THE TIES THAT BIND

A story is something that happens to someone you’ve been led to care about.  If your readers don’t have emotional interest in your hero or heroine, then nothing else matters … not the plot, not the setting , nothing!    And if your readers don’t connect immediately, they probably won’t connect at all.

The way  to build an emotional bridge lies in the choices you make as you fashion the character and his fictional world.   Before you make these choices, you must get to know your main character better than any real-life person. First establish a fictional biography, just like a job application for an intelligence agency – everything from physical appearance to educational background, favorite hobbies to preferred authors. You must determine what lies at your character’#s emotional core.

Once you have a solid understanding of your character and his/her goal you can devise a plot that reveals your character’s attempt to achieve it.  What is it about him that will affect a reader immediately on an emotional level?   You must provide your main character with at least one attractive attribute .  Here are some specific character traits that create a bond with readers:

CURIOSITY : In John Updike’s “Flight” his character commands our sympathy by telling an incident with his mother when he was a youth. At the top of a hill overlooking their town she said: “Allan. You’re going to fly.” Everyone wants to know what she meant.

CONFLICTED CONSCIENCE: Readers relate to characters who try to do the right thing, even if they don’t always succeed.

ALTRUISM: Selfless characters who try to help others on an individual basis or involve themselves in worthy causes.  Sometimes you might appeal to your readers’ natural sympathies for the underdog.

Once you’ve chosen your emotional magnet, you can devise a plot that will best reveal this trait.  But don’t overdo the emotion. Excessive emotions seem unreal, so don’t drown your readers in emotion either.  In fiction, create not just characters, but “care-actors”. If you establish an emotional bridge between your chief character and your readers early on, your audience will willingly cross into your fictional universe and want to stay.

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My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is now available direct from me at the discount price of $20. Contact me at dwaysman”gmail.com   I am always happy to hear your comments and to help you with any writing problems.  Happy writing!

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MINE FAMILY GOLD FOR FICTION

Many authors write about a  dysfunctional family, maybe because there are so many.  Tolstoy wrote: “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Of course there are truly happy families, but they don’t make such good fiction as mother-daughter conflicts; sibling rivalry; broken mother-child bonds; feelings of abandonment; marital strife … the list is unending.

Those thorny issues are explored very successfully in fiction.  And you can mine your own experiences – everything we know, feel, think or believe is colored by how we were brought up. Sibling rivalry that began in early childhood  continues undiminished into adulthood. Unrequited love looms large in the imagination. And somewhere amid this labyrinth of memories, experiences and conflicts lies the mother lode: the unique blend of fact and fiction, the alchemy that makes a story come to life.

This doesn’t mean it’s easy to translate it into your story.  But don’t think “My .life is boring. No-one would be interested in what happened to me.” Everyone’s story is potentially interesting. You don’t have to be a mountain climber, a lion tamer or a doctor to tell a fascinating story. Sometimes harrowing conflicts arise from extraordinary events in the lives of ordinary people.  When you imagine everyone else has a more exciting life, it’s often the case of the grass looking greener on the other side of the fence.

The death of a loved one can be the catalyst bringing submerged half-truths and unspoken resentments exploding to the surface.  How do you know which experiences and emotions to tap?  Start  putting it down on paper – if you can write it   dry-eyed, without a lump in your throat, maybe it’s not powerful enough.

I admit that what we write does have an effect on those around us, but we can’t keep thinking “What will he/she think” .  People don’t recognise themselves in your story as a rule, especially if the portrait is unflattering.  “To thine own pen be true” to paraphrase a cliche.  To create memorable characters and stories, you must be willing to travel deep into the mineshaft of your own memories.  You will be rewarded by the knowledge that redemption, in fiction as in life, is always possible and the human spirit is indeed indomitable.

I look forward to your comments, and am happy to help you with your writing problems. Contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com    My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” and an earlier one “In A Good Pasture” can be obtained direct from me at discount prices.

Happy writing!

 

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AN AMAZING AUTHOR

Can you imagine that there is an author who has sold 350 million books?  It kind of takes your breath away.  But Stephen King has done just that.  He has written more than 70 books of horror, science fiction and fantasy .    18 years ago, he wrote also the bestseller: “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”  Even if you are not one of his fans, his strategies are worth taking note of.  Here are 8 of them:

TELL THE TRUTH:  You can write anything you want, but imbue it with life and blend in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships etc.  Be brave.

DON’T USE BIG WORDS when small ones work. It’s like dressing up your household pet in evening clothes.

USE SINGLE SENTENCE PARAGRAPHS. This more closely resembles talk than writing. Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction.

WRITE FOR YOUR IDEAL READER:  I think that every novelist has a single, ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer thinks: “I wonder what he/she will think about this part?”

READ A LOT:  This is the creative centre of a writer’s life.  Read whenever and wherever you can.

WRITE ONE WORD AT A TIME:  In the end, it’s always that simple.

WRITE EVERY DAY:  No exceptions.

WRITE FOR THE JOY OF IT:  Don’t write thinking of being paid. Write for the buzz, because when you write for pure joy, you can do it forever.

Great advice.  Happy writing.   My latest novel (No. 14) “Searching for Sarah” is available at discount direct from me – dwaysman@gmail.com.  I am always happy to hear your comments and help with any writing problems.

 

 

 

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RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS

Pretend you’re a miner and “dig” for gold.  from anone else’s work.

It takes many hours of digging to produce even an ounce of gold; how many tons of rock to sift to find a diamond.  Read deeply and wisely; be willing to spend hours sweating over your words until they are not only grammatically correct but fresh and new and different from anyone else’s.

Keep improving:  No matter how good you get, you have still fallen short of the masters who went before. Improve by reading aloud to yourself. Join a workshop. Take a degree in creative writing, or at least attend a few classes.  Put in the effort.

Give them more than they ask for: With articles, do more research than you think necessary. Take more pictures. Do more interviews. The result will be that your work will shine. Then you’ll be invited back by the editor. Give the reader more than he expects too.

Make it personal: Publishing is built on personal relationships. Not just editors, but anyone in the office who’d be overjoyed to have you know their names, shake their hands and give them autographed copies of your books – editorial assistants, art directors, copy editors … as they go up the ladder, they’ll remember you.

Be ready to make changes: You may begin with small publishers, who want you to remain in their stable.  It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a different editor if you’re not getting what you want. Or another layout person.  An old saying goes:  Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you’ll meet the same people on the way down.  When it’s time to say goodbye to an agent or publisher, treat them as you’d want to be treated – a face-to-face meeting;  a kind explanation of why you’re leaving; a sincere thank you – you owe it to other human beings.

Help other writers: We are artists, dedicated to bringing something new into the world, something that will enrich the lives of all who read what we have created.  The only way to repay writers who have inspired you is to pass it on to new writers.  My time is running out – I am 87. But when I go, I hope the world will be reading your writing instead of mine.

I am always happy to hear your comments, and to help you with any writing problems.

My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me – you can contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com    Happy writing!

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IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD

It’s a cliche:  Write about what you know! But when you use your hometown for a setting, you have to distinguish what you know from what your characters know.  For example, suppose you go back to the hillside where you sat with your high school love (long since gone) and now you find it the site of a cluster of overpriced,  oversized homes.  You want your early memory to be something your character doesn’t know and learns about.  Maybe she’s living in one of those expensive homes, and she finds out that years ago, someone in the story used to sit on that very slope in her garden when there wasn’t a house in sight, and dream about the future.  Who was the dreamer?  Her mother? The girl who stole her beau? Her husband, with someone that he can’t forget?  You are sharing with the reader the freshness of her discovery, the scent in the air, the longing that you once experienced.

Conversely,  the other way you can bring to life a place very familiar, is by discovering something you don’t know, but your character does.  She has to know everything about this locale, and you need to research it in order to give your character authentic details and feelings about it.

What helps to bring a familiar place to life is finding out what new things people do there to make a living – changes in economics are part of conveying a sense of place.

Something else you should consider when writing about your own backyard: you must make this distinction … you knew people as they were; your character knows them as they might have been.     Sometimes we write about the place we grew up in to recover it; sometimes to redress it; sometimes merely to recall it. Remembrance of things past is a dialogue between you and your storyteller. Either you introduce her to that nostalgia for the hillside where you sat with your love under the stars; or she takes you to a country coffee shop, where – over coffee and cake – she tells you what’s new in your own backyard.

I’m always happy to hear your comments, and to help you with any writing problems.

Some of my 14 novels are now available from me at discount – “The Pomegranate Pendant”;  “Seeds of the Pomegranate”;  “In A Good Pasture”;  “Esther – a Jerusalem Love Story” and my latest novel “Searching for Sarah”. Details direct from me at  dwaysman@gmail.com     Happy writing!

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SUCCESFUL SHORT STORIES

“Once upon a time”…is how young readers are hooked.  with adults, it might take a formula to get you started, and to catch the eye of an editor.  Let’s take six easy steps:

Present your character with a problem.

Create an incident that intensifies the story.

Let your character react to it.

Devise an incident that thwarts all the character’s efforts and seems to make the problem insurmountable.

Terminate their efforts, either by their admission of failure, or a successful solution to the problem.

Let’s take an example. Jenny has been looking forward to her date with Mike. However, they have had a blazing row; she has stamped her foot and refused to go with him.

Intensifying the incident, Mike invites Jenny’s best friend to go to the concert with him instead. She accepts.

She retaliates by asking Mike’s best friend to take her to the concert.

He reacts by telling her she’s not his type – a blow to her confidence.

You have to reach a happy conclusion. Jenny is sitting alone in a cafe when Mike comes in and rather sheepishly joins her at her table. It seems that Jenny’s best friend can’t go in the end – dream up a plausible reason – he’s been too proud to come back to Jenny to see if they can settle their differences. He already misses her, and he’s still got the two tickets.

This is a very simple plot, but you get the idea. Successful writers write to a formula like this. It’s the result that counts.  Begin by thinking of a character, associate him/her with another character; put them both in a confrontational situation and work through the six steps.   My example is a very simple, women’s magazine example, but by using the same formula, you can create much more sophisticated plots, different settings, and traumatic problems.

Happy writing! My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at a discount price. Contact me at dvorawaysman@gmail.com. I’m always happy to receive your comments, and to help you with any writing problems.

 

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I’ve always loved the slogan: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression!”Nothing could be truer when submitting an article or story to an editor.  What sells a feature article?   Interesting content of course, but more important, instant appeal.   Readers have to be grabbed – to really want to read our work.

Next time you are in an airport terminal, railway station or large magazine shop, observe the customers.  See how they skim through a magazine,  flipping rapidly through the pages, pausing only when something grabs their attention.

Their roving eyes are caught by titles and illustrations. Once they pause, they will probably glance  at the opening lines.  If those first words interest them, they will probably want to read on.  So as a writer, you have those first three or four lines to grab their attention.   And remember, the first reader whose attention you want to grab, is the editor.

For maximum impact,  the opening paragraph should be about half the average length.  You have about 25 – 30 words to grab the reader.  Here are some hooks you could try:

A provocative question.

A simple, but interesting, statement.

A relevant quotation.

A shocker, or an anecdote.

All of the above are effective.  Start your next article with one of them.  It works for me!

My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available, direct from me at discount price.

Contact me at:  dwaysman@gmail.com.  I am always glad to hear your comments, and willing to help you with any of your writing problems.  Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

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