30 September 2013

Secrets of Character Construction - Novel Writing Workshop 2

So you’ve got a vague idea for a main character (your hero or protagonist), but they need fleshing out. I like to write an interview with each of my characters. First the trivial questions you might ask a new friend – just to get a feel for them: What do they look like? Favourite colour? Age? Heroes? Favourite foods? Foods hates? What do they care most about? How do they move/walk? How do they talk?
Now we are going to dig a bit deeper into their back story: Tell me about your family? Where you from? Your best skills? Happiest childhood memories? The most embarrassing thing ever? Most important thing that ever happened? Who are your friends? When did let someone down? Your saddest memories?

Conflict is the crux of any story and any character so here goes with the painful ugly stuff that will give your character extra dimensions: What really annoys you? What don’t you like about yourself? Your main character flaws? Tell me something really mean you did? What would you want to change about your personality? How could you be a better person? What makes you jealous? When do you ‘see red’ with anger? How would you change the world? What could the world do without?

This exercise will help give your characters depth and give you plenty of leavers to pull to upset their world - if your story starts to drag, pull one of these emotional levers to mix things up a bit (you are the puppet master!)

Now you need to repeat this exercise with all your supporting cast of characters. Tedious, but necessary. I like to have more than one main characters so I can play their moral flaws off against each other.

Let me know how you get on and please share any of your ideas.


09 September 2013

Plotting the Plot - Novel Writing Workshop 1

This story method is the one I find most useful.  If you don’t like it that’s ok, ignore me and go do your own thing – whatever works.
The idea for a novel can start with a character, story idea, a concept, a question, a what if? Or a story world.  We will start with the plot, because we have to start somewhere.  If you’ve already started with another element of the story don’t worry, all these workshops are interchangeable and can be done in any order.
The primary function of a fiction writer is to tell a story.  At the very minimum you need a three line plot.   his consists of
                   A Premise – what is the story about.
·                  A Complication – what difficulties do the characters have to overcome.
·                  A Climax – how does the story end.
Plotting is really all about storytelling and storytelling is all about conflict. For instance: a Princess is born, grows up, meets the Prince of her dreams, gets married and lives happily ever after is not a very interesting story (unless you are three years old). A Princess grows up overcoming the eccentricities of her parents, meets the Prince of her dreams who turns out to be a monster, but the Princesses’ pure love helps the Princes overcome his Monstrous traits, and they marry against the wishes of their parents and friends, is much more interests. Add that the two families are monstrous rather than the prince and you have Romeo and Juliet, turn pure love into obsession and you have Twilight.
It is all about what your characters have to overcome that makes your story interesting.
Without complications, objections, and hurdles for your characters to overcome, your story will fall flat, because all stories are about how humans overcome conflict.  In fact, the more difficult you make it for your characters the more interesting your story will become.
 Try sketching out simple, three line, plots:  a premise, a complication, and a climax.  The more you practice plot writing the easier it becomes, and sooner or later you are going to hit on that original plot that you cannot get out of your head and which turns into your next story.
Let me know how you get on and please share any questions, ideas or techniques.