Monthly Archives: November 2017

Using Anger in Your Story

Using anger in your story can do a lot of terrific things for your character … and you know that at some point in your novel, your protagonist is going to get angry.

And that’s good.

Here’s why:

Anger can show a side to your character that no one ever knew he had. It can be righteous anger, or petty anger, or even violence. Maybe he even destroys something precious – great for conflict!

You can use the outburst to set your character off in a new direction. Maybe the eruption is so bad, it makes him regret his behavior and he transforms. Or he can dive down into abusing drugs. Anger can make a person unpredictable.

Anger can also be used as a manipulation tool – a sort of emotional blackmail. Some of us cannot bear ‘the cold shoulder’ and will do anything to avoid it, even confess or apologize for something we’ve never done it. Think of how you can use a situation like that.

But anger is a strong emotion that needs to be portrayed correctly. It is always a reaction to something else, to some problem that has arisen. No one gets angry for no reason

1. What is the motivation behind your character’s anger?

Consider whether she is confused, frustrated, hurt, jealous, embarrassed, powerless, rejected, worried – what else can you think of? All these emotions are motivations for anger and should be integrated in the story.

2. Body language is another great way to show how angry your character is.

Think of how people react when they are super angry. Some rant and rave, and get hysterical. Others close down completely – perhaps all you notice are flared nostrils or a thin line of lip. Make a mental (or physical) note when you see someone get rip-roaring mad, then use those observations next time your character is super angry.

3. Passive or aggressive anger?

We all behave in different ways. Some of us lash out when we get angry. We have to spill – yell and scream and get it all out of our systems. Others are like volcanoes. They let the magma build and build, until it bursts. Then get out of their way. If your character is the latter type, show him turning the other cheek, and withdrawing when he’s angry with someone until she explodes and wow! what a fantastic scene it will be.

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Diagnosing a Problem Story

Diagnosing a problem story can be … well, a problem.

How to Know if you have a Problem Story

If someone asks you this mucho important question, and you are unable to answer it without a lot of “ums,” “ahs,” and a bucketload of background information – then, you have a problem story. It’s time to take a timeout, and figure out what the story is all about. You need to tease the threads apart and decide:

1. Who is your main character? It should always be the most interesting character in the novel; the one with the major problem; and the one who has the most to lose

2. Does your protagonist have a major problem? If she doesn’t, your story will go nowhere. That, my little chickadees, is what your novel is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about the heroine facing a major obstacle, jumping over a buttload of hurdles, and racing to the finish line ahead of the opposition that is doing everything to block her from getting to the end, achieving her goals, and getting to live happily ever after.

3. What is the plot? A plot is the individual events that takes the hero from his inciting incident (which kickstarts the hero’s journey) to the climax (where he achieves his objective and gets what he deserves) and finally to the denouement or satisfactory ending.

4. Conflict is at the center of every good novel. Without it to drive the plot, your story will meander, your characters will be flat, and your story lacklustre. That’s why an inciting incident is so important at the start of your novel. It provides the hero with conflict immediately, and spurs him on, keeps him focused, and motivates him to continue to the end so he can win his prize.

5. If your story has so many sub-plots, twists and turns, that you cannot identify the main thread, then once again, you have a problem.  All sub-plots need to link to the main in some way. If they don’t, ditch them.

Solution

The best way to fix your problem is to let your ego take a hike. Join a critiquing group, or a writing class with an instructor or coach you trust, and be prepared to write, write, and write some more.

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Why do you Write?

Credit: katemcolby.com

Why do you write? I’ts a question I’ve posed to myself, and one I plan on asking my gang of writers (those of you reading this – get your answers ready).

Way back in 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay on this very subject – called appropriately enough Why I Write. In it, he stated the following four reasons:

Sheer Egoism

The desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

Aesthetic Enthusiasm

Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

Historical Impulse

The desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

Political Purpose

Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

George Orwell’s words still ring true to me. Do you agree?

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