Sunday, June 23, 2013

Are Your Characters and Scenes Believable?

  Are Your Characters and Scenes Believable?

     One important aspect of writing fiction is your character development.  Are your characters flat and dull, or full of life and individualism? A book will not sell if the characters are nothing more than a person, a job and an existence. 

  A scene telling the reader why he prefers a grey suit to the black one, or that she made a salad using lettuce, tomatoes, celery and avocado “because she knew they healthier than coleslaw” is boring, boring and boring. Unless every word advanced the story in a needed way don’t write them just to fill space.

Successful writers learn to weave information into a story when it’s most needed to advance the plot or outcome of the story.  Readers don't give a diddly-squat about irrelevant ‘facts’ that do nothing to explain what has happened, or will happen later on. Irrelevant facts only annoy seasoned readers who are paying to be entertained by either larger-than-life characters, or those they can relate to. They can often be both when we create realistic characters in our stories. Readers won’t finish reading a book or story filled with similar cookie-cutter characters that look alike but sport different names. How you develop each character can make, or break your story. 

 When developing characters consider what their purpose is, and how they will advance the story.  Who are they and how will they related to your protagonist . . . or your antagonist?  Will they choose sides in a conflict, or will they stay neutral?  Will be true blue, or will stumble and betray?  

What is their personality like? Are they fleeting, steadfast, moody, free-spirited, brooding, introverted, happy, cautious, curious, adventurous, fearful, shy, boisterous, flighty, smart, inexperienced, dumb as a rock, or pure genius? Will they have a tendency for being a psychopathic or sociopathic–or perhaps be outright crazy?  

Some details are needed in a story to detail who and what they are in the here and now, as well as what made them so, for the reader understand fully where they are coming from at this point in time.  However, don’t over explain, and don’t bunch all the details into one part of the story.  Unfold your story in layers. 

Think of it as peeling away the layers of a cabbage– mild on the outside, strong at the core.  The more you peel away, bit by bit, the stronger the story is.  Each layer will increase the readers understanding. A layer can have both strong and mild elements to increase, or soften, conflict.  Unfolding the inner depths of each personality adds three-dimensional traits to each character: showing their different sides.  We are not the same day in and day out. We have fluctuating emotions, dreams, expectations, and drive. Humanize each character with faults and favor for a more interesting story. 

   Develop a sketch of what each character will be like and what their purpose is to help your story progress. If a character has no real purpose it's better to get rid of that character, or provide them with a workable plot-twist. 

   Remember this if nothing else:  Your 3-dimensional  characters must be needed. Every scene needs to make sense and be important to the scene and in understanding the characters in it. Every page must advance the story's plot.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

What's a Writer to Do?



     So you think you'd like to try your hand at writing? You've predicted outcomes of several books and movies, and even had ideas for improvement? Welcome! You have symptoms that writing may be a future prospect. You gather up paper and pen, jot down ideas, consider the possibilities with excited anticipation, and begin your new career. What joy!
     However, if you are like many of us in the beginning, the tap, tap, tap of the typewriter (or computer keys) slowed over time as you realized there is more to writing than just sharing a story. A word you had to look up to ensure its correct spelling, or meaning, to match the context of your prose. Perhaps a doubt crept in after listening to an author interview about multiple rejection letters, some quite vehement, before an editor took a chance and published her novel? 

You erase the fleeting doubt by reasoning, I'm intelligent. I can research what I need about the publishing business; the how-to dos. My family and friends agree my story idea is good. Relieved once again you turn to the largest research library in the world - the Internet - and now you're good to go! 
What? You're not good to go? You’re more confused than ever? You find your confidence suddenly wilting into the salad of doubt? Don’t worry. To paraphrase Apple’s famous catch phrase “There's an app for that”, I assure you ‘There's of att for that'. As in attitude.
     Consider a couple truths. No two people are identical.No one truly thinks exactly like another. This has been demonstrated over and over again. Police ask witnesses to describe what they saw during a suspicious activity. There may be six witnesses watching at the same moment, yet when questioned privately the police will receive six different versions of the same happening. This is true of movie scripts and book plots. Individuals will analyze adn describe depending on their past collective experiences. One may think a character changes from brave into a coward and is digressing, while a doctor may see that character changing for the better – perhaps more thoughtful and less reckless. Our past experiences dictate what prefer, or don’t care for. How can one know, for sure, what is the best advice with so many differing opinions? Its really not rocket science.

     Writers must look at things logically. You’ve already decided you want to learn more about writing. Deciding what you need to know. That is your first priority. Is it proper language structure? What the most acceptable way to format a manuscript is? Which genre your story fits into for an upcoming contest? Consider who will provide you with the most accurate answer. In my opinion language structure is best learned through language teachers or education websites through schools. There are many free websites offering language education, examples and exercises. Many language teachers offer critiquing services for new writers work, particularly during summer months. They usually charge far less than a good editor or agent charges.

     Manuscript formatting advice is a bit more complex to decipher. It will change depending on the item in submission type and occasionally from publisher to publisher. Is the item to be submitted fiction or non-fiction? Will it go to a book, magazine, or online publisher? If you can do so I highly recommend subscribing to a reputable trade magazine.

I personally like the Writer's Digest trade magazine in hard copy so I can highlight items of interest. The hard copy subscription also includes online access for when you are on the road. Writer’s Digest publishes articles that keep writers up-to-date, guest editor and agent columns and articles, timely news on the ever-changing publishing industry, and interviews with well-known authors that are designed to help, and encourage, future writers. Other good trade publications are available, some aimed at specific genres. If you are near a Barnes & Nobles visit their magazine rack. Look inside each writer magazine offered and take note how they will or will not benefit you personally.

     Keep in mind that writers will always come across what seems to be conflicting information whether it is research related, local or online writing groups, in trade magazine, or trade news. If conflicting "never do" or "always do" advice comes from writers, editors or agents it is up to you to decide which opinion to go with while working on a story. There is no right or wrong way of telling your story. You are the creator. What some editors and readers hate, will be loved by others. There is a market for every writer, but it’s not all about the story. There are certain things you must get right to avoid extra work later on. For example, manuscript formatting is a technical question. Things to consider about the person providing the advice might include where did the editor graduate college? Which publishing houses have they worked for? Does the person come across as both knowledgeable and professional? Is the advice for your specific submission of non-fiction or fiction, book or magazine, ePublishing or hard copy publishing? 

Should you forget all else remember these common sense basics.
1. Research what you do not know (even with fiction it must sound realistic.

2. Editors, agents and writers opinions vary to their personal likes or dislikes when it comes to weaving stories. Be true to your gut instinct.

3. Are your mentor(s)encouraging you to grow in the direction you feel comfortable with and a good fit for your style of learning? 


Tuesday, June 4, 2013


     If you were to choose the life of a writer what would be your main goal? To entertain your readers? To weave a story that no one has ever fathomed before if you are a fiction writer? To educate the world about something that could change the readers life for the better if nonfiction? To make a lot of money and live on easy street - or at least enough money not to not starve?
The answer is yes, yes, yes, maybe, yes. But, what is a writer's main goal? I think this is that all-important question ever writer must ask himself, or herself.

     I have known I wanted to a writer since high school when my English teacher suggested I pitch my short story to a television station to see how it might come to become an episode of The Twilight zone. I don't recall now if I sent it in, but I don't recall it being shown on television, either. Maybe I should dust it off the original and attempt a short script? Hmmmm.

     Since days of old - pre-computer working on a Royal typewriter, then a Smith-Corona word processor - I have read many books on writing and enjoyed years of Writer's Digest magazine after as short stint of growing into adulthood, dating, marrying the wrong men. But, I digress.

     During my formative writing years I have read, studied and been a part of many online groups, both writing and other, and have seen how persons of like interest interact. I have seen the help that comes from nurturing what is today called a "newbie", and I have seen the ugly side of sharing a similar interest: Competition and envy. Thus, the prompt to consider the ultimate question: What is a writer's main purpose? It was my face-to-face writers group Write Night in Seattle that helped clarify the only answer one can honest come to. 

     Competition is bad for a writer. Any negativity is in my opinion. Oh, there are character's that are quite negative in good fiction, but for a writer to harbor it within is not healthy for his or her career. The love between a writer and those who can help them grow is not so different as that between a husband and wife - nurturing and caring creates a far more beautiful future than feelings of negativity. 

     My opinion on the main goal for a writer is that competing against him or herself is the only real competition that is healthy. It is what helps the writer become the best they can be, and no one can prevent that except himself or herself. So, if your goal is to become to learn the trade and become a writer don't be too concerned with what Janey or Jay thinks of your writing, just read and write, read and write, and you will improve no matter what anyone thinks.   

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Write or Right: a Writer's Introduction

     I am not one for blogging. I am a writer, and a poster of opinion as I see the world. But, I have discovered there are times that one must go off track from their story or novel or screenplay in an attempted to say, Hellooo? Are you nuts? or  Look, there must be a better way to accomplish what you want.  During those times I am usually address the U.S. Congress, but on occasion a different group of otherwise intelligent human being. 

    This is why I call my blog Write or Right. If you agree with my sentiments, then it is Right. If not, then for  you it will become Write - a bit of fiction in your eyes, but hopefully still enjoyable enough to contemplate where I am coming from. And I am hopeful that I know how to set up this blog to perform in a way that behaves in a way  I think it ought to. After all, I am a writer, not a computer programmer! Whether agree or not with my thoughts on any given matter, I wish all readers peace, happiness and love.