Part 2 of Writing Tip ABCs tackles words from G to L.
G is up first.
GESTURES a character makes tells a reader something about him, his mood, his attitude, etc. If a character raises his middle finger toward another character we know he's made a disparaging remark, whether any dialogue is involved or not. If we read that a civilian character has given a proper salute to an army colonel, we could conclude this person has a military background.
All main characters in a story must have GOALS. Story is about characters attempting to achieve goals. If a book stars two protagonists with opposite goals, the story will be more compelling. For example, in my book "Laura's Lost Love," a love story which is set in the early 20th Century, the unmarried heroine's goal is to take in a little girl from the orphan train. The hero is tasked with denying placement of orphan train children with anyone who is not married. Hero and heroine goals are exact opposites.
Sometimes a GLIMPSE into a character's past can tell a reader all she needs to know. There is no need to do a complete psychological study on why a character won't go on picnics when all a writer needs to do is let a thought cross the character's mind. "'You want me to go on a picnic?' Joe asked. 'No thanks.' He hadn't been on a picnic since he was five and his brother Harold hid a handful of ants in his pork and beans." If the reader doesn't need to know the character had nightmares for years or that the experience caused a bed wetting problem why bore him with unnecessary details?
Up next, the letter H.
HEROES in all genres are larger than life, but they aren't perfect. Give them flaws. Make them human.
HEROINES may be demure or kick-butt women, pretty or average looking, but they, like heroes, have inner strength and human flaws.
HUMOR livens up the most serious of scenes or stories. Remember the scene in "Goldfinger" when James Bond is about to be sawed in half? Bond says to his nemesis who is watching as Bond's life is in jeopardy, "I suppose you expect me to talk." And Goldfinger replies, "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."
We continue with the letter I.
INTERVIEW characters while fleshing them out in pre-writing creation. Learn everything about them so you'll know exactly how they'll react to the problems they'll face in your story.
Readers love characters who can IMPROVISE. Think James West of "Wild, Wild West," James Bond and MacGyver. A character who creatively improvises in sticky situations adds a new dimension to your story.
An INCITING INCIDENT happens near the beginning of a story. This event causes havoc in the protagonist's life and puts his/her life terribly out of kilter. It is because this event happens that the hero/heroine sets goals which are probably different from the goals he/she had when the story opened. For example, a tornado carries Dorothy's house to Oz. (The inciting incident.) Dorothy sets her goal: she wants to return to Kansas. (Before the inciting incident, Dorothy's goal was to save Toto from Almira Gulch, the nasty lady on the bike.)
Get your characters in a JAM immediately. The deeper they’re in trouble the more engaged readers will be.
A JEZEBEL, a wicked scheming woman, makes a terrific antagonist. Readers love to hate this archetype. Of course, like any other villain, don't forget to give this nasty person a redeeming quality or two.
A JILTED man or woman is reluctant to enter into a new romance which makes him/her a great type of character to put into a romantic novel. (Once burnt, twice shy.) A hero left broken hearted by the rejection of a woman he'd loved is going to think more than twice before giving his heart away again. And doesn't this type of situation make the titanic struggle in a romantic novel all the more compelling?
Up next, K.
Readers love KARMA in their stories. They want to see the antagonist punished and the protagonist rewarded.
The KEY holds the answer to the mystery. It’s the object everyone is after. A/k/a the MacGuffin, particularly in screenplays. Think "National Treasure." Everyone was after the Declaration of Independence. Some wanted to learn the code contained within it which would give them riches beyond their wildest dreams. Some wanted to possess it for historical purposes, some wanted the document for historical and treasure purposes. The Declaration of Independence was the KEY and the MacGuffin.
That unexpected twist in a plot is known as the KICKER. Kickers add an extra element of enjoyment for readers (as long as they’re believable).
Using well known LANDMARKS as a setting or element in a plot can heighten reader involvement and interest because the locations are familiar to them. Maybe they've even visited one of these landmarks. Familiarity always increases a connection between the reader and the story, protagonists, etc. Think Devil’s Tower in “Close Encounters” or early American landmarks featured in “National Treasure” and its sequel, "Book of Secrets" or Mount Rushmore in “North by Northwest.”
Determining the LAYOUT of your plot is crucial. Events should occur in the order best suited to enhance your genre as well as your story.
Don’t neglect the LEGWORK required before you begin to write. Research, develop characters, outline, plan your plot. Writing without completing the legwork makes writing the first draft and succeeding drafts even more difficult. I know many writers like to "write by the seat of their pants," and this is okay, of course. Whatever method suits the particular author is fine. However, even if you're what's known as a "pantster" it's terribly important to know characters thoroughly and to do necessary research completely before a writer begins to write the first draft.
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Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author