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Showing posts from February, 2015

The Psychology of Characters

The writer’s relationship with their characters is a fundamental component of a successful story. The strength of those characters says a lot about the story and how they interact with other characters, but more importantly, it’s essential to focus on the motivations behind what they do, and why. The psychology of characters isn’t about doing a character outline. A character outline is, in a nutshell, characterisation – the little things that make your character multidimensional, such as the colour of their hair, their eyes, skin, how tall they are, their fashion sense, their nationality, their beliefs, likes and dislikes, flaws and so on. Character traits make a character. It doesn’t tell us why they act the way they do. The psychology of characters, therefore, goes much deeper than mere likes and dislikes etc. It’s about what truly drives the character and, consequently, the story. It’s all well and good having a character that has lots of recognisable character traits and so on, but …

Is Backstory Necessary?

To answer that question, firstly we have to define what backstory is. There are plenty of variations on what it means, but in simple terms, backstory refers to your character’s background story, that which precedes the present events in a novel. It’s about the things that have occurred in the past to shape the way your character behaves in the present. Every character has a back story, just as every person in real life has a history. What has happened to us in our lives – from early childhood to adulthood - has shaped how we behave, how we think and how we react to certain things. Some elements are very happy, some are sad, some are traumatic or problematic, some crazy. Your main character will also have gone through childhood into adulthood and will have experienced various things that shape they way they think and influence the way the act and react in certain situations, but the crucial question is whether backstory is actually necessary. The best way to answer that is to look at the…

Creating Lasting Images

Writers are always striving to ensure that their stories leave a lasting impact upon their readers because if they can do that, then there is every chance the reader will come back for more. One of the ways that writers can leave the reader with the idea that they have read the most incredible novel, a story that, whatever the genre, leaves them believing the story and the characters, is to make use of lasting images. Lasting images act as memory markers for readers. Think of some of the most memorable movies – certain scenes or images remain with us, because they are so strong or vivid or surreal, so we remember them. Literature works in the same way. By creating lasting images, the writer is creating instances that make it memorable and not easily forgotten. That’s how many of the great novels have remained in our subconscious. We create the kind of lasting images that will stay with the reader, and that’s down to the strength of the description and characters. For example, some of the…

Trust Your Memories

Memories are an amazing resource for writers, if a little underused. Writers don’t always feel confident enough with their memories, since not all of them are pleasant, yet such recollections can have a noticeable effect on the narrative in a number of ways. Writers love to write about what they know, simply because the knowledge allows them to share that experience with the reader. A writer’s experiences not only underpin background information with a sense of realism, but it can also enhance the themes within the story. Why use our memories? Memories are a deep well of ideas and information. They provide information we would normally have no knowledge about, and of course, they are very individual. But memories can be called upon because of their varied nature - they can be good, bad, painful, fun, joyous, informative...and everything else in between. Most of all, they can provide any narrative with plenty of support that may not be possibly found in a library or via the internet. Think…

Reading Your MSS Out Loud

Have you ever read your MSS out loud? This is probably one of the strangest snippets of advice out there for budding writers, but although it sounds rather crazy, it’s one of the best tried and tested methods that do actually work. It helps writers find out just how good their novel is. What does it do? At editing and redrafting stage writers read through their manuscripts dozens and dozens of times and it’s very easy for the writer to become too involved or blinded to spot what would be considered mundane errors. Not only that, there is a tendency for writers to rush through the reading after the second or third draft (since they know the story so well) and so subtle, almost invisible errors are missed. Instead of just silently reading and making edits, reading aloud allows the writer to become involved with the story on a different level – immediately it slows the writer down because they are forced to read every single word, every line and every paragraph. Reading aloud helps the write…