Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Problems with my writing

I finished my last WIP the middle of February and in the two months I leave it to sit and rest, I decided to work on another book. It's an Agatha Christie- like novel. Shorter, simple, plot-based novel.

I came up with the plot of this 'locked-room-puzzle' a few years ago and wrote the whole book. However, that was before I took any sort of writing/grammar classes and when I re-read the manuscript, thought it absolute rubbish!

So, I decided to re-write it.

Although, I love the premise, I've been having trouble getting into it again and it's left me with a sort of writer's block. I couldn't figure out why until a couple of days ago.

When writers write mystery novels, it's not all suspense and chasing the bad guys around. My detectives have to do investigating - asking the suspects questions, chasing false leads. I know who the killer is and how he/she did it and why. The culprits are fascinating characters and chapters that include them are interesting to write.

However, the other minor characters  -the ones the readers don't spend much time with - are less interesting to the writer and chapters that include interviews with them are somewhat boring to write and sadly, somewhat boring to read. But, that can't be! I have to make even those chapters interesting for my reader. My wonderful reviewers won't put up with drab chapters!

Hence the writer's block.

So today, I have to fall in love with my characters again. I have to find each and every suspect interesting to talk with. I have to find a motive for each and prepare alibis and plain and simply, know them.
For instance (and without giving much of the plot away), one suspect (not the murderer) my detective is interviewing next is having an affair with the beneficiary of the victim's estate. She seems suspicious because she's secretive about the affair. Boring! Been done. But, I have to make her interesting somehow. So, I began to think more about her background. Why did she marry? Why did she start having the affair? Why did she name her pet Mongoose Bubbles? I make her seem blond and flighty at first but she's not. I make it seem like her marriage is down the toilet but I have moments where it's clear to the reader she cares about her husband even though he's addicted to online gambling.

I have to continue talking with her, find out more about her but I believe that if I can get to know each character better, I can find the book interesting to write and interesting to read.  Writer's block - gone!

What do you do if you find your writing boring?

I found Margot's blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist really interesting today. She wrote about variety in the mystery writing genre. Check it out!


Anonymous said...

Ann - Thank you so much for mentioning my blog :). I truly appreciate it!

I know exactly what you mean about making characters interesting, and keeping oneself from being bored and boring. To me, it's a question of finding the depths in one's characters. That's not always easy to do, especially, as you say, because we writers know how the story ends. But it is really important. Your post comes at a good time for me, because as I look at my own WIP, I'm trying to figure out how and why the characters act as they do, and what makes them interesting. In fact, I had to laugh when I read what you said about one of your characters having an affair with another. That happens in my WIP, too, and I, too, am trying to make both of those people more interesting. Why should the reader care about them?? Thanks for bringing that up; good to know I'm not the only one.

Jan Morrison said...

Very provocative post, Ann! I have this problem at times too and what happened is that I let my protagonist assume things about the way the people she interviews are and then be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised when they reveal quite different parts of themselves. I suppose that I am letting my protagonist stand in for me in that case - as in 'oh, this woman is a obviously a gold-digger' and find out that she isn't at all. Being still and letting my characters come forward is the key for me!

Kimberly Franklin said...

Good luck talking to your characters. I've never really thought about my characters being boring, but maybe that's because I haven't gotten far enough for them to be boring yet. I'm going to keep an eye on them, though. Don't want none of those boring characters prancing about my novel! ;)

Ann Elle Altman said...

Margot, thanks for your comment. Yes, it's a difficulty for many writers because though we may love the book we're writing (and should) we don't love all the un-climatic scenes as much.

Jan, it's interesting as a writer that our characters can surprise us so. Perhaps it's because we have such wonderful imaginations. That may also be why I hate going to parties and having conversations with others. Very rarely do they surprise me.

Kimberley, I'm jealous. But, I don't find all my characters boring, just some of the minor ones.


Jemi Fraser said...

Interesting question! If I'm bored, I tend to save to a new version and delete, delete, delete. :) Then start again.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

When my characters get boring I get them to start talking, and write tons of dialogue until they come to life again. If yours is a murder mystery, can you just kill off the boring characters lol?

Charmaine Clancy said...

Be like the murderer and take to the boring scenes with a knife! Well that's what I do when I find a boring scene.

I've been reading the kids book Percy Jackson and what Rick Riordan does so well (and he does this in the first 39 Clues book) is keep the action moving. Lots of hooks lots of movement.

Could one of your non-killer suspects be violent in nature and react badly to being questioned, perhaps attack? There's a great saying for writing when things get dull bring in a guy with a gun.

Good luck with it and when you're stuck work on the bits you do love.

Christi Goddard said...

If any part of what I'm writing bores me, I put it off. And put it off. And put it off. Then realize I don't like it so it's scrapped. No reason to write a scene I hate, right? Find a different route: that's always my answer. Change perspective, sum up, recount in dialogue.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I usually look for more conflict for the scene..even minor conflict. And I'll model the character off an amalgam of interesting people I know if I'm stalling out on creating a good minor character.


Anonymous said...

My writing gets doesn't really bore me but it can irritate me plenty, and when that happens, I usually need some distance. I write in deep third person, so sometimes coming back and changing up a few passages with some added thoughts or more character quirkiness is all it takes to reignite my passion.

Carol Kilgore said...

Sometimes I'll put two characters together who normally wouldn't be. The scene most likely won't stay, but I usually learn more about each one. Another thing I do is try to think of one adjective to describe the character's personality or outlook or attitude. Then I play up that aspect of the character and how it affects all they do. Great post.

Talli Roland said...

Great question. Sometimes I put things aside and contemplate if the idea is as good as I originally thought - if it has enough 'legs' to carry it through. If I still really like the premise, then I think about how I can introduce more conflict or complications.