Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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March 4, 2015

Changing It Up-Use the Power of Change in Your Writing

Keyhole door-EgyptOur lives are about change.

Some people look at change as a bad thing, as something to avoid. Others view change as a possibility for something better. No matter how you feel about the life detours called change, nothing in our lives is permanent.

The past six months of my life have revolved around change. Small changes in daily routines to large, rest-of-my-life changes. I was blindsided by most of them.

Now that I can look back with a degree of rational thought, I realize how change is not good or bad–though depending on the circumstances, this is a hard stance to defend. Change just is.

Who hasn't experienced moving away from your parents? What feelings do you remember? Excitement? Anxiety?

What about a loss? Did you feel grief? Anger? Relief?

The concept of change got me thinking more about my new book and new characters. 

How your characters deal with the changes you throw at them shows their mettle. For instance, a girl leaves home to go to college. Does she take advantage of a lack of supervision to party? Does she miss her family and friends and end up moping? Or does she dip her toes into newfound freedom, think fondly of home, and work hard to attain her goal of an education? You can show her emotions at each step of her adventure to help your readers connect with her feelings while revealing backstory and motivation in a seamless, natural fashion. How would a woman who views herself as strong react if a stranger catches her crying in a new situation?

Change can be the wave that carries your character arc through your story. In fact, Chris Vogler's,  The Hero's Journey is all about showing the character in his "normal" life and then propelling him onto the roller coaster of adventure and change.

Resistance to changes perceived as "bad" can make a character's life come to a standstill, just like they can get us "stuck" in real life. In real life, we work through those stuck times to get to the better side of the change. How powerful our writing is when we allow our readers to root for our characters as they traverse those dark, shadowy depths of their souls to find inner strength, new wisdom, and new resolve! And how hopeful it can be to those in similar conditions!

If you're wondering about how to look at your current WIP through the lens of change, start with your inciting incident to find the good,the bad and the ugly in the changes you give your character. And remember, the change needs to have all three elements for you to squeeze every bit of "juice" from the lemon!

My character is leaving the small, underground community of her mining planet to join the military to get an education and become a doctor. Sounds like a great change, right?

The Ugly: On the shuttle ride to the battle cruiser that will transport her to the Academy, she throws up. Yes, she's nervous and scared, but she throws up because she's never been to the surface of her deadly planet and to see the vastness of space and be in the small space craft dangling above her world, her body revolts. It's a symbol of her not being able to control any of the changes that will bombard her through the first third of the book. (Symbolism is a great way to convey your theme--but that's a whole 'nuther blog!)

The Bad: Instead of the supportive community she's used to, she is in the competitive worlds of the military and academia. She finds herself treating others harshly, as she's being treated–and she doesn't like the person she's becoming. She yearns for the "good old" days.

The Good: She learns to respect the differing values of others while clarifying her own beliefs. She develops skills and strengths she would never have known without leaving her own world.

Try reading the first three chapters of your novel and mark the changes your characters face. Those changes are the easiest way to use deep POV to show your characters' emotions. Don't miss the opportunity.

If your plot is dragging, insert a change to keep your story fresh. Changes can give you the ability to take the story in a direction that will surprise, and hopefully delight, your readers.

Everything in life changes. That's what makes the journey interesting.

Have you taken advantage of a change in your life by including it in your writing? Do you have tips on how to deal with the stress of change?

Fae RowenAbout Fae:

Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak.  Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes  that she can live anywhere but the present.  As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.

Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of algebra lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.

A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now enjoys sharing her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard.

When she’s not hanging out at Writers in the Storm, you can visit Fae at http://faerowen.com  or www.facebook.com/fae.rowen


21 comments on “Changing It Up-Use the Power of Change in Your Writing”

  1. Fae, I have to say that this post came at the right time for me. I'm just putting together the synopsis for my next novel, and your post reminded me to keep the conflicts coming! Thanks so much for the inspiration.

  2. Thanks for the great post, Fae.

    I can relate to this - in my writing and my writing life! This business is crazy in the best of times, much less the shitstorm of change we find ourselves in now!

    But it's also a great reminder. Some of the things I thought were horrible at the time, in retrospect, turned out for the best!


    1. I'm not spinning anvils into gold yet, Laura, but I'm sure you'll help me find the bright spots. Thanks for your love and support during the dark times!

  3. In the midst of several changes, large and small, myself right now, I love the idea of tapping into my own feelings and transferring them to my characters. Just when they thought life had settled down...

    1. You bet, Collette! We've sweat, bled, and cried real tears as we move through life. There's no reason not to share those lessons with our characters, and through them, maybe pass along what we've learned to our readers in a great story.

  4. This is so important as a reader! The mark of a good novel, in my opinion, is a cast of complex characters that come up against struggles and change as a result (for better or worse).

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jay! How we handle change is an interesting study of human nature, isn't it?

  5. It'll be awhile, Deb. It was my first book, before I knew anything about writing, POV, turning points...The fun thing is, the only time I pitched it to an editor she said it reminded her of Sleeping Beauty, which is my favorite fairy tale. Except no one falls asleep, and there are no dragons or fairies. And my heroine is wicked good with a crossbow. But there is a prince...

      1. Those junior high archery lessons from my dad are finally paying off! I guess my sword master will deserve a credit somewhere, too. And the Aikido sensei and the Judo sensei and ...

  6. Thanks, Deb. Maybe I will have to pull it out and dust it off sooner rather than later. I figured there wasn't a market for that dual genre, since it doesn't really meet the criteria for fantasy.

  7. One of the things I enjoy most is playing the emotional what ifs with my characters. Not only can I tap into my own feelings when putting them through the emotional ringer, but it can also be very therapeutic to have them act in ways I would never be able to.

    1. So true, Orly. The more I write, the more I understand that every character is a piece of me. Therapeutic is good!

  8. Great post Fae. And I would love to see that book. Funny, I took a synopsis workshop last month and she had us line out a, b, c the points in the story. I liked that I could do that. But at first when we had to fill in little boxes about GMC I balked. I had to get help I can't show that on paper. I have it somewhere in my brain, but to put it down in black and white blows me out of the way. My wonderful CP who has read all versions of this story went through and did it for me. I could show all the changes through the story, though lol.
    I love the post and shared on Facebook and Twitter.

  9. Thanks so much for your comments, C.K. Like you, outlining, filling in boxes, and all that planning take the joy out of writing for me. When I'm asked what my first turning point is I have to think what goes wrong about a quarter of the way through the book. But no one has ever said there isn't enough going on in any one of my books. I learned how to write by being a voracious reader from a young age. And thanks for sharing my ideas!

    1. Thanks, Jenny. It's good to get back into my life. See you at the California Dreamin' Conference! I've got chocolate!

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