Articles about character development
I recently came across a book by James Scott Bell that lays out an interesting premise about something he calls the 'mirror moment'.
Bell's theory is that there is a single moment in the middle of the story where the main character takes a "long, hard look at himself (as in a mirror). He asks, Who am I? What have I become? Who am I supposed to be?"
Bell says if you can nail that moment, everything that comes before and after it will have more depth and resonance.Read More »
Sometimes as I sit at my desk in a remote corner of the house, writing my soul out on the page, I need the company of other writers. Someone who understands how I can both crave and loathe this quiet aloneness. When it's 2am, and I'm working feverishly to meet a deadline or trying to make sense out of the jumble of ideas in my brain, I need community.Read More »
Margaret Atwood recently wrote an essay titled "Margaret Atwood on What The Handmaid's Tale Means in the Age of Trump" that caught my eye. There has been a swarm of interest around the book thanks to the upcoming series on Hulu, but I have to admit that I was curious to see if her political views matched mine.
What I found most compelling in the article, however, is how she talked about stretching herself outside her genre when she wrote The Handmaid's Tale:
- "It seemed to me a risky venture. I’d read extensively in science fiction, speculative fiction, utopias and dystopias ever since my high school years in the 1950s, but I’d never written such a book. Was I up to it? The form was strewn with pitfalls, among them a tendency to sermonize, a veering into allegory and a lack of plausibility. If I was to create an imaginary garden I wanted the toads in it to be real."
It was during a Guardian webchat last year that one of my favourite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, offered no-nonsense words of advice to an aspiring writer that rather stopped me in my tracks. The commenter had asked how he, a middle-aged white man, should go about writing the story of a young Bengali girl, who belonged to a culture that he readily admitted was alien to his own. Chimamanda invited him to re-examine his motivation to write about something so unfamiliar and seemed to endorse the age-old adage that you should write what you know.Read More »
When you’re starting a new story, determining POV is a very important choice. Writing from multiple POVs can be frustrating and confusing for readers if it’s not handled well, so you need to have a very good reason for using multiple POVs in your story.
That said, here are a few tips on how to craft a story using multiple POVs:Read More »
Have you ever been so engrossed in a book that if the ending isn't strong and doesn't resolve all the plot threads, you're disappointed in the whole book? I once read a novel with a deeply engaging main character I really connected with. She struggled and overcame and struggled and overcame. And at the very end of the book, the author killed her. WHAT? It's the only time I've ever thrown a book. And I refused to read anything more by that author.
You know how important it is to hook your reader from the very beginning. It's why you start in the middle of the action, plunging your reader right in so they get caught up in the excitement.
Your ending is as important…if not more.Read More »
Theme is not your character arc, nor is it the plot or what happens to your character. It's actually the essence that ties those two together. If someone asks you "what is your book about?" you don't respond with scene-by-scene detail, or the changes your character goes through.
You think of your character and what essential thing she or he comes to understand through the course of the book.
If you can't do that, you don't have a firm grasp on your story's theme.Read More »
Kurt Vonnegut, author of such classics as Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, stands today as one of the 20th century’s most important American writers. I can’t think of anyone better placed to give literary advice, and, thankfully, he agreed with me.
These eight tips were originally written by Vonnegut to apply exclusively to writers of short stories, but I reckon they’re just as useful for writers of longer fiction.Read More »
You may have noticed that we at ProWritingAid have a fondness for technology that makes writers better, stronger, more organized, and highly productive. If you like creating a storyboard for your novels, or if you want an innovative app to capture all of your to-do’s for your client work, let us introduce Trello.
For those of us who use sticky notes, index cards, and other forms of reminders to help you organize everything you need for a writing project, Trello is the easiest, most intuitive way to organize your work.Read More »
If you’ve taken writing courses at the university level, more often than not, your instructors have fervently cried: Never, ever, ever, ever start a story with a dream sequence. And if you Google “dreams in novels,” you will find a huge range of opinions on the matter. For every post scorning the use of dreams, there is one saying that when done well, dream sequences can move your plot forward.
But are there times when dreams are ok to use? Some authors have used them incredibly effectively in the past. .Read More »
If you haven’t read The Martian, it’s 369 pages of full-on tension. Mark Watney, the main character, faces one set-back after another as he’s fighting for his life on Mars. The stakes are pretty high; if he doesn’t get off Mars soon, he’ll die.
Weir is a master at creating tension. Just when things are finally going right for Watney, Weir pulls the rug out from under his feet. We watch as Watney perseveres through untenable disasters that would crush the rest of us. Weir keeps readers asking throughout the story, “How’s he going to get out of this one?”Read More »
It’s time to burst your bubble. Sorry! The typical paperback novel is between 80,000 and 100,000 words long. Yes, you completed 50,000 words, and that’s an amazing achievement in 30 days. But 50,000 words does not a novel make.
The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it releases you from worrying about what you’re writing, trying to make it perfect, and instead you just focus on getting words down on the page. And that is a serious accomplishment: 50,000 words in 30 days. NaNoWriMo hopefully taught you that when you’re not seeking perfection, you can get an amazing amount of words out instead of staring at a blank page.
So, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ve likely got more work ahead on that novel of yours. Here's what you need to know...Read More »
Foreshadowing allows you to plant clues, hint at what’s to come, build the tension, or even place a red herring in your reader’s path.
You can use foreshadowing in a variety of ways. The resulting action can be immediate or delayed. You can use dialogue or narrative to set the scene, and you can foreshadow a symbolic event or an ethical dilemma. You can use direct or indirect foreshadowing, and it can even be true or false.
Foreshadowing can feed the tension of a scene. Who doesn’t know the famous shower scene in the movie Psycho? Right before the character Marion Crane pulls up to the Bates Motel, her windshield wipers are slashing through the rain, foreshadowing what awaits her in the shower scene.Read More »
A flashback is a scene you use in your current narrative to show something that happened in the past. The two key differentiators are: 1) it must be a scene (as opposed to narration about an event), and 2) it’s past news.
Flashbacks are great for building three-dimensional characters because readers gains insight on how a character’s thoughts, feelings, and morals were formed by important events. They’re also useful for dropping hints about what happened to lead your main character to the current point in time. They help your readers understand and care deeply about your characters and what happens to them.Read More »
As a writer, you may dream of a day where you can sit down at your desk and simply write, with no distractions. Instead, you have to deal with phone calls and emails, and people coming over to talk to you. You have the whole of the internet at your fingertips to distract you, as well as the sounds of the outside world. You can even be distracted by your own thoughts.
But what if we are thinking of these distractions in the wrong way? Could they be something that actually improves your productivity?
Let’s take a look at the ways in which this could be true.Read More »
Very occasionally some exceptional writers can get away with shifting Point of View (POV) between two characters within the same sentence. Most of us, however, should avoid this kind of head-hopping.
Where Faulkner and Joyce are masters at POV shifting (and they make it seem so effortless), here are a few rules the rest of us should follow when shifting between characters.Read More »
Sometimes, narrative and exposition are used synonymously to explain parts of a novel that “narrate” information for the reader. They are, in fact, different devices used to give the reader information. Used appropriately, narrative and exposition affect the pacing of your story.Read More »
When I decided I wanted to be a writer, the idea of “Write what you know” made me feel like a whole realm of literary possibility was off-limits to me. And yet, my own breadth of experience felt too small to contain a great story. I began to worry that my lack of experiences in life meant that I had nothing important to say. Seriously, who wants to read about my boring life?
I wish someone had explained that the concept of “Write what you know” is much bigger and more nuanced than that.Read More »
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