So, I mentioned last month that I had a wee bit of good news to share. My news is that The Emerging Writers’ Festival Reader will contain a piece from me in it. Yipee! It’s called A Letter to My Younger Self (from the time machine) and contains some little ol’ pearls of writerly wisdom from a writer to her younger self.
The Reader combines highlights from the 2009 festival and is a resource for emerging writers, with ‘how-to’ advice and information, along with advice and experiences from established and emerging writers, publishers, editors, and other literary movers and shakers. It’s being launched in late October with a broad Australian distribution. It’ll also be sold at the 2010 festival.
Now, I’ve been a tad selfish and posted about receiving earth-shattering writerly wisdom, but then failed to actually share said wisdom. Oops. And now I’ve so confidently blurted out about my getting of wisdom I’m wondering if I can express it clearly. I mean what if it was one of those personal light-bulb moments that shift you on your own axis but leave other people unmoved and looking at you like you’ve just admitted you eat anchovies and ice-cream together?
Still, I said I’d explain, so damn it, I’m gunna. The gist of it is this:
- Avoid having a character state what’s going on emotionally for them. You get a lot more dimension when the opposite happens. Yes, it’s the show don’t tell advice, but the way it was delivered to me, using specific examples of where I got it wrong in my story, finally made me see how to avoid this properly, or at least how to spot it better.
- Find where the potential for change is for your characters. Know where those moments are, why they’re there, and what to do with them. And if possible, start the (short) story with one of them.
- “Sometimes the more limited your characters’ self-insight is, the more plausible they are.”
- Always ask yourself ‘why am I showing this to the reader?’ If you can’t answer it, delete it!
- When looking at plot, characters, and narrative keep asking yourself – how can I make it worse? I did this all through the re-draft of my story and it allowed me to take out all the sentimentality that was weighing it down and create more tension, more drama, and more potential for change.
- “Your narrative will stay lively and unexpected if you let the reader SEE the character reacting to things they don’t expect and making decisions”. I love showing the reader inside a character’s head, which is what I’d done with this character, but rather than let things happen to the character I was doing too much relating what she was feeling and why, which gets annoying for the reader. This is a big one for me. I’m an articulate person, especially when I don’t agree, or am in conflict with someone. But does that sort of person make for a good character in fiction? Perhaps not! This was one of the pearls that seeped into my bones!
Hope it helps you too!