Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Creative Writing 101, part 2

Continuing with what I learned from Kurt Vonnegut, in which I analyze his 8 Basic Rules of Writing and how that can be reflected in my own writing goals.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

This is the easiest of all the rules for me. I’m a big fan of starting in media res and jumping straight into the action. By the end of my first chapter in my revised novel, the heroine has found out about her magical powers and has begun her quest. In the first sentence of the novel I’m currently revising, the heroine is in a strange new world and figuring out how she got there. My problem isn’t starting near the end. My problem is making the facts clear. Maybe I start too near the end, but sometimes my readers get lost, wondering how my characters got there, who they are, what they’re like. My goal in writing: Start the novel with action, but don’t forget about establishing sympathetic characters so the reader actually cares about what happens.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
I’ve got to up the ante on this one. I’ve had my sentimental book*, and now I’m ready for real writing. My problem stems from the characterization versus plot problem. I have a story in mind, but in my current work in progress, I’ve not got real characters. So, when writing, I think about how to get to the end result of the plot, without thinking about how everything directly reflects on the characters. My goal in writing: Focus more on the characters—let the characters drive the plot, not the plot drive the characters.

*sentimental book: a writer’s first book, or most personal book, or the book they first thought might actually get published. Either way, it’s a book that the writer feels so connected to, he’s not willing to do to many structural changes to it. The writer is blind to criticism on this book. For me, it was Babbletongue. I loved it so much, I wasn’t willing to change anything, even the character’s names...and it took writing another book that I wasn’t emotionally attached to for me to set aside my feelings.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
This is another one I don’t have trouble with. If nothing else happens in my writing career, I will know that at the very least I have written something that pleases one person. My momma.
My writing goal: I don’t have to try to please the world, but a little marketability would help.


PJ Hoover said...

Be a sadist is good. I bought the Worst-case scenario handbook and use it to get ideas for horrible situations to put my characters in.

keri mikulski :) said...

I definitely do number 5.. Oh and I like number 7, I struggle with the pleaser in me. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

beth said...

PJ--Great idea! I should check that book out...I'd never thought of applying it to characters.

Keri--Welcome! So glad you liked it :)