How can we write women characters better in this modern world of equality without losing a woman’s femininity? Benjamin tackles this question in his latest post. I found it extremely helpful, so I thought I’d share it with you. He’s covered other topics including ‘Villains’ and ‘Heroes’. Lots of great tips and insight into good storytelling. You can catch up on all his other ‘Storytelling’ posts on his blog-
The most common mistake I see male writers make when writing women is to write every woman the same. All women are written as stereotypical women who are good at cooking and cleaning and staying at home and not having an opinion. Then there’s other male writers who, trying not to seem sexist, go in the complete opposite direction and write all women as aggressive, leather-bound power bitches who are really good at fighting and making witty comebacks.
Neither approach works, because in either case the writer is painting all women the same. Now here’s the thing, some women are stereotypical, and some women are tomboys. And neither of them feel that they need to be anything different, because they don’t. That’s who they are. They’re individuals. Every woman is different. The problem comes when we write all women as being one way or another. It’s unrealistic because that’s not…
Apart from the actual storyline, our stories need to include other elements for them to hold our reader’s attention. Look for ways to incorporate some of the things you find interesting and entertaining when you read a novel or watch a movie. Your voice will come through in your own writing.
Creative Elements #WritingTips
What Are 4 Of Your Favourite Books? Why? #AmReading
This is an exercise in finding Creative Elements for your novels. You’ll write best what you enjoy most because it will come easier. Your story will take on a life of its own as you write so let it flow naturally and don’t think about getting it perfect the first time. You’ll probably find that you automatically write the elements you’re attracted to and, if humour is one of your favourite elements, go ahead and laugh out loud. If anyone’s listening and asks you what you’re laughing about, tell them they’ll just have to wait for the launch date.
As you read through your first draft later, look for lapses in your storyline and see if you can add more of your favourite elements. Creative elements also serve to bridge the gaps between scenes and break up long dialogue. Have you ever noticed how some movies are good at throwing in humour right in the middle of a battle scene? One of my favourite franchises for this is the Avengers. Iron Man is always cracking me up right before he clobbers someone!
#WritingFantasy #CreativeElements #ShowDontTell
How do you write humour, for example, into fantasy? A favourite of mine is the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, where misunderstandings of the English Earth language stumps the character Drax through the entire movie, but the movie is packed with other elements such as adventure, romance, battle scenes and chases. And let’s not forget Groot! He doesn’t say much, but that’s half the humour. And we all loved the baby Groot dancing. Remember to show, don’t tell. The key to making your story memorable is to engage your audience. Be yourself and you’ll write with your own voice and use your own creative elements.
Who is going to tell your story? The answer to this question will play an important role in the tone of your entire novel. We listen to other people probably every day in one form or another; in personal conversations, a lecture at school, a boss, or characters on a TV show. Notice how the tone of their voice influences you. Are they interesting, funny, lively, friendly or quarrelsome? The characters telling the story have their own unique voice and, depending on that voice, will tell a scene in a specific way. Have you listened to your characters?
8 Points To Ponder For Point Of View #WritingPov
Have you thought about what tense you’ll write in? Will your story read better in past tense or present tense?
Past Tense – “Suzie shopped at the mall”.
Present Tense – “Suzie is shopping at the mall”.
When you sit to write each scene, who do you hear talking in your mind?
First Person – “I love donuts”.
Second Person – “You love donuts”.
Third Person – “Suzie loves donuts”.
Omniscient (aka all-knowing) – “Suzie loves donuts but she doesn’t realize they’re laced with a powerful hallucinogenic”. Use this voice sparingly, as when none of the characters know something but your reader needs to know.
Choose Your Narrators #AmWriting
Just like in a movie audition, test your characters’ voices to see which point of view sounds best for each scene. You may want to do several viewpoints throughout your story, but remember to not switch viewpoints in the middle of a scene or chapter unless you make a specific break in the narrative. It confuses the heck out of the reader. If you’re new to writing fantasy/fiction keep it simple and write one POV for each scene. You may feel like you want to write the entire story from one POV, but test other voices to see if you can spice things up, add some humour or simply add a different perspective to delight the reader.
Voice Test #WritingPOV
Write a paragraph from the author’s POV. This means you just write out the paragraph as it happens, without emotion or opinion. Then write it out in all the voices of your chosen characters. Let them say what they feel and what they’re thinking.
Who sounds good for this particular scene?
Who has an emotional investment in what’s happening?
Who will it influence later in the story as your plot unfolds?
Who sees something no one else does?
“Suzie went to the mall again. I hope she’s not spending all her money. She still has two weeks before her next paycheck”.
“She went to the mall again. Who does she think she is, buying all those fancy expensive clothes? They look ridiculous on her anyway.”
“Suzie went to the mall this morning. She needed to choose a dress for her grandmother’s funeral”.
Do you see how each character changes the tone of the scene? What were they thinking and feeling? Ask them why. Draw the scene out from your chosen character’s point of view.
Your characters have a backstory, a personal history that will shape their life in your novel. They have childhoods, education, loves, conflicts, careers. All of these must be present in your character building for you to see where you need to foreshadow an event. When the event happens, your reader should be able to look back and think, “Oh ya, I kinda saw that coming”, but still be blown away when it happens.
Keeping Track of WhereYour Characters Have Been
One way to keep track of timeline in your novel is to use a paper calendar with large squares, create one online, or use sticky notes. If you have room, put these on your office wall. If something epic happens to Lucy on Friday, you need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs (metaphorically) or have Lucy experience something similar before the epic event. Put a few breadcrumbs in the days, months or years leading up to the event. This gets the reader anticipating something and committed to turning the page.
In the story of The Two Towers, Frodo says he needs to know that Gollum will come back from the pitifully evil person he saw him becoming. This foreshadows Frodo later succumbing to the evil power of the ring.
So, it doesn’t matter that your protagonist was a ballerina as a child unless she’s a ballerina when we meet her in the story as an adult, or there was a traumatic dancing accident which will haunt her throughout her life and shape her future. The foreshadow leads to an event or a realization in her life later.
One of my favourite old movies is Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? A nasty crotchety old woman is just plain mean to everyone. You have to know there’s something in her past that made her change from the beautiful little girl she used to be. As the story progresses, we see her relationship with her sister whom she lives with and cares for. It’s in the dialogue and flashbacks that we learn what happened to Baby Jane.
By far one of the best movies of foreshadowing is Sixth Sense written by M. Night Shyamalan. The entire movie is leading the viewer creepily towards a shocking truth. I didn’t see it coming until near the end. I believed everything until then and was blown away by the ending. I had to go back and watch it again to get all the clues that were left like tiny breadcrumbs. Now THAT’s foreshadowing at its best!
Where do you need to add a breadcrumb of information that will have your reader saying, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming! Wait – yes I did!”
You probably have a pretty good idea of who your protagonist, their main sidekick, and the evil antagonist are and what they’re doing when your story starts; but how did they become who they are? Why is your protagonist a charming young female who loves to wander the forests of a mystical land on horseback? Why is her companion an outcast from a faraway land? What led your antagonist to despise all Elves?
What’s the story behind your story?
How do you find out the backstory of your story? As you know, I’m learning this whole process as I go along – like most of you too, it means. Thank you for joining me on this journey. In my research I discovered that the best information to start with is the character’s birth. (Duh.)
I also found as I wrote my first NaNoWriMo novel draft last fall, it really does help to plot all this before you start writing your novel. I wasted many hours last November going back into a previous chapter to correct something I didn’t realize about my character until half way through. I mentioned I switched my focus half way through the story, right? The first half was superhero and the second half was – well, I’m not exactly sure but it wasn’t superhero. Something I learned from a fellow NaNo writer was to write all the main characters on sticky notes or in a journal with their own page (the method I chose), then add anything you discover about them as you write so you don’t lose track of information.
So let’s start with your protagonist.
Ask where they were born and any unusual circumstances surrounding their birth. Was it an easy birth? Was the father present? Were they delivered by a doctor or a travelling healer? Maybe in their realm they were delivered by supernatural means. How many siblings did they have? Write as much as you know about your character.
Then go on to childhood. Did they go to school? Who was their best friend? What was their favourite subject? Did they excel at anything? Did their experiences as a child influence their career choice? Were they homeschooled or sent away at a young age to apprentice with someone? Were they born with all the knowledge they would need in life? How did that happen?
If they’re an adult when the story begins, what drove them to be in the situation they’re in now? Did they suffer prejudice, health issues or a failed relationship? Write as many life events as you can think of and add to and erase when you begin to write. Many ideas will change as your story unfolds.
Then do the same for your major antagonist. Ask why they’re angry, mean, and vicious. People don’t start out that way as a newborn baby so what happened in their past to steer them down that path? Is the antagonist driven by fear, guilt or jealousy? Why do they have metal teeth or wear a mask?
Do the same for two or three minor characters and any new ones you add later. Write only what’s important to your reader.
Take a look atThe Watcher by Sara Davison as a great example of backstory for her protagonist, Kathryn Ellison, and Great Expectations as a wonderfully written backstory for the antagonist, the embittered Miss Havisham.
Donna Dawson now publishes under the name of Donna Fawcett, but some of her earlier work was published under Donna Dawson. It’s under this name I discovered a book titled, Rescued. I was captivated by the story from the start with the characters and how their lives initially were so different but eventually came together in an astounding decision to rescue a baby’s life. This story fascinates and compels at the same time. I was challenged to think, “What if…?”
“What if there was a solution to abortion? What if pro-life and pro-choice could join forces to see the war over the issue end? Is it possible?”
Here’s the synopsis:
“Daphne Barrie is pregnant. Unless she aborts, she will die.
Charlene McTaggart can’t conceive and badly wants a child. Dr. Jason Steadman goes against those who would do all they can to stop a unique procedure from being performed. A procedure that will save an embryo, prevent a death and give an infertile woman a chance at motherhood”.
This book will leave you asking the same question, “What if…?”
Finding your writer’s voice –
So you’ve decided to become a writer.
How do you decide what to write about?
Start with what compelled you to write in the first place. Chances are, you have a passion for something and want the whole world to know about it. You want to share your passion. That’s what you write about. Even if you decide to write an autobiography, it can be full of passion. After all, aren’t we passionate about ourselves? I hope so! So write about your experiences, good or bad, that link to your passion.
Herein lies your writer’s voice.
It’s not an audible voice, but a recognizable pattern of words which will speak to your audience and connect you to your readers. They’ll come to hear you in the way you write; the influence of dialect, the grammar (or lack thereof) and style, as if they were listening to spoken words. So be yourself. Let your audience get to know you. You don’t need to be famous, but you do need to be authentic.
I started out as a writer after three people told me I should write a book about raising my son who’s on the Autism Spectrum. Many people knew my journey through short stories I’d spoken, but encouraged me to write them down to share with others who didn’t know me. Until then, I hadn’t thought of being a writer. But looking back, I remembered I used to love to write fictional stories and poetry. I had simply forgotten. It’s funny how life can get you so far off track.
Maybe you have a similar story to tell. Have others encouraged you to write? Have you always been a writer, even if only in notebooks no one else reads? We all come to this point from different paths. It doesn’t matter how you start out. It just matters that you start.
So discover what inspires you and type, type, type like crazy. If you want to write a fictional story, check the ‘Inspiring Imagery’ on White Rose Writers’ Pinterest for some ideas. It’s the board where I pin pics of fantasy and sci-fi and scenes in nature around the world, to encourage writers to get those creative juices flowing. I love the creative mind.
Find books on topics you’re passionate about and read, read, read. Search online for blogs to follow from people who have the same passion. Can you ‘hear’ them in their writing? Do you recognize their ‘voice’?
Write a few blogs, a magazine article, a review of someone else’s work for practice. Save them in docs and don’t worry about editing them. Organize them and file them away for now. We’ll look at what to do with them next time. Just immerse yourself in the process and let it carry you away. Find your writer’s voice.
Hello, I’m Lynne Collier; founder of WHITE ROSE WRITERS—The Business of Being An Author, contributor to four anthologies, author of one autobiography and six as-yet-unpublished Speculative Fiction novels. My most recent work is a series of writing courses, THE FROM-TO METHOD, on how to turn your social media into a published book in as little as 10 hours. I live in southern Ontario with my husband, Stephen, and our cat, Smokey.