Monday, 29 July 2013

What A Character Wants Is Only Step One

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First you need a character who wants something, even if (as Kurt Vonnegut said) it’s only a glass of water.

This simple dynamic is at the heart of ever plot. If you find plots difficult to write, this is where to start. Whether it’s wanting to stop the alien invasion or wanting the dog next door to shut up, as soon as a goal is identified you can start building a narrative.

You build this narrative by deciding what the character is going to do. You know what they want, so how are they going to get it?

The journey from not having what they want to having it, whether in a scene or a chapter or over the course of a novel will be what the reader follows and hopefully they’ll get into the momentum and flow of it.

But as well as providing a narrative, what the character does in pursuit of his goal also serves two very important additional roles.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Decoy Dialogue

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Words don’t always mean what the dictionary says they mean. It’s one of the pleasures of speech that we can mix up meanings of words to have completely different intentions, and we can impart that intention with tone, inflection or delivery.

This is something easy to replicate on stage or in movies. Even though a script might have to spell things out, once an actor delivers the line it’s usually obvious.

For novelists this is a little more tricky. Trying to capture the mercurial nature of dialogue on the page can be a lot of work, and often it’s easier to write simple, direct dialogue where people say what they mean in language that has no shades of grey.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Better Storytelling Part Four

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A good story weaves events together in a way that’s unexpected yet satisfying. Things that happened early on have repercussions much later in the story.

Sometimes it’s obvious when an object or a piece of information is planted by the author for an eventual pay-off, other times it’s more subtle. Both approaches can be effective, depending on the writer’s intent. But the important thing is that when the pay-off comes the reader should be able to put two and two together without having to rack their brains for what just happened.

This isn’t always an easy thing to achieve. A novel is a long and time consuming thing to read. Readers aren’t always completely focused and they may be reading over a few days or a few weeks.

If there’s one piece of important information in amongst a thousands of words it can easily be missed or forgotten.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Better Storytelling Part Three

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So far in this series we’ve looked at what a character wants and who’s getting in the way. Another important element to consider is what’s at stake.

This is something most writers have a fairly good grasp of. If a character has something to lose then they are more likely to get up off the sofa and do something about it. If it’s really important to them they might even take a few risks.

But that isn’t what this post is about.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Guest Post

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No post today but you can find me guest posting tomorrow (Friday 5th July) over at K.M. Weiland's Wordplay blog — a great site for writers and if you aren't following Katie, you definitely should. It's my first ever guest post so please stop by and say hello.

You can find the post by clicking HERE.

The next part of the Better Storytelling series will be up on Monday. Cheers.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Better Storytelling Part Two

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In the first part of this series I discussed the need for a strong purpose behind a character’s goals. In this post I will be talking about competition and rivalry.

There are stories where characters are isolated or are in competition with themselves. These kinds of stories are hard to write and can easily come across as self-important and self-indulgent. Everything’s about him, nobody else counts, he has to do it all by himself.

That’s usually not the intention, but it’s hard not to come over like that if every sentence starts with the same subject.

However, once you bring in a rival to your main character, things not only become more dynamic, they also help the reader see the main character more clearly.
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