Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Make it Personal

Stephanie here.

Many of you either write or have dreams of writing a sweeping, epic story. Something with a big scope and lots of point of view characters that will take hundreds of thousands of words.

Or maybe you're writing about a big topic, like Margaret Mitchell did in Gone With The Wind.

However large your story scope might be, I think this is great writing advice:



"When writing about war, write about one man's war." - Angela Hunt

(I came across this quote in Angela's Writing Historical Fiction. She said it's an old writing adage, but my Google searches yielded no results so I'll attribute it to her unless otherwise corrected.)

Something unique about our art form is how personal we're able to make it. We're able to draw others into the hearts and minds of our characters. Don't forget that even when you're writing about something bigwar, cancer, alcoholismyour goal should be to make it very personal.

20 comments:

  1. Thank you for this great advice! I'm doing my best to make it personal, especially with the character. If the character isn't connected to the "big thing" in some personal way, the "big thing" and the character won't be worth the reader's care.

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  2. I think this is the struggle of epic writers. It becomes so... convenient to have our characters exist only to artificially advance the plot.

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  3. I think this is the answer to my Kazakh genocide novel. When writing about communism, and the near extinction of a people, take one person's loss and pain, because as humans we can't relate to an event or number. As the tyrant Joseph Stalin himself said, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic."

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    1. A Kazakh genocide novel sounds very interesting! Joseph Stalin's words are chilling.

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    2. That's an excellent quote. From a very unlikely source :)

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  4. Hear, hear. My book is about a centuries old conflict and war between elves and humans, and I love making it a one man's war about my MC, the assassin Dorlin Hull who is conflicted between himself, and his mysterious past. Great quote.

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    1. Sounds like you're being very smart as you think through your story!

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  5. This is really good advice...we need to stay focused in our writing, and our focus above all needs to be to make it personal.

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    1. And if we're writing from our heart, we're in good shape to do just that :)

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  6. This is such wonderful advice...I love it. So many times writing the emotional scenes takes us away from the story instead of drawing us in... because they're so hard to write without being tacky or cliché!! I always try to think of it as writing not to force the reader to feel emotion based on what it happening in my book, but writing with the intent of them making connections between the book and their own life - and then dealing with their real-life emotions while they're reading the emotional scene in my book. does that make sense? Am I on the right track? :)

    (I love GTW...I've been following for years now, but I never comment...just wanted to say thanks for all you do!)

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  7. Ooh, this is great advice. Narrowing down the focus to how something so broad affects people on a detailed level makes a story so much more interesting. In history class I have a hard time getting into the material if my class speeds over a time period and gives me only a general sense of that section of history. However, when we take the time to delve into the details and learn about the people behind a time period, I find history to be so much more interesting. I guess stories are the same way.

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  8. Do you have any advice on what to do when you find yourself having the opposite problem? I always feel like I'm focusing so much on my characters that I'm almost losing my story, and I have trouble sometimes pulling back and looking at my story as a whole. Is this even a problem?

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  9. Yes yes yes. My last first draft ended up WAY more personal than I'd anticipated - it was a dystopia set in Norway so it really couldn't have been more different than my personal circumstances, but the MC showed up with extreme anxiety - something I've always dealt with a lot. It took some turns I could relate to a lot and basically wrecked me as I wrote, but I think it turned out way better because of it.

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  10. Awesome post! I always struggled to do this when I wrote dystopian/sci-fi, but it's a lot easier when I'm writing contemporary. With my contemporary WIP I'm working on now, I'm not writing about anything huge like a war or something, but struggling with anxiety is a big theme throughout the story. I'm nervous about portraying it well, but also excited because it's definitely very personal for me.

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  11. Yes! Awesome advice!
    I recently had to switch from third person to first person because for my story third person just wasn't working. My MC has many depths and many layers to her, the switch was the key to making it more personal.

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