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Friday, December 27, 2013

On Writing Cool Equipment for Your Character

Batman's Utility Belt
Tips in writing equipment for your character
by Christopher D. Votey

The first rule of writing is to write.  I often have the image of Dora in Finding Nemo singing just keep swimming and replace it with just keep writing.

"Just Keep Writing"
"Just Keep Writing"
"Just Keep Writing...Writing...Writing"

But anyone who follows this advice knows that it is never that simple, as creativity gets in the way.  While it takes creativity to start writing, sometimes we spend more time thinking about a subject in our book and it takes away from writing.

One such example is Equipment.  Your character may be a bounty hunter, a secret agent, or Red Riding Hood on her adventure to visit Grandma.  They are going on a mission and need a few supplies.  Now, you want to anticipate all the equipment they need, and you want to choose equipment they would logically take with them each and every time.

Now, there are two pitfalls here.  The first pitfall is to have Batman's Utility belt.  This refers to the Adam West's Batman that no matter the situation, there was always something in his utility belt to rescue him from the villain (Such as shark repellant spray).  You don't want to use this method of writing, because your story may sound cheesy and embellished.  Your character just happened to bring the specialized screwdriver to unlock the government installed nuclear silo, when your mission started off as delivering cookies to your sick Grandma.  This is a lack of imagination and in my opinion, lazy writing.

So to avoid that pitfall, you need to write what they take with them.  Now if you are like me, you never know 100% what will happen in the story, because even if you do plan it out, it is subject to change.  And you yourself are not a secret agent or a little girl with a basket...so what do you take with you?

This is the second pitfall.  You will spend a bit of time trying to decide what you should take with you.  You try to think of all the possible situations and what kind of equipment you need.  The problem here is, you are spending more time thinking of a small detail now which could later be an important plot point.  Trying to anticipate the needs of your story, takes away from writing.

So I said just making things up in the story as you go is bad, but also trying to anticipate what you need is bad.  So how do you resolve this problem?  What you need to do is both.  In your first draft, the most important thing is to "Keep Writing" (don't make me sing the song for you again).  So, when your character first grabs the equipment, you do the Batman Utility Belt, and in the first draft, equipment pops up as you need it.  When you come back and edited it, take note of all the equipment they needed throughout the story and then decide what is it they would have taken with them by default, what they took with them with the information they knew at the time.  Once you establish that, see if there are ways to rewrite the scenes to make sense your character to have those items.

For example, it could make sense that Red has an axe, in case she needs to chop a few branches to make firewood which would be a good weapon against the wolf.  But in the story, she throws the axe and misses the wolf and uses a gun to shoot the wolf.  But it was decided in the story she doesn't hunt, and thus she wouldn't be carrying a gun with her.  So where did the gun come from if she wasn't carrying it with her?  So we rewrite the scene to Granny keeping a gun in her home.

The problem I see in a lot of writers, they think in a linear way.  While their story may be presented in a linear format, they themselves don't have to write their story this way and can go back and touch things up and use the end of the story to write the beginning of the story.  Often times writers write something out in the beginning and have a different ending that doesn't match the beginning and decide they much change the ending...but sometimes going back and changing the beginning is the key to having an amazing story.

You are never done writing your story, so don't be afraid to go back and make revisions to tie up loose ends.  Write the obstacles in the story first, then go back and write the scene where the character chose the various items they need on their adventure.  They decided to take a combat knife versus a pocket knife, or flash grenade versus a smoke grenade.  Perhaps they needed a USB drive with a computer virus on it, in case they came to a computer they needed to hack, and later turns out the IRS database had the Wolf's home address.  Or they found something along the way they need but didn't know they needed it until they found it.

(Do not hack the IRS database for the Wolf's home address, there are easier ways to find it).


Remember this rule: 1st Draft: Write; 2nd Draft: Edit.

About the Author:

Author Blurb:
Chis, like many writers, has wanted to be a writer since a very young age.  In 2012 he realized his dream and published his first book on Amazon with plans to do more, but in the same year suffered a debilitating injury and later diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome.  His life changed drastically and all things he use to do has become much harder for him to do.  In 2013 he managed to do NaNoWriMo and won.  He has since decided, despite his disability, to pursue a writing career.
http://writing.chrisvotey.com

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for being here Chris to share your insight on character equipment! Makes me think of the McGuyver thing also, where you give a character a used piece of gum and some dental floss and they can make a bomb. LOL

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    1. *throws the dental floss container at the henchman's head and run away*

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