Historical fiction offers writers a huge advantage in the area of plot development: real situations dictate the parameters for the setting, the conflict and resolution, and the characters. You don’t face the pressure of inventing everything from scratch. The disadvantage, however, is equally far-reaching. You must ensure the accuracy of even the smallest details, including clothing, dialects, and customs. The task can seem overwhelming, but it’s manageable if you address one category at a time.
Every genre, from suspense to contemporary, requires a leap of faith from readers to be effective. They know that the yellow brick road running through Oz doesn’t exist. Yet they pick up Baum’s classic and become so enthralled that they forget they’re turning pages instead of street corners. Why would they allow themselves to hallucinate for hours?
Although Christian readers enjoy consuming material from authors who share their faith, some of it can be difficult to digest. Maybe a turning point in the protagonist’s arc fails to evoke any emotion, or the attraction between two characters involves awkward prolonged glances and tingles. How can people who understand God’s design for life and the sin that tainted it botch those portrayals so badly?
Writing is hard. Life is harder. It’s full of tragedies, grueling work, annoyances, setbacks, frustrations, and disappointments. Nothing at all like a fairy tale. Yet fairy tale retellings have become increasingly popular over the last several years—from Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted to Marissa Meyer’s Cinder to Kara Swanson’s Dust. But what is the value of this subgenre besides marketability, and how does it relate to real-world issues?
A few years ago, an inquisitive stranger cornered me with a seemingly innocuous question: “What’s your book about?” Instead of rattling off a zinger, my brain blanked, my tongue tangled, and I stuttered something about “a monster who eats people” before hastily retreating.
Every moment in every story makes a promise: the conversation, decision, or setting that the author is focusing on holds significance, whether immediately or in a future chapter. As a reader, you’re conditioned to expect even the tiniest details to connect to and advance the plot.
Which is more important: characters or plot? Writers have been locked in that debate for centuries. Plot-oriented writers argue that conflict engages readers. But character-oriented writers insist that readers only care because they relate to the characters. The truth? Both sides are correct because the question is based on a misconception.
Have you ever loved a relationship more than the characters in it? Sure, Mr. and Mrs. Right were likable on their own, but their dynamic was so compelling that both of them dying would have been less agonizing than one of them surviving. You hope that the pairing in your own story will be equally captivating, but you’re nervous. You’ve gagged when a star-crossed guy and girl spent pages drooling over each other. What if your readers respond negatively too?
Everyone has experienced love in one form or another, so including romance lends more believability and relatability to the characters. It can offer readers a reprieve from intense and dark scenes, as well as reinforce the theme through how two flawed human beings interact. Even if romance isn’t central to the plot, a past of unrequited love, heartache, or loss can deepen your protagonist by either positively or negatively impacting how she handles situations in the present.
All writers and readers have an opinion on literary tropes—which ones they like, dislike, and think are overdone, as well as those that reserve the author (or consumer) a spot in the third circle of hell. If you’re new to the party, tropes are common literary devices or clichés. They can be phrases, situations, or images, and they’re born from familiar patterns of storytelling that audiences find compelling.