I Know Them By Heart

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One of the best pieces of advice I got when it comes to writing came courtesy of the internet when I first started working on my manuscript (See. My Book located on the home page). In this pieces of advice, they explained the two most important questions to ask when working on a novel.

A) what does my main character want?

B) How do I stop them from getting it?

Now this is makes sense. The plot of the story should be set up to fit the characters involved. It would be no fun if the Incredible Hulk was never put in a situation that made him angry- who would care then?

With that said, as it’s important to know what your character wants, you first have to know who your character is.

You’d be surprised at how helpful writing a (short) biography for your characters can be. Even if you don’t include half the information in the story, trust me, it somehow bleeds through in your protagonist’s character. Questionnaires are also good to utilize, especial if you don’t know how to prioritize information and don’t feel like writing an entire biography. These typically have a few brief questions which collectively can help you understand your character better.

The most important things to know about your MC is this:

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 Appearance: Have a clear image of what it is your character looks like. I know this might not seem like a big deal, but if you want people to fall in love with them, they have to know them. Appearance can also be an important factory in your character abilities. For instance, if you have a character who is 5’4”, he’s going to struggle in areas that a character whose 6’2” wouldn’t. I speak of this from the point of view of someone who longs to be able to reach those higher shelves at the library without the aid of a stool.

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Abilities and Strength: What your MC can do is very, very important to know as the creator. I’m not just talking about talents such as playing guitar or shooting a bow. What are their mental strengths? Are they good at problem solving? Are they more creative or factual? What abilities do they have emotionally? Can they empathize with others easily? Are they able to make people laugh? Are they good at communication? These are all important things to know when your developing a character.

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Weaknesses and Limitations: Again, very important. Maybe one of the most important. Your characters need flaws (real flaws, not just our typical ‘I’m a perfectionist’ spew we give to potential employers at a job interview). They don’t have to be huge, annoying things but they need some sort of limitation. Maybe it’s their fear of the dark or maybe they talk too much. Regardless, every good story has a character with a weakness which they overcome or temporarily work with to achieve their goal. NOTE: it is important the character’s weakness makes sense and goes along with their personality or experiences.

Knowing everything there is to know about your characters is the only way your readers will truly fall in love with them. If your MC is weak, then even if you have a brilliant plot, most people won’t feel very connected and thus the story is usually a fail.

It may seem tedious at first, but over time, once you start really developing the character, you’ll start to enjoy it. It’s like dating somebody. The more you get to know them, the more relaxed you feel and the more fun you have.

And isn’t that whole point really? We’re not just writers penning words in hopes of lucrative success (if you are, prepare to be disappointed), we’re creators endeavoring to forge emotion and experiences. Take some time to get to know and enjoy what you make. Fall in love with what you do. You’ll write a lot better. Trust me.

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What was the point of having a situation worthy of fiction if the protagonist didn’t behave as he would have done in a book

 Julian Barne


My Three Biggest Struggles When Writing

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We all have those things that grate at us. Those obstacles that inconvenience our greatest of ambitions.

It may come as a shock to all of you reading this, but I too am only human and thus am not above such disadvantages.

As a person born into the human race, I’m already designated my own sets of flaws and those flaws can create impediments in my life both emotionally, physically, and mentally. This is normal. This is what we all go through. However, when I started writing, I realized I had a whole new set of struggles and problems that I didn’t even know existed until I took up this gig.

1: Distractions

I did pretty good in school, up until maybe tenth grade when I started failing in math. But most other subjects I aced and excelled and never had a problem paying attention or focusing on my studies. So it came as a surprise to me now that I’m an adult and trying to start a career in writing just how distracted I get by everything.

The internet has been no aid to me in this endeavor mind you. An endless plethora of information and activity, you could easily lose yourself for hours. One minute it’s 9 am and you’re just briefly checking your Twitter feed and the next minute it’s 6 pm and you’re watching a YouTube tutorial on how to make a paper hat.

I know. I’m weak.

But I’m happy to say I’ve learned to deal with this through scheduling and taking notes. To avoid the chance of being distracted, I write down on a sticky note what it is I need to research. I then continue on as far as I can with my story. I have set times for when I write and a set time for research. Once I reach my word count goal, I then pick up my notes and do the needed research.

As for outside distractions, I usually play some classical music to drown out any noises and sit in my writing place. If the distractions are still to much, it must not be in the cards today and I go find a cave to meditate in for three weeks.

2: Self-Doubt

This is something that I know we all have from time to time. Unfortunately it can be a real problem for me as it steals my motivation. I question my self, my abilities, and everything I’ve ever known.

I can’t say there is a “cure” for this. Or at least, I can’t say I found it. Self-doubt lingers there and comes up at the worst times, but when it comes, I have discovered methods for fighting it.

First, I read. Looking at the works of others gives me inspiration. I feel more confident knowing these people were all once where I was- unpublished, unknown, and probably really confused.

Second, I keep a list of my goals. When I start to feel uncertain, I reread that to myself. It keeps me on point, reminding me what I should be focused on, and what it is I’m striving for.

3: Overload

I have trouble sleeping. No matter how hard I work physically my brain goes and goes and goes nonstop, which tends to keep me up late. I’m always thinking about what I could do, what I should do, recalling bits of information I heard here and there, and forming ideas for stories, art, or whatever it is I’m currently dealing with in life. I tend to find myself multitasking on various projects, sometimes even working on editing one story while writing two or three others. I keep going and going until eventually my mind get’s so overworked that I throw my hands in the air and find myself binge watching TV just to get my brain to turn off.

Obviously, not a healthy lifestyle.

However, as of late, I’ve been doing much better thanks to the power of scheduling. Routines may sound boring, but trust me, if you have a mind that tends to impatiently overwork itself then a schedule is your best friend.

Whenever I get a new idea, I write it down. I put it in my binder where I keep all my writing stuff and I go back to what I was previously working. I plan at the beginning of the week which story I’m going to be working on and a set a word count or amount of time for each day.

Trust me; organization is key. You might not like it at first, you might rather roll with it and have a billion and ten excuses why you can’t adhere to a schedule, but trust me, it makes life easier.

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So there you go. My top three biggest struggles as a writer. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have other ways of coping that work better for you. Or maybe you have other obstacles you face. Feel free to tell me all about it in the comment section. Maybe we can all help each other.

If you expect life to be easy, challenges will seem difficult. If you accept that challenges may occur, life will be easier.

Rob Liano