Monday, February 18, 2019

Who is the Main Character?

Figuring out who the main character is in your novel is often hard for the romance writer when both the hero and heroine are strong personalities.  The same is true for fantasy novels with large casts.

The simplest way to find out is to ask yourself who has to change the most in very important ways to reach her/his goal.  That person is the main character.

The main character should act to reach that goal, not have it happen to him/her as a matter of events.  

Why do you need to know? If you know, you can make the novel stronger by emphasizing that character’s changes.

And when it comes time to market that novel to a publisher or the reader, you’ll know who to emphasize when you describe your novel.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Avoid the Bubble Scene

Fiction narrative is a river of cause and effect which sweeps the reader and the characters through the novel.  What happens in each scene affects what happens through the rest of the novel, and main characters should change as these events affect them.  

If the sweet heroine has to kill someone to save her lover’s life, that death should change her, and that person’s death should affect the events of the novel.  

If that death scene has no effect on either the heroine or the plot, it is a bubble scene.  The reader may also decide that she’s not so sweet and may be a psychopath.

If she nearly makes love to another man and doesn’t think about her true love and that event does nothing to change her or the plot, that’s a bubble scene.  You’ve also changed the reader’s view on your heroine’s worthiness for a happily ever after.

Bubble scenes are emotional failures because the reader loses their connection to the story you want to tell. These scenes also change the reader’s perception of your character.

If a scene has nothing to do with the rest of the novel, you should ask yourself if it should be included.  When the answer is no, that bubble scene should be popped. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Making the Victim Matter

Mystery, romantic suspense, and urban fantasy novels often start with a dead body, and the main character’s goal is to find out the who, what, when, where, and why of his death so she can solve the crime.  

The first hook for the reader is curiosity about the victim and the crime as well as the main detective/character’s personality, etc.  

Most readers will allow the writer time to set up the situation and to gather the first clues, but a certain point, the reader’s patience and interest will wear thin unless the writer gives the reader a reason to care about the victim.  Simply getting justice for the victim isn’t enough to keep most readers reading the whole novel.  

The simplest way to make the reader care is to make the victim someone the reader would care about instantly -- a child, an innocent, a good person, or a person with a job that matters like being a school teacher, doctor, social worker, or an honest cop.  

Even someone who was a jerk or bad person will matter if he died doing something decent, or he had survivors who care.  A weeping mother or wife who begs for justice is a strong motivator for the detective and the reader because they create an emotional stake in the person’s death.  If the detective must prove it was murder, not suicide, so the young widow with little kids will get death benefits, the solution will matter.

If nothing about the victim will give the detective or the reader any reason to care that he was murdered, then the detective must have another reason to solve the crime.  Perhaps, he will lose his job because his failure rate at solving crimes is so high, or he’s caught in a political situation where only solving this crime will save his career.  The victim could be one of a string of serial killings, but the killer has made several sloppy mistakes in this killing which could be his downfall so the detective is trying to stop other murders as well as solving this one.  

A method used in TV shows like CSI or BONES is to make the good guys and their scientific methods as important as the crime’s solution.  We care about them more than the rotting corpse of the abusive pimp at the crime scene, and their lives are the soap opera that drives the emotional plot while the science drives the mystery plot.  

Having the killer go after the detective or people he cares about is also a tried and true method to make the solution matter.

Whatever method you use, just remember that the main character’s goal in solving the crime must be a strong and worthy one, and the emotional reasons for the solution must matter to both the reader and the detective.