Knowing Your Writer’s Bane

By Megan Burkhart, a professional writing major at Taylor University

Every writer has his or her strengths and weaknesses (or banes if you’re feeling truly medieval). If you don’t know yours, the quickest way to find out is to have critique partners read your manuscript. This can seem daunting, much like getting up on a stage for the first time or giving your first speech in high school.

I remember clearly the first time I handed my manuscript over to my critique group. We played rock-paper-scissors to determine who would go first, and I won. Dread washed over me as doubts plagued my mind.

What if it’s not good enough? What if they hate it?

My heart pounded as the group silently read my first chapter. The comments began flooding my google doc, and I found myself feeling relieved. Their comments were helpful and exactly what I knew I needed to make my story better. They liked my characters and wanted to keep reading. There were some holes and confusing sections, of course. However, if it wasn’t for those friends, I wouldn’t have learned what my strengths and weaknesses in writing are. I found that characters are my strong point, and world-building is an area I need to grow in.

Not sure where your abilities stand? Here are some different kinds of writers you may resonate with or find you want to be.

1. The World-Building Wizard

This writer is excellent at creating a world out of nothing. The World-Builder focuses on the setting of the story and making it believable. No detail is lost on the World-Builder. His unique world will have cultures, customs, traditions, in-depth history, and most likely a map that will go inside the book. If you want to be more like him, take some time to research and plan out the nitty gritty details of your story world. Not all the information needs to go in your story, but it will enhance your writing when you have a deeper knowledge of the place you’ve created.

2. The Character Counselor

This writer has a special bond with his creations. He knows his characters inside and out. The Character Counselor is the reason you cry when a fictional character dies. He knows how to make the character step from the page into your life. There is nothing he doesn’t know about his characters. He knows everything from their birthday and their first crush to their deepest fears and strongest desires. If you want to be like him, spend some time with your characters one-on-one. Sit with pen and paper and ask them questions, both goofy and serious. The more you know your characters, the more well-rounded and life-like they will be to your readers.

3. The Dialogue Demigod

This third kind of writer has a way with words. He knows how to make every word count and feel true to reality. The Dialogue Demigod creates those perfect one-liners, and the sentences that tug at your heartstrings. If you want to take a tip from him, listen to people. But also listen to what people don’t say. The greatest dialogue is often layered with subtext, which reveals more about a person or character than anything he/she could say out loud.

4. The Plotting Prince (or Princess)

The last type of writer, but certainly not the least, creates incredible plots. One definition of plot is that all plot is conflict, so you could say that The Plotting Prince is a master of conflict. He is the kind of writer that keeps you turning the page with his endless twists and turns. He knows exactly where he is taking you, and his sequence of events feels like a stroke of genius. Some stories are sold for their amazing cast of characters, and others are sold for their blockbuster-worthy plots. If you aspire to be like The Plotting Prince, take time to plan and organize your story. This isn’t every writer’s style, but there is a benefit to having some element of structure before diving right in. This is an art, after all, and every artist has to have a vision before putting the masterpiece to canvas.

You may feel you are all of these writers, none of these writers, or somewhere in between. That’s okay. We all have our own unique balance of strengths and weaknesses. The important thing to remember is to keep improving your craft. Being stagnant will not put you on the road to success. Writing and then re-writing will.

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