Tag Archives: creative

Five things I want to avoid when writing

A simple list of five things I want to avoid in my stories.

1) The Mary/Gary Sue Protagonist

The character who is always right and always wins.  Every likes her.  No one can defeat her.  She never does anything but always comes out on top.

2) The Cartoon Antagonist

He’s evil because he is.  No depth.  No personality beyond opposing the Protagonist.  You can’t really hate him, because there isn’t enough of him to hate.

3) Consequence Free World

Buildings are destroyed, vehicles crash, banks robbed, people hurt or killed, but in the end everything turns out okay.  Sometimes with music.

4) Static Characters

The character wakes up, goes on an adventure, experiences pain, fear, joy, and victory, and wakes up the next day the same character.

5) Repetitive Challenges

The Antagonist only interacts with the Protagonist in one or two different ways.  No real variation in their stories, and the Protagonist is never really challenged to grow.

Ending a Project

I’ve been researching serialization, the idea of taking a story and cutting it into episodes released in sequence instead of one giant book.  This idea appeals to me, at least for my large project that may be too big to be a first book.  While I haven’t decided on a course of action, the research has gotten me thinking about how my stories should end.

This is a rather new concentration for me, as I can start a story at the drop of a hat, but I have only finished one, and that one is the start of a series.  For only one of my projects, a fantasy trilogy, have I outlined the story from beginning to end, and that one is proceeding at a nice pace.  The rest I haven’t figured out an ending to.

So, I have spent some time thinking about my projects and how they might end.

For many projects, the answer is ‘I don’t know’.  I have an idea or a start, but no real story.  But for a couple of the projects, this exercise has paid great rewards.

For example, take the large book I mentioned earlier.  I have many stories I want to tell in that world, but not all of them revolve around the main character.  So I asked myself ‘What if I limited myself to five or six books centering on her?’  I always had an idea of how I would remover her from the story if I had to, so I made that the ending to her story.

The result on the story is favorable.  By having an end in mind, I can plan out the events and their consequences, and begin building towards the decisions that end her saga.  (Spoiler: she doesn’t die, and will still be a character in other stories set in that world).  The ending also acts as a goal: instead of feeling pressured to write as many stories as I can, I have a finish line I need to get to.  The difference is surprisingly important.

Another example is a Sci-Fi story I recently started.  The main character has been asked to go and stop a war from starting, a task made so difficult by the forces arrayed against him that it would take at least two books, if not more, to tell.  In addition, the goal of stopping a war means that the conditions currently exist for a war to occur, and that the character must keep a war from starting long enough for the situation to change.  As I contemplated the ending, I had to decide how to finish the story, and chose to give the story a Five-year arc.  However many books it’ll take, the character now has a deadline.

The lesson I’ve learned from this?  Knowing how to end your story is as important as how you start it, especially for projects that are expected to run over several books.  It provides a goal, some guidelines for how the story can and should progress.  Something I really need to think about when working on my projects.

Have a nice day, and write on!

Orphan Folder

Nothing sucks more than remembering that you had a great idea, but not remembering the idea.

Several years ago, I started to combat that problem by opening an Orphan file. It’s nothing more complex than a folder where I store flashes of inspiration. A line of dialogue, a scene, the basic concept for a story, it goes in the folder. An outline that I’m slowly working out? Saved.

It’s nice to know that I have all these ideas saved, and I have raided it a few times to get ideas enough to get around Writer’s Block. I doubt I will actually get to use all of them, but I’m okay with being more creative than productive. It means I’ll never run out of things to work on.

Happy writing! 🙂