Modern writers are always plagued with feelings of inadequacy: “If only I were Robert Louis Stevenson or Nathaniel Hawthorne or Herman Melville! Then I could write like a genius!”
Now, suppose I told you that those authors have some serious gaps in their literary brilliance.
I've been following Gillian Bronte Adams' blog for a while, and thought that those of you who like fiction might enjoy your introduction to her. So far, I have found her command of language worthy of a true writer, and her witty humor exceptionally entertaining. In particular, I have enjoyed her series "When Destiny Comes Calling," in which readers choose which direction the story shall take.
In a bygone age, heroes of literature had to be completely perfect—models of virtue and uprightness. Flaws, unless small and repented of quickly, were not tolerated, and nothing uncivilized occurred—unless, of course, the author was contrasting the saintly main character with the crude and heathen behavior of a lesser person.
I’m sure many readers breathed a sigh of relief when literature and movies began to portray characters who were more relatable by virtue of their faults. (Yes, I realize I just introduced an oxymoron.) We know that human nature is more gritty, more unpredictable, and more raw than the saintly heroes of past centuries.
However, one must wonder whether the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Bear with me here: I’m not going to say we should all go back to the Victorian era. But I have to question the trend that blurs the line between the good guys and the bad guys.
Problem: You are ready to write a story that has been knocking at your brain for a while, but you don’t know where to start. Obviously, your character’s life started way before the events of the stories take place. Where in the timeline do you jump in?
Let’s back up for a second, because the answer is really simple.
A fellow young writer once sent me a few chapters from his work-in-progress. In one of the scenes, he wrote something like this: He pulled back the bowstring and aimed the arrow directly at his enemy’s heart.
When I returned his story with my critiques, I made sure to include this comment: If you aim at someone’s heart from that distance, you’ll likely hit his feet—or the dirt. Aim above the target’s head to allow for the curve of the arrow’s flight.
A few months previously, I would have made the same mistake (and had done so, many times, in my past books), but it just so happened that, at that time, I was taking archery lessons. My new-found knowledge of that skill enabled me to avoid a common blunder: describing an activity inaccurately because I had not personally experienced it.