Monday, September 5, 2011

Writing Tip ABCs, Part 4, J-L

Thanks to everyone who's letting me know how much they appreciate my Writing Tip ABCs here and at my Twitter page.

This week we're working on letters J to L.


Get your characters in a JAM immediately. The deeper they’re in trouble the more engaged readers will be.

A JEZEBEL, a wicked scheming woman, makes a terrific antagonist. Readers love to hate this archetype. Of course, like any other villain, don't forget to give this nasty person a redeeming quality or two.

A JILTED man or woman is reluctant to enter into a new romance which makes him/her a great type of character to put into a romantic novel. (Once burnt, twice shy.) A hero left broken hearted by the rejection of a woman he'd loved is going to think more than twice before giving his heart away again. And doesn't this type of situation make the titanic struggle in a romantic novel all the more compelling?

Up next, K.

Readers love KARMA in their stories. They want to see the antagonist punished and the protagonist rewarded.

The KEY holds the answer to the mystery. It’s the object everyone is after. A/k/a the MacGuffin, particularly in screenplays. Think "National Treasure." Everyone was after the Declaration of Independence. Some wanted to learn the code contained within it which would give them riches beyond their wildest dreams. Some wanted to possess it for historical purposes, some wanted the document for historical and treasure purposes. The Declaration of Independence was the KEY and the MacGuffin.

That unexpected twist in a plot is known as the KICKER. Kickers add an extra element of enjoyment for readers (as long as they’re believable).

Lastly, L

Using well known LANDMARKS as a setting or element in a plot can heighten reader involvement and interest because the locations are familiar to them. Maybe they've even visited one of these landmarks. Familiarity always increases a connection between the reader and the story, protagonists, etc. Think Devil’s Tower in “Close Encounters” or early American landmarks featured in “National Treasure” and its sequel, "Book of Secrets" or Mount Rushmore in “North by Northwest.”

Determining the LAYOUT of your plot is crucial. Events should occur in the order best suited to enhance your genre as well as your story.

Don’t neglect the LEGWORK required before you begin to write. Research, develop characters, outline, plan your plot. Writing without completing the legwork makes writing the first draft and succeeding drafts even more difficult. I know many writers like to "write by the seat of their pants," and this is okay, of course. Whatever method suits the particular author is fine. However, even if you're what's known as a "pantster" it's terribly important to know characters thoroughly and to do necessary research completely before a writer begins to write the first draft.

J, K, L completed here now. However, for more J, K, L tips, visit my Twitter page at:



Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

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