Writing Advice #10

LOVE ALL YOUR CHARACTERS

Much of my writing advice comes from years and years of poetry. My thoughts on imagery and diction are fueled by my medium. It is this lyrical perspective that gives my prose writing its unique voice. That and my brain is just weird.

But sometimes you have to learn and discover as you go along, otherwise what’s the point of doing anything. And, as a new writer to the world of genre fiction–specifically horror and the multi-omni-many-things-at-once-paranormal genres–there are things that I don’t actually see or realize until I mess them up and then I have the, “Oh, that’s where that went wrong,” moment.

One thing I learned while writing fiction is you have to love your characters. Not just like them and not just the main characters or even the side characters. You have to love all of them. Because if you don’t they won’t sound or look genuine on the page. They’ll look like cardboard stand-ins for real people and, most importantly, they won’t talk to you and tell you what they are doing in your story.

I learned the hard way that characters, much like poems, have minds of their own. Even though I made up those minds I have no control over what they do. That’s part of my creative process. In one of my works in progress, my protagonist’s love interest has changed 3 times. The first one didn’t really want to be with her. And then she didn’t want to be with the second one. And then the third didn’t want to be with her either. Meanwhile, her real love interest was sitting backstage (yeah, my mind is called backstage) with a cup of coffee and a newspaper saying, “I’ll be right here whenever you’re ready, and if you’ve gone to all the trouble of giving me a newspaper there’d better be comics.”

And just so you know, my protagonist’s lover loves Garfield. Garfield translates across time and space. So does Hagar the Horrible. He likes that one too.

But back to what I was saying; those characters didn’t work out because not only had I not properly fleshed them out, I didn’t listen to what they wanted. I tried to force round pegs into square holes.

And I surrounded them with minor characters that existed just to be in this or that part of the chapter. They didn’t work either. And whole chapters of this book have fallen to pieces because I didn’t care enough about the characters to get them where they needed to be.

So, to sum up:

If you don’t love them, chuck them.

You can always make more. Just make sure you love and listen to them.

Love them even if you’re going to kill them. Love them even if you’re going to break their hearts and destroy everything they love. Love them even if they’re the biggest piece of shit-horrible villain you’ve ever seen. Because they are yours. And they matter. Even if they show up in only one sentence, they matter.

Share any funny or frustrating character shenanigans with me in the comments 🙂

Writing Advice #3

I never had imaginary friends growing up.

I had stuffed animals who I imagined were alive but they were grounded in reality and fluffiness. I never made anyone up on my own, the voice in my head was my own and very alone.

Until I decided to do nanowrimo in 2016 and I said I don’t care what I write, I’m going to write 50,000 words of prose and I don’t care what that prose is.

So, as a poet not knowing anything about writing fiction, I began to write and out of my writing came my first imaginary friends.

And the reason why I call them imaginary friends and not just characters is because as I wrote their story they started deviating from my plot and making their own decisions.

I would write a scene and hate it. I would write another scene and hate it too. And then I asked my character point blank: “What the actual fuck is wrong with you? Why aren’t you doing what I want?”

And that character talked back to me. He said, and I quote: “Becasue it’s stupid. I don’t want to do that.”

And that is how Away from my Heart of the Forest Cycle was born. He told me “no.” I asked him what he wanted to do instead. And he told me. So I wrote that. And I liked it a lot better than what I had tried to come up with.

SO the moral of this story is LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS.

If you’re stuck somewhere and slumping around writing, check to see if your characters are working with the scene or not.

Don’t force your characters to do something that they wouldn’t normally do unless you have a really good reason. Because you want your plot to go that way is not a good enough reason.

If your characters want to do something that seems completely crazy to you, let them do it. You can always cut it out later or change it if you don’t like it.

You gave your characters life by writing their stories. Let them live.

You are not losing your mind if your characters talk back to you 🙂

Have a great day and GO WRITE!