Posted in creative writing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Open Doors and Plot Holes

Death_to_stock_Dinner_damo_8.jpgMaybe this only happens in my house, but unlike the picture above with nicely closed cabinet doors, I can walk into a room and, no kidding, there is almost always at least one drawer, cupboard door, or package of something or other left open. Usually, more than one. There have been times when I’ve walked into the kitchen and literally every cupboard door is standing open because someone was looking for something and, after finding it, walked away.

What does this have to do with plot holes?

Your readers are like one of my kids looking for the bag of chocolate chips they want to add to their spoon of peanut butter. They keep looking for the answers you’ve promised them, scouring every page, rereading when they think they might have missed something, or silently working out all possible endings when they’re forced to put down a book and pay attention to real life for a few hours.

Those times when all the cupboard doors are left open because they have to search that hard, it often results from one of two things:

1: They’ve opened every other door in the kitchen and are reaching for the last one, opening it slowly, only to find, the cupboard is bare and the answers you promised aren’t actually in the kitchen, or anywhere…and they walk away, annoyed and vowing to never read anything of yours again because, dang it, when you want a snack and can only find celery sticks that make your mouth itch, your definitely not going to take the time to clean up your mess.

OR

2: They reach for that last cupboard door, pull it open and – because you’ve done an impeccable job of filling in holes and stretching out your reveals – all those awesome answers come flooding out at the very end for your reader to gobble up as hungrily as my kids might those cookies I tried to hide from them, and abandon the kitchen in complete satisfaction…forgetting to close all the cupboard doors.

The point?

Little Blond GirlJust like when my kids (my daughter specifically) stomps away, annoyed I haven’t purchased sufficient snack-worthy foods, your readers will walk away when they finish a book unsatisfied because of questions you never answered if your book leaves them with option #1.

I’ve been teaching a self-editing class this semester, and one of the best tips for avoiding plot holes is to re-outline your novel or story as you do your first major edit.

Why?

Editing sucks, right? 90% of writers will agree with me on that, I’m pretty sure.

Outlines suck even more. Okay, maybe only other pansters will agree with me on that, but that’s got to be at least 50%, right?

You know what sucks more, though? Having a reader leave a nasty review…one that’s legit and calls you out on shortcuts you took or hints you failed to live up to.

During your first major outline, take the time to outline your book, taking note of all the hints you added in, the questions you posed, and the bits of backstory you teased your readers with.

Did you follow up on each and every one?

If not, you have two choices:

1: Nix it. If you never followed up because that particular tidbit simply didn’t pan out, remove it.

Questions2: Fill in where you neglected to follow through. Any questions you posed that pertain to that particular book (notice I’m not talking series-length questions) make sure you have an answer, or make it apparent that question will be answered in a subsequent book, if you’re working on a series.

Most readers have a Love/Hate relationship with valid cliffhangers.

ALL readers have a Hate/Hate relationship with lazy writing that leaves them questioning why they purchased a book.

Don’t let your readers down. Answer every question you ask, even the ones you might have forgotten about from those first few chapters when the concept of your story was still in flux. You’ll thank yourself later, and so will your readers. Nobody wants to end a book like Lost Season 6, trust me. Rants are still happening about that finale six years after the fact.

Posted in write publish repeat

Write. Publish. Repeat. is branching out to iTunes and Stitcher!

 WRITE. PUBLISH. REPEAT. Podcast is branching out to iTunes and Stitcher!

WPR Header ImageThis podcast is aimed sat helping writers with a wide variety of topics in writing, publishing, and marketing. It’s a mix of lecture-style podcasts using information taken from the curriculum of the classes I teach and conversations with other authors willing to share their advice and experiences.

So, if you’re interested in writing, the publishing industry, or learning how to market your books better, you’ve found the right place!

Either click on the WPR Logo to subscribe to the RSS feed or click the episode link to download the file to your device.

Subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking on the WPR image below or check out the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher:

Podcast LogoWPR iTunes WPR Stitcher

Episode 1: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

Episode 2: Query Letters and Social Media with guest SeriouslyGina

Episode 3: Creating a Marketing Plan That’s Actually Doable – Part One

Episode 4: Creating a Marketing Plan That’s Actually Doable – Part Two

Episode 5: Author Collaboration with Guest Melissa Eskue Ousley

Creative Commons License
WritePublishRepeat by DelSheree Gladden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://delshereegladden.com/writepublishrepeat/.

Posted in write publish repeat

Veturing into the world of Podcasting

I have been going back and forth lately about what platform I would like to focus on for helping other writers and have settled on podcasting!

I love listening to podcasts thanks to my husband introducing me to them and I like the flexibility and format and there will be an archive that is easy to access through iTunes and various other avenues.

Write. Publish. Repeat. will be launching soon!

Podcast Logo

I’m still working on editing the first episode, but I hope to have it up and ready to go next week. The first episode will deal with one of the most frustrating aspects of publishing. The Query Letter.

Titled “How to write a query letter without going completely crazy” I’ll be discussing the basics of what a query letter is, the parts of a query letter, and tips for making yours stand out.

You can follow the podcast now and it will soon be available on iTunes as well!

FOLLOW HERE

Posted in writing, writing advice, writing tips

Creating a Protagonist With Depth: Part Five

If you haven’t read the first three part in the series, you can find Part One HERE, Part Two HERE, Part Three HERE and Part Four HERE.


Now let’s discuss how to make your characters fail in a way that makes them better.


iStock_000024086772Large

Failure

Just like nobody enjoys a perfect character, no one likes a character that always makes the right choices and succeeds
If your character always succeeds, where’s the tension, the worry that they might fail? Without that, readers get bored.
A story needs fear that the character will fail/die/be beaten in order to keep readers flipping pages.
Even if they think they know where the story is going, they want to find out how they’ll get there


 How do you make them fail? Rope 2

Look back at their list of faults and flaws. Which of those can you use to put them in a situation where making the right choice will be difficult?
In “What We Saw At Night” Allie doesn’t tell the police what she saw because she’s afraid of getting in trouble for being somewhere she shouldn’t.
Why was she out at night? Because she has a severe sun allergy and has started taking risks because she thinks she won’t live very long.


hand over mouthHow do you avoid nonsense failure?

Does it make sense in real life?
If some guy told you he was sneaking into your room to watch you sleep at night, you’d freak out. Bella, though, was totally cool with it, which has garnered criticism.
Would two parents ever actually split up twin girls and never let them see each other for their own selfish reasons like they did in The Parent Trap? I highly doubt it.
When helping characters make decisions, make sure there’s a good reason for what they choose. Lean on that backstory you crafted.
Do their fears influence them?
Have past hurts caused them to mistrust others when they shouldn’t?


What character failures have left an impression with you?


Posted in writing, writing advice

Where Does Your Book End…Literally

Many writers start a project with an end goal in mind. Even those of us who are pantsers (write by the seat of our pants) tend to know generally where our story or book will end. Those who outline and thoroughly plot know exactly where their story will end.

Globe2I’m talking in terms of the end goal of the plot. Will the MC meet their goal or fail so spectacularly that readers will be hard-pressed to forget? This is important. VERY important. Having a weak ending or no ending at all is a major turn-off for readers, but that’s also another discussion all together. What I’m talking about today is where your book ends physically.

How many of you decide or even just consider the physical location where your plot will come to fruition?

You may be asking if it really matters. It does. A lot.

Let’s Consider Neo and the Matrix…

MatrixThe final fight scene in the matrix blew people away when it originally hit theaters in 1999. The special effects have been copied over and over by now, but the bullets halted mid-flight and Neo’s ability to move like the Agents wasn’t the only thing that made this final scene so memorable.

Setting had a huge role to play as well.

The end goal of the plot in Matrix was that Neo realize he is “The One” and figure out how to defend the freed humans against the machines. Fabulous plot, but what would that final realization have been like if Neo had reached it outside the Matrix?

Not nearly as impactful.

Neo being pretty much dead and losing hope while faced with his enemy, inside their fabricated world — of which he has little control of at this point — while his mentor is being tortured in that same building, and no chance of escape…well, that’s a pretty bad place to be, right? The exact kind of place he where you either need to dig deep or give up. Being outside of the Matrix, relatively safe and surrounded by people who are trying to help him…what would have pushed him to find his true strength? Neo realizing he was the one person meant to save the humans wouldn’t have had anywhere near the same effect if it had come over his morning bowl of mush as he worried about Morpheus having been captured.

Where your final scene happens should be connected to your character in some way.


Is it a place from their past, something symbolic of what they’re trying to overcome?

Such as a childhood home or the location of a traumatic experience, or perhaps a place they once loved and they return to at the end of their quest to put their life back together? The location should be relevant to your character’s history and journey.

Has it been previously referenced?

Ending up somewhere that readers are familiar with, even in passing, will mean more to them than a brand new, never before seen venue. Foreshadowing is a great tool in setting up the final location where the book will take place. A brand new location risks seeming irrelevant to the reader, and may not be the most logical place either.

Does the location make sense for what’s going to happen?

If the final scene is a verbal confrontation (Ex: standing up to a tormentor), think about what type of space will make this more intense. Wide open areas provide room to escape or avoid while small spaces may pin the character into the situation until it’s resolved. Public locations vs. private ones can have a great impact as well. A public location means there will be witnesses. Will there be action involved? Will they be on the move or stuck in one area? What obstacles will the location provide?

Is there meaning behind the setting?

Whatever setting you choose, there should be a reason for that choice. Think about your character arc. Where did this character begin emotionally, mentally, physically, and in reference to the overall plot? Where do they end up? Does your final setting reflect the changes your character has made during the journey that is their character arc. A character arc should come full circle. Setting should as well. That doesn’t mean your final scene should be in the same location as the beginning scene, however, the final setting should be chosen just as carefully as the initial setting was chosen. It needs to reflect what the character has overcome and what their future may hold.


What final scenes of books or movies have stuck with you, thanks in part to the setting?

Posted in characters, writing

Creating A Protagonist With Depth: Part Four

If you haven’t read the first three part in the series, you can find Part One HERE, Part Two HERE, and Part Three HERE.


Now let’s discuss how to fill out your character with some backstory, faults, contradictions, and conflict.

iStock_000014115888LargeBackstory

Now that we have the basics of your character and who they are at the beginning and end, it’s time to fill in the middle.

We do that with backstory. Why is your character the way they are?

Remember those personality flaws, fears, and annoying habits you created earlier? Now it’s time to find out where they came from.

The reason behind the flaw is what makes it interesting.

Ex: Lena from “Beautiful Creatures” is afraid of falling in love because of the curse on her family that tells her she’ll turn evil and hurt the people she cares about.
That’s more interesting than just being too shy to ask a guy out.

Like an iceberg, most of the backstory you come up with will never appear on the pages, but it will make your character who they are. 


Depressed young homeless womanFaults

Nobody likes perfect characters. They’re boring.

Every character needs a few faults.

Make a list of 5 faults your character has – let’s go deeper than not being able to make a free throw.

Personality flaws: unreliable, eccentric, immoral, volatile.

Fears: common or complex – Indiana Jones’ fear of snakes got him in trouble a few times.

Weaknesses: unemotional, domineering, perfectionist.


IMG_0454Contradictions

Faults aren’t enough. Your character needs to be contradictory at times.

Why? No real person behaves the way they should all the time.

We do things we know are wrong, go against our own beliefs, and do the opposite of what we intended to do.

This can go the other way too. Does your bad guy had a soft spot?

No one is all good or all evil. Your characters need to have a mix of both.


Man with SwordConflict

Every good character needs plenty of conflict, not just from situations they find themselves in, but internal conflict as well.

Go back to your list of fears…

Which of these fears will your character face and try to conquer in your story?

While trying to overcome the main conflict in the story, your character must also overcome internal conflicts that are holding them back.

If they don’t, their character arc won’t be completed.


Full, rounded out characters can make or break a story. Giving your character a life outside the story will help them come alive on the pages for your readers.

Posted in writing advice, writing thoughts

Unreliable Narrators Are Not My Favorite

gone girlThe unreliable narrator has shown up in some pretty popular books, like Gone GirlClockwork OrangeLolita, and Fight Club, just to name a few.

What is an unreliable narrator?

It’s basically a narrator whose credibility has been seriously compromised.

This can be obvious to the reader, as it is with Alex in A Clockwork Orange, or not so obvious, like it was with Gone Girl.

Why don’t I like unreliable narrators?

Because it’s hardly ever done well. Gone Girl is one of the exceptions, and I’m a little hazy of Fight Club at the moment because it’s been a while, but I seem to remember thinking that one was done pretty well too.

What makes the difference between an unreliable narrator being 8858f-bookpagesdone well or feeling like a cheap trick?

It all comes down to the ending.

I remember watching a movie with my hubby some years back called Hide and Seek. My husband and I both agreed that this one of the worst attempts at an unreliable narrator that we’d come across. What left us feeling that way? Basically, by the end of the movie, we were both left feeling like we had been blatantly lied to through the whole movie. The MC acted in ways completely contradictory to the truth that would eventually be revealed, and so did his daughter.

The daughter was the biggest disappointment, because it made no sense at all that she would respond to the dad’s questions and act the way she did when she knew the truth the whole time. There wasn’t any logical reason for the way the characters behaved, EXCEPT that the writers were lying to the audience.

sixth senseHow is this different that a good unreliable narrator?

An unreliable narrator believes in his or her reality, or is completely committed to the deception they’re trying to perpetrate. Every word that comes out of their mouth, every action the take, and look and gesture should all be in line with their warped viewpoint or deception.

At the end of the book/movie, you should be able to look back and not point out any instances where things don’t line up.

The Sixth Sense is a good example of this. If you’ve ever watched the “making of” for that movie, you’ll see how the painstakingly went through that entire film to make sure Bruce Willis never talks or touches anyone other than the boy. They create situations where there “seems” to be interaction, such as when he’s sitting in the living room with the boys mom, or goes to meet his wife at the restaurant, BUT you see at the end that none of those scenes were what they seemed.

When writing an unreliable narrator, this is what it takes.

Unreliable narrators are tough to write well. There has to be a well thought out plan. Interactions, thoughts, and dialog has to be scrutinized. It’s a lot of work, but if you can pull it off, you’ll have something people will remember for a long time!