POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILER ALERT! Do NOT read this if you want to read my Silver Skies 1996 Version and be surprised at some major plot points.
I like to make posts for writers because, frankly, I’m rather disgusted by the quality of writing coming out today. It all seems canned, mediocre and lacking in original, mesmerizing voices. I think our “instant” online culture is to blame as well as everyone’s desire to remain respectable within their writing community.
Let me tell you from my own experience what has and has not worked for me as a writer. First off, you need to choose a story that makes you uncomfortable somewhere. You need to view the story as a sort of inner journey, where you not only write to say something, but to explore some inner demons you don’t have the guts to talk about with anyone.
Next, you need to choose characters that resonate with you. What I mean by this is that they need to remind you of someone who has had a strong influence in your life in both good and bad ways. The danger in doing this is that you can become too close to the character to write about them objectively. So, yes, choose characters that resonate with you and then give each of them a twist to make them different enough from those characters that resonate with you, so that you can maintain a measure of objectivity when you create them and write about them. I usually make my protagonists based on people who’ve had a positive impact on my life and the villains are usually based on people who’ve had a negative impact on my life. But giving them that twist, will help you with lawsuits, if you’re worried about that, cuz someone who is your villain might say, “Hey, that’s me in your story! I’m gonna sue you.”
That’s why you put in the twist, make them enough like that awful person in your life so that you can create them in a manner that impacts your protagonists believably (cuz after all you’ve experienced what they’ve done to you), but not so alike that you’ve turned your novel into a memoir (unless you want to write a memoir). You put in the twist to give yourself some objectivity, so you don’t get so close to the characters that you fail to take into account how your readers will react to your portrayals. A writer can get SO CLOSE to their characters, that they fail to see how the average Joe Blow out there is going to react to this character and then your story gets boring cuz only YOU truly feel and understand how this character’s actions and motivations affect the story.
Now you got your characters and the germ of your story in your mind. Go read Save the Cat! Writes A Novel and decide which of the genres hits you most on a deep level using these characters and that should be the primary genre of your story. Also, remember to allow yourself to dream as you create your story. My most brilliant ideas come to me right as I awaken from sleep. Perhaps because I’ve just awakened from a dream state where my subconscious mind is in full force. I find if I go to bed thinking about my story and my characters (as if they were real people), I often wake up with some new and brilliant story ideas. If those ideas get your pulse racing and you feel like your story world suddenly seems as real as the world you actually inhabit, you’ve probably hit upon a winner.
Like last night I went to bed thinking about my rabbi in Israel in a state of war and how awful it must be to have to live like that. I was actually doing research about a rabbi living in Israel, reading his memoir. I tried to deeply understand his pain and went to bed thinking about it. And since my novel is a romance, I tried to tie that in with his love life. This morning as I awakened, the idea came to me that he’d lose his lover to the future because she can’t stay alive in the present, so he’d be willing to risk all to go after her and ensure she’s okay. It occurred to me that to make this work, it would have to be a secret and possibly deadly technology and not all the bugs have been worked out (brilliant intuition to the rescue). I thought about his lover’s father, who is a major POV character in the story. Knowing I have to keep this character in the story at least almost to the end, I was stumped how to do this with two of my characters in the future. The story would fall apart if this father character suddenly disappeared. The story would just seem to lack cohesion. Also, I had story threads in the present timeline that needed working out and I couldn’t just abandon them and, all of a sudden, have all my characters in the future. This would really strain believability and all the character arcs would be violated and the plot would lack cause/effect cohesion. I let my imagination roam free, imagining I was these characters.
What if the father character couldn’t go to the future because he was too invested in the present? He was still in love with his wife, who was about to divorce him and he also needed to stay behind to send supplies and cash to his daughter and lover now in the future, who would have no job, and no means to sustain themselves in this uncertain future. But he was also worried about his daughter and found a way to communicate with her in the future. HOWEVER, these communications were dangerous. The technology would be discovered by the enemy and it would be the end for them all. I think I’ve said enough to ruin the book for you, unless I change the plot later, so you get the drift. This all comes to me when I actually BECOME THE CHARACTER, so that his life seems more real than my own.
By the way, the minute you start feeling guilty about doing this – HERE COMES WRITER’S BLOCK. The minute you start thinking, I should get a real job and stop wasting my time with all this nonsense, is when you writing starts going in the direction of mediocrity, cuz you are no longer that character when you write, you are now a worried or “respectable” writer, feeling guilty or too proud about being a writer, and your creative, intuitive process is CUT OFF FOR THIS REASON.
As a writer, I find when my brilliant intuition is at the forefront, I actually become the characters in the story and find myself obsessed with what I’d be obsessed with if I was them! WHEN YOU GET TO THIS STAGE IN YOUR IMAGINATION when you create a story, this is when your most brilliant ideas come to the fore.
You won’t get to this stage if you’re feeling guilty about being a writer or are more obsessed about your status as a writer then you are the story you are writing. I know from experience that writers tend to feel guilty or obsessed about being a writer. You see, most of us make little or no money from our writings and we all have “friends” who laugh at us and say we’re wasting our time and should go out and GET A REAL JOB. As long as you have any hang-ups along this time, it shuts down your subconscious and guilt or obsession takes its place. To get to this dream state where you actually become the characters in your story, you have to get to the stage where your present reality is DEAD. You’re not worried about it. You’re not thinking about it. YOU HAVE TOTALLY BECOME YOUR CHARACTER and can now imagine what it’s like to be that character.
You might say, but I gotta make a living! Of course, you do. But you better not be thinking those thoughts when you’re working on your novel or you just shut off your creative imagination. Make it a sin to be worried about your status as a writer, when you are working on the novel. All you should care about when working on the novel is that future reader, who will read your book and NEVER BE THE SAME. All you care about is that character you are writing about, because, hey, HE’S REAL AND HE HAS TO STAY ALIVE.
Perhaps put on some music to help you stay in that mindset. Here’s one that works for me as I work on Silver Skies 1996 Version.
Voila! Now, you ARE THAT CHARACTER and you are actually IN YOUR STORY (your present world is DEAD). Believe me, if you’re thinking about what your latest critic said about your writing, you will NOT get to this stage. To HELL WITH THEM. THEY DON’T EXIST. YOU ARE THIS CHARACTER AND THEIR DILEMMA IS YOURS, now write it DOWN! When you ENTER THIS WORLD, WRITE DOWN YOUR EXPERIENCES, BECAUSE YOU ARE THE CHARACTER NOW.
Whatever they’re thinking, whatever events are happening to them. You have reached the stage where your brilliance is front and center and the ideas coming to you will seem so real to your readers, because YOU LITERALLY BECOME THIS CHARACTER. The only reality that is real to you is YOUR PAST and what has happened to you in YOUR PAST, which you can bring to your character, WHICH IS YOU RIGHT NOW.
This is why awakening from a dream in the morning is where some of your most brilliant ideas come from, because you haven’t yet acclimated yourself to your present reality when you first get out of bed in the morning (or whenever you get up). You’re still in ANOTHER WORLD.
The only time where you are allowed to be REAL is your past, coming back to life, coming back to haunt you. Yes, this is YOU, what you’ve experienced, what you felt at some of the most painful moments of your life, or the most exhilarating moments of your life. This is you and this is YOUR CHARACTER, WHICH YOU HAVE TOTALLY BECOME.
As a caveat, you do need to have the basics of fiction writing craft in your subconscious for this to work. So, to hell with your critics! Especially the ones who laugh at you or scorn you with nothing substantive to say that could improve your writing. The only critics you should listen to, are those who give you positive as well as negative feedback and who act like they really care about your work.
The rest are just jealous, petty or vindictive and they will drain your subconscious energy and shut the door to your imaginations and your ability to BECOME THE CHARACTERS in your story.
When you reach the stage where your characters’ events seem to be YOUR OWN, you are now THEM and ready to write. When you start feeling, and I mean actually feeling, what they feel, your subconscious is at the fore. Just pour it all out and you can sort it out later.
Perhaps, it’s plot ideas coming to you. Get out those scene cards and get them going! When you are at this stage, your inspiration is pouring out and it’s coming from your subconscious where some of your most truthful and brilliant ideas are.
A day or two (or LATER) after you’ve poured out your subconscious into whatever you needed to do, whether to work on plot, or characters or scenes or whatever, go back and reread what you did and make yourself totally the READER. Now you are a different character, you are a READER. You’re reading this for the FIRST TIME. What is your reaction to what you just wrote? Are you bored? Are you mesmerized?
If you are having a negative reaction to what you just wrote. Analyze it, take note of it. Try to analyze WHY you feel the way you do. If you wrote from a place of deep intuition, more than likely the solution to your problem, may just be a minor tweak. Ask yourself, “So I’m reading this and I’m bored, because the plot was predictable.”
Okay, ask yourself, what can I do to make it unpredictable?
Or maybe the character’s actions aren’t interesting. How do you make them interesting?
In order for this technique to work, you have to see your story as a living, breathing organism and it’s alive and moving and you are the creator, infusing your own inner depths, experiences into that living, breathing organism as it comes to life. If your life (your inner core, your passions) are not infusing into this organism it dies a slow, but sure, death; and your work becomes what most books are today – MEDIOCRE.
You need to keep your writer’s energy alive as you write, which means, the world around you is DEAD when you’re working on the story, especially in the first draft stage.
In the rewrite stage, you become another character, the READER. If, as a reader, the story does not excite you, then you probably failed to actually become the character as you wrote or planned about him or her. It’s hard to actually become the character when you’re obsessed with guilt over BEING A WRITER CUZ YOU’RE NOT MAKING ANY MONEY, or you’re too busy obsessing over the latest, usually baseless, criticism you got from a “fan” or fellow traitor writer, who is only trying to drain your energy and keep you from writing.
If the criticism makes you feel that you should do something more constructive than writing, and you’ve written some good stuff already, it means the source of that criticism is not constructive and that person should become a NOBODY TO YOU.
Finally, if you’re really having trouble BECOMING THAT CHARACTER in order to write stories that leap off the page, ask yourself, “How dare I deprive the world of a masterpiece, just cuz I’m a coward and more concerned about placating mediocrity in order to be respectable!”
What if something you write, might stop a future person from committing suicide? Or maybe something you write might change the world for the better! You will allow some puny person, whose only job is to stop your masterpiece from changing the world to rule your life? How selfish and self-absorbed of you! Don’t see writing as a job, see it as a CALLING. If writing is only a job to you, quit it and do something that will give you that respectable income you crave. Cuz, believe me, writing for money sucks. It just becomes another job to you and it no longer excites you, and, believe me, your writing just becomes the same old, same old. Might as well go into another profession with more financial security and get that respectability you so crave.
You might say, but some writers have great respectability! Like look at Stephen King or some real famous writers you know. Yeah, and I’ll tell you this, the minute they start worrying about respectability instead of being a great writer, is when their writing starts to SUCK. True respectability as a writer happens, when 100 years from now, someone picks up your book and you change their life.
Quit listening to the devil and GET TO WORK! You have a masterpiece to write that will CHANGE THE WORLD!
Copyright © 2020 Gail Chord Schuler. All Rights Reserved.