First of all, a disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an expert on the creative writing process. Yes, I’ve had screenplays optioned, books published, magazine articles printed, and all that jazz, but I still consider myself very much a beginner, with a whole lot to learn.
That said, I’ve been wracking my brains since starting this blog, trying to come up with useful writing advice to share. Now, many other writing bloggers – not least of all me old mucker, Tommy - already give advice, and by and large they’re a lot better at it than me.
Rather than just repeat any of the great advice which is already out there, I’m going to give you some writing tips I doubt you’ll find anywhere else. Every one of these mini-lessons will cover something which I think has helped contribute to my past and current writing successes. If you get something useful from any of them, then that’s great. If you think I’m an idiot and my tips are worthless, then that’s okay too. I won’t mind, really.
Anyway, let’s get on with it.
Barry’s Writing Lesson #1: Do a Bungee Jump
Wait, don’t stop reading yet! This is a serious tip, and possibly the single most important piece of advice I’ll give you (which gives you some idea of the standard of the lessons still to come).
Good stories involve conflict, right? I’m telling you nothing new, you’ve heard that a hundred times. The series I’m writing for HarperCollins – INVISIBLE FIENDS – is of the horror genre. In horror stories, people get scared. Really scared. Scared almost to death, in fact.
How do you describe that fear? Do you say “Oooh, they were dead scared”? Or do you talk about the feeling of nausea which grips your protagonist’s stomach? The crashing roar of their own heart, beating in their ears? The headspinning, blood-chilling, sensations of terror which almost overwhelm them as they struggle to face their worst fears?
I know which I’d find more interesting to read.
And how do you get a real, honest insight into that terror? How do you experience it so vividly that you can accurately recreate it on the page? You bungee jump. Or you sing karaoke. Or you let a spider crawl up your arm. You pick something which frightens you, and you do it. Just don’t forget to make a mental note of everything you feel while you are, or you’ll have terrified yourself for nothing!
This doesn’t just apply to horror, either. Jeopardy of some kind or another plays a major part in most stories, so whether your protagonist is scared of leaping out of a plane, asking a girl out on a date, or opening their school exam results, go live out your own fear and you’ll do a much better job of writing about theirs.
Check back soon for Barry’s Writing Lesson #2: Use Public Transport