black-butterfleyes asked:Hi there! I just found this blog and I`ve never asked anything before but I have a question about point of view. My story is written in first person. However, there is one scene I want to include that the main character wasn`t there to witness, so she can`t narrate this. Is there some way to cleverly include this scene?This is what I like to call the “First Person Dilemma.” While this is a sticky situation, here are a few ways to fix the problem.Utilize the perspective of another character:In many books, such as Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress to A Bend in the Road, they will have another character involved portray the scene. However, the problem with this situation is that if not done right, can feel choppy and confusing with the reader. If you are going this path, try to make there be a strong stylistic reason for going this route as well. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress does the first person switch to reaffirm the importance of storytelling and highlight the differences in characters. A Bend in the Road adds mystery and suspense to an otherwise gushy romance novel.Write in third person instead.Depending on the nature and plot of the story, this may actually be a good choice, as it allows for more details, easier switch of perspective, and dramatic irony. However, if your first person novel is like The Hunger Games or Divergent, two books heavily cemented in the main characters feelings and thoughts, and not books like Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian which deals with other peoples reactions, censorship, and deceit, you might want to find another option.Use the narrator’s ignorance to enhance the story.Who says that the scene has to be included THE MOMENT it happened? Instead, you can have the situation witnessed from the distance, hinted at, or even brought up at a later point! What I would best recommend doing, if the first two options don’t fit your fancy, would be to use the narrator’s ignorance to create a good bit of foreshadowing, a plot twist, or if carefully done, even both. This will add some more intrigue to your novel/story.Just have the scene explained or mentioned.While I wouldn’t recommend this, as it can make your story too telly, if done well enough, it no longer makes showing the scene essential, and can add some shock, urgency, or suspense (depending on the scene) to your novel/story.
As some of you already know, I just finished a book a few days ago titled The Glorious In-Between that contains two asexual, aromantic characters. It took me almost a week to write the ending. This has been true for every book I’ve ever written, from When Stars Die to The Stars Are Infinite.
I don’t know why endings are so difficult for me to write. It isn’t that I’m getting to the end of the book and I don’t want it to end, because I do want it to end! I desperately want to finish the dang draft! I just tend to slow down, and I can’t even explain why this is so.
Endings are hard, regardless of whether or not you can blow through one in a day or drag yourself through the next couple of days trying to get that ending down.
The book has to end, though. It has to tie up all loose threads (an exception can be made for books in a series) and end in a way that is both satisfying and unpredictable.
First, let me present the five types of endings:
- The happy ending
- The unhappy ending
- The tragic ending, wherein the protagonist does succeed at his/her objective but had to sacrifice something for it
- The sacrifice, wherein the protagonist sacrifices his/her objective for the greater good
- The bittersweet ending
If you know these five types of endings, you’ll at least be able to choose how you’d like to end your book, depending on the progression of your book. You don’t want to do an unhappy ending for the sake of an unhappy ending. The ending you choose has to make sense with everything that has occurred in your book.
One thing that used to happen to me in the past is that I would write the draft of the book but not write the ending and let the draft cool. I’d write the ending in the revisions. That has worked for me, but it’s something I’m not interested in doing anymore. I just want to get the ending over with.
You can outline your ending in detail. I did not do that. I just wrote the ending by the seat of my pants. I binge wrote The Glorious In-Between, so it was exhausting having to outline it, too, at the same time. I’m not sure if this is going to happen with All Stars Align, which will be the title of the third book in The Stars Trilogy. I already know exactly how I want to end the third book, but that doesn’t mean the ending won’t be any less difficult for me to write. After all, I already knew how I wanted to end The Glorious In-Between before I even began outlining it.
In any case, the best endings for any book are endings that leave the readers remembering that book. After all, everything can be great and fantastic, until you get to the ending. It doesn’t matter how much your reader loved your book before the ending. If the ending is poor, readers are going to finish your book with a bad taste in their mouths—and then most likely forget they ever read that book.
You don’t want that to happen.
Resonance with endings can occur through narration, dialogue, and description.
Here are some final tips for your ending:
- Don’t introduce new characters or subplots. The ending of a book generally occurs in the last 30-50 pages, so there really is no time to introduce a new character or subplot. The only exception to this is if you’ve foreshadowed a character throughout the book and then put that character in those last 30-50 pages. Of course, I think I actually broke this rule with When Stars Die, when I do introduce a new character in the very last chapter. No readers have complained, of course, but it’s also an epilogue.
- Don’t spend too much time musing. Endings are generally fast-paced, because the ending is coming to a head, and you want the ending to have the most tension out of any part of your book, so you need to minimize descriptions.
- Don’t change the tone. If the tone of your ending changes, it will sound tacked on to readers, like the chapter was a mere afterthought.
- Make sure your objective is strong. Your MC is after something, and that something needs to be made obvious in some way. Novels of a literary nature have some leeway on this, but other types of fiction really don’t. The MC is either going to achieve that objective in some way, or the MC is going to lose out on that objective.
- Think of several possible endings. Don’t limit yourself to just one possible ending. Imagine as many as you can, and then choose the one that makes the most sense for your story. Although I knew how I wanted to end The Glorious In-Between, this doesn’t mean I stuck with the EXACT ending I had planned. I thought of several possible endings within the type of ending I wanted to do, and then as I came upon the ending, it occurred to me what type of ending would make more sense with how I’d written the story up to that point. So the ending must be in line with the story. It needs to make sense, and you don’t need to choose the easy way out. Readers are going to know otherwise if you do.
It’s very important to make sure your readers have a clear idea when something is happening, whether or not you jumped forward or backward in time, and how those events are connected time-wise. A big mistake that a lot of beginning writers make is not establishing time correctly, which could lead to a confusing story.
It can be a bit jarring when you’re reading a book and you come across a sentence like this— Two years had passed. The author is stating when something has happened and making it clear, but you still feel like you were robbed of two years of your character’s life. However, if it’s done well, the author will be able to cut out unnecessary information and get right to the action. Don’t skip ahead in the narrative unless you have a good reason to do it. Is there nothing happening during those two years that you need to explain? Is there a reason why you skipped ahead (something happened during those two years that you want to reveal later)? A huge jump in time needs some sort of explanation. It’s fine if you want to do it and many authors have made it work, but make sure you do it correctly.
Decide what timeline you want your story to exist in. This doesn’t mean you have to write out 10,000 years before and after your story takes place, but you need to decide how many years you generally want to cover. Does your story take place over the protagonist’s entire life? Does the story take place in one year? One day? Really anything is acceptable. Take the time to read stories that cover these timelines. Read a story that takes place in a day, a month, a year, etc. This will help you get an idea on how to pace your story and what can be done in a short or long amount of time. Experiment with your timelines.
The best place to skip ahead in time is often during chapter breaks. Use chapter breaks to your advantage and to show that time has passed. For example, you can end one chapter where your character is finishing up some sort of space training (I don’t know why I picked this example, but let’s go for it!) and then have the next chapter start out with your character IN SPACE and on a SPACE MISSION. If it’s not necessary for your readers to know what happened in between and there are clear transitions/explanations for time passing, then you’re good to go. This is also a great way to put action into your story without any boring, unnecessary details.
Using terms like “A few days later…” and “By the next morning” will help you show short amounts of time passing within certain chapters. You will not be writing about every single action your character takes, so these will be necessary. It’s up to you to decide when you should use them and when you should cut out certain actions. Whatever is dragging your story down, cut it out.
A lack of conflict is a common problem in the work of many beginning writers. There are a number of ways to effectively add conflict to your novel and keep your readers turning pages.
It may help for you to think about conflict as complications. One problem many writers run into when they begin to write their novels is that they have an idea about the main conflict, but it is too easily resolved. For example, maybe the story is about a woman, Andrea, whose dream is to open her own Italian restaurant, but she lacks the funding and experience to do so. Then she meets an Italian chef whose brother wants to invest in a new restaurant, and before she knows it, she has her own restaurant and an experienced chef who can teach her everything she needs to know.
writeintherain said: How many subplots are too many? In my book I’ve got this city guard who is working to quell rebellion, break up riots and fights amongst the civilians. At the same time her friend is a wanted criminal and she has to decide whether or not to turn him in and at the same time her other friend is struggling with alcoholism and someone else is grief-stricken from the death of his GF and at least four other things. How many subplots can I include before it all becomes too confusing for the reader?
Let’s start with the definition of subplot:
Subplot (n): An additional story line to the main plot of a fictional story
There are no laws dictating how many subplots are to be allowed in a single piece of writing. You’re only really limited by your own ability to handle multiple subplots, and honing that ability takes practice. And practicing means you might fail.
Don’t be afraid of failure. Writing is a process. Failing is part of that process. The important part is that you try and keep trying.
Sometimes it takes a whole lot of effort to gain your confidence. You might have to work at crafting your subplots for a long time before you feel like you’ve truly braided them into your story with expert deftness.
Asking us for a number isn’t really going to help you because, as it turns out, we don’t know. We don’t know you as a writer, and we don’t know your story. You’ve got to figure out what works. In the end, only you can decide what’s best for your story.
So, how many subplots can you include before it all becomes too confusing? It depends on your story, your style, your skill. And it depends on how many times you are willing to try and fail before you succeed.
Some things to keep in mind about subplots:
Thanks for your question!
Horrible fact of writing: you are going to know a lot more about your character than will ever be put on the page. This also drags writers down, because often they’re so exciting about their characters, that they want to share everything. Instead of conveying that excitement, it drags the story down, and loses the reader.
So, backstory. Backstory is essential. It is also a pain, figuring out what goes where. Your character worksheets are going to have some backstory, maybe a lot, so for this part, we’re going to focus on the essentials.
- Pick out the major events. That test your character failed in third grade is not going to impact them the same way their parents’ divorce did (unless the character connects the two). Pick out the really important things, whether or not your characters are aware of them. What caused a great internal change? What external issue brings them to the plot now? These things are going to be what your reader will need to know.
- Backstory Timeline: Your character didn’t spring to life the second their story starts on the page. Take that starting point and move backward: how did they get there? When did they move to _____ town, what did they get their degree in? This is going to be more mundane details than your major points, but they’re important too. You might stumble upon a great location, or a new plot idea you didn’t think of before. This can also be an ongoing list; you don’t have to go it in one go.
Both your main characters, supporting characters, and antagonists (we’ll get to them later) need backstory. Like I mentioned earlier, you don’t need it all right now, and some of it will probably change while plotting, but now’s a good time to get started.
The Cinderella story is an archetypal narrative structure that can be found in many books, both by established and aspiring writers.
A put upon person, treated unfairly and cruelly through no fault of their own, overcomes their unjust circumstances to win great rewards and happiness.
It’s an appealing format because it creates a sympathetic underdog who triumphs against adversity; the kind of struggle we’d all like to think we could battle and win.
But there are two problems with the Cinderella story that make her an awkward fit for the modern world.
I really want to start writing my first original story but I have no idea where to start! I’ve written lots of fanfiction stories because it’s easier when you already have a starting point and characters to work off of; but I’m ready to start…
Anonymous asked: How do I work in puzzles/challenges into my story? And the clues? I always found it enjoyable when I read books like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and I want to do something similar for my story. But I’m having a really difficult time in coming up with my own puzzles, even thinking of clues is impossible if I don’t have a puzzle. Where do I start? How would I come up with something interesting? What clues could I do?If you haven’t already, make sure you have your plot and story structure all fleshed out. Next, there needs to be a reason for the puzzles/challenges in your game. Ideally, solving them will bring your protagonist closer to achieving their goal. Take a look at the things you know your character needs to accomplish in order to achieve their goal. For example, maybe you know that the goal is in another place, so one of the protagonist’s objectives is to get from point A to point B. Now you just need to put a challenge in between the protagonist and the objective. First you have to decide whether this obstacle was intentionally put in place by the antagonist in an effort to challenge, stall, or distract the protagonist—or, is this a natural challenge of some kind, like solving the clues left at a murder scene, for example. Depending on the setting of your story, there are a lot of ways you can go. It’s easier if you stick with just a few hints, clues, or mini-challenges that the protagonist has to get through to reach the objective. Then, limit the overall number of challenges between the protagonist and the end goal to maybe three or four.
If you can give me more specific information about your plot, setting, and the protagonist’s end goal, I might be able to give you more specific advice. :)
In these days of the 3-for-2 tables and Tesco Book Clubs, fiction has taken a step forwards into the past.
These days, plot matters. No fiction will be taken on by agents - no matter how brilliantly written, how edgily contemporary, how weighty in subject matter - unless it has a strong story line. We’ve seen stunning work rejected for this reason. This is scary for authors. Get your plot wrong, and your book has failed before you’ve even started. You simply MUST get this aspect of your novel right. Here’s how.
See also our More About Plotting guide … and do watch out for the video below.