Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing

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Zadie Smith (Photograph: Francesco Guidicini)

In the winter of 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing published in The New York Times nearly a decade earlier, The Guardian reached out to some of today’s most celebrated authors and asked them to each offer his or her rules. My favourite is Zadie Smith’s list — an exquisite balance of the practical, the philosophical, and the poetic, and a fine addition to this ongoing omnibus of great writers’ advice on the craft.

Smith counsels:

  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
  3. Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation.’ You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle.’ All that matters is what you leave on the page.
  4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
  6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
  7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.
  8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  9. Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
  10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

Happy writing!

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Via: https://www.brainpickings.org/zadie-smith-10-rules-of-writing/

 

How To Plan Your Novel Using The Three-Act Structure

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Writing a novel is hard, especially if you’ve never done it before. You’ve spent hours researching, building your world and becoming an expert on your characters. Now you’re ready for the next step: planning (also known as plotting).

While some people like to write organically (letting the story take you in whatever direction feels right), having a detailed outline can help make the novel-writing process a lot less daunting and overwhelming. But how exactly do you plan a novel?

Essentially, there is no right or wrong way to outline your novel. Each story is different and needs to be told in a different way.

However, if you need a bit more guidance on how to plot out the next bestseller you know you have inside you, the three-act structure might be for you.

Defining The Three-Act Structure

The three-act structure is a popular screenwriting technique that revolves around constantly creating set-ups, conflicts and resolutions. With this structure, a novel is divided into three acts: a beginning, a middle and an end.

There are many versions of the three-act structure. In some, the middle is the same size as the beginning and end put together.

However, when you’re first starting out, it’s much easier to plan each act to be the same length. In this version of the three-act structure, each act is divided into nine chapters for 27 chapters in total. The nine chapters in each act are also split into three blocks of three chapters each.

This version creates a fast-paced novel that invites readers to keep turning your pages. If you’re still unconvinced, for an example Suzanne Collins’ bestselling young adult Hunger Games trilogy follows this structure almost perfectly.

Throughout this article, we’ll take a look at what each section of the three-act structure involves, using examples from The Hunger Games to demonstrate each element. (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read or seen The Hunger Games and don’t want key plot points spoiled, read on at your own risk!)

Act One (set-up)

The first act is used to introduce the reader to the world your characters live in and to set up the coming conflict.

Block One – Introduce Hero in Ordinary World

  • Chapter 1: Introduction (set up)
  • Chapter 2: Inciting incident (conflict)
  • Chapter 3: Immediate reaction (resolution)

In the first chapter, you need to set up your hero in their ordinary world. Introduce us to your characters and the relationships and conflicts between them. In The Hunger Games, the first chapter introduces the dystopian world and the Reaping.

The inciting incident in Chapter Two is the event or decision that sets your hero along the path of your narrative. The inciting incident is really important – without it, your story would not occur. The inciting incident in The Hunger Games is Katniss volunteering herself for the Hunger Games to save her sister; if Katniss didn’t volunteer, the rest of the novel would not have happened.

In the third chapter, the hero reacts to the inciting incident. The immediate reaction in The Hunger Games is when Katniss’ family and friends come to say goodbye to her before she leaves for the Games.

Block Two – Problem Disrupts Hero’s Life

  • Chapter 4: Reaction (set-up)
  • Chapter 5: Action (conflict)
  • Chapter 6: Consequence (resolution)

Chapter Four is where the hero reacts to and reflects on the long-term impacts of the inciting incident. In Chapter Four, Katniss reflects on the impact her death would have on her community, especially her mother and sister. Katniss also starts to discuss strategy with Haymitch, her mentor.

As a result of their reflection, the hero decides to take action and do something to change their situation in Chapter Five. In The Hunger Games, Katniss takes her first step towards winning the Games in the parade of tributes. Her fiery dress and attitude win over the crowd.

Chapter Six details the immediate consequences of the action the hero took in Chapter Five. In The Hunger Games, Katniss discusses the success of the parade with Haymitch. She also reflects on her past and the difficulty of rebellion.

Block Three – Hero’s Life Changes Direction

  • Chapter 7: Pressure (set-up)
  • Chapter 8: Pinch (conflict)
  • Chapter 9: Push (resolution)

The hero’s life has changed as a result of the action they took in Chapter Five, and this creates a lot of pressure and stress in Chapter Seven. The pressure is obvious in Chapter Seven of The Hunger Games. Here, Katniss has her demonstration where she shows the Gamemakers her archery skills by shooting an arrow towards them in frustration.

In Chapter Eight, the first pinch – or plot twist – occurs. A good plot twist is something completely unexpected for the reader. The first pinch in The Hunger Games is Katniss receiving a score of 11, something completely unexpected.

As a result of the pinch, the hero is pushed into a new world in Chapter Nine. The majority of this chapter in The Hunger Games centres around the television interviews with Caesar, the last formality before the tributes are sent into the Games. Here, Peeta declares his love for Katniss.

Act Two (conflict)

The second act is full of conflict. Character development is crucial in the second act; the hero at the end of Act One does not yet have the tools (whether those tools be emotional, physical or literal items the hero must retrieve) to succeed in the third act, so Act Two is all about the journey.

Block Four – Hero Explores New World

  • Chapter 10: New world (set-up)
  • Chapter 11: Fun and games (event/conflict)
  • Chapter 12: Old world contrast (resolution)

Chapter 10 allows you to introduce the reader to the new world. What has changed, and how does the hero feel about it? In Chapter 10, Katniss finally enters the Hunger Games.

In Chapter 11, the hero can take a break and have a little fun. Maybe they have a date with their new lover, or maybe they do something they’ve never done before. Here, Katniss travels through the arena looking for water, and while she is still in an intense environment, she has a bit of a break.

Chapter 12 is time for the hero to compare their current world to how things were at the novel’s beginning. After realising Peeta has teamed up with her enemies, Katniss reflects on their relationship and compares this Peeta to the person she was friends with.

Block Five – Crisis of New World

  • Chapter 13: Build-up (set-up)
  • Chapter 14: Midpoint (conflict)
  • Chapter 15: Reversal (resolution)

The fifth block is all about the midpoint, or the main crisis or conflict of your novel.

Chapter 13 is the build-up to the midpoint and Chapter 14 is the midpoint itself. A good midpoint will dramatically change the hero or impact their life in a negative way. In The Hunger Games, Katniss is pushed towards the Career tributes in Chapter 13, and escapes from them after Peeta saves her in Chapter 14.

Chapter 15 is the immediate reaction or consequence of the midpoint. Here, Katniss makes an alliance with Rue and they formulate a plan to take down the Career tributes.

Block Six – Finding a Solution

  • Chapter 16: Reaction (set-up)
  • Chapter 17: Action (conflict)
  • Chapter 18: Dedication (resolution)

In Chapter 16, the hero reflects on the long-term impacts of the midpoint. In The Hunger Games, Katniss realises that to take down the Careers, they need to stop their food supply.

In Chapter 17, the hero decides to take action to resolve the problem created by the midpoint; however, they realise the enormity of their task when things don’t necessarily go to plan. In Chapter 17, Katniss blows up the Career’s food supply, but before she and Rue can celebrate, Rue is attacked by another tribute.

Despite the set-backs, in Chapter 18 the hero decides that they will succeed no matter what. Rue dies in Chapter 18, and Katniss promises to win for her.

Act Three (resolution)

The final act is all about resolutions. In the third act, the hero needs to find solutions to the conflict created by the midpoint, and you as the author need to make sure you tie up all the loose ends.

Block Seven – Victory Seems Impossible

  • Chapter 19: Trials (set-up)
  • Chapter 20: Pinch (event/conflict)
  • Chapter 21: Darkest moment (resolution)

In Chapter 19, the hero faces significant trials. These trials are extremely difficult for the hero and is something the hero has never experienced before. Here, Katniss races to find Peeta and struggles to help save his injured leg.

Chapter 20 is the second pinch, where the hero experiences something completely unexpected that makes everything even worse. In Chapter 20, Peeta’s injury leads to blood poisoning.

This plot twist leads to the darkest moment in Chapter 21 where the thought of success is incomprehensible. Here, Katniss risks everything to get medicine for Peeta, and the chapter ends with her passing out from her own injuries.

Block Eight – Hero Finds Power

  • Chapter 22: Power within (set-up)
  • Chapter 23: Action (conflict)
  • Chapter 24: Converge (resolution)

Having hit rock-bottom, the hero remembers their desire to succeed in Chapter 18 and finds the power within to continue on. In Chapter 22, Katniss and Peeta both start to recover from their injuries.

After deciding they can do it, the hero takes action in Chapter 23, and this action causes the plotlines to converge and come together in Chapter 24. In Chapter 23, Peeta and Katniss realise how close they are to winning, and in Chapter 24 all of the tributes are pushed towards the lake by the Gamemakers for the final battle.

Block Nine – Hero Fights and Wins

  • Chapter 25: Battle (set-up)
  • Chapter 26: Climax (conflict)
  • Chapter 27: Resolution (resolution)

Block nine is the finale. In Chapter 25, the character has one last battle. This doesn’t have to be a physical battle – it could be a fight between friends or lovers, or a mental battle your hero has with themselves. Here, Peeta and Katniss try to survive the freezing night and kill Cato.

Chapter 26 is the final climax. The decisions the hero makes here will impact the rest of their life; it is the point of no return. In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta pretend to eat the poisonous berries, which leads to President Snow stopping them by declaring them both winners. However, Katniss realises that despite winning the Games, she’s now in even more danger.

Chapter 27 is the resolution or the immediate reaction to the hero’s decision in the last chapter. Here, Katniss and Peeta finally get to go home.

The way you end your novel is up to you. You might choose to explain everything, or leave some things (or a lot of things) up to your reader’s imagination. It could be a happy heroic ending, or it could be a tragedy where everyone dies.

Either way, congratulations! You’ve planned a novel.

***

One last thing to note: When you start to plan your novel using this structure it’s important to remember it’s just a guideline. You don’t have to change your story to suit the structure; you can change the structure to suit your story. If your plot twist would make more sense earlier or later, move it. These aren’t hard rules. Do what is right for your story.  So take a deep breath, set yourself up in your favourite place to write and start planning!

Via: https://writersedit.com/plan-novel-using-three-act-structure/

7 Steps to Tackle Your Screenplay Rewrite

Screenwriting

The most important thing I tell any writer who is embarking on writing their screenplay is to just plow through and get that first draft done.  Here’s the rub though.  Finishing that first draft is only the beginning of the journey for you as a writer.

If there is one thing I know… it’s that the first draft of your script is ALWAYS going to be terrible. Don’t worry. That’s okay. Quality is never your goal with the first draft.  The goal is to scoop those ideas out of your brain, put them on paper and get the structure of your story on the page. When you finally get that glorious awful first draft completed, this is where the real work begins.

1) Put it in a drawer

The last thing you want to do is immediately re-read your goopy brain-droppings after you clickity-clack that final Fade to Black. Your mind needs time to decompress. So find a drawer, put your script in said drawer, and leave it alone until you have a nice solid layer of dust on the cover page which you can blow off like Indiana Jones finding an artifact in some cave in Indonesia.

2) Print that puppy out

It’s been a few weeks and you’re finally able to take a look at that crap you wrote. Don’t use the computer. Print it out. Find your favourite colored felt tip pen and mark that sucker up. You’re bound to find a billion grammar mistakes, missing words, wrong names, etc. But you’ll also figure out scenes that aren’t working and characters who need improvement. New ideas will pop out and make your story work better. You will punch yourself in the face for not thinking of them the first time you wrote this garbage pile, but that’s okay. This is the evolution of the rewrite.

3) Make a New Outline

As you prep to do your first rewrite, open up a notes doc and make an outline (or beat sheet) of everything currently happening in your scrip. This will help you discover everything you need to happen in your next draft. By giving yourself a thorough roadmap for your rewrite, when you dive in, you will know where you need to go to improve all your elements. That said, don’t be afraid to stray from your roadmap. It is good to create new scenes that flow from your fingertips stream of conscious. Some of your best ideas happen in the moment, and are unplanned. If you can surprise yourself, you can surprise your audience.

4) Lather, Rinse and Repeat

After you’ve gotten through that second draft, that now doesn’t completely suck, there’s one thing you need to remind yourself. This still is not good enough to show people. You need to put it back in that drawer. You need to go do something else for a few weeks until you’ve completely forgotten everything you did, and then pull it out and repeat Steps 1-3. How many times you’ll have to repeat these steps, I cannot tell you, but you’ll eventually know when your script is ready to show to someone.

5) Get Notes

Once you finally have a draft that feels pretty good to you, it’s time to show it to a trusted group of readers who know you well enough to tell you how awful your screenplay is without totally destroying your confidence. While you may think your ideas are amazing, if other people don’t find the execution of them equally as amazing… then they might not be to the level you need them to be. Getting people’s’ feedback and applying that feedback to your script is a crucial step.

You must be able to take constructive criticism. You don’t want someone to read your fourth draft script and say “that was great” and not get any notes. Your script always needs work. Most scripts are being worked on while they are shooting the movie. Yours is no different.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to take EVERY note. A lot of times, I’ll use this rule: if someone gives me a note I don’t agree with, I’ll ignore it for the time being. However, if three people give me that same note, then I know there’s a problem that needs fixing.

6) Have a Reading

Now that you’ve applied all of your notes to the script, it’s time to assemble a group of actors and read your script out loud and have a discussion of the story. Many times, it is an actor who gets a script bought, sold, greenlit, etc. So you need to make sure EVERY character is attractive to the actors who will play the role. Sometimes, you’ll get a tiny note that will make a world of difference when your screenplay finds itself on the desk of a studio reader.

7) The Final Draft

After you’ve squeezed every last drop of creativity from your brain onto the page, and you have done your final grammar pass, and incorporated all of your friends notes, you are ready to give the script to your agent, or producer for review. If you have done your job, their notes will be minimal and getting it into the hands of people who want to buy your screenplay will be the next step to achieve the truly fun and exciting part of being a writer… and that’s doing another rewrite with a director and a star.

In conclusion…

This is the process that works for me.  I hope it works for you.  Good luck!  Now go write that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad first draft of your screenplay.

***

Via: https://screenwritingumagazine.com/2017/12/04/7-steps-tackle-screenplay-rewrite/

 

Should You Write In The First, Second Or Third Person?

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When writing your content, whether it’s a novel or an article, it can become confusing having to decide between the first, second and third person. Which you decide to use is completely up to you, but there is some method behind the madness. Let’s discuss all three options and see which would be the best for you.

The First Person

In a nutshell, first person is you and your views (or your character directly speaking and their views), and is expressed using the word ‘I’. What I like about this writing style is that you can easily express yourself and share your experiences the way it happened. It may be a bit more of a challenge when you are not writing about yourself, but still, the action is experienced in the moment as it is happening.

Many people believe that writing in the first person is the easiest way to write and perhaps they are right to a point. But beware that when you write in the first person as you can get very comfortable and sometimes overshare. If you find yourself doing this a text rewriter may come in very handy at this point.

The Second Person

Second person is where the narrator tells the story to another character using the word ‘you’. The story is being told in the voice of the onlooker, which can also be you, the reader. For instance, the text could read, “You went to school that morning. And whilst you were there you played with some play-dough.”

The second person point of view is rarely used in fiction because of its difficulty level. It is hard to develop a set of characters and a story in which the second person is appropriate. Saying that, however, you can find some fantastic stories that have been written this way if you go and look for them.

If you are writing non-fiction, you can use this style of writing when you are sharing information that does not pertain to your own experiences. For instance, this is handy when you are writing a ‘how to’ blog post or an instructional article of any kind.

If you are not familiar with this writing style, find a word rewriter and use any tools you might need until you get it right. It does take some getting used to, but it is a very effective writing style.

The Third Person

The third person point of view belongs to the person (or people) being talked about. The third person pronouns include he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs,and themselves.

You would usually associate this writing style with fiction and storytelling. It is also the preferred writing style for academic literature.

Plenty of stories and novels are written in the third person. In this type of story, a disembodied narrator describes what the characters do and what happens to them. You don’t see directly through a character’s eyes as you do in a first person narrative, but often the narrator describes the main character’s thoughts and feelings about what’s going on.

So in essence, you are a little more removed from the character in terms of direct thoughts and feelings, but you can be aware of more and inform the reader of things that your character could not do directly in first person unless they were actually experiencing them. This option gives you more choice and a greater possibility for knowledge during events, and about other characters.

The Best Choice

As you can see, there is a place for all three point of view writing styles, and one is not necessarily better than the other.

At the end of the day, we all have a different way of communicating, and you should find the style which suits you best. Think about what you have written thus far.Is there one particular style that you naturally gravitate towards?

Even though you might want to go for the easiest writing style, there is nothing wrong with stepping out of your comfort zone every now and then. It might take a little longer to write, but it will be worth the effort to get it right.

Conclusion

Writing is all about sending out good stories into the world, and this should be your principal focus.

If you are writing a novel, try writing a chapter in each different point of view and see what works best or your story. Each story you write may have a different point of view that works best for what you are trying to convey, so don’t assume that just because you usually write in one point of view that it will be the best one.

Read your work out loud, and see if it sounds right. If not, try changing the pronouns and see if it works better. Your story (and characters) will normally tell you how they want to communicate. So listen out for their voice and go with that.

If you are writing an article, write in the way that feels most natural to you. Then you can’t go wrong.

Ultimately, it does not matter if you write in first, second or third person, as long as you are writing authentically for yourself or your characters and connecting with your audience. Happy writing!

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Via: https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/should-you-write-in-the-first-second-or-third-person/ and https://www.grammarly.com/blog/first-second-and-third-person/

 

10 Ways To Develop A Unique Writing Style

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Creating and refining your own unique style of writing is important, particularly in the modern Internet age, where a high content turnover means readers are constantly in pursuit of something original and clever. However, it’s often difficult – especially when you’re just starting out – to fine-tune the way you write and embody the qualities that make your voice distinct and innovative.

So how exactly do you tease out those qualities? How do you then apply them to the actual process of writing? Here are ten hot tips to get you started today.

1. Use experiences as a springboard

Start with what you know. If you begin your writing process in a world that you’re familiar with, it’ll generally be much easier for you to slip on your characters’ shoes and immerse yourself into the setting of your story. In fact, J. K. Rowling herself based one of her best-known and most complex characters, Professor Snape, on her chemistry teacher.

Be inspired by real people, real emotions and real events. Reflect on your own journey as a human being. Reflect on small moments that seem to have permanently burned themselves into your memory, and let those reflections guide the philosophy that underpins your writing. As author Kashmira Sheth points out:

The emotional growth of your characters is one place where you can use your own experiences much more deeply. If you are writing about the summer between sophomore and junior year, then you can go back to your emotional state of that summer. Was it the summer of heartbreak, angst, rebellion, disappointment, or sorrow? How did you survive and persist? How did your emotions manifest themselves in your interactions with others? What did you learn? How did that one pivotal summer make you grow and change?”

If the content of your writing leaves you with deep and nostalgic feeling of been there, done that, then it’ll more likely exude a profound sense of realism and empathy – one that will resonate and connect with readers more powerfully.

2. Be aware of what makes your observations unique

Everyone sees the world through their own unconventional lens, but not everyone is aware of the existence of those lenses. That’s when it becomes important to take a step back and become aware.

For instance, if you’re observing the way people engage in conversation, take note not only of the dialogue, but also of the silences, of the interruptions and of the speakers’ unconscious habits like pushing up their glasses, adjusting the collar of their T-shirt or tapping their foot against the carpet. Ask yourself why those habits are emerging in the first place. Are they nervous? Are they scared of the other person’s reaction to a particular piece of news? What does this say about their relationship with one another?

As writer Annie Evett argues in her article on observational writing,

Good observational writing utilises all of the senses in describing the event, character or item; transporting your reader easily into the world you are creating or describing.”

That being said, one question you may ask is: how exactly do you utilise these senses?

3. Awaken all senses

When the reader takes a dip into the waters of your writing, they want to feel something. They want to immerse themselves in imagery that extends beyond a mere description of what can be seen. So it’s your job as the writer to ignite as many of their senses as possible.

Let’s say that you’re writing about a bushfire approaching from the distance. You may initially choose to illustrate the way the fire rapidly gains speed, leaping from tree to tree, an angry flame that cannot be tamed. But wouldn’t your setting be much more evocative if you gave the reader the capacity to hear by assaulting their ears with the strange silence that falls upon the forest, with the sudden roaring of fire as it tears through this silence, with the protagonist’s faint coughs as her lungs choke up with smoke?

And wouldn’t your scene be even more vivid if you also engaged the reader with descriptions of the scent of smoke blowing into her cheeks, of the vile taste of charcoal in her mouth, and of the soft fabric of her blouse battering against her skin as it fights a battle it knows it cannot win?

Writer of the Udemy Blog Margo Jurgens provides some further tips and advice on how to best approach writing sensory imagery.

4. Show with a spin

One of the most common pieces of advice given to writers is ‘Show, don’t tell’ – but it’s also important that you enact the ‘show’ part with a twist. Avoid using the same old words to paint a picture. Try adopting a different approach or perspective.

Let’s take the bushfire example from above. Rather than using phrases like ‘The fire roared’ or ‘Smoke billowed up into the sky’, you might perhaps juxtapose the constant ticking of the clock inside the house with the comparatively erratic rhythms of the fire leaping from treetop to treetop.

You might also use a memory or an anecdote as the transition into your description of the fire’s sudden approach: perhaps the protagonist recalls a time she watched a juggler accidentally drop his flaming torches, and contrasts how quickly the torches were extinguished with how impossible it would be to put out this monstrous bushfire.

5. Avoid clichés

It’s sometimes very easy to fall into the trap of clichés – especially in times of doubt and uncertainty, when you find yourself borrowing the storyline of your favourite novel or imitating the writing style of your favourite author or poet. This can ultimately hinder your potential for originality.

How do you rid your writing of clichés? Writer’s Digest‘s Peter Selgin suggests that the best way to avoid cliché

… is to practice sincerity. If we’ve come by sensational material honestly, through our own personal experience or imagination, we may rightly claim it as our own. Otherwise, we’d best steer clear. Our stories should be stories that only we can tell, as only we can tell them.”

Brian A. Klems gives 12 examples of clichés that ‘need to be permanently retired’, while Writer’s Web provides some tips on how you can identify and avoid clichés.

6. Be intimate with details

Intimate details are the key to enhancing the vivid quality of your writing. Be specific in your characterisation and descriptions of setting. The subtlest of movements – your protagonist tugging at the hem of his shirt, your villain tapping two fingers against the table – can help build up the mood of your story or poem, accentuating the emotions experienced by your characters.

Being specific in your details means combing through your writing and paring it down, so that it includes only those words that (in some way or form) contribute to the meaning you’re trying to convey to the reader. Word choice becomes crucial here.

Author Kristen Lamb highlights the importance of diction: ‘She bolted from her chair’ is much better than ‘She stood quickly out of the chair’, because the word ‘bolted’ holds a powerful sense of action and urgency that the phrase ‘stood quickly’ simply does not have.

7. Turn objects into metaphors

If you’re looking for inspiration, an effective exercise to get your creative mind pumping is to turn random objects into quirky metaphors. Select any item in your line of vision – a pencil, a typewriter, a mug – and write about it in the greater context of life. This exercise gives you the opportunity to turn something mundane into something totally and utterly original.

For instance, you may decide to write about the blinds by your desk. Perhaps they represent the idea that we have control over the degrees of light and dark within us; when the world inside is cold and grey, all we have to do to warm ourselves up is pull open the blinds and let bars of light in.

Feeling creative enough yet?

8. Create strong, authentic voices

A classic example of writing with a strong, authentic voice is J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye – when you read that novel, you cannot help but hear Holden Caulfield’s voice in your head. With the effective use of voice, the reader becomes so deeply submerged in the story, the characters and the underlying meanings that they forget a writer has fabricated this world.

Author Junot Díaz draws from his own characters as examples on how to strengthen the various aspects of voice. Blogger Lorrie Porter focuses more on how you can incorporate strong voice into dialogue.

9. Know the rules of writing, then break them

Don’t be afraid to experiment and to test the limits of what you think you are capable of writing. Take Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 tips on how to write a good short story, for instance. Once you understand his rules, you can start bending them and eventually start breaking them. As Vonnegut himself writes,

The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor. She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.”

10. Write a little every day

As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect! The more you write, the more you will grow conscious of your own writing style and thus be able to improve upon it. Blogger Leo Babauta presents a range of tips on how you can write daily.

You might end up writing a few sentences, a few paragraphs, even a few pages. Quantity doesn’t matter; frequency does. So set aside some time everyday and get writing! A world of words await you. Time to turn on your mind and let your creative juices run free.

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Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/develop-unique-writing-style/

Effective Ways To Make Your Characters More Memorable

Memorable-characters

Characterisation is, without doubt, one of the most important elements to master when writing a novel or short story.

You may have dreamed up a plot of unparalleled genius or a storyline so amazing you have your readers drooling. However, if you don’t have authentic and compelling characters driving the story, no one will ever reach the final page.

If a story is a sailboat, characters are the rudder that steers the whole ship.

Clever’s not enough to hold me – I want characters who are more than devices to be moved about for Effect” – Laura Anne Gilman

Characterisation is defined by what the characters think, say and do. It’s about the writer developing the personality of the people in the story to make the work interesting, compelling, and affecting.

One could go so far to say characterisation is even more important than plot. If your character is fascinating, whatever they do will take on gravitas.

The best characters are the ones that seem to take on a life on their own. For example, when the reader is always drawn back to the book because they can’t help wondering what the character is up to. It’s not as hard as you think to create a character as memorable as Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes.

Know Your Character

To allow the readers to engage with your characters, they need to become multi-faceted, living, breathing individuals. You have to know them as personally as you know yourself.

The best way to achieve this is by creating a complete character profile that you can always refer to. This way you can trace how a character might react to every situation and how they might feel about the things that happen to them.

Consider these major factors when formulating a character profile:

Develop A Thorough Backstory

For your character to function successfully as a reliable entity, they must possess a past that has shaped who they are when the reader meets them. You don’t have to reveal it all at once, or even reveal it at all. However, it’s important for putting the character’s actions into context. It’s also a very useful way of teasing out information throughout a story by allowing the reader to slowly learn more about the character.

The key influences on a backstory often include:

  • Where the character grew up
  • Family members
  • Past trauma
  • Religion
  • Socio-economic status
  • Job
  • School

The backstory will be a major influence on how the character moves through the story.

For example, if your character has a traumatic past, it will often result in an unresolved personal conflict when they are older. As outlined in his biography, Harry Potter’s experiences as a child directly affected him as an adult.

When he was a baby, Harry and his parents were attacked by Lord Voldemort. His parents were killed but Harry miraculously survived. When he was older, he continually came face to face with his nemesis. Over many years he began to learn more about why this happened and why other strange things were happening to him. This resulted in a growing motivation to pursue this knowledge, leading him into greater conflict, not only with Voldemort but other characters, include Professor Snape, the Malfoy’s and Slytherins.

For this reason, he reached out for allies. Since many of his allies didn’t survive, including Harry’s Godfather Sirius Black, Harry became angrier and more emotionally damaged. However, he was able to use the love his parents showed in protecting him as strength to overcome his obstacles.

Examine Your Character’s Personality

To some degree, the backstory shapes a character’s personality. However, the personality is also less concrete. Having a good grasp of your character’s personality will allow you to remain consistent throughout the novel and understand how events will have different impacts.

You might ask yourself whether your character is an introvert or an extrovert? Will they be funny, intelligent, kind, charismatic or cowardly? What part of their personality will you seek to emphasise in order to build a connection between them and the reader? Do they have hobbies that reveal more about their outlook?

You may also consider what kind of attitudes and opinions your characters have about life that make them intriguing. For example Mark Renton in Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh, is a black-humoured heroin addict. His taste in anti-establishment music such as Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and David Bowie, and his accompanying political views, set him apart as a dynamic, off-beat anti-hero.

Envision The Appearance Of Your Characters

If you yourself don’t have a clear sense of what your characters look like, then it’ll be near impossible for the reader to imagine them. You don’t have to list every specific detail. Allow the reader to use their own creativity.

However, it’s also vital to the overall impression of the character to know how they dress. Do they dress mostly according to their job? How do they display themselves in public, casual or fashionable. Is there something they wear that is of significant symbolic importance?

This will link into the character’s personality and provide the reader with greater insight into their mindset. The reader must be able to logically connect the various aspects of the character.

An example of clothing being a major signifier is the appearance of Jack Reacher in Lee Child’s novels. Reacher commonly wears very plain, practical clothes, often bought cheap so as to attract very little attention to himself. He uses clothes to downplay his size and strength. He wants to seem as ordinary as possible, so that when he gets into trouble he can completely surprise his opponents with his fighting ability.

Name Your Characters

Giving your character a unique or crazy name is a bit of a cheat to making them memorable. However, it’s still worth the thought. No one really gets excited by a character named John Smith. A name can also go some way towards shaping the general impression your character gives to the audience. For example, Inigo Montoya sounds flamboyant and heroic straight off the bat.

Consider this list of the fifty greatest literary character names as inspiration for your own characters. Furthermore, this in-depth character profile template will help you craft your characters more easily.

Write Your Character Into The Story

So now you know your characters, it’s time to integrate them into your story. As stated earlier, you can reveal your characters to the readers in three key ways:

Develop Interior Dialogue

Or more simply, thoughts. Literature has an advantage over film, in most cases, because it allows a writer to delve as deep as they like into the character’s head and directly relay their thoughts. Making use of internal dialogue is a quick way of giving the reader more information and understanding about a character.

Only the character and the audience knows what is going on in the character’s head. While you don’t want to over do it (show don’t tell!), it’s useful in circumstances where you want to show the opinions characters have of each other or the events that happen around them.

Inner dialogue is useful to contrast between what the character says out loud and what they are actually thinking.

Sherlock Holmes is famous for keeping a lot more within than he reveals to others. He holds his deductive reasoning in his head, leaving others puzzled as to how he’s joining the dots of the mystery at hand, until he is sure he has solved the problem. This is why he seems like such a genius when he reveals everything at the end of each story.

Create Authentic Dialogue

Dialogue is the most obvious way of displaying your character’s personality. Their delivery and vocabulary will reveal ample information to the reader, even through a simple conversation. How they converse with other characters is vital to their development and how the audience views them. Tone and inflection are everything.

In the dialogue of Arya Stark, it’s easy to identify her passion, petulance, and vulnerability, depending on where she is and who she is speaking to. In this excerpt she displays youthful innocence despite her otherwise feisty nature:

“I bet this is a brothel,” she whispered to Gendry.
“You don’t even know what a brothel is.”
“I do so,” she insisted. “It’s like an inn, with girls.”

– George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

Talking to guards at a gate she displays her volatile temper:

“I’m not a boy,” she spat at them. “I’m Arya Stark of Winterfell, and if you lay a hand on me my lord father will have both your heads on spikes. If you don’t believe me, fetch Jory Cassel or Vayon Poole from the Tower of the Hand.” She put her hands on her hips. “Now are you going to open the gate, or do you need a clout on the ear to help your hearing?”

– George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Dive Into The Action

Action is a simple and effective way of coercing your character to give away aspects of themselves. Someone slams a door, they’re angry. They runaway, they’re scared or embarrassed. They sigh, they’re disappointed or sad. All of these actions require no speech, yet they still demonstrate to the reader what the character is feeling and thinking.

Action is a great technique to use because it lets the reader play detective. Let them figure out why the character did what they did. This will give the reader satisfaction, when they find out they were right, or surprise, if they were wrong.

In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, we learn that Sethe tried to murder all her children in the past. At first we we struggle to think why she would do this when she seems to love Denver so much. The other events and circumstances allow us to guess at her motivations before they are fully revealed to us. The conclusion provokes the realisation that she was actually trying to spare them a life of misery as slaves.

Don’t Make Them Boring!

Just because your characters seem life-like, it doesn’t mean they’re interesting. Unfortunately, real people can be boring sometimes.

“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make your brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgebaaarr.” – John Green

You need to give your character a compelling desire or need, a goal that will reel the reader into their story. It might be a story of revenge or mystery, personal redemption or emotional catharsis.

It’s also a good idea to shroud them in some mystery, such that the other characters and the reader can’t quite decipher them. This will keep readers intrigued. For instance, Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne is surrounded by question marks. We know very little of his past or where he got the money to build the Nautilus.

A good character also has to be surprising and unpredictable at times. An effective way to achieve this is to give them some contrasting personality traits. For example, they might be funny but cruel, kind but violent. This just keeps the reader guessing and elevates the tension in the novel.

Danny Kelly in Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas patiently cares for the handicapped but possesses a violent streak that lands him in jail. Not an evil or dangerous character by any means, yet his violent trait develops from his personal demons regarding his sexuality, and the confusion and stigma that came with it.

Vulnerability is another perfect way to get the reader to interact with your characters and story. If a character is in pain or danger, it’s a human reflex to be drawn to them.

Morn Hyland in Stephen Donaldon’s The Gap Cycle is a character that suffers horribly at the start of the first novel. From that point on we are behind her all the way as she fights through the rest of the harrowing series, finding incredible strength to keep from breaking down completely while trying to care for a son that was born of rape.

It’s important to remember your character doesn’t necessarily have to be likeable, even if they are your main character, as long as the reader becomes attached to their narrative. Alex, the protagonist in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess commits vile acts, including rape and manslaughter, but we still want to follow him to see if he can be redeemed.

Find Your Characters In The People Around You

When you think of all the different and interesting people in your life, it doesn’t seem so hard to dream up memorable characters. Family members, friends, acquaintances, enemies. All shapes, sizes, ages. You can take parts of all of them to help create authentic characters, while also drawing on your own thoughts and emotions.

In summary, the most important thing to consider can be summed up by Ernest Hemingway’s famous words:

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

The best way to do this is to make your character profile as detailed as possible, before you start your work. Happy writing!

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Via : https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/effective-ways-make-more-memorable-characters/