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Frustrated on lack of skills to make stories believable (1 Viewer)

sunaynaprasad

WF Veterans
I just received my book from an editor. It turned out that the majority of my story did not sound believable at all. I've had this problem for a while, and yes, I did read a lot of middle grade novels before I started writing this. Now I have to change the story to make it sound believable. I have some ideas planted in mind, but it's still too early to rush it. I am also taking a psychology course at my college, but I don't think that'll help me with my story. Did anyone ever get frustrated over their long-term weaknesses before, because I got the "wrong" message that my book is just slush.
 

justbishop

Senior Member
I hear you. I'm pretty frustrated at the moment over my difficulties with tell vs. show. I have a lot of back story in my current WIP, and am kinda lost on how to work it into the story without ruining the pacing.
 

Skodt

WF Veteran
WF Veterans
Unbelievable as in how? Like the characters dont seem real, or the situation could'nt happen? If its the characters think of a normal conversation between two people you know, then make it interesting with style. If it's the situation then turn it into a fantasy.
 

Skodt

WF Veteran
WF Veterans
Bring them into your life. Could you see them happening. Cultures are different everywhere, where are you writing about? Keep that location in mind. Know its customs and knowledge level. Don't overstep making a city of genius people, and call it a real town. If you want to make extrodinary people it needs to be writen as a fiction overall. If the people are normal give them normal people actions, normal jobs, normal routines, normal bills. If the people are rich give them less worries on jobs, bills, and people. If they are alchoholics go to a bar and watch their manurisms. Learn people and you can make believeable characters.
 

Cirrocumulus

Senior Member
I'm an undergrad psych student too. I do think study of psychology can be very useful, or essential, to writing fiction - knowing about attachment styles (i.e. anxious/avoidant) are very important, as are the "big 5" OCEAN personality traits (i.e. openness, conscientiosness, extraversion/introversion, agreeableness, neuroticism). Learn about these and observe real life, as advised by Skodt. Reading case studies, and textbook examples of typical expressions of these proclivities will also surely help.

On the other hand, it depends on what your problem ise. There's a difference between believability and being realistic. Absurdity and fantasy can be believable. Even realism in fiction can get away with being unrealistic if it's believable. That's more a matter of the power of one's imagination in creating a world one can become absorbed in. Study of psychological science may not be so much of a help here, as rather than logic, this sort of "believability" depends more on one's abitily to enter the realm of one's imagination, that dreamy state of being immersed in the world created when one's artistic work comes alive. One's work should be edited so that it's consistent with the unbroken expression of this state of flow.

Virginia Woolf said some interesting and insightful things about creating believable characters, although I don't remember the source -- it's worth looking up.
 

Bloggsworth

Senior Member
Rewrite it from memory - Under no circumstances open the original to refer to anything. By doing this you will recall all the essential bits as the dross will be forgotten, this way you will sharpen up the story, and when you have finished you will be able to see if the story and characters ring true. Yes it's hard work, but if it were easy you would have got it right first time if, however, you are like the rest of us, you are going to have to put in the time.
 

Jeko

WF Veterans
I have similar worries, as I'm writing surreal fantasy, and the most important thing in surreal fantasy is defining and presenting what is real, before you liberally toy with it. I try to observe what makes conversation feel natural, people feel like people, in the real world. seems to be helping so far.
 

sunaynaprasad

WF Veterans
I would love to observe, except where would I do it? I don't know too many kids my MC's age, and even those I do have different personalities from her. Plus, I don't see them too often.
 

Skodt

WF Veteran
WF Veterans
Volunteer at a day care? Maybe volunteer at a school to read to the children. You can observe there.
 

Jeko

WF Veterans
Finding someone who mirrors your character is hard. It's best to find elements of life that enter your character's experience that you can reflect upon in your own daily business. Know what you want to make your character tick, and the moment you feel like it's happening in the world, look at how its happeneing, and why, and all the other things you need to know to make things believable.

I have flute lessons with a private teacher, and I always see the girl she teaches before me. I never talk to her, and I only see her for a few minutes, but she is my primary source of inspiration for my MC. I don't record anything she does or try to critically analyse her every movement. I just realise her as the kind of person she is, and that is conveyed through everything she does, and thinking of her, I think of my MC a lot better.

One thing I've always found is that the greatest way to make writing better is not to shiftthe world around it to find moe time, or think more about it, but to merge it with your life so that writing is life, and the two are one, but you still get on with everything. I'm still working on merging the two main states of mind I have going, and this I guess is my greatest step so far.
 

Jeko

WF Veterans
^I try not to make it an occasion, but to make my mind consider the implications of life on my work whenever I can. It helps you notice the littlest things and appreciate them more, and then use them better.

Otherwise, I might look like a weirdo, just watching people. I have a character like that in my book...
 

WriterJohnB

WF Veterans
Sunaynanaprasad,

Nearly all beginning writers worry about "long term weaknesses." And nearly all beginning writers have a reason to worry. I was the same way twenty-some years ago. I didn't even know what my weaknesses were, just had a general lack of confidence. I got the help I needed by joining a writers group dedicated to the goal of having everyone's work published. There were 2 English Lit profs in that group and we had many aspiring writers show up and drop out. Believe me, they tore my writing to pieces. Then I would go home and rewrite for the next meeting. I stuck with it for several years before submitting to major magazines and being rejected. A few editors at small (but paying) magazines began accepting poems and stories and I even got fan email. It never would have happened without the help I got from the group.

I concentrate on novels, now, but still haven't got an agent (had one once, but she was lousy) or major publishing offers. I prefer to think it's because I don't write genre novels that agents might see as potential sales winners, but maybe my writing isn't up to par, although I've gotten so many compliments over the years that I don't think I'm a lousy writer.

As for your question, it's all about "suspension of disbelief" on the reader's part. It's not that hard to get in the overall sense, because humans have a remarkable capability of imagining dragons, orcs, faster-than-light travel, magic, etc. They can also accept impossible characters such as Superman, zombies, etc.

But when it gets down to details, you can lose the readers. Your characters must stay true to character and must have motivations behind their actions. You can't have a cowboy character and give him a New York accent.There are dozens of other mistakes a beginner can make. I suggest you google "Turkey City Lexicon" and see the list of newbie habits that a writers group once drew up. But most of all, I suggest you get input from other writers. Posting your work on forums for critique is okay, but you'll mostly hear from beginners like yourself. My pet peeve is the ones who answer a serious writing question, beginning with
"I'm not a writer and I have no experience with your question, but my opinion is. . ." or "Yes, I have the same problem," without offering suggestions. If you begin taking note of those reponses, you'll soon see how many newbies are on writing forums just to "chat."

Find a writers group in your area or online and get critique from other writers. Also, critique other writers and you'll see mistakes you want to avoid. Asking questions about technique when no one has seen a sample of your writing will get you nowhere.

Hope that helps,


JohnB
 
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Kyle R

WF Veterans
Did anyone ever get frustrated over their long-term weaknesses before

I fret every single day over different aspects of my writing. But I use that as motivation to learn and improve.

You can't earn a black belt in Karate without first passing through the other colors!
 

Man From Mars

Senior Member
Question: is this your first full-length story?

I ask because rarely does one's first story become their magnum opus. It might be that you need a lot of practice. One can write dozens of short stories, but I don't think that prepares a person for the scale of the plot and the character interactions of a piece the size of a novel. I'm not saying you should do this, but this is what I did. After I had written my first novel-length story, about 100 thousand words, I tossed it aside. I still have it, but I will never touch it again. I went on to write a second story, again novel-length. After I wrote the second, I went back to read the first and saw how my writing evolved. My third piece was a novella. When it was finished, I again checked my second story and saw that my writing was still developing. A year ago, I finished my fourth large piece, the one I'm trying to get published now. Comparing that to everything I had done before was like looking through a fossil record. I could see how my writing had changed over time, how I unconsciously structured the plot and character interactions.

There's a good chance your skill is still developing. If I were in your shoes, I'd probably move on to something else and come back to rewrite the story later.
 

sunaynaprasad

WF Veterans
This is actually fourth full-length story. And is beginner still defined as "only writing for almost three years?" I have a detailed synopsis of my first chapter that sounds more believable that my previous one. Can I put it up here, or should I put it up somewhere else? I am only looking for believability.
 

justbishop

Senior Member
^I try not to make it an occasion, but to make my mind consider the implications of life on my work whenever I can. It helps you notice the littlest things and appreciate them more, and then use them better.

Otherwise, I might look like a weirdo, just watching people. I have a character like that in my book...

Maybe I don't look as menacing...a thirty something woman pushing a stroller full of 3 year old little girl, lol!
 

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