Hello everyone. I thought it was time I settled my mind to a fourth writing tutorial. So here it is! In this one I wanted to take a sightly different approach to the task of writing fiction. As with at least one of my previous tutorials I am going to split this one into two distinct sections. In the first part I am going to look at an invaluable writing tool which I have discovered comes in very handy when working on a book. The second part will be an extension of a previous idea which is to explore the development of characters. I will be providing a new slant on this topic which I hope you will find informative.
Right, let’s get straight into it, shall we? The tool which I referred to in the opening paragraph of this blog is a dictating device. I believe a writer can gain a whole new perspective of his work by reading it out, recording what he has read out and playing it back at a later date. It allows for growth in the flow of narrative, enabling a writer to improve the pacing of his stories. He can discover where it is best to bring in a shorter sentence along with longer ones so the rhythm of a story can enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the tale.
In my first drafts I always seem to run into the fault of being rather long winded in my writing, using too many words than are strictly necessary. I am sure this is a common fault with all writers. Even Stephen King has admitted he falls into this trap. But then as he says that is what first drafts are for: just telling the story. In subsequent drafts the weaknesses in the storyline can be ironed out. When reading out a story it can become instantly recognisable when sentences are too wordy. The necessary corrections can then be made.
I am currently editing a book which is very far removed from horror. It is set in the Victorian times and is based on the lives of real people, although it is still very much a novel. I have been using my dictating device exclusively on this novel and I can already detect the benefits from this exercise. I have been able to spot unnecessary repetitions, weakness in narrative and some little tweaks I can make to the dialogue. These are all minor alterations but by bringing in these improvements I can make the storyline that much fresher and more alive which should be the aim of any author worth his salt.
Of course, when working on a novel which involves characters from an historical era it has to be understood that they would speak in a completely different way to how we express ourselves now. I always try to make my fiction as authentic as I can when exploring these former times but this is not always an easy trick to pull off. The phrasing and inflections used be characters set in, say, the Victorian age, are very different to now and this has to be fully understood when writing in this setting. However, there is a definite danger of overdoing it and when that happens the natural tendency is for the reader to think ‘boy, this goes on a bit, doesn’t it?’ In cases such as this an author has to strike a happy balance between authenticity for an historical setting and retaining the reader’s enjoyment with what he is reading. Again, this is where a dictating device can be invaluable as reading out the storyline can give a whole new perspective of what was originally set down.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the second part of this blog. Developing character. This is an intriguing aspect of any author’s craft. What goes in to growing a character from the inside out? How does one go about achieving this? Well, I think the key phrase here is ‘from the inside out.’ When creating a character a writer has to truly understand the person he is writing about. In delving into this fascinating subject matter I would like to use the criteria of a portrait painter to highlight what goes into this.
When an artist depicts a subject on canvas he has to try to discover the personality behind the face. If he is not able to do this successfully his painting will fall flat. It will seem lifeless and lacking in vitality. In the same way a writer needs to unearth what lies inside his characters. He has to know them inside and out. He has to know what drives them on to do the things they do. He has to know if they possess an outgoing personality or if they are more introverted. What happens to them throughout the story will depend a lot on the type of personality they have. If they are introverted they will be of a more serious mind than their extroverted counterparts. Being more reserved they will be more likely to have only a few friends around them whereas more sociable characters will be surrounded by friends.
But personality is not only about being either outgoing or of a shy disposition. It goes back to the question of what drives a character on to do the things they do. What makes an evil character commit their atrocities? Were they born with darkness inside them or did they grow into it through time? And if the latter did this come about through the people they associated with or did it come about by some other means? Conversely, what made another character choose a more righteous path? Was it all to do with their upbringing, of being led in the right direction by a devout set of parents who made sure they kept to the straight and narrow?
It is important always that a writer of fiction knows his characters through and through. If he does not then they will become as bland, as lifeless, as dull as those aforementioned canvases by the failed portrait painter. But if an author is successful in depicting engaging, believable characters then he will be able to draw the reader into his tale and then he has a wonderful opportunity to achieve a lasting success with his story.