People tell stories every day and it is fairly easy to tell the difference between something worth listening to and something that is just small talk. It is a natural ability we all have, to know when something that happened is going to be of interest to others.
Do you want to know why the guy at work locked himself in an office and refused to come out until the police came and broke the door down? Or do you want to know what I had for lunch? You don't know the answer to either, but one is more of an unusual occurrence than the other, and that's what draws our attention.
When writing a story it is just the same, although often it may not feel like it.
No matter what stage of your writing career you're at, at some point you're going to lose steam and need a kick in the pants to get going again. Fatigue happens to everyone, but it doesn't have to keep us doesn't for long. Please help me welcome Susan Dennard to the lecture hall today to share a few tips on how she keeps going when times get tough.
We all know how hard it is to write emotion: understanding what a character is feeling exactly, and to what degree, and then showing it to readers. And of course, that’s just the tip of the challenge. What makes it truly difficult is that whatever body language, thoughts and actions we use MUST be ones that fit each individual’s personality seamlessly.
Subplots are everywhere. We see them in the movies we watch, and they are usually in every novel we read. We may instinctively know how they work in story structure. I always thought they were inserted to give some depth to the overall story, whether movie or novel. And that is one purpose for a subplot. But writers need to be careful not to throw any old subplot into a story in the hope that it will just add some interest. If you keep in mind that everything that goes into your novel must serve the advancement and complication of the main plot, you will fare well.
When someone asks you what your book is about, it can be a very difficult thing to sum up in a line or two.
Even after you’ve finished it, capturing the essence in a way that does it justice can be more frustrating than writing it in the first place. I usually end up rambling like I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Not only would it be very handy in social situations, but also professionally. A clear concise way to tell people about the book in a way that lets them know what it’s about, but also hooks their interest in some way.
We spend a lot of time creating characters. We think about names, where they live, who they love, whether or not they have a phobia or a personality disorder. We decide to place our characters in conflict with an antagonist in order to write a novel. We plan an inciting moment, and plot our scenes, but how much do we really know about the psychological motivations of our important characters?
From motivation to organization, research, and editing, there are a dozen and one apps to aid the writing process. So how do you begin narrowing down which apps to use for yourself? Well, we’ve scoured the Internet and made your search process a no-brainer.
In real life people have many different problems to deal with. In fiction, characters tend to have the one problem. They struggle to deal with it but it’s always there, affecting them and the story you’ve put them in.
This is necessary for fiction, otherwise things would be too vague and woolly. We need the cop to be an alcoholic, the kid to be scared of going to school, the woman to be obsessed with getting married, and so on. It doesn’t really matter if their issue is one we’ve seen before (like the ones I’ve just mentioned), because it isn’t the actual problem that people are interested in, it’s how it’s dealt with.
Cause and effect within and between scenes allows you to seamlessly lead the reader to each major turning point by linking the cause in one scene to the effect in the next scene. This sequencing allows the energy of the story to rise smoothly.
If the sequence breaks down, scenes come out of the blue, and your story turns episodic. The reader, in turn, becomes disconcerted.
For years, traditional book publishers have hoped that standalone e-readers — Kindles, Nooks, and the like — would be their salvation, replacing paper-and-ink books as the diversion of choice for a new generation of readers. But several new data points suggest that's not happening. In fact, it seems clearer than ever that the future of reading isn't on reading devices at all. It's on your phone.
The importance of secondary characters in your novel cannot be overemphasized. They are crucial to your story, unless you are writing about a protagonist in isolation, which is a unique kind of story. And novels about one person off alone (usually a “man against nature” structure) are challenging to write because of the dearth of a “supporting cast.”
The first page of your manuscript is critical for more than just grabbing an agent's or editor’s attention. Readers often read the first page or two to determine whether or not to read the novel. If those pages grab them, they'll buy the book. If not, they'll put it back on the shelf. That’s a lot of pressure for 250 words.
Which is why those words need to capture the reader.
To imbue your writing with the full power of outlining, you need to approach the process from a mindset of flexibility and discovery. When you do this, you’ll end up with a road map to storytelling success. Road maps are there to show you the fastest and surest way to reach your destination, but they certainly don’t prevent you from finding exciting off-road adventures and scenic drives along the way.
At their best, outlines can help you flesh out your most promising story ideas, avoid dead-end plot twists and pursue proper structure. And the greatest part? They save you time and prevent frustration. Sketching out your plot and characters in your first draft can take months of trial and error. Figuring out those same elements in an outline requires a fraction of the time—and then allows you to let loose and have fun in your first draft.
On Wednesday afternoon, legal thriller author and writing instructor William Bernhardt (the Ben Kincaid series) outlined the 7 elements he says make for an unputdownable novel–be it thriller, mystery, suspense or other. Here are his his guidelines for crafting a blockbuster.
Conflict is one of the most essential ingredients of fiction. When a character with a goal meets an obstacle to that goal, conflict ensues. Story ensues. But one-dimensional conflict isn’t enough to plumb the depths of a story’s potential. So just what is one-dimensional conflict?
For some writers, beginnings are a breeze. They know exactly where their story starts, but the plot gets a little fuzzy the closer it gets to the end.
Other writers know exactly how their story will end, but have trouble finding the right place to start to get them there. They slog through beginning after beginning until they stumble across the right one.
If your beginning is giving you plotting headaches, try jumping ahead and working backward.
Backstory is anything and everything that happens before your short story or novel opens. Because we need to know our characters’ histories, we think the reader needs to know it too.
Here’s a secret—readers don’t care.
They want action, they want forward movement. Decide how little backstory you can get away with. Make sure you include only important background information. Then see if you can thread it through the story using the following story-telling techniques.
Breaking and entering issues aside, the story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears can teach writers quite a bit about writing descriptive passages in their short stories, essays, novels, and other books. Some readers love long, descriptive passages that linger on every tiny detail of a scene. Others hate description and want snappy dialogue that moves the story along.