In 2014 I had my first foreign holiday, in Malta. Thanks to British rule before they became independent, much is like home. The main language is English and they drive on the left. But, in more than distance travelled, it’s a whole different world. I saw many things that could help me with my writing. I will be sharing one each week.
Here is point 1:
Rain is a blessing
Britain it rains a lot and we complain about it. In Malta it doesn’t rain
enough, so they welcome it. The weather was hot every day. I never thought I’d
hope for rain. If your story is always sunny it will be boring – you must have
adversity to make it interesting.
When I began to write my first novel, like most first attempts, it was awful.
One of the major problems was lack of conflict.
The story was about a small ship called the Kestrel, with a crew of eleven
who were all good friends. They went off and had adventures, but the story
wasn’t gripping somehow. When I learned about conflict, I realised I had a lot
of work to do, figuring out who didn’t get on and why. I also didn’t have any
subplots, and I realised that some of these can come from personality clashes or
the individual problems of the crew.
The adversity in your story can come from many different sources. The Kestrel
has a helmsman who was involved in a serious accident. Although it wasn’t his
fault, he has lost his confidence. This is personal adversity, made worse by
becoming helmsman on the Kestrel before he is ready. Another crewman finds out
about his history and requests a transfer, causing friction between them. This
is adversity from another. This is even before the Kestrel gets into hot water
on its mission. Do you see how you can add all sorts of interest in your story
from just one piece of back story?
The fundamental structure of most stories is this: the hero has a goal and
has to overcome many obstacles to achieve it. There is usually a villain who
tries to stop him, but all sorts of things can get in the way. Even simple
things like a change in the weather, missing the bus or mislaying the car keys.
Look at each point in the story and brainstorm how many things can go wrong. The
more difficult they are to get out of, the better, especially near the end, when
your reader will fear all is lost. You need to keep them turning the pages to
see how it works out.
Adversity has another use too. In most stories the hero and/or some other
main character changes as a result of what they go through. The lazy teenager
grows up and learns the value of work, the timid man finds his courage, the
quarrelling couple rediscovers the love in their marriage, and so much more. It
takes adversity to break them and make them. Hopefully you have drawn the
characters well, and your readers will be involved in their struggle and finish
the book with a sigh of satisfaction.
One of the other characters in my book is an eighteen year old girl from a
conservative planet. She joins the Kestrel as a temporary trainee and is shocked
to find the crew are all men. The youngest crewman takes a fancy to her and she
has no idea how to handle it. How things work out between them is something I
hope will keep you reading. This is a tiny part of the story, but gives it depth
The book eventually became Intruders, the first book in the Flight of the
Kestrel series. But I had a lot to learn before it was good enough to
pblish. So give your characters a hard time and you’ll have a better book.
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a
surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science
fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now.
Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz