3 Tips on Writing a Novel that aren't Complete Bullshit
Today, I spent a good many hours scouring the internet for tips on improving my writing. You know, useful and practical suggestions for someone who has actually written a bit and wants hints on some of the finer points of writing—you know, as opposed to just wanting to learn how to get publishers interested in the latest Hunger Games or Twilight knock-off. Well, other than the two masters of storytelling—Stan Lee and Stephen King—I found nothing. I thought to myself, “Blake, even you could offer better writing advice than this!” And so I have. Here are three non-subjective tips for the beginning writer.
Tip 1: Pay attention to “Point of View” (POV)
The first mistake I made in writing my novel, and one that I have seen in every single beginning writer's work that I have edited since, is that I did not really pay attention to POV and narration. When telling a story, it is important to remember two things. First, nobody wants God to tell the story. In a room filled with a dozen people, there is so much going on inside everyone's head and in their actions that it would fill a book in about an hour. And when there is simply too much going on, the reader ceases to care and is very confused. After all, if the reader was God, he or she would not spend their time listing every monotonous detail of what they were seeing, but instead finding something more interesting to watch—which brings me to point number two. Pick a focus character (or one at a time) and tell the story through that person's eyes. This way, readers will pick up on the important details, while also having a single-focus lens to look through. If this doesn't make sense, imagine how much better a movie is with just one camera's perspective used at a time, as opposed to the six of them all being played simultaneously.
Tip 2: Outline your story.
I used to prefer just writing free-style, as most writers begin doing. But, when you do that, two major things happen. First, with the lack of direction, you stop caring where you are going with the story, since there is no dramatic force that can force along pointless meandering. Second, even if you do not lose interest, your plot will be a noodle-like mess with no structure, and your audience will lose interest—just like with a television series with no end or destination in sight. Even if you love the characters, you eventually just give up watching because it becomes a dull act of voyeurism where you are just watching a vignette of a life without any actual story. If a solid outline is too restricting, try using the 3-Act Story Structure en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-ac… and just write a paragraph describing each Act. This structure will turn the pasta into a carefully molded form until you find yourself eating a Lasagna instead of soggy, wet noodles.
Tip 3: Don't overpower your characters.
At the most basic level, reading a novel is an escape from the world around us. As such, we want the worlds we create in our stories, as well as the characters, to be the embodiment of the ideals we wish were reality. As such, we create flawless heroes or perfectly flawed heroes, and villains that embody all the evil we see around us, which we wish could be defeated. However, to do so turns your story into a poor sermon, and a badly biased one at that. Not only that, but the audience immediately begins to hate your characters, unless they are the brainwashed sort of readers who think that Dr. Manhattan was the hero of “Watchmen” or that being a hero when you are invulnerable and beloved by those around you means that you are “good” or have some sort of depth of character—as opposed to being a fascist with an old-fashioned set of principals that you impose on the world (any other Lex Luthor fans in the house?). Instead, you should seek to create characters that illustrate the complexities and flaws in everything, even and especially in your own moral code. You want to create real characters for your audience to believe in and empathize with. In practice, you should be able to name off three things that you genuinely admire your villains for, as well as three things you genuinely despise about your heroes—giving them flaws to overcome. And avoid the pseudo-flaws that plague literature (the hero who is just too kind for his own good, or the hero whose traumatic past had made her into a hardened bitch with a secret heart of gold). Doing this creates real characters that your audience can truly escape through and even learn genuine lessons from—making you, the writer, the real hero of the story.
Any questions about writing? Things you want me to discuss? Comment or send me a message and I will be glad to reply or feature the answer in a later article.
Originally posted at www.facebook.com/JosephBlakePa…