Tag Archives: reader

Twist It: Writing Prompts

3 Apr

Lots of things hold the reader’s attention, but what helps the most is having a story that is unpredictable. I don’t mean random, but just hard to predict. ‘What will happen next?’ is the question that will keep the reader hooked. One of the best ways to do that is by adding a twist, either one big one, or several small ones. Just when you think it’s going one way, do the opposite. You might surprise yourself.

1) The Secret
Every character has a secret, whether a small one or a big one. Write a scene where another character is close to finding out your character has a secret. There are clues and they think they have it figured out until your character confesses something completely different.

2) Routine
As always your female character gets hit by her husband after a night out with his lads. She expects this even though she tries to avoid it. It goes down as it always does, until something unexpected happens. You decide what that is.

3) The Interview
Most people have had interviews in their life and there are certain expectations that come with it. Have your character go to an interview. Only this interview has a little twist.

4) The Meeting
A meeting for addicts. Or is it? What exactly is this meeting? Make it clear through dialogue. What are these characters talking about, and why have they formed a group for it. Reveal it until the very end of the scene.

5) The Jumper
Your character stumbles upon someone who is about to jump. They do their best to talk that person down. But is the person really a jumper? Is their meeting really a coincidence? What is going on here? And what will happen next…

Have fun and surprise yourself!

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Time, Time, Time

2 Apr

Time does not really exist, so I suppose I’m talking about that moment where there are no pressing matters at hand and you are free to pursue whatever endeavour you wish. In this case, I’m talking about writing. I didn’t have a job for six months and now I do so I recognise the difference between being able to write all day and finding it difficult to dive into my written world during the week.

To make time for yourself is important. Whether it’s to play the violin, read a novel, or write like a crazy bunny on drugs. Still, that is easier said than done when obligations are in the way. Not to mention the real life people that push the imaginary ones out of the way. This is why I found that it’s important to adapt whatever goal you have. I just felt bad when I didn’t reach the goal I usually had (2K a day). And most of the time I just stared at my manuscript and was like, nope, I won’t write more than a sentence. But a sentence is still a sentence. And it might spark more sentences. You don’t know until you write. So it helps to tell yourself to write five minutes, for example. Just set the timer and let those fingers dance over the keyboard. Even if you write complete rubbish. Just do it.

When you wing it just like me, you follow the story, same as the reader will. This means that sometimes you will be stuck, and sometimes you will scrap things. And it’s okay to take time to brainstorm, in fact, that’s very good. So then take that time. Change your goal from writing every day to brainstorming every day. Make it as many minutes as you want. Maybe do it twice for five minutes. Or once for fifteen. You’re the boss.

Your story is your companion at the time that you’re working on it, but if you stop spending time with it, it will distance itself from you. It will only make it harder to get back into the groove, plus you miss out on all that fun! Reward yourself with that time. Especially when you’re busy, you deserve that time with your characters.

The Art of Revising

9 Feb

And there it is: a plot hole, a character that doesn’t feel quite real, a motivation that is lacking. There’s always something you find could use improving if you take out a magnifying glass and look through it with a reader’s brain instead of a writer’s heart.

And therein lies the rub. Once a story has been written, whether it’s a first draft or not, it’s hard for the writer to erase those words from paper. I like to see it as the power of the written word. They plant their roots in paper and it’s hard for the writer to pull them out, since he was the one who planted them in the first place.

This is why reliable ninja readers are so important, they weren’t there when you planted those words and they only care about how they look when bloomed. And this is also why you should let your story simmer before rereading it. Then you’ll be able to read it more as a reader, as opposed to a writer. Also, your subconscious knows so much, so be sure to take notes about which doubts are shouting at the back of your head. Chances are, if you have a strict ninja reader, that he’ll point out the things you suspected and this will make your inner (re)writer’s hands itch. No writer wants to pee in his own shoe. We want our story to be the best that it can be and we are the only ones that can make that happen.

Now comes the tricky part, which is to actually incorporate those changes necessary to benefit your story. The story is an intrinsically woven web of multi-coloured threads. Pull on one of them and the entire thing could collapse. And since I wing it more than I plan it, I find it difficult to uncover a way that works for me and doesn’t involve a lot of grunting, sighing, muttering and complaining on Twitter. What once really helped me was writing down the situation at the beginning and at the end of the novel and work my way to the middle, writing down the scenes that needed to come after the beginning and before the end. It’s a great way to plan your novel and keep sight of the thread that binds all the scenes together. You’re forced to ask yourself: What needs to happen in order to get to that next point?

So, keeping in mind the changes I need to make, I think I’ll use this method to determine where and how new scenes need to take place. (Easier said than done!) And I’ll probably still complain on Twitter.

This leads me to my question for all of you fellow writers, how do YOU rewrite?

 

writing journal

Plot It Like A Bunny

20 Nov

Funnily enough this post isn’t about how to plot or about bunnies. It is however, about the Plot ingredient which should always be in the Story Cauldron. I write character-driven stories because life is about people and books are about life, but this doesn’t mean I’m not big on plot. Even though the emphasis of a story might be on characters, that doesn’t mean that the amount of effort put into the plot should be any less than the effort put into characterisation.

– A plot should always move towards the climax and its subsequent resolution. That is to say, keep the goal in mind. You should also be able to summarise your plot in one sentence.
– There should also be a subplot, which you should also be able to summarise in one sentence. People who get stuck have usually lost sight of their plot and/or subplot. If that happens easily, it might be a good idea to make an outline before you start writing. That makes it easier for you to begin and stick to it once you’re halfway through that beast of a story.
– The one-sentence summary should contain the goal. Every plot should have a goal because that’s how you know what obstacles you’ll add into the Cauldron. Here it is also interesting to create tension by giving the character traits that already don’t match with the goal. Characters make interesting obstacles.
– There should be a set of mini-achievements for a character in order to reach the goal, they are usually reactions to the obstacles. This is especially clear in mystery, for instance. The goal is to solve a murder, they have a suspect, but then new information arrives and shows the suspect is not the killer. They have to use that new information to get closer to a new suspect and every time they uncover something, whether it sets them back or not, it all adds up to the eventual truth; everything leads to their goal. Cause and effect.
– It should always be clear in which direction you’re moving, but you should still throw a few curve-balls at your readers to keep them on their toes. Subtlety is key here. Hint by sliding it past them, not by throwing the hint in their face. Also feel free to lay out false clues, but only one or two or your readers might feel tricked, in a bad way.

Keep moving closer to the goal, even a setback for your character is still a motion. Move gradually, not like a bullet, but like a leaf in the wind. Never ever stop, because like a shark, your plot will die.

plotting bunny

TIP: The elements of a good plot are pretty straightforward and you can discover them easily by thinking of what you expect of a novel with a good plot, as a reader. Thinking like a reader will help you when writing. (Note: don’t think like a reader WHILE writing, only before or after.)

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