Making sure readers actually care what happens to your main character is integral to any story. You can’t just take it for granted that just because your story has stuff happen to a guy that the reader will automatically be interested.
If your story happens to be about a noble main character who has exciting adventures this is less of a worry since this is the basic story archetype from fairy tales and myths, but not all stories follow this template.
While the simplest way to endear your MC to the reader is to demonstrate their general decency, what’s sometimes referred to as a pat the dog or save the cat moment—the MC goes out of their way to be helpful to some innocent in trouble and their good guy credentials are confirmed—not all main characters are straight out of a Disney family movie.
Fortunately there are a number of other ways to boost your hero’s general appeal.
Today, we’ll take a look at our hooks and how the novel’s pacing works.
With luck, the typical things that negatively affect a novel’s pace have been dealt with in the previous sessions, but since pacing is a critical element to keeping readers engaged, it deserves a session all of its own.
This post aims to offer a bunch of solutions for one problem in particular: How do you describe somebody when you can’t see him because you are inside of him, looking out, and you don’t even have a reason to describe him? How can you tell your reader what your character looks like through his own eyes?
Adjectives — descriptive words that modify nouns — often come under fire for their cluttering quality, but often it’s quality, not quantity, that is the issue. Plenty of tired adjectives are available to spoil a good sentence, but when you find just the right word for the job, enrichment ensues. Practice precision when you select words. Here’s a list of adjectives:
Dialog makes up a sizable chunk of a novel, but it’s also a common area to find weak prose. We let our characters ramble on, give them unrealistic things to say, and even steal their unique voices from them.
Today, let’s take a closer look at our dialog and make sure our story people sound as good as they look.
We’ll be using the search function of our writing programs heavily this session, looking for the common red flag words often associated with told prose. But remember, just because you find one of these words doesn’t mean you have to eliminate or rewrite it. If the word is doing its job and the sentence says what you want it to say, in the way you want to say it, leave it. Looking for these red flag words is just the easiest way to find told prose in a manuscript without reading the entire thing one more time.
Small talk is boring. Characters who waffle on about the weather and the dream they had last night and their favourite toy when they were a kid don’t hold a reader’s attention for very long.
At the same time, characters who enter a scene, get what they want, and leave can make the story feel rushed and sterile.
There are, of course, plenty of books that use the more rushed approach and it can work very well. It makes it much easier to keep the reader hooked and turning pages. Many bestsellers use this approach, although they don’t win many literary awards.
But we’ve all read books that had long passages of seemingly random observations and conversations that not only didn’t read as boring, but actually added to the story. You felt a stronger connection to the character because of the glimpse into their personality. So how did they manage it when your attempts feel like meandering asides and unnecessary tangents?
Not every novel has a villain. Often many characters take on the role of an antagonist at various times —someone who stands in the way of your protagonist. They may be well meaning or not.
But if your novel features one specific character providing the central source of opposition for your hero or heroine—in other words, a villain or bad guy—take the time to craft such a character so that he or she will be believable and memorable.
Is the Inciting Event the first thing that happens in the story?
Is it the moment that kicks off the plot and the conflict?
Is it the First Plot Point at the end of the First Act?
Is it something in between?
Is it something that happens before the story ever starts?
The chief trouble with identifying the Inciting Event is that the term is used rather wildly to apply to just about any of the above. One writer calls the Hook the Inciting Event, another calls it the First Plot Point. Argh! No wonder we’re all so confused.
While I personally think authors like George R. R. Martin kill off beloved characters particularly well in order to elicit emotions from the reader, forcing a character out of a script can be devastating to a newer writer. Sometimes, it might be necessary. But other times, it’s important to recognize when you have something special.
The quest for unique characters is one all writers share. And granted, it’s a tricky one, because, as we all know, there’s nothing new under the sun. The fundamental core of a unique character is always going to be his heart: his motivations and his inner conflict, which I’ve talked about in recent posts. But there’s more to it than just that, because a character has to be unique, not just deep down, but on the surface as well.
Before you can send your work out to be seen by the world, you need to spend some time editing. This is a crucial stage in the life of your manuscript, as this is when mediocre stories may rise to greatness.
Here are a few steps to use in the editing process:
Writers are horrible people. Think about it. We create characters, we love them and then we do the most horrible things to them all in the name of tension and conflict. Weird, right?
But that doesn’t compare to how we treat ourselves. I see it week in and week out in class - how we beat ourselves up. When someone writes a beautiful piece, there is always this choir of voices saying, “I could never write that” or “I’ll never be that good.”
The good thing about clichés is that they impart information quickly and reliably. If someone says it’s raining cats and dogs, you know exactly what they mean.
The bad thing about clichés is that they get overused which leads to them feeling unoriginal and lazy. When you know what’s someone’s saying before they’ve even finished saying it you stop paying attention. And a reader who isn’t paying attention is not what a writer wants.
Weeding out familiar phrases isn’t too difficult. Getting rid of overused scenes and premises is not so easy.
Certain types of scenes occur so often because readers want them—in some cases even expect them. They want the guy and the gal to end up together; they want the evil plot to be foiled. And different genres have tropes that readers enjoy seeing again and again. But while commercially there may be an acceptance of the same old story, artistically it can feel less satisfactory for writers and more discerning readers.
So how do you write scenes that readers are eagerly anticipating without simply producing an imitation of every other book already out there?
The most ironic thing about complex characters in fiction is that the essence of what makes them so wonderfully complicated is actually incredibly simple. Complex characters are complex for one reason: dichotomy. That one word is the solution to all your character problems. Cliched stereotypes? Fixed. Dysfunctional character arcs? Done. Boring personalities? No more!
Pacing is all about the manipulation of time and controlling the speed and rhythm of a story. The elements of pacing can be broken down into various structural devices that are used to control the speed of a story.
Of all the topics on how to write, I suspect more books have been written on how to create solid characters than on anything else. So there are a lot of great resources out there on how to create characters, and I can’t even touch on every topic that I would like in the space of an article this short.
Let me just say a few things, though. We are often told that our characters should be “round,” rather than stick-figure drawings. If you were an artist and you painted a picture with stick figures, people would say, “Well, that’s not very realistic. It is hardly recognizable as human.”
In the time it takes you to write two small words, you might be dramatically distancing your readers from your story’s narrative. Scared? You should be. But don’t be that scared, because this one of our most common writing mistakes is just as easy to fix as it is to commit. And what are those two small but egregious words? Your character’s title (in place of his name).
Sharing your scoops to your social media accounts is a must to distribute your curated content. Not only will it drive traffic and leads through your content, but it will help show your expertise with your followers.
How to integrate my topics' content to my website?
Integrating your curated content to your website or blog will allow you to increase your website visitors’ engagement, boost SEO and acquire new visitors. By redirecting your social media traffic to your website, Scoop.it will also help you generate more qualified traffic and leads from your curation work.
Distributing your curated content through a newsletter is a great way to nurture and engage your email subscribers will developing your traffic and visibility.
Creating engaging newsletters with your curated content is really easy.