Stephen King’s “Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes” 

Stephen-Kings-Everything-You-Need-to-Know-About-Writing-Successfully-in-Ten-Minutes
I came across the following article by Stephen King a little while ago. I believe it was originally published in a 1986 edition of The Writer magazine and republished in the 1988 edition of The Writer’s Handbook. I reproduce it here for educational and entertainment purposes, as it’s a brilliant piece. Enjoy!

I. The First Introduction

THAT’S RIGHT. I know it sounds like an ad for some sleazy writers’ school, but I really am going to tell you everything you need to pursue a successful and financially rewarding career writing fiction, and I really am going to do it in ten minutes, which is exactly how long it took me to learn. It will actually take you twenty minutes or so to read this essay, however, because I have to tell you a story, and then I have to write a second introduction. But these, I argue, should not count in the ten minutes.

II. The Story, or, How Stephen King Learned to Write

When I was a sophomore in high school, I did a sophomoric thing which got me in a pot of fairly hot water, as sophomoric didoes often do. I wrote and published a small satiric newspaper called The Village Vomit. In this little paper I lampooned a number of teachers at Lisbon (Maine) High School, where I was under instruction. These were not very gentle lampoons; they ranged from the scatological to the downright cruel.

Eventually, a copy of this little newspaper found its way into the hands of a faculty member, and since I had been unwise enough to put my name on it (a fault, some critics argue, of which I have still not been entirely cured), I was brought into the office. The sophisticated satirist had by that time reverted to what he really was: a fourteen-year-old kid who was shaking in his boots and wondering if he was going to get a suspension … what we called “a three-day vacation” in those dim days of 1964.

I wasn’t suspended. I was forced to make a number of apologies – they were warranted, but they still tasted like dog-dirt in my mouth – and spent a week in detention hall. And the guidance counselor arranged what he no doubt thought of as a more constructive channel for my talents. This was a job – contingent upon the editor’s approval – writing sports for the Lisbon Enterprise, a twelve-page weekly of the sort with which any small-town resident will be familiar. This editor was the man who taught me everything I know about writing in ten minutes. His name was John Gould – not the famed New England humorist or the novelist who wrote The Greenleaf Fires, but a relative of both, I believe.

He told me he needed a sports writer and we could “try each other out” if I wanted.

I told him I knew more about advanced algebra than I did sports.

Gould nodded and said, “You’ll learn.”

I said I would at least try to learn. Gould gave me a huge roll of yellow paper and promised me a wage of 1/2 cent per word. The first two pieces I wrote had to do with a high school basketball game in which a member of my school team broke the Lisbon High scoring record. One of these pieces was straight reportage. The second was a feature article.

I brought them to Gould the day after the game, so he’d have them for the paper, which came out Fridays. He read the straight piece, made two minor corrections, and spiked it. Then he started in on the feature piece with a large black pen and taught me all I ever needed to know about my craft. I wish I still had the piece – it deserves to be framed, editorial corrections and all – but I can remember pretty well how it looked when he had finished with it. Here’s an example:

(note: this is before the edit marks indicated on King’s original copy)

Last night, in the well-loved gymnasium of Lisbon High School, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom, known as “Bullet” Bob for both his size and accuracy, scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed … and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his knight-like quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon thinclads since 1953….

(after edit marks)

Last night, in the Lisbon High School gymnasium, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed … and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon’s basketball team since 1953….

When Gould finished marking up my copy in the manner I have indicated above, he looked up and must have seen something on my face. I think he must have thought it was horror, but it was not: it was revelation.

“I only took out the bad parts, you know,” he said. “Most of it’s pretty good.”

“I know,” I said, meaning both things: yes, most of it was good, and yes, he had only taken out the bad parts. “I won’t do it again.”

“If that’s true,” he said, “you’ll never have to work again. You can do this for a living.” Then he threw back his head and laughed.

And he was right; I am doing this for a living, and as long as I can keep on, I don’t expect ever to have to work again.

III. The Second Introduction

All of what follows has been said before. If you are interested enough in writing to be a purchaser of this magazine, you will have either heard or read all (or almost all) of it before. Thousands of writing courses are taught across the United States each year; seminars are convened; guest lecturers talk, then answer questions, then drink as many gin and tonics as their expense-fees will allow, and it all boils down to what follows.

I am going to tell you these things again because often people will only listen – really listen – to someone who makes a lot of money doing the thing he’s talking about. This is sad but true. And I told you the story above not to make myself sound like a character out of a Horatio Alger novel but to make a point: I saw, I listened, and I learned. Until that day in John Gould’s little office, I had been writing first drafts of stories which might run 2,500 words. The second drafts were apt to run 3,300 words. Following that day, my 2,500-word first drafts became 2,200-word second drafts. And two years after that, I sold the first one.

So here it is, with all the bark stripped off. It’ll take ten minutes to read, and you can apply it right away … if you listen.

IV. Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully

1. Be talented
This, of course, is the killer. What is talent? I can hear someone shouting, and here we are, ready to get into a discussion right up there with “what is the meaning of life?” for weighty pronouncements and total uselessness. For the purposes of the beginning writer, talent may as well be defined as eventual success – publication and money. If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented. Now some of you are really hollering. Some of you are calling me one crass money-fixated creep. And some of you are calling me bad names. Are you calling Harold Robbins talented? someone in one of the Great English Departments of America is screeching. V.C. Andrews? Theodore Dreiser? Or what about you, you dyslexic moron?

Nonsense. Worse than nonsense, off the subject. We’re not talking about good or bad here. I’m interested in telling you how to get your stuff published, not in critical judgments of who’s good or bad. As a rule the critical judgments come after the check’s been spent, anyway. I have my own opinions, but most times I keep them to myself. People who are published steadily and are paid for what they are writing may be either saints or trollops, but they are clearly reaching a great many someones who want what they have. Ergo, they are communicating. Ergo, they are talented. The biggest part of writing successfully is being talented, and in the context of marketing, the only bad writer is one who doesn’t get paid. If you’re not talented, you won’t succeed. And if you’re not succeeding, you should know when to quit. When is that? I don’t know. It’s different for each writer. Not after six rejection slips, certainly, nor after sixty. But after six hundred? Maybe. After six thousand? My friend, after six thousand pinks, it’s time you tried painting or computer programming. Further, almost every aspiring writer knows when he is getting warmer – you start getting little jotted notes on your rejection slips, or personal letters . . . maybe a commiserating phone call. It’s lonely out there in the cold, but there are encouraging voices … unless there is nothing in your words which warrants encouragement. I think you owe it to yourself to skip as much of the self-illusion as possible. If your eyes are open, you’ll know which way to go … or when to turn back.

2. Be neat
Type. Double-space. Use a nice heavy white paper, never that erasable onion-skin stuff. If you’ve marked up your manuscript a lot, do another draft.

3. Be self-critical
If you haven’t marked up your manuscript a lot, you did a lazy job. Only God gets things right the first time. Don’t be a slob.

4. Remove every extraneous word
You want to get up on a soapbox and preach? Fine. Get one and try your local park. You want to write for money? Get to the point. And if you remove all the excess garbage and discover you can’t find the point, tear up what you wrote and start all over again . . . or try something new.

5. Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft
You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right – and breaking your train of thought and the writer’s trance in the bargain – or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don’t have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it … but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.

6. Know the markets
Only a dimwit would send a story about giant vampire bats surrounding a high school to McCall’s. Only a dimwit would send a tender story about a mother and daughter making up their differences on Christmas Eve to Playboy … but people do it all the time. I’m not exaggerating; I have seen such stories in the slush piles of the actual magazines. If you write a good story, why send it out in an ignorant fashion? Would you send your kid out in a snowstorm dressed in Bermuda shorts and a tank top? If you like science fiction, read the magazines. If you want to write confession stories, read the magazines. And so on. It isn’t just a matter of knowing what’s right for the present story; you can begin to catch on, after awhile, to overall rhythms, editorial likes and dislikes, a magazine’s entire slant. Sometimes your reading can influence the next story, and create a sale.

7. Write to entertain
Does this mean you can’t write “serious fiction”? It does not. Somewhere along the line pernicious critics have invested the American reading and writing public with the idea that entertaining fiction and serious ideas do not overlap. This would have surprised Charles Dickens, not to mention Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Bernard Malamud, and hundreds of others. But your serious ideas must always serve your story, not the other way around. I repeat: if you want to preach, get a soapbox.

8. Ask yourself frequently, “Am I having fun?”
The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.

9. How to evaluate criticism
Show your piece to a number of people – ten, let us say. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Smile and nod a lot. Then review what was said very carefully. If your critics are all telling you the same thing about some facet of your story – a plot twist that doesn’t work, a character who rings false, stilted narrative, or half a dozen other possibles – change that facet. It doesn’t matter if you really liked that twist of that character; if a lot of people are telling you something is wrong with you piece, it is. If seven or eight of them are hitting on that same thing, I’d still suggest changing it. But if everyone – or even most everyone – is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of them say.

10. Observe all rules for proper submission
Return postage, self-addressed envelope, all of that.

11. An agent? Forget it. For now
Agents get 10% of monies earned by their clients. 10% of nothing is nothing. Agents also have to pay the rent. Beginning writers do not contribute to that or any other necessity of life. Flog your stories around yourself. If you’ve done a novel, send around query letters to publishers, one by one, and follow up with sample chapters and/or the manuscript complete. And remember Stephen King’s First Rule of Writers and Agents, learned by bitter personal experience: You don’t need one until you’re making enough for someone to steal … and if you’re making that much, you’ll be able to take your pick of good agents.

12. If it’s bad, kill it
When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.

That’s everything you need to know. And if you listened, you can write everything and anything you want. Now I believe I will wish you a pleasant day and sign off.

My ten minutes are up.

Via: http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/stephen-king-everything-you-need-to-know-about-writing-successfully/

How To Keep Writing In Tough Times

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If you’ve found yourself in the midst of a difficult season, what can you do to keep moving forward with your writing? Here are 3 ways to keep writing through adversity:

1. Think About Your Priorities

Consider what exactly is going on in your life and understand the time demands that come from it. Maybe you’re getting married and the planning is time consuming… but you’ve got this novel you just don’t want to let go of for a few months. Getting married is quite different than being stuck in a hospital for the better part of five months, and your time restrictions are going to be different. Whatever your tough situation, think about what you want to achieve. Maybe you can only spare ten minutes a day to write a few paragraphs. But hey, it’s a start!

2. Outline Your Goals

This is where you look at where you want to take your writing career, and realistically try to figure out how to keep writing and stay on track. Do you want an agent, a publishing deal, etc. Because all of that is going to require a time commitment. Working on your goals, and figure out how those work alongside the other needs and commitments you have in your life.

3. Always Be Doing Something – Even if It’s Not Writing

There are loads of positive things you can be doing to keep your head in the game. Read, listen to podcasts, or check out blog posts from other writers – to name but a few.

There are a lot of great writing podcasts out there:

When adversity strikes, you don’t have to let your writing fall by the wayside. But it will if you let it. However, you can not only continue on with your goals in the face of harrowing times, you can amaze others with your work ethic. The tenacity to push through is something almost everyone will admire. It’s also a really good feeling as a writer.

If you can get through adverse times and figure out how to keep writing, you’ll find it that much easier to carve out time on days when you’re not in the middle of a trial.

***

Read the full article here: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/how-to-keep-writing/

How to Use Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales in Your Fiction

fairytales for fiction using-old-tales_6

From myths, legends and fairy tales to folklore: again and again, these old tales reappear in modern fiction. But how do you use them in your novel?

Why Reuse Tales?

Old tales aren’t copyrighted; what you can do with them is only bound by your own imagination. Not only are they a great source of inspiration, but they can add another layer of story for your reader to engage with.

Even their original form is still alive and well today. There is something fundamentally human in the sense of something dangerous about the woods, something magical and unexplainable just around the corner.

Myths are not just for dry, dusty old anthropology professors to muse over in their ivory towers – they’re living stories which we continually reinvent for the times we live in.” – Lucy Coats

What has been the impact of these time-defying stories? Holly Black believes the stories have become central to our being, residing in our subconscious and defining how we see the world.

Do we even stop to think about the ridiculousness of the ‘kiss of life’, prevalent nowadays even in action movies? Fairy tales will forever be a part of who we are.

For Sjón, myths remind him of how small humans are. Poseidon, for example, could wipe us out with a tsunami whenever he wants. The less ‘happily-ever-after’ stories remind us of our mortality to protect and prolong life.

Whether thousands of years ago or in the twenty-first century, death is the ultimate enemy of humans and life is to be protected.

Sjón’s homeland of Iceland has many fascinating old tales of its own. Stories that particularly fascinate him are those where metamorphosis occurs: people turn into flowers, rivers or animals. What is stunning is humanity’s obsession with the idea, leading us to the modern age of genetic experiments.

4 Simple Steps to Go From Tale to Novel

With a fairy tale or two in mind, plus a little King Arthur to spice it up, how far do you go from the original story? Some believe sticking as close as possible to the most original form creates a true, pure story untainted by ulterior motives.

But while seeking the original tale for inspiration can give a lot of insight into the core of the story, there’s a lot more to be done.

1. Know your audience

Are you writing for young children, teenagers or adults? Are you writing a literary piece, or a genre one? Identifying your audience leads you to what parts of the old tale are relevant and interesting to them.

Do they want a modernised retelling, or a whole new story with aspects spliced in from old tale(s)? Would anything in the tale be unacceptable or confusing when read in a modern setting?

All right I am corny, you know? But I think there are just about 140 million people in this country who are just as corny as I am, you know? I’m not a politician, I do it because I like it.” – Walt Disney

Kelly Link tries to imagine a world where Disney didn’t create the cartoons that changed fairy tales and how we view them. Would the original, written form be less or more popular than it is now?

While Disney altered several fairy tales, it was done to appeal to the audience and convey the desired message. This is no different from what any more recent rehashing of fairy tales does, and no different from the task in front of any writer picking up some old tales for their craft.

2. Fill in the gaps

Old tales aren’t a complete novel in themselves; some are only a few pages long. Have a look at what is missing in the old story that modern fiction requires.

In Holly Black’s experiences, fairy tales and other old stories typically have plain, simple characters. Developing characters with backstory and motive naturally sparks off a whole new side of the story.

Another common gap in old tales is setting. Some have a vague indication, such as a castle or ‘deep in the woods’, but little indication of the surrounding culture. Building the setting can feed directly into and off your character’s motives.

For example, you might examine the political system in detail; what if wolves were the oppressed minority?

3. Do your research

Some old tales have different versions across cultures and time. Searching for these can give great ideas of story elements you can move around and still be ‘true’ to some form of the original.

It’s also intriguing to discover which myths traverse countries, and how fairy tales adopt different nuances as they travel the globe.

I did a lot of research, then chose the elements which were most vivid and which worked best in my voice. So I hope I’ve retold a story which you will recognise, but which will also surprise you.” – Lari Don

It’s also good to have a look at what is currently popular with fiction using old tales. In recent years, many retellings show the other side of a familiar story.

Another trend is to look into the history of the story itself: how it came about, who created it and who recorded it. Kate Forsyth’s latest novel The Wild Girl was inspired by the forbidden love of one the Grimm brothers. There’s no end to the inspiration held by these old tales!

4. Select which elements to focus on

Are you using a single story, or a collection of myths? This question is particularly relevant if you’re focusing on a mythological being, such as a vampire.

Is it the plot of one or a few tales that really captivates you, or is it the concept as a whole, built by several related but unconnected myths and legends? This will affect which elements you take from the old tales.

You’ll want to handle old tales differently depending on how familiar they are to your audience.

If you’re using a familiar one, it’s good to use more creative license and encourage your readers to see the old tale in a new, exciting way. If you’re using a relatively unfamiliar old tale, its unknown has great potential to add richness to your novel if you stay close enough to the original.

Using the Familiar

Generally speaking, familiar tales fall under Western mythology and old tales. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, King Arthur, and Ancient Greek or Egyptian gods are just some of the stories you may play with in this way.

If you conduct a search for novels using familiar old tales, the first thing you’ll come across is modern retellings with a twist.

When people want simple nostalgia, they’ll likely read the original or sit down to a Disney movie. In picking up a novel, they’re looking for a little something more.

Even when you’re changing the old tale, its core woven through the story will resonate.

The fairy tale is a lie that expresses the deepest of human truths: those of the psyche through the imagination.” – Joslyn Robinson

While it’s good to put a new twist on a familiar tale, readers will notice every time you change something. To an extent, it’s good to keep up their expectations.

Holly Black recommends plot points from old tales as being the most rich and relevant to the original. Sticking to the original’s plot points – metaphorically or literally – will help keep the magic and hint of nostalgia.

Holly Black’s favourite old tale to use is the collection of myths surrounding fairies. While vampires and werewolves are also favourites of hers, they were once human and bring with them a personality that is just a little too familiar. There is also an endless list of fairies, from pixies to brownies and trolls.

Fairies are truly alien; they cry at weddings and laugh at funerals.” – Holly Black

Alternately, Kelly Link likes working with Greek gods and mythology because their characteristics are so human. The tales are full of family squabbles, misuse of power, jealousy, revenge – drama that’s much the same whether in the mortal or immortal world.

Using the Unfamiliar

Maybe a sense of the familiar isn’t what you want to go for. You may want to write a Snow White who lives with seven ghouls instead of dwarves, or something completely bizarre and unheard of. Typically this type of story comes from Eastern, Middle Eastern, African, South American and Slavic cultures.

Researching different versions of old tales from other cultures, or completely unheard of ones, can help inspire an element of the bizarre in your novel.

Another advantage of using these lesser-known old tales is that it’s less likely to be compared to other versions. You can change what you like and not get pulled up on it; you can do a straight retelling and still be seen as presenting a fresh story.

But when they read my retellings of the untrustworthy Korean tiger or the Witch of Lochlann or Inanna tricking the god of wisdom, they might never see that story anywhere else. My version will be the only version they know. And that’s a really heavy responsibility.” – Lari Don

You can use the whole story, or elements of it. But be careful that taking the old tale out of its original culture doesn’t create a story that can’t be understood. It’s important to research and understand the culture the story came from, but assume that your readers aren’t as familiar with that culture.

Kelly Link likes Japanese folklore, which she first came into contact with through Studio Ghibli films, directed by Hayao Miyazaki. My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Princess Monoko (1997), Spirited Away (2001) and Ponyo (2008) are just some of his films inspired by various aspects of Japanese culture and mythology, particularly their land gods and spirits or demons.

Sjón grew up with Icelandic mythology that, while familiar to him, is very unfamiliar to his Western audience. He shared a few bizarre Icelandic tales at the festival that are worth repeating.

Children are told tales of the Jólakötturinn – the Yule or Christmas Cat – that eats children who don’t receive a gift of clothing for Christmas. And there is the huldufólk – Hidden People or elves – whose existence has stopped several contraction plans to move or destroy the rocks they are believed to live in.

***

Myths, legends, fairy tales and folklore are a rich part of our storytelling culture and heritage. Bringing them into your modern work of fiction connects you to the fundamental truths that have survived the ages.

Whether taking inspiration from a familiar or unfamiliar tale, you can add a spark of magic to your own work.

Happy writing!

Via: http://writersedit.com/how-to-use-myths-legends-and-fairy-tales-in-your-fiction/

3 Essential Tips To Make Your Anti-Hero Effective

snape anti hero

“I’m often painted as the bad guy, and the artistic part of me wants to hand out the brush” – Criss Jami, Killosophy

Everyone loves a hero, like Hercules or Superman, who is pure of heart, fights for the good of everyone and always prevails. However, over time these types of characters can become mundane, their victories predictable and hollow. The audience knows the hero can never be defeated so they yearn for more to sink their teeth into. Enter the anti-hero.

The anti-hero is someone who is a protagonist but is lacking traditional heroic qualities. They will still have good intentions at heart for the most part but are afflicted by hamartia, a flaw in their character which dramatically complicates matters.

In some video games, a player can be asked to choose their character’s alignment; lawful good, true neutral, neutral evil, etc. An anti-hero would be classed as chaotic good, a person who will achieve their goals without regard for authority or law.

Because of the distinct character tics that anti-heroes possess they can be significantly more intriguing than a traditional hero who can do no wrong. This is because readers can connect with and relate to the anti-hero on a basic human level. They are how we often envision ourselves, and so they draw us in.

So how does one create an effective anti-hero and what are some examples? Here are 3 tactics to keep in mind when writing an anti-hero.

1. FLAWS

There are many different ways that the anti-hero can raise the ire of the audience.

  • They might be short of moral fibre, with their idea about the right way to do things decidedly different to everyone else’s. This is often the case with detective anti-heroes. The line between police and criminal blurs. An example here would be Inspector Rebus, in Ian Rankin’s novels, who is a borderline alcoholic and is forever being reprimanded for misconduct.
  • Self-doubt may paralyse them into constant failure. When the time comes to prove themselves or help those around them, they are unable to. A good example of this is Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series. Time and time again Ron miscasts spells or loses his nerve.
  • They may have a massive chip on their shoulder, frowning upon the world. This gives them a cantankerous attitude towards the people around them. Hester Shaw from Mortal Engines personifies this with her fierce and often violent temper.
  • Foolhardy anti-heroes bumble along with positive intent but their actions are often laughable. A classic example is Don Quixote who was following a near impossible vision.
  • An anti-hero is sometimes an actual criminal but one who wants to be a better person than they are. A personal favourite is Driver in Drive by James Sallis which was made into a masterful film of the same name.

2. NOBLE INTENTIONS

Be careful not to push the envelope too far. Instil your character with too many undesirable traits and you risk getting the reader offside or even worse, turning your anti-hero into an outright villain. If your character traipses around hurting people or behaving badly without reason then they are not an anti-hero and the audience will fail to empathise with them. Even if they are seen to be working on the side of evil, such as Severus Snape in Harry Potter, they must have hidden agendas for good and show enough glimpses of this to keep them balanced.

There are many characters who tread a fine line between hero and villain. A very complicated anti-hero is Sula Peace in Sula by Toni Morrison. She is seen as the personification of evil by her hometown when she returns after a long absence. Her apparent disregard for social conventions have the town seething but little do they realise she is actually bringing the town together and improving their lives.

Another quintessential case is Bruce Robertson in Filth by Irvine Welsh. He is an alcoholic, drug addicted, violent, manipulative, masochistic, narcissistic man. A truly vile character that has the saving graces of being a law enforcement officer. He is slightly redeemed by the motivation he has for his family and there is sympathy to be found in his plight.  This brings us to the next consideration.

3. REDEEMING FEATURES

As much as the audience might be frustrated by the anti-hero they must also be delighted, charmed, or moved for the character to be a successful literary feature. Similarly to flaws, there are multiple avenues to explore in order to get the audience behind the heroes back.

  • An easy way to redeem your character is to give them a great sense of humour, be it dry wit, scathingly clever sarcasm, or more outlandish comedy. If the character can make the reader laugh they can’t be all bad. Arthur and Ford from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy qualify here.
  • The anti-hero can be decidedly charming and reassuring such as Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby who is living the American dream despite lying about everything.
  • They can be dashingly handsome and attractively dark. Think Don Draper in Mad Men.
  • They can even be quite brave to make up for other weaknesses. Bilbo in The Hobbit is greedy and his will is unable to withstand the ring causing him to retreat from Gandalf’s confidence but he is the most courageous of the party.

Put ‘simply’ the anti-hero is incredibly conflicted and complicated. Some of their actions would ordinarily mark them as evil but at heart they are always good. It is a difficult and nuanced task to create the perfect anti-hero. Push too far one way and you are left with a more one dimensional character which the audience will find either too pure and thus boring or too vile and thus inaccessible.

Further Reading

Here is a list of all the texts mentioned above (with a bonus extra) to provide plenty of valuable insight into anti-heroes.

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) by Douglas Adams
  • The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Sula (1973) by Toni Morrison
  • Inspector Rebus novels (1987-2013) by Ian Rankin
  • Mortal Engines (2001) by Phillip Reeve
  • Harry Potter series (1997- 2007) by J. K. Rowling
  • The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha (1612) by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • Drive (2005) by James Sallis
  • Olive Kitteridge (2008) by Elizabeth Strout
  • The Hobbit (1937) by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Filth (1998) by Irvine Welsh

Via: https://writersedit.com/3-essential-tips-make-anti-hero-effective/

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. One approach is to let the characters reveal themselves to you, to really sit down and get to know them.

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. Believe 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: Don’t post it!

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Happy writing 🙂

Via: http://writersedit.com/resources-for-writers/4-tips-writing-round-characters/

Three Things to Know Before Starting Your Novel

Tips-for-writing-a-novel

Before you jump in the deep end and start writing a novel, there are a few things you should know.

1. The Premise

This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many authors launch straight into writing before knowing the basics. The premise of your story, is the core of it – the skeleton that runs throughout the whole thing. When someone asks you what your book is about, the premise is what you’ll give them. More often than not, if you begin writing without a premise, chances are that your story will have trouble going anywhere.

For example, this author began writing a novel, knowing the character and his physical journey, but unsure as to what the basic concept of her book was. In 9 months, she struggled to write a measly 13,200 words. By contrast, she then began writing a new novel which had originally been a short story. Knowing the premise this time, in 4 months she wrote 60,000 words and finished the first draft.

“With my first book, I had known the main character inside out, known his travels… But I found it increasingly difficult to write. The scenes were random and didn’t build to anything. I couldn’t have told you what the climax of the novel was. If you compare the progress of my second novel to the first, which remains unfinished, it’s pretty incredible. I’m not saying you should know everything about your story before you start, because it does develop and change drastically as you work. But knowing the premise the second time around changed the way I write for the better.” – Novelist/Creative Writer, Darlinghurst

2. Research Basics

Again, this sounds like an obvious one. Some writers find it easier to set their fiction in a real place, have a character with a similar occupation or family situation… things they’re familiar with. If this is you, that’s great. What I will say is: be careful you don’t omit details accidentally. When you know a setting, a job or a person very well, it’s easy to forget that your reader doesn’t.

To those who are creating from scratch, that’s great too. Is your main character a doctor? An air-hostess? Is your novel set in South Africa? Italy? Russia? Whatever your main character does and wherever they are, know the facts, at least the basics. What does their job entail? Long hours? Mundane tasks? Risk? Who do they work with? How long have they been in their position? Are they happy there? Do they earn a lot? These things won’t necessarily make it onto the actual page, but these factors affect a person’s nature, how they behave, how they live… The same goes for the setting you place them in… Do they have electricity? Do they live above a nightclub? Is their living space small or spacious?

“What I found incredibly useful, was mapping out the settings that my characters spent a lot of time in. Whether it was a room, a house or a village, it was a relief to keep coming back to a reference point and know where things were. I also kept ‘Research Profiles’ for want of a better term, so I could constantly layer my work with authentic touches, whether it was for the environment, political climate or a character.”

3. Character

Try and learn everything you can about your characters before you start writing. Naturally, once you get your story going, you’ll learn more and more about them, however it’s always super helpful to know the basics of who they are, what they do, etc., beforehand. Jot down a profile about each of your main characters including details about their: name, physical appearance, age, which characters they get along with and their relationship, where they live, do they have children? A partner? Do they have any particular mannerisms or quirks? Decide where you want to draw the line with how much you need to know before you start, and how much you learn along the way.

“One of the things I wish I had of known before I started my book was a few extra details about the background of my characters, things that make them distinctive from the rest of my cast. I’m now on my second draft and I’m having to redo character profiles and slot these details in second time around – it would have been a lot less hassle to have done it from the beginning.”

There are plenty of character profile templates available online for free that can be a great help. Click here to see one such example of a useful profile. Although it’s quite long and detailed, it does prompt you to think outside the box.

In conclusion, starting a novel is a huge undertaking and a massive achievement in itself, but sometimes, it helps to have something small, pointing you in the right direction. I hope this little checklist has done that.

Happy writing!

Via: http://writersedit.com/resources-for-writers/three-things-to-know-do-before-starting-your-novel/