The War with Words Continues

Since I changed my job role slightly and got very involved with that, and a few other things, my old writing blog fell by the wayside sadly. But my writing didn’t! I am now thirty thousand words into my novel and going strong – and still writing bits on the side. I’m pretty damn chuffed about this, and have plenty of time to write.

So why am I wasting time not adding to my word counts, hmm? I’m glad you asked! Because I can’t write feverishly in all my free time, and if I did then the quality of what I wrote would decline over time like some once-great empire. That’s exactly what I don’t want to happen, hence my other ventures.

Currently I’m trying to reconcile my main characters with the first person ‘I’ character; he starts out as not such a great guy, and the two supporting protagonists actually don’t really like him because of it to begin with. And when I say ‘don’t really like’, that’s an understatement. There’s two big crimes in the world and the main character, Sebastian, attempts one on supporting character A so he can then go on to commit the other to supporting character B. I won’t say much more yet, but there’s a lot for Seb to make up for.

So my challenge is to let him do this while keeping the story going and the plot developing. I think I’ve succeeded thus far and my compatriots at Mightier Than the Sword (my writing group) haven’t said otherwise yet so I must be successful. Yes, we’re all friends, but we do challenge each other as often as possible. Mainly because that’s how improvements are made to a manuscript but also partly because there’s a strong slash of rivalry between us all. I know we’re all good writers, whatever any member of the group says, so when I get feedback now it’s very rare that I ignore it.

However, as successful as I am in writing the character development bits I’ve focussed a lot on them – to the unfortunate exclusion of cool action scenes. Obviously these aren’t strictly necessary in a text but in the Fantasy genre it tends to be favourable to include them. This just means that this week and next week I’m going to have the fun job of writing some of them! Which, to be fair to Seb, is necessary as currently he’s got a sharp wit, a sharp mind and a reputation for skulduggery and master thievery, but hasn’t demonstrated how he earned that reputation. I’m addressing that in the narrative and character conversations – he’s mocked a bit and points out that planning is most of what thieves do if they chase big prizes and don’t want to get caught, but at some stage he’s going to have to show his allies and the reader that he’s not all talk.

This is part of a show-don’t-tell approach that’s often voiced in forums and seminars. That’s a very simple way of putting it across, but you rarely get told how to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’. Simply put, describe your character doing the things he’s meant to be good at and don’t simply write “Sebastian was a master thief; breaking into the X was no trouble”. Describe how he does it. Illustrate with words. Then people will recount it in as much detail as they can and hopefully finish with a summary constituted of, “He’s a badass and a ninja, the other guys never stood a chance”. In short, you want other people to tell others things after you show them an example.

That’s basically my tip for the day. I’ve got some editing, washing and run to do so I’m off! Thanks for reading, and much more to come!

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