All the cool kids on LJ are sharing writerly tips. I have some interesting tips and thoughts from the writing conference I attended in April AND I consider myself to be cool . . . kinda sorta. J SO, it goes without saying that I should share what I learned and know.
1.Write out the alphabet on a piece of paper, leaving space between each letter. As you give your characters a first and last name, put the name next to the appropriate letter. You will notice that you gravitate toward certain sounds and letters. You will minimize the risk of having characters with similar names.
2. Have an easy system to keep up with character and story details. I (and a speaker at the conference) have a spiral notebook for each story. One section is for characters (a page or two per character: their name, eye color, friends, etc). Another section has a running plotline. Every time I finish a chapter I jot down what happened. I have a section for things I need to add or change. I mark through those alterations as I do them. I have a section for the playlist. (I love a playlist.) I have a place for sketches (a.k.a. chicken scratches) and timelines. Yes, timelines, as in sometimes I have more than one. One is for the story (If my story starts in February, I need to know where I am in time as I my characters live out their days). The other(s) are tied to a character, showing MC's age and the date when life altering events occur.
3. If your story involves police procedures, call the police department and ask for the community relations person. Tell them you are a writer and you would like to ask them questions about certain procedures. Honestly, you should do this any time you write about a detailed expert procedure. Professionals want the facts associated with their job presented accurately. They welcome the opportunity to help you. Look up the association governing the profession if you’re not sure who to contact.
4. Give the motivation for the antagonist’s actions. It’s not enough to just have a bad guy or girl. Tell the reader why the bad guy is poisoning the puppy’s drinking water. Remember, in war, both sides think they are right. It’s not about making your reader empathize with the “bad” guy. It’s about dimensionality, tension. (I need to do a post, or two, on the psychology behind psychopathology.)
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