“Develop your characters and the conflict before starting an outline”

Develop your characters and the conflict before starting an outline. You need a character who people love and identify with, who must undergo a major transformation. Develop an outline before you start writing. You don’t have to follow it exactly but it will save a lot of time.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Arthur Swan.

Arthur Swan was raised in North Carolina and now resides in Los Angeles. He has contributed to films ranging from ‘A Beautiful Mind’ to ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. His first novel, Before the Sun Hits, won the Reader Views Reader’s Choice Award.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

What brought me here is that I can’t stop writing. Ever since a very young age, no matter what else I’ve had going, I’m always writing something on the side. Most days, I look forward to writing more than anything else.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Wait? Are you asking me to spill out my best idea, which maybe I haven’t even written about, yet, right here in this interview? Whatever story I’m working on at the time seems like the most interesting. Right now, I’m toying around with a love triangle between an investigative reporter looking to expose a pharmaceutical company owned by a dynasty whose heir is her best friend and also her rival who married the man she loves.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

Finding time to write. Although it seems hard, sometimes, it’s really just a matter of priorities.

I get up early, and write first thing, before anything else. Eventually, I realized how much time I was spending on unnecessary things. For example, because I worked in the movie industry, I felt compelled to watch every film that came out. Despite that most of them just blurred together over time. When I do make time to watch a movie now, a lot of times it seems like I’ve seen it before.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Uh, yeah, I’m almost at the point where I can laugh at my perfectionist tendencies. Sometimes it’s paralyzing when I’m starting a new project and comparing it to the best novels ever written. Over time, I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as a good first draft. It only becomes good by revising again and again. Until finally, maybe after the fiftieth or the hundredth edit, it becomes great. You never know unless you try.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

The most exciting project I have in the works is the sequel to The Encanto, Wayob’s Revenge. It comes out next year. You don’t want to miss out on Wayob’s Revenge. You should go ahead put it on your must-read list, now.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

The Encanto has four main characters, each with their own interesting story. For example, LA cop Saul thinks that his partner Hernandez will never love him because he’s overweight, yet she doesn’t seem to be turned off by it. In fact, besides maybe the antagonist, none of the other characters disrespect him because of his size. So, is the problem internal? What will he do about it?

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

I want them to reflect on the choices they’re making. If their life is really headed in the direction they want.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

  • Read. You can’t write without reading. It’s the best way to learn.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure. Embrace it. It’s the only way to get better.
  • Just write something. You can worry about if it’s good or not later. Later, you’ll see how to improve it.
  • Develop your characters and the conflict before starting an outline. You need a character who people love and identify with, who must undergo a major transformation.
  • Develop an outline before you start writing. You don’t have to follow it exactly but it will save a lot of time.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

First, I’d say perseverance. I have a hard time giving up on things. Even when I know something’s not working, I feel compelled to fix it. Sometimes it makes life more difficult but I’ve learned a lot.

Secondly, when I’m not enjoying a story, I try to understand why before moving on. For example, a couple of decades ago I saw a movie which was basically a bunch of little episodes of different couples and groups of friends all on their way to the same New Year’s party. Despite all the great acting and punchlines, the result was kind of boring. It wasn’t memorable. I’ve seen a few interesting attempts to make a movie from a series of character vignettes, but I’ve never seen it quite work. A movie just isn’t long enough to get to know that many characters, to really care about them and put them all together into a conflict that matters. With a novel, there’s time to dive into and really explore more characters. Maybe not a dozen, but certainly three or four.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I draw inspiration from “page-turners,” from almost any genre, highly entertaining novels, often with a question raised on every page that the reader feels compelled to learn the answer to before moving on.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Great question! To borrow from Ben Franklin, you can catch more flies with honey. If I could start a movement, it would be one of kindness, toward ourselves and to others, and not just with our actions but in the way we think, and the way we speak. Try to have more empathy. We all have more influence than we imagine. Most people I’ve encountered are generally kind to the people they know; it’s the people they don’t know that they fear. But there’s no need to fear others. Most people aren’t intentionally bad. Often the problem is that what ‘they’ want seems to be in conflict with what ‘we’ want. But does it have to be that way? Is there a solution we could work together on and all get closer to our goals? Helping others increases our own feeling of happiness.

Look at our amazing civilization. Think about how much teamwork was required to get here. Imagine what we could accomplish if all the countries worked together as one.

How can our readers follow you on social media?


Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

http://swanfall.com Definitely, sign up for my email list.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

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