, social classes, hand-to-hand combat are but a few of what I look up in books and internet. However, sometimes the research tends to get too overwhelming and my excitement evaporates which is why I have to write the story and if anything major comes up that I need to look into then I will.

Suggestions?

 

Well, do become knowledgeable about whatever topic you’re writing about. Consult experts, books, research studies, etc. Just don’t overwhelm yourself with so much researching that you won’t want to write your story. Read other’s work. Look at what other authors have done and what can you take from them.

Plan out your plot. Knowing what’s going to happen a few scenes down the road would definitely help. For example, your story takes place in medieval times or in a fantasy, you did research over weapons. Your characters walks through the market and two knights are fighting each other. One has a broad sword and the other wields a falchion. Small opportunities like that add to the world building and also reveal that your character knows what a falchion is and it reveals your research. In the end, it makes your story jump off the pages.

Posted in Writing

Showing vs Telling (Part 2)

Last week I talked about how to avoid info dumps in your writing. This week I will talk about how to fix info dumps and how to balance the slippery slope of exposition and action. As I mentioned last week, I started editing a project I have been working on for three to four years (on and off writing while in college). The first chapter had almost two pages of back story and I ended up rewriting those two pages into a new scene which took up four pages.

I don’t have an issue with adding to my word count or page count because the story I’m working on is fantasy and basically a novella. As it is now, it’s less than 35k words. Eventually, I want to increase my word count and revising the draft is a good way to do that. Not only does it make you read through your story, you can also see where there is information needed or not needed.

Rewriting your info dump into a new scene is one way to fix them. It doesn’t always work mostly because sometimes a new scene isn’t needed and then it feels out of place. Not only do I suggest that you read through it but have someone else read it specifically to point out if there are sections in the manuscript that need a bit of trimming.

Another suggestion would be to list all the information that you need the reader to know right off the bat. I usually do this in a chapter outline. I make a list of what needs to happen and the information that needs to be put in. That way, I can control how I write information. It’s all about planning for the most part. It doesn’t have to be a complete list but a rough sketch wouldn’t really hurt.

Having the information relate to what is happening at the moment in-scene is my next suggest. Say for example your character is talking to someone they lost contact with and the reason was because there was a lie or something. Not only could you use a quick flashback sentence to let the reader know about the beef the two have but you could also do it in the way they speak to one another, thoughts, and body language. That way, this information and scene says something about your character the reader wouldn’t know otherwise.

The important thing is to keep the story moving forward. In my opinion, I think it’s important to have something happening in a story whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological. Keep it brief if possible and integrate it into the story. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. Your exposition is pulling double duty. If you have to have a huge paragraph with information then so be it. At the end of the day, work with your writing style.

One last thing I will say it that the most important thing to do is write. You can always go back and change whatever needs changing. Get the story down on paper or on a digital document and then stress out about editing and revising.

 

Posted in Methods, Writing

Showing vs Telling (Part 1)

There are many post/pages out there and warn against the dangers of showing vs telling. I’ve read many of them and the information basically stays the same with variation on how it is told. Although the information is stored in the back of my mind, I continue to click on those articles to see if there is anything new that I should know. Even if I don’t learn anything new, it’s refreshing to know that my knowledge is being reassured.

When writing, I always want to be an active writer (more on that in a later post). In that regard, I like to pay attention to what I’m writing and making sure that I don’t summarize information or info dump in a paragraph. These examples I regard as telling. Instead, I try to sprinkle the information through the story.

I happened to look back on my project and I completely failed my knowledge. I read through the opening paragraphs and I cringed. I had info dumps and trying to tell the reader about the world. While I do confess that I started writing this story three years ago, I never really went back to look at the beginning until recently. It just amazed me how different my writing had gotten from then until now. I knew it happened but everything time I take a look at old writing, it hits me in the face.

So, here’s a few tips on how to avoid info dumps.

First, I like to make a rough outline of my chapters. It’s like writing a synopsis with the only exception that you won’t show it to anyone. This sounds tedious and repetitive but I have found it to be really useful. With that outline, you can decide where you want to put those world building sentences and other sentences that deal with your character and their life up to that point. Not only do you dictate where that information goes but you have a clearer view of where everything goes.

Second, I ask someone to read over my work. It’s nice to have an extra pair of eyes for anything. I’m sure if you have info dumps and the information slows down the reading then, someone is bound to tell you. You could always read it yourself when you take a few days off and reread your work. That way, you don’t have the story in you head and you can read like a reader.

Third, practice. You don’t win a marathon when you practice for only one day. You don’t send your manuscript out to agents on the first draft. Everything takes practice and so does writing. I don’t believe you can get really good at writing without failing a few times. If you make yourself become super sensitive over avoiding info dumps then it starts to become second nature to you and your writing is better off because of it.

Lastly, read. Reading is very essential to your writing. Without reading, you can’t soak up all the techniques other writers are able to pull off. Did I mention that their published authors? Yes, they are. So, bottom line read. Get to see what works and why it works and see if you can’t incorporate some of the same techniques into your own work.

What if you have any info dumps in your writing? Next week, I’ll be making a post on how to fix info dumps. Until then.