Monday, August 22, 2011

Writing Tip ABCs, Part 2, D-F

Writing Tip ABCs continues this week featuring letters D, E, F.

Let's get right to it!

Starting with D:

DESCRIPTION can be a tricky little demon to handle. How much is too much, and how much is too little? The goal is to give the reader enough information so she can get a good mental visual of a scene, person, object, etc, but we don't want to bore her, and we don't want to bog down the pace of the story.

It is usually best to filter in description a little at a time. Check out these two examples for comparison so you can see what I mean.

1. Robert wore a gray suit, white shirt and bright red tie. His black hair was heavily oiled and combed back neatly. Though his nails were neatly groomed, his hands were definitely those of a laborer.

2. Robert nervously tugged at the middle button of his gray suit jacket. "Hello," he said to a chunky, older, red-headed woman he passed in the hallway. He noticed none of the other men in the crowded corridor was wearing a tie. Would his bright red tie be too flashy for the interview? It really stood out against his white shirt. "Excuse me," he said to a tall, dark-haired man in his forties, "Could you tell me where I could find Mr. Johnson's office?" As the man gave him directions Robert ran his rough but manicured hand over his neatly arranged, oiled hair.

Description number one is efficient and short. Depending on the circumstance, it may work well in your story.

However, did you notice how active description number two is? Slipping in bits of description, connecting how Robert looks with what he's feeling greatly enhances our narrative. Readers not only see how Robert looks, they experience the anxiety he's having about how his appearance might affect the outcome of his upcoming interview with Mr. Johnson.

One more thing about description--a rule of thumb: give three facts about each character on stage in any given scene. In example two above, did you notice the brief points given to describe the woman and the man with whom Robert interacted in the hallway? The limited information about these people who are passing insignificantly through Robert's life gives us a glimpse into who they are.

Here are three important things to remember about DIALOGUE. 1. Make it sound real. 2. Be sure the dialogue is material to the scene/plot. While we real people say lots of things which are not significant, characters should not. 3. Good dialogue divulges information about characters.

Set reasonable DEADLINES for your writing projects, and be sure to meet them.

On to E:

Readers have buried themselves in your book in order to ESCAPE the hassles and problems in their real lives. Be sure to entertain them thoroughly.

Once the climax has passed END your story quickly. Be sure to tie up any and all loose ends.

EDIT your book meticulously. Your copy should be immaculate.

And finally, F:

Although they are sometimes necessary, FLASHBACKS should rarely be used. They interrupt the story, bog it down. They can frustrate readers too. It is usually better to filter in events of the past here and there so the reader has the needed information without having to be interrupted by something like: "Oh, wait a minute, I've got to tell you what happened to John ten years ago."

Unlike flashbacks, readers tend to enjoy FORESHADOWING. Giving them hints of what may be coming can make them feel more like participants in a story rather than mere observers.

People whose FEELINGS are roused while they're reading a story will be more engaged. Readers enjoy stories in which they can laugh, cry, love and get revenge along with the characters. Give readers what they want, and they'll eagerly read more.

If you'd like more Writing Tip ABCs, visit my Twitter page at:

See you next week with letters G to I.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

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