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.
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?
The reading game is about to change forever. Boston-based software developer Spritz has been in "stealth mode" for three years, tinkering with their program and leasing it out to different ebooks, apps, and other platforms.
Characters are the heart of a novel, and within that heart is the Hero’s Inner Journey. The protagonist’s path is much like yours or mine–one that will (hopefully) bring him closer to lifelong happiness and fulfillment.
You can’t collect too many writing tips, and you can’t brush up on your techniques and skills too often. In that spirit, I bring you fifteen quick and dirty writing tips. These are just the headlines, designed to jog your memory and remind you of all the writerly things we should be doing at any given time.
When it comes to writing our antagonist, we face a dichotomy: we want them to be bad, but we also want them to be three-dimensional, faceted human beings. In short, we want to create bad guys who aren’t all bad, bad guys whom readers will still be able to find a spark of sympathy for, a smidgen of relatability. As a result, we can sometimes end up creating bad guys who aren’t bad enough.
When I am going through my submission pile, I am frequently finding stories that are almost there. Something about the premise sounded great, but... it was lacking in other areas. Ugh.
For so many authors, I think that when they get to editing their stories, or they are providing critiques for each other, they often look only at the global concept of the story. The focus on the big picture. While this is fine for one round of editing, it is beyond essential to narrow that focus in even more on some of those smaller parts. In the end, the success or failure of the book relies on all of these components working together.
I’m sure you’ve heard a thousand times before that not only must your characters live and breathe like real people, but your setting has to, as well. Your setting should have a personality just like your protagonist if you want your story world to leap off the page.
If you’re a writer, or aspire to become one, you know part of your homework is to study suspense.
After all, suspense is what readers (particularly mystery and thriller readers) look for in a book. The American Heritage Dictionary tells us such readers want “the condition of being suspended.” They want to experience the “anxiety or apprehension resulting from an uncertain, undecided, or mysterious situation.”
Ask any writer about the rules he’s heard throughout the years, and he will be able to recite a litany as deeply embedded as the Lord’s Prayer. Show, don’t tell. Write what you know. The first sentence is key. The last sentence is key. All writing is rewriting. No adverbs. No one aside from you finds your dreams interesting. You should never write in the second person.
Then there are the more baffling dictums that many of us have been treated to, equal parts arbitrary and asinine.
When bad (or even good) things happen to your characters, put yourself in their shoes and look at how that particular moment will affect them. As the writer, you know if this is just a minor blip or major deal, but the character doesn't. To them, it might be the worst thing to ever happen, or something that consumes them while it's happening. If it's a good thing, it might distract them from warning signs or things they ought to be noticing or paying attention to.
If anyone knows a thing or two about creativity, it's David Lynch. Arguably one of the most brilliant film directors of our time, Lynch is best known for genre-defying, surrealist art-house films like Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and Wild at Heart. His style is so original that it's even inspired its own adjective: "Lynchian."
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work,” Chuck Close scoffed. “A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood,” Tchaikovsky admonished. “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too,” Isabel Allende urged. But true as this general sentiment may be, it isn’t always an easy or a livable truth — most creative people do get stuck every once in a while, or at the very least hit the OK plateau. What then?
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with titles. They either come to me like bolts from the blue, or I spend months struggling to find the right one. Usually, the easier the title comes to me, the more well-formed the story idea is.
When this happens, I know I've tapped into a critical element of the story, and that element will likely resonate throughout the entire novel. That's the power of the right title.
The Lie Your Character Believes is the reason for all character arcs. After all, if everything’s hunky-dunky, why change? We might think of the Lie as the cavity in a tooth. Everything might look shiny and white on the outside, but inside there’s decay. If the character is ever to be happy, he’s going to have to do some drilling to excavate the rot in his life.
The main character in a story will tend to have something about them that marks them out. They need to be distinct from everyone else just as a matter of practicality.
However, while you as the writer may have a very clear idea of what’s so great about the character, the reader doesn’t. And letting them in on it halfway through the book is not going to do you any favours. You have to win them over in the first few pages. So how do you do that?
It seems today’s fiction is dominated by tough and often jaded characters bruised by life’s hardships. Sarcastic and cynical, these flawed characters make choices efficiently without letting emotion get in the way. They’re tough, with steel in their bones, ready to handle whatever is thrown at them. And readers line up to devour their stories.
What makes this “rough around the edges” character type so compelling? A sense of control, even in chaos. Heroes who can handle pressure and persevere give readers hope (and maybe make them feel a bit better about their own world compared to what the character is facing.) But like all things, it’s easy to go too far.
We’ve heard the saying: Life is a journey. Often this thought will be accompanied by “enjoy the ride” or something along those lines. And that’s great advice for life. But for stories, we want to “skip to the good parts.”
In our first draft, our scenes might include all sorts of boring trips to the grocery store or what-have-you. But once we’re in editing mode, we need to be ruthless and make sure every scene has at least three reasons for existing.