Wake Up Your Protagonist

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One of the most overused tropes that should be avoided by writers is one that I am also guilty of using…

The trope is having your novel begin with your protagonist waking up.

For a first-time novelist, this trope might be tempting (it was for me) because it gives the writer the ability to describe the protagonist’s setting as your character awakes and takes in their surroundings. Though this is true, it also creates a stalemate for the beginning of your novel which is the last thing you want to create.

The first pages of you book are crucial because they are sometimes the only chance you have to hook a reader (or, before that—an agent/editor). You don’t want to lose readers to your protagonist padding around as they move through their morning routine. Instead, you want to begin your novel in a way that draws your reader in immediately. This interest is created with action, suspense and raised questions. Try advancing your novel past the waking, dressing, etc. and toward where your story really begins to take hold.

As an additional argument against using this trope, I have been advised by published writers, professors, and agents about how much this trope makes them roll their eyes. So, as this advice has helped dramatically improved my work in progress—I wanted to share it in case it saves you from a similar fate. We writers must look out for each other.

So, in conclusion, unless your protagonist is Sleeping Beauty…wake them up and get your story moving!

Keep Writing!

Trouble Developing Your Character? Use this Trick!

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Whether you are starting a new novel, or you are struggling with figuring out your character’s motives—there is a trick to help you develop your character.

The trick is: side writing.

The process of side writing might feel a little silly at first, but it’s a great creative exercise that I think would benefit any writer.

Interested? Here are some examples:

Example 1

One of the most popular example of side writing is: writing letters—from your protagonist’s point of view. The letters can be about anything. For me, I write about my character’s thoughts and fears about what is to come.

I have found writing letters to be very beneficial when you are starting your novel. You can address the letter to one of your parents, a friend, or one of your favorite characters from a similar book. No matter who you choose to write to, you’ll find your protagonist’s voice clearer and their personality more concrete after you write the letter. With these clearer in your mind, you might find those first twenty pages easier to write. Who doesn’t love that benefit?

Example 2

Another example of side writing is writing journal entries as your protagonist. This can be helpful if you write the entries as your character moves through the novel. As your character grows, so will their view and ideas in the entries. Also, who knows? Those entries might end up creating another motive, or a new character arc.

Those are two options to choose from, but there is also a question about how you are going to do your side writing. Will you write the letters freehand? What about typing?

Either way, you’ll be glad you tried it.

Keep on writing!

“Just”… No

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During my two month mentorship with Martha Brockenbrough, author of The Game of Love and Death. Martha highlighted a writing tick that I didn’t realize I had…

The tick was using just in my writing—a lot. Like fifteen times in twenty pages a lot. It was my writing crutch and I hadn’t even realized it (how embarrassing). But, once my eyes were opened to it—Oh goodness, did I see it.

For example, the below snippets were taken from the pages Martha Brockenbrough reviewed:

Just please protect her…

just make sure you look after yourself…

…I just wanted to be…

Can you see how just is not necessary?

It doesn’t enhance the sentence, it just sits there like an inedible garnish on a dish—Yuck!

As you don’t need that inedible garnish on your tasty plate, get that word off your compelling page…

Please protect her…

…make sure you look after yourself…

…I wanted to be…

See? So much better once the crutch word has been vanquished from the sentence, don’t you agree?

If just isn’t your crutch word—you’re not off the hook yet! There are other adverbs that can weaken a writer’s writing.

Below is a list of the most over-used adverbs. Do you overuse any of them? (Be honest…)

  • Just
  • Very
  • So
  • Kind of
  • Really
  • Totally
  • Actually
  • Seems
  • Suddenly
  • Probably
  • Could have
  • Hopefully
  • Perfect
  • Viciously
  • Usually

If you use a crutch word, don’t fret! Thanks to Control+F, you can easily track those adverbs down after you finish writing and replace them. Easy fix!

Last Piece of Advice: Don’t settle for an adverb modifying a weaker verb, when you can use a great verb. Your writing—and readers—will thank you!

Keep on writing!