Here are a few tips on how not to write:
- Don’t waffle. If it’s a choice between two and twenty words then use two.
- Don’t baffle your audience. Say it clearly and then get the heck out.
- Don’t bore. Waffle and bafflement will end up boring your audience.
And now, here’s a pretty picture I took in Gisburn:
I was reading an article about developing characters and it got me thinking about how I go about this myself.
The way I see it, there are two (main) drivers for a story:
- Plot. This is the kind of writing where the events of the story are the prime focus and the author’s attention is fixed on driving this forward. The characters here do whatever the plot requires them to do. They are like puppets to some extent.
- Character. This kind of story focuses on the character rather than the plot, often to the extent that, whilst the author is writing, if the plot demands one thing but the character feels like doing something else, the character has the final say. The character is usually defined enough (via character maps and sketches) for this to be feasible, but if they are not then the author is going to end up with an unholy mess.
For my novels, the plot is progenitor (I would have said plot is king but there’s no alliteration there), but I tend to focus on characters for my short stories.
So where do I get my characters from?
Some of them have been inspired by someone I know or have known, but rarely. Most of the inhabitants of my stories come from people I see in passing and that I would like to know more about.
Instead of finding out more about these people by speaking to them (yeah, that’d be too easy, right?) I make stuff up. Typically, if something about a person attracts my attention(some behaviour, something about their speech, the way that they talk etc.) then this becomes a focus for my fiction. I write to discover that which I do not know.
I see a lot of homeless people in York (where I live here in the UK) and they intrigue me. I don’t know their motivations or where they live or why they have chosen this lifestyle and so I write about them. A lot.
Actually, when I think about it, I might not be interested in homeless people anymore because I’ve stopped writing about them. Instead, I’m writing a novel about the first crewed flight to Mars. Do you happen to know any astronauts I could speak to?
So, yeah, when I’m writing, I just make stuff up as I go along; and that suits me just fine. What’s your approach to character development?
In the street
Our eyes meet.
Some quick smile.
Some spark of curiosity.
Thoughts assess and compare.
Is this a dream that my life could wear?
Closer we come with steps that slow and seem to linger.
Then a sudden memoriam:
A once binding vow.
And a curtain
Over my mind
With a recollection of sin once tasted.
My gaze slides off your face
Like a skipping stone.
Then falls to death
As if it had never drawn air.
We walk on
Kind of inspired by this poem: Think until it’s true.
What sweet intercourse
Can there be
Between the trees?
What honeyed words
These leafless gaps?
What bumbly busy
Can we find
To be so kind?
Which fuzzy lover
Because it must?
Flit from flower to flower.
Why mercy me.
It starts with b!
“Perhaps the best we can do is
to practice being open to the world,
to create a space
so something can pass through.”
(On “Dazzle” – The Fluidity of Boundaries
by Ashley Butler
From Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction
Edited by B.J. Hollars)
It strikes me that I don’t so much want to write as to get my thoughts down in writing and share them with the world. Do you want to do that too? Are we in the same boat?
Or perhaps I don’t even want to extend my reach to the whole world. Possibly I just want to find people who are interested in me. But then, when I do, that kind of gets me into trouble. I’m already in a committed relationship and I don’t need another one. I confuse talking with intimacy. I confuse people on the other side of the internet with friends. I confuse friendliness with something deeper. In short, I’m kind of screwed.
It crosses my mind that I might not be able to interact with real (in the flesh) people and so I talk to strangers instead. But that’s not true. I interact with real people very easily when I want to. But they’re a bit too close. I think that perhaps I need the protection of a few thousand miles. I need distance for closeness to work.
Why am I saying this? I really have no idea. I’m writing this to several people at once (I know who they are in my head) and I’m talking to you (yes, you) but I’m also talking to myself too.
I’m also listening to Dummy, which is an album by Portishead. You should give it a listen.
And that (this) is how not to end a post.
I was going to write this erudite (brainy) piece about how it’s easier for me to talk to ugly women rather than beautiful ones, but I realised that I’m totally not supposed to be viewing people in those terms; so I won’t.
My life is full of these little dead-ends. Many of the things that I really want to write about are off-limits. It’s rather frustrating to be frank.
I feel like I want to be open and honest, but I feel constrained and inauthentic.
I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one.
I wonder if this is why there are so many blogs and stuff like that with nom-de-guerres and pseudonyms.
Some of the anonymous blogs I’ve read feature people pouring their heart out about interesting and deep things relating to their lives and loves. I can only assume that they would be ashamed to talk about these wonders to their friends and family. For myself, when read them, I tend to think heck, this is just normal stuff, This is just life!
Still, it doesn’t feel normal to those who are living this kind of a lie.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not a serial killer nor nothing like that. I’m as vanilla as you are and as multi-dimensional as you feel. I’m just all up inside myself is all.
And here I go again – I’ve written all these words, but said nothing about what really matters to me – as usual.
Heɪ həʊ – lʌɪf!