Monday, April 12, 2021

What is Love?

What makes a love story sing?

It's not the kissing moments or those passionate fights in the rain or the slow build to some hot action (though, I'll admit, I'm a sucker for them all).

It's the sacrifice.

It's the stepping back of one character for the good of another

*This* is love.

No strings attached. 

Not about what the character can get, but what they can give.

Their self-sacrifice is, ironically enough, what makes the character truly worthy of the love at all, and this speaks to us, as humans and readers, in a very real, very visceral way.

So, if your love story is missing that extra "zing," find a way for your protagonist to practice a little self-sacrifice. 

It's sure to go a long way. 

Be Brilliant!


Monday, March 29, 2021

On Characterization

What is characterization?

Characterization is who someone is.

This includes their style and mannerisms, how they feel about themselves, how they feel about other people, and how they present themselves to the world.

We learn about characters through a narrator, other characters, or the character herself, and characterization can be offered directly or inferred through her actions, thoughts, and dialogue.

In direct characterization, we are told by the author what the character is like.

With inference, the author creates the character, and we (the readers) are left to make the appropriate connections. 

What a character says, how they say it, what they wear, how they behave in certain situations--these all work together to paint a portrait of who that character is.

Some novels, though, won't call for rich, deeply imagined characters. These genre-based stories typically rely on archetypes or stock characters. Readers of mystery, for instance, tend to focus on the plot unfolding (whodunit?) rather than the detective unraveling the crime. This is why there's so little evolution of characters like Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, and Jack Reacher from book to book.

If your characters aren't very complex (on purpose), the plot should be intriguing enough to carry the reader all the way to "the end." Otherwise, your main character will need contradiction and depth (and so will your minor characters, to some degree).

An interesting character *can* carry an entire story, but only if the writer succeeds in expressing their dimensionality on the page, and this means becoming an expert at characterization.

Be Brilliant


Monday, March 22, 2021

On Writing for Writing's Sake

"Writing is not about publication, 

though publication can be a splendid event. 

Writing is about writing."

"People should be able to write and feel proud 

without ever being published. 

Writing is a human right . . . 

and humans should be able to do it 

without being judged as failures 

for not making the professional cut."

-Mark Edmundson-

Why Write?

Monday, March 15, 2021

Story Rhythms

The rhythm of your story (or the pacing) is built around your scene structure. 

The length (or how long or short your scenes are) is what drives the flow.

Scenes with more exposition and description, for instance, will slow down the story. Dialogue will always speed a scene up. 

A comedic scene will be shorter and more quickly paced than a dramatic scene, which tends to be longer and more drawn out. 

But whether you're writing comedy or drama, the scenes should get shorter as you progress toward the climax. This is when the intensity of the story will be at its greatest, where the pages (hopefully) start turning themselves.

Otherwise, there should be a nice mix of points in your novel where the speed picks up, then pulls back a little--action vs. reaction--an incline that slowly builds to that key moment where everything unravels.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, March 8, 2021

Story is Best

"Story is best when a character acts in a probable way,

but the world reacts in a way he doesn't see coming."

--Robert McKee

What a character wants to happen vs. how the world responds sets up a nice "expectations vs. reality" scenario.

Characters shouldn't always get what they want. 

Sometimes they should.

And sometimes they should get what they want, realizing soon after it wasn't what they really wanted (or needed), after all.

Expectations vs. Reality

Deepen your plots and characters by creating contradictions at every turn. Look for those opposites and play against your character's (and ultimately your reader's) expectations.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, March 1, 2021

Sympathy vs. Empathy

The dictionary definitions are similar, but empathy is the stronger of the two ideas.

With sympathy, we can understand; with empathy, we can relate.

If we sympathize with a character, we can learn to like him and will, most likely, find ourselves rooting for him in some way.

Empathizing, however, is next-level. With empathy, the events surrounding a character are heightened because what is happening to them is also happening to us. We're sharing in their experiences because we're projecting our own experiences onto them. They are like us, so we've moved past understanding them and into being them.

Empathy is what creates an emotional interest in the reader, and when we relate to a character on this visceral level, it's because we see ourselves in them.

We want them to succeed so we, too, can share in that success.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, February 22, 2021

On Creating Yourself

Lately I’ve Pondered. . . .

(from the newsletter)

“Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” —Lolly Daskal

This is a really nice reminder for us to stop looking and start doing. We are the sum of the little decisions we make every single day. If we want to be a writer, we need to sit down and write. If we want to learn French for that trip to Paris, we need to gather the necessary resources and start using them. If we want to learn to play that song, we have to put in the time and practice.

Life is not meant to be lived passively, with things happening to us—we’re supposed to go out and do all the things—to make life happen for us to the greatest degree we’re able (because yes, there is sometimes the unexpected, which forces us to recalibrate).

Even so, we will only understand the path we’ve charted when we look back on our lives—how this action led to this discovery which led to that situation—but even if life can only be fully comprehended in reverse, we were not called to this earth to remain on the sidelines.

We get to decide who or what we’re going to be. 

Be Brilliant!


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