The Secret to Writing
Recently, I’ve been asked the same question by a few different people. How do you write a book? These folks are anxious to get started on their own work and what they essentially want to know is the “secret” to writing and publishing. There’s no secret, no magic formula. I usually wind up telling them to write the book first and worry about the rest later. Without a story on the page you really have nowhere else to go. You can’t very well pitch an agent or publisher with a blank page can you? I know someone out there is saying “Yes, it is called a proposal” but that’s more of a non-fiction business practice. I’m in the business of fiction and with fiction you have to have a finished manuscript.
Now back to that secret formula. I know most authors sometimes wish there was a magic pill you could take like Bradley Cooper had in the movie Limitless. That way you could harness your writing powers without all the distractions of day-to-day living and get that novel finished in record time. But it is in daily life where you get your best nuggets of writing.
This is especially true in character development. I love creating my characters, it juices me. This is the first thing I do after getting a spark of an idea. And I like to keep my characters based in reality, “warts and all” as they say. This means keeping little flaws and mannerisms that suit the character and give them more dimensions.
For instance, in my suspense novel SINS AND VIRTUES I have a complex and unique hostage situation made even more complex and unique because of the characters themselves. First, I flipped the script and made a woman take a man hostage. Usually it is the other way around. But in Sam Mitchell, she is volatile and ready to snap based on years with an abusive husband and an extended stay in a maximum security prison. An example comes from a scene where Sam speaks to Ben Haskins, her captive:
“Are there any other weapons in this house?”
“No.” His answer was blunt and spoken too fast. She nudged him with her knee so that he would look up at her. When he didn’t budge she had to squat before him to take in his eyes.
“If you’re lying to me I’ll blow you away, got it?”
“Did you just wake up this morning and decide to ruin a man’s life?”
“I’m a woman, it’s what we live for.”
“You’re just an angry little girl, aren’t you?”
His defiance of her was shocking. She turned her attentions now to the knife. Taking it from atop the mantle she twisted it in her grip.
“I should gash out your eyes for that remark.”
“I have no doubt that you would.”
“Then don’t speak again.”
“It’s just that for whatever reason I was feeling a certain amount of compassion for you.” He’d been avoiding her gaze as if searching for some kind of revelation at the back of his mind. Now he turned back to her and it made Sam jump. “I feel like a fool. You’re nothing but a criminal. You don’t deserve compassion.”
He’d gotten her juice up and she was going to let him know about it. A swift back hand brought quick crimson to his lips.
“You don’t know the first thing about me,” she shouted. “You sit here in this fancy cabin living the most mundane existence I’ve ever seen and you dare to pass judgment on me? You don’t know anything, buddy.”
So within the dialogue you can create tension and build your characters just by the few words they speak. It’s fun, it’s one of the reasons I love writing so much.
Anyone out there who wants to write a book and doesn’t know where to begin…just start with an idea and a blank page. Learn the rules of writing, for sure. But then take them, and break them, and make them your own. When you cast away all your inhibitions and just tell whatever story you want to tell that’s when magic happens.
SINS AND VIRTUES is available now through Amazon.com
A unique hostage situation is about to turn ugly unless author Ben Haskins can use his gift of words to befriend his captor. Fantasy novelist Ben Haskins has taken a remote cabin in the wilderness to revive his shaky marriage and failing career. Within the peaceful surroundings he runs into real trouble when convicted murderer Sam Mitchell breaks into the cabin after she escapes from prison. Marked by a dark past of abuse Sam is volatile and ready to snap. It is up to Ben to use his writer’s gift of words to diffuse the situation before time runs out for them both.