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....welcome to my blog on writing, reading and living in London ......

Saturday, 14 July 2012

HAIL in July and how it can help our writing...

Hi - we have been having the most appalling weather in England. Here is a photo of hail which fell this week. It was so bad that people were getting up off the sofa and opening their front doors to remark upon it. One thing it did was make me think about IMPACT in writing. One of the things I do as a published writer, is to critique other peoples' manuscripts. If people ask me the one most common mistake new writers make, I would say that it is to have a novel without incident. We read novels because we want to see something happening, to feel something. I will give you an example. One novel I was required to critique was about a relationship which had happened years before and ended in divorce. The hero and heroine were thrown together again, she was forced to work for him. He had a small son from a different relationship who had nightmares. Part of working for him in his house was that they had to live together for a period. That, and only that is all I can remember of the novel. Nothing happened. There were no incidents of note, no heartstopping moments, no revelations. They just poodled along drinking tea and chatting and having the occasional meal. It was competently put together, the timelines worked, the dialogue was realistic, the characters were believable. BUT they had virtually no history that was revealed to the reader, they had nothing to drive them or give them motives. This meant that there was no incident in the book and therefore no impact. Looking at that hailstorm made me think how people in our road had reacted, they felt scared that we might be flooded and it had shaken them out of their routine. We read to experience that process of getting out of the ordinary. So, to make a novel interesting give it 'incident' make characters feel and do extraordinary things. They must be believable but they must also be extraordinary for us to be interested. Otherwise you risk ending up with 50 to 100,000 words which are, frankly, no more interesting than every day life. I thought of this only recently when I watched the film Million Dollar Baby. The heroine is totally driven due to coming from a poor background and having a hideous family. She wants to be a boxer to escape. She wins fights, she ends up terribly injured. The hero turns from being a curmudgeonly old misery to helping her on her journey and finally to taking a life changing step to help her in her bedridden plight. The film is full of incident and excitement, packed with backstory, it tugs at the heartstrings. THAT is what your book should try to do... In my book 'The Sanctuary' I have an inheritance, a family mystery and a marital breakdown THINGS HAPPEN. Make things happen in your writing and you are sure to be published. Good luck!

4 comments:

Carol Hedges said...

Wise advice, Cara. I was told to try to imagine a film of my story. That way, I could see where the 'audience' would get bored/ stuff popcor/ chat/walk out. Still a challenge tho. For all of us.

rama said...

A very good advice, how can one write pages and pages about nothing.
If you happen to see the American Seinfeld Series, it has a few episodes about their own TV show, a show about "nothing". However, it turned out to be really funny. I am not able to explain it correctly, but if you followed the serial you would understand what I meant.
It was so good to hear from you after a long time.

rama said...

Cara, I have replied to your comment in my blog.
One request, can you please do away with the word verification, don't worry you won't get any spams.

margaret blake said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this. You are right in everything you say. Conflict is essential to any story - now where did I hear that?