Every now and then I like to give some writing advice on my blog because so many of my readers are also writers. I also get a lot of emails from young (and not so young) fans asking for advice. So here’s a handout for a talk I give about five things to know before you cozy up to the computer and start writing.
Five Things You Need to Know About Writing Before You Get to Work
By C.C. Hunter
Point of View–POV
POV basically means who is telling your story. Whose head are you in during this particular moment, in this particular scene? That is your POV character. Think of your POV character as your camera, your recording device, and your only method of gathering story data. If your POV character can’t see it, you can’t describe it for your readers. If they can’t hear it, you can’t let your readers hear it. If your POV character doesn’t know it, you can’t tell it to the reader. If your character wouldn’t think that way, then you can’t write that way.
What are your character’s goals? What does she/he want right now and does this goal tie in to what he/she wants as a long term story goal? Is the goal hero/heroine worthy? In other words, wanting to become a cheerleader so you can be popular is not a worthy goal for a heroine/hero. But wanting to become a cheerleader so you can finally feel as if you fit in at your new school . . . that is a hero/heroine worthy goal.
The most important question to ask your characters is “Why?” Why do they do what they do? Why do they want what they want? Why do they fear what they fear? Generally, the answer to the “why” questions will lead you to your character’s motivation. In real life, sometimes we don’t always understand why we do things. Sometimes in our books, the “why” may not be clear to the characters, but it definitely needs to be clear to the reader. The reason for this is simple. It is human nature to want to understand what motivates people. If a reader can’t understand the reason your characters are reacting and acting in certain ways, they may not believe in them.
Think about it this way: Motivation leads to caring. When an action is good, understanding the “why” behind the action increases the reader’s anticipation of seeing the character achieve his or her goal.
Motivation also leads to understanding. When a character’s actions or emotions are somewhat misguided, hard to grasp, or lean toward the unethical (lying, breaking a law, behaving badly), motivation becomes even more important.
A writer’s job is to be mean to their characters. To say no to everything the character wants and make him/her work harder. Every story, every scene in a story, needs conflict to be interesting.
If you want a reader to read your book, you need an opening hook. But that’s not all. You also need an ending hook to every scene. And you need chapter hooks, too. So, what is a hook? A hook is basically anything that instills curiosity or a question in a reader’s mind. It is the thing that propels the reader to turn the page and keep reading. It can be new or an unexpected piece of information. It can be a startling action. i.e., She looked up and saw the eighteen-wheeler coming right at her. It can be a character about to come to a conclusion, or even a character internally asking a question that will lead to a realization that puts everything into a different perspective. i.e., If Johnny showed up today, it would mean he cared. But if he didn’t show up…What would that mean?
So tell me, are you a writer or do you want to become a writer?