Friday, March 4, 2011

100 Words About: Formulas vs Passion

I know and have known people (usually guys, but I imagine it happens to both sexes) where they assume that if they follow X steps they will always get what they want. In particular I see this in dating. "If I pay attention and listen to her and go to the places she likes and do the things she likes to do and buy her flowers and presents, then she has to date me."

Sorry folks, it doesn't work that way.

There is a nebulous quality called "spark" that must be present, or you are screwed. This is true in dating and in writing, where it is also sometimes called passion. It's hard to define, but absolutely vital.

I knew a guy my freshman year of college that I liked to talk to, and who wanted desperately to date me. He did all the things that people think you have to do: took me to dinner (our one date), called me, bought me flowers and a teddy bear for Valentine's Day (even though we weren't dating - this was trying too hard). But as much as I liked him, and I sincerely hoped he found a nice girl to settle down with, I didn't want to be that girl.

You can follow all the right steps for plotting, use all the techniques for building sympathy with your characters, and all the tricks out there for pacing, but if your novel lacks passion then few people, if any, will love it. They might like it ok, might think it wasn't a waste of time to hang out with it, but they probably aren't going to read it again and certainly won't run to their friends and gush about it.

You can't control how other people react to your writing, but you can have a big impact on how you feel about it.

Just as people in arranged marriages often fall in love later, you must find something about your story to get passionate about. Find a concept or theme you are interested in and want to explore, and work that into the story until you're excited about it, you can't stop thinking about it, you wish you could spend every waking moment with it. Puppy love doesn't last, but your readers will be able to tell, and they'll be much more likely to want to have a lasting relationship with your work.

Image: dan /

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