On Motivation: How to Keep On Writing No Matter What

When I talk about writing, the most common question I’m asked is, ‘How do you stay motivated enough to finish a novel?’  That’s a tough question, especially when talking to new writers.

Until recently, I never really thought about it, it was just something I did. But over the last month, I’ve been hyper aware of what keeps me going. This blog post is the result.

We create because we are driven to create.

So if you’ve lit the fire inside, if you need to create something great but find your mind drifting to other things, this post is dedicated to you. Hopefully a few of these points will help instill in you the drive to keep going no matter what. Don’t worry, we’ll have some fun along the way 😉

Passion

Passionate Gif

You’ve heard this before, but that’s because it’s true. If you’re not passionate about what you’re creating, how can you stay motivated? There are ways of course, maybe you’re guaranteed a fat paycheck, but for most of us that’s not the case.

The driving force

We create because we are driven to create. So before you dive head first into a project, find a way to check your passion barometer to make sure it’s something you could spend a year or two working on without sticking a fork in your eye.

You’re going to spend a lot of time writing this sucker, you might as well enjoy it.

Measure your passion

For my latest novel, I spent six month doing this. I had three novel ideas:

  1. a science fiction novel about a terminally ill man becoming the first true cyborg and the existential crises that follows
  2. a thriller where an estranged father kidnaps his son and the mother must track him down in the woods of the Pacific Northwest
  3. a post post apocalyptic novel of a man in the last city on earth who researches the unravelling of the universe.

Three very different books, three very different writing experiences, but each seemed equally interesting for me. So I devoted a couple of months to writing the opening to each of these ideas. When six months passed, I mulled over which writing experience I was most passionate about and landed on number 3 (you can read it here).

You don’t need to do this exact exercise for you’re next creative project, but I recommend seriously considering whether you’re idea will remain compelling to you six months, a year, maybe two or three years down the road. You’re going to spend a lot of time writing this sucker, you might as well enjoy it.

Temptation Bundling

Cookie Gif
Save those cookie til after you’re done writing.

Passion is important, but it’ll only get you so far. If you’re like me, then you’re human. As humans, we get easily distracted by shiny things like social events, entertainment, work, video games, chores, this whole internet thing, pick your poison.

Pick a temptation and regulate it so that you only partake during or after you’ve worked on your project.

So we get distracted for a day or two, and that stretches to a week, a month. Suddenly our passion project has become a task because we lost momentum. Our tour de force has become another chore. Time to get some psychology on our side.

Harness your temptations

Creative work can be hard and thankless for long periods of time. When the going get’s tough, you need a way to pull yourself back in. One technique I use is called Temptation Bundling, a trick I learned from the Freakonomics podcast.

The gist of it is: there are things you love to do. Video games, reading, podcasts, food, TV, etc. These hobbies can either overwhelm your creative energy, or empower it. Pick a temptation and regulate it so that you only partake during or after you’ve worked on your project.

Geralt from The Witcher Gif

For me, I love The Witcher 3. At the end of the day there’s little I’d rather do than dive into The Witcher‘s world and slay some monsters. But I don’t allow myself to do this unless I’ve sat down and spent some time writing.

Let the things you enjoy motivate you

Some days when I don’t feel inspired, I sit in front of the computer, write maybe 100 words, then turn around and dive into my monster killin’. Other days I get sucked into the story I’m crafting and The Witcher remains untouched. Either way, at least I’ve done something.

Recognition

Recognition Gif

I don’t know about you, but I thrive on recognition. I have a hard time writing in a vacuum. There are a few reasons for this. First, the feedback I get is invaluable to the quality of my writing.

Even when someone doesn’t know any literary techniques, they can still gauge when you’re story is interesting, when your characters are compelling, or when your writing is stilted or meandering.

Beyond this, just the knowledge of people reading my work is enough for me to get a little extra oomph in my motivation reserve. Harness this social desire to have your work recognized as a factor in your drive to create.

Get eyes on your work

There are lots of ways to get others to read and respond to your writing. Let’s explore a few of these methods to get you started.

/r/DestructiveReaders

I’ve written about the Destructive Readers sub-reddit before in my post .

This is a community of writers putting their work out there with the express intention of receiving a brutally honest critique. Nothing is as eye opening on the quality of your work as honest feedback from complete strangers. I find learning my weaknesses helps me improve my writing as I go, rather than when the piece is complete. Highly recommended.

Visit the sub-reddit here.

Accountabilibuddy, Butters from South Park
Hopefully your Accountabilibuddy experience doesn’t go as poorly as Butters did.

Accountabilibuddy

If you’re lucky enough to have a friend willing to read over drafts and drafts of your work for a year+, then take advantage of that as much as you can.

This is a tricky relationship to maintain, especially if it’s with someone you see on a regular basis. You don’t want to pressure anyone to read your work, because that can strain a friendship.

Still, accountabilibuddies can offer you motivation by telling you what works, what doesn’t, and by asking about your progress regularly.

For me, I like to spread this relationship around. I’ll share my writing with anyone who shows an interest, and then I’ll lay off and let them read it in their own time. Some people get back to me right away, others may take a month or two. Either way, be patient and understanding that they have a life.

When they do get back to you, gauge their enthusiasm. Try to see if they are holding back for fear of hurting your feelings, or see if their excited for the next part. Either way, you’ll know if you need to make changes, or keep on the path.

Wattpad

Wattpad is a website for writers to share their works. It tends to be serialized pieces and the audience skews pretty young. The pieces you share on Wattpad must start at the beginning and go through the novel in order, not so for the last two options. Finally, on Wattpad readers expect your work to be fairly polished, so this isn’t a good option for the early stages of writing.

Even given all this, Wattpad can be a nice place to get eyes on your work in progress. Readers often comment, and you can glean valuable insights into how your work is affecting them. Of the three ideas I’m sharing here, this is probably the least effective for motivation, but it works and it may build your audience too.

Visit Wattpad here

Moving on.

Substances

Boozing Gif

Ooooo. Controversial territory here. I used to drink while I wrote. I’d by a six pack of beer or a bottle of gin and dive in. I found my mind less encumbered, the barrier in my brain that might say, ‘don’t write that, it’s stupid’ would shut off. A sure fire win, right?

Making these things an integral part of your creative process will eventually end with you relying on it.

Unfortunately this led to me drinking whenever I wrote, and during extended writing sessions I’d drink a lot. Sometimes I’d get drunk and have to stop because I could no longer concentrate on the work. And I gained weight. And I’d feel like shit the next day. And soon the law of diminishing returns caught up with me.

The issues with substances as motivation

When drinking or pot or whatever is part of your motivation, dependency happens. Sometimes the substances begin to outweigh the writing, and your ritual devolves from writing with a glass of wine to drinking every night, to alcoholism.

There’s this image of the alcoholic (or drug addicted) writer, singer, artist that is romanticized in our culture. But in the long run, it doesn’t leads to better motivation, better work, or a better life. Don’t let drugs or alcohol become part of your routine as a writer, it won’t be worth it in the long run.

You don’t have to be a prude about it

Don’t get me wrong, I still drink on occasion, and have no issue with someone smoking weed. It’s legal in Washington state after all, and even before then I didn’t give a shit. But making these things an integral part of your creative process will eventually end with you relying on it. That’s bad news bears.

Next thing.

Writing/Life Balance

Weekends Rule

If you spend all your time writing, your writing will suffer.

Here’s the last bit, and maybe you weren’t expecting it. If you want to stay motivated as a writer, then ensure you’re still living. Don’t spend all of your time writing. You’ll burn out. You’ll miss out on the many awesome things life has to offer. You’ll lose the opportunities life provides to instill you with deep inspiration. If you spend all your time writing, your writing will suffer.

Great writers live full lives

Maintaining a balance in your life will not only keep you from burning out as a writer, but it will give you happiness and inspiration to boot.

I’ve heard some writers say that they need to write every single day without a day off. Maybe that works for them, but not for me. Don’t be afraid to take a night off every now and then.

I tend to remove the requirement of writing on the weekends. I may end up writing anyway, but it’s not something I’m setting out to accomplish. Instead I’ll be with my family, go out to Seattle, go mountain biking, exercise, practice Muay Thai, watch anime, read books, swing by coffee shops, take my kid to the park, life stuff.

Ok, so not entirely true. I write all my blog posts on the weekend too. So you caught me, I’m still writing, but the subject material is different.

Make room for inspiration to strike

Twin Peaks gif

Maintaining a balance in your life will not only keep you from burning out as a writer, but it will give you happiness and inspiration to boot.

Inspiration rarely strikes in front of the computer. It hits in the quiet moments of solitude when your mind is free to wander on its own. Inspiration sprouts while walking in the park, showering, laying in bed, driving, meditating, or just staring off into space.

Structure your weekends so that these moments are plentiful. Be lazy, enjoy the feeling of grass on your toes, watch the way leaves dance in the wind, or the way shadows fall. When you do this, you’ll find explosions of insight into your work will become an regular occurrence.

Participate in activities you can draw on

Do you know what it feels like to get shot? No? Yeah, me either. But I’ve dropped a knife on my foot (by accident) and I can draw on that experience when describing something different but related.

You can draw on these experiences and add a sense of realism to the things you’ve never gone through.

There are so many safe, fun, and controlled activities you can do that you can later draw on in your writing. Make sure you work these into your life, and while you do, contemplate on your experiences.

I’ve used the feeling of hiking off trail to inspire descriptions of exploring a jungle in my novel Discovering AberrationI used the experience of playing music at open mic nights to inspire characters in my unpublished novel Everything Else by the Wayside.

Do I know what it feels like to be chased by someone trying to kill me? No, but I do know how it feels to spare with trained fighter, get beat up, smacked around, and still come up on my own two feet.

I know what it feels like to ride jumps on my bike that I’m not sure I can land, and how it feels to unexpectedly crash.

I know what it feels like to be physically strained through strength conditioning classes. You can draw on these experiences and add a sense of realism to the things you’ve never gone through.

Make room for inspiration

Life provides inspiration in countless beautiful ways, from nervousness to love to pride and beyond. How can you write about those things if you haven’t lived them? Find the activities that speak to you, get out there and do cool shit, focus on the experience, and later distill it into words.

Closing Remarks

I hope you found this piece helpful. The topic of motivation has been on my mind for a while now, and I have more to say on the topic. If you want more, or if you have motivational strategies of your own, please let me know in the comments. And if you found this piece interesting, helpful, or just a little entertaining, please share on your favorite social network. Until next time.

Grim Curio – Two New Scenes Just For You

If you haven’t had a change to dive into my work in progress, Grim Cuiro, now’s your opportunity. Three scenes are up on Wattpad. Stop on by and leave a comment 🗨. Read it here.

About Grim Curio:

The world never ended. 500 years after three cataclysmic events, the last city on earth struggles to survive. Now it’s time to find a new home, on another planet or in another dimension, before humanity is gone for good.

Grim Curio on Wattpad - A post apocalyptic novel

Grim Curio Working Copy Moving to Wattpad

For the last month I’ve been maintaining Grim Curio The Working Copy, a Google doc where I share the current readable chapters of Grim Curio with you. Well, it’s now time to uproot and move to a better environment. Now that I’m neck deep in the writing process, I feel like Grim Curio The Wroking Copy is better suited for a platform designed for this sort of thing. Enter Wattpad.

If you’re unaware, Wattpad is a website where authors can share their works chapter by chapter and readers can follow along. It has tools that let you favorite stories, get notified when a story is updated, and comment. So after you read it, be sure to make your voice heard in the story comments.

Once per week, I’ll share a new scene on the Grim Curio Wattpad page.  If you want to follow along (as you should 😉 ) then read Grim Curio on Wattpad and click the star and the plus. The plus will add it to your reading list, the star will let others know its a book worth reading.

Have you ever released a story on Wattpad? Share a link and description in the comments. If you’ve read a story on Wattpad that you loved, share a link and description to that instead. In the meantime, be sure to subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the box to the right, and my sultry voice will find it’s way to your inbox.

Grim Curio Gets a Shift in Perspective

If you’ve been following the production of Grim Curio, then you already know that it’s a story told in first person, past tense. Well that’s changing.

The Problem

I’d written 30,000 words before I realized that first person, past tense just wasn’t working out for the story I wanted to tell. I want an epic story told from intimate perspectives, so first person felt like a natural choice when I began.

But I also want the city of Refuge to be a character, and I want to build a world that can engross the reader. And in my execution using first person, that felt clunky no matter what changes I made.

I also want a feeling throughout the second half of the book that no character is safe, but first person practically gives characters narration armor (the idea that the character can’t die because he or she’s the one telling the story).

I considered using this to my advantage buy killing off a character in first person, but in past tense that felt a little off. I could be done, and it might work, but mixed with my other issues, I didn’t think it would be worth it.

The Experiment

After a while, I began wondering if a change to third person, present tense would make things better. To test this, I saved a backup of the first couple chapters and rewrote them from the new perspective. Instantly I loved it. The story feels more in the moment, I’m able to explore the city more, and I build scenes more fluidly in this environment.

The Result

Here’s one example. Below is the opening scene of the book which sets the world up in three paragraphs (and one is a single sentence):

The world never ended. When flood came, many survived. The sufferers shuffled about from place to place, some finding shelter, others not. When fire came, some survived. It blazed over continents fueled by primal fear, justice and revenge. Fire has no conscious. When radiation came, few survived. The survivors were not a chosen people. They lived in the correct geographical locations with mountain ranges and northerly winds and had access to a little infrastructure to support a small, terrified wallow of survivors.
Years passed, the pockets of humanity dwindled. Some starved and died, others fought and died, and others fell to indiscriminate forces: massive storms, poisonous air, and not a little stupidity.
But the world never ended.

Scenes like this are nearly impossible to get right in first person, and I was trying so many different ways. The switch to third person was like a breath of fresh air, and these three paragraphs just came naturally without much effort. A good sign.

I wonder what you think of this change? Be sure to let me know in the comments.

 

Grim Curio Cover Reveal

For a while I’ve been of the mind that Grim Curio needs a decent cover. I know it’s still a work in progress, but I wanted an image to go with the name. So after a few weeks of playing around with cover design, I created something I think works to communicate the themes as well as catch the eye. Take a look.

I designed this cover using Canva, a fantastic on line image editor that I’ve used for years. It makes designing pretty straight forward, especially for non-designers like me.

I ended up using their cover theme called “Coming Out” which was designed for gay fiction. I replaced the image of the two dudes delicately holding each other with an image of a dying city-scape, and played around with font and color. I got the image from PixaBay which provides free to use stock imagery.

I played around with a few other images, I wanted to get a spore on the there somehow, but it just wasn’t working. Maybe a professional could work it in, but not me. Anyway, I’m happy with the result so far. Of course it’s early days yet, so if you have a critique for this cover, or a suggestion, be sure to let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, if you want to get notified whenever I release a new blog post, be sure to put your email in the box to the right.

Welcome Back

I’ve been blogging on Tumblr for a month or two, and it was nice while it lasted. But Tumblr quickly became too small for me. There’s more I want to to with this website and blog than what Tumblr will allow. So, here we are, new home on the (ahem) old home.

Fifteen Years A WriterA Short History of S.C. Barrus

It’s been nearly a month since I started this blog chronicling the production of my novel Grim Curio. I haven’t spent much of that time talking about myself, and that’s been deliberate. But today I want to do something different and share the writing journey I’ve gone through over the last fifteen years.

High School

I began writing in high school, took every creative writing elective I could. It was there I wrote my first novel, My Field of Everlasting Smiles. It was an angsty coming of age story that’s now collecting dust in storage.

I was 18 and queried agents for a month or two, but didn’t get far. Then I gave up. If you’re a young writer with a novel and a desire to get published, don’t give up. Send out query letters for years if you have to, or work your ass off on the independent publishing route (but do it right). Just don’t give up.

College

image

I went The University of Washington and a degree in Creative Writing. While there I wrote my second novel, Everything Else by the Wayside. It followed a few listless travelers who played the blues, and I thought it was philosophical as hell.

I spent months querying agents and received good feedback, but nothing happened. It’s not hard to see why. It was a difficult to summarize, meandering literary tale featuring an unlikable character. Not a book that screams best seller.

Sometimes I think about Everything Else by the Wayside and wonder what could have been. Maybe one day I’ll revisit it.

Post College

After graduation I got a job as an internet marketer. I was paid to write blog posts about flooring and modular homes, gardening and a swath of ecommerce copy. I hated it.

Meanwhile, I stole every second I could to write the novel I knew would get me out of that shitty profession (sorry if you’re an internet marketer, but it’s a shitty profession).

I wrote Discovering Aberration and immediately thought, “Screw the publishing industry, I’m going to do it myself.” Away & Away publishing was born. I hired editors and cover designer, printed hundreds of copies which I sold by hand at conventions, and quickly sold around 10,000 ebooks with a few smart promotions. Pretty cool.

Then I was fired from my shitty job. I couldn’t get a job for nearly a year. I tried to write, I really tried. I wrote and published the first episode of a serial novel called The Gin Thief, but my depression got so deep I couldn’t finish it. Even now when I think back on The Gin Thief all I can see is that dark time when I lost my job, my apartment, and my will to write.

image

Today

Eventually I went back to school and became a web developer. Now I work for a company called Concur building expense reporting software, and to be honest I’ve never had a better job. Oh, and I’m writing again.

That’s it, that’s my story so far. I don’t know if there is a moral to it, but I’m here and I’m brimming with ideas. What will happen with Grim Curio? Will I handle publishing duties myself or go the agent route? I don’t know yet, but I’m considering all my options. In the meantime, I’m glad you’re here and I hope you’ll stick around as the next chapter in this journey unfolds.

Grim Curio’s Style Update

image

 

The weekend’s almost over, but I’ve got a lot of work done. I’ve been focusing on the style of Grim Curio. Check out the first couple paragraphs, all newly rewritten:

The wailing of worn iron hinges ripped me awake. The sound grated. It squealed with an irregular rhythm, accompanied by constant popped corn sounds of spores, carried in the air, beating against the thick, wobbling sign out my window. The sign read:

James Bartlebee
Detective of Anomalies, Curiosities, & the Supernatural.

It was a lie. I was no more a detective than a believer in ghosts. Trial and error led to those words, eventually the right combination lured in leads. Some believed spirits wallowed in nooks of sheet metal, abandoned factories, ventilation ducts sucking air to lower zones, they believed they were cursed by clay baubles mixed with toxic spores, or that the very electricity running sporadically through Refuge — lifeblood of the world they called it — lay in wait, ready to fry blasphemers in their rusted hovels. But no. Loose wires in metal houses have no conscious. But sometimes, rarely, I discovered the answers I was looking for: evidence of the nature of the universe itself.

How do you think its coming?

41 Questions to Improve Your Writing and Critiquing

image

When refining, rewriting, editing and critiquing, what should you be looking for? Sentence structure? Character believability? Setting? Sometimes it can be a bit much to keep everything in your head, so I’ve written the following list of things I look for (or need to remind myself to pay attention to) in order to make my writing, and my critiques of other writers, as effective as possible. Hopefully it works for you too.

Style

  1. Is sentence length varied?
  2. Do sentences flow naturally?
  3. Is the information being communicated accurately and effectively?
  4. Do sentences start and end with strong, evocative words?
  5. Are long, wandering sentences used effectively, or should they be broken into shorter, punchier and easier to follow ones (depends on the situation. Long is good for lists and important points. Short is good for immediacy and impact.)
  6. Are there too many -ing and -ly words bunched together (happening, doing, jumping, running, happily, excitedly, remotely)? Too many of these words weaken prose.
  7. Are there semicolons? Rip them out.
  8. Are there parenthesis? Can they be justified? If not, rip them out.
  9. Are the colons? Can they be justified? If not, rip them out too.
  10. Are two words used where only one will do?
  11. Are there phrases like ‘in fact’, ‘there was’, ‘she had said’, etc. Rip those out.
  12. Are the words on the page interesting in themselves? Trade common words and phrases for unique ones. Make the familiar unfamiliar and the unfamiliar familiar.
  13. Is the same word used twice in a paragraph? If so, there better be a reason for it. Clarity and rhythm are good reasons, lack of vocabulary is not.
  14. Does it read like I spent all my time looking at a thesaurus? Simplify.
  15. Can a dumb reader make sense of your complex ideas? Consider simplifying your explinations.
  16. Does a smart reader feel they’re being talked down to? Make your ideas bigger.
image

Descriptions

  1. As a reader, can I inhabit the scene with the information given?
  2. Are all the senses engaged? Can the prose make a blind man see or a deaf man hear? If not, add more.
  3. Is the flow of narrative slowed by an overabundance of description? Pair it down or rearrange it.
  4. Are the details portrayed in logical order?
  5. Are descriptions of everyday things lending value? Again, make the familiar unfamiliar and the unfamiliar familiar.

Characters

  1. Do we know the character enough to justify the current scene?
  2. Does the characters actions make sense from the characters point of view?
  3. From reading the current scene, can I imagine how the character might behave in a different situation? If not, the character is not as well defined as it should be.
  4. Can I picture the character in my head? If not, add more description and do it early.
  5. Does character speech feel natural. Read aloud.
  6. What mannerisms does this character have? Do they have a tick, a habit, or feature that sets them apart?
  7. What does each character want? How badly do they want it? What are they willing to do to get it?
  8. Do character actions reveal something about the character, or are they superfluous?
image

Scenes

  1. Is the current scene vital? Justify it, if you can’t, cut it.
  2. What is the purpose of this scene? Furthering plot, building character, etc. Every scene should do what it does well.
  3. Does the current scene feel familiar? Is it familiar to another scene in the work, or familiar to something from somewhere else? If so, there better be a really good reason.
  4. Where is the tension / suspense? (from wikipedia: Suspense is a feeling of pleasurable fascination and excitement mixed with apprehension, tension, and anxiety developed from an unpredictable, mysterious, and rousing source of entertainment) How many layers of tension / suspense are there? More on this next.
  5. Is there a basic level of tension? If there are two characters, they should each want something different. If characters have the same wants, then something should get in there way. If life is easy, then the read is boring.
  6. Is there a middle layer of suspense? Something else above the immediate scene should be looming. Something outside of the characters current control.
  7. Is there a grand level of suspense? There should be a singular overarching thing that drives the story, gives it a time limit, forces the characters to make difficult choices again and again. If it’s a villain, it better be a damn good one.

Cohesion

  1. Can each scene be explained in one or two sentences? Hone them.
  2. Can each chapter be explained in one or two sentences? Hone some more.
  3. Can the entire plot be explained in one or two sentences? If not, focus, hone, find the heart of the story and throw the rest away.
  4. Is the word count justified? The entire reading experience should feel tight, even if it’s 200,000 words or more. If there is a moment of boredom, cut cut cut.
  5. In the end, am I fulfilled but wishing there was just a little more. Perfect, time to start the next book.
image

From Mind to Paper: Creating a Character

Above: Ginko from Mushi Shi.

Writing is a process. Prose don’t appear on paper perfectly executed. First drafts are a spew of consciousness, a firehose of concepts splattered haphazardly with the wrong words in the wrong order, the wrong setting with the wrong details, the wrong character featuring the wrong motivation. But you have to start somewhere.

First I mash my mind onto the keyboard, sleep it off, then begin the process of refining everything. Rearrange sentences. Alert the senses. Mold your characters into believable people. But for now, let’s focus on that last point – characters.

Clive and Nemesis

These are two very different characters featured in Grim Curio. You can read a scene featuring both of them now in The Working Copy. Among their differences, Clive is a bit character, created out of necessity to carry a few scenes forward, Nemesis is a major character, antagonist, created to foil some of the plans of James and co. Beyond this, their very conception is different, Nemesis being a premeditated character and Clive being a necessitated one. So let’s look at the differences.

Conception of a Character

Above: Harry Lockhart from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

When bringing a character to life, I’ve found I tend to follow one of two paths into inception. There’s the Premeditated Character and the Necessitated character. Premeditated refers to the days I’ve spent constructing a character and theorizing her place in the story. Necessitated refers to the moment I reach a point where I realize I need someone new to carry the current scene(s) forward.

Premeditated Thought Process

I need an antagonist and I want it to be a person that’s unlikable yet somehow relatable. How do I do that? Make her a girl. Make her young, like sixteen or something. Thrust her in an scenario where the only way out is by ‘going to the dark side’. Have her emerge confused, conflicted, wracked with insecurities but steadfast in her convictions. Etc. This could lead to an interesting villain.

Premeditated is the most obvious method, I stroll through the day, mull on a character and think how this person exists in the world I’m creating. Like Whinnie the Pooh, I think think think think think. I sit to write, fingers frozen over the keyboard while I consider from which angle to attack this person first.

Necessitated Thought Process

James needs to go to Clayton, how does he get there? Does he walk? No, too dangerous. What then? He hires somebody to drive him to Clayton in an ATV. Ok, so what is a person who does this like? For that matter, how many people like him exist in this universe? Not many, maybe 5, they’ll be called runners, and this guy, let’s call him Clive, is the only one James trusts. But why does he trust him? Because of his reputation as the only runner you can really trust. This guy must be expensive, how does James hire him? On and on, deeper and deeper, etc.

You can see how answering question after question a character might emerge, pieced together until he’s fully formed. These tend to be bit characters, but they often morph into major ones without me premeditating it.

The Execution

Above: Alfred Borden from The Prestige.

Writing Premeditated

Premeditated characters are a pain to get started. They feel fully realized in your head, but they’re not. They’re an amalgamation. Inspiration comes from my influences, my experiences, bits from people I know, bits from things I’ve seen people do, and most of all just my own sick mind. That’s not a person, that’s a blob and a blob must be sculpted.

You take this mass and begin to massage it as you write the first scene where they appear. For me, this scene is almost always emotional, tense, proving who the character is in a dire circumstance. That’s just me though, the action nerd wanting to see what my puppets will do when facing the gun.

As it turns out, these scenes are rarely the right way to introduce a character to a reader. They are good for me because now I get to learn more about who this person is. But for a reader coming across this sort of scene as way of introduction, everything feels disjointed and unearned.

Writing Necessitated

Necessitated characters come about in a much less deliberate way. Often they are a means to an end. James needs to do something and needs someone to interact with to get the job done. Enter minor character.

But each character needs to feel fully formed, no matter how or why they’re conceived. In action, I tend to set the scene, flesh it out, write the major points I want to hit, then go back and add. It’s exactly the opposite of the premeditated character. Instead of a blob that I need to refine and temper, it’s a brick I need to add to and build up until a fully formed house emerges, or at least one that looks fully formed.

Closing Thoughts

I have more to say on this topic, but I think this will do it for now. Come back soon when I follow up with some critiques I received for the writing of Nemesis and the changes that led me to make. I hope you find it informative and interesting. Until then, have a great weekend.