Writing the Character-Driven Story: Chapter 2, Part 2

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Writing the Character-Driven Story: Chapter 2, Part 2
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“Be honest about the words and actions of your characters, and they will not lead your story astray.” Stephen King

Chapter 2, Part 2: BEING the Almighty Writer on High

First, if you do not outline and simply serve your characters as their Recorder or Stenographer or Friend with a Keyboard, you can skip this part of the chapter. There is no reason to subject yourself to the horrors that will follow. (grin)

If you are curious, read on.

To review, as the Almighty Writer on High, you control everything. You carefully outline pretty much every step your characters will take, from the overall goal of the hero to which stumbling blocks the evil adversary will toss into his path and when.

You also control whether and how he will overcome them, and how the whole thing turns out. Cover to cover, this is a story you construct with your conscious, critical mind. You are the construction foreman. When the outline is constructed…

First, you must force your way past the drudgery of already knowing the story and actually write it.

Still, having completed the outline, you know the significant aspects of the entire story. So how hard could it be?

But also, how interesting could it be? Filling in the blanks will be sheer drudgery.

Or perhaps, like one famous writer I know of, you might hire a ghostwriter or engage some lowly journeyman to engage in that drudgery on your behalf.

Then again, good ghostwriters cost a lot of money, and we lowly journeymen are busy gleefully writing our own characters’ stories.

So chances are, you’ll trudge through and write it yourself. But if you want to be the Almighty Writer on High, that’s good. It’s what I would recommend for you.

After you’ve written the story, here’s what will happen, plus or minus one or more of the aspects below:

  • You must engage in (probably several) revisions, which I liken to cleaning the house before the maid comes over.
  • You must submit your masterpiece to your critique group or “beta readers” or whomever and endure criticism from them, just as if they somehow know the story that’s in your head better than you do.
  • Finally, you must rewrite X or XX number of times to “polish” the story.

But I have to ask a rhetorical question here:

Do you suppose at this point it’s the same story that the characters would have conveyed if left to their own devices?

It isn’t.

But then, it wasn’t the same story the characters would have conveyed through you (the conduit, remember? only the fingers on the keyboard?) had you only trusted them to tell the story they’re actually living.

Still, after all that work, probably you will believe the story is a masterpiece, the likes of which the world has never seen. Or it will be after you get critical input and rewrite however many times.

It won’t.

Of course, when I talk about experiencing “drudgery,” I’m talking about those who REALLY see the process as drudgery.

I’m not talking about the fakers who circulate about the release party of their book with one forearm flung dramatically over their brow and a glass of wine or a slice of brie on a cracker in their other hand, pinkie finger raised appropriately.

You know, the ones who are looking for someone, anyone, who will at least try to understand (and be impressed by) the terrible suffering they must endure for their art?

Those tender, gentle, very special artistes who, despite the fact that they detest the absolute drudgery of writing, simply must shoulder the heady responsibility that has been thrust upon them by their calling and blah blah blah.

Smells like a steamy pile of fresh bull manure to me.

But that isn’t you, is it?

Like so many of us who have now learned better and broken away, you’ve simply followed the advice you’ve heard all your life.

Mostly from people who don’t write fiction or who have written very little fiction and are beginners or would-be writers themselves.

But there is a better way.

You can write one clean draft the first time through, then submit or publish it, and move on to the next story. It’s called Practice.

For more on that, go back and read “The Recorder (or Friend with a Keyboard)” earlier in this chapter.

As you write, take a short break once an hour or so. When you return, read over what you wrote in the previous session FOR PLEASURE (the same creative subconscious from which you create).

As you read, allow your fingers to rest on the keyboard, and allow the characters, through your fingers, to change whatever they want.

But do not “look for” anything (critical mind). Do not “think” about what would be better or whatever. Just read for pleasure and allow the characters the use of your fingers.

Because it is accomplished with your creative subconscious instead of your conscious mind, this is called cycling instead of revision. And it works.

Write/cycle back/write/cycle back. When you reach the end of the story, you will have written one clean draft to the best of your current ability, and you can submit or publish the work and move on to the next one.

It really is that easy.

Oh, one more point—

Remember that old saying, that the writer is the worst judge of his own work? Everybody says so, and for once, they’re right.

But also remember that the saying works both ways.

  • If you think the work is wonderful, some readers will agree with you. But others won’t like it.
  • If you think the work sucks canal water from all 50 states, again some readers will agree with you. But others will believe that what you’ve written is nothing short of wonderful.

But judging the work isn’t your job anyway. Your only job is to write it on behalf of your characters. And your opinion, even of your own work, is only one opinion. Just like each opinion of the aformentioned critique group. And every reader out in the wild has his or her opinion too.

Meanwhile, instead of spinning your wheels outlining and revising and getting critical input and rewriting, you will be writing: putting new words on the page.

And you’ll be amazed how much your writing will improve with practice and how many readers will love what you do.

Next up, Chapter 3, Part 1. Talk with you again then.

I’ll talk with you again then.

Of Interest

Sale! Just Three Bundles! I recommend the Bite-Sized Copyright bundle. Or just buy a copy of The Copyright Handbook (around $40).

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1120

Writing of Blackwell Ops 20: Soleada Garcia: Into the Future (tentative title)

Day 1…… 3681 words. To date…… 3681
Day 2…… 3044 words. To date…… 6725

Fiction for February……………………. 10411
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 128015
Fiction since October 1……………… 431072
Nonfiction for February……………… 8110
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 40070
2024 consumable words…………… 168085

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 3
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 85
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 239
Short story collections…………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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