Years ago, I took a fiction writing course where the instructor regularly gave tips on how to write an outstanding novel. Among those tips were, always give your character something to do.
If only I had remembered that recently.
As I was writing the follow-up to “The Dark Proposal” a couple of weeks ago, I was hit a brick wall. I was totally stuck on where to go and what to do next with the story. It was so frustrating because I had written scenes that I was proud of, and I was delighted with where the story was going. But then suddenly, it wasn’t going anywhere. I had hit writer’s block after doing so much with my WIP.
After a few days of editing, re-writing and deleting scenes that just weren’t working, I finally realized what was wrong: the story had become boring. Why though? Why right after such powerful scenes did it suddenly take a downturn. Was it because those scenes were hard to follow? After thinking it over, the memory of that instructor came back and realized what was wrong.
Claire was not doing anything.
Right after a few good scenes, the main character of my story was doing absolutely nothing. She was practically sitting around, moping and feeling sorry for herself. She was not doing any activity, any action, nothing. Just sitting there.
Was that boring or what?
So, I erased that scene and re-wrote it, giving Claire something to do. Then I was satisfied with it.
Now I understand why that writing instructor made an emphasis on giving a character something to do. Without any action or activity, a character is just sitting there. Does that sound fun? Interesting? Enticing? Heck, if I was bored with it, chances are, so would a reader.
So lesson learned and a tip from me: always give your character something to do. It gives momentum to the story, and it keeps it flowing. A novel should be rolling effortlessly, and any stalls means a stall in the storytelling. No one likes to be bored writing or reading. Then again, so doesn’t your character! Give them something to do. They’ll thank you for it.