The Cheese Stands Alone: Why Your Book Needs a Hobby
One thing we all write about is conflict. What is this concept? Basically you have a goal (write 5000 words a day). You need to reach that goal BUT something happens to stop you (work). So you have to defeat that something or work around it (give up sleep and drink more coffee). Keep doing this over and over. Goal, conflict, resolve, repeat. That is how you build a story and keep it moving. Our story is about getting main guy from point A to point B and that is our major conflict.
This journey can happen in one book, or 3, or 7+ if you are an over achievers. For example, in Harry Potter the ultimate goal is to defeat Voldemort. Well we did not need 7 books to do all that, but Harry needed 7 years to mature and learn as much as he could. So each book gave us smaller conflict. Each book has its own bad guy.
Why else did Harry need 7 books if he just needs to learn a lot of spells? Because Harry has a life and that is critical to the whole series. He has friends and plays Quiddich and goes to class. He has a mini plot line with Snape that serves as entertainment for the entire series and that conflict does not resolve till book 7. Harry has a love life with Cho and Ginny and each conflict keeps the book moving AND has a point in the story. Those Quiddich reflexes save his life later on. The Snape conflict gives Harry the answers in the ending scenes. Harry is a character to fall in love with, someone to relate to. You forget he is not real and magic is fake.
On the other side, there are books that focus only on that main conflict with empty fluff to throw away in the long run. I know it is overdone so often but here is another look at Twilight, specifically New Moon. The ultimate conflict of four books is Bella wants to be a vampire with Edward. The only time she is denied this is in New Moon. Edward leaves and Bella collapses. She has no hobbies or interests. She goes to school and avoids her friends. Even when Jake fixes the motorcycles Bella is still too focused on Edward. The side ‘plot’ of Victoria is half-a$$ed and an afterthought because even that turns into something Edward related. Alice ends up being the only character to give the story movement and she cheats by using visions.
The point is to show that Bella is nothing without Edward but does that endear us to her? No, and most Twilight fans are not a fan of Bella anyway. They go for the possessive stalker or the man-child who is just talking abs. Guess what? Edward likes to listen to music, watch Bella sleep, play piano and is very well read. HOBBIES! Jake fixes engines and loves to hang out with his two best friends who are like brothers to him. What does Bella do when alone? Hmmmm. Btw I am on Team Jake ^_^
What about us writers? My objective is to write a book. That is my conflict and my ultimate goal for the year. But it is not my entire life and it is not yours. Reading is good. It fills your time when you are not doing the following: Writing, stalking, working, eating, sleeping, conflict solving. Guess what? Reading is a hobby that provides mini conflict O_o. You need to get to the end of the book but there are other things to do. It takes time to resolve the conflict. But you do it and each little conflict helps to build up to that final resolution. Each mini plot helps us grow until we are mature enough to reach our final goal. We have depth as people and our characters need to be the same.
One thing you can do with your main character is interview him or her. Ask them what they do in spare time. Do they like spicy food? Have they read any good books? What is her ideal date with a man? Do they have pets? Does he do sports? If your character lacks depth guess what? You have power as the writer to make it up and develop your person.
Another method is to use this nifty chart from Maggie Madly Writing to show what your characters are like. Are they super mean? Do they have a lot of charm? Find out what kind of person your character is because if you don’t know, no one will. Do not be afraid to invest time working on just your character for a little bit. Step back from the main story and let this person’s voice develop.
Finally, ask for some help. Talk to a person who has high interest in books similar to your own. If you read Kristen Lamb (start now if you have not already) you know all about Social Media and WANA and how important it is to network with people who have similar interests and hobbies. Get feedback on your main character. How do you think I got that chart? By following other writers and borrowing some tricks and learning from mistakes. In return post feedback to them. Share other tips you discover and for goodness sake be polite and say thank you.
Remember, readers love books that relate. Conflict cannot stand alone. You don’t build a house with just a roof on stilts and you cannot have empty plot leading to the major conflict. Your story needs walls and furniture and doors and windows and really cute pillows from TJ Maxx. Without those little pieces your house will blow over and so will your story. The editor huffed and she puffed and said no.
So, how do you build your characters? What are your methods? Do you know your main goal? I want to know!
Happy Writing everyone.
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