Before readers there are listeners

My window

The view from my bedroom window

Sometimes I talk too much. I admit it; I get carried away with what I’m thinking about and could go on for ages if nobody says anything.

Mostly this happens with people I’m very familiar with (my family and my closest friends), and sooner or later they’ll shut me up, kindly or unkindly. But I still keep talking.

“So then he goes and kills her because she betrayed him, and meanwhile everybody else has no idea what’s going on because nobody even knew that his clone existed… so the rebels are getting together to plan how to kill this group of people, but–”

“…umm…ok…”

Sound familiar? Maybe not. But it’s kind of the story of my life.

And yet, somehow, talking to people about your plot, whether it’s telling them about why you think your MMC has a particular fear of chickens or explaining to them the entire story that you mean to tell in full detail (this one tends to lose people rather quickly if it’s of epic proportions) has one really good result:

Your story grows.

Sometimes it’s a conscious decision, sometimes it just appears in your brain, but either way, talking about your novel will help your plot. You will unconsciously add a detail that hadn’t been there before.

“So he sneaks into his father’s office, and he gets the key… because his girlfriend’s sister works as a janitor there! Wow, that’s actually a pretty good idea! I hadn’t thought of it before! Anyway…”

Aha! So now there’s another character that can be developed, and new plot twists that can be explored because of them.

Or, (in the case that the person actually understands what you’ve been talking about for the past half hour) you will respond to a question or doubt that the other person has.

“But wait, why did she move to that city? I don’t understand.”

“… because… her best friend… died when she was a child and… it traumatized her…”

YES! Now your character has a trauma that can make them more complex, or can even trigger other events throughout the story.

Now, of course, there’s the problem of annoying your friends and family to the point of them never wanting to talk to you again about anything related to writing. That is why, sometimes, we feel a bit alone with our ideas. I could say something dramatic and beautiful about writing being a “lonely task” or something along those lines, but though it’s partially true, beautiful things such as the internet can bring us comfort when we are in need.

The key is to get all your spectacular ideas together, wait some days until a certain time has passed in between your novel-related conversations with this person, and then explain all you want! There are people who actually understand what you’re telling them, and who will even give you advice when you need to find out how to do a certain operation, or how a certain faction of the government works.

In my life, that person is my mother. And there are two other friends of mine who have heard the entire plot of my story and understood (as far as I know).

It’s good for us to have somebody who knows what the book is about, and will give you advice, or simply will listen. We need to have somebody who will listen to us, even when we don’t make sense. It helps us develop our story, and gives us inspiration and encouragement to continue writing. Because to continue is one of the hardest tasks when writing a novel, if not The hardest.

Who listens to you?

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2 thoughts on “Before readers there are listeners

  1. My boyfriend. He’s well aware of the fact that if I start talking about writing, I’m probably not going to stop until I realize that I’ve been babbling for twenty minutes. Also, I have a bad habit of writing myself into a corner, and I’m not sure how he does it since he doesn’t have a writerly bone in his body, but he has a magical plot-solving skills. It’s crazy!

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  2. You ask “Who listens to you?
    When I was small and started writing (mostly poetry, but also some short stories), there was nobody to talk about it. None of my friends were into it at all. Until 12th grade, when I found a poetry club and started going to the meeting. It was really incredible! Finally I had a group of people who wanted to read poetry and give feedback. Although I was the youngest one in the group they were still ruthless in their feedback šŸ™‚ I learned a lot from them and it was a pity when I had to move for my Year of Service.
    Before the internet, options were a LOT more limited….

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