A casual inquiry proved me right. An isolated cool-yet-irrelevant scene suggests the authors immaturity as an artist, and will be noted by agents and editors. Heres the key: Put your best material in, but leave the kitchen sink in the kitchen. When tempted to throw in something awesome that the story doesnt really demand, go ahead and write it, but during revisions take it out and save. Alternatively, adapt your story to the cool thing. The author with the snake-belt guy might have brought that character into the story more, either by making him a one-shot oracle who gives or withholds a crucial piece of information, or by making a real character out of him, with a name and.
Good, for and Against, essay, blog
She got out and said, help me pull some of these down. We do not need to be told what went through Edwinas mind; we can conjecture just fine. Agents and editors will recognize an honest, unstilted voice, and they will respond. As will your future readers. Use your best material only when it has a purpose. Agents and editors have a sixth sense when it comes to kitchen-sink novels. You know what Im talking about: novels that contain a fictionalized version of every cool, unusual or amazing thing that ever happened plaid to the author. I once read a novel manuscript at the insistence of a friend who knew the author. In it, a man on foot stops to talk to a man on horseback who is wearing a live snake around his waist like a belt. The incident was colorful but had no bearing on the story, and I suspected that the only reason it was there was that the author had once met up with a man on horseback who wore a snake around his waist like a belt.
If they like to read the sorts of books you like to write, theyre right up there with your core demographic. And dumbing down your work can be doubly disastrous, because real if you do, agents and editors will not be able to relate. First, free your vocabulary while also keeping it in check. If abhorrent is the right word, dont change it to yucky. And when hill is the right word, dont change it to acclivity just to show off. Second, resist the urge to overexplain, especially when portraying action sequences and characters thoughts. Edwina stopped revving the accelerator. The car rocked back into the sand. She looked up at the thick spruce boughs that hung into the road.
Be true to your. When I worked for a large bookseller, we ran surveys that showed our core customers to be well educated and fairly affluent. This was not surprising: Educated people tend to like books, and their income tends to enable them to buy books. Still, aspiring authors sometimes dumb down their work because theyre afraid of alienating the vast masses of potential customers they imagine they should be writing for. You cannot. And shredder you dont need to—the average joes and Janes are smarter than you may think. Heres the key: Dont underestimate your readers.
(Thank you, anonymous writer and unknown art instructor!) everyone in the room immediately made the translation: If it didnt have to be pretty, what would you write? Heres the key: Not-pretty has two meanings here: a) topics that are not attractive, like racism or incest, and b) the way you write. Most people shy away from darkness, but as an author you must be willing to dwell there, see it truly, explore it before you represent. I kind of hate to say this, but i advise going back to your childhood years—the primal times before we really knew right from wrong, and before we were strong enough to defend ourselves from evil. Feel the fear that coursed through your body when you saw the neighborhood bully coming. Feel the shameless intoxication of wrecking something out of spite. As for freeing up your writing, do the same thing. When you were a kid, you did everything with almost complete abandon. Call up that spirit as you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
Ways to make a, good, story Great
Which one are you sort of avoiding dealing with? Now, brainstorm the -istics of that character. Lets say he is casual about commitments. OK: What if he categorically will not show up anywhere on time? Automatically, this character becomes more interesting, and automatically we feel a little detonation of uh-oh: Whats going to happen when suddenly a lot is riding on him being somewhere on time—say, for an ultimatum, or a starting gun? This sort of characterization does two things: It makes a character stronger as a dramatic device, and it makes him more memorable. A characters weirdness can keep your readers guessing all the way along; it can keep them compelled, as they try to understand and spin theories.
Or they might not even notice—but they will get a feeling android that for some hard-to-pinpoint reason, this character just seems genuine. Forget about being pretty. Agents and editors cant stand authors who put restraints on their work for the sake of delicacy. A few years ago i was teaching a workshop and trying to get across the concept of writing freely (with no thought of whether you like the result). A participant spoke up: i once had an art instructor say, if it didnt have to be pretty, what would you draw? i practically reeled from the force of the genius of that question.
Which goes to show that if you incorporate a strong enough motivating factor—even an irrational one—you can easily establish a plausible reason for erratic actions on the part of your characters. And those characters are far more interesting to read about than those who always behave rationally. Similarly, any number of terrific plot turns can result when you give a character an obsession—random or not—or an idiosyncrasy that can act as a thread through the story. For instance, someone who is obsessed can become single-mindedly so, leading to horrible errors in judgment. Control freaks turn vainglorious and become prone to fatal decisions: Aw, captain, lets just go back to port. Weve lost half the crew already.
Shut the hell up! I cant let that white whale win! It follows that an obsessed character must either find grace (or be forced to it or reject growth and stick with their crippled, familiar life to the end. Either way, its compelling storytelling. To embrace this side of human nature in your fiction, you neednt get a degree in psychology. In fact, a little capriciousness here can be beneficial. Decide which of your characters is the weakest—which one isnt working well.
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People behave rationally only part of the time; the rest of the time we take stupid risks and do other things we cant explain. Agents and editors know this as well as anyone, but because reviews they dont salon want readers to have to work too hard to suspend disbelief, they really harp on believability. And when they do, frequently their objections have to do with a characters motivation. (I should add that you can pick apart any masterwork on that basis: I really dont think Ophelia would kill herself in this situation. I mean, dont you think suicide is way over-the-top? Much more plausible to have her develop an eating disorder, wouldnt you agree?) The trouble is, if you bow to this and have your characters behave totally rationally at all times, youll write dead-boring fiction. Heres the key: Human weirdness follows patterns we can all relate to (or at least understand). One of the biggest is that love—or sex, at least—makes people irrational. We throw over the picture-perfect millionaire for the rough-around-the-edges dirt biker with debt; we lie to our faithful wife on the phone while bonking the secretary in a motel.
Youll find that two things are at the root of all of it: anxiety (or lack thereof) and hidden desires. Dwell inside your characters and sense how they feel in protein any given situation. Consider this: Brian paused and lit a cigarette. He exhaled a stream of smoke at the window. That doesnt tell anything about the character or his state of mind. If Brian needs a cigarette, use the moment fully: Brian paused and lit a cigarette. He held it close to his body, as if he didnt want to take up too much space. He exhaled a stream of smoke at the window, avoiding Anne-maries eyes. We learn something about whats going on with Brian here, without having to plow through an internal monologue from him or Anne-marie.
the weight of a new tweed coat on his shoulders. Agents and editors love the five senses, but they want and expect more. They want physical business that deepens not just your setting, but your characterizations. Heres the key: The best authors use body language in their narratives. Odd thing is, i have never once heard an agent or editor comment on my (or any authors) use of body language, and I think thats because it goes by so smoothly its almost unnoticed. Yet it absolutely gives texture and depth to your work. When its missing, fiction feels flat. Begin by reading up on body language.
Thus the great secret is revealed: you dont have to do anything but tell a fabulous story to make them love you. There biography are subtle differences between fiction thats passable and fiction that pops—fiction that shows that you know what youre doing. Consider agents and editors your über-readers. If you win them over, a larger audience wont be far behind. Here are seven ways successful authors make their stories crackle with authority and get the gatekeepers on their side. These techniques will work on any kind of fiction: literary, romance, mystery, sci-fi, you name. Whats more, you can implement them no matter where you are in your writing process, from first draft to final polish. Go beyond the five senses.
Ways, to hook your reader (and reel Them in for
Whenever I think of the word gatekeeper, a little film clip from. The wizard of oz starts up in my head, write where the fearsome palace guard denies Dorothy and friends access to the wizard. The wizard says, go away! If aspiring authors are dorothy, agents and editors are that guy. They seem bigger than you. They give stern lectures. Except remember what happens? Dorothys sob story melts the mustachioed, bearskin-hatted guards heart, and he winds up letting them.