Writing Problems #1

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So, there is this beautiful Tumblr, and yesterday’s blog entry, and they kind of inspired me to piece together my very own writer’s manual. Which isn’t a manual for writers, but for writers… err… well, you get the idea. Hopefully. I think I need some coffee now.

During my (and since I’m officially published, I can call it that^^) work as a writer, I frequently encounter the countless obstacles and banana skins of writing fiction. Well, it’s not always fiction, but most of the time, so the focus will be on that. The general idea is to collect all kinds problems, record them and provide you, my dear readers, with possible solutions. I can’t guarantee they will always work, or even most of the time. But they are options you can try, and even if it doesn’t help, writers are a creative bunch of people – maybe you find your own solution and care to share it with the world? Or maybe you have some trouble while writing you own story and need some advice? Well, actually, in this case I’d also recommend you visit the NaNoWriMo forums; people there are amazing. But don’t be afraid to ask, I’ll try my best to help.

I’ll categorise them under “Writing Problems”, so the articles are easy to find. And I’ll probably write them just in English for now; maybe translate them later, but that’s a very big maybe here. I’m a horribly lazy person, I know…

 

~~~

 

So, now for the very first issue of “WritingProblemsWeekly” (or monthly; or whenever I manage to write something, really):

 

 

“A wild CHARACTER appeared!” or How To Deal With Fiction Tramps

 

Problem:

So, you just met the most brilliant character. Well-developed, with a nice set of skills, outside matching the inside, a decent name (this one’s always the hardest…), and not even the slightest hint of Mary Sue or Gary Stu. BUT there’s one major problem: You have no idea where to put them. No world, no society, not even a house where they could hang out for while. Basically, you just invented a fiction tramp.

The solution:

Here’s what I do to avoid having countless characters running around without purpose. Obviously, the easiest solution would be to delete them. Erase them from existence. BUT, crazy writers that we are, we just can’t. Somehow, such characters have a way to get to us, to take hold in our hearts and never let go. Which makes it also hard to kill them off for the sake of the story, but I’ll write about that another time. So, even if we manage to mentally kill at least some of them, there are still those who refuse to leave and who need a home. And it’s up to us to find them one.

Now it comes in handy if you’ve moved around a couple times already. You know how that works: You either decide on a city/area/planet, or circumstances pick it for you, like work/university/your parents. Now you go there and look for houses or flats. You inspect two or three or twenty different possible homesteads, walk around the rooms, try to figure out if you’d like to live there. Finally you find a place you like and stay.

Now we try replacing “homesteads” with “countries” and “rooms” with “cities” in the last sentence and start afresh. And that’s exactly what you will do with your homeless characters. If neither you nor they know where they belong, they might need to look around a little first. Let them stay in other stories for a while. Maybe as secondary characters you could scratch from a second draft if necessary. Maybe as passers-by who just exchange a few words with your main characters (a.k.a. “MCs”). Let them have cameos as actors in a TV show your MCs watch. Or just make up some random scenes with the stubborn tramps, see what happens. You’ll think of something. You’re a writer, after all. And maybe it takes only a few tries to find out where your beloved characters belong.

If you tried the above and still didn’t succeed after a reasonable amount of time (how long that would be is entirely up to you, of course), but refuse to abandon your characters, you could try… let’s call it my personal method.

When I moved out to go to university, it was already too late to apply for a dorm room; you see, in my course of studies, we had to take a test first, so it took them a week or two longer to notify us than the rest of the students. Which meant that pretty much all flats I could afford where already taken. Not to mention rooms in shared flats. So I was forced to take the only option left, a tiny, one-room-flat with a kitchen barely big enough for one person and not enough space for a decent dining table in the main room (well, there would be, if I sacrificed my exercise bike and the flatscreen with the gaming consoles – which is never gonna happen!). It’s small, the walls have a dozen layers of paint stuck to them and the floor looks always dirty, no matter how hard I scrub. But I had to move in, so what the hell. I made myself comfortable.

And this is option B for your characters. Take them, put them in the next best world you have (and preferably like, too), and just tell them “It’s this one or none at all for you!”. If you spend some time on helping them adjust, make themselves at home, it might just be that they find the place to not be so bad at all.

Now what are you waiting for? Fly, fly away and write!

-Ricarda

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