Tips from Other People, Part 6.

You know what, people? I’ve never written a story with an actual antagonist. I’m not sure why exactly, since I love a good villain as much as the next person.

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Maybe it’s because I tend to be more interested in the complex problems that arise through lack of communication, or different definitions of love, rather than good guy/bad guy interactions. I’m not sure. It’s an interesting thing to consider, for sure, and may help me get closer to knowing what kind of story I really want to write.

But for now, we’re going to talk about baddies. Or rather, we’re going to read a post I found on Now Novel (a fabulous blog, and one I’m continually learning from) about how to make a convincing one. They start with a bullet list:

1. Give an antagonist unsavoury goals like Sauron or Lord Voldemort
2. Make your antagonist’s backstory believable
3. Make your antagonist’s misdeeds require decisive action
4. Show how your antagonist outwits opponents
5. Reveal the power an antagonist has over other characters
6. Don’t make overcoming your antagonist too easy
7. Read antagonist examples for description inspiration

And then proceed to elaborate on each point.

Hmmm… this has me wanting to write some nasty characters now. Time to spice it up.

 

Inhabit an Otherness.

No, not in a creepy demonic possession/horror movie kind of way.

I recently discovered an article by Colum McCann, stuffed full of tips for new writers. Being that it is a long article, and every paragraph contains worth pondering for hours, and I’m super busy these days, I haven’t even made it to the end yet. Still, there’s something that I need to share. I was shackled for years by the old aphorism, “write what you know.” Well, if we all did that, we’d be writing nothing but autobiographies, wouldn’t we? And I have almost as little interest in writing my autobiography as anyone else would have in reading it. I decided to throw out that rule. Until, however, McCann gave me a new take on it:

“Don’t write what you know, write towards what you want to know.

A writer is an explorer. She knows she wants to get somewhere, but she doesn’t know if the somewhere even exists yet. It is still to be created. Don’t sit around looking inward. That’s boring. In the end your navel contains only lint. You have to propel yourself outward, young writer.

The only true way to expand your world is to inhabit an otherness beyond ourselves… Remember, the world is so much more than one story. We find in others the ongoing of ourselves.

In the end your first-grade teacher was correct: we can, indeed, only write what we know. It is logically and philosophically impossible to do otherwise. But if we write towards what we don’t supposedly know, we will find out what we knew but weren’t yet entirely aware of. We will have made a shotgun leap in our consciousness. We will not be stuck in the permanent backspin of me, me, me.”

Inhabit an otherness. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing. The fact is, we all know much more than we realize. It comes down to the idea of human universals. Even if there is a situation we have never experienced, a courage or cowardice we have never felt, we have the imaginative capability to project ourselves into those places.

And why not? Carpe Experientia, y’all.

Tips from Other People, Part 4.

“I am a writer!” This is one of the most important and freeing statements any of us ever makes. It’s almost a rite of passage. The moment you can look your banker/hairdresser/pastor/aunt in the eye and tell them (without mumbling) that you are writer, hear you type—well, then, congratulations, you’ve crossed an important threshold in claiming…

via Are You a Writer or a Storyteller? — Helping Writers Become Authors

Funny, I never really thought about the difference between being a natural Writer vs. a natural Storyteller… Seems like it should have been an obvious, since I’m constantly bemoaning the fact that I’m not so great at developing plots, but once I have something, getting it down on paper is the easy part. I guess that makes me a Writer, doesn’t it?

This blog post, by the lovely K.M. Weiland, shares good tips for strengthening your weak area, whether it is telling the story or writing it down.

Nerding about Stuff I don’t Understand.

Occasionally, I like keeping myself inspired by blowing my own mind. One of the ways I like to do this is by doing some science research. I don’t have a math/science brain, so I never have any idea what I’m studying, but it’s sure fun.

Now, this all started with a friend of mine. Unlike me, she has an extremely math/science brain, and one day several years ago, I noticed that her “light summer reading” happened to be a book on string theory. It sounded interesting, so I asked her to explain it. Which she did. I didn’t understand a word of it. Nevertheless, it still sounds interesting, so I decided to dip into it a bit today. I started off with a bunch of super-nerd websites that may or may not have been written in English; I really couldn’t say. But eventually I discovered (with relief) a TED talk. TED talks are always life-savers.

After that, I found an article which tells me that, basically, we still have no idea what’s going on, and string theory probably isn’t the “theory of everything” people were hoping for. Everything we thought we had a handle on turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg. Unsurprising, really.

Okay, now that my mind is well and truly boggled, I’ll just toss in a gloriously hyperlinked Wikipedia article on that Large Hadron Collider (yes, that is its official, highly scientific name) the TED guy mentioned.

I’ll just finish off by saying that the thing about all this that I find the easiest to wrap my head around is the idea of multiple dimensions that we can’t see. My initial reaction was, “Well, of course. Every three-year-old church kid knows that.” Nothing new here, moving on. Anyways, that just struck me as kind of funny.

And again, I really don’t have any idea what all this actually means, or even if it’s still something that scientists take seriously. It’s just an idea that I like. I’m just a writer, okay?

 

 

Tips from Other People, Part 3.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m going to mention it again: I love character-driven stories. Stories where the action and plot are determined by the characters; their motivations and hang-ups. In order to write stories like that, it’s important to make sure you’re writing character motivations well.

Fortunately, the lovely folks over at Now Novel have some advice for that:

1: Give each character their own contrasting motivation

2: Use character motivations founded on rational and irrational beliefs

3: Decide how aware your characters will be of their own motivations

4: Let characters’ drives develop as new plot events occur

5: Don’t give characters what they want too easily

6: Try to be subtle in revealing what drives your characters

7. Make motivations complex to increase readers’ interest

Each one of these points is expanded upon in the full post, so head on over and take a look if you’re interested.

Multipotentialites Are a Thing Now.

Here’s an excerpt from a book that I MUST track down. Immediately, if not sooner. It’s called How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up, by Emilie Wapnick, and it’s for people like me, who have never found that “one true passion” and are feeling kinda desperate.

Not all of us are born with one main interest — and we should see that as our biggest strength, not our weakness, says Emilie Wapnick, a writer, coach, artist (and then some). Do you remember being asked, as a little kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up? When I think back,…

via What it means when you can’t answer the question, What do you want to be when you grow up? — ideas.ted.com

 

Turns out, not having “one true passion” isn’t the fatal flaw that I’ve always thought. It just means that I’m what she’s calling a multipotentialite, which is a doozy of a title, and one which I will happily adopt (as long as I agree with what the book has to say).

Anyhow, even if I end up being underwhelmed by the book itself, this is a good little article. It includes tips for handling a few of the biggest problems multipotentialites face, every single one of which I can heartily identify with.

The reason I’m sharing it with all of you, is that I’m willing to bet a lot of writers are actually multipotentialites, who turn to writing as a way of exploring the entire world. If you’re one of those, you can probably relate to my feelings of insecurity over the fact that I don’t in fact want to be writing EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THE DAY. I thought that made me wimpy or insincere… “dilettante-ish,” as I commonly accuse myself. But maybe I’m not.

So yeah, just wanted to put that out there. Once I get the book, I might do a “Toolkit” post to tell you more.

Tips from Other People, Part Two.

Writing a book is a lot of things. Fun and hard work. Terrifying and exhilarating. Time-consuming and all-absorbing. So if you are yet to take the plunge, or you are part way through the process, or you’ve just started the next book, don’t forget to make the most of these Stages of Awesomeness. They are…

via Writing a Book: Stages of Awesomeness — Magic Writer

 

One of my favorite things about the internet, besides #ShakespeareSunday and Grumpy Cat, is how you can discover somebody, even if you’ve never met, even if they live on a WHOLE DIFFERENT CONTINENT, and be like, “Yes. This is one of my people.”

The lovely Elise, writer of the post I’m sharing with you today, happens to be one of those people. And she’s got some really good advice for us all. I won’t ramble on about it here, because I want you guys to read her post, but let me just say that it came at the right time. I’ve been way down deep in the terrified dumps, and it’s so good to be reminded that there are awesome things in store.

Plus there’s a photo of Lego Superman. What’s not to love?

Thanks, Elise!

Tips from Other People, Part One

I’m rapidly approaching the editing stage for my own novel, and honestly, I’m dreading it. I love editing other people’s work, but self-editing is a different beast entirely. Usually by the time a novel is finished, I’ve become so familiar with every word they start to blur together, and it’s hard for me to see […]

via 4 Tips for Self Editing — Million Words

 

This here is a lovely set of tips for when it comes time to edit your own work, including the idea of getting a website to read aloud for you. I don’t know about any of you people, but I have a really hard time reading my work out loud during the editing process, because what if somebody HEARS me??? So much nicer to shove on a big pair of headphones and keep it private until I’m sure it’s ready for public consumption.

In the blog post, Sarah Kay Moll suggests https://www.naturalreaders.com/ for the purpose. I tried it out, and it’s probably one of the better text-to-speech generators I’ve come across. There are plenty of voice options, so you can select one that works well with your writing. Of course, it’s all automated, so there is still a sense that your work is being recited by Stephen Hawking. But what an honor that would be, am I right? It’s good for visions of glory, or just for a giggle, which can be healthy during the editing process, I find.

Where the Inner and Outer Intersect.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post encouraging writers to explore their favorite books in order to learn more about themselves as writers. As I stated at the time, I couldn’t remember where I discovered the exercise.

Well, I have found it. In a whole huge stack of papers that somehow got shuffled into an old shoebox and forgotten about. Story of my life, y’all. Fortunately, I had noted the title and author of the original article, so I am now pleased to present to you:

The Original Article!

The process is based on discovering the point at which our inner (personal experience) and outer (favorite book) stories overlap, with the idea that that is where our deepest and most resonant stories (as in, the ones we should probably be writing) come from.

Worth taking a look at, people. What we read can tell us a lot about ourselves as writers, if we give it a chance. It’s only a four-step process, but it can really help us to define what themes we are drawn to.