The first scene of my novel is a chase scene where two boys are being chased. But I haven’t revealed their names, so there’s a lot of “the first boy”, “the other boy”, “then the other boy” for 4 pages and it’s confusing . How can I fix this?

Reading this question, I had a couple thoughts. Questions. The answers to the questions indicate how to handle the scene.

  1. First, is it necessary to distinguish which boy is doing what? Does it matter or are you mainly trying to get across that two boys are being chased? If it doesn’t matter, then don’t worry about it. Just describe what’s happening and let the reader know that there are two boys. If the reader wants to know which boy is doing what, let them figure it out for themselves.
  2. Second, though, if it is important to differentiate the boys, can you include dialogue? (Depends on whether they are in a situation where talking/whispering/shouting is appropriate.) If dialogue can be included, then use dialogue tags. (You can find out about dialogue tags in previous posts on my web page if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Dialogue tags are wonderful. Fabulous.
  3. Thirdly, if it is important to differentiate the boys and you cannot include dialogue, then choose something about each boy that can quickly and easily be described, like unusually long hair or a torn pant legs or something more creative that you’ll come up with because you know the story. As you describe the chase scene, describe what’s happening to that special thing as the boys are trying to get away. Long, blonde hair got caught and had to be torn free. A torn pant leg ripped more each time something happened until the pant leg had to be be torn off completely. Or something else entirely. The description of what happens to the item will also be a description of the boy so the reader will be able to keep them straight.

What are tips you would share with someone wanting to write a fictional story?

There is a craft to writing short fiction:
  1. Learn how to put a story together. Take a class, read a book, do whatever it takes to learn the craft of telling a short story.
  2. Pretend that the story really happened. It should seem real to the reader, so it should also seem real as it is written.
  3. Put the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair, stare at your computer, and start writing. Don’t worry about whether your words are good or not, just get them written and don’t stop until you reach the end of the story.
  4. Now go back over those words and change them just enough to make the story flow. To make it interesting. To make the story seem real. Because the secret to writing good fiction is that it shouldn’t seem like fiction while it’s being read.

How does one express oneself in writing a science fiction novel with an original idea so that it can impact people and never leave their minds? Take the writing style of, The Martian, for example.

You write without considering that you’re writing for people to read what you write. That way you’re more concerned with what you write than you are with how you write and your writing will flow more naturally.

You also write without considering that you’re really writing, not for your reader, but rather for the editor or publisher (bricks and mortar or online) that will look over what you wrote and decide whether it’s worth publishing or not.

In other words, you forget all the rules of writing you learned over your long and arduous writing education and write what you want. How you want. Any way you want.

Then, when you’re finished —- (of course there’s a ‘then’) —- you go back over what you wrote and figure out what changes can be made so the result will be what people want to read and what those oh-so-important gate-keepers to the writing world will publish.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a way to make such changes and then you’ll have the best of both worlds, that of the professional who writes to give other people what they want while also writing for yourself.

If you can achieve those goals, you’ll have reached a plateau of meaning and elegance that few writers ever reach.

Good luck!

Does being social help with writing dialogue for your stories? If not, what do you think helps with writing good dialogue?

I doubt that being social helps because people in books don’t speak the same way that they do in real life. Not even close.

Nor can you just pull sentences out of thin air.

But I suspect that reading books that have the kind of dialogue that you wish you’d written, then taking apart those scenes, is possibly the best way to learn how to write good dialogue.

What is the best point of view to use when writing a multi-character novel?

  1. First, what’s the genre of the novel? Some novels are so often done in one view-point or another that stories written in any other viewpoint will be ignored. Not read.
  2. IF you have a choice because such novels can use any of a number of viewpoints, then you continue the process to figure out which will work best for you.
  3. Of course, the first step in the process is figuring out if there’s a particular viewpoint that you do best. If there is, then go with that viewpoint because, no matter what other viewpoint might seem best, any story is best told the way that works best for the writer.
  4. If you’re okay with any viewpoint, then look at your story. Check out the characters to see if one of them stands out from the others. Maybe because he/she is important, but perhaps because he/she is in the story in such a way as to be privy to most/all of the plot as it unfolds. If so, go with that character.
  5. Remember that the viewpoint character will slant the story one way or another. In other words, the story you end up with will be influenced by the viewpoint character. So a second thing to consider is what kind of story you want to write. Choose the viewpoint character that best reflects the theme of the story as well as being able to channel all the action because he/she is privy to most of the plot.

This works because I’ve never seen a story yet where all characters are equal in all ways or where the viewpoint character does not, in his/her actions and reflections, mirror the theme of the book.

When starting a novel, is it good to create an outline of ideas or just to write the ideas into the story and hash it out later?

Are you the type who jumps into everything you do feet first? Or the type who researches everything before making a move?

Which type you are tells you which way you should approach the craft of writing a story.

Personally, I started out by jumping in feet first but, over time, decided that I put less time and effort into a story if I research and outline first. So I made myself slow down and learn how to do just that.

I’ve never regretted changing methods, but what worked for me might not work for others. So do what feels right for you.

Can I write a love story if I’ve never been in love?

If science fiction writers can write about worlds and times that don’t exist, then you can write about love.

All it takes is a well-honed —- and well-trained —- imagination.

Because describing something you don’t personally know without thinking through how you want to do it, is an exercise in futility and will result in poor writing.

But describing something you don’t know after thinking it through and deciding what you want to say and why you want to say it is the mark of a professional writer of fiction.

What are female character cliches to avoid?

There are no cliches to avoid, male or female. None.

Cliches exist because they clue the reader into the character being described quickly and easily. That can be a good thing because it saves time and effort that can be put to better use telling the story.

The thing is, do a good job of describing your ‘cliche’ character. Don’t skimp and do delve deeply into your character.

Because then that cliche character won’t be a cliche after all, she’ll be a living, breathing, exciting example of a specific personality type.

I’m writing a novel and I’m finding it hard to make my chapters long enough, I’m currently on a 2 page long fight scene to start my book and I want to to at least break 4 pages, any ideas?

Common problem. Trust me on that.

Take a walk. Get away from your computer and stop staring at that dratted screen.

While walking and enjoying the weather and the trees and the beautiful birds overhead, think about your story. Dig deeper. Get inside the head of each and every protagonist in that fight scene.

What are they thinking? Why are they fighting? Do they really care? Let your mind wander and come up with whatever rises to the surface of your thoughts and don’t question your thoughts, just go with them.

Then, when you return to that dratted computer, remember your thoughts and you’ll probably discover that you have a lot more to say because you know your characters in that specific scene much better than you did before.

Maybe you’ll now describe more action because you’ll know what kind of action your protagonists might engage in. Maybe you’ll slip in some mini-flashbacks here and there to tell your reader why and how they are doing what they are doing.

Or something else that I can’t even imagine but that you can.

Is it better to get all of your ideas out and write a novel quickly, or to spend years in the process of curating the story and its elements?

Depends.

Some writers work best slowly and carefully, deciding each and every element and making sure the whole things works together.

Others work best just sitting down and letting it all come out in one huge, whoosh.

It’s a personality thing, not a writer thing. So go with whatever works for you.