Enthusiastic about writing your novel? That’s wonderful. Writing a novel’s a challenge, whether it’s your first or your hundred and first book. While you’re in the midst of writing, don’t worry about mistakes. You’ll fix them later.
Here are eight common mistakes.
Novels are about people, so this mistake can wreck your book:
Mistake 4: Your characters are cliched, or stereotyped.
Every genre of fiction has its cliches. Avoid them, if you can. Sometimes they’re unavoidable. What would historical romance be without the rake who’s transformed by love? Shady ladies who have hearts of gold are staples in many genres too.
If you must use a cliche character like the rebel with or without a cause, give the cliche a twist.
An easy way to create great characters: write his/ her journal.
Years ago, when I was working on my first novels, my editor suggested that I make life easier by creating character journals, right within the novels.
I suggest that the first journal you create is your lead character’s – your lead character is usually the primary point of view character.
Write, using the first person – “I”.
Kick off the journal by asking your lead a question:
- “Tell me about your childhood…”
- “What did you do when you stumbled upon the corpse on the beach?”
- “Why do you hate Jamie?”
Then, simply write, as the character. Write as quickly as you can, without censoring. Allow the character to say anything she/ he wants.
As we’ve said, write the journal within your novel. You’re writing a first draft. In your second draft, you can remove the character journals if you wish. However, you may find that you keep much of the material, as scene sequels.
I’m not a fan of creating character dossiers before you write your novel. I tend to forget what was in the dossiers, because I never go back to reread them, so for me writing them is a waste of time.
After you complete the first draft of your book, you can create character dossiers so a character doesn’t suddenly change eye color, or even personality.
What does your character want?
Your lead character will have a major “want”, an external goal: the boy wants to get the girl; the detective wants to find the killer; the jobless family man must get a job before the bank forecloses and his family becomes homeless.
Your lead character must have an internal obstacle to overcome too.
- The boy can’t get the girl, because he’s so shy he can’t even talk to her;
- The detective wants to find the killer, but he’s a burned-out drunkard. He has to face his demons. Moreover, he has to face them while finding the killer;
- The jobless family man is passive. He must overcome his passivity and become aggressively proactive – or he and his family will starve.
An internal obstacle means that your character must fight harder. That adds CONFLICT. Every page of your novel must have conflict of one kind or another.
Your readers enjoy watching your characters struggle; external obstacles are enhanced when you add internal obstacles too.
When you create character journals, and give your characters internal as well as external obstacles, your characters will become more real to you, and to your readers. With luck, you’ll create a fascinating character, who makes your book worth reading.
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