5 Things To Avoid When Writing Romantic Relationships

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Image via Pixabay

Ahh, romance. Not only is it a massively popular genre of its own, it’s also an extremely common element in countless other genres and categories – from literary fiction right through to sci-fi, fantasy and young adult fiction. However, writing romantic relationships isn’t easy. Just because it’s done often, doesn’t mean it’s always done right.

If you’ve ever struggled to write romantic elements, don’t worry, because you definitely aren’t alone. Many authors have trouble crafting authentic relationships between their characters. Even the most seasoned writers are at risk of falling prey to clichés, stereotypical character tropes, and love stories that don’t quite ring true…

So whether you’re writing a romance novel or a book in any other genre that contains elements of romance, read on for five key things to avoid when writing romantic relationships.

1. Forgetting about conflict and tension

Conflict and tension are the elements that keep all stories moving. They draw readers in, get them invested in the story and the characters, and keep them turning pages.

This is no different when it comes to writing romantic relationships. The build-up of tension, and even outright initial conflict, between two people who are attracted to each other is a huge part of what many readers love about romance.

However, there are actually two potential mistakes to be made here:

  • Not maintaining conflict and tension in other aspects of the story apart from the romance.
  • Not keeping conflict and tension present after characters end up together.

In the first instance, you might be writing a story in which there’s a great amount of plot-pushing conflict and sizzling tension between your two romantically inclined characters. But in putting so much effort into the romantic conflict and tension, you might have forgotten to inject these elements anywhere else in the story.

Now, this can be more easily forgivable if you’re writing strictly within the romance genre. After all, the relationship, its development and all its ups and downs are what romance readers are here for. But do keep in mind that there needs to be other story elements as well, and that they should involve some measure of conflict to keep the story moving.

If you’re writing romantic relationships within genres other than romance, however, you need to be especially careful to keep up the conflict and tension in your story’s other areas.

Always remember which genre you’re primarily writing in, and who your target market is.

If you’re writing fantasy or one of its subgenres, for example, by all means weave a romantic element throughout. But keep in mind that the majority of your conflict and tension should come from the other aspects of your story, such as magic, politics or a character’s quest.

(If you find yourself focusing more and more on the romantic aspects of your writing to the detriment of other plot points, perhaps it’s time to reconsider which genre you really want to be writing in after all!)

The second potential mistake to be made is building up to the climactic point in which two characters finally end up together – and then instantly forgetting about conflict and tension altogether.

It’s all well and good to get caught up in developing the build-up to a romantic relationship; as we said before, that’s a favourite aspect of romance for many readers. However, it’s important to keep that all-important conflict and tension running through your story even after your characters get together.

Remember that in real life, no relationship is perfect. No fictional relationship should be perfect, either.

And even if your characters are pretty damn happy now they’re together, there still has to be some type of conflict throughout the story that will affect them – both individually and as a couple.

2. Creating stereotypical characters

Stereotypical characters are found in every genre and style of book. But unfortunately, they’re a little more likely to appear wherever romance is involved.

You’ve no doubt come across some pretty unbelieveable, cringeworthy or two-dimensional characters in a romance novel, romantic comedy movie, or any other story with romantic elements.

Whether it’s the broody, sulking man with a troubled past and a soft heart, the manic pixie dream girl, or simply a ‘Mary Sue’-style character, there are countless stereotypes and overdone character tropes perpetuated through romance in literature.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid this. You just need to keep the following in mind at all times:

When writing romantic relationships, each character needs to be developed individually as well as in terms of their relationship.

Crafting believable characters is one of the most important aspects of fiction writing. If you can’t make each character authentic on their own, the relationship they share won’t be authentic either.

To create great romantic relationships, you first need to create great individual characters. They need to be flawed, complex and real in order to resonate with readers. So none of these perfect cookie-cutter characters who lack any real substance, or who exist primarily for the sake of a romantic story element.

If you develop fully rounded, engaging and believable characters, it’s much easier to develop fully rounded, engaging and believable relationships between them. Simple.

3. Writing ‘love at first sight’

This is, of course, one of the biggest no-nos when writing romantic relationships. ‘Instalove’ is one of the most common mistakes to avoid when writing YA fiction, and it’s no different when it comes to writing for adults.

In real life, nobody meets (or even just looks at) someone for the first time and immediately falls in love. Yes, there can be instant attraction – but this shouldn’t be confused with instant love.

Even if your romantic relationship is just a subplot in your story, that’s no excuse for it not to be developed properly. And besides, doesn’t establishing the romance instantly take all the fun, tension and anticipation out of the build-up we talked about above.

No matter which genre you write in, your readers want to go on a journey with your characters, and this includes the building of their relationships.

There’s no faster way to make readers’ eyes roll than two characters falling instantly in love without any real interaction or meaningful connection. So be sure to avoid this trope at all costs.

4. Romanticising harmful relationship elements

When writing romantic relationships in your novels, it’s extremely important to distinguish between what’s healthy in a relationship, and what’s harmful.

We’re not saying every relationship you write has to be a perfectly healthy and happy one. (See the notes on conflict and tension above!) We’re simply saying that you need to be aware when you’re writing romantic elements that are actually harmful, and that you need to avoid romanticising these elements at all costs.

So what do we mean when we refer to ‘harmful’ relationship elements? Basically, we’re talking about any aspects of a relationship that are portrayed as ‘romantic’ or even an expression of ‘true love’, but are actually unhealthy or even abusive.

Think about some of the romance stories portrayed in books, films and TV today. How many emotionally, verbally or even physically abusive characters are out there masquerading as romantic ‘heroes’? How many unhealthy relationship aspects and negative character traits have been passed off as ‘sexy’ or ‘desirable’? (Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey, we’re looking at you.)

Common character traits along these lines include:

  • Jealousy
  • Possessiveness/overprotectiveness
  • Dominant/controlling personality
  • Obsessiveness/desperation

Again, we’re not saying you can’t create characters who have these traits, or that you can’t write about an abusive or toxic relationship.

We’re saying that if you do, you need to avoid romanticising those aspects, and always make it clear that this is not what a normal, healthy relationship actually looks like.

5. Using clichéd language and descriptions

If any element of fiction is in the most danger of being rife with clichés, it has to be romance.

Just like the stereotypical character tropes we talked about above, the language and descriptions you use when writing romantic relationships are at risk of falling into clichéd territory.

Whether you’re writing sex scenes, or simply describing the way characters see each other or feel when they’re around each other, there’s a lot of language that tends to be overused in romance writing. This includes things like:

  • Describing eyes in great detail (especially their colour and depth)
  • Pulses racing/hearts beating faster
  • Gazes/intense stares
  • Clichéd comparisons, especially to nature/celestial bodies – ‘Her eyes were like stars’, ‘She shone like the sun’, and so on
  • Words like ‘love’, ‘passion’, ‘desire’ etc.

Try to think outside the box a little when it comes to describing your characters’ feelings. What fresh or unusual imagery can you use to evoke the nuances of their relationship? How can you tie this imagery in with who they are as a character?

Experiment with words, but also remember that sometimes keeping things simple can be the most effective way of writing romantic relationships.

Good luck!

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Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/5-things-avoid-writing-romantic-relationships/

Writing Prompt: Mindmapping and support characters

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Image by Rebecca Bishop

This week’s writing prompt, although for everyone, is especially useful for those who are working on a bigger project – perhaps a novel or novella. The problem with writing a bigger work is that generally, there’s not much ‘reward’ in terms of recognition and publication throughout what is usually a long process. Most journals don’t accept novel excerpts as submissions, and so unless you’re working on multiple short stories as well as your novel, you won’t be published until *fingers crossed* your novel hits the shelves.

So here’s something for you to try:

Get yourself in the writing zone with your favourite tipple and a notepad. Draw a quick mind map of the main characters and the ‘support cast’ associated with them in your current work. Then take a closer look at one of these secondary characters.

The idea is to choose someone who is quietly relevant to your story – perhaps it is the actions of this character that made your protagonist act in a certain way or choose a certain path? It could be your lead man’s mother? Or an old school friend? Think about their backstory.

This story could be set years before the events in your novel take place, like the protagonist’s childhood, or the childhood of their parents, or a lover… Choose a character whose backstory impacts the narrative in a subtle way. This is your opportunity to explore events and characters that you love but don’t have room for in your current work.

Then write a short story based on whatever you come up with. This allows you to create something that can stand alone from your novel, yet benefit it at the same time. At best, you have a short story that you’re able to submit to literary journals for consideration, and at worst, you’ve built onto the backstory of your novel, and enriched one of its support characters or settings by getting to know them better.

Happy writing!

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Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/writing-prompts/weekly-writing-prompts-22/

5 Key Questions To Ask About Character Motivations

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Image via Unsplash

Creating compelling characters is perhaps the most important aspect of fiction writing. So what about your characters’ motivations?

The decisions and actions of characters drive the plot of every story. And each of your story’s players – whether hero, villain, or supporting character – should have reasons for making those choices, and for carrying out those actions.

Clear, strong, and realistic motivations are essential for every round character in every story. But why exactly are these motivations so important?

Put simply, if you don’t establish your characters’ motivations, you run the risk of writing characters who fall flat. Characters who readers just can’t understand or connect with; characters who exist only to further the story; characters who are inconsistent, or who perpetuate lazy tropes and stereotypes.

Obviously, none of these types of characters are ones you want in your story! So it’s absolutely vital that you fully understand your characters’ motivations – and that your readers do, too.

Here are five key questions to ask yourself when establishing your characters’ motivations.

1. Are your characters’ motivations internal or external?

There are two key types of motivations your characters might experience: internal and external. (Bear in mind that they may experience both at the same time – more on that below.)

Internal motivations are those that come from within the character. The character is motivated to act by a choice they have made within themselves – a personal goal, perhaps, or a desire to achieve some outcome or reward.

External motivations are outside factors that motivate the character to act. Other characters, or situations outside the character’s control, may influence or even force them to make certain decisions and actions.

Often, a combination of both these types of motivations makes for interesting storytelling – especially if the two happen to be conflicting.

Example

Let’s consider an example from an old favourite, the Harry Potter series. The character of Albus Dumbledore is a great exhibitor of both internal and external motivations, and a great example of how such motivations can also be conflicting.

The majority of Dumbledore’s decisions and actions are motivated by a desire to see the series’ antagonist, Voldemort, defeated. These are primarily external motivations, and they lead Dumbledore to formulate a plan using Harry Potter himself to defeat Voldemort – even though this means that Harry’s life will eventually be sacrificed.

However, Dumbledore also experiences a conflicting internal motivation: the desire to protect Harry, to see him lead a safe and happy life. This motivation leads Dumbledore to keep the details of the plan from Harry, and to delay the plan’s consequences until the last possible moment. As Dumbledore himself puts it…

I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed.”

Now, not all of your characters’ motivations need to be this complex or conflicted. But it’s important to consider whether their motivations are internal, external, or both, and how these differing sets of motivations will affect your characters’ actions and the outcomes of the story.

2. Are your characters’ motivations realistic and believable?

How many times have you come across a villainous character who’s evil simply for the sake of being evil? Or a hero whose every action is completely altruistic and selfless?

These kinds of characters tend to fall rather flat – all because their motivations are unrealistic.

Very few real people do terrible things simply for the sake of it, and even fewer act selflessly 100% of the time. If you want your characters to read like living, breathing people, their motivations are going to have to be much more believable.

Unrealistic motivations tend to come into play most often with antagonistic characters. Sure, antagonists are required to create conflict in stories, but there need to be reasons for their antagonistic actions.

If you can’t explain why your antagonist wants what they want – if you can’t give them interesting and believable motivations – they’ll simply become a plot device rather than a fully fleshed-out character.

We think author Michelle Hodkin sums it up best:

The villain is the hero of her own story. Everyone has reasons for what they do.”

It’s a similar situation with protagonists. Everyone loves to read about a hero – but no one really connects with a protagonist who has no flaws in their personality or their motivations.

Remember that your characters should not be black-and-white – no real person is. Humans are complex creatures. Good people can be motivated by ‘bad’ or selfish reasoning, and bad people are often motivated by what they believe to be good or right.

3. What do your characters’ motivations reveal about them?

Your characters’ reasons for doing what they do can say a lot about who they are. Exploring their various motivations is a great method of character development.

Your characters’ motivations can provide important insight into:

  • Their values, morals and beliefs.
  • Their hopes, dreams and fears.
  • Their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Events in their past that have influenced who they are today.

When you’re determining what drives each of your characters, consider what those motivations might reveal about them, and how this might help you to paint a more detailed, nuanced character portrait.

A note of caution, though: when revealing character through motivations, actions and reactions, it’s better to be subtle rather than blatant.

There’s no need to directly unpack and explain your characters’ every decision or action. Sometimes, it pays to let readers work out characters’ motivations for themselves, with only a little subtle guidance from you.

As the folks over at Now Novel point out…

It feels stagy when characters announce their motivations explicitly. Showing what drives them as a building arrangement of memories, fears, beliefs and ongoing experiences will make it easier for readers to draw their own conclusions about characters’ behaviour and what it means.”

4. How do your characters’ motivations change throughout the story?

People change. Whether through the natural process of growing older, through certain events and circumstances, or a combination of all of the above, no one remains the exact same person throughout their entire life.

Demonstrating this change through evolving and transforming motivations can help you create truly realistic, complex, and convincing characters.

Let’s go back to our example of Professor Dumbledore. A complex character with a compelling backstory, Dumbledore’s motivations change throughout the course of his life and the course of the Harry Potter story.

When we learn about a younger Dumbledore’s affiliation with the dark wizard, Grindelwald, we get an insight into his key motivation as a young man: power. This motivation led him to make plans with Grindelwald to place wizards in a place of supremacy above non-magic folk, supposedly ‘for the greater good’.

However, by the time we meet Dumbledore in the present, his motivations have changed entirely.

He now leads the fight against Lord Voldemort, who is following in Grindelwald’s footsteps and seeking domination over wizards and Muggles alike. There are numerous motivations leading Dumbledore to these actions: primarily, atonement for his past mistakes, and a desire for peace and harmony in the wizarding world (and the Muggle one).

This is a great example of how a character’s motivations can change drastically throughout a story, and how you can use these motivations to develop more interesting and realistic characters.

5. Are your characters’ motivations really theirs – or are they yours?

When examining your characters’ actions and decisions, it can be all too easy to justify them using your own authorial motivations, rather than the actual motivations of the characters. It’s important to distinguish between the two.

To do this, you must be honest with yourself. Question whether you’re steering the story in a particular direction because that’s where the characters are naturally taking you – or simply because that’s where you want the story to go.

We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with having a plan and a direction for your story. We’re simply encouraging you to recognise when you may be forcing your characters’ motivations to suit you.

One way to avoid doing this is to make sure you know your characters inside out. If you know everything about them, you’re better able to understand how they would naturally act and react in certain situations. This will help you determine whether the path you’ve set them on is a believable one.

If you’re having trouble becoming an expert on your characters, there are a few things you can do to get to know them better. Try writing out some background in the form of a short story or a biography/life history. Complete a questionnaire from their perspective, or just answer some key questions about their past. See my previous post on writing round characters for more ideas if you need them.

The better you know your characters, the better you’re able to ensure you’re presenting their motivations, actions and decisions in a convincing and compelling way.

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When it comes down to it, your characters’ motivations are the central driving force behind your story. That’s why it’s so important to get them right!

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/5-key-questions-to-ask-about-character-motivations/

4 Tips for Writing Round Characters

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I’ve never had a character come to me fully formed and ready to go. They come to me like ghosts and I have to make them real by getting to know them over time. Creating (good) characters is hard work, but when you take the time and effort to make them ’round’ it’s always worth it.

So what is a ’round’ character? E.M Forster wrote in Aspects of the Novel, that:

The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. If it never surprises, it is flat… It has an incalculability of life about it – life within the pages of a book.”

Someone once told me that if you can imagine the character existing outside of the novel, if they have lives that reach beyond their role in the book’s plot, they’re round. It’s all about putting life back in those ghostly figures that first appear.

But it’s not always so easy to create a round character. So how do you do it? One approach is to let the characters reveal themselves to you, to really sit down and get to know them. Here are 4 tips as to how you might achieve that:

Ask questions.

Write out a set of questions for your character and conduct a kind of interview. This gets your brain thinking about all sorts of random details that you can use for background info to help round out your character. If you’re not sure what to ask, check out this list of possible questions.

HINT: This works even better if you don’t know the questions beforehand. Have a friend do the asking – it’ll keep you on your toes!

Have a chat.

Imagine physically meeting your character for the first time (maybe in a cafe, or at the library – it depends on the character). How does the conversation begin? How do they respond to you? This is great for picking up body language and visualisations about the character.

HINT: It’s not recommended to tell people who aren’t writers that you’ve been ‘talking with your characters’. They just don’t get it. Trust me.

Fill out a job application.

This idea comes from an article on The Write Practice. It’s a great way to work out the facts about a character. Don’t forget the important yet sometimes over looked details like age, date of birth, and previous work history.

HINT: As the article says, don’t hesitate to add more parts to the job application and really scrutinise your character.

Write a letter.

Not many people write letters anymore, so this is a great way to learn more about your character’s motivations, their past, their friends and so on. It’s a good exercise for creating tone and voice as well as vocabulary.

HINT: Check out this writing prompt for more ideas on what to consider when writing your letter.

If you complete all these exercises you should really know your character by the end, and be well on your way to writing a fully rounded character.

Happy writing!

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Via https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/4-tips-writing-round-characters/

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story

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There are lots of tips from great authors on how to write a story.

Well, here are some more from Kurt Vonnegut (11 November 1922 – 11 April 2007) — anarchist, Second Life dweller, imaginary interviewer of the dead, and sad soul — with eight tips on how to write a good short story:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Some very good and interesting advice. You can apply these tips to novel writing too.

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Via: https://www.brainpickings.org/kurt-vonnegut-on-writing-stories/

Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers (Part 4)

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Here concludes a lovely reading list of lots of famous advice on writing that has been presented over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and many more.

If you have the time to dip into these there are some real gems worth reading.

Enjoy.


 

  1. Annie Dillard: The Art of the Essay and Narrative Nonfiction vs. Poetry and Short Stories

    “Writers serve as the memory of a people. They chew over our public past.”

  2. C.S. Lewis: The 3 Ways of Writing for Children and the Key to Authenticity in All Writing

    “The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.”

  3. Nietzsche: 10 Rules for Writers

    “Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.”

  4. William Faulkner: Writing, the Human Dilemma, and Why We Create

    “It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.”

  5. David Foster Wallace: The Redemptive Power of Reading and the Future of Writing in the Age of Information

    The fun of reading as “an exchange between consciousnesses, a way for human beings to talk to each other about stuff we can’t normally talk about.”

  6. Zadie Smith: The Psychology of the Two Types of Writers

    “It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”

  7. George Orwell: Writing, How to Counter the Mindless Momentum of Language, and the Four Questions a Great Writer Must Ask Herself

    “By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.”

  8. Italo Calvino: The Art of Quickness, Digression as a Hedge Against Death, and the Key to Great Writing

    “Success consists in felicity of verbal expression, which every so often may result from a quick flash of inspiration but as a rule involves a patient search… for the sentence in which every word is unalterable.”

  9. Ursula K. Le Guin: Where Ideas Come From, the “Secret” of Great Writing, and the Trap of Marketing Your Work

    “All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.”

  10. Gabriel García Márquez on His Unlikely Beginnings as a Writer

    “If you’re going to be a writer you have to be one of the great ones… After all, there are better ways to starve to death.”

  11. Roald Dahl: How Illness Emboldens Creativity: A Moving Letter to His Bedridden Mentor

    “I doubt I would have written a line … unless some minor tragedy had sort of twisted my mind out of the normal rut.”

  12. Robert Frost: How to Read Intelligently and Write a Great Essay

    “The sidelong glance is what you depend on.”

  13. Lewis Carroll: How to Work Through Difficulty and His Three Tips for Overcoming Creative Block

    “When you have made a thorough and reasonably long effort, to understand a thing, and still feel puzzled by it, stop, you will only hurt yourself by going on.”

  14. Mark Strand: The Heartbeat of Creative Work and the Artist’s Task to Bear Witness to the Universe

    “It’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention.”

  15. John Steinbeck: The Diary as a Tool of Discipline, a Hedge Against Self-Doubt, and a Pacemaker for the Heartbeat of Creative Work

    “Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.”

  16. E.B. White: How to Write for Children and the Writer’s Responsibility to All Audiences

    “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.”

  17. Virginia Woolf: Writing and Self-Doubt

    Consolation for those moments when you can’t tell whether you’re “the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”

  18. Cheryl Strayed: Faith, Humility, and the Art of Motherfuckitude

    “Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

  19. Ann Patchett: Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art

    “The ability to forgive oneself … is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.”

  20. Umberto Eco’s Advice to Writers

    “If we think that our reader is an idiot, we should not use rhetorical figures, but if we use them and feel the need to explain them, we are essentially calling the reader an idiot. In turn, he will…

  21. Grace Paley: The Value of Not Understanding Everything

    “Luckily for art, life is difficult, hard to understand, useless, and mysterious.”

  22. Jane Kenyon: Some of the Wisest Words to Create and Live By

    “Be a good steward of your gifts.”

  23. Joseph Conrad on Art and What Makes a Great Writer, in a Beautiful Tribute to Henry James

    “All creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive, enlightening, familiar and surprising, for the edification of mankind.”

  24. How to Save Your Soul: Willa Cather on Productivity vs. Creativity, Selling Out, and the Life-Changing Advice That Made Her a Writer

    “It’s so foolish to live (which is always trouble enough) and not to save your soul. It’s so foolish to lose your real pleasures for the supposed pleasures of the chase — or the stock exchange.”

  25. Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, Ambition, the Art of Revision, and His Reading List of Essential Books for Aspiring Writers

    “In any art you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better.”

  26. James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing

    “Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”

  27. Alison Bechdel on Writing, Therapy, Self-Doubt, and How the Messiness of Life Feeds the Creative Conscience

    “It’s by writing… by stepping back a bit from the real thing to look at it, that we are most present.”

  28. Elizabeth Alexander on Writing, the Ethic of Love, Language as a Vehicle for the Self, and the Inherent Poetry of Personhood

    “You have to tell your own story simultaneously as you hear and respond to the stories of others.”

  29. Can Goodness Win? George Saunders on Writing, the Artist’s Task, and the Importance of Living with Opposing Truths

    “See how long you can stay in that space, where both things are true… That’s a great place to try to be.”

***

This concludes Part 4, I hope you enjoyed reading and learned something valuable to take away and apply to your writing.

Via: https://www.brainpickings.org/advice-on-writing/

Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers (Part 3)

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Here continues a lovely reading list of lots of famous advice on writing that has been presented over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and many more.

If you have the time to dip into these there are some real gems worth reading.

Enjoy.


 

  1. Kurt Vonnegut: The Writer’s Responsibility, the Limitations of the Brain, and Why the Universe Exists: A Rare 1974 WNYC Interview

    “We have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted.”

  2. Ernest Hemingway on Not Writing for Free and How to Run a First-Rate Publication

    Find the best writers, pay them to write, and avoid typos at all costs.

  3. How to Be a Writer: Ernest Hemingway’s Advice to Aspiring Authors

    “As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.”

  4. Eudora Welty: The Poetics of Place and Writing as an Explorer’s Map of the Unknown

    “No art ever came out of not risking your neck.”

  5. Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize Interview: Writing, Women, and the Rewards of Storytelling

    “I want my stories to move people … to feel some kind of reward from the writing.”

  6. Samuel Delany: Good Writing vs. Talented Writing

    “Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”

  7. William Faulkner: Writing, the Purpose of Art, Working in a Brothel, and the Meaning of Life

    “The only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost.”

  8. Anaïs Nin: Writing, the Future of the Novel, and How Keeping a Diary Enhances Creativity: Wisdom from a Rare 1947 Chapbook

    “It is in the movements of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately.”

  9. John Updike: Writing and Death

    “Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”

  10. Charles Bukowski Debunks the “Tortured Genius” Myth of Creativity

    “Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.”

  11. Mary Gaitskill: Why Writers Write and The Six Motives of Creativity

    The art of integrating the ego and the impulse for empathy in a dynamic call and response.

  12. Vladimir Nabokov: Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have

    “Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”

  13. Joan Didion: Telling Stories, the Economy of Words, Starting Out as a Writer, and Facing Rejection

    “Short stories demand a certain awareness of one’s own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.”

  14. Herman Melville’s Daily Routine and Thoughts on the Writing Life

    “A book in a man’s brain is better off than a book bound in calf — at any rate it is safer from criticism.”

  15. William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: The Writer as a Booster of the Human Heart

    “The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is … to help man endure by lifting his heart.”

  16. John Updike: Making Money, How to Have a Productive Daily Routine, and the Most Important Things for Aspiring Writers to Know

    “In a country this large and a language even larger … there ought to be a living for somebody who cares and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.”

  17. Susan Sontag : Writing, Routines, Education, and Elitism in a 1992 Recording from the 92Y Archives

    “To make your life being a writer, it’s an auto-slavery … you are both the slave and the task-master.”

  18. Chinua Achebe: The Meaning of Life and the Writer’s Responsibility in Society

    The difference between blind optimism and the urge to improve the world’s imperfection.

  19. Leonard Cohen: Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is You’re Quitting

    “The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”

  20. Ray Bradbury: What Failure Really Means, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors

    How working for the wrong motives poisons our creativity and warps our ideas of success and failure.

  21. Joyce Carol Oates: What Hemingway’s Early Stories Can Teach Us About Writing and the Defining Quality of Great Art

    On the elusive gift of blending austerity of craft with elasticity of allure.

  22. Willa Cather: Writing Through Troubled Times

    “The test of one’s decency is how much of a fight one can put up after one has stopped caring, and after one has found out that one can never please the people they wanted to please.”

  23. Anthony Trollope: Witty and Wise Advice on How to Be a Successful Writer

    “My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.”

  24. William Styron: Why Formal Education Is a Waste of Time for Writers

    “For a person whose sole burning ambition is to write — like myself — college is useless beyond the Sophomore year.”

  25. Madeleine L’Engle: Creativity, Censorship, Writing, and the Duty of Children’s Books

    “We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them. If we are looking for witchcraft and evil, we’ll likely find them, and we may get taken over by them.”

  26. Saul Bellow: How Writers and Artists Save Us from the “Moronic Inferno” of Our Time

    “The writer cannot make the seas of distraction stand still, but he [or she] can at times come between the madly distracted and the distractions.”

  27. Mary Oliver: The Mystery of the Human Psyche, the Secret of Great Poetry, and How Rhythm Makes Us Come Alive

    “Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”

  28. Schopenhauer on Style

    “Truth that is naked is the most beautiful, and the simpler its expression the deeper is the impression it makes.”

  29. Flannery O’Connor: Why the Grotesque Appeals to Us, Plus a Rare Recording of Her Reading

    “There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.”

***

This concludes Part 3, be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 4.

Via: https://www.brainpickings.org/advice-on-writing/