Sunday, July 28, 2013

Writing Tip 13/100

Okay, back on track. This tip is going to seem obvious, but it's one I see a lot.

When you are writing a scene make sure your characters are acting the way real people would and not the way you "want" them to act.

Often, as writers, we create a scene in our heads and write it without giving it the reality test. Recently I was working with a writer who had a great scene where two girls wake up in a locked room with no memory of where they are or how they got there. Because the author knew what was really happening in her head, the girls were fairly calm, exploring the room, opening drawers looking at clothes, comparing notes, etc.

The problem is, that's not how real people would behave. If most people woke up locked in a strange room, they would freak out. They'd be yelling, pounding on the door, trying to break the window. Later, when they discovered what was going on, or when they realized they couldn't get out, they would take stock of the situation. But not at the beginning.

This problem is very common in almost all genres. In romance, your characters fight or smooch because you need them to, not because there are good reasons for it. In thrillers, your character goes into the haunted house because you have to have her attacked--when in reality she would be running at top speed away from that place.

Of course, you can have your characters go in the scary house, smooch, explore the locked room, or not. But you have to give them good reasons.

Also, be careful of the "that really happened" excuse. This is where you have something implausible happen by pointing out that it happened in real life. "I know it seems unlikely that the man and woman would randomly meet on the other side of the world on the very date of their original wedding, but it really happened."

Your job as an author is to create an illusion of reality. This means that it has to be believable to the reader. If it really happened, but it is incredibly unlikely, you have to create a better reason than coincidence or you will lose your readers' faith.    


Jacob Meyers said...

I’m probably a lot older than your average reader but I just read Case File 13 and I loved it. I’m planning on reading it to my niece. I loved your characters and can’t wait for the next one. I think that you have captured a quality that I love about Luis L’Amour. The book is really short by today’s standard. If you don’t mind me asking where do you teach?

I just started reading your blog and have a few questions that you could probably answer. You told us about not forcing a scene and I understand what you mean, but how do you approach changing the scene once you notice the problem? I have a section where a character is having an emotional brake down and admits that he is a witch. It’s early in the story and I haven’t been able to come up with something to bridge the gap between believable and forced.

I was also wondering about writing the synapsis on the back cover. I read the synapsis of your next Case File 13 eBook and loved it. How do you approach that?

Keep up the tips. I for one am finding them extremely helpful.

David Glenn said...

I can probably see a moment in my book where it was forced. It's almost like some advice a friend gave me. You need to make sure both the protagonists and antagonists have very strong, believable reasons for what they do. Just having the villain see himself/herself as evil would probably just be forcing. Each person has their own story that leads up to what they do.