I don’t know how much you have or have not experimented with tense. I haven’t that much. At least, not until this year.
We all know what tense is. It’s the time that the story takes place in basically. So right now, I would say, “Abigail types a blog post.” Whereas if I’m talking about something that has already happened, I can say, “This afternoon, Abigail role played online intead of doing her homework.”
The other element that I’m going to define is POV–point of view. POV shows up typically in first or third person. Yes, I know, second person can be done, but I’ve never even attempted that so I’m not going with that. First person is when you tell about something that happened to you. Third person is when you look at something that happened to someone else. Example can be, “I type a blog post,” versus, “Elianna plays the piano.” Same tense, different POV.
So why I am even bringing this up? Because both of these should be considered when writing a story.
When I typically write, I write in third person past tense. That’s probably because that’s how a lot of my books have been written it, it’s familiar, and it’s easy. I can then foreshadow and other things. Most importantly, I can easily bounce between POV’s of characters. (Write something from Nessa’s and then write something from Avi’s.) If I was going to help someone write, I would (at least up until recently) recommended writing in third person past tense.
However… I began writing in first person POV. And that has changed some things.
The first story I wrote in first person POV is Watching from a Distance. (Which I actually began as a response to the massive number of Paranormal Romance I saw. Not sure if that theme carried over though.) Anyway, I started that in past tense because that’s just what people write in, right? I mean, why not?
Then I began thinking about it. Reve, the main character, would have a totally different reaction to this story if he knew the ending. If he was telling this story later on, he would tell it differently than I had written. So I had two choices: I had to figure out how he could tell this story later (which I didn’t do until later) or I had to change the whole tense.
I changed the tense.
And suddenly the story began flowing like he was telling it as it was happening. It worked and I think it worked out well. This began having me tell all of Reve’s stories (I have three different ones, not including two I have yet to write.) in this first person present tense.
But, so what, you say? After all, many people write in first person present tense now. (I should abbreviate that to FPNT. First person now tense. :D )
What made the difference is that I wrote a story in first person past tense. Why? Because I wrote it in the manner that the main character is telling you the story of how he killed his wife. (Intrigued now, no?) Eventually, you (the reader) also finds out that he is asking you to marry him. Eventually this’ll all be moved into my novel, but for now, I’m working it as a stand-alone.
I don’t know if I’ve ever written something like this before. I actually think it came out pretty awesomely.
The other thing I should mention is that first person allows the reader to get closer to the character. I’m having a hard time switching back into third person and still showing the emotions, because I’ve been writing so much in first person.
To summarize, when you start writing your next story, consider the POV and what you can do with the POV. It’s not just something vague that means whatever. It’s something that you can use to further the story you have to tell.
I woke up today and determined to write a blog post. Unfortunately, this isn’t what I planned on writing.
Here’s a list of about 22 tips that writers can use for writing from Pixar. I think my favorite is 19:
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
I started playing with this new character. His name is Reve. Well, technically, it’s Reve sau Callingbordon but we’ll just call him Reve.
I’ve now written almost three stories with him as a character. He’s fun to write about. He’s very quiet, doesn’t get angry easily, and works hard. His race also has this mental ability for sense just emotions, but it varies and his rating is really high, yet he doesn’t care about it. His father is dead, his mother is blind from a work accident and he has four younger siblings.
I’d give you more history, except what I keep doing with him is writing short stories about him. It’s fun. It’s, like, how did he get his original job? Or, what happened with his first assignment? Those kind of things.
One day a couple weeks ago, I was walking across campus. It was the early morning time, when it’s cool and crisp and just beautiful. I began to think about how his character would respond to walking across campus like that and from there, developed a story.
The basic idea went along these lines:
- He sees a girl being mugged. Fights off the guy and kills him. (This is well within his personality.)
- Turns out that the way in which he killed him was totally illegal. He didn’t know.
- Meets his lawyer, who basically gives him no hope and is totally clueless.
- Meets a psychiatrist, who figures out how much he didn’t know.
- Gets free from everything.
Can you see the problem with that?
Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. The problem is that Reve doesn’t do anything. For the majority of the story, he sits in prison. He can’t do any research, he won’t fight, and he’ll just do nothing.
I kept thinking about how I could change the story so that he does something but I couldn’t. He wouldn’t get mad at the decision of the court. and shout at them (or kill them). He wouldn’t try to escape. He would wait and see what happens. I basically wrote 5,000 words and didn’t know how to actually finish it in an interesting way. I was so stuck on this I almost wrote a blog post bemoaning my lack of inspiration in hopes it’d give me an idea.
I mentioned my problem in passing to my mom, partly because I drew an awesome pictures to go with it (that I was going to share but I can’t find my scanner) and it frustrated me I’d never get to use it.. She asked me what happens to the girl. What does the girl whose life he just saved do? And that started me thinking.
Now, I’d prefer to write it from Reve’s POV, because this will technically be a purple guard story. But Reve’s POV is boring. The girl, however, I can see her doing a lot. It’s a different POV, which makes it harder because I have to develop and understand a new character. Moreover, she won’t show up again that I can tell. Sure, they might develop some kind of friendship, but nothing lasting. Yet, by changing the POV, I can explore both a pivotal moment in Reve’s life, and the development of the mental ability that is found in these people.
It works. It makes it interesting. And, overall, I’m pretty excited about this development. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll be written for a couple weeks yet.
However, this reminds me just how important it is to pick a good POV.When people (okay, at least myself) started writing, I’d always go with the obvious POV. This story is about XYZ happening to Jane Doe, so obviously the POV is Jane’s.
However, the more I experiment with writing, the more become away that the POV isn’t something you can randomly assign. The story changes depending on what POV you use. And sometimes that means changing the story in the middle to get the right POV.
So, have you ever noticed a situation where changing the POV propelled your story to completion? Would changing a POV help right now?
If you’ve been around, you realize that I have recently seriously pursued publication. Seriously as in I actually did something about it. It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a really, really long time since I began writing.
(Just to recap:
- Began writing a stupidly Star Trek story in 2002.
- Began writing in February 2003
- Submitted stuff to a writing contest in December 2003. (Which gave me 3rd place.) First time I allowed pretty much anyone to see what I wrote.
- Started role playing in spring of 2004.
- Somewhere here I began seriously writing my first novel.
- Gave up on first novel in August 2008 as being too difficult to fix all the holes and I wanted to write another novel.
- Wrote second novel’s first draft between August 2008 and December 2008. Began editing.
- December 2009 began this blog.
- Submitted some stuff to the college writing contest in January 2010 and lost.
- Submitted Just Trust Me in January 2011 and came in 3rd place in Spring 2011.
- March 2011 began another novel, mermaids.
- Finally finished a synopsis in December 2011.
- Submitted Shad for publication in Feb 2012 along with Just Trust Me to Tor.com.
In between 2007 and 2012 I’ve also been writing so many other stories, both novels and short stories. This just mainly highlights the big things that happened physical, And why do I show this? Because I’ve been working hard. I’ve heard a lot since I began writing to get to where I am. To get to the point that I am pretty good.
So why do I bring this up?
Because a facebook friend of mine mentioned that she began writing in October an idea she’s had. Okay. That’s fine. I wrote Shad based off of an idea I had for over a year. But the problem I’m having, and where I’m struggling, is that she then says that she is going to do a read through to make sure it looks good and then submit it for publication. (Not only that, but she got a call for a publishing house. I have a gut feeling based on what she said though it’s a self publishing house.)
Still, it’s hard, because I read this and it’s like she might have it all figured out when she has only been writing since October really. And I want to justify why my stuff is better than hers but that’s not fair either. I don’t know. Maybe it is.
On the other hand, maybe we could help each other. I mean, after all, we both write. I have been dying for a writing partner. But does that do me any good? I don’t know. I would be so scared that I would assume a superior attitude unintentionally because everything tells me that logically, what she has can’t be good. And besides, I don’t know if, in the beginning, I would have been ready to tear apart my novels to the degree I do now.
You know, that’s an interesting thought. Okay, I am actually going to change the total tone of this post starting now. Why? Because sometimes it works better for me to brood and sometimes it works better for me to help. So I’m going to try to help.
Here are the biggest things I have learned from that past experience writing.
1.) Learn to write badly. With some stories (not all) it works just getting a brain fart on paper and fixing it up really carefully. I’ve done that with my last two stories and they’ve come out pretty decently. Sometime, especially beginning writers, get so caught up in making it look good the first time that they forget to actually edit.
2.) Editing is a long, long process: Nothing is good the first time. Good only comes from careful editing that often happens several times. In a short story, I went through one scene almost four times before I finally moved on, just because I couldn’t get it right. Then later I edited it another two.
3.) Sometimes editing involves deleting. Anyone who has done any kind of editing knows that editing isn’t pretty. It’s hard. It involves making decisions and sometimes those decisions require a delete key. I’ve combined two scenes into one, which involved rewriting both scenes. I’ve deleted whole sections. I’ve discovered after complete a story and editing it once that the story didn’t have a really good plot and I needed to fix that. It doesn’t involve just a read through.
4.) Characters need to talk. No story will be good unless you yourself can hear the characters. I have looked at scenes and said, “No. I don’t like that line. He won’t say that.” I’ve also written scenes where it felt like I could hear the POV character’s in my head. The more you get to know your characters, the more you will have to listen to them. And sometimes that means bad/annoying things happen. Sometimes it means pretty cool things happen.
For example, in mermaids I had problems because I wanted one character (Ronen) to kiss another (Avi). I got it so that it would. However, Avi’s reaction that I originally wrote didn’t work and instead, she banished Ronen from ever seeing her again. (Haha!) Problem is that Ronen was needed to 1) tell her she is going to be reagent and 2) make her eventually fall in love with her. (Evil author strikes again.) I could listen to Avi and allow her to banish him or I could make it easier for me. I chose the former and–tada!–the story actually came out better. (See why it’s important now.)
5.) Your first novel (typically) sucks. I don’t remember where I read that exactly, but the message is the same. The person said to write you first novel, learn everything you can, and then hide in a drawer because it really isn’t good. Though I still love the characters and the plot in Hope (my first novel), I did eventually discard it because it was so bad.
6.) If you can find them, find a writer support. When I first began, I had my brother. Then my sister kinda took over the place along with my friend, Alyssa. Now, I have no one and it is actually really hard. I would love to be able to sit down and talk with someone about this thing I should be writing instead of this, but I don’t have anyone. So find that special person and keep them close.
7.) Don’t ask yahoo answers for any help. They won’t help you.
That’s the big things I can think of right now. Writing is fun. It takes time. It’s hard because it is a personal activity that doesn’t involve other people too often. But if you really want to learn how to be a good writer, then go for it. Because nothing beats having hundreds of characters dancing in your head.
I started my spring semester this week. I’ve also wrote this week. That’s a good start.
As I said earlier, I’m working through all of my Avi chapters because my mermaid book has multiple POVs and this is the best way to keep them all straight. So I get to this scene where (Yes, I’m spoiling the story. But this won’t be published for at least two years so I doubt you’ll remember it.) Avi is sworn in as the monarch, much to her dread, she meets this diver we’ve been following named Matthew and he tells her her boyfriend is a spy and her father offers to help her rule. Yeah. A lot happen in this chapter.
It’s also a pretty big chapter for me. Right now about 5,000 words. So I’ve been working on that chapter all week.
And it’s still flopping.
Now, this is the chapter that gave me writer’s block for about two months and I finally just said forget it and moved on. I actually just finished writing it this week. But still!
I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. It might be because i don’t understand Matthew and I don’t understand Avi’s father. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to get inside Avi’s head in this one. No matter how much I try, she is still insist that Matthew has to stay in the prison (she was freeing them in the prelude. Actually, she frees Matthew’s son.) Matthew is coming out as whiner because I can’t get inside the head of a man who is being threatned to being held prisoner under the sea for the rest of his life. And Avi’s father is coming across as a very nobel person, which he might be. I don’t know. I just can’t get in anyone’s head.
On top of it all, my sister is talking. And talking. And talking.
I am on the computer. I am trying to edit this chapter well. And she is wanting me to pay attention to the hat she just knitted for air 1. Sure, I want to be a nice sister, but I also want to write.
I did end up finishing the chapter. I do kinda like how it ended. I’m tempted to go back and see about editing it yet again. (making it time number three) But, part of me is saying that I should wait until Matthew and Ber talk to me more. And Avi too.
Which, this is totally off topic, but talk about character change. Avi started out in my head as an impulsive, reckless, brave girl and she is turning to have a very timid part underneath her thick outer shell. I love it when characters do that, though as I write that, I’m wondering if it reflects what I feel right now. Could characters reflect what is currently going on in our lives?
I bet so.
Anyway, I get to move onto my really bad chapters. I think it might not be all that bad once I fix them up though. (Except for Nessa’s story. She needs a lot of help.) I really need to figure out a more effective way to write but until then, I’m just going to have to go with this. (I keep threatening to share how I write. Maybe I should do that tomorrow.) It just means a LOT of rewriting.
So, I’ve been working on the mermaid novel. There’s two things that make this a learning experiance for me.
1) My first novel I planned for a year before I wrote it. This one, I started planning for it about a year ago.
2) Multiple POVs.
I didn’t expect multiple POVs to make a difference. Boy, am I wrong!
The biggest one that it makes a difference in is AVi, because Avi doesn’t have a consistent appearance. I have about 45 chapters and of those, she only gets about seven. I need then to still be consistent but even when editing, I see her so inconstantly that I don’t get a good feel for her character.
Last night, I figured out the obvious solution. I edit them in order of character’s POV. As such, because I like Avi right now, I edit all of the Avi scenes. Then I move onto another character and another until I’m done.
I got this idea because while I was editing a scene involving Ronen intentionally ignoring her, I realized that when Ronen decides he’s going to actually show he likes her, he’s going to kiss her. This makes me really excited. Now, normally, I couldn’t do anything about that until I go from chapter 8 to chapter 25. Instead of having to wait that long, I now get to jump ahead and edit chapter 24 and 25 where that happens. Then I get to jump ahead to when Avi discovers that her real boyfriend betrayed her.
For once, the story doesn’t seem so completely overwhelming. And though I know that I used future scenes to motivate me to write current scenes, I have a new plan for the boring scenes. I ask myself a few questions.
This scene is boring.
1) Is this scene needed? Why? If no, delete and move on. If yes, go to question 2.
2) Would it be better to rewrite the scene how that I know the point or try to salvage what I wrote?
Typically, I find that if I’m finding a scene to be boring to edit, it’s either so badly written that I should just restart or, more likely, it isn’t even needed or can be combined with another scene. (I did that with Shad and the resulting scene was sweet!)
It’s funny, because even though I can skim the books in Barnes and Noble and say I know most of it, I can still discover things that I still need to learn. It’s partly what makes writing fun. Maybe that’s actually why I like it so much.
I took this out of my textbook for creative writing, then added a question to handle the science fiction / fantasy character’s that I typically deal with. It’s actually kinda cool how it comes out. I did it for two characters so far and it was rather fun. Especially for the one chararacter that I just randomly started writing for.
What is your character’s name? What sounds right for this character? What fits? What does this name suggest about your character’s personality? Does your character use his/her given name or a nickname? If so, why? Has your character ever had a nickname?
If you were going to buy a casual outfit for this character, what would you buy? What image does he/she cultivate? What does this image say about him/her?
If your character could have three wishes granted, what would they be?
Likewise, what three things does your character most want NOT to happen to him/her?
Does this character have any special skill or ability; if so, what? How did he/she discover this ability? How did he/she train? What limits does he/she have on this ability?
If you were to enter this characters’ bedroom for the first time, what would you notice? Name four objects that immediately stand out. What are the dominate colors of the room? What sounds do you hear?. If you were to spend an hour snooping in this room, would you find anything hidden? If so, what?
What obsessions does your character have?
Describe your character’s belief systems–or lack of belief system–and sketch out how he or she came to believe these things.
Your character is in an uncharacteristically honest mood. How would he/she finish these statements?
To understand me, you first need to understand….
I don’t usually tell anyone this, but when I was a kid…
If I had a million dollars I would….
Where does your character work? What specifically is his/her job? How does your character feel about this job? How long as he/she worked there?
Describe your character’s average Wednesday? Where is your character at 8AM, 10 AM, noon. 3 PM, 6 PM and 10 PM? How does this compare to an average Saturday?
How much money does your character have in the bank or in investments? Where did this money come from?
What are your character’s most substantial character flaws or shortcomings or personality? Does he or she recognize them?
What are your character’s most significant character strengths?
Does your character have any brothers or sisters? If so, which one is his or her favorite and why? If your character only has one sibling, what does your character like best about this person and like the least? If your character is an only child, did he/she ever want another sibling? Why?
How many closes friends does your character have? Name them.
Who is your character’s closest friend and why? Describe their history as friends.
What is the worst thing your character has ever done? What is the worst non-illegal thing your character has ever done?
Describe your character’s relationships with his/her parents.
If your character were in to die today, what would he or she be most like to be remembered for?
List three things about your character that will most likely NOT be included in your story.
Did I mention that I’m writing a story for my school newspaper? I would have posted a link to it but for some reason I’m not there.
Anyway, I’m only allowed 750 words an issue. For me, that’s hard. I’m having to cut out a lot while still maintaining interest in each issue. But I think it’s really good for me too because I tend to write too much into my short story.
So here’s what I learned from all this editing. A big secret behind short stories I think actually.
There is no such thing as background conversations.
Some people would call this maid-and-butler conversations. I don’t think of them as that, because the characters don’t know each other. It gives the characters a chance to tell each other some about themselves, while hinting information to the reader.
I like these. Sometimes they’re boring and need to be cut a lot later on, but I typically think they work out well enough.
In a short story, every word, as my book puts it, needs to serve double and triple duty. Immediately, when I am cutting out words, this is the first to go. Because my readers want to hear more about the fact that these illegal things are going on in town, what Colton does about them, and that Justin gets in a fight than that Colton and Justin have been arguing for a while.
Here’s another bit of advice for you to think about. Dr. D in class said that short stories are about change. I wrote it down. It would be interesting to see what would happen in Just Trust Me if Nessa went the other way.
Which reminds me of what I really wanted to mention. (Besides that I need to go eat lunch before my mom comes.)
ALL MY DUMB CHARACTERS FROM MY SHORT STORIES WANT THEIR OWN NOVELS!!!!
Seriously. I don’t know what to do. I’m writing a story right now about this body guard who a) loves the person he guards and b) is at high risk of losing his job (well, the draft right now doesn’t show that, but the character in my head does). And for some reason the important person is telling me that she wants to overthrow her uncle (the ruler) and lead a revolt. In a novel. And the the guy is going to go back home where there is a riot. And that the whole country is in unrest.
I know that I said writing short stories tend to seem to help me come up with better characters but this is ridiculous.
ALL YOU SHORT STORIES CHARACTER CANNOT HAVE YOUR OWN NOVEL. PERIOD!
I just don’t have the time. At all.
Anyone else have this problem?