I’d like to share a few things I learned from Ilima Todd’s “Writing the Unputdownable Story” lecture from WIFYR last month.
An unputdownable story will have a character you want to follow. He or she doesn’t have to be likeable, but s/he should be relatable, have a complex personality, have faults, and go through some kind of growth.
S/he needs to have a need. A concrete need. As the author you have to make sure s/he doesn’t get it and make it more and more difficult to get as the story progresses. At the end, s/he either gets it or learns that s/he doesn’t need it anymore.
Another element to keep readers reading is tension. Each scene should have conflict, internal or external or both. Let things go wrong for your character. Have characters with conflicting goals, where both can’t win. Or give your characters’ actions unintended consequences.
Stakes. This is an area I was falling short in with my recent drafts. What happens if your character doesn’t acheive his or her goals? There need to be stakes, which should rise throughout the story and series.
These were the big things I took from her lecture. I hope they’re helpful to you.
I’m putting my fingers where my mouth is (yum?) and doing another 10,000 word Camp Nanowrimo this month.
With my in-laws in town this week, I’ve been thinking of fictional families and how to go about writing them. I’m lucky to have grown up in a family where we all got along well the majority of the time, and I have awesome in-laws. With this background, I tend to write very “functional” families. It sometimes bothered me that lots of families in fiction are stuffed full of conflict.
But in recent years, my immediate family has been afflicted with a few falling-outs. I’ve come to see that while I, as a rather easy-going person, never had much conflict with family members, there was sometimes tension between members of my family that I was unaware of until it erupted later.
So even my “ideal” family had tensions and conflicts.
Here are my thoughts:
First of all, give your characters families. It’s easy to make an orphan or estranged character with no ties to family. It simplifies the story. But in reality, there are very few of these loners. Even Harry had the Dursleys, and Pip had Joe and Mrs. Joe.
While family doesn’t need to play a large role in every story, you should know about your characters’ families and how interactions with them have shaped your characters.
Where is there tension? Where is there not tension?
How severe is the tension, and is the main character aware of it?
Does it affect the plot? How?
My main advice for writing realistic families (and I need to be better at following this myself) is to avoid extremes. Don’t just write a perfectly loving and always understanding and tolerant family, or a completely dysfunctional and always bickering family. Both of these are parodies. Find the balance in between that is suitable for your character’s family, and let them influence him/her.
Just some thoughts.
I did not understand continuous warping until I bought an inkle loom last summer. My first tablet weaving projects were tensioned using my foot or a doorknob or this cheap little loom I made.
Without a warping board, it was a pain to try cutting all the warp threads to the same length. Continuous warping takes care of length, and the inkle loom is easy to tension.
When I first got my inkle loom, I wasn’t sure how to warp any tablet weave projects continuously besides double-face ones. (And I was done with double-face for a while after my painstakingly crafted trees came out looking like vases or aliens in the weave above.)
But after six inkle projects, I was ready to tackle tablet weaving again.
Oh man. Continuous warping is AMAZING!
I’ll have to do a tutorial sometime on the method I figured out for warping threaded-in tablet weave patterns on an inkle loom. For now, this is just a Public Service Announcement because (have I mentioned?) continuous warping is wonderful.
The pattern I’m weaving now is one of Guntram’s simple patterns. Guntram’s Tabletweaving Thingy is also on my list of awesome things.