Sunday, August 16, 2015

Slipping Through the Cracks

Sometimes, when you're writing a story with a complicated world or plot, you tend to go a little overboard building it up. Or, at least, I know I do.

For example, when I started writing Evander's, I over-complicated everything. I had so many characters that I had to create a spreadsheet to keep track of their names, gifts, family members, love interest etc. It was kind of exhausting.

I spent so long worrying about the little details that I forgot to focus on the actual story. Now, I know, there are people who will say that you have to extensively build your world, before you can fill it with events and people. Plot out the location, street/world maps and character profiles. But that's just not how I work. I'm a plot person - I let the characters lead the way, once I start writing. It means that I can figure out the story as I go along, following a rough guide of where I want it to go.

When I'm not thinking about how intricate the world is, I'm more likely to spot those little plot gaps that slip through the cracks. The small, silly things that go unnoticed as you're writing.

I think the best thing about an intricate world is that you have so many places to take it and so many people who can lead the way there. In my trilogy, the main players are introduced early in book 1, but they adapt and progress, changing according the events that take place.

I know that, if I'd focused on the world-building, I wouldn't have such a good exploration of the characters. I've read some books where the characters personalities stagnate, after the initial introduction and they never change, even after major events that should make them open their eyes or react differently. Why? The majority of the time, it's because the author has spent so much time creating this world of chaos and drama, that the characters fall away and become predictable and boring.

Don't get me wrong, I've done the same myself. In fact, I did it with Runaway Girl. I got so wound up in creating this complicated plot, that my characters and their personal journeys slipped through the cracks. And that's no good. I do, one day, want to go back and re-edit Runaway Girl, to clean up those rookie mistakes and make sure nothing is missed or overlooked again, but I just don't have the time right now. Maybe one day. For now, I'm focusing on not making that mistake again.

The moment you let something sneak past you, go unnoticed or simply lie there, because you don't know to fix it or don't realise it needs fixed, your writing suffers. This is one of those things that Beta Readers can really help you with. They don't know the story like you do, so they won't miss the little things. You know they're supposed to be there - you planned for them to be there - but even when they're not, you can be too familiar with the story to notice that they're missing.

Outside influence is probably the best thing you can do for your writing. Get a second opinion, get a third or fourth. Get ten! Whatever you do, recognise that you need help to make your story the best that it can be.

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