Here’s my tip for the day: Ending Writer’s Block
Okay, so you planned your novel and jotted down all these fantastical ideas, but you’re completely stuck. Johnny just said, “I love you,” and Sally’s just sitting there. What do you do? You get to know your characters.
The biggest mistake authors make is emphasizing their plot: whatever you do, DO NOT EMPHASIZE YOUR PLOT!!!! Contrary to popular belief, the plot is NOT the most important part of the story. Truly, it is the least important part of the story. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some examples.
Harry Potter. Lovely set of novels – one of the most popular and highly rated in history. But wait; it has a rather worn out plot, doesn’t it? If you break it down, Harry Potter is the most basic of all fantasy plots. First of all, you have witches and wizards and dragons – the most popular roads of the fantasy land. Not to mention Rowling chose traditional wizards – ones with wands and word-spells. Then we’ve got the villain – he wants to take over the world. How classic is that? It’s so classic it’s a cliche. And then, of course, there is one person in the whole world who can stop him – and that one person happens to be Harry Potter, the big loser who just happens to be an all-powerful wizard.
Again, I say – worn out plot.
HOWEVER, we all love Harry Potter. Why? Because the plot is not the point.
Now let’s look at an adult classic: the Anita Blake novels. Vampires and werewolves hate each other, vampires are sexy but evil, weres get hot at the sight of blood and death, supernaturals are creepy, disgusting monsters, yet they are very, very sexy. How totally and completely worn out and stupid does this sound? Very. BUT, all who read Hamiltion’s novels are in love with them – including me. Why?
Because the plot is not the point.
You will see this again and again the more you read (and the more you search for it). Very few books have unique plots, even really, really good ones. The reason we love these novels is not because they are ingenious ideas. We love them because they are, first of all, extremely well written and attention-grabbing. They get us excited, they make us cry, they make us angry… But why do they do this?
Because we love the character.
The biggest part of a book is character development. You can have the worst plot in the world, but if you can maker your reader fall in love with your character, you can create a best seller. If you’ve read my reviews, you know how big I am on character development.
But what is character development?
It’s hard to explain. Basically, your characters should react differently to the same situation at the end of the novel than they would at the beginning. But they must react differently for a reason. For example, let’s say that at the beginning of our novel Johnny said I love you to Sally and Sally said I love you too. But later in the novel, Sally found out Johnny cheated on her. So when Johnny says I love you at the end of the novel, Sally says I don’t love you go away because he cheated on her.
You want to create a believable character with emotions and thoughts; in many, many ways, books are much more intimate than movies. In a movie, you see exactly how the character looks, you hear them speak, see them move, but you don’t necessarily understand WHY. Why is the biggest question a reader will ask you, and if you know your character, you should be able to answer. That’s the most common cause of writer’s block – you have no clue who your character is.
To end this, get out a sheet of paper and write your character’s name on it. Then describe your character. Let’s look at an example.
Johnny is six feet tall with huge muscles and curly brown hair. He has pale blue eyes and a beautiful sculpted jaw. His brow is very defined, but not enough so that he get’s eyebrow tanlines. His nose is a little pointy and small, but it looks good on him. He always wears jeans, sneakers, and solid colored T-shirts, usually white or black. He has a tattoo of a sun on the back of his left hand.
There. Now we have a solid idea of what Johnny looks like. But what would Johnny do? Who is Johnny? Now we make a list of random questions about Johnny. These can really be anything you think defines a person: where were they born, do they have any pets, favorite color, favorite food, first kiss, parents still alive, favorite song, hobbies, etc. Don’t be afraid to get abstract, either. How will this person die? Who’s going to kill them? Will they have children? What was the worst thing that ever happened to them?
Do this for all of your characters. Once you understand what they all like and dislike, you will know how to make them react to one another. For example, let’s say Sally just can’t think when she looks into pale blue eyes. So, when Johnny wants to get his way, he looks Sally in the eyes because he knows she will become helpless to his gaze. See? It’s really that simple.
If you’re stuck on starting a scene, don’t start there. A book is just like a movie; you don’t need to film it in order. Perhaps you’ve got the perfect ideas and know exactly where to start for chapter three. Okay then, start on chapter three and work on one and two later. You’ll probably finish faster if you do it that way, anyway.
Reading also helps. Like, a lot of reading. Let’s say you read a great book and there’s some fantastic river where a romantic scene takes place. Use it. It’s not plagiarizing unless you copy word for word. If you liked the river scene, incorporate one into your own novel. Change the name of the river, make it fall instead of summer. Make the idea your own. Writers do it all the time, and you never know; maybe you’ll inspire someone else.
This post was rather long, so I hope you got something from it. Write on, fans, write on!
If this article was helpful to you, check out my website for more ideas. Go to http://www.stuffbysam.com and click on the “Jailbirds Challenge” for this post and others on plot, organization, and publishing.
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