A to Z Challenge: Obvious



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This is definitely one I struggle with. Because I wrote the story, everything that’s been written is perfectly clear to me.

So it’s a common occurance that I send out work and get back crit upon crit saying that they don’t know what’s going on. Because I can visualize what’s going on all the time, I can’t see when someone can’t.

In those circumstances, the solution is to go back to each scene that misses some clarity and make the necessary aspects more obvious.

On the other hand, I have found that writers make things too obvious. That is by far the number one on my pet peeves list. Because making things glaringly obvious looks like the writer thinks the reader is an idiot. And insulting the people you want to pay for the story is never the wisest course. Luckily though, it’s an easy fix. Deleting the reitirations of the obvious.

If the plot is too obvious or convoluted, though, you have a bit more of a problem. You’ll have to put your story through substantial revisions to complicate or simplify your story, depending on the situation. 

So if you’re think that something’s too obvious or not obvious enough, you might want to get your CPs to help you spot all the places to fix…

Look Out for These:

1) Crit partners asking why/how/when/where questions.

2) Crit partners stating that they know something or that it’s already clear.

3) Readers predicting the end or not getting the end at all.

Do you make things too obvious? Or do you struggle to?

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A to Z Challenge: Not the Middle!!!

I’ve noticed it a lot that if one says the word “middle” in the writing community, more often than not, you will get a groan back.

Yeah… sagging middles are the bane of many a writer’s existence.

So why do they happen?

There are a variety of reasons, but I can think of mainly three. 

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First reason: flow. The middle portion of a story tends to be much longer than either the beginning or the ending sections. So odds are that you’ll get a sagging middle, if your pacing is off and you’re writing too many scenes where nothing important happens.

Second reason: Your ending is in the wrong place. If it feels like a moment in your story’s middle should be the ending, anything after that point will feel boring right up to the ending. Even if the climax is after that point. Sad, but true. For proof, think of the movie Casino Royal with Daniel Craig.

Third reason: Stakes. Your story should be raising the stakes for the characters all the time. All the way to the climax. How sharply or gradually this happens depends on the story and characters, but they do have to be raised. Slack down on the raising of stakes and the story will slacken. Especially around the middle.

If you’re lucky, it’s number one, where the solution might be as easy as a few deletions. On the other hand, the other two reasons require substantial work, so if your story has a sagging middle, try to check out the pacing first.
If the problem is from reason no 2, you might have to cut everything after the point mentioned above out and write it into a possible sequel. Best case scenario that I can think of would be revising the scenes leading into and out of the moment causing the sagging middle, in a way that means that you can take the moment out.

If stakes are your problem, I suspect that rewrites and revisions will be needed, but to see why, you’ll have to come back on R-Day.

Sagging middles aren’t impossible to solve, but they take a lot of patience and hard work to fix in edits. Which is why I try to keep the middle boosted right from the start. Failing that, from the rewrite onwards.

Look Out for These:

1) Flow issues.

2) Moments that look like the ending, but that aren’t in fact close to it.

3) Stakes not being raised.

What reasons do you find cause sagging middles? How do you solve them?

A to Z Challenge: More Than Meets the Eye

Today is actually related to my A post. Characters have to be realistic. For that to be possible, they have to act and sound realistic.

Sounds easy, right? Well… yes and no. Because while characters react in certain ways, they also react in certain ways to certain people and situations.

Why? Well… because some people and situations people love. Others they absolutely hate.

It all comes down to motivation. Which is where today’s headline comes from. In reality, very few people can see other people’s motivations. Even those they love. So most people of forced to take things at face value.

You as writer, can’t rely on that when it comes to your characters. Because your readers need to see into the character’s soul. They need at least a glimpse. Well… maybe need is a bit of a strong word, but do you really want your reader to wonder why two characters are fighting?

You know those (effing) books that you struggle through because the whole conflict in the story is about two characters arguing about reasons unknown? Or worse, a stupid reason. Yeah. Textbook motivation issue. (Bonus fact for new writers: in fiction, conflict is NOT about characters bickering. See last year’s A to Z C post.)

I actually wrote a whole post on motivation that you can read here, for more detail and info on how to use motivation. Today’s focus is on fixing it in edits.

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Firstly, you need to know what you’re fixing. Motivation isn’t the reason why characters do things. It’s the reason behind the reason (sometimes behind that reason too) why characters do and think things. See it as the main route of ALL decisions, actions, thoughts and ideals. So no… it’s not anger, fear or a dream either. It’s the reason behind those. Basically, to find motivation, you need to play the why game. You take something a character does or thinks or whatever and wonder: Why? If you get that answer, you ask again. And again. And again. Until you can’t go back further.

Then, you need to make sure that (at least in the beginning) everything tracks back to the same motivations. Because if they don’t, your character has multiple personality disorder. Of course, there are some times that a character acts out. For example someone with major-trust issues overcoming their issues and letting someone into their circle. That’s fine. Just don’t do it lightly. And give the reader a road-map to how and why it happened at some point in the story. If you don’t, the reader will just be confused.

Okay… back to the conflict problem mentioned above. If characters don’t like each other, make sure it’s for a good reason. I think it’s best if the dislike comes out of their motivation, because then it flows naturally out of who the characters are. Never will the bickering feel contrived. If it’s based on anything less than the motivation, make sure that it stays as close to the motivation as possible.

So yes, even if the reader can’t always see the motivation, make sure you always keep it in mind when editing. More than anything, motivation is the anchor that keeps everything real and believable.

Look Out for These:

1) Crit partners and Betas pointing something out as seeming contrived in some way.

2) Your “why’s” not adding up to the same character when they’re supposed to.

3) A problem that’s rooted in a character’s motivation being overcome without emotional (or other) turmoil.

Do you get to know your character before hunting for their motivations or do you build your characters around motivations of your chosing?

A to Z Challenge: Location and Positioning

Related to consistency would be continuity. Yeah… I think that by now you’ve realized that I sound like a broken record. 
I’ve already spoken about gaps between scenes. I’ve already spoken about flow. What could there possibly be left to talk about?

Well… I’m talking about positioning and location, or other physical aspects.

Of all the things that really get me out of the story as a reader, Positioning errors probably go into my top twenty list of pet peeves.

I HATE when a character is sitting in one place, only to be revealed on the other side of the room two lines later. Or when a character is grievously injured, but with the injury never referred to again.

The reason why positioning and location is so important to me: the way I read. I can’t tell how other people experience reading, but to me, reading is almost visual first. In other words, I must be able to see what’s happening in my mind’s eye.

So the moment a character isn’t where he/she was a second ago. Or doing something that shouldn’t be possible because of what happened seconds ago… Yeah. It stands out.

Luckily this is pretty much a seek and destroy sort of issue, so once you find something wrong with your character’s positioning, location or something like that, the solution can be as easy as deleting a contradiction. If the contradiction is about a lack of something, the solution is a bit more complicated, since not only do you have to write it in, you might have to work it through your whole story.

Look Out for These:

1) Characters suddenly being somewhere far from where they were moments ago.

2) Characters doing something that’s impossible given recent events.

3) A lack of continuity between one action and the next.

What was the biggest mistake you made about positioning/location?

A to Z Challenge: Keeping Things Consistent

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This one’s also pretty easy, but very freaking tedious to do. Still, it wouldn’t be right if I made all my topics too difficult, so here goes.

When you get around to editing, it’s pretty important to keep an eye out for inconsistencies in your writing.

I’m talking about small things like the spelling of a name. Or a  name changing for no reason in the middle of the story.

Or punctuation. Are you applying (or ignoring) grammatical rules consistently?

It sounds like a silly thing to do, but it’s amazing how fast a reader can pick up  the smallest change. They might not see it. They might not be able to put their finger on the problem, but something will yank them out of the story and make them wonder what changed.

So don’t let something like a silly inconsistency damage the reading experience. It’s so not worth it.

Look Out for These:

1) US vs UK spelling.

2) Names.

3) Grammar.

So which inconsistencies catch you every time? Which ones have caught you in the past?

A to Z Challenge: Jumps

When you draft, do you also sort of ignore some tricky or unknown scenes, saying you’ll do them later?

Well, revisions are when you want to fill in the gaps that make the story jump forward faster than it should. You’re going to have to find all of them, including the ones that you didn’t leave on purpose.  

You know that fast read I mentioned for Flow? Well, this is also sort of a flow issue too. Missing scenes interrupt the flow, so they’re actually easier to feel than the other flow problems. So when you’re doing a fast read, make note of the missing scenes as you go.

But do NOT stop reading to insert the scenes, because you’ll just be interrupting yourself.

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Look Out for These:

1) Scenes you left open for some reason, meaning to get back to it later.

2) Areas in the story where it feels as if part of the story is missing.

3) Moments that are summarized in a scene, but that feel as if they should be expanded to do justice to the story.

How do you spot the gaps in your story?

A to Z Challenge: Introduction

One of my favorite things to work on in edits is introducing different characters. To me, those first moments of getting to know a character are so wonderful that I get a happy feeling just thinking about them. Still, looking at introductions is an important aspect to edits because…



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I can think of three reasons why introductions need to be looked at. First one would be that the character is important, but doesn’t make enough of a first impression. The reader’s not going to get involved with a character if he/she forgets the character within a few paragraphs of getting introduced. So let your character’s inner stars shine from the start. Or at least a little bit to entice the reader.

Then there’s the fact that a character wasn’t really defined when you wrote him/her at first. It’s perfectly natural, because it takes time to get to know a new character. Time that can only be taken by writing the story.

Also, in the process of writing a draft, you’ll very possibly find that the character veers off in another direction as the story goes. Because of that, the original introduction and who you discover the character to be, won’t coincide.

So when it’s time to look at your characters’ introductions: look for traits that you want the reader to know from the start. Does the introduction of every character show those traits in a way that imprints the character in the reader’s thoughts? If not, you’ll have to rewrite the scene to create the impression you wanted. 

There’s only one chance to create a first impression for a character. Make it count.

Look Out for These:

1) The character seeming like different people between the first and later parts of the story.

2) An introduction that isn’t memorable, despite the fact that the character is supposed to be.

3) Readers not engaging with an important character, or failing to remember that they’ve been introduced.

What do you do to get the introduction of your characters just right?