Always Wanted to Write a Novel? Writing Tips for Everyone - Part 1

by Kelli A. Wilkins, Romance Author

Hi everyone,

Whenever I do an interview, I’m always asked if I have any advice or tips for aspiring writers.  Well, I sure do! Today I’m sharing five writing tips. Writers will (hopefully) find them helpful, and readers will get an inside look at some “secrets” that go into making interesting and sexy stories. These writing tips are based on advice I received in my writing classes and discoveries I made as I wrote. I included brief examples from some of my Amber Quill Press romances to illustrate a few points.

So, let’s get started…

1. Lights, Camera, Action!: Always start your story with an interesting hook to capture the reader’s attention. Begin either 5 minutes before, during, or 5 minutes after “the big moment” that gives the character a problem and draws the reader into the character’s world. Keep the action going in the first few paragraphs. Don’t waste the first page describing ordinary events such as the weather or how a character got dressed. (You can add supporting details into the backstory later.) Jump into the story and take your readers with you.

For example, in my paranormal-comedy, Beauty & the Bigfoot, ( I started the story about 5 minutes before Tara’s father brings home Bigfoot. (Yep, you read that right.) The reader is instantly absorbed into Tara’s experience as she meets (and falls in love with) Bigfoot, and then has to deal with her wacky father’s quest for fame.

In my historical/fantasy romance, The Pauper Prince, ( I started the story right after Prince Allan learns he’s been banished from the kingdom and must live as a pauper. It sets the stage for what’s to come and gives Allan a big problem from the outset of the story.

2. What’s Your Sign?: One of the keys to writing a good story is creating a believable cast of characters. But before your characters can step onto the page and come alive for readers, you have to create them. As the author, it’s your job to know your characters better than anyone. (After all, they’re your inventions.) Before you write your story, spend some time with your characters and learn everything you can about them so they come off well-rounded and “real” to readers. (And no, it’s not “cheating” if you write down the physical descriptions of your characters and keep them near your keyboard. It saves you from going back through the manuscript and hunting down a detail.) Some of the details you should know are:

·         Hair and eye color, general build/body shape
·         Left or right handed (great detail to know if there’s a gun involved in the story!)
·         Birthday and astrological sign. (You can develop character traits based on the sign. An astrology reference book is an excellent tool for this.)
·         Distinguishing marks (scars, missing limb, tattoos – and the backstory behind each)
·         Family life (brothers, sisters, adopted, parents together or divorced, raised by uncle, etc.)
·         Have children? Wants children or never even considered it?
·         Pets (cat or dog person? reptiles? raises bees? or no pets at all?)
·         Foods they like, dislike, any food allergies?
·         How much of a dark side does he/she have and how does it show?
·         Recreation (likes sports on TV, hates all sports, plays hockey, hikes, swims, surfs)
·         Fears and phobias (water, dolls, monkeys, wasps, falling, fire – and why!)
·         Wears glasses/contacts/braces, any medical conditions?
·         Where and how did they live/grow up? Poor, middle class, member of royal family?
·         What kind of car and house do they have? What are the furniture/decorations like?
·         Religion and general opinions about social issues/politics
·         What secrets do your characters have? What would happen if people found out about them?
·         Dreams, aspirations, goals, and regrets. Are they happy with their lives or do they wish they had done things differently?
·         Sexual history (straight, gay, experiments, virgin, non-virgin with regrets, loose, never been in love, had heart broken, etc.) Knowing this is VERY important for romances!

The more you know about the characters in your story, the more you can make the reader (and other characters) identify with them through details. You can also build on these details and/or use them to move the plot along, add conflict, build dramatic tension, or liven up a love scene. You don’t have to use every detail in the story, but knowing that your character has to overcome her fear of water to save a child trapped during a flood will bring her to life.

For example, in my contemporary romance, Trust with Hearts, ( Sherrie has recently left her abusive finance. Curtis notices her odd behavior and immediately identifies with her based on his own experiences with an abusive parent. Knowing these details about the characters helps them bond and adds to the plot.

Deb's note: Visit the Deb Bailey Books blog for Part 2 of Kelli's article!

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