Writing Tips 3

There are some things, when writing and putting your story together, that can go very, very wrong.  Things that you need to plan ahead for and really take into account.  Sometimes, people mistakenly think that they’ll come together while you’re writing.  But if you don’t have these as a solid foundation, your story can’t go anywhere.

Background :
What is most important about any character you write, is their background. Everyone has a history and a past, so use it to your advantage. For example, in the Vampire Diaries, Elena’s tormented by the death of her parents and strange, unexplainable vents that have occurred. In Runaway Girl, Damian is haunted by his past continuously. Again, this is something you don’t need to flood your reader with. Think of your characters background as more of a trickling stream than a rushing river. Place little bits of background information into the story strategically, when you want that piece to be exposed to the reader. Wait until the right moment and then reveal a hidden secret. Keep your reader guessing. Only explain the background when you’re ready and even then, it’s sometimes best not to have big passages explaining it, but for other characters to reveal it at opportune moments, again see Runaway Girl for an example. DO NOT invent an intricate background history for your character unless it is important to the story. If you don’t conclude that background history, or make it mean something by the end of the book, or series, then you will leave your readers angry and annoyed. It’s best to avoid that.

Characters :
It is very important that your lead character is interesting. It’s all well and good choosing one of your characters as the lead because you like them, but if your readers aren’t going to like them, it doesn’t matter how good your story is, it’s going to sink and drown. A prime example of this is the Vampire Diaries. I don’t know how many reviews I read that said the reader hated Elena Gilbert so much that they didn’t bother reading the whole book. I, myself, on my first read of Book 1, barely got past page 2…that is how badly I dislike Elena. I forced myself to ignore her for a while and read the end of the book and surprisingly, the story is good. It’s just that I can’t stand Elena. Don’t make that mistake. It’s all fine and well to have a secondary character that everyone is supposed to hate, but don’t make it your main character unless it’s super important to your story. If you are going to make a bad guy your lead character, make them fun and interesting, like Damon from VD rather than too serious and boring. You need to keep those readers interested.

Details :
Details are very important. But don’t thrust them at your reader for no reason. No one really cares if the wood of a cabinet is pine or mahogany, unless it’s important. No-one cares that your reader is blonde and blue eyed unless it’s important. Personally, I only use a physical description of my characters if it’s important, a comparison or a vision/sensation that someone is experiencing. I would rather leave it up to my readers to imagine the characters any way they like. Most do anyway. There’s no need to describe a room in so much detail that you describe every piece of furniture and every picture on the wall in perfect precision, unless it’s important to the story, e.g. something goes/is missing, the character is addicted to detail, it shows something about the person who lives in that room. I used this in my crime series, to show that a character who had once been well kept and presentable was a slob, who didn’t care that cockroaches were climbing over their shoes. It was relevant to the character and so the description was kept. Otherwise, it would have simply been ‘grossly messy room’. The important thing is not to bore your reader.

Weather :
Don’t spend pages describing the weather. If it’s relevant to the story, by all means, mention it. In Scotland we have four seasons in one day – as I’m writing it’s stopped a blizzard of snow to let the sun shine. That is how it works here, and so I’ve used that in my stories when a character misses home. Other than that, unless it’s an observation, a method of avoidance etc by a character then it needs to be important to the story in order to be important. Otherwise, remove it. In Book 2 of the Secrets of Avelina Chronicles, I use a set of wooden window shutters to keep a girl awake, just long enough to head a noise and go investigate. This brings her into the story and introduces her in a way that makes the shutters, and the torrential rain important. Once I’ve caught her attention, however, I don’t need to reiterate that it’s raining or what the weather is like until it become important again. Don’t even think that writing about the weather will fill a gap in the story. No-one is interested unless it’s relevant. If you have a witch that controls the elements, describe the weather as much as you like, if you are writing about a pirate ship, by all means detail away. Just keep it relevant.

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