Quick Tips

Quick Tip: Magically Moving Characters

Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in Quick Tips | 0 comments

Quick Tip: Magically Moving Characters

Quick Tip: Magically Moving Characters   Have you ever noticed that sometimes characters just appear in scenes or move without action? Yeah? Me too. And it drives me crazy to be honest. Now you may wonder why that is a problem? Well, it’s because it disconnects the characters from the story. And it is in that moment that they become pawns instead of characters. Characters should not move about a scene as if the author has waved a magic wand over them. Instead, your characters should be introduced into a scene and be seen moving about that scene. When characters are moved about a scene in a way that isn’t under their own power, it creates a sense of disembodiment for the reader. This issue is generally born of setting-driven writing and not character-driven or action-driven writing. Setting-driven writing is stationary. Things don’t move around a lot, and in this type of writing, you will see a lot of words and time given to describing furniture, drapes, the environment, fashion, etc. And this is okay to a point, but it can lead to a scenario where an author begins to treat their characters in the same way. The cure is to focus on the movement in your scene instead of the setting: dialogue, body language, touch, sound, sight, action, etc. Basically I recommend that you treat your characters as if they are real, not Barbie Dolls. For example: Anthony was standing beside the long mahogany bar as the lights of the club shimmered and writhed around him. “Hey, baby, what’s up?” he asked the tall brunette who appeared at his side. Does this leave you asking questions? Who’s Anthony and how did he get there? Why is he at the bar? Who’s the woman and where did she come from? Of course it does! Sentences like this make it seem as if this Anthony character just dropped out of the sky and into this club. And in essence, that’s exactly what happened. When you notice this type of issue, try making your character an intrinsic and necessary part of the scene instead of a prop in the setting. For example: Anthony sauntered into the nightclub. He paused just inside the entryway with a smirk twisting his lips and closed his eyes. He let the pulsing beat of the song wash over him. He liked this music, the atmosphere, this period in time. His soul stirred within him. He’d missed this. The unwashed masses, the way the intoxication of the human dregs poisoned the air, the oblivion, the party. It felt like home. And he hungered for their sin. Suddenly, tingling erupted along the back of his neck before spreading across his skin like a brand until a blazing collar tightened its grip around his throat. He gritted his teeth, emitting a low growl. A gatekeeper, he thought. They’d found him earlier than he’d expected. “Go to the bar,” a distinctly female voice whispered in his mind. “We have much to discuss. Ground rules for your visit, among other things…” Anthony could almost hear the smug smile in the gatekeeper’s tone. Worthless church bureaucrats, every one of them. He nonchalantly cracked his neck before rolling his shoulders. The pain intensified and he hissed. “Keep your habit on,” he muttered before stalking toward the overcrowded bar. “I’m coming.” He nodded at the harried bartender and tapped the sticky surface in front of him. The pierced and tattooed girl slid a beer in his direction with barely an acknowledgement. He lifted it to his lips but paused as the wintry chill of the gatekeeper’s presence washed over him. “Now, now. We mustn’t be a bad boy just yet.” Her tone was cultured, British, if he had to guess. He knew he shouldn’t—the gatekeepers were Puritan-like control freaks with a hardcore holiness fetish and the power to enforce it—but he downed his drink in one go. It burned his throat and stomach like acid; it probably was. He slammed the bottle down on the bar and said in a rasping tone, “Wouldn’t dream...

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Quick Tips: Is It Much or Many?

Posted by on Aug 12, 2014 in Quick Tips | 0 comments

Quick Tips: Is It Much or Many?

Quick Tips: Is it Much or Many?   When it comes to qualifiers, much and many are quite the troublemakers. Along with their friends little and few, and less and fewer, much and many are two commonly confused adjectives I see when editing. The question is how do you know when to use much and when to use many? It depends on the noun the word is modifying. Mass nouns—or uncountable nouns—are nouns that are not able to be quantified without including a specific unit of measurement, i.e. counted. For example, water is a mass noun. You cannot count water. You can measure units of water in cups, gallons, liters, etc. But you cannot measure water in waters. Conversely, countable nouns are just that—nouns you can count. Leaves are countable. They fall from the tree—one leaf, two leaves, three leaves, etc. Soon you have a pile you have to rake. Piles are countable, too. And yes, some words can be both countable and uncountable, depending on the definition. Paper in its general sense is a mass noun, but if you consider the thing that lands on your doorstep every Sunday morning a paper, you receive four papers a month. Don’t even get me started on the papers I wrote in college. The English language is confusing. Let’s stick to the easy part for this tip. Back to qualifiers… in simple terms, many, few, and fewer quantify the countable nouns: There are too many bugs tonight. I have a few days off next week. She’s got fewer poker chips than you do. And much, little, and less quantify the uncountable nouns: There was so much love in the room. He received little financial aid in college. The less time I spend in this heat, the better! And that’s the quick rule. Like I said earlier, English is a confusing language, so maybe we’ll hold those nouns that are mass and countable for another time. What other qualifiers can you think of that work the same way? Leave me some ideas in the comments. Happy writing!...

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Quick Tips: That’s All Well and Good

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Quick Tips | 0 comments

Quick Tips: That’s All Well and Good

Quick Tips: That’s All Well and Good   Well and good are two words that seem to be used interchangeably with increasing frequency as of late. Either that, or I’m starting to succumb to the elementary school English spoken on the playground when I substitute at recess. So what better way to combat this than with an article to clearly define their proper use. There are a few rules associated with the use of well and good.   Rule #1 Well is an adverb. This means that it describes the verb, more specifically, how something is done. Example: Susan performed her part well. (“Well” describes how she performed.)   Rule #2 Good is an adjective. This means it describes a noun. Example: Martin did a good job. (“Good” describes job here.)   Rule #3 When referring to health, use well. Example: Mary-Ann didn’t feel well. Example: When Paul gets sick, he doesn’t look well.   Rule #4 When using a linking verb, such as feel, and not referring to health, use good. Example: The heat from the furnace feels good. Example: How are you today? I’m good. (For those who disagree on the use of good in this last example, please see Grammar Girl’s article “Good Versus Well” on this very subject.)    Rule #5 Good should not be used as an adverb after an action verb. Example: Greg performed good well.   Now keep in mind that there are idiomatic uses of well and good that are accepted in speech. An athlete might say, “Hey coach, Jackson did good on the field!”  or a construction worker might say, “Frank did real good on that weld job.” Whereas as classical pianist might say, “You performed well.” More on the use of real good. If good is used as a noun, the use of real good it is acceptable as standard English, for example: Mark has the potential to do real good as the pastor of this congregation. As an author, you can make use of these idioms as a way to create voice and add to your characterizations. Idiomatic use is fine in dialogue, but is not always a good choice in narrative. Much depends on the tone and voice of your work. Now… go write something! Sources: —Straus, Jane, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008, Pg. 11. —Fogarty, Mignon, “Good Versus Well.” Quick and Dirty Tips, March 21, 2013. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/good-versus-well (accessed 3 August 2014) —Garner, Bryan A., Garner’s Modern American Usage, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, Pg. 397....

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Quick Tips: Write It Out Longhand

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in Quick Tips | 0 comments

Quick Tips: Write It Out Longhand

Quick Tips: Write It Out Longhand   This week’s quick tips is very easy. Try writing out your story longhand. In fact it’s something that many writers have done before ever setting a word to type, but as an avenue it’s been lost in today’s technical age.  When I first started writing, I had journals and journals stacked in my closet. Back fifteen to twenty years ago, writers’ focus wasn’t putting their content online or seeing how social media reacted to your Tuesdays Teaser or cover reveal. It just wasn’t done. The content of their words carried your books. Today, it’s not exactly the same. In my mind, there was something lost when the writing world went electronic. My quick tip for you, is to go back to basics and write out your outline, plot points, or whole story longhand. Dissect it, rearrange it, write all over again. The view is very different when you’re looking at it in another light. This make help with a block as well. It’s something I have suggested to my authors when they are struggling. Maybe it’s something that could work for you, too. It never hurts to try. Happy Writing!...

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Quick Tips: Use Revelatory Action

Posted by on Jul 22, 2014 in Quick Tips | 0 comments

Quick Tips: Use Revelatory Action

We often talk about subtlety and how you should harness the power of implication in your writing, but we haven’t really talked about HOW to do that. As I’ve often stated, technically all writing is “telling”. It’s just that some types of writing are less telling than others. It’s about what you tell and what you don’t. As an author, you want to be direct, without being overly direct. That’s clear as mud, isn’t it? Think of it as a bit of literary sleight of hand. An author can direct their readers’ attention, and through that focusing of attention on revelatory action instead of telling narrative, you can allow your readers to make judgements about your characters motivations, emotions, and the direction of the plot. Revelatory action is action that reveals something important about a character, plot, or scene. In other words, if your character is an insensitive jerk, show him being that instead of telling the reader that is what he is. You want the character’s actions, emotions, expressions, etc. to say what you won’t. This is a time you want to let your character’s actions speak louder than your words. This creates a scenario where the readers become active participants in the story instead of passive bystanders. I’m a big fan of letting the chips fall where they may. This means you have to give up control because the way one reader may interpret what has been implied will not always be what you intended and it may not be in synch with what other readers see. And that’s the goal. Instead of having your writing and characters come off in a uniform manner, leave them open to interpretation. By doing so, you’ll have characters that transcend the box. Have the characters act and don’t explain why they are doing or feeling the way they do. After all, the readers should put some effort into connecting with the story. I have a process for “showing” that I will share here. I hope this helps you when it comes to adding a bit of revelatory action to your scenes. 1. Pick a group of words that express your character’s emotions, motivations, personality, etc. e.g. Tom is: desperate, defensive, emotionally raw, prickly. e.g. Janice is: secretive, reticent, deceptive, insincerely nice. 2. Write your scene as you usually would. 3. Highlight your usage of the words (or related words) you wrote to describe your characters in step one 4. Replace the highlighted words with action that implies that emotion without stating it directly. Once you get used to using revelatory action, you will do it automatically. You will approach every scene with the intent to show that which is important, but it takes a bit of practice. So let’s do that. Exercise: Write the scene involving Tom and Janice using the emotions and character traits that are outlined above. Don’t use the keywords in your scene but rather use revelatory action to express those traits indirectly. Share your results with us...

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Quick Tips: The Benefits Of An Open Mind

Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in Quick Tips | 0 comments

Quick Tips: The Benefits Of An Open Mind

The Benefits of an Open Mind   An open mind—the ability to see the world from limitless angles and viewpoints without passing judgment—is something that many strive toward. But how many of us can say we can say we’ve actually achieved it? I don’t think it’s a destination as much as it is a journey toward open-mindedness simply because I don’t think there’s a final result. As a writer, there are endless opportunities as well as benefits to an open mind. When researching your novel, take the time to learn something new, to explore , to try something different. As I mentioned in an earlier Quick Tip, surround yourself with diversity. Perhaps your protagonist was going to be a lawyer because that’s a career you’re comfortable writing about. But remember that article you read last month about the stay-at-home dad who built an empire from his garage? How much fun would researching and writing about a guy like that be? Sure, it would take some extra work, looking up business plans and starter loans, but think of what you could do with him. Once you begin to write your new leading man, remember that open mind. Step out of your comfort zone and make him a little different—not cookie-cutter. Give him hobbies that show his wide and varied interests, make him funny and fun to be around, maybe even a little goofy. Or make him super smart and nerdy. Exactly what you do is up to you, what’s important is the fact that you’re open to new ideas with your writing. When dealing with your editor or editing team, an open mind is essential. You’ve chosen this person or this team for a reason; open up and allow their ideas in. Now that you’ve decided that your would-be lawyer is instead a self-made man who invents the next best baby-care necessity, trust your instincts when your editor or team makes suggestions about him that aren’t exactly the way you’d imagined him. Maybe he shouldn’t be the hottest thing on two feet. Maybe he should have a flaw or seven. Maybe he’s got five cats. Who knows? Keep an open mind. And when it’s your turn to offer encouragement and critique to another author, keep the same concepts in mind. Offer your opinions as just that—opinions, and take for granted that others will not always agree with you. That’s the beauty of opinions. We all have our very own. Try to see the story from a new perspective that perhaps the author didn’t see. She will appreciate your efforts even if she doesn’t agree with your ideas. Suggest what if scenarios and offer wild and crazy endings. Focus on always being helpful and making the story the very best it can be. It’s all about the journey. Keep those minds open and happy writing!...

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