Monday, January 10, 2011
Monday's Writing Tip: Let Your Characters Lead the Way to a Great Story
Today I'm sharing some great advice from Robert Masello, who says in his Robert's Rules of Writing, that every plot you come up with will start to remind you of some other plot in a book you've read or a movie you've seen.
If that's the case, how can your story engage and excite the reader if it's just a stale, well worn plot?
Masello suggests that rather than trying to spice up your narrative with something big, like a ticking time bomb on Air Force One, a deadly outbreak, or a policewoman who can read the mind of an ax murderer, think small.
You might think "big" is more exciting, but "small" involves characters, not plot. If you're unsure of how the action should progress in your novel, concentrate instead on the people.
"No matter how strong a plot is," Masello writes, "...it won't won't amount to much...if the characters aren't engaging or memorable."
Masello says to visualize your characters. Envision who they are, what they look like. Imagine their hopes, fears and desires, and how getting what they want will put them in conflict with others.
Some writers create elaborate biographies for their characters. I'm not one of those, and neither is Masello. He tries to figure out what sets his characters in motion and how they wind up colliding, and what happens after the collision.
He also states that if that doesn't work, he'll introduce a new character. I read recently, that to up the conflict, add a smoking gun. But a smoking gun doesn't have to be a real gun toting character. It can be a smart mouthed teenager or a jealous ex-girlfriend.
Masello suggests that to kick start the story, throw something new into the mix, like a mean boss, flirtatious neighbor, overbearing mother, or a long lost brother. "And," according to Masello, "because the action evolves from the peculiar interactions of characters that only you could have brought to life, and to the page, and not from some mechanical and superimposed plot, it'll sound and feel original."
Are you letting your characters lead the way?
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