“Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.
I spoke at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in beautiful St. Simons Island, Ga., two weeks ago and took copious notes at the sessions. Although I couldn’t go to all the faboo classes, I’m sharing some tips from some of the ones I was lucky enough to attend.
Here is what awesomesauce chica lit author Berta Platas* had to say in Beginning Novel Writing.
- Novel: a long work of narrative fiction
- could be based on a real event, but you change it up
- Novella: a 60-100-page work of narrative fiction
- Short stories: under 60 pages
- Novellas & short stories are not published on their own—but in anthologies
- Genre: a category of story type—where you’d find a particular book in the bookstore
- Stories can be character- or plot-driven (strong suspense).
- Pace-heavy books most often get made into movies.
- Your hero cannot be perfect—perfect people do not exist.
- Give them flaws—but not too many.
- Internal conflict: conflict within the character’s own self
- External conflict: some outside factor is stopping the hero from attaining his goals
- Be mean to your characters—it’s hard, but do it!
- Figure out what your characters are most afraid of—and then stomp on it.
- What are they afraid to lose? Take it away from them.
- The main character has to change or you have no story.
- If the MC does not change, then there has to be a reason.
GOAL, MOTIVATION, CONFLICT
- An easy way to craft interesting characters: goal, motivation, conflict
- Goal: What does the character want?
- Motivation: What causes the character to want this? What drives her to seek it?
- Conflict: What (or who) is standing in the way of the character attaining her goals?
- Do this for your heroes as well as your villains.
- Everything your villians do, they have reasons for (in their minds)
- They think their actions are right or justified in some way.
IN THE FLESH
- Flesh out your characters—interview them (character sketch)
- You don’t have to use all of it, but if you’ve got everything down somewhere, you will have more believable characters
- This will also keep your characters true to who you know them to be.
POINT OF VIEW
- Who is the best character to tell your story? It may surprise you, after you flesh them all out.
- 1st person POV – uses I/me/we/us/our/etc.
- This is limiting in that you can’t see anything the main character isn’t seeing.
- 3rd person POV – uses he/she/they/their/her/his/etc.
- Close third is 3rd person limited feels like 1st person, but it isn’t.
- You can have other POVs with 3rd person limited.
- Multiple POVs allow you to see different parts of the story.
- When doing this, however, the voices need to be very clear.
- Be careful not to “head-hop”—going between multiple perspectives within one scene or chapter = confusing.
- Stick to 10-page chapters (helps the pacing).
- Make sure there’s a hook to each chapter. (“She opens the door and sees something amazing.” Makes you turn the page.)
- Give your character a friend, in order to impart info.
- But don’t have a cast of millions; keep it as slim as you can.
- Sometimes these secondary characters have subplots
- Don’t give walk-off characters backstory.
- Don’t have unnecessary actions or details because your reader will invent reasons and fixate them.
- Kill off all your characters—and then bring them back to life as needed.