by Kasey Tross
So how is your novel coming along?
If you answer is, "Well, Kasey, actually it's NOT coming along," then never fear- your lifeline is here!
On Saturday I went to a great free event called The Festival of the Written Word at one of the county libraries. It was an all-day event that included several panel discussions and workshops. I was only able to sneak out of my house for one panel discussion, but my goal was to gather a few tidbits that would help inspire me and keep me motivated to finish NaNoWriMo.
Good news- mission accomplished!
So if you feel like your novel is more likely to sink than swim, then try thinking about a few of these ideas and see if any of them get your creative juices flowing again:
1. Nail-biting Tension- there are many things that can create tension in your novel. One device to create tension is conflict. Where is your story's conflict? Is it man-vs-man, man-vs-nature, or man-vs-self? How can you use these conflicts to ratchet up the tension? One idea- sometimes two (or more) people can interpret a situation in VERY different ways. How can you use that?
2. Go With the Flow- tension is great, but don't forget to give some breaks from the tension as well. Your novel needs mini-resolutions throughout, little breaks for the reader to catch their breath. Think of the story as a war in which your protagonist wins a battle, then loses a battle, constantly seizing and losing power. (see Cinderella and the Heat of Battle)
3. The Bad Guy- Remember, every villain is the hero in his own story. Don't forget to give him or her a few redeeming qualities as well, just enough so that he's someone your readers will love to hate.
4. Arrive Early, Leave Late- Laying out every backstory detail at the beginning of the book may help your word count, but it won't help your story. Readers like to be challenged, so start your story in the middle of the action and keep them a little bit in the dark about everything else. Rather than saying, "We had just moved into the house," say, "I walked through the door and nearly tripped on another half-unpacked moving box." (note- I did this in my first story and I liked it SO much better) Sprinkle little clues throughout the story.
5. Clues and Red Herrings- Even if your story isn't a mystery, your reader hopefully won't know the ending from the outset, so giving them some clues as to the outcome- and some distractions to bury those clues a little bit- will keep the story moving and engaging. Don't forget to utilize setting and body language to drop a few of those bread crumbs along the way.
6. Love Your MC- A story is only interesting if it's happening to someone we care about. Why do we care about your MC? Give him enough noble qualities for us to love him, but enough flaws for us to empathize with and relate to him.
7. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid- If we love your MC, then make us worried for her. Make us afraid to turn the page for fear of what might happen to her next. Think of the worst thing that could happen, then go from bad to worst- and then a little worse than that.
8. What's at Stake? Make sure you know what's at stake for your protagonist, and then as the story progresses, continue to raise the stakes to ratchet up that tension. Rather than "And then..." think "BUT then..."
9. Surprise! Bring in the unexpected, but be sure that it flows from something that's already there.
10. She Has Her Reasons- Some of the most fascinating plots revolve around characters doing things that seem completely strange, wrong, even unnatural to us- but when you understand the little things that led them to that point, it seems perfectly plausible for them to have ended up there. Take some time to explore some crazy things your characters might do, and then build the steps to take them there.
Hope one or more of these ideas will help to un-stick you if you've gotten stuck.
Keep calm, and NaNo on!
Keep calm, and NaNo on!