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Quick Writing Q & A + New Class!

23 Sep 2018

 

What is the most important point to consider when writing a mystery?

How do I create a three-dimensional character?

What is the purpose of a flat character?

Is it okay to over describe characters or situations, when writing a novel?

Does writing a fiction novel for a particular audience (or 'market') restrict creativity?

 

 

Some quick answers to some common writing questions posed this week:

 

Does writing a fiction novel for a particular audience (or 'market') restrict creativity?

 

Not at all — especially because markets often overlap. For instance, a paranormal romance could attract both those with a penchant for the spooky and those who like traditional romance stories. However, I would always advocate writing the story before you worry about the audience or market, unless you are ghost writing for someone else and they have a specific market in mind, or you have an audience already within that market.

By thinking about who the story will be targeted at prior to starting the project, all it does is tell you which kinds of tropes and techniques to employ or avoid. For instance, for a straight romance (i.e. character A meets character B and they - eventually - fall in love), using horror techniques wouldn’t work. You wouldn’t have your romance heroine creeping around a house trying to avoid the ghoul hiding somewhere in the shadows. You wouldn’t use vocabulary designed to prickle the reader’s skin. What you MIGHT do is have your two characters at odds to create sexual tension and you would most definitely have a happy-ever-after.

I don’t see how any of that can stifle creativity when there are so many markets to blend. Writers do it all the time — the successful ones, at least, who are earning a decent living from it. But if you are trying to force out a story for a particular market because you think that is where the dollar is, but it’s not a market you particularly enjoy yourself, that is a recipe for failure, I’d say. Creativity works best when it’s fun.

If you are just starting out with your first go at a novel, write the stories you want to write. If they ever get to market (a whole new ballgame) they will attract readers who share your tastes. That is your audience, that is your market. Don’t overthink it before you’ve written it.

 

How do I create a three-dimensional character?

 

It’s complex. Character derives from a number of different elements of writing — character background, desires, fears, experiences … and the list goes on. Add into the mix a tight POV (I.E. no author-intrusion) and a strong story arc. But ultimately, a strong sense of their emotional core (what values they hold above all else) will set you on the right track because this will dictate the decisions they make and their ensuing behaviour. Working out how your character reacts to things at core level will be their most convincing aspect and it will dictate every action they take in your story.

More on Character here

And here

 

What is the purpose of a flat character?

 

Flat characters can be used to convey a societal opinion that perhaps wouldn't make your main characters very endearing if they shared the same opinion, such as prejudicial subjects, but are necessary to convey in order to carry a theme or to pose an underlying question to the reader within the story. They can also be used as the voice of reason or the voice of fear to convey your main characters' inner feelings without directly doing so. They are often used as a tool to pose questions about subjects within the story that cannot be assumed to be known to the reader, acting as the reader's proxy for the questions the reader might be asking themselves while they read (or watch). They are also used as foils -- or contrasts -- to your main characters, such as with the aunt and uncle in the Harry Potter books. They never change and serve to contrast against everything Harry stands for morally

 

What is the most important point to consider when writing a mystery?

 

Timing is key - knowing when to hold back and when to drop in key information, but also knowing the difference between holding back in a way that frustrates the reader (a no-no) and holding back in a way that creates intrigue.

The first half of a mystery should set up the right questions in the reader’s mind (i.e. the leads or clues in a case) and the second half should begin to answer them and continue to do so until its final conclusion.

Then there’s atmosphere — you want the story to sound mysterious, and that relies on word choices and how your characters act within the story to dictate the tone.

Throw in a couple of plot twists to keep the reader on their toes and you should be halfway there.

 

Check out my brand new class in the How to Plot Story Arcs series -- Part 5 The Mysterious Middle. If you're in a muddle in the middle of your story, this is the your ticket to chug on through! No need to take the whole series in order to understand the class, though doing so will provide a fuller understanding of arc mechanics.