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835 Posts tagged with the writing tag
1

I'll never forget when my older sister's childhood friend Julie had her first child. She was in her early 30s at the time, and she told my sister that even though she and her husband didn't think they were ready for the responsibility of being parents, they decided to go ahead and do it because they realized that they would probably never be ready for that responsibility, even though they knew they wanted kids. I thought--and still think--that was one of the wisest things I'd ever heard.


In my opinion, if you want to write a book but are dragging your feet because you don't feel you're ready, you should take Julie's self-awareness to heart. You may not feel like you're ready to write a book, but when will you truly be ready? Probably not anytime soon, right? Writing a book is hard. Period. It takes discipline, mental effort, and a lot of time. It's never going to be something you can do in a weekend.


I'm not suggesting you should start writing a book without an idea for a plot. If you have trouble putting a sentence together and need to work on that first, you should. But if you have an interesting story that you want to tell, tell it. It really comes down to that. You can take as many writing classes as you want or put together as many outlines as you want, but be careful not to use those things as a method of procrastination. It's always going to be easy to put off writing that first sentence/scene/chapter, but if you want to be an author, at some point you just have to sit down and start. You can do it!


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Writing tip: stay committed to the process

Writing tip: don't let fear hold you back

 

937 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: books, author, self-publishing, writing
0

POV rewrites

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 15, 2016

I recently watched a documentary called the Beaver Trilogy. It's a story of a filmmaker's chance encounter with a colorful character in the parking lot of a TV station. The filmmaker became obsessed with the young man and did a documentary on him. Then over the years that followed, he created two narrative films based on the original documentary. In all, he produced three films that were virtually identical in story and structure, only the participants changed. The same story was told three times, and each one stands on its own, while also complementing the others.


You can use the same strategy as an author in a couple of different ways:


1. Point-of-view switcheroo: Tell the same story from another character's point-of-view. Same plot, same conflict, same conclusion, just a different protagonist. You have a whole new universe to explore in the same world.


2. Gender swap: Again, borrowing from the film industry, this could put a whole new twist on your story. Ghostbusters is, of course, the most recent gender swap experiment in storytelling. Both films are entertaining and have their legions of fans.


It would be challenging telling the same story in a different way, but we as artists welcome challenges. That is when we are our most creative. That is when we have the most fun. Your challenge is to make a familiar story different enough to keep readers engaged and feel like they are experiencing something new. I'm not talking about a word-for-word remake. This is an exploration of the same theme from a different point-of-view.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor


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You have more than one book inside of you

 

Rewrite for new life

 

560 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, point_of_view, pov
2

The secret to writing a great book is rewriting a good manuscript. The secret to rewriting is waiting. Just as tragedy plus time equals comedy, the euphoria you feel from finishing your book plus time equals sound editorial judgment. The more distance you give yourself from a completed story, the better your perspective.


When I finish writing the first draft of a book, the first thing I feel is relief. The second thing I feel is an unbreakable loyalty to every word. I don't want to change a thing. I can't change a thing. I had worked so hard and for so long, how could the words I committed to the story now be wrong? And not just the words, but the character choices, the plot twists, the order of the chapters. Everything is perfect.


The sense of perfection diminishes hourly. Slowly. The more days that pass, the more I realize that I'm not nearly finished. I'll read the manuscript. I'll find some things I like, some things I can live with, and some things I'm embarrassed I wrote. But I won't rewrite at this point. I'll let a few more days pass, and I'll read the manuscript again, making notations and small edits. No major changes yet. When approximately six weeks pass, and after I've read the manuscript a few more times, that's when I tackle the big changes--and I mean big. I've changed the gender of characters. I've rearranged chapters to change which character is the protagonist. I've even changed the names of characters, which forced me to change the title of the book.


When it comes to rewrites, step away from the manuscript for a number of weeks. Read and reread your book. Reenergize yourself, and give yourself the mental wherewithal to make big changes.


-Richard


 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor


 

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Rewrite for New Life

 

Rewriting with Purpose

 

774 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, rewriting, editorial_judgment
0

Scars

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 1, 2016

 

I want you to be unkind to a character. Just for a development exercise. In fact, I wouldn't even call it being unkind. I would call it being cruel to be kind. Hardship builds character, and that's what you're going to do with this exercise. This doesn't have to be a part of your story. It can be background material, or it can be used to help you break through writer's block.

 

I want you to pick a character that you're having a particularly hard time connecting with. Now give the character a scar. Make it as big or as small as you want. Place it where you want. Make it any shape that you want. Describe it in great detail. This scar has a story, and you're going to write it. Scars are essentially snapshots of traumatic events in a person's life. Keep in mind that trauma doesn't equal tragedy. Cesarean scars represent trauma but not tragedy, in most cases.


Beyond the event that caused the scar, you also want to explore how the scar affected your character on a daily basis. Did it change the way he or she interacted with other people? Did it change the way he or she dressed? Did it shape his or her personality, for better or for worse? It's possible this scar is tethered to every significant event in your character's life, and it is the essence of who he or she really is. Or it may carry no significance at all. You decide.


By giving your character this scar for the purposes of this exercise, you are giving yourself a simple way to uncover the core of who your character really is and make that connection you've been unable to make.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor

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Your characters, warts and all

 

Taking a character from good to bad

 

 

 

 

760 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, character, character_development, characterization, character_arcs
1

Some words are hard to remember. (I have to look up "supercilious" every time I come across it.) Others are confusing. (I still don't get what "camp" means when used as an adjective.) Others are hard to remember and confusing. (For the life of me, I don't know how to use "cheeky" correctly.)

 

Then there are the dreaded words, or pairs of words, that are so similar it's easy to mix them up. Here are some common ones:

 

Affect & Effect

For the most part "affect" is a verb, and "effect" is a noun:

 

  • This heat is affecting my game (correct)
  • I feel the effect of the heat (correct)

 

Occasionally "effect" is a verb when it means "to bring about":

 

  • She wants to effect change as president (correct)

 

Pique & Peak

These two are usually mixed up in the expression "piques interest":

 

  • That book description piques my interest (correct)
  • He climbed to the peak of the mountain (correct)

 

Uncharted & Unchartered

These two are usually mixed up in the expression "uncharted territory":

 

  • This is uncharted territory for us (correct)
  • That yacht is unchartered for tomorrow (correct)

 

Moot & Mute

These two are usually mixed up in the expression "a moot point":

 

Moot means "irrelevant."

 

  • The seating chart debate is a moot point because they canceled the wedding (correct)

 

Mute means "silent/to make silent" or "unable to speak."

 

  • She is mute on the subject, preferring to let her art speak for her (correct)
  • He muted the TV so he could hear what she was saying (correct)
  • He’s been a mute since birth but can hear perfectly (correct)

 

Which word pairs trip you up? Please let me know in the comments so I can address them in a future post!

 

-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

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Refer vs. Recommend

Why the Passive Voice Is Hated By Me

750 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, grammar, spelling, grammar_tip, grammar_advice
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Here's a little exercise to help you get to know your characters. What would your character do when faced with the boring old frustrations of regular life? Strip away the heightened conflict they face in your book and give them a sense of the mundane. When you know how they react to real life, you know how they react to extraordinary fictional life events.

 

  1. Traffic: They say climbing behind the wheel of a car can test the character of any person. For our purposes, we are going to test the character of actual characters. How do they handle traffic? What do they do when they're cut off or get stuck behind a slowpoke on a two-lane highway?
  2. Elevators: Elevators are essentially boxes of awkwardness. How do your characters respond to stepping onto an elevator with strangers? How to they respond when the elevator breaks down for hours?
  3. Lack of coffee: We coffee drinkers have had that horrible moment where we wake up, shuffle into the kitchen, and realize there is no coffee to be had. It's a nightmare. How would your characters respond to such a gut-wrenching disappointment? If it's not coffee, how would they respond to being denied access to any vices they rely on in their daily routines?
  4. Loud talkers: You're in a movie theater, and the person behind you lacks the ability to keep his or her voice down during the showing. You know how you would handle such a situation, but how would your characters handle it?
  5. Wrong number: Someone calls you in the middle of the night and wakes you up. It's a wrong number, but the person on the other end of the line doesn't believe you, so they become belligerent and even call back several more times to further annoy you. How do your characters respond to such a situation?


 

By placing your characters in ordinary situations, you get a deeper understanding of who they are. When you can see them deal with minor annoyances, details about your characters arise that can add surprising depth to your characters' development.


 

-Richard

 

 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor

 

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Write an Obituary for Your Characters

 

The Stranger in the Room

 

 

 

 

966 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, characters, character_development, writing_exercises, characterization
0

I have long been a proponent of "reader blindness" when it comes to writing. That is to say, I don't think that writers should consider readers when they write novels. I believe doing so compromises the quality of the writing.


But let's talk about rewriting. Should you consider your readers when you rewrite your novel? At the risk of contradicting my earlier statement, I think you should. In fact, I think it's impossible not to consider readers during the rewriting stage. I say this because most of my major rewrites have come after I've received feedback from a reader or two or three or four pre-publication.


These early readers will let me know what worked and what didn't. They have been chosen by me because I trust them to give me constructive criticism. The implication of me asking for their feedback suggests that I will consider their opinions when I rewrite. They represent all readers.


By considering the reader, I don't mean catering your story to meet their expectations. I mean to make sure that your prose is palpable, concise, engaging, that you've crafted a story they can follow with deep, rich, multi-dimensional characters and limited exposition. This is how you protect the integrity of your art but still take your readers into consideration at the same time.


Your first draft is done with your blinders on. It's the story that dictates the words, path, and structure of the book. Your rewrite is done with the blinders off. Now your job is to take readers into consideration and to do so without compromising your artistic integrity.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor

 

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Stage five of writing - gut or beta

 

The perils of rewriting

 

 

713 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, writers, readers, writing, craft, rewrites, writing_advice
1

Write o'clock

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jul 11, 2016

If you read this blog frequently, you know I'm big into self-assessment. I think examining your progress as a writer is important for you to understand yourself as an artist. In that examination, it's important, I believe, for you to study your habits, both bad and good.

 

For the next few weeks, you are a scientist. You are a behaviorist studying the writer part of you in your natural habitat, and you are going to throw yourself curve balls to see how you respond. Primarily, you are trying to determine the time of day you are most productive. It's a question you've probably gotten before, but you may not have known the answer because you are a busy person, and you just write when you find some free time.

 

As true as that is, I believe strongly that it benefits you to find the best time of day for you to write. When you find it, you will find your writing space. By that I mean, the space in your head where you feel more relaxed, more confident, and more connected to the ethereal world where fictional characters live out their fictional lives.

 

Test yourself. Schedule to write in the morning a few days in a row. Rate the experience. How many words did you write? What is the quality of those words? How did you feel during each writing session? How did you feel after? Switch the time of day to the evening. Go through the same evaluation.

 

Do this routine for a couple of weeks, switching back and forth between the time periods. Be as specific as you want to be, write for as long as you feel the creative juices flowing. If they are flowing more freely during one time period more than another, you most likely have your answer as to what time of day is your ideal time to write.

 

-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor

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Is the Early Bird More Creative?

The Power of the Mindless Task

646 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, craft, writing_schedule, creative_writing
0

 

I've written more than once in this space about the maddening (yet seemingly ubiquitous) trend of using "I" when "me" is the correct pronoun. If presidential candidates can't even get it right, I wonder what hope there is for my good grammar crusade. But I refuse to give up!


While not as common as the I/me error, nearly every day I hear someone make a similar mistake regarding she/her and he/him. Here's a refresher lesson about the difference:


"He" and "she" are subject pronouns. A subject does something.


  • Gloria goes to the store. (Gloria is the subject)
  • She goes to the store. (She is the subject)
  • David makes me laugh. (David is the subject)
  • He makes me laugh. (He is the subject)


"Him" and "her" are object pronouns. Objects have something done to them.


  • I saw Gloria. (Gloria is the direct object)
  • I saw her. (Her is the direct object)
  • I gave David the letter. (David is the indirect object)
  • I gave him the letter. (Him is the indirect object)


The above examples are pretty obvious to the ear. It would sound jarring if someone were to say, "Her goes to the store," or "I gave he the letter," right? Where people run into trouble is when there is more than one object in the sentence. For example:


  • I took a photo of David and Gloria.
  • I took a photo of him and Gloria. (CORRECT)
  • I took a photo of he and Gloria. (INCORRECT)


To some ears the third option above might sound right, but it's not. Let's remove the second object in the sentence, which in this case is Gloria:


  • I took a photo of David.
  • I took a photo of him. (CORRECT)
  • I took a photo of he. (INCORRECT)

 

In the above examples, the answer again becomes obvious, right? So, remember this: When in doubt, take Gloria out!

 

-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

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Grammar tip: How to use gerunds correctly

 

Grammar tip: Have gone, not have went

 

 

 

 

819 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, craft, grammar, writing_advice, grammar_tip, grammar_tips, grammar_rules
0

Data dump day

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jul 5, 2016

 

Your head is full. All those ideas keep coming, and you just keep packing them away in every corner of your gray matter. You have so many story and character ideas soaring in and out of the blue you may even find it distracting. If you're working on a self-imposed deadline to finish your latest book, it can be a little maddening. So, what is a prolific author to do?


 

Pick a day of the week to do a data dump. I actually got this idea from my therapist. It's a way of unburdening yourself from the stress of everyday life. You sit at your desk and you write down every thought in your head in a stream of consciousness style. You don't worry about sentence structure or even if a thought is particularly coherent. You just unload your thoughts.


 

The same idea applies to unloading the creative clutter in a data dump. Spend an hour on a day of the week where you rarely feel productive (we all have those days), and just let the ideas drain from your head. Just let it go. Don't judge the ideas. Don't evaluate them in any way. Just let them fall out of your head and into your data dump journal.


 

Later, when you're ready to start a new project, consult your data dump journal and look for a gem of an idea that you can use to kick-start your next book. It's there. I promise you. Even if it's not expressly written down, your next book is in that jumbled mess of words.


 

Your brain is in constant motion. It pushes ideas from neuron to neuron. The data dump journal is a map of those traveling ideas. This map will help you find your way to your next book.


 

-Richard


 

 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor

 


 

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The power of a mindless task

 

Smell that creativity

 

 

 

 

807 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, creativity, craft, writing_ideas, creative_process
1

 

Yesterday I received a rather desperate email newsletter from an indie author in which he essentially begged for people to review his book on Amazon. I empathized with him because I know firsthand how difficult and frustrating it can be to get reviews, especially for self-published books. But then the author did something that made my jaw drop, and not in a good way. In his plea he encouraged us to give his book a positive review--even if we hadn't read it!


I didn't respond to the email, and I won't be reading­, or reviewing­­­, the author's book. As both a fellow author and an avid reader, I'm disturbed--appalled, actually--by his lack of integrity. Reader reviews are supposed to mean something. If they're all just fakes to pump up a friend's book, what is the point? The review system is based on an honor code that should be respected. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't care because I'm also right.


I began my career as a self-published author, and I worked my tail off to find people willing to read and review my first novel--legitimately. Not once did I ask someone who hadn't read the book to review it. The thought never even crossed my mind. I equate soliciting fake reviews to cheating, and I don't cheat.


If a stranger, or even a friend, proactively tells you that he or she enjoyed your book, then by all means, ask that person to write a review. In fact, I encourage you to do so! There's also nothing wrong with asking for reviews via an email newsletter. But there's a clear line between supporters and readers. If you cross that line and ask supporters who aren't readers to post fake reviews, you're sullying the author honor code.


-Maria


 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


 

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Watch for Errors in Marketing Materials

 

Get Reviews for Your Indie Book

 

2,261 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, promotion, writing, marketing_tip, marketing_mistake
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Wants

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 27, 2016

We all have wants. We wake up with them. We drift off into thought about them. We hope for them. We even talk about them with passion and enthusiasm. Our wants define us as much as anything in our lives. They say a great deal about who we are as people.


Do you know what your protagonist wants? I'm not just talking about within the context of your plot and story. I'm talking about the mundane wants that get her through the day. What does he hope for? What wants carry her from one moment to the next?


The same question can be asked about your antagonist. His wants are just as crucial to revealing his true character. Again, I'm not just referring to the wants that are tied to your story. I'm talking about the wants that weave in and out of her everyday life.


Knowing all your characters' wants can help you make a connection with them you wouldn't make otherwise. When you know something as intimate as their wants, you feel closer with them. I know that's an odd thing to say about imaginary people, but it's true. You feel their pain, joy, disappointments, triumphs, etc., on a deeper level, as if they are real people.


Spend some time when you're not working on your story making a list of your various characters' wants. The items don't have to be huge revelations. It could be as simple as what kind of coffee they want to drink in the morning or what kind of car they dream of owning. Just make a list of all their wants, and as you continue to write your story, you'll notice a closeness with your characters that wasn't there before.


-Richard


 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor


 

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Your Characters, Warts and All

 

Write an Obituary for Your Characters

 

656 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, character_development
2

In last week's post I addressed how using too many exclamation marks in dialogue can (negatively) affect the reader's experience. To catch the issue, I suggested that authors read their dialogue out loud.


While that was a post was about an overuse issue, reading your work (not just dialogue) out loud can also help identify another common problem I see in books that haven't been professionally edited: underuse of pronouns.


Too often I encounter writing like the following, which is similar to the language in a book I recently read. Actually, that's not accurate. I gave up reading after about 50 pages because I couldn't take it anymore. I've changed enough words to protect the identity of the author.


In the following paragraph, Lucy is alone:


Lucy crossed her arms in front of her chest and sighed as she gazed out over the water, feeling sad and lonely. It wasn't the first time Lucy had felt this way, but that didn't make it any easier. There was just so much history there, and so much pain. Lucy knew she needed to move on with her life, but she just couldn't.


I find it hard––if not impossible––to believe that if the author of that passage were to read that paragraph out loud, she wouldn't immediately realize how jarring it sounds to hear the name Lucy over and over again. It's clear that the scene is about her, so it's not necessary to keep repeating her name. After the first reference, a simple "she" will do just fine.


If that's not making sense to you, think of it this way: When you tell a funny story about something your dad did when he was on a solo fishing trip, most likely you begin with "My dad was fishing by himself," and from then on you'll use "he" or "him." There's simply no reason to use "my dad" more than once because it's not necessary.


Just like listeners to anecdotes about your dad, readers of your novel are smart enough to "get" it, so respect them! If not, they might not make it past the first 50 pages.


-Maria


 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


 

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Listen to Someone Read Your Story

 

Writing Tip: Be Careful, Don't Overuse Uncommon Gestures and Actions

 

1,260 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: author, self-publishing, writing, pronouns, writing_tip
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A character stew

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 20, 2016

I wrote a play last year that is, I'm happy to say, going to be produced this coming January. I bring it up here because during one of the many public readings, I got the inevitable question about what inspired me to write the story. Specifically, they wanted to know if my characters were based on people I knew.


I cringed at this question even though I knew it was coming. The story is about three siblings: a sister and two brothers. My wife just happens to have two brothers. The story takes place at a vacation home on a lake. My wife's brothers, their wives, and the two of us just happened to have vacationed together on a rental property on a lake. One would think that based on this information you could draw a straight line between the characters in my play and my wife's family. One would think that, but one would be wrong.


The vacation and the family structure in the play were obviously inspired by real life, but the characters in the play and their backstories bear no resemblance to the source of inspiration. I took that week together, and I said what if it were six people stuck in a house together, all with secrets and all with conflicting personalities. That is something that could be interesting. If I chose to write about my wife's family, it would be a boring play full of people being supportive of one another, offering zero conflict to capture the audience's attention.


With this in mind, I answered the question thusly: I don't create characters based on anyone I know. I write characters based on everyone I know. That is the best way I can describe the character development process. I start with a germ of an idea of what a character is like, and then I let my subconscious beg and borrow from all the people I've met in my life, and I create a character stew.


 

-Richard


 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor


 

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A Kramer by Any Other Name

 

When Writing, Don't Outsmart Yourself

 

580 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, characters, character_development
5

I have a love/hate relationship with rules when it comes to writing. I'm an artist. Rules, I once believed, were the destroyers of art. I know now that rules are the sparks that twist the creative mind into finding solutions to be artistic without breaking the rules. One must find the creative wherewithal to adhere to the rules while remaining true to one's artistic sensibilities. That is a neat trick when it's pulled off.


To that end, I would like to introduce you to my four rules for writing a novel. They are my own personal guidelines that help me be consistent while forcing myself to be more creative.


  1. A protagonist has to have a dark side: I just think heroes are more interesting when they aren't perfect. I don't like characters that don't have to face their own moral dilemma at some point in the story. It helps me dive deep into character development and paint a more realistic picture of the good guy (that's the gender neutral form of "guy").
  2. Warts are more interesting: I don't connect with beautiful people, mainly because I can't relate. My stories rely heavily on my characters' imperfections. Warts are far more fascinating to me than beauty marks.
  3. Conversations don't follow a straight line: In real life, when people talk to one another, they don't always listen to one another. The dialogue veers from alternate point to alternate point before the original point ever finds its footing. This is the type of dialogue I like to include in my novels. It's more realistic, and it gives the characters more depth.
  4. Know the ending before you start writing: While I have created outlines, I don't believe they are necessary in order to write a novel. I do think it behooves you, however, to know the ending of your story before you start writing, or at the very least, before you meander pointlessly until you finally figure out what your story's about. Knowing where you're going helps you build steps to the ending.


These are my rules for writing a novel. What are yours?


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor


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When do you know the ending?

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