Archive for April, 2016

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

April 28, 2016

That was a wonderful way for PBS icon, Fred Rogers to begin his program, but it isn’t going to work in your novel.  Your setting is an important way to involve your reader in the story.  The caveat is that you must add more.  Use specific observations.  Is the grass the yellow-green of spring or the fading tan of autumn?  The key here is to give your reader some clues they are familiar with to draw them into the story.  Seeing the setting is the most common way of involving your reader.  What about hearing the call of the geese as they fly south or the smell of burning leaves?  There are many ways of involving your reader in the story.  Setting is a perfect vehicle.  Remember however there are some key no-no’s in using setting.

  1. Long paragraphs of description are not what is needed in setting the story’s landscape.
  2. Use all five senses in developing your setting.
  3. Keep your setting to no more than two sentences, and then add more later.
  4. Your setting shouldn’t be so exotic that it overwhelms your story.
  5. Use one characteristic in describing your characters which enhances the story then move on.
  6. Give your reader a feel for the place and time, but keep it brief.

Setting adds flavor, believability, and reality to your story.

Don’t forget smells.  Chocolate chip cookies are said to sell houses.  Those descriptions of smells could sell your novel,

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SHOWING VS. TELLING

April 21, 2016

“Show don’t Tell.”  I know you’ve heard it many times, perhaps even a hundred times. You may think you are showing your story rather than telling it when really the opposite is true.  If this is the case then read this blog through a couple of times.  Showing vs. telling is all about viewpoint.  If everyone who reads your material is telling you you’re telling, you need to be aware of your story’s viewpoint.

So let’s go through this viewpoint thing again.  There are three choices for viewpoint—okay there are four but I don’t like the last one at all.

  1. The “I” viewpoint is your first choice. This viewpoint is very limiting.  It works for some stories and is your primary choice if you are writing a mystery book.  In this viewpoint if the main character didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. You can’t tell us what is happening outside, in the next room, or down the block unless the main character sees, hears or experiences it.  Lapsing into a narrative paragraph isn’t a good idea, because then you are telling the story and you can’t do that.
  2. The “you” viewpoint is your second choice, but it would be my last choice. I know a writer who wrote several novels in the “you” viewpoint.  He was successful with it, but it makes writing difficult.
  3. The third choice is the “he, she, it” viewpoint. Then you can get into your main character’s head and experience what he is doing, hearing, smelling, and seeing. Using this viewpoint works well for most writers and assists the writer in developing the story with the least amount of problems.
  4. The last viewpoint choice is the omniscient viewpoint. In other words, God is looking down and relating the story.  Frankly I think God is a little busy to write novels, so I don’t recommend it at all.

Now that you have your viewpoint and the main character nailed down, I suggest you consider the possible ways your character can experience the happenings in the novel.  Using seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling give you the opportunity to open the vistas in your novel and show the story.

NOTE:  Studies show that he and she are read as “I” so don’t worry about using these pronouns to develop your work.

SAY SOMETHING!

April 15, 2016

Your characters are on the stage, in this case your “novel” stage.  Now the characters need to say something.

Here are a few pointers for writing dialogue:

  1. Every piece of the dialogue should move the story forward. No idle chit-chat here.  When your character says something it needs to give information the reader needs to know.
  2. Studies have shown that readers don’t read “said”. So put the thesaurus away.  You don’t need to find a dozen words which mean “said.”
  3. If two characters are talking, the reader will understand that alternating lines belong to alternating speakers if said is used at the beginning, i.e. “Jane said, “I need to find my locket. I think the thief took it.””

”I thought I say it on the bedroom dresser.” John said.

Jane—

John—

And so forth.

This technique shouldn’t go on for more than a half-page without re-identifying the speakers.

  1. Tag lines with identifying information using she or he, can also give the reader enough clues to know which speaker is talking.
  2. If you are using dialect, use it sparingly. The constant dropping of “g”s or other dialect giveaways are frustrating to the reader.
  3. Test your dialogue by reading it aloud.
  4. Dialogue moves the story forward at a faster pace than narrative, so use it to keep the pacing up.
  5. Thinking should NOT be indicated by quotation marks. Italics are sometimes used or more recently just the statement of “he thought” will give the reader enough clues for thinking.

 

Many writers do an excellent job of writing dialogue.  I recommend Manuel Ramos and many of John Steinbeck’s works.

MEETING YOUR CHARACTERS

April 7, 2016

 

You’ve decided what type of story you are writing and perhaps you’ve finished deciding about your plot; now is the time to think about your characters.  A strong character will drive your entire story.  I don’t mean physically strong, I mean ones with a personality to take the story to the last.

Good characters give a story meaning and depth.  They don’t need to be super heroes, but they need to lead the action, give the work life, and entice the reader to keep reading. I have some great character development sheets I’ll be happy to email you if you are interested in using them.  I won’t include them here as they tend to reformat themselves in different programs.  Just email me at authorsandy@hotmail.com

You need to know everything about your characters.  You may not put all that information in your novel or short story, but knowing your character will keep you aware of how the character will react in each situation. The person who eats granola will react differently than the person who eats Froot Loops®.

Avoid stereotypes.  You can have loads of fun making the dumb blonde graduate Phi Beta Kappa.  Take a look at the movie Legally Blonde. 

Avoid archetypes.  This “type casting” of male or female characters takes away from drawing real characters with real problems.  The key to a character who will keep a reader interested is to give them flaws to make them more believable.

Yes, I’m sure you know some interesting people who would bring the pages of your manuscript to life, but be careful if you are using someone you know well.  Your friends, or your enemies should never be able to identify themselves in your story.  Not only can it lead to hard feelings, in the most extreme case you could be sued for invasion of privacy, libel, or slander.

Potential characters are everywhere.  Sit on the bench at the mall or observe people at the next public event you attend.