Do I Have To Let Her Fall?


My Sweet Daughter
(I know I should let her fall, but I can’t)

When it comes to fictional characters, it’s tempting to catch them when they fall, or at least ease them to the ground. Say, the main character gets in to a fight and manages to escape relatively unscathed. Or perhaps, there’s a car/airplane/train accident and the protagonist walks away with only a concussion. Unless the main character (MC) possesses supernatural abilities, the scene may not be living up to its full potential.

Not only do writers have to let the protagonist fall, they have to push the MC down and step on their fingers. If readers don’t believe the character is in real danger, it diminishes the tension. Conflict stems from characters facing a worthy adversary, someone or something which could potentially conquer the MC.

Every character has a weakness. It’s the writer’s job to figure out what it is and push their darlings to the edge. Keep in mind, conflict stems from a variety of sources, not just physical pain. Think of Will Smith’s character in the Pursuit of Happiness. The movie starts when things are going okay for him, but then his life undergoes dramatic changes, most of them to his detriment and just when you think things can’t get worse they do.

Do you let your characters fall? Are you guilty of catching them? What book/movie do you feel exemplifies letting a character “fall”?

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Eavesdrop and Take Notes


Photo Credit: Frank Selmo (frankselmo on Flickr)

I’m always looking for inspiration for my next short story, novel, blog post, characters, setting, etc. While my dreams provide the foundation for many stories, some of them are a little too out there to mold into anything useful. I’ll be the first to admit my muse and I don’t always get along. There are times when we don’t talk, but if I’m going to take this writing thing seriously, which I do, I can’t go around making excuses.

“We value results, not excuses.”

So, what can you do when you’re fresh out of ideas and your muse is on vacation? Eavesdrop and take notes. I know as kids we’re taught listening in on other people’s conversation is rude, but I’m not convinced it applies to writers. After all, are we not tasked with observing the world around us and capturing it with words?

And while you’re noting story ideas, plot twist, dialect, key phrases, or potential conflict, go ahead and note how people interact. What are their hands doing while they speak/listen? How do facial expressions change? How are they sitting (leaning close/away or a combo)? How much eye contact is going on? Are people standing? If so, how are their bodies positioned? Straight? Angled? Weight shifted to one leg?

Observe and take notes. Just don’t let them catch you doing it. 🙂

Where do you find inspiration for your work? Have you ever eavesdropped? Do you take notes? Anything from your ‘field study’ you’d like to share?

How to Write A Book


Focus.

That’s all it takes.

Focus on writing everyday, no excuses because even five minutes of active writing will increase the word count of a book. This may require rising before the sun, or burning the midnight oil, but if that’s what it takes to get hands on the keyboard or pencil/pen to paper, then commit to it. If it’s too difficult to get in touch with the muse early in the morning or late at night, sketch out the scene (or tell) what’s supposed to happen and use it as a guideline to flesh it out (or show) as much as possible during a lunch break, during the train/taxi ride home, or whenever time is available. If it’s a too busy family life that interrupts writing time, create a writing schedule, bargain if necessary so that each partner gets equal free time, even if it’s only half an hour.

Photo by Frank Selmo (frankselmo on Flickr)

When that free time is available, whether or not the muse is talking, make sure each scene has focus. These are the things I aim to include into each scene:

  • Conflict. Gotta have it, otherwise why are people reading the book. The main character (MC) has to have a goal from the very first page. Something is bound to stand in the way. I invite Murphy’s Law to stomp all over my characters life. I love when I’m reading a book and the MC gets backed into a corner from which I can see no way out, yet I know they get out cause there’s still 72 more pages left. In each scene, I focus on making my MC work toward her goal, ensuring the things she need don’t happen to fall into her lap, and amping up the conflict.
  • Character. In order for readers to care about said MC getting out the corner, they need to care about said character(s). I try to fall into my characters. Instead of observing the scene unfold as if watching it on the big screen, I imagine myself in the scene and employ all the senses to make the characters’ reaction to the setting real. I focus on staying in the MC’s POV throughout the scene, and if the POV changes, I add an extra space and stay in the other character’s POV for the remainder of the chapter. Continuous head hopping can be disconcerting.
  • Setting. Have a clear understanding of when and where the story takes place, but don’t try to include everything. Focus on a few select things which breathe life into the setting. There’s always time to build in more elements of the environment in the next scene.

Focus on the endgame. Figure out the common word expectations for the genre/target audience because it’ll be hard to sell a low word count sci-fi novel or a high word count realistic middle grade novel.

Last, focus on having fun and enjoying your characters and the world you’ve built for them.

What do you focus on when writing? What elements do you try to work into your scenes? How do you find time to write?

For a humorous take on How Not To Write A Novel, check out my crit partner’s post here.

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