Tag Archive | elements

Rain, Rain, Go Away….

Somewhere, my mom read that rain in a book is important. And myself, being a writer, is thinking, “Seriously? I can stick rain any old place and who cares.” Now, I almost want to, but that isn’t the point.

The point is that for the writer to actually think about what the weather is like outside, it has to be important. And this is true. Rain we often associate with sadness, which makes it very strange that I like rainy days because, when at home, I feel like I’m wrapped in a nice warm blanket. Oftentimes, when I write in rain, that is because the scene is meant to be sad.

On another hand, it might not just be that I want the scene to be sad. In Hope, I needed a snow storm to keep the aliens from checking on  one of the characters to confirm he was dead. (Aliens were from a hot planet, and a snowstorm in November would be a perfect plan.) It served a purpose, but that purpose wasn’t sadness, it was to advance the plot.

But normally, us writers don’t give a second thought to the weather because in real life, we don’t give it.

Except in Shad. I’m thinking in Shad he made quite a few comments about the weather the first time he went onto the planet. That makese sense though. He’s hardly been on a decent planet in his whole life. So, when thinking about the weather, if you do, remember to put yourself in your character’s shoes too.

Here’s another thought about putting weather into your stories. Let’s say I was to write about a culture that typically has 0ºF days. The character shouldn’t mention anything about a typical sunny 0º day because it’s normal. If, say, I had a heat wave however, I could mention the characters is sweating on her morning run when it was 10ºF outside that day. (Yes, the difference between 0ºF and 10ºF is noticeable. By that time, 15ºF is hot.) I must remember that one.

Last thought. Why is it that rain is sad and depressing and snow is beautiful and romantic?

six tips for make good stories

To be honest, we want things quick and the quickest way to gain information is by having it in lists.  I’ve been meaning to write this post all week but I’ve been too busy to do so. Now I’m not, so here we go.

1. Tension: All stories need tension. It’s tension that keeps the reader reading. Tension doesn’t necessarily mean that the hero must have a gun pointed at his/her head every time you break. It just means the reader is asking constantly, “But what about this?” “HOw will he/her react to this?”  So long as you always leave a question, you always have tension. However, the true skill is when the reader asks the question that the writer has never written down for them to ask.

2. Action: This kinda goes along with tension except on a different level. It’s one thing to have constant questions bouncing around constantly. It’s quite another to have the character do something about it. So make sure your characters DO something.

3. 3-Dimensional characters: Characters have to make sense to the reader. Meaning you, the writer, have to listen to them. I’ve written several posts on good chararacters in Five parts to any Character, More on Creating Good Characters and Character Weaknesses.

4. A convincing  plot: Some, very famous authors can convince readers to suspend logic when reading a book. However, unless you’re writing humor, it’s probably safer to have everything make sense. (What I’m thinking about right now is when I decided to change a character from a naive good person to a greedy scheming individual.

5. just Enough:  I admit, this tip will be of no help. However, all stories need a balance. Few people want to read stories about brains constantly being splattered on the wall. Few people want to read stories about people constantly having sex. Few people want to read stories about people constantly fighting, constantly running, constantly going to the bathroom, ect. Everything needs a balance and you don’t need to show us every little nasty thing the person does. So the guy has some anger management issues. But maybe we get the point after the second time he blows up for something small, and a few comments about him going to anger management class (again) and his girlfriend leaving him because she’s tired of him blowing up at him. We don’t want to know this after he’s blow up in every scene from page 1 to page 150.

6. Stop at the End: I know that this seems obvious to some people, but stories need to stop at the end of the story and sometimes, especially for new writers, that’s difficult to find. Don’t drag out the ending just because you don’t want the story to finish. My sister keeps asking me if these two characters at the end of Shad ever get married. My answer is I don’t know. That wasn’t the story of Shad. Shad’s story is him getting off the ship. So I don’t need to tell anyone that he stayed at that job for ten years, made it significantly safer, married Kayla, had five kids, and his rules became the guidelines of all mines across the galaxy. So stop when you’re done.

more on creating good characters

After skimming a bunch of writing books, I shall share a few tips I found in them, one of them being that an editing book written in bullet form would be nice.

(Maybe the first half as bullets, like, when starting a sentence with an -ing verb, make sure that the two verbs can be done simultaneously. Incorrect: Tying his shoes, he ran down the stairs. Correct: Whistling Yankee Doodle, he pranced through the lobby. Then, See page 302 for details. Perfect editing book in my opinion.)

Some of these I’ve surprisingly already said, now that I’ve thought about it. You can look at my post last week about the five parts to any character. Obviously, this is a little different but I think this list is better. The other list, however, has some parts that shouldn’t be forgotten.

These came from the books Creating Characters : How to Build Story People and Manuscript Makeover. Both of those books looked rather decent actually.

Anyway, here we go with the character details.

1. Characters need strengths. All characters need something that they can do pretty well, because everyone has some kind of strength, even if that strength might be being a jack of all trades.

2. Characters need weaknesses. When was the last time you ran into someone who didn’t have a problem or flaw, and not the physical kind of flaw either? I’d like to get a list of weaknesses that people notice going, so maybe I’ll do that soon. Please recommend one if you know.

3. Characters need motivation. Why do they do what they do? What pushes them to succeed?

4. Characters need backstory. What haunts them from their past? This is a really fun one for me, although I have to make sure not to kill too many people. [insert evil grin here.].

5. Don’t overload the characters. In other words, one strength does not make up for seven weaknesses. It’ll look too fake.

6. Spice them up. This meaning you add uniqueness to your character. Not that I’m trying to say anything about myself, but I am probably a perfect example of this. I wear long, full skirts, have my long hair somewhat covered, and then roam the science fiction aisles looking for books to read and can type a hundred words a minute on my laptop. Not two things you would think go together.

I think those things would be enough to make any character pretty decent in most any book.

Also, for anyone who cares, this is my one hundredth post on this blog.

what is in a story

One interesting fact is that since I started blogging, I’ve also been reading more blogs. I’m not good at finding them but when I find one that I pretty much like, I end up reading it off and on. It’s like a little world of mine on the internet where I can be a little braver than I am in real life.  (Introverts tend to be braver on the internet; did you know that?)

Anyway, the question came from Cassandra Jade about what is the most important element in a story. I bounced between characters, because characters that you cannot click with are just bad, and plot, because a good plot might make up for bad characters and support the characters. And I found out  last night I’m wrong. The answer is tension.

Tension can come from the plot and events or from the characters and their relationships.  It moves the plot forward, while keeping it interesting and exciting so that hardly anyone wants to put down the story. Always, the reader will be asking the question of, “What about this? How does this fit in? How can he get away with this?”  Because of these questions, he will keep reading.

When tension is added between characters, it creates arguments, distractions, and complications. Two stick figures can work as a team but what happens if one of the team members wants the other one dead because the latter flirted with the former’s sister? What happens if one of the team members is on this team because his brother died from it? Tension adds to characters just as much as it adds to plot.

The only sad thing is how difficult it is to create good tension in a story, especially in the plot. Out of all the other elements, tension is probably the hardest one to master but I think it is probably the most rewarding.

Now I just have to decide if I’m going to send my answer to her by the end of the day.