How to Make a Great Story if Yours is Drier Than Burnt Toast
It’s all about the characters. Don’t even ask about plot. Plot doesn’t actually matter, it’s a red herring. What you need are humans, or at least, compelling composites of some in that addled writers head of yours.
There is a formula for this that works a bit like an inoculation from writer’s block.
Here it is:
Backstory gives characters values, which gives them motivations, which creates conflict.
Your plot is in the conflict, but you can’t get conflict without all those other ingredients.
This is why I advocate outlining vs. “pantsing” longer works of fiction.
Give each major character a backstory. Give them their “rubber ducky” moment in the outline only you will see. The character’s backstory will help you determine what values he or she may have.
Values inform motivation.
For example, Johnny Jalopy was the son of parents who weren’t very good at managing their finances. They played the game “keep up with the Joneses” and not very well at that. They had to have the best cars, live in the best neighborhood, wear the nicest clothes, all at a level unsustainable by their modest salaries. So, they charged everything, and subsequently a few years later, lost everything.
Ergo, Johnny Jalopy will not make the same mistake as his parents.
He obsessively saves everything, and pays cash for all. He wears bargain bin and Goodwill clothes. He insists on renting a tiny apartment and splitting the rent with someone. He drives a jalopy.
Petra Pizazz, on the other hand, grew up in a very poor household. She had to wear rags, she had to take the bus or walk everywhere, and her family frequently moved. Now an adult, Petra Pizazz has done well at her job and doesn’t have to live like how she grew up. And so, she doesn’t. She buys the best she can afford, and sometimes that’s something flashy. She doesn’t mind paying for it on credit sometimes, because she believes she will always have the money to pay it back. And she wants nice things, darn it!
See how the different backstories of these two characters influences their values, and therefore, motivations?
Let’s have them date.
Let’s make it worse; they rent a sublet together.
This is where your conflict ensues. This will drive your plot. This formulaic outlining will hopefully help drive your plot.
The late Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, once said this:
“Make your characters want something right away even if it's only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”
Keeping in line with this quote and the formula I’ve given, let’s take our composite characters, Johnny Jalopy and Petra Pizazz and give them their “glass of water.”
Johnny’s is save money, don’t ever overspend, pay cash for everything because he never wants to be poor again.
Petra Pizzaz’s glass of water is I want the best of everything because I hated growing up poor.
Do you see how putting them in an apartment together can just drive your conflict without you having to wrack your poor writers brain? This type of outline is an effective way to stave off writer’s block.
So, let’s recap.
Nefarious Volume One:
A Dark and Erotic Tale
by Lucille Moncrief
Genre: Erotic Horror
Set in a steampunk Savannah, Georgia, Nefarious weaves a tale of intrigue, hidden desires, and devious intentions.
Talcott Henderson wants to live again.
A centuries-old vampire, he longs to destroy his maker and become human once more. In order to do so, he must turn another. While he sets his sights on Elyse Delafayette, a human with a tragic past, Samuel Quartermaine, a vampire hunter with a dark secret, sets his on Talcott. Will Talcott succeed in convincing Elyse to join the ranks of the undead before Samuel can stop him?
“Curiosity bested me, and I brushed away the hair that had fallen across Ms. Delafayette’s neck. Two more teeth marks over the carotid, but these were faded. Coldiron would be very interested indeed.
My eyes lingered a bit too long on her face. She had delicate, elven-like features framed by dark curls. Her lips were like a red seal over an unblemished envelope. What secrets did they hold? What secrets would they tell?”
Get it FREE on Instafreebie!
Nefarious Volume Two:
Honor the Suffering
Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror
Is eternal guilt the price of human empathy?
While the bombs rain overhead, Talcott Henderson and a group of fellow soldiers huddle in the cratered ground beneath the German front lines. Through the never-ending din of enemy fire, the voracious, blood-soaked machine of war haunts Talcott. Memories claw at him; kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. In the bowels of the earth a specter appears, and offers him an eternal life free of guilt.
But what is the cost of an unmarred soul?
*Cover art by Jessica Dueck
Nefarious Volume 3:
The World Is Our Exile
Can evil consume innocence?
Can the one who walks the line between both save it?
Elyse Delafayette, innocent yet darkly cynical, continues a naive flirtation with evil incarnate. Although goodness pursues her, she rebukes him. Although he seems sincere, she fears he is not.
Samuel Quartermaine, embodying darkness and light, races against time to save her from the clutches of the undead. Will she let him love her?
The third installment of the Nefarious series, The World is Our Exile is a paranormal erotic romance novella set in a steampunk Savannah, Georgia. If you love sarcastic heroines, brooding, secretive heroes, and exploring the stark contrast between good and evil, you will love this story. Get your copy now to experience a thrilling, erotic ride into vivid new world.
COMING SOON on August 21st!
Lucille Moncrief is a horror and historical fiction author. A stodgy old librarian in a past life, she loves poring over history books and binge watching PBS's "Secrets Of" series.
Her literary inspiration comes from the works of Poe, Lovecraft, Fitzgerald, and her favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut.
When she is not yelling at the kids to get off her lawn, you can find her staring out her window pretending to be pensive.
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