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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Writing advice - A book doesn't just tell a story!

OK, I'm going to let you in on a little secret here - writing a book isn't just about telling a story.

Are you shocked? Well, don't be, just have a cup of tea and a sit, have a HobNob, it's all right the cat only licked the top one, the rest are fine, and I shall explain what I mean.  By the way, if you write books you will already know this, so please feel free to do some light dusting or clean down the back of the fridge while I explain it to the others, yes, you can take your tea and HobNob with you.  There's some dishcloths in...well, actually I have no idea where the dishcloths live. There might not even be any.  Just sort of waft, it will be fine...

Right. Everyone else. Now.  I know you want to tell your story.  You've got a very good story, say, for example, it's about a woman and a man who meet, and hate each other, then fall in love. Yep, that's a story, but it's not really, is it?

Think about it.  Two people meet and hate each other.  So, why do they ever have anything more to do with one another? I don't hang around with people I hate, it would be uncomfortable, and I only hate people who eat all the biscuits or are unkind to animals, so I wouldn't stay.  So you need an absolutely true and compelling reason for these two people to be together for long enough to fall in love.
Yes, I suppose trying to sabotage a race is a reason...
And then, because your reader wants to believe that their love will last long enough for at least a conversation, if not sex, to take place, then their 'falling in love' has be also be a believable conversion of feelings. One of them can't just see the other being approximately nice to an old lady and think 'oh, he/she's not so bad really, I must be completely and utterly in love with them! Gosh!' These characters must grow and change and become better people during the duration of the story; they must not act like puppets!  And, if at all possible, don't have one of them give up whatever it was that the other person didn't like them for - they both have to compromise (unless it's eating all the biscuits and being unkind to animals. No compromise there. In fact, kill them).

You know I do critiques, don't you?  I mean, in case you didn't know. And if you wanted some more and quite specific writing advice, just bear me in mind, because I've got loads more pictures of Dastardly and Mutley and I'm not afraid to use them...ahem. So. If you've written something and you'd like to have my advice on how to make it not feel like an episode of Wacky Races (I mean, I'm sure it isn't anything like that, but you might think it is and want a second opinion), then drop me an email and I will do my best to help you.

I'll even do the Mutley laugh, if you think it will help.

Right, after that little nugget of advice, I'm going to see if the others have cleaned behind that fridge yet. Keep it real (floats off, making little 'shruggy' motions and carrying a HobNob at a careful angle).


Chris Stovell said...

I think this sums up why, for me, writing romantic fiction is a lot harder than so many people suppose!

Angela Barton said...

Yes, it's a long and winding road from hate to love in a novel. Thank you for your post - it made me chuckle. xx