Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Too Many Books Spoil The...

Dear Dead Beat,

What do you think about the recent debate as to whether there are too many books being written?

Spoiled For Choice

Dear Spoiled For Choice,

Walk into any bookstore and look around. Your answer is already there. Dead Beat quite honestly gets frightened in those places.

There are far too many books already written. There is little need for any more. Any self-respecting bookstore would have half a dozen shelves and the cream of the crop. And yet it seems we know of little else to do. So we tap at the keys and smudge the page.

This is why we need to be so severe on ourselves. Send out for publishing only that deserving of being published, and believe you me that is very little indeed.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Importance of Character Development

Dear Dead Beat,

I sometimes think my characters are too 'flat'. Not real enough. Is there anything specific I can do?


Dear Wondering,

If your characters are too flat, just get a pump and inflate them.

Okay, that it were that easy. But hold on what do characters consist of?
Characters are described mainly through their thoughts , speech and actions. The difference between thoughts and speech (dialogue) is very important since what we say and what we think are often entirely different things.

We certainly use description and details to describe what our characters look like, what they wear, eat, what music they listen to etc. but our characters' actions will reveal far more about them - actions and reactions - we can make stereotypical judgements about people based on their dress, their music interest etc. and we can be very wrong in our judgements. If we observe their actions and reactions, we learn far more about them.

So focus on the important aspects of character developement. For sure know the type of clothing they would wear etc. and be consistent but work hard to understand their actions - why they do what they do -

And here's a point - characters need to be consistent to be credible - however what truly makes a character interesting is when we reach that moment of inconsistency.

We expect the character to respond in a certain way - their spouse expects them to respond in a certain way - but he or she responds differently - now the character is very interesting and the reader is engaged - Develop consistency to amplify that all important moment of inconsistency.

And yup, character is all. No matter how good your plot is, or your passages of description, if your characters fall flat or are not credible, human nature being as it is, the reader will lose interest.

Readers read about characters to learn more about themselves. We are a selfish breed no doubt about it!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

KickStarting The Writing Process

Dear Dead Beat,

I have just taken an extended Christmas and New Year's break from writing and am finding it hard to get kick-started again. Any advice?

Dead Beat

Dear Dead Beat,

You have come to the right person. KickStart is my middle name. Pull out whatever it is you were last working on and read it over. Read it aloud. Get a feel for it again. If you were working on something long, read a lot if not all of it. If you were working on something shorter, you may want to read several pieces you recently wrote. Then if you have a dog, take it for a walk. Preferably, take it for a long walk. If your dog is short, take several dogs...

So much depends on where you were in the process. If you are still working on a draft of a story, poem, novel, then once you have the feel for it carry on. If you have come to the end of a draft, then begin the rewrite. If your last piece was already finished, then you are fooling yourself.

The key is getting the feel of the piece to return. Reading aloud, repeatedly if necessary, will aid immensely with this.

Most importantly, get back into your writing routine. (If you don't have one, you are doing yourself and your writing a great disservice.) The pattern of writing will then return more easily.

And oh yes, lay off the rum sodden eggnog.
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