Sunday, 18 May 2014

Creating Believable Characters

   How do you create a believable character?

Fiction is about making things up. Simple.
The trick is to hook your reader early on, the first word ideally. Stories that have stood the test of time always have memorable characters in them. So, how do you make your characters stand up off the page and leap about in your reader's imagination?

Lots of people create versions of themselves. This isn't terribly wise although most writers do throw the odd aspect of themselves into one or some of their cast. In a perfect world you'll love your main character. Remember that whilst you're writing your novel, you'll be living with this character in your head, day in and day out. You've got to like them or you'll send yourself crazy.

Your reader needs to feel empathy and affection towards your character. The reader needs to want the character to get out whatever tricky situation you've engineered for them. They need to be routing for them all the way. Make your characters human. That sounds so simple, doesn't it? Give them realistic dreams, back stories, thoughts and mannerisms. Make them real. Can you imagine them? What do they look like? How would they react if someone crashed into their car in the supermarket car park? You need to know the answer to that, even if it has no relevance to the story. You need to know them inside out. It's the only way to make them jump off the page.

There is no such thing as a perfect person. We all have faults, weaknesses, strengths and quirks. No-one is totally good or totally bad. Lay your clues throughout the storyline and let your reader work out who they like and who they don't, and why. Your job as the writer is to lead your reader along the path you want them to take but it shouldn't feel forced. Characters can help with this. If a situation in your storylines calls for an upheaval, use your characters reactions to make this happen. It's easier than you think. Go on, give it a try!

Monday, 5 May 2014

When it all gets too much...

Sometimes it can feel as if the world is resting on your shoulders. Modern life is difficult enough without adding to the strain. When it's getting you down, take a deep breath, and write.  Write anything at all, scribble away until you feel calm again. Trust me, it really does work.  According to Stephen Kind, On Writing; "The situation comes first. The characters - always flat and unfeatured, to begin with - come next. Once these things are fixed in my mind, I begin to narrate.  I often have an idea of what the outcome may be, but I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualised. In most, however, it's something I never expected."
So, do you have a master plan?
Personally, I life to plan my novels, but lots of writers just let the words flow onto the page and only scramble control of them once the first draft is completed. I like planning, I like the safety of knowing where I'm going with my story. Essentially though, I always leave myself a little "wiggle room" so that when that extra twist sparks into life, I can find a way to include it into the novel. Often, that extra special twist is something I don't think I would ever have thought of in a million years. It's always as if the characters have told me. It comes to life whilst writing, not whilst planning.
So, to plan or not to plan?
Well, it's a personal choice. Try it both way and see what works best for you. After all, we can't all be the same!

Trade Secrets....

  Elephants never forget, apparently. Sometimes I wish I were as lucky. There are endless streams of tips and snippets of advice out there just waiting to swamp the aspiring writer. If only we could remember it all when we really need it.
Well here's the good news, wait for it, you don't need to!  Your aim as a writer is simple. Just write. Just write a book you'd like to read yourself. Sounds so easy when you say it like that, doesn't it, but how do you begin?
Virgina Woolf once said, "So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say."
The first hurdle to overcome is fitting writing into your life. It can be tricky to find five minutes in today's hectic schedules, let alone longer. If you're serious about writing but struggle to find a moment or two, start by reviewing your week. Take an average week and look carefully at where you could shuffle things to save yourself time. Ultimately, if you want to write and you're serious about it, you'll find a window of time somewhere.  In an ideal world, you'll find yourself a slice of time each week when you're at your best. Some people are at their best in the mornings, others in the evenings, some even in the twilight hours. Find your best time and do everything you can to clear your diary.
Writing becomes a habit. Find the time and keep going. Don't quit. Before too long you'll have written far more than you ever thought possible.
"The art of writing is all about the inspiration of the moment and the excitement of riding the wave of an idea."  According to Elizabeth George (Write Away).
The trick is to keep going, even when inspiration seems to be reluctant to join you. It's a discipline, one to be adhered to if you want to succeed.
It's tempting to wait until inspiration finds you, as if by some magical spell, but instead, remember that real writers write. If you want to be a writer you need to make the ideals come to life, make them happen, create them, and make them yours.
So where will you get your ideas from? It has to be the most popular question asked. Well, look around yourself. Watch people, politely of course. Don't stare.  If you watch people for a little while, you'll find yourself wondering what they're doing, where they're going next, why one of them is hobbling or the other has a torn sleeve.  Don't look for too long, just enough to spark off your thoughts, then let them go, swiftly pick up your pen or laptop and start to fill in the gaps for yourself.
Family and friends will be happy to offer ideas. Keep them, all of them. You never know when you may use them. The news and the media can also spark off ideas for great plotlines. Keep up to date with the world. The next newspaper article you read could send you into a creative dream world.
So there you are, keep going and keep your eyes and ears open to suggestions. Most importantly, keep writing and don't give up.  Oh yes, and one more thing, make sure you read a lot. It can only help!
Good luck!