“You can fix anything but a blank page.”
I have thoughts, but my overarching thought is that the completion of the first paragraph is too soon to ask for crit/start revisions. Get at least a chapter down (preferably a whole story draft if you can) and then begin the rewriting process by asking for critique.
On Writing: Unasked Questions
If a book is to have a sequel, obviously you don’t want to give up all the information in the first installment. There should always be questions unanswered, mysteries to be solved, plot lines that need continuing. That is, after all, the point of a series. I’ve no problem with that.
What I take issue with is questions that are unasked.
“How did her parents know to hide from the supposedly-benevolent government?”
“Why are all these kids being experimented on?”
“Who the hell thought factions would actually work?”
It is fine if the answers to these questions are left for a later book. As long as the questions are posed, I know that they’ll be addressed later, I know that the author is aware that there is a question there. If these questions are ignored, what assurance do I have that they’ll be solved later? How do I know that it’s not going to remain a plot hole?
There are two things to keep in mind in this regard: every reader’s time is limited and perception is reality. I can’t read every book out there, so I’m not (usually) going to going to spend it on sequels when the first novel feels lacking. And, since I can’t read your mind and see that you plan to answer all my questions in a brilliant fashion, you have to let me know this is going to happen in the book I’m reading. If I perceive the book to be full of plot holes, then it doesn’t matter if they’re going to be filled in later, because right now all I’ve got are plot holes and no hope.
Have your characters wonder about things. Have them ask questions. Turn your plot holes into mysteries. Curious characters are your friend.
Well, what purpose is the disorder playing in your story?
Like, if it’s the disorder that has brought your characters together, which aspect of it is important to them/affects them most? How much do you WANT it to affect them? In H/C we aren’t writing for the illness/injury, we’re writing for how that affects our world and characters. You can totally control how bad shit gets for them based on what you want to have happen to the characters.
Example: One of my very favorite OCs has COPD. At times he has exacerbations which seriously affect his ability to do much other than lie propped up on pillows, snuff oxygen, and curse the universe. At times he’s got his symptoms under control with medication and rescue inhalers. His condition makes him particularly vulnerable to certain situations. His experience with this condition makes him very aware of what needs to be done when someone else is experiencing similar effects. Because of his experience with this condition, this character is pretty well used to physical discomfort and some extent of disability. He knows his limits and exactly how far he can push them and what he will experience if he pushes past them.
A chronic condition, like the one I just described, is a major, sometimes overwhelming, influence on a character’s whole life. Everything they do is necessarily colored by the effects of that condition. However, if you want to throw something recurring but asymptomatic in periods of remission into the fray, you get a whole fuckload more freedom in what happens in your story. Christie uses malaria more than once for its useful periodic nature.
Acute conditions really require you to do the research. Look up how first-responders assess and triage patients. Airway, breathing, circulation. In your standard-issue country-house murder, Lord Victim is either minus all three or in a stage of acute distress due to ingestion of arsenic or cyanide. Heart attacks do not always present with chest and left-arm pain, and in women heart-attack pain can be referred to a number of totally odd places including the back, neck, jaw, and stomach.
Think WHY you want the character to have this condition, what plot-related importance it has, and then work out from there how severe it needs to be in order to get the effect you’re aiming for.
What is the one reason your BROTP will never get into a romance? ( besides sexual orientation, maybe. )
#WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
One person in the BROTP finds about the other killed someone. Do they stand by them? Turn them in? Or do they find out they have killed more people, or were even an assassin? Do they accept them? Or realize they don’t know who their friend really is?
On Writing: Classist Characters
This one is for mynamesdrstuff, who asked how to write a classist character.
- Classist characters don’t have to be mean. As in, they don’t have to be willfully malicious about their classism. Classism is a systemic form of prejudice in which both individuals and the society/system at large treat people differently based on their class or perceived class. A person does not have to be cackling and twirling a handlebar mustache while kicking orphans in order to achieve this. They can, in fact, be perfectly cordial with a world of sympathy in their eyes while telling the homeless man that they won’t hire him because he’s probably a drunk. They can even smile while offering pay for rehab. If they make the assumption that homeless = drunk without any proof beyond their own suppositions, they’re still classist. So the first step to writing a classist character is to accept that a whole range of actions from well-meaning to mean-spirited fall under the classist banner. Understand that you need to write your classist character as having motivations that span that range. (Or, at least, a human-sized portion of it.) Displaying classist characters too narrowly (especially if you’re narrowed in on the evil end) means that readers are going to get a warped vision of what classism is. We need to see classists as squishy and human, not in an attempt to forgive/absolve them, but because squishy human problems need squishy human solutions. Coming at things from a cartoon villain angle just compounds the issue.
Make a draft in which you cut them. Either a) the story will be exactly the same without them, b) it’ll be a pain to reassign their duties or plot points, but once you’ve erased or melded them into another character, it’s like they were never there, or c) the whole damn thing will fall apart.
If A or B happens, leave them out and continue with that draft. If C, they have won back their place in the book.