Friday, January 23, 2009

Thoughts on Writing a Book

I've been helping my friend and author extraordinaire Susan May Warren plot a new book.

She calls with, "What's the lie she believes?" No "hello, how are you?" but straight to the point. This is why we get along so well.

We discuss the lie the character believes and why. It's so important to figure out why. And it doesn't always have to be because something horrible happened in the heroine's past. As far as I'm concerned, we have too much fiction depicting the broken, abusive family that make the character do bad stuff. Sometimes people just make bad choices all by themselves.

For example, she has a character who gets mixed up with a bad group of people. Why? Because she is a gentle, passionate person who wants harmony and peace in the world. When a group of like minded folk draw her in, it's too late when she discovers they are really subversives.

Next Susie will ask, "What's her epiphany?" So we figure out, based on the lie, what she learns throughout the course of the story. That lesson of course if facilitated by the plot.

We talk about the black moment - when all is lost. We talk about the greatest fears and desires. And all the why's.

We figure out why the heroine needs the hero and vice versa. And answer the question, "Why?"

Let's do an exercise. What if you say to someone, "Rachel Hauck is a great worship leader." (Hey, this is my blog, let me pretend.)

The person might say, "Why?"

You answer, "She has a nice voice." Or, "She seems to love worship."

There we go. No more need for why's but we have a layer of depth to why Rachel Hauck might be a good worship leader.

Some character questions have several layers of why. Keep asking until the "why" has no more answers. For example, there's no answer to "Why does Rachel have a nice voice."

"She bought it on the black market. Duh, why do you think she has a nice voice? What's the matter with you?" ;)

Writing Tip

I've been reading a lovely book and while I'm enjoying the story a lot, there's one thing I'd wished the author had done differently. All the good lines from the heart of the characters, like how they feel about someone or some situation, are said as internal thought or in prose rather than dialog. 

It would really pop the dialog if they were said out loud instead of "off to the side." Instead the characters say things like, "Oh, okay."

Here's an example of what I mean:

"Come on in Shawn. How are you?" Carter stood aside to let him pass.
"Fine thanks." Except his nurse walked out on him today and he had to manage his patients and the schedule alone.
"Would you care for something to drink?"
"Yeah, thanks." A beer with a shot, double shot if you don't mind.
"The rest of the guys will be here soon. So, you're surviving the hospital after the divorce?"
He took the offered drink. "As best I can." Hospitals were notorious for their gossip and he'd not escaped unscathed. 

Okay. A pretty boring scene right? Let's redo it to take all the "off to the side" information and put it in dialog.

"Come in, Shawn, how are you?" Carter stood aside to let him pass.
"My nurse walked out on me today and I had to handle all the patients and schedule's myself."
Carter looked at him. "Walked out? Why?"
"Hospital gossip." He sighed, heading for the bar. "The nurses are convinced the rumors are true."
"The divorce was pretty nasty, Shawn." Carter stood behind the bar. "You need something to drink, don't you?"
"A boilermaker. Make it a double."
"What happened with your nurse?" Carter slid a beer bottle toward him with a shot glass of bourbon.
"I yelled at her. Hey, when are the rest of the guys going to be here? I'm ready to play and take their hard earned money."

Much stronger scene, no? It gave Carter more to react to and we see the tension with Shawn. Plus, it hints of conflict and we know there is something not right about this divorce - besides the obvious.

If you're writing, put the story in the mouths of your characters. How they feel about things and people unless it's part of the plot for their ideas and feelings to be cloaked.

Use narrative for description, setting, action tags, quiet moments alone with the character (though not too many.)

Okay, my desire to write about writing is over.

1 comment:

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Timely post, Rachel, as I'm getting together with my writing buds next Saturday to brainstorm.

Love when you post about writing. :) I'll take whatever tips I can get.