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Weekly Quote #15

“Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.” (Pixar’s 22 rules of writing, source)

This quote is perfect for my little blog, because – besides being very true – it’s also one of the best pieces of advice anyone has ever given me. I got this tip years ago when I was still writing my first failure of a book (maybe this doesn’t need saying butΒ I didn’t implement it then) and it has stayed with me ever since. This isn’t the exact same quote I received, but it’s similar enough and says the same.

When you read, you want to be surprised. You love plot twists. So, when you’re the one doing the writing, you want to be able to surprise your readers in return. I know it can be tricky to do, but you shouldn’t write the obvious. Plot twists readers can see coming from page one aren’t plot twists, and make your book predictable and in the worst cases even boring. So, how do you avoid doing just that? You ignore the first three, four, five things you can think of, and then you go with the next one. The advice I was given even asked me to discount the first ten things that popped into my head. If it comes to your mind right away chances are your reader can smell it coming, too.

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4 Comments

  1. I love this quote. It is so true- the first choice is usually the most obvious. It’s great to come up with something that is as much a surprise to us as it is the reader. πŸ™‚

    • It’s easily the best bit of advice I’ve ever been given on writing. It works best when I don’t know what’s going to happen, either, and my characters end up surprising me!

  2. That’s some great advice. I don’t see the first thing that jumps into my head as the final thing, but as a foundation to lay. I take that first thing and shape it with the second, third, fourth (and so on) ideas, and eventually it can become something completely different or something similar but with a much better feel to it. The more revisions you go through, the more ideas and the more different ideas you tend to get. When you read through your manuscript multiple times, or just think about specific scenes, you start asking those “What if…” questions.

    What if this character did this instead of that?

    What if the motivation of that character isn’t what it appears on the surface? (A question like this can end up modifying a character, maybe enriching them further.)

    • That’s also a good way to think about it – not as a final thing but merely as the foundation. As you go through edits things are bound to change and it’s important to remember that just because it’s the first thing you thought of in your draft you don’t need to keep it in the final, published version.

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