Tuesday tips is a category of posts here at Writerly Life that promises to offer concrete tips for improving or kickstarting your writing. The tips that fall into this category are the sorts that you can do today or even right now.
This week’s tip:
Put your ideas in a character’s mouth
This week is all about Big Ideas, and how to incorporate them in your fiction in a convincing way. One thing we probably all dislike in fiction is when the author pulls up a lectern and starts pontificating on his or her theories of life. No one wants the story to grind to a halt just so we can be preached to about what this all means, why we’re here, and what all those symbols are doing anyway. We read for story and character, not to take notes hear someone else’s theories.
At the same time, we DO like reading stories that wrestle with big ideas. But the minute the narrator or author begins to deliver them, we yawn, or our eyes glaze over. You’ve got to be sneaky about it. Even famously big idea-focused writers like Dostoevsky always introduces his ideas by putting them in the heads — and mouths — of the characters we’ve already become fascinated by. This is something you can do too.
Big Idea exploration usually only belongs in a world where the characters are wrestling with the issues themselves. So instead of pausing the story to analyze, make sure you have a character who wants to give voice to the idea him or herself. Make the ideas PART of the story. Allow one intellectual character to mouth off about what life means or why our purpose is to do this or that. Allow him or her to get it just a little wrong, so that the reader can fill in the gaps. Make that discussion part of the story. Perhaps he’s keeping a journal, or a nosy child keeps asking him “why?”. Give your character your ideas, so that you can stay safely behind the curtain.