Wednesday, July 1, 2015

IWSG Post - Saying Goodbye to a Manuscript

It’s time for the seventh IWSG of the year. The year sure has picked up speed and is flying past swiftly. IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) is an online group of writers that posts on the first Wednesday of every month. This amazing and awesome group was started by the adorable Alex Cavanaugh – Author of Amazon bestsellers: CassaStar, CassaStorm, CassaFire and Dragon of the Stars. In blogoland Alex is known as Ninja Captain. I have decided to give Alex another name- Super A (as it’s my birthday month, I know he will forgive me).

IWSG is a cool place to hangout online for writers. We can talk of our writing worries, fears, doubts, insecurities and anxieties and help, support, advice and encourage each other. Check the IWSG website for awesome writing tips.

For this month’s IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) post I was unable to choose my Insecurity because currently there are two insecurities fighting with each other to occupy my mind space. Yes, my insecurities not just trouble me, they even trouble each other.

My first insecurity is lack of time for the first 10 days of this month. I have family obligations to fulfil, so I know that my writing will definitely take a backseat during these ten days.

 But, the main insecurity this month is that I am unable to say goodbye to an old manuscript. This particular story was very close to my heart. I made the mistake of querying too fast for it. Many of the agents I queried for this manuscript asked me to send another MS and a few asked me to keep them in mind when I queried another book. Though I have gone on to write a few more books after that particular MS, I often revert to it and try to make it better in whichever way I can.

I know that as a writer I shouldn’t linger on any one particular book and should write as many as I can. But, I just am not able to say goodbye to that particular story. I tweaked it last week for the hundredth time. Sometimes, I feel I am wasting my time polishing a story that has no takers. But, honestly I am helpless. There is a strange attraction to it.

I would love to know if this has happened to you all. Has a particular manuscript refused to let go of you? Have you clung on to a particular story inspite of having moved on to other stories? Deep down do you harbour a wee bit of hope that the particular manuscript will finally get published?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Why Imperfect characters work?

Imperfection is actually the new perfection. Imperfect characters have an undefinable appeal. The bad boy next door with the two day stubble is endearingly sexy. So is the kick ass heroine who loves putting people in their place. Or the bratty child living in the neighbourhood.
Perfect characters come across as boring, make us feel insecure and small in front of them. Imperfect characters are more real. We identify with their imperfections, idiosyncrasies, shortcomings, emotional outbursts and mood swings.
Have you all noticed that our protagonists often lead imperfect lives? As the story unfolds, these imperfect characters leading imperfect lives try to resolve the conflict by tackling their own personal imperfections first.

Aristotle called it Hamartia: a character flaw. This character flaw can be a limitation, a problem, a phobia, or a deficiency present in a character who is otherwise quite normal. The character flaw may be a violent temper that may affect the character’s actions, abilities, or interactions with other characters. It can be a simple personality defect which only has effect on the character’s motives and social interaction and nothing else.

Flaws or imperfection add depth and humanity to the characters in a narrative. For eg the mayor with a penchant for gambling, the hero with claustrophobia, the heroine with an alcohol problem. One of the most famous example is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Character flaws can be slotted into three categories.

Minor Flaws make the characters memorable in readers’minds, these give the characters individuality, but other than that don’t affect the story in any way. They can be a scar, an accent, biting the lower lip, twirling the moustache, a girl constantly flinging her hair back. A protagonist can have several minor flaws, each having no effect on the plot.

Major Flaws are noticeable and important. They affect the individual physically, mentally, emotionally, morally or spiritually. Major flaws aren’t necessarily negative : they can be rigid religious beliefs or a strict adherence to a certain lifestyle. Major flaws like: greed, blindness, deafness, lust, often hamper and restrict the character in one way or the other. The major flaw is important for the character’s personal development and the story. Heroes and heroines must overcome their own major flaws either partially or completely, either temporarily or permanently, at some point in the story, very often by the climax, by sheer determination or skill to be able to solve the larger problem at hand. For a villain his major flaw is frequently the cause of his downfall. The protagonist’s major flaw defines the core problem, the entire journey to remedy this problem forms the firm backbone of the story, sometimes prodding the plot forward.

The last flaw is the Tragic Flaw, it’s the cause of the character’s downfall and eventual death. Tragic Flaw arises out of the character’s misplaced trust in another character, an excessive amount of curiousity that sucks him into problems, pride that plunges him into a world of loneliness. The fall that often arises out of the Tragic Flaw occurs at the beginning of a story.

Do you like Imperfect characters? What kind of character flaws do your characters have?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Avoiding predictability in our writing

I am currently reading one of my favourite thriller writer’s novel. Many people told me that it was boring. But as he is my favourite writer I wanted to read the book. To be honest, I am not finding it boring but I am finding it predictable in places. I have realized that when a writer has written so many books, all in the same genre, it’s easy to fall into the predictable zone.

Though I am not yet half way in the book, I am finding that in many places, the writer has used the crutches of serendipity and co-incidences to make his main character get out of tight spots. Many times while reading I have kind of guessed what the writer or rather the main character will do next.

I have noticed this aspect in another thriller writer. More often than not, I have been able to guess the identity of the murderer half way through the book.

When it comes to avoiding predictability, one writer I have to mention, though her books fell in the fantasy genre and not the thriller category, is J.K. Rowling. In each of the seven Potter books she had loads of new stuff to offer, new characters were introduced who brought their unique sub-plots into the story, there were new spells, new story lines criss-crossing Harry’s own storyline. Every book felt new and interesting and readers read them again and again.

Granted, that one can’t read a thriller again as once the suspense is out, the book has shed its intrigue element. But still, the writers can do a lot to avoid following the well-trodden path and plunging into potholes.

That’s one thing I am trying to avoid in my writing. I hope my readers are taken by surprise at every turn and definitely shouldn't be able to guess what I or my main character will do next.

How do you all avoid predictability in your writing? What do you all do to keep the reader interest high? Have you read any book/s where you could guess what would happen next?