Writing is, essentially, a snippet of life with a plot that could have happened and people who could have lived. It’s true that sometimes the exciting tales of a book are a little more exaggerated than real life, but underneath that, it’s all a reflection of human life: emotions, people, and moments of living.
Back around when I started turning this into a writing blog, I started writing posts on my vision for a novel. I started to notice the little things in life. Listening to indie music at midnight by lamplight. Falling asleep to the rain. Being bold and trying new things. I couldn’t explain the feeling it gave me, but I wanted to share it, because it was giving me inspiration and passion for not only my writing, but my life.
Once you find the beauty in life, like I did in those small moments, you want to share it. But in the writing world, happiness and beauty doesn’t exactly sound like it’ll make for a good story. Would anyone go see Jurassic World if people went to see the dinosaurs, said, “That’s cool!”, and left without a problem?
Except there is a way to share it, and believe it or not, it can improve your theme, keep readers reading, and up your style.
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1. Recognize the Beauty in Your Life
There is beauty in happy and sad moments, when you laugh and when you cry, and when you feel something. It’s the warm hug of a friend after a heartbreak. It’s feeling loss because you have loved. Sometimes, it is good to feel alive. In order to be able to share the beauty in life, you must see it yourself first.
When we think of a good life, we think riches, fame, friends, and no complications. However, in novels, that’s not exactly possible. For example, in situations when: everyone’s trying to kill the main character, the novel is set in an evil dystopia or third-world country, the characters are nobodies, or any book following the idea that you can never have too much conflict.
Instead, hone in on the smaller aspects of life. It’s not about having good friends — it’s laughing surrounded by people you love, looking around and seeing them smiling, then realizing you’re happy. When we focus on the smaller areas, it’s more realistic to write and it’s happier and easier to achieve.
Recognize the truly beautiful, smaller moments. Observe them in your own life and in the lives of others. Those are what you can write and share freely.
Let Your Character Have Momentary Victories
This is a lesson I’ve learned as a reader, not a writer. If you’ve written your character well, your readers will be rooting for him to win. They know he likely will by the end, but throughout the pouring conflict of the plot, they’re worried about his physical and emotional safety.
While “happyland” would make a terrible story, that doesn’t mean your character can never, ever win until the end. Let your detective find a clue. Let your scientist make a breakthrough. Let your emotional character be happy for a small scene. Don’t overdo this, or your novel will become boring, but allow readers to enjoy a brief moment of happiness with your character — even if it’s a false victory — or they may get frustrated and put your book down. That’s where you can fit these smaller moments.
Get Into a Character’s Head
As I said above, it’s not always the happy moments that are beautiful. They can be sad or bittersweet moments. No matter what’s going on, give your characters time to react.
Again with my experience as a reader, they want to know how your character feels, so don’t worry abut boring them as long as you don’t go on forever. Let your characters feel things, because there is beauty in emotion and in growth.
The trick to creating great emotions? Do your research. But don’t just write what you think you know.
When I was in middle school, I took an art class, and I remember struggling to draw the base of a ballerina figurine. I asked my art teacher for help, and she looked at my work and said, “You’re drawing a circle. In your head, you know the base is a circle, but use your eyes and you’ll see from here it looks more like an oval.”
That’s great art advice, but it also applies to writing. We often draw conclusions about emotions, like smiling equals happiness and crying equals sadness. But would you describe happiness as feeling your face crinkle, laughing without care of judgment, and feeling so happy you forget there’s sadness in the world? Or would you describe sadness as squinted eyes, trying to be happy, and feeling as if you deserve it?
Don’t just write what your head knows as an emotion, write what you, as a human, feel.
Focus on the Smaller Picture
When outlining, we focus on creating a good plot, when drafting we try to hurry things up, and when editing we want to finish as soon as possible. During all our rushing, we forget to slow down and look on the smaller side of things.
It’s important to have a good bigger picture, but once you’ve created that, remember that everything must lead to the bigger picture. Readers won’t keep reading through a terrible opening to see your bigger picture. They’re reading it scene by scene, page by page, and word by word. Every word, every page, and every scene must contribute to the bigger picture, including the style and feel of them.
So, slow down. In life, we don’t get to see the bigger picture right away, and neither should our characters. Part of living life happily is learning to live in the moment, and through our books, we can achieve that.
Showcase Hope and Uniqueness
Throughout every trial, we should have hope. Hope is hard to learn, especially the older you are. As a writer, and even more so if you are a Christian writer, your job is to create hope even when it seems there is none. There is no better place than in a novel.
There is hope in life, and that is beautiful.
Another thing that is wonderful about life is that no one is the same. Not even two snowflakes are the same, and the same should go for your book.
Find beauty in uniqueness. Include people of different backgrounds, personalities, interests, and appearances. Write no two same characters or plot points. Be vastly unique.
Once you have found it, how this beauty in your novels. Not only to improve your story, but because the point of writing — dare I say, the point of art itself — is to affect hearts. Beauty is one way to do it. Show people the happiness in life. Show them how the little things are so important. Inspire them to live in the moment.
Writing, without purpose, is meaningless — but more on that next week.