Heyo everyone, Gumiho here and I’ve got a treat for you. Writing help as always, but this time I’ve been tinkering around with infographics and I wanted to make one for you guys.
What’s This All About?
Today is all about telling what ideas are worth keeping and which ideas kinda aren’t bending over backwards for if you’re on the fence about it. So here’s that graphic I promised~
1. It Adds To Your Theme
To understand this it helps to think of your novel as a rowboat. If one half of your crew is rowing in one direction and the other half is rowing the other way, then you’re going to have a hell of a time trying to get anywhere. But if you all row together, then you’ll go farther and faster than if it was just you alone.
Novels are kinda the same. Scatter a bunch of random symbols and subtext that doesn’t go together and the book will be all over the place. Readers will see that you’re pointing to something greater and the human condition, sure, but if you’ve got a bunch of fingers pointing in different directions then we don’t know what you want us to focus on.
But also there’s the other kind of forcing, the whole smashing people over the heads with the theme and moral lessons is also a no-no.
2. It Adds Depth To A Character
Stories are about change. Stories are about emotions. Stories are about people(-like things). Stories are about emotional changes of people, unless of course you’re writing something incredibly bold and metaphysical. We keep turning the pages because we want to keep stalking these wonderfully fascinating people you’ve created in your story world.
And naturally we want to get to know them one layer at a time. But where beginners get carried away is trying to tell everything up front instead of showing what’s actually necessary for that particular story moment.
Handle characters like you would handle a new date. You put your best foot forward first, right? (I hope so.) You don’t try to look desperate and you definitely don’t try to tell them all your deepest darkest secrets/ flaws/ life stories on the first night because that’s creep-central and also means that you become dull.
Same thing with novels. Let us get to know your characters little by little rather than a huge dump.
3. Intro, Set Up, and Pay Off
Ever read a book where the author introduces something waaaaaaay too late and you’re like “wait, where the heck did this come from?”. Or on the other side of the spectrum, have you ever read a book where the author introduced something really cool and interesting, tapped it once or twice, but it fell off when you were kinda expecting to see it again?
Different situations, but same root. The author didn’t follow through with that aspect all the way. And this is a huge culprit of things disappointing a reader. If you foreshadow a threat, you must use that threat later in the story or otherwise is feels like a cop-out.
If you’re one of those writers that get ideas late and write them into the story in a hurry, you have to go back and make sure that idea is touched upon early in the story, and set up so that the final moment where it springs is believable. Because endings are our final impression of a story, people get really mad when they feel like your characters only get saved by random deus ex machina.
4. It Intrigues You
Robert Frost famously said, “No tears in the writer. No tears in the reader.” The same thing goes for boredom. If you’re bored writing it, why would you ask me, your hypothetical reader to A) spend my hard-earned money on it and B) spend my leisure time to read it?
Nothing boggles my mind more than the idea of writing something you hate writing…by choice. As a writer myself, I write and improve my writing because I love writing. Getting up in the morning and not writing is a reality I can’t picture. There’s so much fun to be had in freewriting and in every chapter that not having fun isn’t possible unless I was already feeling god-awful prior to the session.
And I do acknowledge that this isn’t automatic for everyone, especially if you’re just starting on your writing journey, but seriously if you don’t like writing it, don’t write it. Substitute it for something more interesting if you can. It’s a lot harder and unnecessarily painful to write what you aren’t interested in, in my opinion. Whereas if you write what you love, you tend to get a lot more done in the same amount of time.
Some people might say, well I’m interested in X, but I can’t put it in my story because it’s about Y, or all this has happened. And to that I have two things to say…
A) Are you 100% sure that you can’t?
Coming from my own experience, my story is about kitsune, disease epidemics, spirits, chi, cloning, gods being revived from the dead, technology, the Japanese mafia, and assassins getting blackmailed. Logically a story that crowded, it seems like there isn’t any room for something as mundane as ice pops.
But you can bet your chair-sitting butt that they’re in my story. In fact, these mundane objects have been elevated to literary symbols now. But initially, I had no idea where to go with that idea. Shout-out to my friend for helping me iron that out.
B) Write It Anyway
I am very much a try it before you knock it advocator when it comes to writing. And I’m not saying that you have to write pages and pages of this idea into your novel only to scrap it. Maybe you just jot your idea down somewhere or write a few paragraphs in a separate folder or text file. Just enough of a test drive that maybe it sparks more intrigue, or for you to say “meh, not feeling it”. Freewriting and brainstorming with friends are my litmus tests of choice for this, but you do what’s comfortable.
Now one last thing, and I promise I’ll shut my yap. Kudos to you, if you read this far because you’re in time for the most important part.
Something that I find that often holds true, aka my little golden rule is that, good ideas will stick around. Bad ideas tend to fall away after a while, but the good ones worm into your brain and set up camp. And if it’s a really good idea, it grows and matures over time like a pearl in a clamshell, cheese, or wine.
And if you’ve got an idea following you around like that, but it’s not quite following the graphic, don’t hurry to throw it out. Keep an eye on it. It could be a gem. 🙂