Make sure you’ve got the right balance of characters in your work. Too many humorous characters or whatever tip your work. Humour always works best when shown up against something else in any case. Wodehouse’s Wooster wouldn’t be funny if he hadn’t various odious aunts to outwit. Also Wooster, whilst rightly acknowledging Jeeves as a genius, is not totally dimwitted. Ensure your characters aren’t either. Each of your creations must have something positive going for them or you won’t get reader sympathy.
Do your characters change their minds? Do they hesitate? Do they find their original purpose isn’t what they thought and they need to adjust it or need to adjust what they do? Give your characters hell! It’s fun! And makes for better writing! What’s there not to like about that? Your characters should have friends and enemies. Relationships complicate plot which is all to the good as far as you’re concerned. You want your characters not to have an easy time of it!
The Importance of Editing
Good writing is an effortless read. I realized a long time ago if anyone makes something look easy that someone has worked bloody hard to achieve that. Prepare yourself for the long haul - your work will be better for a damned good edit.
Learning and Changing
Can you see your characters acting out what they’re going through? Do your characters learn from what they go through? Do you have a nice range of characters? In any society, you get all ages, all backgrounds. Give them emotional depth - and remember experiences can make folk bitter as well as courageous. Jenny, for example, as I write at the moment is at loggerheads with her mother and is likely to remain that way for some time until Eileen shows some contrition or Jenny decides to let her grudge go at Eileen for dropping her right in it.
Character versus Plot
Character versus plot? Plot versus character? It’s like trying to decide whether you need oxygen or not. You need both. Both need to be well thought out. Eileen’s awkwardness helps drive her plot as she makes life damned difficult for herself but she also needs a story to set up those difficulties for her to try and resolve.
Look at motives. Not only can story ideas come from these, they can add emotional depth. Eileen’s chief motive is to stay on earth with her family and never to resume her old life. It colours her attitude, fuels her behaviour and sets up clashes with the Fairy Queen. Are the motives for your characters strong enough? Overwhelm your characters with problems - you get your story from how they cope.
One great thing about writing is you appreciate reading more. As well as enjoying the story, you can appreciate the writer’s skill, you can spot the apt turn of phrase and perhaps ponder if it took them as long to come up with it as it does for you when finding the right words! Also you should read more as a writer to inspire your own writing and sometimes to see what not to do, so what is there not to like about this! You like words, you have to read, better get on and do it then!
Finding More Writing Time - One way to do it is....
Nothing on the telly? Good! Settle down and see what you can come up with! I’ve been known to go through the Radio Times and spot nothing worth watching and think “good, should get loads of writing done then”!! Plus the BBC have the Writers’ Room website, full of tips and interesting interviews. They issue a newsletter to subscribers (it’s free). There are job opportunities listed. And every so often Radio will have slots for stories to be sent in… Worth a look? See if you can get something on the Beeb? I think so!