I learned a lot about trust from a book called The Speed of Trust, written by Stephen M. R. Covey, the son of the “7 habits” author.
It cleared up some misconceptions and filled some gaps in my understanding of trust. For instance, why can we trust someone to repay a loan, but we wouldn’t ask them to work for us? Why can we take them at their word, trusting their honesty implicitly, but not ask them to watch the dog when we’re on vacation?
Answering those questions taught me about the people in my life (including myself) but it changed how I present the people in my books as well. First, some details about the psychology of trust, and then, how this informs your writing.
Trust is a Tree
Covey compares trust to a tree with four elements matching the roots, trunk, branches and leaves.
I’ve finished 3 mysteries, with a solid first draft of a fourth and half a draft of another. The first, Through the Fog, was a solo project, a lark, a few years ago. This year, I got more serious with A Long, Hard Look and dug a little deeper for Into the Fog, the second of my foggy Irish mysteries.
The first editing note Tom Bentley sent regarding Into the Fog mentioned that its protagonist sounded a lot like the chap in A Long, Hard Look.
All I could think was, wait ’til he reads anodyne.
All three protagonists (wait; there’s a fourth, a woman) speak with my voice. There are subtle differences, but I’ve made the mistake of allowing my writer’s voice to overwhelm these characters’ individuality.
They’re all too much me. I guess I have so many faces I want to use them all. But that’s confusing for readers.
O woe is me. How to fix?
Tom’s first suggestion sounded familiar. That’s because I’ve been recommending it to my business coaching clients since before I wrote The Commonsense Entrepreneur in 2008.
This is why we hire others: so they can help us see, over here, what we’ve been doing for 6 long years over here.
Most folks dislike being interrupted. Finding your place in that column of figures you were adding. Wondering whether you were just about to add the salt, or just added the salt. Might as well start the joke over from the beginning because you aren’t sure where you left off.
With a non-fiction book, momentum is a good idea. With fiction, it’s vital. One reason to write every day, even a few sentences, is to keep the story rolling in your mind. The thread of story, the creative process, is tenuous at times. We’ve all experienced the brilliant thought we were sure we’d remember but which evaporated, leaving only a stain.
#2 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
The first part of your novel is the Setup. It has 5 missions. The first is setting a killer hook, giving the reader something so compelling they don’t even consider not reading your book.
The Setup makes up the first 25% of your novel. It takes that long to meet the 5 missions. Shortchange your readers in the Setup and you’ll struggle to create empathy for your characters. Without that emotional connection the stakes fall flat.