Writing fiction is one of the most tasking activities for your brain, and at the same time the most rewarding. Certain people are gifted the ability to create pockets of fictitious life in reality, with the ability to make a whole new world with just a few words, and there are two really important factors in doing this.
What really brings these little pocket universes alive is the first factors; characters. Of course, you can’t have a story without a main character, and secondary characters are just as important. To ensure that your world isn’t flat and stagnant, the characters need variety. No one wants to read a book about seven people with the same looks and personality.
Diversity is an area in which I find a lot of authors struggle with. Whether its with race, height, sexual orientation, hair colour, or even something as mundane as names, more often than not characters are just a carbon copy of one another. Racial diversity is very important when bringing your book to life. If said story is based in a more urbanized place such as North America or Western Europe, it only makes sense to include a cast of people from all around the world. Racial diversity adds layers to the character’s personality, and gives writers an opportunity to learn, research, and write about their cultures respectively. At the same time, however, do not make a character’s race their entire personality. The same goes for sexual orientation and religion and so on.
On the topic of sexual orientation, I find that the first drop of water in a bucket for LGBTQ+ representation is making stories where the character’s orientation is a part of the plotline, like Love Simon. Although I’m elated to have this representation, I must say that LGBTQ+ people are just that- people. They are more than a sexuality. What I do when I decide whether a character is part of the LGBTQ+ community, I toss it in gently and I DO NOT make it a huge factor in their personality. You could let it affect the way they look or talk or carry themselves if you so choose too, but you must remember that they are still people, and your story is more than their sexual orientation.
Religion, on the other hand, could affect the way a person acts or dresses, because of certain religious liberties or restrictions, such as wearing a hijab or attending Shabbat on Saturdays or taking time during the day to pray or not swearing or anything like that. Once again, though, THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE THEIR WHOLE PERSONALITY. People have lives outside of their God or Gods.
Writing disabled characters is a bit more challenging, because it could affect the way they move or talk or act. To write disabled people correctly- and this goes for any of the above as well- you must do your research, avoid stereotypes, and stray away from making their whole personality being disabled. It is easy to write in deaf or blind characters, to add wheelchair ramps next to your character’s staircase, or have an autistic character carry sensory headphones.
Along with all of this, it is important to keep character profiles consistent. If, in the start of the book, the character has a nervous tick, and it’s gone by chapter seven, the readers will get confused and it makes your character flat. What helps me is keeping character profiles written down somewhere, where I keep track of their religion or sexuality or disability or race, as well as nervous ticks, personality traits such as impulsivity or shyness, and family (number of siblings, parents). Anything that defines your character, write it down and keep it consistent. For example:
John Doe, Seventeen, Highschool student, works at McDonald’s at night- makes him tired for class, Bisexual, Caucasian, When nervous- turns red and stammers. Otherwise confident. Two sisters and parents, regular home life. When upset- gets angry. Makes rash decisions.
That’s just a sample of who the character is, and it’s important to remember who they are when writing them. Always remember, you’re not writing stories, you’re writing lives.
Check out Media Smarts to learn more about the importance of diversity in media.
The second factor, plotting is extremely important for effective writing, and the way you plot varies between authors. Some don’t plot at all and hope they find their story along the way. Every method is valid, but it’s important to keep track of everything going on. Personally, I despise plotting with a passion, but we’re not going into that right now.
Writing plot points helps to organize the story from beginning to end. A common structure is the Three Act structure, which gives an automatic outline for your story that you can basically just fill in. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and everything in between. This one is more commonly used in plays and screen-writes, so below is a slightly modified version that us storytellers can use to our advantage.
Again, this is a simplified version, and it is important to remember everything in between.
A question you must ask yourself when writing is, “Where do I want my story to go?”. A useful trick is to decide upon an end goal for your protagonist and antagonist, and go from there. Figure out why they have that goal, what they can do to achieve it, and who stands in their way. By doing that, your plotting structure might seem a bit like this, but that’s okay. Once you’ve found where you want to take your story, you wrap everything up and go back to the beginning to iron out the wrinkles. Then, you can return to the regular structure above, and everything kind of falls into place. Remember, you can have as many drafts as you need- I went through eight before finalizing my book.
Another important thing to do is to keep track of conflicts and highlights, like if the MC gets a girlfriend, she will be a part of the book from then on. If the antagonist discovers a loophole where they can get around the law or the ways of the MC, they will use it. If a side character is diagnosed with Swine flu or something, this will be a continuous problem. This all will affect how the MC reacts to the antagonist, the other characters, and life itself. To help keep track of these, you could include them in the character profiles I mentioned in my last blog, or keep track of them in a separate note or workbook.
If you found this helpful, great. If not, feel free to check out Plotting in Wikihow.