Normally I take the time to talk about how you can integrate the good parts of a novel into your work right about now. Even though I didn’t like Genuine Fraud, there are still elements that you might want to emulate (and that’s perfectly ok). Learning to write well is a process. One that takes time. So study up.
To write a story in an order different than chronologically is perfectly ok. It can be an interesting narrative device. Maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to try. But, if you’re going to do it, there are a few things you should consider doing first.
- Know what happens chronologically
- Have a reason for messing up the timeline that readers can relate to or are interested in
- Be able to describe (in a way that makes sense) why you’re writing non-linearly
Of course, you don’t have to listen to me. You can jump right into a story told whichever way you’d like and I’d be none-the-wiser. The fact of the matter is, though, that you need to know the fundamentals before you move on to more complicated techniques if you want to pull them off well. So, writing your story chronologically (and that doesn’t mean that you have to write start to finish if you want to write certain scenes first) might be a good place to start so that you can figure out what you want to say.
I’m not opposed to unlikeable narrators. I find them interesting. They add an element of suspense. Should you trust them? What aren’t they telling us? What don’t they see themselves? It’s fascinating to pick apart. In this case, the lack of empathy ruined the intrigue of Jule.
Every character should be empathetic. They don’t have to be sympathetic. We don’t have to like them, but we should be able to relate to them on some level. If they want a glass of water, that glass of water is a placeholder for whatever it is we want in our own lives. Unless that glass of water is to steal someone’s life and money, murder them and end up framing them for killing you. That’s not something I could empathize with.
For your writing, don’t forget to give your readers a reason to feel for your character. As readers, we should want the character to get their desires. Even if the suspense and mystery are lacking, we should (at least) root for the character and want to be there to see them succeed (or fail).
Try picking apart what makes your character unique. Look at them psychologically. Look at them morally. What are their wants? Their needs? How are they different than you? Use this information to create a character that lives off the page. One your readers can empathize with.
Still having trouble?
Make a list of all your favorite characters. Notice the patterns. What do they all have in common? What makes them different? Why do you like them? Write this out as an exercise. Take your favorite traits and build them into a character of your creation. Just make sure you understand why they are the way they are.