I used to read a lot of Filipino novels when I was young. There was this writer whom I liked very much for his detailed description of places his characters went to. Whenever I read his novels, it seemed like I was traveling with his heroes and heroines, too. His settings were not extraordinary special but he made it sound like they were. Because of him, I dreamt of exploring the Philippines. I haven’t yet done that, but in the near future I will take time and be a tourist in my native land. Afterall, it’s more fun in the Philippines!
You may have asked yourself a number of times: Can I use real places in my story? Is it legal? Well, there are a lot of novels out there that use real places and the authors were never sued. Some of them who were bold enough even pictured out those places in a bad light, e.g. Dan Brown’s Inferno where he called Manila as ‘the gates of hell’. Though many Filipinos reacted strongly to it, the book still became a bestseller and Dan Brown got away with it. But I guess that’s because he’s Dan Brown. But to be safe be careful with how you use real places in your story. For starters, you may want to stay away from describing it in a negative way. You may try to be critical if you’ve already created a name for yourself. But for now, be positive!
Some writers, like those who created Descendants of the Sun, a mega-hit TV drama from South Korea, used a fictional name where they set most of the scenes in the drama. It was also effective because the events in the story have similarities to real events. So viewers were able to identify with it.
Whether you use a real or fictional place for your setting is not the biggest issue in writing a story, but how you make everything – from plot to dialogues – authentic.
Whenever I see a body of water, I remember my father. He was a seafarer and he was always on a voyage. He died of cancer when I was 12. Though it was a long time ago, I can still remember with clarity the dream I had on the first night of his death. We were both standing on a nameless port. Behind him was an enormous ship where he was to embark on his voyage to nowhere. Although I didn’t know in my dream that he was already dead in real life, I felt the finality in the hug when we said our goodbyes. As I was looking at him walking towards the ship, I was engulfed with inexplicable sadness. When he disappeared from my sight, I knew he would be gone forever.
One of the perks of living in Japan is witnessing sakura blooms in Spring. I’m always in awe of its beauty. Part of its magic is its timing. It comes after a long period of cold weather. It somehow tells me to never give up when life’s adversities come knocking me down because at the end of the road there’s something magical waiting – like a sakura in full bloom!
When I was a lot younger, I was never picky about companions. I adjusted my personality based on who I was with. I was just too eager to please everybody back then. Later, I realized that no matter how much you try to please others, you can’t just make everybody happy. There will always be people who, inspite of what you did for them, would still find fault in you or who would talk behind your back. Now, though I still try to be civil to people I don’t like (the rude ones and of course, the narcissistic), I feel less and less compelled to please anyone just to have companions. Being with others you don’t really like for the sake of having people around you proved to be stressful. I have also discovered that being alone does not always mean being lonely, or that having companions does not always guaranty happiness. So don’t be afraid to be true to yourself, folks!
Some people say writers are born not made. I beg to disagree. For me, if you have a passion for writing you can be a writer, too. Having said that, I don’t deny the fact that talent can make a difference. What I’m just trying to point out is if you are really into writing, you can also become a writer. All you need is self-discipline and a commitment to write and write until you have improved your craft.
Thanks to the Internet, it is a lot easier to write now than decades ago. If you have no idea on what to write about, all you need to do is browse through what other writers are writing and learn from their works. Yes, reading is one of the secret ingredients of good writing. If somebody has told you that you do not need to read to become a good writer Do Not Believe them. Reading broadens your mind. It gives you ideas on what to write about. It can be a source of inspiration. Good writers are good readers, too.
For starters, try to write about things very close to your heart. What are the things you feel so passionate about? What emotions does it arouse in you when you think about that thing? What do you want your readers to feel when they read about it? If you are the type of person who finds it hard to connect your ideas, begin with phrases about the topic you have chosen. Do not try to censor your thoughts – that can wait for later. Just write whatever pops up in your head. You can just organize them later. When you are done you can start grouping the words or phrases you have written and create your sentences. You can wait until you have put all your ideas into sentences before you arrange them to form coherent paragraphs. Then, revise your work. You may want a friend or a family member to look at what you have written and see whether you are able to get your message across. Listen to the comments carefully. If they are too critical, do not get mad. Pay attention to those feedbacks that can help you improve your writing and discard those that only dampens your spirit.
As cliche as it may sound, practice makes everything perfect. So do not stop writing. Practice! It is the only pathway to realizing your dream of becoming a writer.
If you’re thinking about making a career out of writing, I recommend you write about romance. Why romance? The reason is simple. There’s money in it. If you’ve noticed, most novels being published talk about romance. There’s a huge number of publishers that concentrate more on romance than any other genre because it sells.
Now, enough of the money stuff. You may ask, what is in store for me in writing romance aside from the fact that it has the most likelihood of being sold? Like most writers, you probably also dream of making it big – of getting to a point when you’ll be a household name. While you can get it in any other genre if you’re good and luck is on your side, it’s easier to achieve it in writing romantic novels. Now, before you react, allow me to explain my reasons. Many readers out there are women. Though men also read, given that most societies still expect them to be the sole provider of the family, many of them don’t have the time to read long novels anymore. However, with women it’s a different story. We have a lot of full-time housewives who have the time in the world to read. And what do they usually pick up at book stores? Yes, romantic novels. I’m not saying that the market for romance novels are only housewives because there are also career women out there whose stress reliever is reading romantic novels. What I’m trying to point out here is there’s already a sure market for this kind of reading material. Therefore, you only need to know what ticks women – what kind of love story appeals to them.
You might be saying, I don’t like to write about romance because literary enthusiasts usually scorned it and I don’t want to be known as that writer who writes trash. Yes, you may have a point here – indeed many people think that the romance genre is for people who are shallow and not intelligent. I remember back in college, I had a professor who looked down at people who read romance. Though she recommends reading, she said, if we’re only going to read romantic novels then we better not read at all. But this is also the reason why you need to write about romance – for people who scorned it! The major reason why a lot of the so-called intelligent readers are looking down at romance is because of the unrealistic plot. I can actually identify the common theme in many of these stories. A handsome, rich man meets a poor, simple, and plain woman and they fall in love big time. Or, there’s a bad guy – a gangster who’s also filthy rich and good-looking at the same time who falls in love with a good girl who looks plain and knows nothing about his world. In short, many of the plots tell readers that only a handsome, rich man is worth to be the story’s hero or only bad-boy-good-girl story is worth writing. Here’s what you can do. You can help change this notion. You can focus on the important message you want to impart to your readers, especially the young women. Though I also use this theme (rich boy, poor girl), I make it a point to have a specific message which I want to tell my readers. In my most popular story on Wattpad, Perfect Stranger, I gave it a little twist. I created two characters, the heroine’s twin sons, to provide humor and emotion and at the same time to tell my single-mother readers that there’s hope in life. In addition, the story does not emphasize how rich the guy is, although he is in the story. In my other novel, The Jilted Bride, which also amassed more than a million reads, my hero and heroine are just ordinary individuals – not rich nor extraordinarily different from your normal person. My main point in this novel is to tell readers that having forgiveness as a main theme is as exciting as vengeance (which is one of the most common themes in novels, not just in romance). Based on readers feedback, I could say that I was able to impart to readers what I want to tell them in these stories.
And lastly, though it’s good listening to others, be more sensitive to what you truly feel. Afterall, it’s what you desire that is most important. Because writing is all about satisfaction.A good writer is a satisfied writer.