One of the most important aspects of any story, long or short, is character development. Ask 5 different authors how they take care of this, you will get 12 different answers. Maybe some of them will work for you, and maybe some won’t. The part to remember here is that each character is their own individual and they will often have their own ideas on where they want to go.
Now, this works out well if you have no idea where you want the story to go. You can just let the characters take themselves where they want and write it as it goes along. Most authors have plans though, and when characters start going off on their own direction, we get testy.
For me, the best way to avoid this problem is to work with the characters and get to know them better. Then you know how they will react in certain situations and you won’t be surprised at how they fight, beg, or bluff their way out of it.
I’ve recently took a character from four or five years ago, who was the first one I ever created: my vampire Drake. He remains one of my favorites to write, but was a true Marty Stu when I created him back when I was 14. By giving myself challenges such as “write a story with only two lines of dialogue” or “only use dialogue”, it really helps to get to know him better, and discoveries about Drake and his motivations truly come to the foreground.
I challenge you to write your own vignette using a character of your choice. See what you can discover about them that might make for an interesting plot hook later. Remember, if you don’t like it, you can always refuse to use it in later writings. But you might be surprised at how it can end up being useful.
If interested, below is the challenge of “using two lines of dialogue”. Up to you if you want to read it though.
Drake stared at the two humans dancing together in the nightclub. In the shadows, he could barely be seen but he was able to watch everything in the club without being noticed. He saw them writhe against one another, arousal scenting the air from both of them, mingling with the other smells of the club. Stale beer, fresh wine, and blood pumping away centimeters beneath the surface of the skin. His teeth iched and her ran a tongue over them to calm it for a bit in order to find his meal that night.
The dancers would notice if each other disappeared. They weren’t on his plate for tonight.
His gaze moved to a lone woman sitting at the bar. She looked despondent, depressed and completely lonely. With a smirk slowly slinking onto his face, he sauntered over to her and took a seat at the stool next to her. “Guinness here,” he told the bartended, letting his accent get rougher and hold more of a Cockney accent than the North London one he actually had.
It had the desired effect, he noted, when the woman perked up next to him. He pretended to notice her for the first time and gave her one of his smirks. “And a fruity drink for the lady here.”
When the drinks came, he held her enthralled with conversation, slipping touches in here and there to bring her attention back to him whenever it was wavering. He played her like an instrument, knowing which buttons to push, and read her like a book, knowing the exact words to say, the correct emotion to reveal to her in order to get her to trust him more.
While others might have said that it was a waste of time, it made the hunt even better for him. There was actually a challenge to it.
She told him around 1am that she needed to go, that she had work the next day. He asked her if he could walk her out, protect her from all the horrors of the night.
She nodded and took his offered arm and he smiled at her, though his eyes glinted. He asked her if she had a boyfriend and acted affronted when she told him no.
With a joking grin, he asked about a girlfriend and she just laughed.
It proved impossible to try to hail a cab at this hour, so he offered his car to drive her home in. She agreed and the two walked away from the club together.
Ten minutes later, he walked back alone, hunger sated, as he took a seat on his motorcycle and took to the streets before the body was even cold.
To those in the states, have a Happy Labor Day. For myself… I’m off to work.
EDIT: Featured on Suspense Author’s Writing Tips on September 5th, 2011. http://paper.li/SuspenseAuthors/1312942086