How to make your novel stand out? Read Part 1 in the new novel writing blog series all about Crafting That Jaw-Dropping Novel.
As both writers and readers know there’s an expansive amount of books to choose from when it comes to fantasy. If you include paranormal in this as a sub-genre (most don’t, but bookstores still do) it becomes an even bigger melting pot of novel upon novel with very little to differentiate between them.
As an avid reader of both fantasy and paranormal I’ve found what I really like and what works. As a writer I’ve tried to implement what I know and here’s 5 key ways to separate yourself from the pack.
1. Make Imperfect Characters with a Distinctive Voice and Backstory
Novels where characters are too perfect or cookie cutter fade into the many others like it. Readers want to see the flaws, the mistakes, the messes. Then it’s all the more enjoyable to be with them when they learn from their mistakes or get themselves out of a mess. Characters feel all the more real when their voice is inherently their own. Use specific and individual phrases, metaphors and vocabulary. Say your character is a hair stylist who’s hung up on some thoughts. Writing “her mind was in turmoil” is fine, but using “my mind twisted on the thought, like hair getting caught in a cheap hairbrush” is better and builds realism. But why is this character a hair stylist? Did she used to be a financial analyst and got down-sized? Does she have a mom who ignores her siblings to play bingo all day and she has to support them? Fill in all the minute backstory details of ALL your characters’ lives. Even if the background stuff never makes it in the story, knowing those details will colour how these characters act, speak and react.
2. Have Both Internal and External Problems
As much as there are many readers who enjoy going on an emotional journey with a character (I’m not one of them) like in literary fiction, in real life that’s not how it works. Everyone’s day to day life is affected by outside influences, whether that’s nature and storms, or finances, or other people’s mistakes, or illnesses or downright evil agendas. Therefore over the course of a novel more of us can relate and take a journey with someone when there are additional problems. The key is to have both. Create obstacles and don’t let anything come too easily to any of your characters, but also have an emotional journey. As these outside things happen to your characters it should change them and we, as readers, want to see that change. Having both of these things is like having that all illusive piece of cake, but then discovering there’s also a delicious piece of pie at the back of the fridge and you get to eat that too!
3. Use a Full Plot Arc
This mostly deals with novels from a series but not always. Having a novel end with only a cliffhanger is a huge deterrent. Even if it’s a good novel, and I really want to read the next one, have some resolution! There should be some resolving/falling action at the end of every story. The best series novels I’ve read are ones where there’s an end to each novel, but there’s still questions and a bigger picture that will be worked out in future novels. It’s hugely annoying how much cut-off cliffhanger endings has become the trend in YA novels of late. So many series aren’t a trilogy, they’re one long novel broken up into three. It makes for some very dissatisfied reading. This topic really needs to be delved into so much more. Which means in the near future I’ll be tackling this completely in more posts, but it needed to be included here for sure.
4. Raise the Stakes
Novels where all the main character has to do for the entire plot is choose between the jock and the boy next door? So forgettable. What if the jock’s father were the tyrant leader of a community and unless your mc (main character) chooses his son he’ll close down any and all travel out of their city? Would you read that? Yeah I know it sounds a little unrealistic, but the right author could take that and tweak it and fill out the characters and have a pretty good story. Point is, add depth to your story. Risk lives, risk communities, risk worlds, when your characters (both mc and secondary) won’t lose something super important it’s less investing. How many of us were on the edge of our seats to find out whether or not Harry would die or Voldermort would win and enslave the entire world? Imagine now that even though Harry was a wizard in this amazing world, the only choice he had to make was between Ginny and Cho? (no contest btw, Ginny and her blazing look so awesome!) That book would’ve been so much less enthralling. Don’t get me wrong I love romance and want it in almost every novel I read (That’s the only thing I wanted more of from Harry Potter btw, but that’s a totally different post) but there’s gotta be more going on, or your story won’t stay with the reader.
5. Build Your World Down to the Last Detail
Some of the most favourite and lasting fantasy novels are those with amazingly built worlds. Wheel of Time, Narnia, Eragon, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter. There are many reasons why these books are so successful but exceptionally detailed worlds is a big reason in all of them. Time and time again I pick up a book so excited for it, but then it falls flat. Authors need to flesh out the details. I’m finding lately the worlds are built so thinly that there’s absolutely nothing to grab onto. Have specific cultures and actions. Build a history. What makes this world different? Why would we, as readers, want to visit here? What’s good about this world you’ve built? What’s bad? Could you build a working set for a film from the details you have? If not, you gotta build more. Have your magic be consistent. Enjoy the people and settings you’ve created and we will too.
That’s 5 ways to build a better, more stand out novel. Realize how important it is to understand your book inside and out. Writing is a craft. It is something to learn and grow in. Talent helps, but you gotta build your ability to be noticed in this age of digital media. Here’s hoping you can write that amazing story you know is in you!
Check out today’s post on DanielleWAM: WAM Moment of the Week
Blog makeover day is tomorrow! Just saying 😀