Fiction,  Fiction,  Revising,  writing tips

Anywhere But Here

I’m sure that with many people around the globe self-isolating, due to the unprecedented COVID 19 pandemic, wanting to be anywhere but here is a popular sentiment. Staying at home can feel like a break from life’s hectic pace, but it soon gets a little old. Who doesn’t like having coffee with friends and visiting family members? At the moment, we don’t have a choice.

For me the words Anywhere But Here, hold special meaning, because that is the working title for my current novel project. After having a few weeks away from revisions, and armed with new feedback from my agent, I am ready to dig in once more, motivated to make this my best book ever. But it’s not all fun and games. There is still some “big picture” work to be done. And sometimes, as fiction writers, we’re a little too anxious to jump into the details. Analyzing our story structure, our character development, our themes, etc. etc. can feel painful.

As fiction writers, our first job is to tell an amazing story. We are storytellers. So, you have your rough draft in front of you. What next? For the next few blog posts we are going to focus on looking at the big picture. Before you are ready to find a reader for this baby, there is some important work to.

For me, the character development is huge. Anywhere, is a character-driven novel, so that’s where I’ve decided to start when looking at the big picture.

TO DO

  1. Read every book in your genre that you can get your hands on, and take note of how the authors develop their characters.
  2. Create unique and specific quirks, both in gestures and speech for each of the important players. This helps create multi-dimensional characters that feel real, rather than generic.
  3. Develop a character arc illustrating your character’s growth from the beginning to the end. In Anywhere, Lily is reeling from the sudden death of her mother, unsure of who she is in this new world. Lily’s gradual ability to survive and thrive without her mother is key to the story arc.
  4. In your notebook, write as much of a backstory for each of your main characters as possible. These backstories will be key for how your characters act and react in every situation. In Anywhere, I found that Lily’s father was portrayed in a vague, generic way. The reader didn’t get a sense of who he was. The reason? I didn’t know enough about him. I have now gone back to my notebook and written about his parents, his growing up, his career choice, how he and his wife met etc. Even though most of this will not show up in the story, it is crucial for understanding the character.
  5. This last one is taken from John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. “Write a two-page character sketch using objects, landscape, weather, etc. to intensify the reader’s sense of what the character is like. Use no similes.” The purpose is to create a convincing character …enngaging both the conscious and the unconscious mind.

The time you spend on character development will be well worth the effort when you begin to write your story.

Happy Writing!

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