Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I loved Erynn's post on sap! ;)

Keeping in that same thread, I thought I'd post something today on keeping our characters real, as well. Because we've all been there - reading a novel (or even writing one, yikes!) when the hero or heroine (or even a side character) did something so random and perfect, you just wanted to put the book down in digust.

It all (always) goes back to one question - "is your writing contrived?"

Are you setting the scene up in a way that would really happen if your book took place in an actual room with actual people instead of on a page? Or are you setting the scene up because you need to be able to get to the next scene, so X and Y simply HAVE to happen?

If your answer is the latter, odds are you need to revise!

Now don't get me wrong, sometimes characters NEED to do things out of character. But only when that act comes from growth and character arc, usually toward the end of the story - such as a hero who was phobic of water being able to jump in the lake at the end of the story to save the heroine's child. Throughout his journey, we saw his phobia, respected it, sympathized for him, urged him into those muddy waters, and applauded him after. It was an arc. He didn't reveal his phobia and jump in the pond the same day. It was part of his journey, and in good Christian fiction, there would be a spiritual lesson mixed into that as well (such as letting go of control, trusting God when we can't trust anything else, etc.)

Revealing your heroine's fear of public performing in Chapter 2 and then having her leap up on a karaoke bar in Chapter 3 and have a blast belting out Shania Twain is NOT character arc and growth ;)

See the difference?

This is true when it comes to plot, as well. "Coincidences" happen in real life, and answered prayers, and spiritual intervention - of COURSE we believe that as Christians. But just like angels don't swoop down to save us in every day life, and just like we don't get the tangible hand of God writing His plan for us in the sky every day, we shouldn't let it happen to our characters regularly either. Because in fiction, it's even more obvious that it's a coincidence.

It's all about the build-up, folks. Plan it out. Build it up. Weave that thread. There's nothing more annoying to me in fiction (I harp on this all the time, and I'm sorry but it's just TRUE) than a "how convenient" moment of disgust when that SAME thing could have happened and been totally accepted by me and appreciated had it just had the proper weaving/build-up throughout previous chapters.

Soapbox over.

Any questions on contrived writing?  :)


  1. This isn't about contrived writing but I'm asking anyways:
    When you go to a conference and present to someone they always have a list of what they want to see and the majority of them say first time writers need a completed MS but they don't want you to bring the whole MS.

    How edited does the MS have to be?

    If they were to request the MS after do you have X number of weeks to polish further?

    I'm asking because I'm wondering if it's more imports to write my heart out and have multiple books in the works ? Or one nicely polished?

  2. Lol Tonya! I always love your comments. "This isn't about contrived writing but I'm asking anyways" You're the best, girl :)

    You're correct - at conferences, its best to be able to honestly say (not prove, but honestly confess) that your manuscript you are pitching (be it to agent or editor) is completed. Agents and editors both need to know you know how to FINISH a book. There's a ton of authors out there who can write well but never discipline themselves to finish a novel. That's a key element. You don't have to prove that its completed to them there - but of course don't lie to them.

    To be able to assure the agent or editor the manuscript is "completed", it means it's a finished novel, you wrote the words The End and it is submission ready for them to request. That doesn't mean you have to have paid someone to edit it for you but it does mean that to the best of YOUR ability, it is DONE. Of course after getting a request, you can take the time to go home, print it out, and pour over it one last time. But its best to be able to send that polished product at their request within a few weeks of their asking. You don't want them to forget you by waiting a long time.

    There's no reason you can't ask at the appointment how quickly they want to see it, either. You can be honest "The manuscript is done, but I'd feel better polishing it one more time. How quickly would you prefer to see it?" or something like that :)

    As for your last question - that's all depending on your own ability and your own choice. To me, having poured your heart into one finished novel that shines makes more sense than having several partially done or hurriedly done, not up to par novels that will take months of editing after a request.

    Hope that helps!