RB: Advice to New Writers

Listen to your characters. Your muse. Your Rice Krispies. Whatever you want to call it. Then most importantly: do what they tell you.

J.K. Rowling recently gave an interview in which she states Ron and Hermione never should have ended up together. This was her reasoning:

“I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really,” Rowling says in the interview. “For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” she adds. “I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.”

Was it Rowling’s wish fulfillment that led Ron and Hermione together? Or was it that after all those books, Ron and Hermione had become living, breathing characters that made their own decisions.

My writing didn’t start to soar until I listened to my characters. And now, if they want to deviate from the plot I’ll sulk, maybe throw things, definitely curse, but in the end, I’ll deviate. The story is not about my journey, it’s about theirs; and they know best.

I spend over fifty percent of pre-writing time on character. Learning as much as I can. Asking questions, from the mundane, “what’s your favorite color?” to the critically important, “what’s your need/goal?” All answers are important and provide an insight to my characters that in the end will allow them to leap off the page and ensnare readers.

So, newbie writers: Create, love, get to know your characters, then sit back, put your hands on the keyboard, and let them do the work.

RB’s Pre-Writing Questionnaire For me, character is the most important part of the pre-writing phase. When I know as much as possible about my character, s/he becomes a living; breathing; full of flaws, wants, and needs person. Something that will transfer onto the page and into reader’s hearts. I’ve used a variety of methods over the years to gain the most heart from my characters and finally compiled it onto one Pre-Writing Questionnaire. Would you like a copy? Just go to rbaustin.com and send me a message. It’s a questionnaire for the character to fill out. You’ll write/type the answers, but it’s your character’s voice, his/her words that answer the questions. The document can easily be manipulated to fit you and your character’s needs. Answer all the questions, only half, whatever fits the mood. Even leaving some questions unanswered can be telling. But believe me, in the end, your character will be more alive than when you started.

Related links:

Listen to your Rice Krispies is an aspect J.R. Ward talks about in her novel The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide. A must read for writers who love her paranormal series.

The J.K. Rowling quote was taken from CNN.com.

Who do you think Hermione should have married? http://hardcoversandheroines.com/2014/02/17/marry-date-or-dump-hermione-edition/

 

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28 thoughts on “RB: Advice to New Writers

  1. Interesting advice and something I haven’t come across yet on this blog hop. I need to take heed, as creating new characters is not the easiest part of the story for me. What I find is that I get to know them best, not by filling out questionnaires but by putting them into situations and seeing what they’ll do (though I’m sure filling out character profiles aids in that process as in figuring out the kinds of things one should look for).

  2. I really like that line, “Listen to your rice krispies.”

    The whole JK Rowling and her love triangles is a sign of someone unwilling to let go. My imaginary friends won’t do what I want.

    I always figured it’s their life let them live it. We are here solely to chronicle the things that happen.

  3. When you get to the point where your characters are talking back to you and you know what they’d do, then you really know them – and that’s what a writer should do. 🙂 I love Stephen Bly’s novel Paperback Writer because he totally shows this. Great advice! Thanks for sharing! (Right now, character is what I’m struggling with – I really need to spend a bit more time with my characters and find out what makes them tic! 🙂

  4. I remember when I was stumped by my creative writing professor in college. While critiquing a short story of mine he asked, “What does she [the main character] want from life?” The question made me flinch because the story was just about a strange date she’d been on. But, I suddenly realized the importance because the answer to the question was reflected in her attitude, her responses to events in the story, and ultimately made her a better character.

    I have been looking for a good character resource so I will definitely be messaging for that questionnaire. Great post!

  5. You’ve hit upon a critical point – if your characters are real, believable, lovable, hatable or in some other way make your readers feel strongly connected to them and care deeply about what happens to them, everything else falls into place (or can be forgiven). Great advice, thank you!

  6. It is so lovely to hear this. I think by letting your characters come to life like his you also create conflict to liven up the story.
    I try to but than again it my first ever try at writing and do find they can get a wee bit tenacious those characters.
    but most importantly it makes me smile writing about them. And when it is fun to write you write the best you can. or so i like to believe

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