You’re reading this blog post because you want something different. You can bond with friends over not working later. Right here, right now, you’d like to work. So let’s go. Get to work!
Since Lee uses first-person point of view to tell her stories, it’s her main character’s voice that’s in the driver’s seat. Reading her novels is a masterclass in how to do first-person narration well. However, you can use these techniques with third-person and even with omniscient narration. It’s all about elevating your prose to do more than just tell the reader what’s happening.
Empathy has its drawbacks, especially when reading the news, but on the plus side, I think it helps me create deeper characters. The secret for creating unforgettable characters is to give them impossible choices.
Rita Williams-Garcia masters the crowd scene–a dinner at the midpoint of the book. In a movie, it’s easy to see the crowd and feel the energy in the room. In fiction, it’s more complicated–you need to balance the minute and individual with the group so that readers feel grounded in the environment and in the particular characters’ interactions.
I fully transport myself from my reality into the world that I seek to create. In a word, I daydream. Deeply. I put myself with the character, close to the character, sometimes in the character, to taste the dirt when they’re in the dust storm or feel the scratchy bristles of cane stalk whip my face. Then I write it. Later, I make adjustments, because what I have to understand is different from what the reader should feel. Sometimes I have to rein it in or pull back. It’s not always the point that the reader should feel each and everything—but the writer must!
Good mysteries are fun because they keep the reader guessing. One of the most important keys of writing a mystery is writing the story so the reader can try to solve it. Nothing’s more annoying than not being given clues to solve the mystery unless those clues are so obvious that there is no real mystery to be solved. The best way to achieve both goals is to give quality clues but constantly keep the reader guessing so they don’t recognize the clues for what they are.
A compelling mystery must engage the reader in solving the mystery, and the best ways to do so are to 1) start the mystery off quick, 2) capture attention with consequential stakes, 3) increase tension, 4) keep the reader guessing, and 5) finish strong.
As writers, we hear all the time that you absolutely have to develop your characters’ backstories. We can spend a lot of time laboring over our characters’ pasts–creating, inventing, discovering–only to have someone read a draft and tell us: “Take out all the backstory!” Too much backstory can drag the pace of a story. Too little, and characters seem unmoored and unmotivated. So what to do?
“I understand more clearly that an outline need not be a construct that dominates my writing, a rigid form that must be adhered to, but it can be a tool to help manage what I write, to help me not get distracted or sidetracked, and instead work toward my goal–even if that goal isn’t completely clear to me as I shuffle, twist, and rearrange things on the page, the way I am prone to do.”
As writers, we can look to our settings to provide a wealth of tools to not only add depth to the story but to underline the experiences of the characters, their feelings, their motivations, their desires.