Guest blogger H.L. Banks on a writer’s life.
I was a reader long before I became a writer, and still am. I owe so many authors a debt of gratitude for showing me what techniques work and what to avoid. Here are three things I have learned from those great ones and try to follow in my own writing:
Characters. I remember so many characters that came alive for me while I read. They lived on the page and still live in my heart and mind. They are fictional, but somehow they’re real. When writing, characters have often told me I’ve gotten them wrong (most recently, one of the main leads insisted he was NOT married with kids). I didn’t listen and he fell flat. I changed it and he came to life. I learned my lesson; I listen now.
I don’t sketch my characters before beginning to write but I do try to make them real for readers through their physical traits, actions, dress, and opinions. I think it is important for characters to experience the same emotions that readers do: pain, joy, love, anger and disappointment. Emotions motivate the characters and drive the story.
Plotting. I don’t outline before beginning to write as I, like a reader, prefer to be surprised. Stephen King has some very good things to say about this in his book, On Writing. I do keep a timeline. As usual, I had to learn this the hard way and spent many, many hours repairing potholes. There are times I vary structure depending on the needs of the story. It is not always a straight line from beginning to end.
I’ve learned to be careful as I shift action from past to present so the reader is able to follow what has happened and why. Hopefully, this care helps keep the reader’s interest. There are definite plot elements I always include: exposition, complication, climax and resolution.
Persevere. If you’ve just launched yourself into the life of a writer, never, never, never give up. Believe it or not, it’s only a few writers in the grand scheme of numbers who ever complete a manuscript!
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