Monday, December 2, 2019

On Fighting

When, where, and how your characters fight speaks volumes.

Who are they most willing (and most likely) to fight with? With whom do they refuse to fight under any circumstances? Do they fight fairly or are they more vindictive--calling names, using threats or sarcasm, swearing or telling lies? What issues do they fight about? Are these problems serious or mundane--inconsequential, even?

Maybe your character doesn't fight at all.

Maybe she makes an exception in this one instance. 

What could have possibly gone wrong?

Part of developing a well-rounded character requires knowing and understanding how characters will act when faced with a potential argument. Their reactions and behaviors are what add variety and depth to a story, so it's worth considering these traits (among others) before the first page is written.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, November 25, 2019

Weather as a Metaphor

If we could sum up the use of weather as a metaphor in a single word. . . .


Don't do it.

As writers, and especially beginning writers, it can be tempting to force the weather to mirror our characters' moods and the situations in which they find themselves.

We have good intentions, of course--it's for effect, to add layers and depth to a scene. 

After all, there's nothing like a sudden thunderstorm to interrupt the throes of outdoor passion. Or a heated argument in the rain (I admit, that's a favorite of mine). Or a perfect spring day to match the kindling of a new love.

And sure, sometimes in real life we fight on dark, wet days. And those afternoon picnics with the ones we love are, in fact, spent beneath a warm sun. But aligning the weather to every situation in our novels is a bit pedestrian.

As humans, we respond to weather. It's also one of the easiest things to describe in a story.

But it's not a perfect metaphor, so use it sparingly as one (if at all).

Be Brilliant!


Monday, November 18, 2019

On Finding the Best Way to Tell a Story

There's more than one way to tell a story, and a writer who doesn't consider every option--every character, style, point of view--is doing himself a disservice.

The solution? Try writing a few paragraphs or even a chapter from a variety of perspectives to find the most compelling possibility.

It's worth the time and effort to find the narrator and point of view that will bring out the best in your writing and storytelling skills.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, November 4, 2019

On Silence

Sometimes what a writer doesn't say is as important as what he says.

Just like a musician will let a note hang suspended to create drama and tension in a piece, so can writers use this kind of lull to their advantage. 

Too much information, in fact, can detract from a scene and slow down the pacing of a story to a detrimental degree. 

The antidote to this? 


Silence is what ignites the reader's imagination, allowing them to take your story and fill in the empty spaces.

There isn't enough room to cover everything, so it comes down to what needs to be real within the scene and what can be implied. 

Sometimes less really is more.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, October 28, 2019

On Unlikeable Characters

Many MANY moons ago, when I was with my first agent who was pitching my first novel to publishers--back when "YA" was still a relatively new category--I received a rejection from an editor who passed because she found my main character too "unlikeable."

I cringed at the word then--but hey--this was an editor with a big house, and of course she knew what she was talking about. But now, almost fifteen years later, I find that I'm still not a fan of this word: unlikeable.

What is an "unlikeable character," really?

Because to me, "unlikeable" means complicated and conflicted. It means they're making mistakes all over the place. They're not perfect. They don't always say or do the right thing. . . .

But isn't that just being "human"?

No one is fully likeable 100% of the time. And, if they are, where is the conflict? How does a fully likeable character make for an interesting story? 

The thing is, we can still, as readers, find unlikeable characters appealing. We can find their "unlikeability" compelling at various degrees, especially when we see ourselves in them. That's what makes them real and relatable.

So pass on, editors, but discerning readers know the best characters come with their own set of flaws, and, at the end of the day, "likeability" is a stale litmus where story is concerned.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, October 21, 2019

Sweat the Small Stuff

When revealing character, the small details matter. They might matter more, in fact, than the "big" details.

When I first sent ALL I NEVER WANTED to my beta readers, one returned the very first page with a note that changed the way I described my characters:

First and foremost, this is a story of redemption.
But it’s also a love story. A love story that begins with a black eye and a mental health facility, and while that hardly seems the setting for a modern romance, and I’m the last guy anyone would consider a knight in shining armor, trust me when I say I’d suffer a thousand black eyes to meet her again. But before there was the rehab and the fist to the face and the falling for a girl with jagged nails and graphite smudges on her fingertips, there was my dad’s annual holiday party. And it happened like this. . . .

I don't remember how I first described Summer Evans in the prologue, but it leaned toward blonde hair and blue eyes and was, in a word, boring. It was the beta who suggested I re-think how I first presented Summer to the audience. Hair and eyes are great, but those jagged nails and graphite smudges tell a much deeper story, don't you think?

It's the little details that will add life to your story. I could've gone on about how massive Trent's house was, but I zeroed in on the columns--the leaves carved into the capitals--and it really only mattered that Crewe knocked a server's tray out of her hands at their dad's party, but it's more exciting when it's a silver tray of miniature cannoli which scatter, rolling across the marble floor.

The little details aren't so little, then, so don't equate little with unimportant. It's the small things that the reader will remember--that will breathe life into your story.

Be Brilliant!