You finally have a moment to write, but what to do with your limited time? Here’s a practical prompt to kickstart the story you’re working on right now. The clock is ticking, people. Start writing.
A protagonist typically holds a set of values at the beginning of a novel that, by the end of the story, has changed in some way. The change can be a subtle shift in world view or a more profound moral change. So analyze your story to make sure you’ve incorporated incremental changes throughout. Consider adding a few words of dialogue, inner thoughts, body language or other small actions to show your character’s evolution.
For our current “Learn to Write by Reading” challenge, we invited you to examine the protagonist’s character arc in a book. Now, it’s time to apply what you learned to your own manuscript.
Last week, we discussed the protagonist’s mistaken worldview at the beginning of the story. This belief needs time to develop, to grow and mature, to become more deeply entrenched in his or her way of life. For this week’s prompt, highlight in scene sketches three moments in the character’s life.
- One at the beginning of the book, where the character truly believes the lie.
- Another further on, where something happens in the story to challenge the character’s belief.
- And lastly, a scene where your character is forced to confront this mistaken belief.
Successful writers say it all the time: To be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. So we challenge you to read more and to read outside of your comfort zone.
Good novels aren’t just about what happens (plot). They’re about how people respond to what’s happening, and how their beliefs change over the course of a story (character arc). In this month’s challenge, we invite you to read books where the authors did a wonderful job of shifting the character’s worldview over the course of the story. Here are some of our book recommendations. Pay particular attention to the growth of the characters over the course of the story.
Alicia: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Laura: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Megan: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Naomi: The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Stacey: Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
For our September “Learn to Write by Reading” challenge, we invited you to examine books that had characters with mysterious backstories. Now, apply what you learned to your own manuscript.
Note how the writer builds the mystery by sprinkling in more and more information as the story progressed while withholding the truly important stuff. Is the writer subtle or overt with the hints, or some of both? As a reader, which methods work best to make you desperate to learn the whole story about the pivotal event in the characters past, and which methods annoy you?
Now apply what you’ve learned to your story and decide where, when, and how best to tease the reader and build suspense about your character’s past.