Monday, 27 August 2012

The Importance of a Thrilling Plot

I have been reading extensively during the past few weeks - wonderfully great and truly horrible books, I'm disappointed to say.

So what is it that makes a novel great?
How important are the twists and turns of the plot?

Of course, the answer isn't simple.

I'll take a few examples.

I have recently read the paranormal romance novel Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.
The first thing that struck me about it was simply that while there were no obvious grammar errors, it suffered from other major problems that had me wondering if I should laugh or cry (so most of the time I chose to just roll my eyes and swear a lot). One of these problems was character development, where we see teachers behaving as if they're middle-grade bullies, a best friend who's so stupid and simply evil towards her supposed best friend that we wonder why the MC sticks with her, and the always-so-lovable damsel-in-distress, I-should-go-into-a-dark-alley-by-myself MC, who makes the reader want to rip one's hair out of one's scalp.

Yeah. I'm not being nice. I'm trying to make a point.

So why did I read it in one day and craved for the sequel?
For the simple reason that it had a very hooking plot. I just had to know what happened next.

I have also recently read Fallen (in the same category) by Lauren Kate.
The idea was one I worked with for a while last year, without my knowing that it already existed in some form, so the idea had every opportunity to deliver - but it never did.
It had all the same problems as Hush, Hush, with the addition of never feeling like you 'lived' it at all - you were a spectator watching it happen from above. No characters intruiged me; not even the boy she's supposed to love, and that seldom happens. And we got all these mysterious clues, which were the only ones that kept me reading, and then - for some reason - the author decided that no, we were not going to learn about these things until in later novels. Major downer. The plot wasn't even exciting.
So no. I refused to read any of those sequels. Her novel gave me a headache.

The only clear difference between the two is the plot.
Which leads me to the conclusion that plot is more important than anything - even more so than character development (sometimes). Hmm. I'm not sure I agree with myself here.
Ah, well.
Plot is important, let's leave it at that (but we all knew that already, so what was the point...)

Now I'm off to write a plot twist!
(No, I'm actually not kidding!)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Let the characters speak

I'm writing the ninth chapter of my novel as we speak (or whatever you call it - you know what I mean) and I came across a problem: I needed to write that my characters are travelling through the forest, but that it's too quiet to be natural - something is wrong.

Okay. No problem, right?

So I wrote that days passed and it was quiet (too quiet...). I wrote that no birds were chirping and a lot of other things that should be there, but weren't.

Doesn't sound too bad.

But as I re-read it, I couldn't help but grimace, as if I'd eaten a half-rotten citrus. I felt nothing. No emotion. No depth. And I couldn't hear my characters - the ones that carry the story forward.

So I deleted it (don't worry, it was only three paragraphs, I'll live) and re-wrote it - letting my characters speak instead of me.

This is the outcome:

“Is it just me, or is it too quiet?” Suki asked the following afternoon as they trekked deeper into the Forest.
They were struggling up a hillside scattered with pines; Nahui nearly fell as he stepped on a pinecone that gave way under his weight. Aquene grabbed hold of his arm just in time.
“I’m serious,” Suki continued when no one answered him. Being the tallest gave him the advantage of his long legs easily carrying him up the hillside; Nahui and Aquene struggled behind him, panting from exhaustion. Sweat pressed Nahui’s shirt against his back. “We should’ve heard something by now. Where are the birds?”
“It is a bit spooky,” Aquene agreed with him, eyeing the trees around her as if she waited for someone to jump from behind a trunk, bow in hand. “I mean, it’s the Forest. It should be livelier.”
“Everything was normal when I hunted the boar,” Nahui said. “Maybe this part of the Forest is deserted for some reason?”
“Wildlife doesn’t desert a perfectly healthy habitat,” Aquene said, her face grimacing with confusion. Her thick braid swayed from side to side as she forced her legs up the hill, her face flushed with exhaustion. “Something is wrong.”

Better than my first try, I hope?

Letting the characters speak is important - the author is the tool that carries their voices onto the page, not the almighty storyteller. Am I right?

It does make a difference.

Finally, my Creative Writing course has taught me something! (I think... Or did I know this before, and only not acted on it? Hmm. Yeah. That's it. I was just too lazy to do it. Ah, well!)

So let the characters speak!
It's their story, not yours.

That is all.

Short update

It was a while since I visited my blog - and I'm sorry for that.

I've been back to Sweden for the summer, and since I returned, many things have happened. Excuses, I know, but I'm only human, right?

I'm currently writing two novels simultaneously.
It allows me to write what I feel like writing, instead of forcing myself to write when I just don't feel like it. I change between the two when I'm tired of the one I've been writing for a few days, when my motivation or ideas drain, and when I again change back, the ideas come more easily. I know, it sounds weird, but it's true!
I thought writing two novels at the same time would make me confused, but it's actually helped me develop a writing routine, for which I'm grateful.

But there's also a website that's helped me with some motivation problems -

If you're a writer, and you struggle with motivation or just want feedback on your writing, then I can highly recommend the site! It's helped me a lot, and the fact that they pick the five best novels each month for a reading from an editorial board definitely helps the motivation. At least for me.

Now I'm off to write the ninth chapter of my fantasy children's/YA novel - Rebirth.
With my boyfriend playing videogames in the same room - so much for concentration, hah!