The Magic of writing #amwriting #writingquotes

“When you start writing, the magic comes when the characters seem to take on a life of their own and write the words themselves.”

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Books that end where they begin #amreading #amwriting

I am sure most of us have read one of these stories, they start with a brief scene, and then the story jump’s back in time. Books that end where they begin can be a little hit and miss in my opinion. It’s all down to the execution, along with a smidgen of personal taste.

One’s that don’t work.

For me, the ones that leave me with a slightly disgruntled feeling are the cliff-hanger at the start. Yes, I know all the theories about cliff-hangers forcing your readers to just keep turning the page, but to be honest they just irritate me. Five pages in and it’s just getting exciting, and then it jumps back years. You keep turning the pages, hoping that it is going to get back to the action, but it doesn’t for – ever – and I am afraid I just want to throw the damn book out.

You keep doggedly reading, surely it has to get back to that little teaser sometime soon?

You hit mid-point.

You hit three-quarters!

Do I keep reading, well, sometimes, if the rest of it is interesting enough, but it generally leaves me – disatisfied.

One’s that do work

I am going to use one of my all time favourites for an example Use of Weapons – Ian M Banks

The book begins with a scene. It’s not a cliff hanger, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It leaves you intrigued…

Yes, the difference is subtle, and the scene at the start is fairly short. You know it’s the main character, but as you read the story, that early scene almost feels like a different person, and you are – intrigued – as to what made this change.

It has one of the most awesome endings of any book I have read ever. Yes, that is a pretty bold statement. I re-read the last 10 or so pages about 5 times because I kept thinking (or wishing) I had read it wrong! Now that’s a good book, one that picks you up and takes you somewhere that you really don’t want to go.

At the end it plays out the original scene, and like any true revelation, it all makes perfect sense.

Conclusion

Reading is about as personal as it can get, and what works for one person may not work for someone else, but I do like a good circular story, so long as they get the subtle blend right.

How to kill your character – the right way #amwriting #writing

If you are thinking about killing a character, it’s important to get it right.

I will talk in a moment about the rules for killing a character, but to put this in context I am going to talk about my current WIP. I have killed a few people in my book, not a lot, but I have killed a few.

I was pretty happy with my first deaths (hmm…maybe happy isn’t the word I’m looking for?) and felt I had ticked the ‘can I kill them’ check box. But when it came to a later death, I knew they had to go, keeping them alive would have been, to be honest, not very believable. So, I had ticked the ‘can I kill them’ check box, but this time it just did not feel right.

I knew they had to go…

I wrote the chapter, and I moved on…

But I felt something was wrong…

I realised I had missed a vital step…

I had not completed the after killing step. I had not dedicated book time for my other characters to react…

In my defence a) it was the first cut of my draft and everything was pretty scrappy b) it was the busy part of the book where everything is going crazy and the characters barely get time to breathe, let alone grieve. They had to pick themselves up and get back on with saving the world…but even here…and even when the sh*t is going down…you still feel.

The post killing character step is the most obvious, but least talked about part. We often focus on whether it is right to kill a character, but neglect to mention how important it is to dedicate time in the story to show how their death impacts everyone else.

For my earlier character deaths, I dedicated time, and in one instance much of the next chapter, to the characters reaction to the death. In these cases the death was part of the plot and set up the rest of the book. When it came to the later character death though, the book was close to the end. In this case it wasn’t so much about moving the plot, although it did impact the plot in some way, it was more about keeping the story realistic. There also wasn’t time, nor would it be right, to dedicate a large block for reflection–it would have slowed the pace right down. Once I realised what was missing, it was surprisingly easy to address the missing piece, and after it was done the whole chapter felt right.

There is a lot to be said for ‘gut feelings’ when it comes to writing, and it applies to many situations, not just killing a character off. If a section of the book feels wrong it probably is wrong, and you need to explore how to make it right.

This post-death reflection time applies equally to killing any character, whether they are loved, loathed or supporting. If you are going to kill them, it has to be for a reason, and it has to be acknowledged by our other characters if we are to make our story realistic. Not every character will react to death in the same way, nor in a stereotypical way, and it is important that their reaction compliments their profile.

How our characters handle death can even define them.

So, let’s finish off with the – how to kill your character right check list.

  • It drives an essential change in another character
  • It advances the plot
  • It adds realism to the story
  • It is a fitting punishment for their crime

Bonus check list

  • You are writing a murder mystery
  • Your name is George R. R. Martin

When not to kill a character

  • If it does not meet at least one of the above
  • To get a reaction from your reader (sadness or shock)

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on killing a character.

Happy writing 🙂

A writer’s guilty pleasure – reading #amwriting #amreading

I’m a writer, which means I like to write.

Sometimes I also like to read. A lot. When I should be sleeping. When I should be doing something important.

Now, I know all the theories that writers are supposed to read, and how you will never be a great writer if you don’t read a lot etc. etc. But am I the only one who sometimes reads a book with a sense of guilty pleasure?

It’s like…

I could have completed editing that chapter … but spent the evening reading instead.

Or I could have cleaned the house…but I spent the afternoon reading instead.

And even when there is nothing more important to do, and you allow yourself the guilty pleasure of reading time, there are degrees of guilt. For example reading a classic or literary fiction is far more acceptable than dipping into the latest genre fiction offering in the bestseller list. And reading about writing? That’s Okay too.

But a brain-off holiday romance? When you write crime fiction? What if it infects you and your gritty thriller turns into…Oh dear!

And what about people who write literary fiction? They must be in a constant state of fear that if they dip into the latest YA sensation it may give their masterpiece a new and unwelcome twist.

There is no hope for it. I don’t know a single writer who isn’t also a reader. I love the different genres, and I love the different writing styles. I love reading—even when I know I should be doing something else!

And despite the guilty pleasure…I’m off to read some more!