The secrets behind the practice of good writing: If they must think, have them lie about it
Thinking works best when lying.
I wrote last week about how too much thought can be a bit of a cheat. It’s a little too easy to use a character’s thought process to explain things to the reader, especially if your character knows exactly how she’s feeling.
However, what happens when your character feels deep sorrow … or guilt … and won’t admit it to herself? That’s when thought becomes interesting.
Readers are clever. They pick up on the cues you give them. So have her not bother to dress or put her make-up on (when she never usually leaves the house without it). And then have her think: I’m fine. I refuse to be fazed. I’ve never cared about money / love anyway…
In that case, we readers start to understand more about her than she does herself. We see that she’s unreliable. Her thought process is not just a means to explain. It adds to her complexity, which makes us like her more as a character.
Your characters can protest too much (to themselves and others). They can get angry when it’s not called for. They can say things which are in direct contrast to their thoughts … all these possibilities will make thought a more interesting, and certainly less obvious, device.
My 2016 blogs will continue to try to uncover the secrets behind the practice of good writing.
Please join the discussion and if you have discovered something that has made a great difference to some aspect of your writing, please send it to me. I’ll share it on the blog and we can discuss it.
Each blog will deal with a secret that may have occurred to me through reading or mentoring other people’s work. Or they may be lessons hard learnt through five of my own books. Many will be applicable to fiction and non-fiction, while some might refer to one or the other. When you tackle a piece of writing, you always have a vision of the perfect work it will be. As you write, you become increasingly aware of how it falls short of the perfection you wish for it. Writing (and rewriting) is the process of trying to bring it as close as you possibly can to that vision. Here, I will try to share those little gems which should bring all our writing one step closer to the perfect piece of writing – one blog at a time. Some might tackle the process of writing or how to keep writing, while some will look at language, characterisation or story. Some might be more general, while others will be very specific. But each will be a piece of advice that I believe in and that I hope will help make us all into better writers.