Guest Post: Jason Miner: Mistakes New Fiction Writers Make
Writing fiction is like no other writing in the world. There is just so much freedom to do as you wish. It is like being able to create your own world within your mind. At any moment anything can change and you are in control of it all. That is what I like about writing fiction the most, I think. The level of control you have over your characters, over the setting, heck, even over the weather. You as the author can make anything and everything happen, or make nothing happen at all. You have the ability to shape these character’s lives exactly the way you want to and no one can tell you that you are wrong. If you want a good guy to do a bad thing he can, or a bad guy can have a happy childhood, or a virtuous woman a sordid past. It is all up to you.
This is something that I think more new fiction writers need to remember. You are not being controlled by anything except what you allow yourself to do. Do not be happy sticking with the old clichés and standards. Do not be afraid to break out of the boxcompletely. I see so many new writers following a pattern that they think they have to conform to without realizing it is the writers who break the mold that are the most successful.
Another issue I see a lot with new fiction writers is the tendency to think that you have to write according to readers’ tastes. That is a huge lie that is perpetuated by media and the world around us. In fact, there is no way that you could ever successfully write a book that appealed to people’s tastes, because those tastes are always changing. By the time you writer, edit, and eventually publish your book the readers’ tastes will have flip flopped so many times that your book will be passé at best and trite at worst. Do not fall into this honey trap. There is no gold at the end of that rainbow.
The thing you have to remember as a new writer is to write for yourself first. You are a reader, right? You know what you love to read and what you can’t stand. You have read a book or a story and thought “I would have changed this or that or had the character do this instead.” Well, your work of fiction is your opportunity to do just that. Revel in your freedom and stop trying to tie yourself down to something. If you want to write a novel that is ninety percent poetry and you can make that work then do it. If you want to create your own language for your characters and your own planets and your own way of thinking and even your own physics then give it a shot. If you can pull it off then I guarantee you will get readers who like it.
Your characters are another aspect that frequently turns into a problem for new writers. They think they have to stick with a template of sorts. A good guy, a bad guy, a damsel in distress, and so on. Well, forget that idea. You do not have to do anything you do not feel like doing when you write. You can create deep, rich characters that are like real people, some combination of good and bad, happy and depressed, greedy and giving. People are hard to figure out, so good characters are hard to write. If you find your characters going their own ways during the course of your story then you know you are on the right track. Only a really strong character can overwhelm the writer and forge their own way through the tale.
Dialogue is another aspect that new writers often get hung up on. They try to do ‘info dumps’ where a new character is introduced and gets filled in so the reader can get all the information they need too. Do not do that, I beg of you. That is just so unrealistic that it is foolish. Yes, there are times in life where we come into a room and someone fills us in on what we missed, but nine times out of ten we have to figure things out on our own. And for good reason! Just like in real life, having readers figure out things as they go along and piece together clues is part of the fun. Instead of writing dialogue that sounds like a teacher talking to students or a police officer filling in his report, try having your characters talk naturally. Use slang, run on sentences, fragments, yes and no answers, grunts of acknowledgement and shrugs. Do not forget that body language and tone are just as important as the words that are spoken. “Okay, fine,” can mean SO many different things. It all depends on how you make the readers see the characters, what their tone and attitude is, and what their facial expression and body movements are. Dialogue is more than the words spoken and you must keep that in mind.
Again we come around to the characters. You know one thing that makes me want to slam a book shut a few paragraphs in? When a writer describes in detail how a character looks. If you can’t come up with a more creative way of telling me what your character looks like then having them look in a mirror and describe themselves then I do not want to read your story. That is it. I am done. Remember that it is okay to give little bits here and there. Red hair, check. Freckles, check. Oh, she’s short. Okay. You see? You got an idea of what she looks like in just a few words. You even got her sex, though I never said outright that she was female. It is easy to communicate how a character looks throughout the story without interrupting the flow. The important thing is that you know what your characters look like before you start writing. That way it will just come up naturally.
Speaking of coming up naturally, the setting of a story is extremely important. When I as a reader want to picture the characters running around doing whatever it is you have them doing I need to see where they are. Readers start out with a big white room and you have to fill it in for them. There are lots of ways to do this beyond “it was a dark and stormy night”. Yes, weather is important and can play a part, but you need to give readers an idea of what everything looks like, feels like, smells like, and so on. Let’s say I was talking about London. Well, that is all well and good for someone who has been there, but what about someone reading it from across the pond? Do they know what London is like? Nope. How about Texas? Do you know what Texas is like? If I set my story somewhere, no matter how common, I need to describe it. Even a classroom, which should be the most universally generic place ever, can have huge variations depending on reader’s backgrounds. Talk about the smell of the chalk, the hum of the computers, and the squeak of Nikes on the tile floors. All these tiny things add up to make the environment much richer and easier for readers to visualize.
The more information you give readers subtly, the more involved they can get in the stories. Think about books that have made an impact on your life. Can you see the characters? The setting? Smell the scents, taste the foods, hear the noises? If not, don’t you wish you could? Things like that take a good book and make it a great one.
Jason Miner an expert freelance writer loves writing articles on different categories. He is approaching different bloggers to recognize each other’s efforts through www.blogcarnival.com
He can be contacted through e-mail at jasonminer8atgmaildotcom.