Tip# 7 Most Likely to Succeed
Many writers seem to have a rough time in high school – how else can you explain the frustrated teenager protagonists of novels like A Separate Peace or The Catcher in the Rye? The good news is, the most exhilarating – and embarrassing – moments of adolescence can be channeled into great fiction, and you can summon the memories just by opening your Senior Class yearbook.
Imagine what happened to “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Most Popular.” Write about the class clown who defied everyone’s expectations and became a celebrity. Tell us which of your former teachers initiated an affair with one of his or her students. Show us the secret life of the Cafeteria Lunch Lady. Relive the glacial passage of time in a high school detention session, or the petty jealousies involved I the planning of the school musical.
Use as many of your high school memories as you wish, but feel free to embellish or alter “the truth” as you go along. Personal revenge fantasies that involve “Most Popular” are permitted.
By Jason Rekulak
Can you recall a high school incident that you can twist into a storyline in your current WIP? Tell us about it – fully embellished – and please no real names of characters.
Tell the story of a job interview that goes badly.
The more your character wants the job, the better the story will be. ………. Jason Rekulak
Oh boy. I can tell of an interview gone bad.
I had worked in a different state selling real estate for over ten years, but after a move to a new state, and knowing that it takes years to build a client base in real estate in a new town, it was time for a change. I didn’t have two years to build my client base. So I decided I needed a salaried job that would offer me some stability. The only thing I could find related to real estate – sort of – it was renting commercial space in the buildings this company owned. I figured “sales is sales,” so how hard would selling rental space be? But when the interview turned to experience and the talk turned to net leases and triple net, I was lost. But desperate as I was, I plundered ahead, nodding my head and digging myself deeper by the minute. I am not a liar, but I found myself twisting the truth to get the job. It was obvious that I was not being believed. I am the worst liar, and even more so when I am nervous or desperate. I left that interview defeated and lost. What was I to do? But miracles of miracles, I got a call back. He was going to hire me. He implied he knew how inexperienced I was in commercial leasing (that was an understatement) but he admired my tenacity and determination and thought I could use that same aggressiveness to find tenants throughout the city for his spaces. I got the job. (Note: I did very well at it but hated commercial leasing – I went back to residential sales.)
Now it’s your turn. What interview did you botch? Did you still get the job?
To outline or not to outline by Jason Rekulak
Outliners are most common among thriller and mystery writers, for obvious reasons. Jeffery Deaver (The Bone Collector) claims that the surprising plot twists of his suspense novels wouldn’t be possible unless he plotted out all of the details in advance; he usually spends eight months researching and writing the outline, and four months writing the manuscript itself.
But non-genre writers use outlines too. John Barth wrote: “I don’t see how anybody starts a novel without knowing how its going to end. I usually make detailed outlines; how many chapters it will be and so forth.”
On the other side of the fence are writers who prefer a more organic approach to their craft; Aldous Huxley wrote, “I know very dimply when I start what’s going to happen. I just have a very general idea, and then the thing develops as I write.”
If you are suffering from writer’s block, try changing your approach. Make a detailed outline of the story – or plunge headfirst into the opening paragraph without any idea where you are going. Either way, the change in routine may be surprisingly effective.
Readers, are you a planner (outliner) or a pantser (fly by the seat)? Personally, I am a basic outliner, but I allow my characters to lead the story, which sometimes takes it into unplanned territory. One funny experience I had while deep in the writing of my 2nd novel, Town Without Mercy, the dialogue between the two protagonists seem to write itself. When I was done, I laughed out loud, saying “That is not what I had in my outline at all.” But the story was better for it.
What have your experiences been in stepping out of your routine? Surprising outcomes?
Here is Jason’s tip #2
“Describe your first brush with danger.” Jason Rekulak
Thank you Jason.
Readers, what about you? My first brush with danger was when I set the latrine on fire at Girl Scout Camp when I had the kerosene lantern turned up too high. Interesting that Jason’s picture and my “brush with danger” both included fire.