Friday, August 24, 2012

“I want to write!”

So many people want to write. What does it take?

For one thing, I believe, it takes a goal. It is not enough to want to write. You must want to write a story.

That means learning what makes up a story. It looks simple: a bunch of people who do interesting stuff. Believe me, it isn’t simple.

You want characters who seem real, who are believable. You want them to act like real human beings—which means that you cannot create cardboard cut-outs who get pushed here and there by the plot.

The plot. Oh, yes, you want a plot. That means you want your characters to do things and to have experiences, but it also means they must do these things and have these experiences for good and sufficient reasons. They may not even be aware of these reasons, of course. They may learn, as most of us do, as they go along.

Needing a plot means you also need a conflict. Your character has to need something and need it badly. Not just want it or wish for it—have a deep and unceasing need. What is the something? Could be survival. Could be love. Could be a million dollars. Could be a burger with fries.

However, to the character, at that moment, the object of need must be the most important thing in life.

Your character can’t satisfy this need easily or without effort. Indeed, the character’s efforts should make the goal harder to reach, not easier. Elizabeth is prejudiced against the proud Mr. Darcy, so her need for a loving husband is made keener. Jim’s sneaking ashore with the pirates is supposed to let him spy on Long John Silver—but he winds up separated from his friends and (so he believes) hunted by men who want to kill him.

Don’t make it easy. Make it hard, and then make it even harder. Your character has to be broken to an extent before he or she can begin to mend. Huckleberry Finn has to decide that he’s ready to go to hell for Jim before he can help Jim reach the heaven of freedom.

The character must change, maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. In some fundamental way the events of the story must change the character.

If you want to do that—if you want to write a story, then can you do it?

Of course you can. Whether you can write a story that others want to read—well, I don’t know, and probably you don’t either. That takes a few things, too, and as we go along, I’ll probably want to write about them.

Feel like writing a story?

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you've started this blog and expect to see a quick and growing wave of interest. With your vast experience in both trad and ebook publishing, as well as multiple genres, your comments about writing are bound to perk our ears. Lookin' forward to my next visit.