Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How To Be A Writer: Part 2

I'm glad you're still with us, intrepid writer/adventurer. And by writer/adventurer I mean writer only, because writers do not possess the courage or life skills to attempt any sort of journey beyond their front door unless it involves the acquisition of sustenance, caffeine, or alcohol. So, dear writer or writer-to-be, I hope you learned a little something about how to be a writer from yesterday's installment. That said, being a writer is only part of it, despite what you may think. I know it feels like just sitting around in your room staring at a blank word document makes you a writer, and I know it feels like crying on twitter about how hard writing is makes you so cool like me, but that's not all there is to writing. Prepare yourself-- you must also write. I know, I know. It's horrifying. Take a moment to digest this if you must. Realize that this is the reason why writers are such empty shells of humanity: because they are doing nothing but writing, putting off bodily functions in order to write, and thinking about writing when they're doing something else other than writing (like crying because they can't think of what to write next).

In this installment I shall introduce you to the world of writing, and impart upon you much practical wisdom. Wisdom of the ages. Only after reading and implementing these tips can you be as badass as I am, pictured above, posing majestically in front of Stonehenge with a Medieval font hovering nearby. So come close, children, and prepare yourselves for: HOW TO BE A WRITER. By Meg Smitherman. Part 2.

5. The word.
Let's begin today with your vocabulary. Yes, writing is about more than simple diction, syntax, and super sneaky and unexpected yet fun use of alliteration. It's also about character, and plot. But most importantly, it's about words. Simple words, strung together to create sentences and stories and emotions and worlds. So I advise you to use as many descriptive words as possible when you're writing. You can never, ever, use too many adjectives or adverbs. Take this sentence, for example: "The dandy straightened his cravat and winked at the other man." Jeez, could it be any more boring, aside from the fact that a dandy is mentioned? No. Let's spice it up! Remember to use those adjectives and adverbs we talked about. Remember, as many as possible. Here's mine: "The foppish, slightly effeminate dandy elegantly straightened his crisp, curling, cranberry-colored cravat and winked seductively at the other toothsomely delicious man." Wow! Pretty crazy how much that sentence improved, huh? Let's look at it closely. I added two descriptive words for the dandy, but I could have added way more. It's all about your personal taste. Also notice that the cravat gets its own slew of adjectives; what a great cravat. It's crisp, curling, and cranberry-colored. You may wonder how a cravat can be curling, but it's okay if an adjective doesn't always make sense in context. Do you know why? Because of a little thing called alliteration. That's right. If you were looking closely, you'll see that I alliterated a few words to make that part of the sentence just that much more special. It's okay to take little liberties like that in your writing, because nobody wants to read conventional descriptions anyway.

If you ever get stuck for a word, be sure to use your trusty thesaurus. The more you use it the better. Try not to ever use the same word twice in your writing. I know it's hard, but if you utilize the thesaurus, you'll have a whole bunch of new options you never thought were possible before. The more words in your manuscript that nobody recognizes, the better.

6. The character.
Now that you know how to make your prose as exciting and descriptive as possible, it's time to construct a character. You may be tempted initially to create a totally unique and original character to star as the protagonist of your story. Be careful! This is a critical noobie mistake. Don't be tricked into thinking people want to read about an original character with agency and meaningful dramatic need. That's the last thing anyone wants to read about. What you need to remember is this: Write your protagonist as if he or she were exactly like you, but better. It sounds silly but it's the one trick every bestseller lives by. Just write about yourself, but make sure you're way cooler in your novel than in real life. For instance, give yourself a better eye color, well-styled hair, a great sense of humor, and an inexplicable magnetism that attracts every single hot person you encounter. Then just change the name, give yourself a dark past and a magical power, and boom. Instant winner. Just remember to constantly remind audiences that your protagonist isn't perfect. If readers think a character in a book is cooler than them in any way, they will instantly hate it and stop reading. To avoid this, slip in constant references to your protagonist's shortcomings. Examples: awkwardness in social situations, accident-prone, too pretty, too smart, can't scramble eggs properly, can't pronounce "ornery", too many monies.

Now that your protagonist is sorted, let's talk about secondary characters. These are less important and should always be two- if not one-dimensional, depending on how many adjectives you want to use up on them. To make it easier for everyone, including your readers, you will most likely want to adhere to a few simple character templates when it comes to creating your secondary and tertiary characters. You can use these templates over and over, it doesn't matter how many times or in how many of your novels. They never get old. Suggested character templates: The Soulful Brooder (perfect for vampire characters!). The Snarky Best Friend (only appropriate for male characters). The Slutty Best Friend (only appropriate for female characters). Tall, Dark, and Handsome (perfect for a romantic interest, or anyone who hits on your female protagonist). Green-Eyed and Mysterious (anyone who hits on your male protagonist). The Flamboyantly Gay Guy. The Guy/Girl Who Hates Everything. The Hippie Who Makes You Take Ecstacy. Pie-Baking Mom. Overbearing Dad. Evil Sibling. This is just a small sampling of the many useful templates you can use for writing supporting characters. Feel free to email me or comment if you want more suggestions!

7. The plot.
Let's be honest. There are only two plots in this world. Harry Potter, and Twilight. Pick one, change the names of the characters and a few of the more memorable plot points, and go at it. Just make sure you remember not to use any trademarked terms like "Muggle," and remember: vampires and wizards are still cool. So don't be afraid to stick to those themes! Even better, write about vampire wizards who fall in love and defeat the dark lord at the end. Instant bestseller. Recommended secondary characters: The Soulful Brooder; The Snarky Best Friend; Tall, Dark, and Handsome; The Slutty Best Friend. For more plot ideas, see: Nothing. I told you there are only two plots.

8. Character death.
There are two rules to go by when it comes to character deaths. 1) The more popular you are as a writer, the more characters you need to kill off so as to be recognized as a "legit" and "serious" author. 2) The more random and meaningless a character's death in terms of plot advancement, the better. Especially if it will make your female readers cry for no reason. Girls love that shit.

And thus ends HOW TO BE A WRITER. By Meg Smitherman. Part 2. I hope you've found something of use to take away with you as you begin your new life as a writer. Stay tuned for more installments!

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