Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #2

Hello again, readers, to another Monday! I hope yours looks a bit better than mine, at least outside your windows. We’re catching the tail-end of a winter storm here, and so the world outside looks a grey smear of clouds with a slow trickle of rain. At least, what I’d consider a slow trickle of rain. It’s a bit more for most here considering the desert environment.

I’m not griping. It just looks depressingly grey outside.

Anyway, onto this week’s topic! Or, more accurately, topics. As such, this post will probably be a shorter one. I know, I’ve said that before and ended up writing something just as long as always, but last time I did one of these, it went by quick.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a micro-blast is, I’ve done one before. Basically, a micro-blast is what happens when I have a bunch of shorter, easier topics that don’t need a full post, but I still want to tackle them.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get to it!

Doing What the Story Wants

So, a reader asked me this question:

I’m writing in a close 3rd person POV, but keep accidentally switching into 1st person. Does that mean I should do the whole thing in 1st? That the story *wants* to be in 1st?

Honestly, yes. If you’re working on a story and this happens, I would say to at least give it a shot.

Look, sometimes we sit down and plan something out, but when we start writing it, our “instincts” push us to go another direction, because even if we’re working with the plan, some part of us realizes that the story might be smoother if we write it another way. I had this happen with Hunter’s character in Rise. Originally, he was supposed to have a southwestern accent, a bit like a cowboy, but as I started writing him, it just didn’t … fit. There’s no other better word for it. The more I wrote him, the more his character moved in a different direction, and, seeing that it “felt” better, I let things go that way and later went back and reworked his earlier dialogue and chapters to reflect his new, Australian accent and lingo.

And you know what? It worked a lot better. While my original plan and character outlines hadn’t been bad, once I actually started writing Hunter his personality began to come forward, and I realized that what I was writing then flowed far better and suited the character more than what I had been writing before. Often, as we write, we’ll make small, almost subconscious observations about what we’re working on, and may find ourselves thinking “You know, this might be better if …” If possible, we should try and test those changes, because they’ll usually be an improvement.

Now, does the story “want” to be told in first or third person? Well, strictly speaking no. First, you can tell any story in almost any perspective, and the story itself isn’t a living thing. But what is happening is that you yourself, as the writer, are thinking that the story may be better for a certain change, and are swaying towards making it. In other words, you want the story to make the change because you think it’ll be better for it.

Now, a final word of advice. There are times when this feeling should be ignored. For example: Trying something new? Odds are you’ll want to jump back to your old habits. But don’t, because then you’re not trying something new. When I first say down and wrote One Drink, part of me wanted desperately to write it in third-person, because I’d mostly written third-person up until that point. But the goal was to write something long in first … and so I had to stick with it and see what I could produce.

The other scenario may be when there’s too much to go back and change at the moment. Look, you don’t want to be 200 pages (or ~66,000 words) into a book draft and then stop and go back and make a bunch of changes. Your forward momentum will vanish. Instead, if you do decide to make that change, make it from then on, and then once the story is done, go back and retroactively fix the earlier portions in Alpha editing.

Planning Versus Pantsing (Discovery Writing) and How They Work For Your Story

Honestly? This one isn’t really about the story. This decision is about you. It’s about how you write, and how you like to move through a story. And I can’t answer that question for you.

Both types of writing (planning beforehand or making it up as you go, ie pantsing) are equally viable, not based on the story, but based on the kind of writer you are. Some people write massive, epic literature but make it up as they go. Others write short stories, but plan them out meticulously.

Find the one that works for you. Some plan, some make it up. I plan a lot of my stuff … but not everything, and that doesn’t mean you need to.

Find which one works for you through practice, and then go for it.

How Do I Name Characters?

This one is actually easier than it sounds once you lay down a few ground rules. A lot of new writers tend to just make things up as they go along … and to be fair, that is what you do if you’re making names for a Fantasy or Sci-Fi world. But then when they make upanother name … they make one up all over again.

Naming characters is actually pretty easy if you follow some ground rules:

1- Names should “roll off the tongue” in whatever language you’re speaking. This means that they should make a sort of phonetic “sense” in that this will be something you call someone. For example, Salitore Amazd in Shadow of an Empire. “Salitore” is something you can say without too much difficulty, and it flows. At the same time, however, most people in the book call him “Sali” as it’s a shortened, easy version of his name. Meelo Karn is also simple and identifiable, but easy to read and say.

2- Names should follow the “phonetics” of your language. No, you don’t need to write out the “rules,” but give yourself some general guidelines to follow. Names in Shadow of an Empire, for instance, often incorporate a “ray” sound in them somewhere, or end on a vowel (like the “o” in Meelo or a “a” in Lannistava”). Simple rules that keep things feeling like they’re part of the same universe by having a similarity of design (and thus, origin).

3-K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid. My name? Three letters. The friends I’ll have lunch with today? Three to five letters. Going back to the shortening in rule one, names don’t have to be overblown and complex. In fact, a name can reflect both the character  who uses it in a fashion, as well as what people think of them by how they use it.

These are my general guidelines, not end alls, but I think you get the picture. Each helps me keep a consistency between names and cultures as I work on a story, and makes the naming process just as tricky, but with some guidelines to point the direction.

That’s all for this week! Time is short, and I need to run!

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