I have written for nine years of my life; long enough to backspace on my mistakes. I am writing this because if you are serious about writing, even if you never intend to publish, there are certain things you need to understand. Storytelling is a very personal action. We all strive to be proud of something we create, even if we are our own audience. Learn from some of my mistakes and explore what has gone right.
The pace will quicken (not in itself a problem, but you need to keep continuity). Characters will not be themselves. This is not about what you want them to do. This is about what they want to do. You simply write down what these people or creatures are naturally doing in their own habitat. You may also forget to address loose ends by the resolution. Conversations will become stilted. Many, many different and unexpected threads may appear at once. In conclusion, you will look back on the story the next day and ask yourself, “Why did I write that?”
You forced it.
Don’t stress on boring days. Move to a new story. Research a topic you desperately want to write but know nothing about. Or simply walk away from the notebook or computer, clear your head, and go back to it later.
Embrace the silence. We all need the small moments that let us step away from the chaos of our world. The audience needs a moment to enter their own bubble too; otherwise they will be mentally exhausted and put your story away. I had the problem in my younger days of writing stories that were purely violent and literally nothing else (Children of the Void and Last Action Wizard are great examples of this). I thought I was being so awesome writing all of this adrenaline pumping action; but then again I was only out of high school when I wrote them.
Levity is amazing. In my excruciatingly violent wendigo story Wish List, some of the conversations the protagonist has with the entity are (slightly) comical because it has no understanding of human interaction. Those small moments where the character is thinking, oh I’m talking to a dumbass, are what the audience needs. In Children of the Void the main protagonist and point of view (POV) is that of an interdimensional monster. However, nowhere in that story do I go and explain anything about why a dragon-like monster is stalking people in a snowy-forest where it would surely freeze to death. Let your story lapse into an emotionally driven conversation. Or let your character(s) have a moment, even a sentence, of reflection. We need to care, and we need to understand.
Violence. If your story calls for violence, understand you are not old enough to have experienced or inflicted real violence (hopefully). Guns and knives and even our hands do extraordinary damage to the human body. They are generally treated with respect by the appropriate authorities and (again hopefully) by criminals. It is important not to glorify violence… I wrote two blog posts about this. Creature Violence and Human Violence.
Do not show everything. The reader does not need to know how Character A gets up from the table, stretches, inches his way across the floor, looks through the peephole, sees his mother in law, and decides to not open the door. The reader will fill in most of that redundant information on their own.
Dialog is difficult. One; keep the dialog relevant to the situation. It needs to keep the plot flowing and add characterization- there is a balance. Do they or do not use conjunctions? Do they swear, not at all, rarely, or often? Two; vision is not your strong suit, so people watching will not be for you. This is perfectly alright! Use this to your advantage. Hone your eavesdropping skills in any public situation you find yourself in to create different contexts for important conversations in your story. Learn how real people talk and you can knock the most difficult task (for me) in writing, out of the ballpark.
Two more notes. One; your voice, story structure, and future development are all up to you. Practice. There are periods in my life where I cannot write due to workload or school. Eventually it becomes physically painful- a phantom weight on my shoulders and pressure behind the eyes because I can’t get the world in my head to the world outside. When I finally get back to writing it takes a while to get back into the old flow (continuity is important). While this time is frustrating, push through.
Finally, I have a goal for you to accomplish Samantha. There is beauty in the written language. I expect you’ll find it.
With all wishes and luck,
Robert Hassan Kahil