I rarely buy stuff on impulse, not even books. When I bring home a book I hadn’t planned to get, it’s because the cover and the first line grabbed my attention. Cover design usually isn’t an author’s responsibility, and even if you’ll be involved in yours, that comes at the end of the writing process. Instead of worrying about that prematurely, I want to talk about the other half of the equation—a story’s beginning.
Former Story Embers Head Writer
Raised on C. S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend physical reality to reveal spiritual realities that apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts, and solar systems (including our own).
When not writing fiction, Brandon spends his time landscaping the great outdoors, sportsing, or romancing his all-star and lifelong coauthor, Megan.
Crafting three-dimensional characters is a complicated process involving a distinct voice, engaging descriptions, consistency, and a significant amount of luck. Why luck? Because a reader’s ability to connect with your character will depend on his own life experiences.
If your story features more than one character, it probably contains dialogue. Unfortunately, dialogue can be challenging to write, because it needs to sound natural or it will fall flat. As if that isn’t bad news enough, cultivating an ear for dialogue is not an overnight process.
You’ve finished the first draft of your novel. What’s next? At some point you’ll need to show your manuscript to a beta reader or two. Seeking an outside opinion is an invaluable and inescapable step in your writing process.
“I have no plans to die today,” said every main character ever. In most modern media, being a main character is a free ticket through the story. Convenient for characters, but boring for readers. That’s what I talked about last month: killing characters and convincing readers that disaster could happen at any moment in your novel.
Have you ever finished reading a story and your response was meh? You didn’t hate it or love it—the story just existed. Have you ever read a story that was exactly what you expected after skimming the back cover? I have. I don’t reread those stories. When people sit down to read a book, they’re eager to be taken on a journey.
Comic relief characters have become a byword for flat characters in many creative communities. They’re quickly spotted and scorned by editors and other critics. For the most part, comic relief characters deserve that treatment. They’re often two-dimensional, predictable, unimportant to the plot, and useless overall.
Christian artistry doesn’t compare to the real stuff. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Over and over and over. You’ve probably even thought it. Why? Because, for the most part, it’s sad but true. Christian films can’t stand up next to MARVEL, Christian music is often shallow, and Christian fiction is more suited to the pulpit than the pages between a front and back cover.