Sunday, May 26, 2013

Your First Idea is Not (Usually) Your Best

I have been working on Keep Your Eyes On Me for over three months now and I am still in a pretty confident state on mind. I even had some breakthroughs for my series that I put on hold, so my creative fountain is just gushing right now.

I have to say, though, that one of the biggest things I am noticing while writing Keep Your Eyes On Me is that your first idea is not usually the best idea you can come up with. Now, the main concept that got me to start the story - yeah, that kind of stayed exactly the same (so far). But I'm willing to put almost anything else on the guillotine if it makes the story stronger. 

Nothing should be sacred here except the ultimate goal of creating the best story you can.


That being said, I have already had a ton of changes occur in my story from the start to the 60,000 words mark I'm at now. Through these changes, I have come up with a few strategies to see if your writing could use some reconstructing in order to spice things up.  To better lay this out for my fellow aspiring writers, I have decided to use a listing format....because, let's face it, who doesn't like a good list?

1. Is your setting/character/storyline too cookie cutter? It seems to me when I am first visualizing characters I tend to make them very cookie cutter and flat. Starting with just an initial planning phases and character development, it is hard to really make them into unique people when I haven't had a chance to meet (write about) them yet. Essentially they are still "flat" in my mind and the writing process helps me to build them out. After a substantial amount of time with them, you can start to see how "cookie cutter" some of them are. It is natural to draw on stereotypes when first writing because, unfortunately, they are still heavily used in media today. The snotty head cheerleader. The dark, bad boy. The overly confident jock. The nerdy bookworm. The boy next door. Sometimes it is fun to combine two of these though - how about a dark, bad boy who's also a bookworm? Or give the stereotypical character a trait that is the total opposite of the norm - the head cheerleader who likes to skateboard too? This goes for setting and storyline as well. I don't know if there is any more room for a normal human girl who falls in love with a gorgeous vampire but when you add something different to the equation, who knows?

2. Are you trying to be too dramatic? Could something "less dramatic" turn out to be more dramatic in the end? I have a writing disease and it is called always-introducing-a-main-character-who-is-still-getting-over-someone's-death. I started my series this way and I started my stand alone, The Beholder, this way. Well, I didn't necessarily say she was getting over it since it happened three years prior to my novel starting, but she still mentions her mother's death in the first page, so it is definitely a underlying issue for her. Why do I do that?? Well, I want the main character to be struggling with something in the background of the main conflict so that it makes the struggle even harder. Death seems like one of the most dramatic things to deal with, right? Here's the problem with death though (unless you are writing a story in which ghosts/spirits can interact with people), the conflict is all internal. And yes, internal conflict can be very powerful too but ...instead of her mom being dead though, what if she is alive and well? What if she is perfectly healthy and happy - just in a totally different state with a man that is NOT the main character's father? Yes, what if the mom had a mid-life crisis and randomly picked up and moved across the country with a man half her age? That means there is a living, breathing incarnation of the drama and she can come back at any time. In fact, I plan on her coming back right when my main character is at the height of the conflict. Isn't that so much better then her just being plain old dead? Well, it is for me since, you know, I have that disease. This also makes my character's motivations that much more interesting.

3. Are you writing from the right viewpoint for your story? I have not changed my viewpoint for Keep Your Eyes On Me but I did this for the series I was working on. There was initially only one main character in first-person and that is how I planned to tell the whole story but as I continued to write, I found it very hard to explain some things because I could only see it from the eyes of Aiden (the main character).  I was very stubborn in even considering a different viewpoint because I had this crazy notion that whatever POV I had initially started with, that was the true and proper format the story should be in.  I just didn't want to lose Aiden in the mix of things since he was the element that everyone was revolving around. I kept Aiden as the center of attention but, as I built up different characters, I found that many of them had a unique voice and their own intricate story lines. I found that the story could flourish even more with multiple POV. You could also find a dramatic change by switching up tense. I know that with the Matched series by Ally Condi, reading everything in the present tense made it seem that much more urgent and powerful.

Are there any tricks or exercises you use to make your WIP better after you have a certain amount of it completed?

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