Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov’s gun

Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov’s gun

If you think that a writer uses only his imagination to write a novel, without rules, you are wrong. With this post, we open a long series on narrative techniques used by writers and screenwriters of films. Let us begin this narrative techniques series with the first one: Chekhov’s gun.

What are narrative and expressive techniques?

They are pillars that give structure to the story, the characters created, and the dialogues. A writer must know how to master these dramaturgical tools in order to create a solid and compelling narrative.

All these elements must be skillfully correlated with each other in order to build the structure of the narrative. We will discover together that the elements inserted in a story are never random. On the contrary, they often have a dramaturgical function, and that they belong to a defined narrative technique.

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Why you should let your characters fail

Why you should let your characters fail

As a writer, you need to understand the value of your characters.

You can write an amazing story, but if the characters are boring – no one is going to read it. But what defines boring?

One of the biggest mistakes writers make is thinking that people only want to read about good things – they want the characters to get the girl, find the perfect job, win the lotto … unfortunately, that’s not the case. And just like in reality, no one likes someone who “wins” all the time. It’s boring!

It’s unfortunate, but it’s true – we want to see other people fail. And it’s not because we are horrible people – it’s because we want to know that those perfect people also have their flaws. And watching a character in a novel try, and try again, is much more interesting than watching them succeed all the time.

It adds a sense of nervousness, “will they or won’t they”, and it helps the reader relate more. Unfortunately, we don’t all lead perfect lives.

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Why if your characters don’t evolve your novel is useless

Why if your characters don’t evolve your novel is useless

If you’re writing a novel, you’ll understand the most important aspect is the characters. And ensuring those characters keep people interested while they’re reading is vital. If your characters are doing the same thing, day in and day out, people are going to get bored quickly. This is why the evolution of characters in your writing is essential.

Think about those novels that you remember that you may have read 20 years ago. Why do you remember them? It’s the characters. And most likely, it’s because those characters underwent some sort of physical, emotional or psychological transformation. (Take a look at The Hero with a Thousand Faces of Joseph Campbell).

So, why if your characters don’t evolve your novel is useless?

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Character Archetypes Series: #9 Trickster

Character Archetypes Series: #9 Trickster

We have thus come to the end of this long journey. We explored the Hero’s Journey with its stages and Campbell’s archetypes. However, there is a final archetype that supports the Hero on his journey: the Trickster. We talk about him in the last article of the Character Archetypes Series. Last but not least.

Indeed, it is often a character that is remembered very easily even after a long time. Let’s find out who the Trickster is and what are its characteristics.

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The beauty of common people

The beauty of common people

The beauty of common people: keep them boring, or shake things up!

Every story has “common” characters who keep showing up in novels because they may be significant to moving your story along or they may be just there as a mention.

They don’t have any kind of past trauma, and they may not be the lead, they are just as important. For starters, it gives the reader a sense of realism – not everyone lives a dramatic life, and even the people who seem most insignificant in your life can play a huge role. Or, they have the potential to shake things up a bit, particularly in your writing.

And just like in life, if you didn’t have these “common” people who don’t bring drama everywhere they go, it would be boring, right?

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Can your readers see themselves in your characters?

Can your readers see themselves in your characters?

The most important ingredient in a novel is not the plotline!

Anyone can think of a plot, such as a person brought up in the wilderness discovers an unusual shard that turns out to be the key to closing an inter-dimensional portal. Their unique skills mean that they are the only person for the job.

The problem isn’t the storyline, it’s your character.

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Character Archetypes Series: #7 The Shadow

Character Archetypes Series: #7 The Shadow

In the seventh article of Character Archetypes Series, we talk about Shadow.

We have arrived at the “Supreme Ordeal“, the moment in which the Hero wages battle against his enemy, The Shadow.

This is the most powerful of the archetypes we encounter on the Hero’s journey. He is the hero’s antagonist, his enemy but also his alter ego. In Disney fairy tales and cartoons, it is represented as the villain, in the form of a dragon or monster.

This character got overwhelmed by the negative and dark side of his character and became a Shadow.

What can a Hero do to not give in to this archetype and turn into something dark?

He can learn to recognize this negative side, dominate it and counter it in order not to give in.

We’re used to thinking that the antagonist, the Shadow, is a flesh-and-blood character, a monster, but that’s not always the case. In some cases, The Shadow may be our fear. Let’s think about our daily life.

Have you ever had to do something that scares you, in order to achieve a goal or a loved one? Have you ever, for example, taken the plane to reach your sweetheart, despite the fear of the plane? Many romantic films show The Shadow in the guise of these inner fears.

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You don’t have to judge, you have to understand

You don’t have to judge, you have to understand

We’ve all been there, you see someone doing something and just think that’s crazy.

Watching someone spend thousands on a dress, when you can get the same thing for a fraction of the price, can certainly seem crazy.

However, you need to remember that you don’t know the situation that person is in.

When you assume they’re crazy you’re judging them when you need to understand them. In effect, you need to walk a mile in their shoes before you can attempt to understand if their actions were crazy or not.

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Character Archetypes Series: #6 Shapeshifter

Character Archetypes Series: #6 Shapeshifter

Before getting to the final part of the Hero’s Journey, we stop to describe two important characters in the narrative. In the previous article, we talked about the Herald, and this article of Character Archetypes Series we talk about Shapeshifter.

This is a character who changes throughout the story. However, it does not change shape but function in the Hero’s Journey. When we met him, he seemed to be bad. His role is to hinder the Hero in his path. Only towards the end of the story, the Shapeshifter reveals himself to be good.

He is also a figure who has worked behind the scenes to help, without even letting the Hero himself know.

Similarly, the Shapeshifter can apparently be a friend. In the end, he turns out to be an enemy, or someone ready to thwart the Hero.

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