Monthly Archives: June 2014

Creating Patterns As a Novelist — Part I

Fascinated by PatternsBe A Novelist

Patterns are an interesting phenomenon. Whether consciously, or subconsciously, most of us are fascinated with them. We like to discover patterns; and we like to create them.

When it comes to writing a novel, patterns are an integral part. This is often overlooked as the writing process is in full force. It’s easy to mistakenly believe that plots come together randomly in willy-nilly fashion. Creative urges may come in willy-nilly fashion, but plot structure and strategy should never come that way.

Novelists Ready for the Moment

And even if creative urges come at their own choosing, a seasoned novelist knows how to be prepared and ready for the moment. Because the pattern of the novel has already been structured and created. The seasoned novelist knows how to channel the energy into productive direction.

Patterns present a common denominator in science, art, and the humanities.  In physics, for example, the aim is to discover patterns that control the natural world, such as the movement of the planets. In biology, the aim is to discover patterns of nature, such as animal migration.

Freedom and Responsibility

Be A NovelistThe author, on the other hand, rather than discovering patterns, creates patterns. And while you as the novelist have the freedom to create any world of your choosing, still and yet, you have a great responsibility. That responsibility is to be sure the world you create is congruent throughout the story.

The complex plant kingdom is one massive interweaving of patterns. But no matter how complex, as we take a closer look, we find logical patterns of ecosystems throughout.  Likewise, a complex plot is a massive interweaving of many different patterns.

Fiction Hates Chance

Fiction hates chance and coincidence. While real life is filled with such incidences, fiction should not be. In fiction, there’s a reason for everything that happens.  (Or there should be.) Fiction is not a recording of real life. How dull would that be?

Patterns are at the root of the plot development.  Patterns of style, plot, characters, setting, and on and on.  Begin to look for, recognize, and then appreciate the patterns you are creating as you write.

Don’t Violate the Patterns

Be true to the patterns as they develop. If you are guilty of violating the patterns, you lose reader trust, and they will lay the book aside.  The reader may be thinking,

“Why did this story begin in this style – or pattern – and then suddenly change?”

“Why did this character suddenly act in this way? It’s out of character – he would never do that…”

The reader may not be able to express it, but what’s happened is that the pattern has been violated and reader is disgruntled.

PreparationBe A Novelist

Creating the patterns – the strategy of the novel – comes from preparation. This in no way means there is so much planning, or plotting, that free flow is stifled. But there must be enough structure to allow you to be open-minded enough to allow hidden parts of the story to emerge unbidden.

In my next post, we’ll take a deeper look at and how much should be involved in the pre-planning of a novel.

Photo Credits: © | Dreamstime Stock Photos  © | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Be A Novelist

Coming Soon

The first two titles in the Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection will be available in print form.

Flower in the Hills and Tiger Beetle at Kendallwood will soon be in bound copies.

Watch for upcoming announcements. 

Be A NovelistBe A Novelist

Norma Jean Lutz

Be A Novelist



Character Development: Using the Combination of Lack and Compensation — Part III

You Must Know the Inadequacies

In Part II of this series, Character Development: Using the Combination of Lack and Compensation, I pointed out that in order to use the lack and compensation strategy in character development, you must know what inadequacies (real or perceived) plague your character. The way you will know this is because you have invested time to create the backstory.

In that blog post, we looked at four areas in which you can discover your character’s uniqueness. They are:

  • Body
  • Environment
  • Experience
  • Ideas

Devise CompensationsBe A Novelist

At this point in character development you have completed laying out a good solid foundation of exactly who this person is. Now you can delve into devising the compensations this character might resort to. This character needs to substitute for what he hasn’t got. He is going to pay the price to make up for the lack he senses.

Basically (and you know this if you have studied even a smidgeon of psychology), the choices are:

  • Fight
  • Flight

Will your character hide, duck, cower, withdraw? Or will your character jump into the fray, come out swinging, and blow the lid off every situation and/or relationship in his life? You must know.

Not Always Physical

The fighter does not always do so in a physical manner. Perhaps he seizes upon some specific thing; some act or performance which he thinks (he hopes) will fill that void he feels inside.

The one who takes flight may resort to avoiding responsibility, weaseling out of commitments, making excuses, and so on. You get the picture.

The tendency to fight or take flight will be reflected in this character’s behavior. Back to that old writing cliché – which is nearly always true – it’s more powerful to show than to tell. Let the reader see how this character is dealing with these challenges through action, behavior, and dialogue.

Be A Novelist Be Consistent

As these character attributes – based on lack and compensation – develop and grow, your responsibility will be to ensure that character remains consistent through the story.

But, you may be thinking, isn’t my main character supposed to change in the course of the story?

You’re right. However, let the change occur due to believable events and circumstances. (Believable being the key word here.) This differs greatly from the novice novelist whose character changes personality chameleon-like, and thus leaves the reader bewildered, confused, and sometimes disgruntled.

Having the meek, cowering character suddenly turn into a fighter is not always believable. Let the challenges of the story box him into a corner where he is literally driven to stand up and fight. Now it’s believable.

Characters Who Fascinate and Excite

As the novelist, you want to create the character who will fascinate and excite your reader. You want that reader to closely relate to your character. You want your reader to care about your character. To care so much that he cannot stop turning pages to see what happens next.

A tip for outside reading for any novelist is to read a few basic books on psychology. Believe it – as a novelist you can never know too much about people. Of course you can glean much by simply being observant. But that doesn’t always give you the “behind-the-scenes” glimpse as the study of psychology will.

A Tool for Your Novel-Writing ToolboxBe A Novelist

Character development, in my opinion, is one of the most fun (the funnest?) facets of writing a novel. A great plot is only as good as the actors who play out the story on the pages of the book. Make sure your characters – your actors – are alive, vibrant, recognizable, and believable. You will achieve this because you have many tools in your novel-writing toolbox. And one of those tools will be the lack and compensation combination strategy.

Use it wisely; use it often.

Be A Novelist

Coming Soon

The first two titles in the Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection will be available in print form.

Flower in the Hills and Tiger Beetle at Kendallwood will soon be in bound copies.

Watch for upcoming announcements. 

Be A NovelistBe A Novelist

Norma Jean Lutz

Be A Novelist

Photo Credits: © | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© | Dreamstime Stock Photos