Daily Writing Tip 42 of 100, Narrative Drag Is an Absence of Things

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Narrative Drag Is an Absence of Things

Source – Fiction is Folks by Robert Newton Peck

Bring a thing into the scene and the audience moves an inch forward on their seats, to be close to the stage. Again, let me stress that the thing doesn’t have to be a bomb so large that it will blow up the Pentagon.

Of course, it could be a bomb big enough to blow up the Pentagon… depends on your genre. Good advice, though, when you are stuck and when things seem slowed to a halt – bring in something physical – however small.

Or big.

Daily Writing Tip 40 of 100, Testing and Deepening Your Characters

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Testing and Deepening Your Characters

Source – Writing the Short Story, A Hands-On Program, by Jack M. Bickham

Readers often ask whether writers start with plot or with character in developing stories. It’s the kind of question most writers can’t begin to answer because plot ideas tend to spring forth with characters already in them and characters usually spring out of the imagination with some of their plot problems already nagging them.

To put it another way: Good plots involve vivid characters, and good characters are always involved in a plot that tests their mettle.

This makes a lot of sense. Over the years I have had folks talk about making cards with ideas on them – plot cards, character cards, theme cards, setting cards…. The plot and character cards were the hardest. I think the mistake is to separate them like that.

So maybe I need to think about plot/character hybrid cards? Or one step further – plot/character/conflict cards.

Yeah… that might be the ticket.

Daily Writing Tip 35 of 100, The Quadrangle: Character, Setting, Situation, Emotion

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – The Quadrangle: Character, Setting, Situation, Emotion

Source – Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight

quad

This time, let’s say, you’re thinking about an orphan who has found a loaded revolver in a garbage can. That’s an intriguing situation, but you have no idea where to go from there.

Try making a list of four things the orphan might do next. If you write down the first four things you think of, maybe they come out something like this:

  • Hold up a liquor store
  • Kill somebody
  • Kill himself
  • Throw the gun away

Now cross out all four. Think of the fifth solution, the one that is not obvious.

Suppose your fifth solution is:

  • Give it to somebody

All right, to whom dies he give it? Out of the silent half of your mind an image swims up: a woman who is being abused by her husband.

Now you have a sense of what the emotional charge of the story will be. (If you don’t feel any strong emotion about this ending, it’s the wrong one; find a sixth solution, or a seventh.)

I like the idea of throwing out the first four, or more, obvious ideas to try and find the one, true story.

Daily Writing Tip 19 of 100, Writing About Emotion

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Writing About Emotion

Source – Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood

When we copy a writerly voice, we put up a barrier between us and the emotions of our characters. As a result, the readers get filtered versions of emotion instead of real interpretations and an honest and an honest rendering of them.

So my first piece of advice is to write like yourself. until you do that, you will not be able to invoke emotion – and therefore character – effectively.

We have all read stilted prose that seems to be a feeble attempt to copy the latest blockbuster. When asked, the author will answer, “Well that’s what all the editors are looking for. That’s what’s selling nowadays.”

Pretty lame excuse – it’s supposed to be your own blood you are spilling across the page.

Daily Writing Tip 7 of 100, Character Is Action

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Character Is Action

Source – “10 Tips And Tricks For Creating Memorable Characters” by Charlie Jane Anders.

This is the maxim that I’ve basically tried to live by for the past few years, and I kind of want to get it made into a banner that I can hang over my computer. Your characters can be witty and spout interesting philosophies, and have cool names and awesome fashion sense — but in the end, they are what they do.

We have all come across fiction where the characters rarely actually do anything. This can be truthful, of course, because real life is full of people that don’t do much of anything. The world splits open with knowitalls that talk and talk and don’t do squat. But that’s why we read, to escape from that dismal reality.

Fiction is all a lie, but good fiction is a beautiful lie and great fiction is a lie that transcends the real world. So get your characters, the good ones, and especially the bad ones, out there and doing stuff, all kinds of stuff, to each other and to the world around them.

We get out of bed every morning and realize that we are all helpless and mostly hopeless – everywhere except sometimes between the pages. So don’t disappoint.