Posts Tagged With: plot

Put Your Characters in Tough Situations

Creating challenges for characters requires in-depth knowledge about them. You need to know their flaws and deepest fears. The challenges cannot be obvious in the way that the reader will automatically know how they are to be resolved. The mountain needs to appear so high, that ascending to the top is impossible. What is the worst thing that could happen to your character? What or who stands in their way? Here are some things you could have happen to your character.

  1. Give them a back story. Have your character come into the story with a story to tell. In other words, they could have experienced something traumatic before the beginning of the story and now it follows them throughout. Your readers will be instantly engaged with your characters. In one of my stories, my main character lost his best friend in a car accident and now he has to get over it.
  2. A dark secret. Your characters could have a secret that they don’t want anyone else to know in the story. How long can they keep it? Make it harder for characters to keep others from knowing about their ‘dark sides’. Your readers will be eager to see what happens when the secret gets out.
  3. Decisions, decisions. Your character could be faced with a tough decision – one that will bring about consequences no matter what choice they make. People can relate to this because they’ve been faced with ‘forks-in-the-road’ at some point in life. Your reader will want to know what happens next. In one of my novels, my hero is faced with someone from his past that wants him dead, and threatens the woman he loves. Will he risk everything he’s worked for, or simply ignore him.
  4. Put them in a bad spot. A situation that seems impossible to escape. How will they get out? Can they get out? These ‘hook’ your readers and therefore won’t be able to put that book down until your characters are safe. In my novella, my characters are trapped in a room where the entire floor turns red-hot. How will they escape? Think of a similar situation for your characters and see what happens.

 

You want your books to be so engaging that your reader literally won’t be able to put them down. Every character has a dilemma to face. You see it all the time in movies, TV dramas, etc. What will your character go through? Only you will know what that is and how they’ll get out of it.

Categories: Writing & Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Author Interference

As writers, there are many things we must be aware of in order to write that wonderful story. One of those things, which is often overlooked, is author interference. But what it A.I. anyway? Essentially, it happens when the author narrates the story as if he or she is actually in it. While this is OK if the point of view is first-person, it is not so if it is third-person. In a bigger picture, an example of author interference would be the following:

“You lied to me, Larry!” Lorraine bellowed. “There’s nothing you can say to make things right!”

“Lorraine, if you’ll just let me-“

“Enough! I’m done with you!”

Lorraine turned her back and stormed out of the room. Poor Larry. If only he hadn’t kept secrets from her, they would still be together.

See the A.I.? A reader would ask, “Who said that?” Authors like the one in the example believe that they are strengthening the effect of the narration, when they are doing the opposite. It takes the reader out of the story, leaving him or her confused. The result: your book ends up back on the shelf only to collect dust.

One might think this doesn’t often happen, but it does. I’m currently reading a book, whose name shall remain anonymous, that has an interesting story line and engaging dialogue. Sadly, it is in third-person and the author narrates it similar to the above example. As I read, I constantly grind my teeth and say aloud, “Who said that? Get out of your damn story!” The irony of this is that I’m still reading it and almost finished. I like to finish things I start. Still, the narration tripped up an interesting story with believable characters, leaving me with a bad impression of the author.

When we write in the third person, we have to be extra careful how we narrate the story. While we know what are characters are experiencing, we cannot interfere with their actions. We are like Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and the Future. We can see and hear our characters, but they can’t see nor hear us. We can tell them what they should/shouldn’t do, but it won’t matter because THEY CAN”T HEAR US!

How can we avoid author interference? I suggest the following, which I have learned over the years:

  • let the characters tell the story. In the above example, Larry could say aloud, “Why didn’t I tell her?” We know perfectly well who said that.
  • know where the line is drawn in terms of narration. You are telling the reader what’s going on, but you can’t interfere with the characters’ actions.
  • if you want to inform the reader about the consequence of a character’s action, consider the above example with Larry: Larry pounded the wall with his fist and clenched his jaw, wishing he hadn’t lied to her. Character actions such as this emphasize their regrets, while keeping the author at bay.
  • if you absolutely want to be a part of the story, consider writing it in first-person. After all, some stories can only be told in first-person.

So hopefully this gives you an idea of author interference and how to avoid it. Luckily, I’ve learned this the easy way. We work so hard to create great stories with diverse characters, so it would be a shame to see all that go to waste because of author interference. We create the characters and stories, so let them tell the story; let them get into trouble and make mistakes. They will dig their way out the hole they’ve created.

Categories: Writing & Inspiration | Tags: , , , , ,

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