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Showing posts from February, 2017

Why Your Story Needs High Stakes

What are high stakes? It’s the risk element at the heart of any story. What might be lost? What might be gained? What might be the consequences? Within every story, the main characters often make choices that affect the path of the story and they are responsible for actions and reactions that create cause and effect. The consequence of those actions is that some risk is involved – whether that’s personal risk or public risk (i.e. risk to other people). High stakes – or high risks – are also made tangible by the presence of conflict. Where there’s conflict, all manner of risks tend to emerge. The reader wants to know what might be gained or lost within a story. Is survival at stake? Is it love? Or a loved one? Is it a house, something precious or something sentimental, perhaps? These are the things that mean most to your main character – something that resonates in all of us. What would you do to protect your family, your house, everything you have? And what would such loss mean? High s…

The Trouble with Supporting Characters

With most stories, we create supporting characters to help tell the story; a way of adding dimension, depth and colour, as well as lending support – be it in a good way or bad way – to the protagonist. A story full of people is like real life. Some are good, some bad and some are fleeting. In fiction they have an important role to play because those supporting characters help the writer tell a vivid story that keeps the reader involved by sometimes utilising them as viewpoint characters. They may even be involved in subplots. To help move the story forward, they are involved to a degree with the protagonist and his/her story, therefore they can cause conflict, change the direction of the story or affect the lead character. All this helps the reader understand the complex dynamics of characterisation. But there are some drawbacks with supporting characters, and writers usually don’t discover these problems until they are well into writing their novels. Most supporting characters that inha…

How to Write Dramatic Dialogue

We’ve looked at this subject before, back in 2013, but it’s always worth a revisit.
Dialogue is one of those things that a lot of writers feel insecure about. This may be because it’s sometimes hard to ensure dialogue is active, dynamic, interesting and realistic for readers, instead of being forced or stilted, melodramatic, hackneyed or just plain terrible. Readers aren’t interested in mundane pleasantries and chit-chat. They’re interested in the action and nitty-griity, the stuff that really matters.
The key to getting dialogue right is down to listening to real life conversations and observing how people interact when communicating with each other, because dialogue isn’t just about one character saying something to another. It also involves a certain amount of physicality – movement, gestures, ticks etc. And of course, each character is individual and therefore has a unique voice, a certain way of talking and acting, so this should be apparent when you write dialogue.
Dramatic dialogu…

Creating Realistic Fight Scenes – Part 3

Part 2 looked at the various elements writers can use to construct better fight scenes, and more importantly, more realistic ones.
Realism, physicality, exposition and the balance of power etc, should play a part in the construction of fight scenes.Think about who your characters are, why they are fighting and what it may or may not achieve. The fight/conflict must move the story forward and there must be a reason behind them.
Let’s look at some different examples, starting with this one:
Dave jolted forward and swiped his hand across John’s throat; defensive, desperate.
John fumbled with the gun, his nerves shattered. Then it was in his hand.
Dave sidestepped and snapped a leg out, hard and quick, his hot breath lodged in his throat, his heartbeat loud in his ears.
John crumpled, the gun still in his hand. Still a threat.
Dammit.
Dave kicked again. No hesitation. Then another, harder, with anger...
In this first example, the description is fast and punchy and gives the reader the perception …