Writing Advice: Connections

http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com
http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com

As I’ve said on the blog many times, characters are an integral part of any writing project. But it can be difficult to keep track of everyone involved in your story, and how they all connect. There are certain genres — fantasy, for instance — in which stories contain large casts of characters. If you write within these genres and have a highly populated story, you might find it helpful to use a technique or tool to keep all your character connections straight, and to perhaps create some new ones.

My first suggestion comes from author Marie Lu, which she offered in her pep talk for National Novel Writing Month. Marie said, “Write a long list of all your characters. Then, start drawing random lines connecting random characters to each other. Don’t think—just connect. Afterward, look down at your page. Try to figure out a connection between each of the two random characters you just linked—something scandalous, maybe, or something sweet. Something three-dimensional and unexpected. Some explosive scene that throws the two together.”

If you’re looking for some new character connections that will spice up your story or banish your writers’ block, then Marie Lu’s suggestion is a great one. Seeing a visual reminder of who is involved in your story, and creating actual, visual connections between them can be just what you need to discover where your story should go next. This is also a great exercise if you’re feeling blocked and need to find a new direction for your writing.

Secondly, I’d like to suggest a website called CharaHub. The purpose of this website is to catalog the characters in your story, describe their traits and backstories, and then connect them all in one handy place. The site is free to join and you can keep all of your character profiles private if you don’t want to share with others. CharaHub is a great way to stay organized, and it’s a helpful repository for ideas that you can return to whenever you need to. I have found the site to be really helpful with my recent writing project, which has a lot of characters with different, intricate connections.

Characters can invade writers’ brains sometimes, and that can be just as helpful as it is maddening. When you have so many different people to think about all at once, it can be difficult to keep things straight! Hopefully these tools will help you out. Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Writing Advice: Getting to Know Your Characters

http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com
http://lagemoyen.blogspot.com

Roadblocks happen to every writer. You may be writing solidly for several weeks and then suddenly find yourself stalled, not knowing which scene to cover next, or no longer knowing what’s going on in your own characters’ heads. Or you may come across a particularly difficult scene that gives you so much trouble you just want to stop writing. These roadblocks are pretty common, and I’ve found that it helps to know some ways to get around them and get back to writing.

Back before I took my hiatus from writing, I found myself faced with one of these roadblocks. My characters no longer felt fresh or exciting, and I simply didn’t know what to write next. Then I discovered a possible solution while listening to an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast. In an episode called Pre-writing, the podcast hosts discussed writing a first-person narrative from the point of view of one of your characters. You could tell their backstory, write a scene from only their point of view, or write a filler scene that readers may never get to see. The goal is to get you out of a writing funk and maybe give you some insight into your characters.

I recently came across a quote from author Marie Lu in a National Novel Writing Month pep talk that mentioned the same kind of exercise. In discussing pushing through tough periods of writing, Marie said, “Write an entire monologue with your main character if you have to. Spend a chapter just exploring the life story of an antagonist. They don’t have to be scenes in chronological order. They don’t even have to end up in your book. But they will help you to keep going.”

This is exactly what I did when I hit my own writing roadblock. I’m currently writing about a group of supernatural humans, so I took the leader of that group and wrote his backstory. Not only did it offer me new insight into his character and the group as a whole, it was also incredibly fun to dive into his past. It was also freeing to write something that didn’t really “matter.” That is, there was no pressure to create something perfect for a final story.

These kinds of writing exercises can be helpful precisely because they may not end up in your finished product. You’re writing a first draft, and these exercises can be treated as “missing scenes” or as just side-projects that you’re working on to clear out your writer’s block. They never have to see the light of day if you don’t want them to. They can be for your eyes only, and just to help you with your writing process.

I hope this helps, and I hope that you try out some pre-writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan