Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Keys to Writing a Dynamic Novel

(Outside my window, at 9 am, the cicadas are whirling in the trees, the sun is strong, the sky clear and blue, and the heat rising. The field of corn across the street looks thirsty this morning, and my zucchini is dying off. My tomatoes are plentiful though.)

InSpire has covered my journey from contract to publication for my newest novel 'Surrender the Wind'. Now it's time to go down a different road and blog about the craft of writing good literature. Notice I said 'literature' not simply a 'book'. It is my belief that Christian writers should be writing the greatest fiction in the world. It should be par excellence, ab
ove the norm, literary, and have a gold standard. It is something we need to strive for, to be the best in all we do, to stay humble, and give the glory to the One who poured a talent into us.

You'll read lots of articles, blogs, and what not on the keys to writing a dynam
ic novel. I'm afraid I am adding to the multitude of tomes out there.

Here is what I've learned in a nutshell.

Writing a novel plunges a writer into another world. It demands that you become so intensely immersed into the lives of your characters, and I mean all of them, minor and major, that they become living, breathing, people to you. If you do this, you will develop your characters fully. You will 'flesh them out' so to speak. Thus your readers will grow attached to them.

Writing good fiction is not a formula. Formulas do not necessarily create a page-turning story. What does is vivacious characters. What exactly makes up your chara
cters and brings them to life?

Describing their appearance
Showing actions that reflect their personality

Let's start with dialogue. This is a conversation between characters that give the reader insight into the characters lives, personalities, likes and dislikes, their past, future goals, opinions, and concerns. It should flow naturally, but with emotion, whether intense or stoic. Dialogue is the best way to reveal a character's past instead of using either backstory or flashbacks. Watch a movie in your genre and listen to the dialogue between the characters. Listen to a conversation between people in your presence. How did her husband explain why he forgot their anniversary? How did the wife reply?

When it comes to describing your characters, give the reader just enough information that allows them to paint a picture in their mind of them. If you have trouble with this try this technique. Go online and look at a portrait. If your book is historical find a portrait of the past. If contemporary find a photo that reflects your character as you see him or her. Actors' portraits are great for this.

Say you are writing a historical and your female character is a beautiful woman of the Renaissance. She is totally stuck on herself due to her beauty...and possibly her wealth and family status in society. The painting here is called 'Vanity' by artist Frank Cowper 1907.

Write down what you see about this woman. Her hair - its texture, color, and length. Her skin which is luminescent and pale. The strings of pearls, how she has looped them through slender fingers. Her eyes, how they are looking downward, not shyly, but arrogantly. The curve of her mouth and the tilt of her head. Flesh this character's appearance out and give your reader a strong visual of what she looks like, and how her looks reflect her personality of vanity and arrogance.

I must pause for now. In the next post, I will cover actions and growth.


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rita -

I'm loving this series already! Thanks for the tips.

Someone suggested looking at catalogues for pictures. We get tons of advertising inserts in the Sunday newspaper. How about old family albums or pictures in antique stores for historicals?

Susan :)

Jessica said...

Great post Rita! I'm looking forward to more tips on craft. :-) The literary thing made me cringe because I've always thought my stories were more commercial than anything. Eek!
I love this exercise with the painting. I've never seen that one but she really does look arrogant. I wonder how she felt when she saw herself like that?