back to top

On Plot…1/3

Every story has a beginning, middle and end, right? Riiiiiight. But that’s not enough. Sorry to burst your bubble like that. Everyone, I’m sure, has read a story where things just kinda die for a little while. It’s boring and a struggle to get through and the whole thing just seems so pointless. I’m going to reference one of my favorite books here and just keep in mind that despite this, I still love it for the good parts, so don’t yell at me. In Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, there are a lot of parts where Elphie just isn’t doing anything of consequence to her story and it just seems so freakin’ pointless. I skip over those parts when I reread the book now. Once was enough and they aren’t crucial to the plot at all.

My job is to teach you how to write a book that readers will either a) not quit reading because they’re bored or b) skip over certain parts during rereads, so let’s get cracking. THIS IS GOING TO BE A THREE PART POST, SO STAY TUNED FOR MORE. 

Beginning:

The beginning seems like the hardest place. You’ve got a blank page with a huge, ornate header and some doodles, or you’ve got that infernal blinking “I” thing on a blank word document mocking you. It’s a problem we’ve all experienced—especially me, so here are some tips to get started and to make it interesting…

1. OUTLINE. I can feel the eyerolls already. Stop that! I hate outlines. I really do. As a creative brained person, they drive me up a wall, but I’ve learned that without an outline, I ramble and do stupid things BECAUSE I’m creative brained. So just make an outline, please. It won’t hurt too bad. You don’t have to outline all the way to the end, but you need to figure out where your story is going and how you’re going to get there.

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE. In the beginning of any story there’s a lot of exposition while you’re introducing your character and setting up the story. You don’t need to do all of this in the first chapter, as it’s overwhelming and obnoxious. Don’t just write two or three paragraphs describing the situation. You want to distribute details lightly, like a wee fairy flying through a meadow and sprinkling fairy dust on flowers to make them grow. That’s a crap metaphor, but it’s four-thirty in the morning while I’m writing this, so give me a break. You want to think of yourself as a delicate fairy, sprinkling details throughout your story. Fairies don’t just dump a whole pound of fairy dust on someone or something. It’s not practical or efficient and neither is three+ paragraph exposition.You need to save some for later. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

So here are some things you want to flesh out in your first chapter.

1. Narrator/Main character’s name. 

2. A tiny bit about their physical appearance. Be careful with mirrors. It’s overdone and lazy.

i.e. "I looked in the mirror, wide blue eyes staring back at me, my freckled face haloed by frizzy copper colored hair."

Been there, done that, seen it a thousand times. Yawn. Try describing your characters relatives and mentioning similarity, or having another person make a comment about their frizzy red hair etc. Seriously, the mirror thing….pet peeve. I will put a book down if it starts with a character staring into a mirror. No joke. Try something like this instead.

"Honey, can’t you do something with your hair?" my mother asked me, as i tried to slip out the door. I sighed, debating just walking out and saving both of us the fight. I would never be able to get my mother’s sleek copper coif to work for me, a fact that aggravated her daily. I picked at the peeling red skin on my arm, waiting for her inevitable next comment. 

"And what have I told you about sunblock!" she shouted, coming over to me now, snatching my hand away from my arm to stop me from peeling it myself. "Do you want more freckles?”

Obviously, I kinda crapped this out in a few seconds, but what did we learn here? We learned that she has red, messy hair she’s obviously pale or doesn’t tane easily as she has a sunburn and she has freckles. We learned the same thing, more or less from the mirror scene, but there was an added dynamic: Her mother. Having another person there, interacting with our character gives them more dynamic. We learn that she has a strained relationship with her mother because she’s not living up to her mother’s expectations about her physical appearance. Cool, huh!?

3. Introduce your character’s relationships and through that, your character’s personality will shine through.

 As I mentioned before, you don’t have to throw every detail you have about the character or the plot out in the first chapter. Tease your audience, sure, but avoid direct exposition. 

Thanks. Part Two will be up soonish.

On protecting your work…

Today we’re going to have a talk about protecting your work, as something has recently come up in my life where 2-3 years of writing could have either been stolen from me or gone missing. 

1. So first off, basic protection. Cloud storage is awesome. Use it to your advantage. Google’s cloud is awesome, so go ahead and use Drive to back up your documents because if your computer crashes or is stolen, you may not be able to recover those items. Also, back up onto a USB drive or external hard drive regularly. That way if something goes wrong with whatever cloud storage you’re using, you still have copies of your hard work. I’m talking character notes, maps, etc. You want to back everything up. It sounds like a lot of work, but if something happens, you’ll be prepared and it’s so worth it.

2. Some people, like myself, have others edit or beta for them and this is all well and fine, but I highly recommend only using people you trust for original works. However, that can be tricky. It’s nice to think you can trust everybody and that nobody will steal your writing or ideas, but that’s not realistic. Be choosey.

3. If you cowrite with someone, again, make sure you trust them. If it does come up where you have a falling out or you’re no longer writing with them, there’s not much you can do other than pay for a copyright.***

So in summary, be careful and always back up!

***I’m not a legal expert so there may be something you can do about that, but I never found anything other that the copyright thing when I Googled it. Feel free to send me a message if I’m wrong and I’ll correct this post.

maxkirin:

There will never be a better time to write, than right now. So, sit down, open up a fresh new document, and get that book done! You can do this! ♥︎ (Inspired by this post).

Want more writerly content? Follow: maxkirin.tumblr.com!

(via voldemortsn0se)

On Villains

So, how do you write a good villain? Trick question! You don’t write good villains! Hahaha. Okay, there’s a reason I’m a writer and not a comedian. Anyways…

Your villain—or your antagonist—is a fundamental part of your story. They drive the plot mobile for the most part and keep the story moving. Antagonists are equally as important as protagonists; Harry Potter would be nothing without Voldemort there to mess things up for him.

So you’ve got you hero/heroine/protagonist, now they need someone to wreck their world because main characters should never be happy for long. Obviously, your villainous needs are going to vary, but basically, your villain is going to need to spark a change in your protag. either directly or indirectly or hell, even both! I can’t really tell you how to do that because everybody’s needs are going to be different, but I can give you the basics for creating an antag.

1. Choose a name and make it good. You want your antag. to be just as memorable as your protag, but since you’re not in their heads most of the time, they need to pop. i.e. Voldemort, Sauron etc. 

2. Antags have personality traits aside from “evil”, so make their personality just as defined as your protag. Have some fun and create a foil character if you want. i.e. Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.

3. I WANT MOTIVES AND BACKSTORY. See Characterization post for more info . 

4. Kudos for villains that are just as complicated as the hero.

5. Be careful with female antags. I get so sick of the “well he dumped me so I’m going to destroy the world” trope that a lot of writers tend toward with female villains and I guarantee that I’m not the only one who’s done with it. Cersei Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire) is perfect and I love her even though she’s an awful person. Why? Because she wants power for the sake of having power. She’s learned that’s the only way she’s going to survive in the world she’s in and she’s determined to come out on top no matter who she has to step on. Not someone I would want to be friends with, but I respect her as a character. 

6. Don’t be afraid of diversifying your villains as well. I know that for white, hetero or cis writers, it’s sometimes uncomfortable to have a POC or LGBTQA+ villain, but so long as you don’t make it so that they’re the ONLY representation of that minority, you’ll be okay, I promise. (Not to say that someone won’t get their panties in a wad, but that’s life). Just like in real life, there are good people and bad people and just because someone is a minority does not automatically make them a good person. 

This post is a bit scattered, but it’s 3:30 in the morning, so sorry?

-Amanda

On Charactarization…

Oh boy…this is a tough one. Characters are literally the bones of the story. Plot can’t carry a story alone, you NEED good characters. For instance, Twilight actually had a really decent plot, but Stephanie Meyer had shitty characters. It’s not about Mary Sues or shit like that. Bella has no personality. None. There’s absolutely nothing to her—she’s a shell character. Some people like that and there’s definitely a market for it, sad as it is, but do you REALLY want to be that kind of author? If you do, that’s fine and you can stop reading now. I won’t even judge. But I’m going to be talking about real characters that are relatable, but separate from the reader. 

Tips for writing a good character…

1. Pick out a name. Names are the first way a character is defined. There are certain characteristics that go with names in the reader’s mind and if you plan to stay with that or blow the readers mind by going against name stereotypes, it’s still important. If you’re having trouble coming up with names I recommend, THIS site to help with that. 

2. Create your character’s personality. I don’t mean listing a bunch of generic character traits, because that doesn’t work. You can certainly do that, but that’s not enough. Backstory is important. People aren’t just quiet for no reason. They’ve been told to shut up by someone important in their life—as an example. So think about who that was. Why is your character impulsive or judgemental? In order to make a character life like and relatable, you have to make them real. I recommend using a character profile questionnaire to help you out with that. They’re all over the internet. Give it a search and fill one out for your character.

3. Decide on your character’s appearance and for heaven’s sake, mix it up. Don’t default to a white person. White people are great, but they’re not the only people out there and even in a fantasy world, there are going to be other races. Representation is important. I love Harry Potter more than anything, but there are A LOT of white people. Just sayin’. Face claims can help with that as well, plus it’s an excuse to look at pretty people, which is always fun and also brings me to my next point: YOUR MAIN CHARACTER DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ATTRACTIVE. Seriously, I would read the shit out of a book where a girl with acne, who isn’t “tall and willowy” kicks ass and takes names without being concerned about how she looks because it isn’t necessary to do her job. Honestly, don’t just make your character think they’re unattractive while the whole world swoons over them, because that’s not realistic and does nothing for representation and relatability, which is ultimately, what you should be looking to do.

4. Special section about gender and sexuality: There is no rule that says you have to include LGBTQA+ characters in your novel, but representation is cool. There is also no rule that says gender identity or sexuality has to be the main plot point or focus of your character. For example, I’m bisexual, but that does not define me; it’s merely a facet of who I am. My sexuality has nothing to do with my occupation, my friendships or anything else except for my love life and my love life is not what my “story” is about, so why would I let my sexuality define one of my characters? Food for thought. 

So in summary, write real characters with flaws and assets and remember that diversity exists and it’s hella rad and including it gives your story more depth and credibility. 

-Amanda

On Worldbuilding…

World building is hella important. It doesn’t matter if you’re basing your story in the real world or a made up world. You need to do this. Not optional.

Real World:

If you’re going to have a story set in…Los Angeles, California, for example, don’t just make stuff up. Google Earth or Maps or whatever the hell they’re calling it now, is your friend. Explore L.A. that way and look up places. If your character wakes up in a hospital, find a hospital and see what’s around it and how far it is from other settings. It’ll help you see the place in your mind as well as help with writing descriptions.

Made up World: 

I’ve tried to make up a world on the fly and let me tell you, it does not work. I’m not a fan of Tolkien, but I will tell you he was one hell of a world builder. Just flip through the Silmarillion and try to tell me otherwise. I’ll wait. I’m not saying you need to go to that level, because “Ain’t nobody got time for that”, but here are some tips.

1. Decide what you’re doing: elves, fairies, witches, vampires, all of the above? Cool.

2. Try making a map. All the best fantasy books have maps. Trust me, I am an expert. I recommend THIS to help you out with that if you’re not artistically inclined like myself. There’s all kinds of cool things you can do to create a world. You can either print it out and hand label* places or if you have Photoshop or GIMP or something like that (pretty sure Paint would work too), you can label like that.

3. *Labeling is so fun. You get to make up names for places and rivers and mountain ranges and omg. So fun. Be creative. “The Bite” sounds a lot better than “blue gulf” or something like that. DO NOT USE “THE BITE” GEORGE R.R. MARTIN AND ALL OF HIS MAJESTY WILL PROBABLY SUE YOUR ASS.

4. You literally have a whole world you just make up. Why the hell do you have sunflowers in your made up world? You can literally make any type of flowers or trees you want…i.e. George R.R. Martin and all of his Majesty has weirwood trees that have faces carved into them with white bark and red leaves and they do other shit too, but I’m not going to spoil A Song of Ice and Fire, so I won’t tell you.

Basically, the more detail you have, the more successful you’ll be. Some of that detail might not even go into your book or project, but dammit, you know and that’s all that matters. You have to know your world inside and out in order to write about it, so whether it’s Los Angeles or Westeros/Essos, you need to know your shit.

-Amanda

P.S. I love George R.R. Martin… a lot…get used to it, I’ll likely use him as reference a lot.

charlesoberonn:

Things I should be doing: Writing

Things I am doing: Imagining random shit from the story I want to write without actually thinking them through and then forgetting about them.

(via actualbunny)

Also, I have a writing playlist linked in the sidebar of this blog if you don’t want to make your own for whatever reason. 

Note: I made it on grooveshark and they’re all songs I have in my iTunes, so I did not preview them. If they don’t work for some reason, it’s not my fault.

-Amanda

Amanda’s not so fool-proof tips to beat the writer’s block:

1. Make a writing playlist. If you already have one, remake it. In my experience, making the playlist gets me pumped to write as I’m searching through songs to add. (I’ve also gotten a couple of decent plot points out of it too!)

2. Eat something. Take a break, fulfill some needs and maybe you’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to go!

3. Indulge in some vices if you have any. It helps to get me into the tortured writer bit (I’m not, really) and you know what they say: “Fake it ‘til you make it.” 

4. Talk to another writer and hash out plot points and characters and stuff. It helps and sometimes will push past the block. Note: does absolutely nothing for lazy writer’s block. Trust me, I’ve tried. Note: I will be your writer friend if you don’t have one. Let me love you. 

5. WRITE! Even if it’s not for your current project or you think you sound idiotic, trust me, you probably don’t and though sometimes forcing it isn’t the best idea, it can help. I promise. 

Finally kicking this blog off the ground! And I’ve already got two followers. I’m curious as to how you found me, but the posting will commence soon!

If I’m able to help one person with their writing, I’ll be pleased and I hope to learn some things myself along the way.

Feel free to ask questions or just simply talk about writing with me!

Thanks

-Amanda!