Give Your Characters Something To Do
Life is dull. Life is boring. At least when it comes to a well written story, that is. Your character wakes up, looks around, yawns, gets up, gets dressed, brushes teeth, reads paper, makes his tea, and than spends the rest of the morning looking out the front window contemplating on life.
You could make that stretch out for 5 chapters, and it could be a well written piece of prose, but you got to ask yourself: who would read it? Nobody, not unless you give your character something to do and fast, before you lose your readers.
That is not to say that you can not start your story like this. There is one extremely popular book that does start out like this. It spends the entire of chapter one, taking a very detailed, yet very boring look into just how dull and boring the main character’s ordinary and meaningless life really is. It does so to set the stage and tell us, that this guy is the dullest most boring person on the face of the planet, and that he has never done anything with his life and probably never well, because he lacks all ambition to do anything which is not dull and boring. For him, life is good. Life is peaceful. Life is happy. Life is dull, but that is the way he likes it, because this is a quiet guy, sitting there drinking his tea and looking out the window, and the last thing he expected to see when he looked outside was a big yellow bull dozer about to knock down his house to make way for a by pass. While laying in the mud waiting for the yellow bull dozer to drive over him, the very last thing he expected to see was an even bigger yellow bull dozer the size of a small planet, in the sky over head, about the drive through the planet Earth. This dull boring guy who never did anything with his life, is Arthur Dent, and he’s about to save the galaxy in The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy.
So what happened here? How did the dullest most boring guy in the universe suddenly become one of science fiction’s greatest heroes? The author of the story took a dull boring guy, and gave him something to do. Giving a character something to do, is the best way to hook your readers. That is how books like Harry Potter and Eragon, became so well liked. Harry and Eragon are both carbon copy characters, nearly identical to each other, both are photo copies of Luke Skywalker. Luke, Harry, and Eragon all started out as dull boring kids, but each was given a task, and the reader was hooked, because with each battle fought, with each mystery solved, with each new adventure on the horizon, the reader got to join the adventure.
No one would like Harry had he remained in the closet under the stairs. No one would like Eragon if he had not found the egg, and continued being a farm boy. No one would like Luke if he had decided that fighting in the war was not for him. No one would have liked Arthur Dent if he had continued to sit there drinking his cup of tea. Giving your characters something to do, will keep your readers turning pages, thus making you a better writer, wither or not you can write well.
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This article was originally published in October 2008 under the title How To Become a Better Writer is copyright to Wendy C. Allen and The Twighlight Manor Press, and is reprinted here with permission.
To read the complete article: How to Become a Better Writer: What You Need to Know! (The Complete Article – All 15 Pages)
NOTE: If you would rather read each section individually, you can follow the links below:
How to Become a Better Writer: Part 1: Publishing is Not About Writing
How to Become a Better Writer: Part 2: Define Your Success
How to Become a Better Writer: Part 3: Know Your Genre
How to Become a Better Writer: Part 4: The Non-Fiction of Fiction Writing
How to Become a Better Writer: Part 5: Don’t Bore Your Characters
How to Become a Better Writer: Part 6: Beyond Writing