Friday, October 4, 2013

give your work that "it" factor

The past weeks have involved a lot of research on how to take a book to the next level. At some point, most of us will hear things along the lines of, "The characters are compelling and the plot is well paced and the writing is beautiful BUT I didn't fall in love."

How can we get rid of that BUT and everything after? I don't think there's one magic formula but there are tips I've learned (the hard way, of course ;)) that have helped.

1. Make things worse for your character(s). How can your character's world fall apart? Break that answer down into smaller plot lines and see how those can be woven into your work. Something I had to do was write individual scenes on a separate document and then assess whether they could be included in the manuscript.

2. Leave some things unknown. This can be in the form of a secret or a new development in the plot that isn't resolved right away. Either way, don't tell the reader what happens quickly. Let them keep turning the pages to find out.

3. Make your main character's motivations clash with those of the other characters in the story. Maybe your hero wants to travel but his family wants him to stay at home and take care of them. Or perhaps your character wants to support one friend at another friend's expense. Make sure that picking one thing means letting go of another. Center it around a difficult choice.

4. Show some hardship that your character has to overcome. We don't want to root for a perfect character with a perfect journey. Yawn. See if your character has a sympathetic back story that can serve as a reason for us to root for him/her.

5. Think of elements that only you can add. I truly believe that originality goes a long way. When I read author interviews, a lot of their stories are influenced by their own upbringings, struggles, and professions. A chef can include enticing recipes in a narrative about cooking. A historian can set the scene for an old war drama. What are your interests? How can you include them to make the reading experience a fun learning one?

How do you think a book gets that "it" factor?

something to think about when pursuing fulfilling work

"The misguidance of love is that it’s all about feeling good. But pride is what makes something worthwhile. Pride is what makes you care about the quality and impact of your work.
Loving what you do is not enough. The love we talk about when it comes to our work is fleeting. You can fall out of love through boredom or distraction, but pride runs much deeper. Pride doesn’t come and go with how fun things are. Pride is what gets you through the tough times when you just want to quit. Pride is the understanding that what you do and how you do it is a reflection of your character."

-Francisco Dao from Brain Pickings

Also from Brain Pickings, a poem by Charles Bukowski on the myth of creativity: 

”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses