Tag Archives: Write a novel

Write Fiction: 3 Tips To Make Assembling Your Novel’s Cast Easy

Write Fiction: 3 Tips To Make Assembling Your Novel’s Cast EasyYou write fiction.

Want to improve it? Here you go: focus on your characters. Fiction is always about the people.

People care about people. Of course your “people” might be purple dragons from the outer reaches of the galaxy, or rabbits as in Watership Down.

How to write fiction: it’s always about the PEOPLE

It’s impossible to emphasize this enough. Here’s an excerpt from Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today.

Readers read fiction for the people. Therefore, no matter how amazing the story world you’ve created, start your blurb with your story person; your main character.

The most common error I see authors make in fiction blurbs is that they start by describing their story world.

This rarely works, because… who cares? We’ve no reason to care about your amazing world until we meet the characters who inhabit that world.

So let’s look at some tips for assembling a cast of characters for your novel (or short fiction).

1. Think in terms of an ensemble cast

An “ensemble” is a bunch of things or people intended to be used together.

Here’s why an ensemble matters when you’re collecting a cast for your current or next book: you get to differentiate your cast.

You’ve heard the writing advice to “contrast your characters.” Characters in bestselling fiction, hit movies, or long-running TV series, always play off each other. They’re different.

My favorite example of contrasting characters is the movie The Odd Couple, original version. Felix and Oscar couldn’t be more different.

My favorite quote from the movie:

(Oscar) I can’t take it anymore, Felix, I’m cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. “We’re all out of cornflakes. F.U.” Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!

2. Collect intriguing jobs to help you to create intriguing people

In Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Create A Character there’s a fast and simple character creation template:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Attribute
  • Primary external problem

Your plot is what people do.

Notice the “occupation” in the template? Harping on bestselling fiction, hit movies, or long-running TV series again, what your characters do to earn a crust is important.

Consider:

  • James Bond (secret service agent);
  • Harry Potter (apprentice wizard);
  • Super heroes…

Of course, you don’t need to write about secret service agents, wizards, et al. Your characters’ occupations can be more mundane. Check out the classifieds in your local paper, or even job hunting websites to find fun occupations.

For example, in Dying To Please, Linda Howard’s romance novel, the main character is a female butler.

3. Keep a collection of intriguing situations too

Similarly to collecting intriguing occupations, collect intriguing situations.

Sources:

  • Gossip: family and friends’ gossip, as well as news stories and celebrity gossip;
  • Nonfiction books, especially histories, as well as biographies and autobiographies;
  • Your imagination.

Writers and authors tend to be magpies. We collect glittering bits and pieces which attract our attention. We may never use those bits and pieces, but items in your collection will inspire your “what if” brainstorming sessions.

I keep my various collections in Evernote, primarily because I can jot down something intriguing anywhere I happen to be.

When you write fiction, you’re writing about people

To hammer the point once again: fiction is always about the people.

Another example of the importance of people. I just received an email promotion for Sally Koslow’s Another Side of Paradise: A Novel.

The callout sentence…

In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise, while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is slowly drowning in booze.

The movie The Great Gatsby came out a few years back and I just did a search for “F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Lots references to him in Google, as well as suggestions for additional searches. Fitzgerald died in 1940, but there’s still considerable interest in him, which means that Sally Koslow’s novel should do well.

Remember (a final time): fiction is about people.

Happy writing. 🙂

Discover what sells in mystery fiction — YOU can write it

Check out our new program, Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense now. You can write a mystery, even if you’re a new novelist.

Planning And Writing A Hot-Selling Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 7

Planning And Writing A Hot-Selling Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 7

eBook: $4.99

When you write in series, you're giving yourself more chances to sell with every novel you write.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

eBook: $5.99

You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Check out Angela’s Writing Classes and Angela’s books for writers.

Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Discover Your Plot

Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Discover Your Plot

Are you new to fiction writing? If so, you may be confused about plotting.

You have questions:

  • What’s a plot?
  • Do you need a plot?
  • What if you’re convinced that you “can’t plot?”

Let’s answer those questions.

Fiction writing: plotting for beginners

Basically a plot in fiction is a series of events which are linked by cause and effect.

And yes, your fiction needs a plot. Plotless fiction isn’t satisfying to readers and it’s not much fun to write either.

If you’re convinced that the plotting fairy failed to bestow her gifts on you, that’s fine. Some authors love plots and outlines. Other authors would rather stick a fork in their eyeball than develop a rigid outline — I belong to this group.

In Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Create A Character, I shared my cavalier approach to plotting:

Once I have a main character, a BIG problem for the character, and an antagonist, I start writing. I’m a pantser, pretty much. That said, I rely on my intuition. Should some good ideas magically arrive, I might outline the major plot points (beats) of the novel.

I’ve become competent at plotting over the years. However, I know that I’m a natural pantser. When I force myself to plot I risk losing my inspiration for a novel.

Let’s look at a couple of tips which will help you to discover your plot while you’re writing.

Discovering your plot while you’re writing is easy, and it’s fun too.

1. Focus on your characters: give them lots of problems, and make choices

Plotting starts when you have a character with problems and a goal. This isn’t just any goal — it’s a goal he MUST achieve, or die. He may not die physically, but his life is over.

Many of your characters’ problems stem from who they are — as many of our problems do, too.

In Plotting Fiction Made Easy With Strong Characters: 3 Tips we recommended that you give your story people positive and negative character traits, and:

A suggestion: any positive character trait can become a negative trait (flaw.) Traits, both positive and negative, tend to be on a continuum.

Your plot is what your characters DO — and what they do in response to any event depends on their traits (attributes).

For example, let’s say that your novel’s main character, Bill, is arrested for murdering his ex-wife. Bill has a problem. Bill also has a goal: to prove that he didn’t murder his ex-wife.

You’re the author: you have ultimate power. So you choose Bill’s attributes, and decide that he’s: introverted, self-critical, and witty. Bearing these traits in mind, how will he react to his arrest? Who does he call? What does he do next?

Vital tip: once you’ve decided what kind of personality Bill has, that immediately affects what he does.

Bill is your character — you can give him any personality traits you choose. Perhaps you decide that Bill is honest, intelligent, and attractive to women. Now he’s a different kind of person from introverted, self-critical Bill.

This alternate version of Bill will react in a different way to his arrest for murder.

After you’ve created a main character and have given him certain attributes, your plot begins when you give him a BIG problem. Your character’s step by step actions, and reactions, create your plot.

Major tip — the bigger the problem, the better.

Go to Amazon and read the blurbs of bestselling novels for examples of big problems.

(BTW — speaking of blurbs; here’s how to write blurbs.)

2. Plotting fiction: keep your characters acting and reacting

You’ll give your main character a BIG problem — one that seems overwhelming, given the personality he has. Readers like to see main characters fight for what they want.

Fiction is about change, so your main characters need to change in response to the events of your novel. Remember the cause and effect of your plot: something happens, then your character acts, and as a result of his actions, something else happens… And your PLOT grows.

We talked about your novel’s milestones in this blog post. By the end of the setup phase of your novel (the setup is around 25% of a novel) you need to have everything in place for ongoing fireworks as your main character struggles and grows.

Now your story takes a major twist — you need a major change at the end of the setup point; something readers don’t expect.

For example, if you were writing Bill’s story, by the end of the setup Bill is released from jail. He’s out on bail. Not only has poor Bill lost his job so he needs to find money for a lawyer, his teenage children believe that he’s guilty. They’ve gone to live with their grandparents who hate him…

The twist? Bill discovers that his wife was leading a double life.

As long as you keep cause and effect in mind, you’ll discover your plot when you keep writing. Remember cause and effect, write on, and have fun. 🙂

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

eBook: $5.99

You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Check out Angela’s Writing Classes and Angela’s books for writers.

Plotting Problems? 3 Easy Fixes (They’re Fun)

Plotting Problems? 3 Easy Fixes (They’re Fun)

You’re writing a novel, and you decide that you’ve got plotting problems.

Perhaps you’re stuck, and have no idea what happens next. You may decide that your novel is trash. One of my students couldn’t get started on a new novel. She was bored with every idea she had.

Before you decide that your “plotting problems” are so severe that your novel can’t recover, take a moment to consider that your real problem is that you’re uninspired, so you’ve stopped generating ideas.

When my students complain about their plots, I reply: “chances are that you have idea problems. Let’s look for ways to generate more ideas, so that you can keep writing.”

Plotting problems are idea problems

When you’re inspired, you’re an idea machine. You churn out ideas effortlessly. Unfortunately, you’ll have many days when it seems that your muse and creativity have departed for parts unknown.

On those days, you need to kickstart your creativity manually, and develop ideas — the more ideas the better. Bonus points for crazy ideas.

One of my students said in complete frustration: “BUT ideas about what, exactly?”

Try these easy fixes; they’re fun, and easy.

1. Develop a subplot: money, sex, personal relationships, or…?

Money and sex make the world go round, and everyone has relationship problems of one kind or another. Use this knowledge to develop a subplot.

Every novel, no matter the genre, benefits from a subplot. Your subplot will tie into the novel, giving you more plot ideas, and enhancing your main characters’ characterizations.

2. Give your primary characters more problems: both internal, and external

When you have plotting problems, chances are that you’re not making the most of your characters’ problems.

While you’re alive, you have problems. So do your characters; they need both internal, as well as external problems.

Let’s say you’re writing a thriller. Your main character’s a resident doctor at a major hospital. She’s concerned that a new drug is killing patients.

What does she do now? You have no idea. So, let’s tie your plot to your main character.

Make a list of negative internal character traits of your doctor. Perhaps she’s paranoid, and obsessive. How does she show her paranoia, in a scene? How does she show her obsession? How do these traits affect her? Again, remember you need to show.

Her positive AND negative traits, will affect your plot — your plot is what your characters DO.

Next, make a list of external problems she has. Perhaps she’s sharing accommodation, and doesn’t like it. What about her family? What problems does she have with them?

Everyone has problems. Your characters’ problems equal PLOT.

By the time you’ve generated negative internal traits, as well as external problems for your character, you should have many ideas which will solve your plotting problems.

Key: create scenes, and keep writing.

3. Give your primary character a pet, a hobby, a passion, or a bad habit

Got a pet? Give your primary character one too. Or give him a hobby, or a passion. Perhaps he loves to cook.

Habits are plotting gold too.

Make a list of bad habits you can inflict on your primary character. Maybe he:

  • Smokes, and is perpetually trying to give it up (or maybe he’s unrepentant, and has no intention of quitting.) This habit leads to problems, like… (fill in the blank.)
  • Is always late. This habit masks a deeper problem, which is… (fill in the blank.)
  • Has the habit of interfering in the lives of his children. Or parents. Or wife. This leads to… (fill in the blank.)

Plotting problems are always idea problems

Make idea generation a habit. It’s a good habit, because no author can rely on inspiration. At times, inspiration will fail, and you’ll need to kickstart it.

Have fun.

Planning And Writing A Hot-Selling Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 7

Planning And Writing A Hot-Selling Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 7

eBook: $4.99

When you write in series, you're giving yourself more chances to sell with every novel you write.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing

How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Check out Angela’s Writing Classes and Angela’s books for writers.