“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck, interview with Robert van Gelder in April 1947 as quoted in John Steinbeck: A Biography (1994) by Jay Parini
This is the fifth piece in my Project… series (and the title chapter in my next book about writing). For anyone who hasn’t read the first two books in this series or the relevant posts on my blog, here’s a refresher for you:
*Project October is all about intensive writing.
*Project November is all about rewriting, polishing and finalising.
*Project December is all about publishing.
*Project January is all about starting all over again.
So what is Project June? For the purposes of this series, there had to be another Project… piece. I toyed with the idea of Project February, mostly because February comes after January. But I didn’t know what Project February was. I still don’t.
Eventually, I realised that the advice that I wanted to give and the month that went with it was all about the middle. I’d addressed the start, the sprint to the faux finish and the actual finish; the only thing left was the part in between.
Based on that heading, you might have thought this was going to be about an entirely different topic but fear not! Religion and politics are the two discussion subjects to avoid for an easier life and since I’ve already ventured into politics (in a very small way), I won’t push my luck with religion.
Of course, the creation and evolution I’m talking about here relate to character development: who your characters are at the beginning of your story and who they become as the story unfolds and concludes. The two stages have a lot in common but there are important differences in getting each of them right.Continue reading
I am by no means a marketing or design or website expert but, luckily, I happen to know someone who is. When I or my editing clients need assistance, she is my first (and only) point of contact. That’s how good she is in my opinion.
Through my professional relationship with her, I have distilled some (hopefully most) of the key points to consider when developing a website for your book.
First Decisions The first decision is what you want to call your website. If you have only written one book and don’t plan to write any more, you may prefer to set up a website in the name of your book for maximum exposure. If you’ve written more than one book or plan to write more in the future, it might be better to set up a website in your name to promote yourself as much as the books. Of course, you could always call your website something completely different (John Birmingham’s is called Cheeseburger Gothic – no idea why). As long as you have a good reason and it doesn’t make you and your book very difficult to find (which defeats entirely the purpose of setting up a website), then why not?Continue reading
When it comes to character development, there are certain things that have so much more impact when a character does them sparingly instead of frequently. Here are a few things that I think pack more punch when they aren’t happening all the time.
Smoking Smoking has to be the number one activity that has more impact when it’s used infrequently. A cigarette to settle the nerves. A cigarette to show how the smoker’s hands are shaking uncontrollably. One last cigarette before the execution. Apart from anything else, if a character has enough time to be a pack a day smoker, then I doubt there is enough going on in the story. And it’s such a clichéd affectation for the bad guy, we might as well just put him in a black hat.Continue reading
I love character development but these days I always prioritise plot development, perhaps because it comes less naturally to me. But unlike character development, plot development is a much broader concept. Sometimes a good way to see if your plot is working is to compare it to some of the theories of how stories should be structured.
Back when I was doing my master’s degree, there were four theories I used to prepare my major assessment piece for the Script Adaptation subject. They’re not specific to script adaptation or even screenplays, but these theories are generally known as film theories.
So what? If it works, it works, regardless of whether we’re talking about short stories, novellas, novels, films or documentaries.
It might not work for everyone but if you compare your plot to these structures and find you can’t identify a key act or part in your story that these theories say it should have, perhaps you might have found the missing link.Continue reading
Once upon a time, there was only one way I developed characters. I started with an aspect of my own personality – thereby starting from a base of something I could understand through my own personal experience.
Of course, those characters didn’t remain these one-dimensional people for long. I began to build, adding traits and mannerisms and experiences completely removed from my own. In no time those characters would be completely unrecognisable from me except for that one, often deeply hidden, aspect that we shared.Continue reading
For months now, the top of my ideas board has been occupied by the following yet to be explored (until now) idea for a blog post:
“Taking inspiration from the things you see around you every day (myself as murder victim or suspect – what could the police tell about me from my house?)”
For some reason, I kept focusing on the bits and pieces tacked to my refrigerator including photographs of and drawings by various nieces and nephews. And, of course, what these things say about me is that even though I’m single, I am part of an extended (and still growing) family and I am loved. But recently something happened that made me realise I’m too close to the subject matter. Not able to see the forest for the trees.
Because being an aunt is not my defining characteristic and upon entering my house in the event of my unnatural death or to arrest me for someone else’s, the fridge is not the first thing the police would notice.