Add Authenticity By Exploiting Experience

untitled.pngAdd authenticity to your writing by exploiting your experiences. Use what you know and what you’ve gone through as a person.

Nicolas Spark’s books are set in North Carolina. Why? He lives in North Carolina. He’s familiar with the towns and the customs of the south.

Beyond settings, think of embarrassing moments in your life where you simply wanted to disappear or have a do-over. Is there something there that could be used with your main character. You should have no problem defining the moment. You went through it and have all the raw emotions tucked away in your brain somewhere.

We all go through cycles in our life. I’m in the midlife cycle and often wonder if I’ll ever be successful or do anything meaningful in life. What is my purpose? Think about putting your characters in similar situations to your own. It will help you to connect with them and understand their thought process.

What are your weaknesses? How might you plunder them for story fodder? I have to admit, I’m a little OCD. One of the characters in my current novel is a little OCD. I almost feel as if I’m cheating while writing her story line, because I know her so well she’s a breeze to write.

Who do you know? What your family and friends do for work may be a useful benefit as well. My novel is set, at least for a short period, in Afghanistan. I’ve never been and never will go, but my stepson is in the marines and spent six months there. He provided a wealth of information to get me through the one chapter devoted to the area.

Think of sensations. I love the smell of lavender, the feel of silk against my skin, the beauty of a newly fallen snow. I love calming instrumentals and the taste of chocolate lava cake. I hate the smell of rotten eggs, the feel of burlap against my skin, the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard and the taste of raisins (Yes I hate raisins, unless theyre smothered in chocolate, then I like them ūüôā ). Use your own experiences to make your character’s reactions believable.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Add Authenticity By Exploiting Experience

Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Filler Words!

imagesW5P4TYLKI’ve been a little busy the last few months and have revisited some of my favorite posts. I hope you enjoy this one. Most of the concepts I write about are simple. I just never really gave them a lot of thought before I started writing my novel.

When writing, remember less is more. Stay away from qualifiers. They weaken your prose, and the result is the exact opposite of what your were trying to achieve. I know why you use them. I’m hooked on ‘very’. Other people are hooked on the word ‘too’. If you are resorting to qualifiers for emphasis, odds are, you are using the wrong word in the first place.

These qualifiers are the words your English teacher dreaded seeing, such as very, too, really, and sort of. When you overuse these words, your writing will seem lazy, as if you haven’t taken the time to look for the right word.

This pasta dish is very good.
This pasta dish is superb. (Better)
I’m feeling sort of sick.
I’m feeling nauseous. (Better)
You look really nice!
You look radiant. (Better)

Since ‘very’ is my nemesis, I thought I would provide a list of more powerful words to use to replace ‘very’ ___________.

  • very fast ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† quick
  • very dry ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† parched
  • very dirty ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† squalid
  • very afraid ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† terrified
  • very angry ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† furious
  • very hot ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† scolding
  • very hungry ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ravenous
  • very large ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† colossal
  • very clean ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† spotless
  • very clever ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† brilliant
  • very beautiful ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† exquisite
  • very ugly ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† hideous
  • very pretty ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† beautiful
  • very thin ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† gaunt
  • very tired ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† exhausted

I think you get the picture. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope this got you thinking.

-Jan R

Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Filler Words!

Pique Their Interest!

1e7cba28f25210164154825f3d16c176Ninety-nine out of one-hundred new writers make the same major mistake. I know I did.¬† They fail to plunge their hero or heroine into trouble at the beginning of the novel. If you don’t pique the interest of your reader from the start, they won’t make it through the first chapter.

This was one of the issues with my novel. It started out slow. I thought I needed to provide some background information prior to introducing conflict. If my reader would hold on for the first few chapters, they would get to an amazingly interesting story.

Well that might have been true, and I may have been exaggerating a little, but the fact that I failed to start the story with interest and intrigue, resulted in rejections of my novel.

Editors and agents are readers too. When they read your submission, they expected to be gripped and held within the first three pages. If you don’t grab them in that first one thousand words, your manuscript is tossed to the side.

What! You can’t believe they would do that? It’s a great novel and they just need to hold on a little longer. Well it may be a great novel, but they will never know. You have to start out with the good stuff and not expect them to navigate the swamp to get to it.

Published authors think it’s a mistake to believe you have three pages to get your reader’s attention. A wise novelist will approach each book with the goal of proving himself within the first page.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Pique Their Interest!

Sentences-The Long and Short-Revisited

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAiMAAAAJDg5M2Q4NGJiLTBhMTQtNDA5Ni1hNGVmLTM2YWRiZjczMDhjNQHave you ever read a sentence and thought it was way too long? The author lost you two commas ago, and now you have to go back and read the whole thing again, to try and figure out what’s going on.

Or maybe you read a short sentence, followed by another short sentence, and another, and you’re thinking whoa, slow down.

There’s not a set rule for sentence length. It should be determined based on what you’re trying to accomplish. There are good reasons for those long, you lost me sentences, and short, what just happened sentences.

What do short sentences do?

  • Create tension-When an author starts using short sentences, it’s usually a sign that something is about to happen.—-The dog growled. His teeth flashed. Jake turned. It was too late.
  • Call the attention of a reader to a significant detail—She walked past central park in Manhattan, with her head held high. Gorgeous woman. Long blond hair. Blue eyes. Impeccable taste.
  • Present sudden events-Out-of-the-blue actions that no one was expecting.—-We sat quietly enjoying our meal at the local fast food restaurant. Boom! “What was that?” I turned to see people rushing toward the gas station up the street.
  • To summarize the ideas presented in the long paragraph or sentence.

What do long sentences do?

  • Develop tension-While the short sentence is imminent, culminating with the actual event being acted out, the long sentence adds to the suspense, hinting at a situation in the process of developing.
  • Give vivid description-depicting a setting, love scene, or someone’s appearance.—Autumn came without special invitation, coloring the trees in orange, yellow and red, whispering the cold in our ears and hiding the warm sun rays from our eyes.
  • Investigates arguments, ideas, or facts thoroughly.

Although long sentences have the smell of the old-fashioned 19 century romantic prose, the usage of the long sentence in modern creative writing has it’s place.

When it comes to writing artistic literature, fairy tales, ghost stories, or mysteries, don’t underestimate the effects of short sentences.

Hope this didn’t confuse you too much. To sum it up, there’s a time and place for everything ūüôā

-Jan R

Sentences-The Long and Short-Revisited

Use Parallelism To Enhance Your Writing

ModulePARALLEL13If you’re like me you’ve heard the term parallelism, but didn’t quite grasp the concept. I never really understood the meaning or purpose of using it, until recently when I participated in an on-line class.

What is parallelism? Its the use of grammatical elements in patterns. A repeat of verbs, nouns, or any other part of speech, to create a pleasing pattern.

Noun+Verb – I woke up, I made breakfast, and I called the professor.

Verb+Verb – I laughed and cried at the same time. (Get as many verbs as possible in your sentences-they add movement.)

Prepositions – We looked in, around, and under the couch for the keys.

Sentences using parallelism are memorable and well structured. Song writers and Poets use parallelism. Readers don’t notice that the writer is using the technique to add rhythm and flow, they just enjoy it.

Other reasons to use parallelism in your writing:

-You will avoid the tendency to sprinkle adjectives and adverb all over the place.

-You will avoid long, confusing, run-on sentences.

-Your sentences will come out more clear and concise.

Just something else to think about and add to your arsenal of tools.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Use Parallelism To Enhance Your Writing

Control The Pace (Revised)

controllingthepaceinyournovelPeople who love to read but have¬†never written books are cognizant of the pacing. Pacing sets the tempo of your story. Is it a fast read, or did it seem to drag on for days? Hopefully you’ve found¬†a balance between the two, and they perform like a¬†fine¬†tuned orchestra.

I have read many good books, and yes, skimmed paragraphs, because I was tired of reading about the¬†duchess’s frilly dress or¬† inner hull of a slave ship.¬†I’m glad the authors did their homework and provided historical information, but sometimes it can be a bit much and totally bog down¬†your story. I have read other books that were nonstop action that left me wanting;¬†they were missing the details that made the story real and the characters endearing.

So how do you control the pacing of your story? Be cognizant of the tempo and your audience. You have to strike a balance between the amount of information in the pages you are given and the patience of your reader.

There are three main attributes that effect the pace of your novel.

  1. The number of pages/words in the novel vs. the time period covered – Long books that depict a short period of time are going to move at a slower pace.¬† You’re going to be providing a lot of detail and back story to fill up all those pages. Short stories depicting long periods of time are going to move at a faster pace. In order to cover everything you have to cover, you’re not going to have time to stop and smell the roses. There’s just too much happening and not enough¬†pages/words to expound-talk about making every word count ūüôā
  2. The density of the narrative – The length of the story versus the number of twists and characters within. If you have a simple story with maybe¬†one subplot and a handful of characters, you should be able to move along at a fairly steady pace. You start going all Lord Of The Rings on that book with numerous subplots and characters that are a product of your imagination-you’re going to have to slow down and figure out a way to¬†keep it moving forward without getting too bogged down in the details.
  3. Scenes vs. Exposition                                                                                                          Scenes are the important events that move the story forward.  They are the action and dialogue that occur during the course of the story.                                                    Exposition is the back story or descriptive information that stands outside of the story and slows things down.

I love this chart. It provides some great examples of ways to control the pace of your novel and is very user friendly:-) Some more things to think about when you are addressing pacing.

controlling-the-pace-of-a-story

 

I hope this helped.

-Jan R

Control The Pace (Revised)

Five Tools For Showing

screen-shot-2013-11-20-at-3-24-03-pmSpoiler alert! If you were one of the eight people that read this blog two weeks ago, you are experiencing deja vu. I thought it was a good blog, but one thing I’ve learned over the last two years, is the title can make you or break you.

It was initially titled ‘Show Don’t Tell’. I guess that sounded kind of boring, or maybe just to repetitious. Goodness knows how many ‘Show Don’t Tell’ blogs are out there. So I’m reposting it under a new name ūüôā

Here goes!

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the phrase-show don’t tell. You probably saw the title and questioned even reading this blog. Everybody knows you are suppose to show and not tell. You want the reader to experience the scene as if they are one of the characters walking through the story beside the hero/heroine.

If you’re like me, you know what you’re suppose to do, but you don’t really understand what to do to make it happen. How do I show and not tell? It’s a lot harder than it seems. Once you start writing that novel, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

There are 5 tools for showing:

  • Dialogue
  • Action
  • Interior dialogue
  • Interior emotion
  • Description-Sensory

If you’re doing anything that’s not one of these 5 things, you’re not showing.

Why is it so important to show versus tell? Showing provides your reader with a powerful emotional experience. If you want to be a best selling author, that’s what you have to do.

It doesn’t matter how great you do everything else in that novel, if you’re missing that emotional experience, you lose. If everything you did is bad, but you have a great emotional experience, you may still win.

It all comes down to the take away. Every great novelist will tell you, you have to give your reader that powerful emotional experience, or they wont be coming back.

-Something to think about ūüôā

-Jan R

Five Tools For Showing