Truth is grey, not black and white. What we believe to be true can change over time. There is an inscription above a door at the German Naval Officers School in Kiel that reads:
Say not ‘this is the truth’ but ‘so it seems to me to be as I now see things I think I see’
There will always be someone who believes the opposite to what you know to be true. Don’t let this stop you from writing what you believe. Truth is strongest when time is spent to investigate, explain and verify the facts. The problem is that sometimes it is easier to come to a conclusion by distorting, hiding and twisting facts.
So what to do? Be honest. Don't pull your punches. Don't worry about being blunt. Tell us the truth as you know it.
They want to be immersed in new worlds. They enjoy the rhythm and vividness of words. Problems and conflicts also grab their attention. The more difficult the problem, the greater the hold the story has over them.
Are you writing for everyone? Half your audience are men, and the other half are women. Isn’t that too general? Too vague. The whole world reading your book. Is it believable?
Pick one person you know and write for her (or him). When we were at school, we wrote for teachers who marked our work. Who was your favourite teacher? Or write wholly for an imaginary friend with similar tastes to your own.
You are the director, not an actor in your story. Keep your story visible on stage and yourself quiet. You are the conduit through which the story is told. People aren’t buying you; they’re buying the story. You want your story to become their story.
There are no rules out there, but there are sins, and the cardinal sin is boredom. Robert McKee
Authority rests with the reader. They have total control over your story. They control when they start to read and when they stop. You cannot force them to do anything. This is their choice, and they exercise their authority when they put a book down.
Why did they stop reading? Possibly we grew enchanted with our powers of description and failed to keep the ball rolling. Characterisation, theme, mood; none of these stand for anything if the story is dull. If the story grabs the reader, all else can be forgiven.
Make things clear, don’t over explain. Let the reader work things out for themselves. Explaining can reduce the idea and make it smaller.
Make the character somehow out of the ordinary. She may wear the mask of the common woman, but underneath this mask lies a true hero.
As long as the character wants something, the reader will want it too. As long as the character is attempting to get something, the reader will wonder whether or not he’s going to succeed. Few things are more intriguing than the desire to succeed against impossible odds.
You may not love your characters but you do have to defend them. Our characters arise out of our need for them.
Always look for something you can identify with in each of your characters, good or bad. Always look for something honest. And then, once you have the perfect cast, the story will virtually write itself. Now the most important work is done and the fun can start.
It's time to play.