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Creative Writing Done in the Right Way: Character Development and Plotting

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Special Notification: The PublicLiterature Story Published

Hi friends, you might have read my previous post about the short story to be published in PublicLiterature.Org. That story, titled ‘Sacrifice’ has been published successfully. Thanks to my friend Jack Dale for taking a quick action on it. I am hoping to find myself submitting more and more to that website in the coming days. Please find the link to the story here.

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Most aspirant writers are very confused of various aspects of creative writing: plotting and character development are the most important among them. Characters make a story, their story. Most people find it difficult to speculate these aspects of creative writing. But here are some tips for you to work on your short story or novel which you are working on.

Character Building

To craft good characters, the best method is to look around yourself. Go out, talk to some friends, and refresh yourself. Then, either get hold of a very good novel with good characterization, or go for a nice movie based on a good work of fiction. Now, you will be better equipped to envisage a character, your starting point to your story.

Once you have that character, you have a starting point for a story. But getting to know your character deeply is very important. For that, I have a good suggestion to you. You can transform yourself to that character for some time and picture yourself talking to the others.

Act within the comfort of your room. I often do this when I have a character at work. I transform myself to the character, whether it’s a she or a he. I act out the part, speak the dialogs, and actually believe that I am the character.

Once I know of my character, I fire up the Internet Relay Chat messenger (Yahoo! Messenger) and use it to talk to any anonymous fellow found in the chat room in my character’s disguise. That will enable me to understand the character further as well as how a normal person would talk to my character. These methods help develop the character well.

Plot Development

Good characters make the story and keep it going. Knowing your reader’s mind is extremely important. Your reader expects something off your characters. So, give it to them. They expect to read something, and we, as author, should tell them that. But not always!

The reader’s interest lies in reading what they can comprehend well; and they expect certain developments in the story. Most of your readers will comprehend you if you tell them a normal straightforward story, and most would stop reading the moment you jam their brain with complexities. Keep their interest moving till the end or any important part of the story, where you should twist all their expectations and put up an entirely different development, logical in every sense, but the circumstances to which have been elusive to the reader throughout the story.

In order to develop the plot in the normal way, the best way is to allow it to grow on its own. You should not butt in anything. Let the characters live their lives in the way they want. You have no one-sentence plot originally (means you don’t know the story at all at the beginning). You will know what it is, at the end of the story when your characters have all acted their part to perfection. So, start the story with a character rather than a plot.

Start your story with the most promising character you have. Then gradually let the other characters come into the story as naturally as they wish themselves. Let our original character do what he/she wishes to. Let the newer characters do what they want, and in a 99 % probability, conflict of interest will occur. Once it does, you have the action and thrill. By the sheer nature of a character, he/she may attempt something wise or something foolish. To know what it is, ask your character.

And the consequence of this foolish or wise act is dependant on the other characters in the story. Once they decide to do what they want, more action will follow. In the middle of the story, it is like a chess game. Some great events have occurred, and the characters are in weird positions. Some may decide something and others something else. In such mess of a predicament, the authors find themselves in awkward position. Sometimes it is difficult to move the story forward. Here, you cannot fool your readers by twisting the story in your way as an author. You should let the characters decide how to move the story forward. And they will definitely move it forward, the only trick is understanding them perfectly.

For instance, if you have a character who is a stubborn cocksure crook, then you cannot make him a submissive obedient idiot in the middle of a scene, until a moment ago which he was his own self. That will look unoriginal to the readers and would mar the story right then. But to make the situation manageable, you can use any new character or make any less known character take new a new role. But, no: You cannot make a character’s basic code of conduct change so abruptly to match the storyline.

You Are a Nobody

You are the author, and still you are a nobody. You are only the narrator. If somebody told you “As the author, you are god,” it’s bullshit! God doesn’t exist in novels, neither outside it. Story is a collaborative thing. The author has no hand in deciding the storyline. It’s the task of the characters. They decide how to move the story forward and how to end it. You as author are powerless if your character decides something. You can only narrate what he/she has decided to do and done. But you can bring new characters into the story and let them take charge, let them take control not to make the situation worse.

So, as the author, just understand your characters and let them tell you the story rather than using them to tell readers the story. When you use your characters, your story will look more like a puppet drama. So, don’t use your characters, but use your skill of narration to describe what your characters do; make them human beings and not puppets in your hand. Learn the characters and let them make or mar the situation according to their preferences.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

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