Fiction Writing Made Easy

#122: Counting Down The Best Tips From FWME In 2023

December 26, 2023 Savannah Gilbo Episode 122
Fiction Writing Made Easy
#122: Counting Down The Best Tips From FWME In 2023
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“My point is that you have to do the work to make the mistakes and learn.” - Savannah Gilbo

The past year on Fiction Writing Made Easy has been a treasure trove of insights, expert advice, and creative hacks, all neatly bundled up in amazing podcast episodes and interviews.

Today, we dive into a delightful countdown, revisiting the very best tips that get into the heart of fiction writing, and uncovering the gems that made 2023 an inspiration for writers.
 
Read the blog post here!

Here’s a preview of what’s included:

[01:00] Savannah’s favorite ways to brainstorm subplots and then layer them into your story in an organic way.

[13:34] The best technique to write quality fiction that readers will connect to.

[21:30] Being willing as writers to put things out there that aren’t perfect.

[35:09] As a writer, create your milestone list from one to ten.

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Speaker 1:

If you do want to write a story with multiple point of view characters, you can do it in the first person or third person limited, and the benefit of using multiple points of view is that you can jump between characters and tell a story that spans a great deal of space and time.

Speaker 1:

This can be a great tool for novels with big casts and complex plots, as it allows you to move about as needed.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilbo and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week, I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started Now, without further ado. Let's dive right in, starting with number 10. Tip number 10 comes from episode number 98, how to Add Subplots to your Novel. In this episode, I share my favorite ways to brainstorm subplots and then layer them into your story in an organic way, and this clip is all about using subplots to echo your story's theme. So here it is.

Speaker 1:

Subplots that complement your story's theme can just help strengthen and reinforce your overall message. For example, let's say you're writing an action-adventure story and the theme has something to do with working together being the key to survival, or working as a team just helps the group survive something like that. Well, you could include a subplot where a secondary character must work with another character so either your protagonist or a different secondary character to survive a smaller part of the overall plot and in that scenario your subplot would express the same theme as your main plot but in a different, maybe unusual or unlikely way. And this is what's going to help you create variations on your theme that will strengthen and reinforce your story's overall message. And if that sounds challenging, just think about how many different ways love can win or how many different ways can justice be served. Right, there are so many shades and nuances to themes that if you just spend some time brainstorming, you'll probably find some ways that you can echo your story's main theme. I love this tip because theme often feels like this nebulous thing that seems really difficult to translate into your actual story. But this is one of those specific and concrete ways that you can start seeing your theme on the page. So, all that being said, that's tip number 10.

Speaker 1:

Let's move on to tip number 9. Tip number 9 comes from episode number 90. That's called how to Choose the Best Point of View for your story. In this episode, I talked through the different point of view options as well as what to do if you have more than one point of view character, and that's what this clip is all about writing a story with multiple point of view characters. So here's the clip.

Speaker 1:

If you do want to write a story with multiple point of view characters, you can do it in the first person or third person limited, and the benefit of using multiple points of view is that you can jump between characters and tell a story that spans a great deal of space and time. This can be a great tool for novels with big casts and complex plots, as it allows you to move about as needed. So, for example, in A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, there are nine point of view characters and the story follows three main storylines across two continents. Each chapter follows a different point of view character and is limited to and by their experiences, and because of that we get to see conflicting view points of the same events, and there is no omniscient narrator sitting above everything to tell us who's right or wrong in the end. So that's up to us as readers to make those kind of judgments. Having multiple point of view characters can also work well on a story where a character needs to be in a state of not knowing regarding an aspect of the story. So in this scenario the reader either gets to make discoveries right alongside that character or else they will witness the dramatic irony of that character acting without the knowledge that the reader themselves has gained in an earlier chapter in an alternate point of view. Another benefit of having multiple points of view is that you can develop a greater number of characters from the inside, letting the reader in on each character's thoughts and feelings, making them feel even more real and complex.

Speaker 1:

If you do go this route, it is important that each character have their own distinct voice so that the reader understands who they're listening to at any given time. All of this is why writing for multiple points of view requires discipline and consistency, because if you switch point of view without clearly signaling that switch to your readers. You are going to risk losing their trust and it's just not going to be a great reading experience. So if you are writing with multiple point of view characters, you will want to stick to one character's point of view per scene and make sure their voices are distinct. Something we talk about a lot in my notes to novel course is that if you do decide you want multiple point of view characters, it's best if they're connected in some way so, for example, they can be in a relationship together, they can have their fates bound together or they can face a common form of conflict. So this is going to help you create a nice cohesive story where all the point of views feel like they have a purpose and that they're all building up to something important.

Speaker 1:

So if you want to write a story with multiple viewpoints, you can just ask yourself questions like what are you really going to gain from switching point of view characters? Are you going to be showing the reader some missing information that they really need? Are you capitalizing on an opportunity to switch locations, and is that important for the reader to understand the story? Are you going to be able to explore an interesting subplot? Just with most things we do in writing a novel. We just want to make sure there's a compelling reason why we're making a decision and we're not just defaulting to whatever feels easiest. That's another good tip, right, if you are writing a story with multiple point of view characters, doing this exercise to determine how each point of view is connected is crucial in terms of writing a story that works. It's something I don't think enough writers do, but it's totally worth the time and energy spent thinking through your point of view characters for sure. So that's tip number nine.

Speaker 1:

Let's move on to number eight. Tip number eight comes from episode number 109. That's called five common scene issues and how to fix them. In this clip you'll hear me talk about how to fix a character who appears different on the page than they seem in your head. Here's the clip.

Speaker 1:

If you read back through your scenes and you see that you haven't shown enough of your character's internal reaction on the page so, for example, if your character gets fired but we don't see what they think or feel about getting fired or how they react and process what just happened to them, then the reader is going to feel cheated. And that's just because novels are the most interior form of storytelling and readers want to know what a character is thinking, what a moment means to them, what they believe and how their perceptions are changing after each conflict they come across. So the fix here is you just want to show your character's thoughts and feelings, or the way that they are processing what's happening to them in any given moment. So make sure their reactions to what's happening around them in every single scene are on the page. Readers need to see your protagonist make sense of every single thing that happens. So what is the character feeling? What are they thinking? How does this moment change their perception or beliefs, and things like that. Now, for some writers this comes really naturally, but for others it doesn't.

Speaker 1:

So if you're one of the writers who kind of squirms a little bit at me giving you this advice, just give it a shot and see what happens and, when in doubt, include what you think is too much of this interiority or too much of this internal processing rather than too little, and then get some feedback on it. I find that in most cases it's a little easier to pair the interiority down than it is to ramp it up. So just something to keep in mind. I love that tip and I could talk about interiority all day. It's one of my favorite topics and actually the next clip I have for you is related to this one. So let's just dive right into tip number seven. Tip number seven comes from episode number 82 called Show Don't Tell what this Advice Really Means. This clip is one of my favorites because interiority is the best way to show readers how the events of the story are affecting your characters, and it's something a lot of new writers get wrong. If you haven't heard this episode, it's a must listen, especially if you've ever received feedback that says your character is hard to relate to or hard to understand. So let's dive right into the clip.

Speaker 1:

You can show readers what your character is thinking in response to what's happening in the scene. Showing your character's thoughts in reaction to the external events of the story is the most powerful way to A create empathy between readers and your character. B reveal who your character is and. C evoke an emotional response in readers. And this is because novels are the only medium that lets the reader into a character's head, and if we don't give readers access to our character's psyche, or if we don't let them into their head, readers are going to feel cheated and they're not going to have an emotional experience.

Speaker 1:

Readers want to know the meaning behind everything that's happening in the story, so they want to know what your characters are thinking, or what a moment means to them, or how their perceptions change over time. And because of this, it doesn't matter how dramatic the events of your plot are. Without a sense of the meaning behind what's happening, readers aren't going to have a reason to keep turning pages. So this is really important. It's more than body language convey character, emotion, and we can definitely learn about people from what they say and do, right. But imagine what we could learn if we could see someone's thoughts. We'd be privy to their biases, their hopes, their fears, their longings, their emotional turmoil and other things like that. We would know exactly what kind of person they are because we would see their inner life.

Speaker 1:

And all of this is especially true for complex emotions. So complex emotions are best revealed through what your characters think, and that's because if a reader knows the source of the emotions or the why behind how they're feeling, then they can empathize with your character and they'll feel those complex emotions by placing themselves in that situation. So they'll be feeling the complex emotions that you don't have to name outright, and, when done correctly, this makes a reader feel like they know your character better and it will make them feel more engaged in your story. And that's because the reader has been in your character's head and they've had to judge situations and make their own decisions about how your character is processing the events of the story, and they now feel included and emotionally invested. And this is the kind of experience that every author should want to create for their reader. This is why it's not just about telling the reader stuff with every sentence you write. It's about showing them how things affect your character.

Speaker 1:

Now, most of the manuscripts I edit are lacking this type of interiority or the point of view character's thoughts and emotional reactions. So why is that? Well, first of all, I think a lot of writers I work with just don't know that they have to include this stuff, and, second of all, many writers tend to shy away from showing the readers what the point of view character is thinking or feeling, because they think it just gives too much away or leads the reader by the nose too much. So they don't want to be too obvious regarding what their characters are thinking or feeling. But in most cases, writers tend to take this way too far and they put close to nothing on the page in terms of their character's emotional reaction.

Speaker 1:

The other thing I've realized is that there are a lot of methods out there that teach writers how to plot their books, so things like the classic three-act structure, the hero's journey, save the cat or any of these other external plotting methods, and these methods can all be wonderful, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying don't use these. A lot of writers I know work with and use these methods and it works for them. So do whatever works for you. But I want to point out that these methods often work better for screenplays than novels, because screenplays are all about the plot or what happens when, and screenwriters don't usually have to describe body language or the tone a character is using or their facial expressions, or what the characters are thinking, or sometimes even what happened in a character's past or even where people are standing in a room. These type of things are often left to the director and the actors to interpret, and this is why we can have three million plus different and equally effective versions of Romeo and Juliet.

Speaker 1:

Right, but solely relying on the plot doesn't work for a novel because, again, it is the most interior of all art forms. Novels invite us into someone else's mind and they let us follow along as that person makes meaning of what's happening to them, and then, as the character makes sense of events, so does the reader. So all of this means that a writer has to convey everything. They have to convey body language, the tone a character is using, facial expressions, what the characters are thinking, what happened in their past that made them how they are today, and even where people are standing in a room. Right, we have to do all of that, and we have to do it using just words on a page.

Speaker 1:

But a novel that simply describes what is happening when is going to fall flat, and not only that, but the characters aren't going to behave believably on the page. I see this happen all the time in drafts that I edit. So in real life, if someone were to come up to you and say something really unexpected, it's not going to be natural for you to just react quickly or logically in most cases. Most of the time, unexpected things tend to kind of short circuit our brain for a minute. So if we want to mimic real life, we have to think about things like that when we're writing, and a lot of the drafts I edit will show characters rushing into saying something or reacting without taking a second to process what's been said, which, again, is just not really mimicking real life. So it can be a little bit jarring and it can pull us out of the story.

Speaker 1:

Now, all of this being said, it's definitely more challenging to use this third method in your draft. It takes longer and you have to dig deeper into your own emotions and put yourself in your character's shoes, but this is what it takes to write quality fiction that readers will connect to and that will evoke emotions in your readers as well. So this is the technique I want you to rely on the most, especially for your first draft, and, when in doubt, include more of your character's thoughts and feelings than you think necessary, even to the point of making yourself uncomfortable, and then you compare everything back later once you're done with your draft. I know I'm biased because it's my podcast, but I would seriously recommend listening to the episodes on interiority and show don't tell at least once a year to keep these principles front of mind. Interiority is that important and it's something I see that's missing from a lot of the drafts I edit. It's also something that, when done well, can drastically improve a manuscript of any genre, so it's definitely worth studying and keeping in the front of your mind. So that's tip number seven.

Speaker 1:

Let's move on to number six. Tip number six comes from episode number 79, three things to focus on if you're a brand new writer. In this clip you'll hear me talk about content genres versus commercial genres and why, as a writer, you need to know both in order to write a story that works. I also share five things your story's content genre can tell you and why this is essential in terms of writing a solid first draft. Here's the clip.

Speaker 1:

I think of genre in two different ways Commercial genres and content genres and I won't go too deep into the differences because I have a whole episode on genre. It's episode number two and I will put that link in the show notes if you want to check it out. But basically, commercial genres are sales categories that dictate where your book is placed in a bookstore or how it's sold online. So, as an example, think about something like young adult fiction. That would be a section in a bookstore or online, right, but if you set out to write a young adult story, what kind of story would you be writing? Are you writing a young adult romance, a young adult mystery, a young adult thriller, a young adult action story set in a fantasy world, or what are you actually setting out to write? And if you don't know this, or if you don't know what kind of story you're actually telling, it's going to be really hard to write a young adult novel, right? And this is where content genres come in.

Speaker 1:

So content genres tell writers what type of content needs to be in a story to satisfy readers of a particular genre. So, in other words, they provide us with a framework that will help you craft a story from start to finish. And again, I talk more about this in episode number two. But your content genre can tell you things like the type of goal your protagonist will pursue from start to finish, what's at stake if your protagonist accomplishes that goal or not, some of the key scenes and character roles that you need to include in your story, the main emotions readers are expecting to experience or feel, and even the general theme or the topic that your story can explore, and that's a lot of stuff, right?

Speaker 1:

This is why genre is such an important thing to focus on for new writers. It can honestly take so much overwhelm out of the writing process and in my opinion, it's an underutilized and underappreciated tool. So if you're just starting out, or even if you're just starting a brand new story, I recommend figuring out the type of story that you want to write. So what is your story's content genre? And then you can use that as a framework to craft your story within. In my notes and novel course, I have a whole module dedicated to content genres and everything that each of the content genres require, because I think it's that important. This module tends to be a student favorite too, because the genre framework gives you a container to be creative within. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process and because of that, writing can actually start to feel super fun, which is all we really want, right? I love this tip and even if you're not brand new to writing, this is a great episode to listen to if you want to go back to basics. I won't spoil what else I share in that episode, but it's a good one that will help ground you if you ever find yourself two in your head or two in the weeds on any particular story. So that's tip number six. Let's move on to number five. Tip number five comes from episode number 88.

Speaker 1:

That's called perfectionism versus procrastination. What's really going on? In this clip? You'll hear a little pep talk from me about how I think about perfectionism and why you should never expect your first draft, or any draft, really to be perfect. Here's the clip. If your outline is not perfect, that's okay. You're still making progress. If you write a first draft that's not perfect, that's okay. It was never going to be anyway, so don't put that expectation on yourself. If you publish a book that has a typo or a gap in logic or a mistake somewhere, that's okay too. I mean, have you ever read a published book from a traditional publishing house, even that has a typo in it? Because I certainly have. Some of my favorite stories have mistakes in them and I don't love them any less for having those mistakes.

Speaker 1:

So my point is that you have to do the work, to make the mistakes and learn. You have to be willing to take that imperfect action if you're going to achieve your goals. There's no way around it. And let's say that you start making decisions and a few of them don't work. That is really okay. If a decision doesn't work out, then you just move on to the next thing to get closer to it eventually working.

Speaker 1:

So think of it this way it's almost like you're always just troubleshooting, and I think this is a nice frame of mind to have, especially when it comes to writing a book. You're either discovering your draft as you work through it or you're troubleshooting the ideas that you've already committed to and that maybe you've already put on the page. And when this happens, or when you make a decision that doesn't particularly work out, you can just ask yourself what can I learn from this? Or where can I grow? And I'm telling you, this one little mindset shift has been huge for me in the last 12 months, and I hope it can be the same for you. So, getting back to just getting your story out there again, I'm going to repeat what I said earlier Until you ship it, you're never going to know if what you've written is going to work or not, and you'll never get the lessons or the feedback that you need to accomplish your goals. So you have to get it out there and you have to do the work and make the mistakes that come with doing that work, because only then will you learn and grow and actually accomplish the things you want to accomplish.

Speaker 1:

So, long story short, if you're trying to get something just right or if you're trying to get it perfect, you're really just procrastinating getting it out into the world. And I know if you're like me, you probably have high standards and you want whatever you put out into the world to be really good quality. I know this and I relate to this because I struggle with it too. Sometimes I talk to a lot of people who are perfectionists and it's always funny because not many of them will admit to being a perfectionist. It's more like no, we have high standards, right, we don't have problems with perfectionism, we just have high standards. But seriously, those high standards can sometimes be a mask for procrastination, and procrastination comes from fear. So I'm going to say that one more time Procrastination comes from fear.

Speaker 1:

You're probably feeling scared, or you're worried about what people will think of what you're doing or what you produce, or you're afraid that your story won't work and what will happen if it doesn't sell? Or what if you do put it out there and people don't like it? And, even worse, what will people think of you if it doesn't sell, or if you get bad reviews. I mean, we've all been there in some form or another, and that's okay. It's okay that our procrastination is just fear. We are human and fear is always going to be wired into our brains. Right, that's just how we are. Fear helps to keep us safe in many different situations, and if you let it get the best of you, then finishing your book and getting it out into the world is going to be very, very difficult. So that's what I'm always trying to keep in mind, whether I'm thinking about my own writing or something I put out on the podcast or in a presentation I'm giving, or even something in my personal life.

Speaker 1:

We all have to be willing to put things out there that aren't perfect. They can be good, or they can even be really good, don't get me wrong. They don't have to be terrible, but they don't have to be 100% perfect either. And again, that's because perfectionism is not going to happen. On your first shot at anything, let's just say it's not going to happen at all. Right, we probably shouldn't expect perfection ever, but you do have to get your stories out there. You have to get feedback, you have to see how people are resonating with what you've written. You have to see how they're reacting to it and see how you can make it better, and things like that. So the more you can start taking action and making decisions quickly, the better and more natural it will eventually feel for you to do so.

Speaker 1:

Oh my gosh, I love this episode. I don't often go back and listen to the episodes I've recorded, but I actually found myself totally sucked into this one as a listener, which is kind of funny. As I mentioned, I am a recovering perfectionist, so I totally needed to hear this message and this episode. If you're a perfectionist or someone who thinks they're suffering from an epic case of procrastination, I highly recommend you check out that episode, which, as a reminder, I will link to in the show notes for you. So that's tip number five.

Speaker 1:

Let's move on to number four. Tip number four comes from episode number 96. That's called five world-building tips for sci-fi and fantasy writers. Even if you're not writing science fiction or fantasy, I still want you to hear this tip because it will be relevant, no matter what kind of setting you're working with. So here it is. I want you to pick two to three world-building categories to focus on and then go deep into those two to three categories when brainstorming and fleshing out your story world. So I'm going to assume that at some point you've googled world-building tips or world-building worksheets and maybe you've come across one of those gigantic lists of all the things that you can consider for your story world, and then maybe you got overwhelmed because how can you possibly figure out all of those things about your story world? Right, it's a lot, but here's the thing you don't have to have everything about your story world figured out to make your world feel immersive. Instead, if you pick two to three key areas of your story world that will be relevant to your plot and your characters in the central conflict, and then if you flesh out those key areas from there, your world will appear to be fully fleshed out and it's going to feel immersive for readers.

Speaker 1:

So as an example of what I mean by this, let's think about a story like the Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. So he fleshed out a few key areas of the story world that would impact his protagonist the most. So I would say these three key areas are the university, the performing arts and the folklore. So his main character, kovoth, spends the majority of his time at the university. So Patrick Rothfuss had to flesh out what his world would be like at school. So he built out the classes, the textbooks, the teachers and what their roles were like his classmates, where Kovoth would live while he's at school, how he'd pay for school and things like that. He also fleshed out the cultural significance of the performing arts. So Kovoth plays the lute and he comes from a band of troubadours. He also loves going to this place called the Eolian and eventually he gets his performer's pin there, which is significant to the story. And not only that, but the girl that he has feelings for, dena, she's also a performer and she hangs out at the Eolian too. So this setting and this bit of cultural development brings those two characters together and it creates some conflict and a handful of other things. So it's really significant to the story.

Speaker 1:

The third thing I think about is all of the folklore in this story. So there are a lot of stories and legends about the Chandrian and things like the story of Stealing the Moon, or stories about the Creation Wars and things like that, and again, all of these things are relevant to the story. So Patrick Rothfuss obviously spent his time developing this area. Now, what's not really relevant to the story are things like the politics or the economy in the story world. Of course they are there, operating in the background, but Patrick Rothfuss didn't need to go deep into those areas or spend a ton of time fleshing them out, because they don't really affect the story and readers aren't going to be wondering about that or asking questions about that. So to wrap up my first tip, I want you to pick two to three worldbuilding categories that you'll go narrow and deep into and then flesh things out from there. This is going to allow you to not only focus on what's important, but it will also help give your world a feeling of depth and realness, which is what we all want, right? Tip number three comes from episode number 104 that's called 10 Tips for Writing Better Dialogue.

Speaker 1:

In this clip, I share how important it is to weave conflict and tension throughout your dialogue, and I share an example from the Invisible Life of Adi LaRue by VE Schwab. Here's the clip. This is actually one of the fastest ways to improve dialogue. In any given scene, you'll want to look for opportunities to amp up the internal and or external conflict within the dialogue, because think about it this way, the dullest exchanges are between two people who are on the same wavelength with nothing gripping to talk about, and I see this in the drafts I edit all the time.

Speaker 1:

There will be characters sitting down to eat or drink coffee and when I ask the author what their intention for the scene is, they'll say something like well, I just wanted to show what a normal evening with the character's family is like. I want to show their normal world. And although that might be well intended, if there's no conflict it's probably not going to be that interesting of a scene for readers. So within each scene, just make sure you understand each character's agenda and then look for areas of conflict to dig into. And here's the thing Great dialogue starts to develop before you even start writing. It starts all the way back when you create a cast of characters who differ from each other. So there's always the possibility of conflict or tension. So make sure you do the work to flesh out your characters beforehand.

Speaker 1:

Now, as an example, I want to read you a little snippet from the Invisible Life of Adi LaRue by VE Schwab. So here we go. All things have names. She says Names have purpose, names have power. She tips her glass his way. You know that, or else you wouldn't have stolen mine. A smile tugs at the corner of his mouth, wolfish, amused. If it is true he says that names have powers, then why would I hand you mine? Because I must call you something to your face and in my head, and right now I only have curses. The darkness does not seem to care. Call me whatever you like, it makes no difference. What did you call the stranger in your journals? The man after whom you fashioned me? You fashioned yourself to mock me and I would rather you take any other form. You see violence in every gesture. He muses, running a thumb over his glass. I fashion myself to suit you, to put you at ease. Anger rises in her chest. You have ruined the one thing I still had. How sad that you had only dreams. So in this excerpt there's definitely conflict and tension. Right, if you're familiar with the story, this is probably one of the most memorable scenes and I'd argue it's super memorable because of the conflict and tension between these two characters, and it's a great example of how you can make a scene where two characters are sitting down for a meal really impactful.

Speaker 1:

I really like tips from the episodes where I was able to use an actual story as an example, and this one with Adi LaRue is really good. We analyze this book for one of our book club meetings and there's just so much to learn from this story. It's one of my absolute favorites. If you weren't at that meeting, you can still get access to the recording of that book club by going to savannahgilbocom forward slash book dash club. And if you haven't read the book oh my gosh, it's so good you can add it to your TBR pile if you're looking for something to read. So that's tip number three. Let's move on to number two. Tip number two comes from episode number 102. That's called Three Common Interiority Mistakes and how to Fix them.

Speaker 1:

In this clip I talk about something that I see in a lot of drafts I edit an internally passive protagonist. Let's dive right into the clip. So if you've read any kind of craft book or if you've been listening to this podcast, you've probably heard that your protagonist needs agency. Agency just means that your protagonist must have the ability to make decisions, to take actions and then to deal with the consequences of those decisions and actions. So a protagonist needs agency, and agency, by definition, is not passive, but sometimes writers find their protagonist in a situation where their physical agency is taken away. So, for example, if a character has recently been captured or imprisoned, they might end up sitting around in their jail cell waiting for something to happen. But as a result of their inactivity, the whole story feels like it comes to a screeching halt and the reader is probably going to start to lose interest. Now, obviously, there will be situations like this in stories where a character cannot take physical action and or where a character needs to be passive in their actions. So, for example, a character might decide not to confront somebody in the moment, or they might be the type of person who generally likes to seek counsel before they act. That is fine to an extent, but no matter what physical situation your protagonist finds themselves in, they should always crave agency, even if only for a fleeting and or unconscious moment.

Speaker 1:

So to bring this to life a little bit, I want to take a look at an example from A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin, and this scene is from Jamie Lannister's point of view, and he has just been taken along with Brienne of Tarth by Vargo Hote, who also just cut off Jamie's hand. So I'm just going to read you the passage of text. So when Chad the Rite of it, he could not die. Cersei was waiting for him, she would have need of him. And Tyrion, his little brother, who loved him for a lie. And his enemies were waiting too the young wolf who had beaten him in the whispering wood and killed his men around him, edmere Tolly who had kept him in darkness and chains, these brave companions. When morning came, he made himself eat. They fed him a mush of oats, horse food, but he forced down every spoon. He ate again at Evenfall. And the next day, as if he told himself harshly when the mush was like to gag him live for Cersei, live for Tyrion, live for vengeance. Lannister always pays his debts. His missing hand throbbed and burned in stank. When I reach King's Landing I'll have a new hand forged, a golden hand, and one day I'll use it to rip out Vargo Hote's throat.

Speaker 1:

So in this example you can see that although Jamie is bound and he's abused and he's missing a hand, he is anything but internally passive. In this little bit of text he's remembering what's important to him and he's plotting out his next steps. So internally he's active and internally he's craving a sense of agency. So the key takeaway here is that, even if your protagonist is physically unable to take action, they should crave agency. They should want something, including the agency, to take the steps to get it. That's a good one, right? I think there's a theme for this episode and it seems like I was in the mood to highlight writing interiority. So there you go. But also this tip specifically is highlighting a character who is not passive in their interiority, which is super important. So if you find any of your characters to be a little too internally passive, then I highly recommend listening to this episode or any of the episodes on writing good interiority. So that's tip number two.

Speaker 1:

And finally, tip number one comes from episode number 108, why your capacity for zero is crucial as a writer. This was one of the most popular episodes of the entire year, so if you haven't heard it yet, I highly recommend checking it out once you're done with this episode. But here's the clip from that episode. That's all about increasing your capacity for zero and why this matters in the first place. Here it is, and so I just want to put it out there that no matter where you're at in the writing, editing or publishing process, if you want to be an author who writes more than one book, that means there's always going to be a new project on the horizon.

Speaker 1:

Right, you might be writing your very first novel right now, or you might be on your fifth, but there's still this idea of a new project, in the sense that you're going to have to start from scratch with whatever you do next. So I'd encourage you to ask yourself questions like am I willing to start from scratch? Am I willing to be perceived as an amateur until I get this figured out? Am I okay with not getting any recognition or maybe even getting some critical feedback as I figure out how to write a book? And am I willing to deal with all the messiness and uncertainty that comes from starting at zero? Am I willing for it not to work out over and over and over again until it does? And I do think this is relevant even if you are on your third or your fifth book or whatever number you're on, you might have more tools in your writing toolbox, but it's still a big undertaking to write a book from scratch.

Speaker 1:

And there are some writers out there who switch genres, or maybe they've been working in one series but then shift into working on another series. So you know, there's always an opportunity to find yourself in the shoes of what feels like a beginner, even if technically you're not. And, on that note, being on your third or your fifth book does come with a new set of challenges too. When you've already done something like write a book, and had various degrees of success with that book whatever success means to you it can be really hard to go back to square one and to start something new. Now I know, of course, that's not true for everyone, but I have definitely seen a lot of writers struggle with that. So, anyway, back to the questions I posed earlier. If you're struggling to answer these questions, it's important that you start strengthening your capacity for zero, because the higher your capacity for zero, you're more likely to take risks, you're more likely to put yourself out there and you're more willing to fail. And the more you're willing to fail, the more likely you are to eventually succeed. And again, I truly believe this is what separates the writers who publish and who go on to succeed from the writers who don't. It's their capacity for zero and their willingness to keep going or to start over when things don't work out.

Speaker 1:

So here's a good way to think about it. Imagine the numbers one through 10, and they're all listed out in front of you. Number one represents where you are now. So maybe you have a piece of a story idea, or you've just realized you want to write a novel. So let's say that's a one in terms of one to 10. And then let's say number 10 represents achieving that pinnacle milestone that you're aiming for. It's going to be different for all of us, but let's say, for the sake of simplicity, that that milestone is publishing your novel. So number one is I have a piece of a story idea and number 10 is I've published my novel.

Speaker 1:

So if you want to get from where you are now, which is, let's say, number one, to where you're killing it at number 10, guess what's in the middle? If you guessed a whole lot of work, you are right, and that's why people call it the messy middle. Right, there's always going to be challenges, setbacks, confusion and overwhelm when you're trying to do something you've never done before. And I want you to think about this for a second. Why would you expect writing a novel to be easy when you've never done it before? Or why do you think it should come together quickly for you when it doesn't for most people who are just starting out.

Speaker 1:

I actually had a conversation about this with a writer the other day. He was in the middle of his first draft and he was talking to me about how bummed he was that he already knew he's going to have to go back and change up quite a bit in the beginning section of his story. And we have a good relationship. So I just kind of asked him like why wouldn't you expect to have to go make changes to the beginning of your story? I mean, you're learning so much about your story and it's developing into something that's actually really awesome, and you didn't know any of this six weeks ago. So why is it so outlandish to think that you would have to go back and update the beginning of your story?

Speaker 1:

And we kind of had a good laugh about it because he was like yeah, that's true. Why do I think this way? And I do want to mention that I think it's totally fine to feel bummed about something like this. We are all allowed to feel how we feel and all of our feelings are valid. But also, when these kind of feelings and thoughts come up, it's a really great opportunity to look at our thoughts right. This writer could have stayed stuck in the mindset of I'm so bummed, I have to go back and revise Act One, but instead we had a laugh about it and he landed in a place of excitement. So by the end he was like, wow, it's true, I know so much more about my story and actually, now that I think about it, I know how to make Act One really impactful and intriguing for readers now.

Speaker 1:

So the point here is that mindset is super, super important, but so are the expectations that we put on ourselves and our writing. And I guarantee you that, although this writer that I was just talking about will most likely have downer moments in the future when he feels defeated I mean, we all will, right, we can escape it, we're human Although he will have those kind of moments, I think he will be much more able to get out of them now and turn his thoughts and his perceptions and feelings into something that's much more constructive. I also think his capacity for zero has grown now because of that conversation and because of this whole experience of writing a messy first draft. So I just wanted to share all of this with you, because the higher your capacity for zero, the more opportunity you have to write amazing stories and succeed as an author, whatever success looks like for you.

Speaker 1:

So what it all boils down to, in my opinion, is that we have to take our ego out of the equation. It means we have to be willing to be a beginner or an amateur, and not quite a pro right out the gate. We have to be willing to say, okay, that didn't work and what can I do instead? And we have to be willing to take risks and go back to the drawing board and throw everything out and start all over. You might not need to, but you have to be willing to do that. And, most importantly, you can't give up, because showing up for yourself consistently and continuing to practice your craft that's what's going to help you build your confidence muscle over time. This is why I always say that so much of being a successful writer comes down to mindset, and everything we talked about today will most likely require a mindset shift if this resonates with you. But your capacity for zero the stronger it is, the more willing you are to stay in the game and to make it work, which means the closer you are to success, whatever success looks like for you.

Speaker 1:

This is such an important one, and I ended with it on purpose, because I didn't want you to miss it. This is something that I personally want to work on and get better at in 2024, and I would love to invite you to do the same. If you haven't heard the episode, it's episode number 108 and it's 1000% worth listening to, especially as you gear up for the new year. And there you have it some of the best clips from the fiction writing made easy podcast in 2023. If any of these clips sparked your attention and you haven't checked out the full episode yet, be sure to go back and take a listen. I'll have all of the episodes linked up for you in the show notes.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for joining me, not only today, but week after week or whenever there's a new episode. I'm so grateful I get to show up for you and then I get to share all of these writing tips and strategies with you, and I'm so excited to see all the wonderful things that 2024 has in store for us. So, with that being said, have a great new year and I will talk to you in 2024. So that's it for today's episode. As always, thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support.

Speaker 1:

If you want to check out any of the links I mentioned in this episode, you can find them in the show notes listed in the description of each episode inside your podcast player or at savannahgilbocom forward slash podcast. If you're an Apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell Apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and, in turn, your reviews will help this podcast get in front of more fiction writers just like you. And while you're there, go ahead and hit that follow button, because there's going to be another brand new episode next week, full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer. So I'll see you next week and until then, happy writing.

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The Importance of Showing Character Thoughts
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The Importance of Protagonist Agency
Promoting a Fiction Writing Podcast