Monday, May 27, 2013

Chris Wager – Practical Advice for Beginning Fiction Writers

at 3:30 AM

Practical advice for beginning fiction (or other genre) writers

by Chris Wager

The advice I can offer to other writers is what has worked for me. A blend of the creative process and practical preparation. Once I have the general idea where the storyline is going and what it is I want to accomplish I set out to organize all of my thoughts into a coherent timeline. My writing is linear with no flashbacks or real dream sequences. Just memories referred to by the actors sprinkled in as moments to back fill the story. As far as back story, I didn’t begin with back story, I like to hit the ground running stepping right into my main actor’s life.

Filling in back story more naturally in normal conversation between actors. As in the scene when Ben (main actor Stow Away) was on the bridge with Jacob (first officer-supporting actor) during a night shift, when Jacob asked if it was only Ben and his mother and what his mother did for a living.

I like the back story to run side by side with the main plot throughout the book. I think it’s more interesting to continue to learn things about the actors as the reader spends more time with them as in real life.

Another writing rule I live by is seeing all important actors are introduced by the middle of the book. This gives the reader time to get used to having them around and understand who they are.

Plus don’t be afraid to scrap any writing that doesn’t drive the story forward or lend to fore-shadowing. Speaking of fore-shadowing, I think it’s important to use it. I try to only take a few seconds of the reader’s time to sound a warning of what’s around the corner and to use it sparingly not to give away any cool plot twists or surprises.

Basing the foundation of the story on a real theory or event I feel helps to build a strong story, like a blueprint. Understanding the way events in human nature would unfold, and how we, as emotional creatures would react. Regardless what personality you give your actors, they can’t act out of actor of a reasonable human being unless you are writing a psycho-path, even then there are still limits.  I wouldn’t introduce a strong masculine actor and have him behave like a frail childlike boy.

Staying true to your actor can be hard. Especially when I was writing a lot of dialogue. It’s like carrying on twelve conversations at once. I was taught to write conversations between actors as real as possible. Not falling into the trap of trying to sound like a novel writer.

If any part of your writing sounds off when you read it aloud, (which I did a lot) move it around, shorten it up, or delete all together. My book has a 7th to 8th grade reading level which for the average reader should be easy. If the reader has to stop and reread or look up words than it’s no fun and they’ll never finish the book.

One element I included was the cliff hanger/page turner. The setting of my story is in the year 1937, during this time the short reel cereals often used cliff hangers to get the kids to come back the next Saturday to see if the cowboy made it.  I find it to be a fun tool. I was also taught never put your actors to bed at the end of a chapter, so true.

On to environment, how many times have you read something the writer over described? The lighting or the rug on the floor. I used simple descriptions and LET the reader use their imagination to paint the scene, I only tried to set the stage. Trust your instincts.

Benjamin Holt is an average thirteen-year-old streetwise kid living in Lower Manhattan during the 1930′s. His world is turned upside down, when a simple case of mistaken identity by the cops has him accidently taking refuge in the belly of the tramp steamer U.S.S. Alexandria bound for the wilds of Africa. Along the way, Benjamin must face the challenges of living at sea, a captain’s dream of treasure, and a first mate who would just as soon feed him to the sharks.

Ben’s troubles are only beginning when he is taken hostage by an evil German colonel. He survives a daring escape, only to find himself on a volcanic island battling bloodthirsty natives. Things go from bad to worse as this explosive adventure unfolds around him. Ben must find it in himself to become the most unlikely hero before it is over if he is to make it home again.

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Genre – Contemporary Fiction

Rating – PG13

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