Monday, February 6, 2017

Sailing Through the "So-What Factor"

"A character's actions are deeply important" -- James Wood

When an editor or an agent is reading a story or a novel they are looking for a reason to say "NO." They receive hundred, maybe thousands, of submissions. Why should they care about your character?

My character just found out she's pregnant.

So what?

My character might get kicked out of high school.

So what?

My character is unaware that she's a sleep walking serial killer.

So what?

My character is abducted by aliens who want to make him a court jester in another galaxy.

So what?

You can have the most interesting, imaginative plotline in the world, but you'll still have that pesky question to deal with... SO WHAT?!

We need to make the reader care about our protagonist. Good description, voice, style, dialogue can help with this... A relatable character can go a long way too. But most agents/editors/critics will tell you that your readers need to understand the dire consequences. If there are no consequences for your character, there's no dramatic tension... and then we don't have a good answer for that "So What Factor."

This is one of my biggest issues as a creative writer. I often fall in love with my characters. I enjoy spending time with them on the page so much that I forget that I'm supposed to be making them miserable. I need to keep raising the stakes. I need to keep presenting them with very tough choices. I need to keep emphasizing what happens if the protagonist fails. What's at risk? Why should we care?

So, since I'm still struggling with the so-what factor, allow me to direct you to a few experts who can better explain how to sail through these tricky waters:

Writing Beyond Good: The So-What Factor

Agent Query: Jen Rofe

Brutal Truth: The So-What Factor Matters. A Lot.

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