This post is authored by Will Flora
I’ve been writing for a lot longer than I had recently perceived. I’ve written music as far back as age three or four (my aunt has kept it all these years) and I have been writing and telling stories for longer than that. I wrote a 10 page story loosely based on Voltron in the 6th grade, I was in creative writing clubs, my friends and I used to create our own RPG games (that were subsequently taken up by our teachers, destroying our fantasy worlds). I now write short stories and poetry in the vein of science fiction.
I have been enjoying writing for a very long time.
I think the most enjoyable thing about writing is creating something from scratch. I like to think of writing as creating a recipe. Someone else might make good fried rice, but you have a good recipe for fried rice too!
Likewise, there are many writers in every genre, so what are you going to do to make your writing stand out? What is your calling card as a writer?
My style developed as a result of my reading. I own somewhere between 200 and 250 comic books, which has greatly influenced my writing style. I find prose to be somewhat anemic when developing a situation.(GASP!) Therefore, I have a very dialog-driven writing style. I would rather have three pages of:
“What do you mean the reactor is on the verge of exploding?”
“Exactly what I said you idiot! It’s gonna blow up any minute now!”
“Oh. We should probably leave then huh?”
John and Shamus looked at each other with wide eyes. The dials read critical, leaving them no choice but to run at breakneck speeds towards the facilities monolithic doors. They reached the threshold with seconds to spare; the force of the explosion still forced them to the ground.
So as you can see, my style is not the same as someone who like to describe locations and scenarios. I like to let the characters tell me about the situation. Which leads to our next topic of conversation.
As you can probably tell, character development is very important to me. When I began writing my first novel, every character was me. The main character was me. His brother was me. The old man was me. It was a very terrible world, filled with mes.
It was BORING.
It’s STILL boring.
Now I have a different approach. The first thing I do is a little world building. If I know where my characters live, I can better inform their attitudes and world views. A freedom fighter in post-apocalyptic Europe is going to look very different from a genius inventor called on to save the world from an alien threat.
Now that you have a world built around your character, you will need other characters. They will also have views formed from their surroundings, even though they may be completely different from the first character. You can use these different characters to balance the emotions in your story. One can be angry because of circumstance X, while the other is mildly inconvenienced by circumstance X.
Interaction within these emotions is also a key element of story. When my friends tell me stories from their everyday lives, I often find myself asking things like:
How did your spouse react?
Well what did he do then?
What happened when you told him/her that?
What do I want to know? I want to know how certain people react to certain situations. I want to know how certain people interact with other people. For my writing style, this comes incredibly easy. I’m already dealing with a dialog driven story, so characters interacting is a pillar of the plot. My story literally rests on how characters interact with each other.
The Third Act
There comes a point in every story where the interacting characters have something go terribly wrong. This is known as your story’s ‘Third Act’. Or as I like to call it, ‘When all the crap hits the fan’. If you are a sci fi writer, this is when the people being invaded stand up to the aliens. This is when the Rebels have to blow up the Death Star before it blows up their base on Yavin IV. This is when Superman fights Nuclear Man in ‘Superman IV: the Quest for Peace’. Because that’s the awesomest movie ever made. (hint: IT ISN’T)
So for your story, your characters interactions are crucial at this point. If they can’t work together, they will die. Or be imprisoned, or whatever. You should develop your characters in such a way that they can work together. If they aren’t on the same page for the whole story, then magically understand each other int he third act, your readers have every right to call shenanigans. Good character development leads to a great third act, which in turn makes a great story.
I hope all of these things are helpful to you. When I first started writing seriously I had no idea about these things. I also want you to know that there isn’t a specific formula. What works for my style may not work for yours. I’m certainly no Isaac Asimov or Philip K. Dick. I just want to help people who are stuck. But whatever you do, whether it’s uplifting or discouraging, don’t stop writing. You may have a long way to go before you are good at it, but you still need the practice. As do I. So keep up the good work, and I hope to read some of your work!