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!

Don’t Make Your Reader Wade Through The Mud!

d63d56ca3a55bcf3abe7ed97f24b4eb0I picked up my first completed manuscript yesterday. It had been hibernating in my computer for almost a year. It’s a beautiful story, but for some reason wasn’t getting any traction. I have to admit, I was a bit discouraged. Something all writers go through at some point.

So I have to decide if the story is worth my time, or if I should put it on a shelf and move forward. I’m not a quitter. In all fairness, I can be pretty stubborn. That square peg will fit in the round hole if I push hard enough 🙂

The first thing I did was delete the first two chapters. I know that sounds pretty radical, but I decided to take my own advice. I’ve spent the last six years learning how to write a publishable novel. When I started writing this manuscript, I knew nothing, except I had a great story.

The first few chapters are hum drum everyday life stuff. I wanted my reader to have a little backstory, so when they got to the action, they would have a better understanding of what was going on and why my characters were acting the way they were.

According to Jerry Jenkins and other published authors, beginning with boring is not the way to go. As a matter of fact, it flags you as an amateur. You sprinkle those little details in as you go. I’ve known this for a while, but ignored their wisdom.

I thought the story was so good people would wade through the mud to get to the other side. Problem-people are not going to wade through the mud. They will never know how good your story is if you don’t get their attention from the get go. Solution-make sure the good stuff is up front and pepper the boring, but necessary details in when you can.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Don’t Make Your Reader Wade Through The Mud!

What’s Your Character’s Core Desire?

800x800-the-desire-map-ombre-on-white_4How well do you know your main character? Do you know his/her deepest longing? If your answer is no, you need to stop and take a closer look at your character arc. What is motivating your character? If you can identify that, you know their core desire.

Does he/she want to be loved or save the world? Does he/she want to be respected or rich? Whatever the desire, it has to be something your reader can relate to.

Your character may have more than one desire. I know most of us do, but our minor desires usually lead us to our core desire. That one thing that we really want more than anything.

A great example I read described a young girl who was abused by her father. As you probably guessed, her core desire was to be loved by him, or maybe you thought to get even. Not sure how your mind works 🙂 At any rate, the only thing he seemed to be interested in was astronauts and space exploration. So the young girl set her sights on becoming an astronaut. Now she may have found her studies fascinating and developed an interest in space along the way, but her goal was to earn her father’s respect and love by becoming the one thing that piqued his interest.

After you’ve identified your main character’s core desire and put him/her on the path of achieving it, the fun begins. What can be thrown in to threaten his/her core desire? What can throw him/her off, and how can it be fixed?

You have to know your character’s core desire. It helps you understand what kind of things he/she will seek in life, and what kind of things can mess his/her life up.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

What’s Your Character’s Core Desire?

Word Echo?

imagesB1G33MWEWord Echo? I’m sure you have an idea of what it is, even if you haven’t heard the term before. It’s the use of the same word in close proximity or in the same sentence.

It’s considered ugly and inelegant. Don’t do it! The good news is, it’s probably one of the easiest mistakes to correct.

Just delete one of the repeated words, if you can do so without changing the meaning of the sentence. If that doesn’t work, you’ll simply have to replace the duplicate with a new one.

That can be a little tricky. You have permission to pull out the thesaurus, just don’t get carried away, and consider the word you’re using as a replacement.

Example:

Angrily– bitterly, impetuously, tempestuously, threateningly, fiercely, furiously, violently, infuriatedly, tigerishly (I didn’t make this one up)……

I just took a sample off of a thesaurus website. Many of the words listed are the same but different. They range from slight difference in meaning to utterly ridiculous.

Footnote: It’s okay to repeat if you’re writing poems, songs, or emphasizing a point. After I finished this blog, I thought about Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have A Dream speech. His repeats were intentional and poetic.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Word Echo?

Setting The Scene

Dynamite-Scene-3-D-BookAnybody that has read my work knows that most of my blogs spin off of my own weaknesses. And there are many. I figure if I’m having problems with a certain aspect of writing, there are probably many others who are too.

So today I thought I would focus on writing scenes. As you may have guessed, I was shredded to pieces  in a critique, and rightfully so.

I presented a 3000 word excerpt from my novel for review, I did say 3000 words, and a friendly critic (she really was nice), pointed out that I had managed to squeeze 10 different locations/scenes into those 3000 words. It was overwhelming, and the scenes were like flybys.

I have a very complicated novel, with many twists and turns, which could be a good thing. But, in my haste to get through them all, I failed to provide a cohesive story, and many of my scenes were lacking.

So how did I correct my mistakes? I put together a scene and a sequel. They work together to form one cohesive scene. A scene leads naturally to a sequel. At some point, you will end the cycle. The POV character will either succeed or fail. I would opt for succeed:-)

Scenes are as follows:

  1. Goal- What the POV person wants at the beginning of the scene. It must be specific and clearly definable.
  2. Conflict- The series of obstacles your POV character faces on the way to reaching their Goal.  There has to be conflict or your reader will be bored.
  3. Disaster- Is a failure of you POV person to reach his goal. This is a good thing in writing. Hold off on success until the very end. If you allow your POV to reach his goal to early, then your reader has no reason to go on.

***All three of these are critical to make the scene successful.***

Sequels are as follows:

  1. Reactions- Is there emotional follow through to a disaster. Show your POV acting viscerally to his disaster, but remember he can’t stay there. He has to get a grip.
  2. Dilemma- A situation with no good options. A real dilemma gives your reader a chance to worry. That’s good, you want them emotionally involved. At the end let your POV choose the least of the bad options.
  3. Decision- Your POV has to make a choice. This lets your POV become proactive again. People who never make decisions are boring.

Hope this helped. I pulled most of my information off of the ‘advancedfictionwriting’ web site, that’s hosted by Randy Ingermanson-“the snowflake Guy”.  He provides some great information for writers of all levels. You should check him out.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Setting The Scene

Be Consistent!

120822_consistency-is-key_500_youanew1-300x300Have you ever heard someone refer to writing as elegant. It’s orderly and graceful. It flows.

By adding elegance to your writing, you can turn clear, precise, but clunky prose into a musical composition.

Elegance gives your writing a tangible feeling of beauty. It makes people say wow. Elegance isn’t just the wording, but the way it is presented.

Is your style disciplined and orderly, or is it inconsistent? Presentation elegance requires consistency from the beginning of your novel to the end.

When you use dashes, do you leave spaces between the words or not?

  •  second-handed
  • second – handed

When you write titles of books, do you italicize or enclose using quotation marks?

  • Little Women
  • “Little Women”
  • ‘Little Women’

Do you use the oxford comma to separate the last item in a list?

  • She brought apples, bananas, and grapes to the picnic.
  • She brought apples, bananas and grapes to the picnic.

When you use numbers, do you spell them out using letters or simply write them out?

  • twenty-seven
  • 27

When you abbreviate countries, do you use periods following the letters or leave them out?

  • U.K. vs UK
  • U.S. vs US

I think you’re getting the picture. None of the above examples are wrong. Just remember, however you decide to express yourself in writing, be consistent.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Be Consistent!

He Said, She Said-Dialogue Tags

He-Said-She-SaidAt this point in the game, you probably know what a dialogue tag is. It is a phrase placed at the end of a quote to identify the speaker. It should mimic speech’s natural rhythm and make long dialogue-runs digestible.

When using dialogue tags, it is  recommended that you keep them simple. There is nothing wrong with the word ‘said’.  Don’t give in to the urge to use every big word you know. If you do, you will end up with a big, clunky, mess. The wrong tag can overshadow the words spoken and draw your reader out of the story.

Example:

“You hit my car!” she screamed.                                                                                                      “It wasn’t my fault!” he groaned.                                                                                                     “But you ran the red light!” She expostulated.                                                                               “I know-I’m sorry,” he stammered.

Could you imagine reading an entire book written this way? I would go nuts.

This example shows how tags can effect your story by slowing down the pace and overshadowing the dialogue. I was hesitating after every tag and imagining the characters going through the emotions.  I couldn’t help myself. And why would anybody use expostulating? Somebody had their thesaurus open 🙂

When you use the words ‘he said’ or ‘she said’, they are so familiar to your reader that they blur into the background and become invisible. This allows the dialogue itself to come to the forefront. You can also drop tags entirely when it’s clear who’s speaking. Overuse of tags can be just as annoying as using the wrong tag.images9d0tdr1t

Example:

  • “You hit my car!” she said.
  • “It wasn’t my fault!” he said.
  • “But you ran the red light!”
  • “I know-I’m sorry.”

I hope you thought this example read much smoother than the first. It didn’t distract from what was being said, and you weren’t focusing on the dialogue tags themselves.

There is so much information on dialogue tags. I’m only scratching the surface with this blog.

I’m not saying that you can’t use emotion in a tag, but it is always better to show the character’s emotions through action than it is throwing an adverb into the dialogue tag   ( menacingly, shakily, surprisingly…).

While they are only tags, they play an important role in the mechanics of your story and can lead to some major mistakes if not used appropriately.

-Jan R

He Said, She Said-Dialogue Tags