In my last two posts I discussed the fact that readers are not going to hope and fear for a character unless that character raises their sympathy and sense of deservingness. But is that enough? Do readers stick around if the characters are utterly boring?
Archive for the ‘Advice for New Writers’ Category
All of us have an automatic scale of justice inside of us. We can’t turn it off. Nor can we ignore it. It’s very simple. If someone’s bad outweighs their good, then we think they don’t deserve good things. Conversely, if someone’s good outweighs their bad, we think they should be happy.
Sympathy starts when we see someone in trouble. That’s not the only thing that’s required. Some people who are in terrible trouble only evoke pity or even antipathy. So there’s more to this than trouble, but trouble is where sympathy starts. So what kind of trouble are we talking about?
Writing is a rewarding and fun gig, but finding the time to write can be a challenge. The only commodity an author has are her words, and the only way to produce that commodity is to get some quality butt-in-chair action. Contrary to urban legend, stories don’t write themselves or grow on Novel Trees. So how do you find the time to make the magic happen?
Surprise is one of the vital elements in story making precisely because it makes things unpredictable. It makes hope, fear, worry, and curiosity possible.
There’s nothing like writing during adolescence. The intensity, focus, and emotional strength that such a writer brings to her/his work is, like a map frozen in time, sharply delineated and can’t be captured except as a memory of once walking in those lands.
When I’m teaching, I do bring some books to class in order to point students toward them. I don’t think books are a substitute for the act of writing, but they can help focus and direct your practice and give you a list of things to work on that might not otherwise occur to you. Here’s a list of my top ten for speculative fiction writers focusing on their craft. I was sad to find some not available on the Kindle, but where possible, I’ve pointed to the e-version.
It’s one thing to say that something bad is going to happen. It’s quite another to know that kidnappers are going to cut your finger off with a pair of wire cutters. It’s one thing to have someone say something good will happen (Chinese fortune cookie) and quite another to say your uncle just died and left you a million dollars, but you have to fight your three cousins for it.
With this post we begin looking at the key conditions that build reader suspense. Stories are made up of four main ingredients: character, setting, problem, and plot. All of these are important, but problem is the engine that makes suspense go.
Sometimes it feels like there are a thousand things to remember when writing a story. New writers who make lists of these things soon begin to drown in them. But I’ve come to realize that many of these “rules” don’t matter.