In the past few years trilogies have become all the rage. Whether you write sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or some other kind of speculative fiction, you’ve probably heard that everyone wants to read trilogies these days and everyone is writing trilogies these days.
This can create problems for writers who despair of having a story in them that’s long enough to span three novels, and who also doubt their ability to sustain interest in one project for that long of a time.
This is an area many writers feel weird about, and by “many writers” I mean most of the writers I’ve encountered, myself included. We’ve all giggled over what a bad sex scene looks like, and no one wants to be the one who writes something that other writers—or readers—make fun of. But how do you write a good sex scene? And what do we even mean when we say “good” in this mostly un-talked-about area?
You don’t make friends with people so much as you try to swallow them whole, and then regurgitate them back out onto paper.
—The Writer’s Husband
I’m the writer, and the quote above is from my husband. It might sound funny now, but at the time I was really offended that he would say such a thing. I wasn’t some smarmy writer worming my way into inner circles, drinking in people and conversations only to skewer them later in my fiction…was I?
But I had to admit, he had a point.
A couple of years ago I was working on a novel and having the hardest time with the main character. I felt him so strongly, but he wouldn’t talk to me. I could see him clear as day. I knew what kind of music he loved, the exact shade of his green eyes, the way he obsessively rolled his socks. But all I had were those types of details, the ones that could be gleaned through pure observation. He wouldn’t voluntarily share anything else with me—not his past, not his current motivations, and sure as hell not his plans for the future.
Some writers call it a burst of inspiration. Some writers call it “being in the zone.” It’s that magical shift that happens when your characters start speaking and acting with their own free will. That point of no return when they run off on their own wild ride and you really have no choice but to follow along.
If this is what we all want from our characters, then why does it seem like it’s so hard to get there?