Monday, June 08, 2009

Believe in Yourself. Your Characters Do.

If it's Monday, this must be Vicki.

If there is one thing successful fiction authors have to have it’s a belief in themselves. They have to believe absolutely that they have the ability to create a good story.

Plenty of people, probably numbering in the millions, have an idea for a book or have begun to write one. More often than not, nothing comes of it, and the work is never finished. In many cases they hit the ‘soggy middle’ (refer previous post!) or can’t find their way through a tricky plot point, and give up.

Once you have a book or two under your belt, there comes a time in which you believe in yourself, or in your characters, and that knowledge will carry you through.
Case in point – I am a rough outliner, meaning that I have an idea of how I want my story to progress, and what obstacles are going to impede the characters. But the outline is drawn in broad strokes only and all the details have to be filled in as I go.

I’m working on Smith and Winters #4 (catchy title, eh?) in which there is a subplot involving a series of break and enters when people are away on vacation. From the very beginning I knew I had to come up with something that the homeowners had in common. Some reason why these people were broken into and others were not. But the reason had to be obscure – otherwise the police would discover it quickly. Cancelling the newspaper, or using the same house sitter, is too obvious. Trusting myself to think up something eventually, I made a note on a blank page saying “Reason XX knows these houses are empty?” and then settled down to write the book. I was approaching the end of the first draft. Still no idea. Kennel? Kids sports teams? Nope, Sergeant Winters would have considered that. I have to be smarter than Sergeant Winters.

I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I trusted myself to come up with an idea, but I will confess I was getting a bit nervous. And then it happened - I was taking a walk, thought of something I’d seen, and – presto - I knew the answer. So perfect it even fit into another plot point without jiggling.

The moral of the story is to trust yourself. Or trust your characters. I’m sure John Winters would have thought of it eventually.

3 comments:

Charles benoit said...

Oh, no fair!
But I bet it's gas grill they left burning in the back yard...

John Corrigan said...

Thanks for the honesty. Very helpful. I'm glad I'm not the only one who writes themselves into a corner. One of us should do a character-vs.-plot blog...

Rick Blechta said...

Stay tuned...