Monday, 26 May 2014

What Motivates The Bad Guy?

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Some characters are just born bad. Serial killers, werewolves, bankers—evil is in their blood and they are driven by a compulsion to do terrible things.

But not all antagonists are out and out villains. Just because your mother stops you doing anything fun, interferes in everything you do and guilt trips you into giving up your exciting plans to go curtain shopping with her, does that mean she’s a psycho who can’t be stopped? Hmm, okay, bad example.

My point is while there are some types of characters whose motivations don’t need to be explained because they are basically insane and can’t help themselves, most of the time the person acting against your hero needs their own reasons for pursuing their goal in such determined fashion.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Uncontriving Characters

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In writing a story you want to limit the number of characters you use. Instead of your main character having one friend to commiserate with over a drink and another friend drive him to the airport, they might as well be the same person. 

Sometimes it can be obvious which jobs should go to which characters, but other times it can take a while to realise you can meld two into one. As well as making things more manageable, there are a number of useful consequences of doing this.

Fewer characters are easier to remember and makes the story easier to follow. Giving a character more than one thing to do gives them depth and complexity and generally makes them more interesting. And having familiar characters turn up in different parts of a story is something readers like.

However, simply conflating a bunch of characters into one person can come across as contrived. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Should Secondary Characters Change?

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There are some good reasons to keep secondary characters (both friend and foe) fixed in how you represent them in a story.

A lot of these kinds of characters  aren’t going to be in the story all that much and they have specific roles to play. Whether it’s to move the plot along or reveal aspects of the main character, playing a supporting role doesn’t always benefit from too much fiddling.

You also don’t want to confuse the reader with a constantly changing cast that makes it hard to remember who’s who. Nor do you want to steal focus from the main players by going off on a tangent.

But then, you also don’t want to create a roster of one-dimensional automatons who walk on to the page to deliver the same old shtick every time, like a bad sitcom.

So how do you balance the two? And do you need to?

Monday, 5 May 2014

Digging for Writing Advice Gold

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Advice, for writing and for everything else, is situational. In some cases it applies, in some it doesn’t.

When a concisely phrased suggestion fits perfectly with what you’ve been trying to work out it can be mind-blowing. Everything suddenly slots into place. You know exactly what you need to do. Not only does it seem to give you the answer to the problem at hand, it can change the way you look at the world in general.

But advice, no matter how apropos, never applies to everything. The camera never lies, love conquers all, honesty is the best policy, they all have their exceptions and so does every other piece of wisdom.
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