Monday, 12 September 2011

WIP Update: Day 15 & Conversation With An Antagonist

It's day 15 and the start of week three. So, let's see how I got on:

Total word count:
Word count this week: 7281

Time spent writing: 11 hours
Time spent on writing-related tasks: 4
Time spent thinking about novel: not as much as I would have liked

More things I've learnt in the last seven days:
  • Life will sometimes get in the way; will affect your ability to write. When it does you either have to work through it or cut yourself some slack. Life isn't always easy.
  • Unless you are the kind of writer who wakes up one morning with a fully formed and perfect plot, your plot will change. And that is okay. It isn't a sign you're a weak writer; it's a sign you know when things aren't working.
  • Don't go back to make changes when writing your first draft. Make a note of what needs to be changed, how it will affect the rest of the story, and then keep moving forward.
  • Carrying on from my last point, follow your gut instinct - it is always right. This may seem like a sweeping statement but from my experience with short story critiques, every time I left something in that I wasn't sure about it was picked up by the person doing the critique. It doesn't mean what you've written instead is perfect but at least you've cut what you know isn't.

Conversation with an Antagonist

"Well hello, Mr. Antagonist."
"Yeah. I don't like that title."
"Why ever not? You get to be villainous and scary, and appear rather a lot."
"But the problem is you're making me look all bad."
"In real life people aren't like that. There are reasons they turn bad."
"I mean I might have been dropped on the head as a baby, dumped by the love of my life, and fired from my $100,000 job because I wouldn't sleep with the boss. I'd be bitter. I'd want revenge."
"But nothing like that is going to happen in your novel."
"True. But what I'm trying to say is you have to show reasons why I behave the way I do, otherwise the reader will think I'm cardboard cut-out cliché."
"Okay. I get your point."
"Just one more little thing."
"Go on."
"Could you make me a bit taller? I want to be able to intimidate people with my height."
"Em . . ."

So, how do you ensure your characters are both believable and three dimensional to your readers?

Firstly, you need to remember everything a characters does, says, or feels happens for a reason, whether they are the antagonist or protagonist. Real life might be a series of coincidences but not in fiction. Every story element must make sense. If the antagonist wants to strip away the protagonists power it's because they want power. If they want to murder the protagonist's wife it's because they believe the protagonist was responsible for the death of someone they loved. There must be a reason for every action.

Secondly, every character needs a backstory. Whilst you don't need detailed backstories for every character in your novel, knowing all the key elements in your main character's lives will help to add depth to both the characters and the story. It will make the characters actions more believable. 

Thirdly, your character must undergo a journey or transformation of some kind. They need to have been changed or to have at least learnt something by the end of a story. This does not mean your protagonist ends up bad, whilst your antagonist turns all fluffy and kind-hearted by the end - they might do but that in itself can be seen as a cliché - it means how the character is at the beginning and how they are at the end will make sense to the reader because of the choices they made. 

Those are my three methods for ensuring my characters are believable and are not simply cardboard cut-outs. Do you have any of your own?

Monday, 5 September 2011

WIP Update: Day Eight, Writer Support 4U, & Writing A Novel

"Where does she think she's going, aiming so high?"
"She's practising for the 2012 Fisholympics."

It's day eight and I thought I'd reflect on the last seven days.

Word count: 8925
Time spent writing: 10.25 hours
Time spent on writing-related tasks: 4.75 hours
Time spent thinking about novel: unknown

I'm quite pleased with my progress, considering I only wrote for three days. The other two were spent finishing my plot notes and re-working the first few scenes in act one. On a good day I can achieve 1000 words an hour. When I'm not so sure of my scene objectives that figure drops to around 800 words.

Things I learnt during the last seven days:
  • If you want something bad enough, you will do it. You will be at your desk at 8am every morning, or whatever time is better for you, because your novel will not write itself.
  • Turn off mobiles and ban the Internet until you have finished your writing session.
  • Facebook is just as addictive as blogging.
  • Ask your friends and family not to call or disturb you during the hours you are writing.
  • It is better to give yourself broad achievable deadlines. Saying I will write scenes one to three in week one is better than saying I will write exactly 2500 words every day.
  • There is only so much preparation you can do before starting to write. In the end you just have to just get on with it.
  • If you can pick any time to take a work-break, pick the summer. It's warmer.
  • I cannot read fiction when I am so heavily involved with writing a novel. I had to stop reading my current book, Blood Red Road, because all I could think about was my own WIP. I've switched to non-fiction, and have already read two books.

Things I learnt about having a broken toe:
  • Elevating your foot whilst writing at your desk is impossible.
  • You can't hoover, dust, or go grocery shopping. This equals more writing time.
  • If you're not getting any exercise, and eating all day, you will put on weight. 

So, when was the last time you took a giant leap into the unknown and what did you learn?

Before I go, I want to tell you about a couple of things I discovered on Facebook this week.

Firstly, the fabulous Sheri Larsen set up a support group for writers on Facebook earlier this year. Here's what she said about it in a recent blog post:

We went from 1 member, Moi, on July 1st to 96 as of yesterday!! Many of the writers who joined over the summer used the space to share their current struggles or successes, and almost instantly got some sort of response from one of the other members. It's been a great way to connect and expand the skills of our writing community.

We'd love to have you. You can JOIN HERE!

Go on. You know you want to join!

Secondly, whilst reading the messages in Writer Support 4U I discovered this YouTube video. Take the time to watch it because it is a truthful but hilarious account of writing a novel.