Friday, May 6, 2011

Back to Basics

I often get emails about various aspects about writing. As many of you know, I am VERY self taught in this market. I knew absolutely nothing when I started. I HATED writing and reading. So I have come a very long way. And everything I’ve learned have been from friends who have been willing to part with their vast supply of knowledge. So, I thought I’d give you a very basic version of how to write. If you have any other questions, always feel free to comment and ask. I will answer what I can. And if I can’t, I’ll direct you to someone who can.

Obviously, the most important thing to do first is to get the story on paper. You can always go back and edit and fix things later. But knowing a few things might help with both those processes.

Avoid generic description.

"The view was beautiful."

This is both passive voice (which is also something to avoid) and also very general. So instead of telling me it's beautiful, show it to me.

"The flowers glowed a brilliant gold in the growing light of the morning."

Do you see the difference? There needs to be action verbs instead of passive verbs. This is not always possible, but really helps bring a story to life.
Also, avoid using adverbs. (-ly words)

She smiled as the sweetly smelling flower tickled her senses.

What is that sweet smell? Can you describe it? You could say,

The citrus smelling blossom made her smile with thoughts of home.

NOW you have a better idea of what the flower smells like AND why she likes it.

Another thing to watch for is tag lines. 'He said,' 'she told him,' 'he perceived,' etc. If at all possible use an action before the dialogue so the reader knows who's speaking and what's going on.

Sterling frowned at the amused expression on his brother’s face. “If you don’t reign in this infernal habit of yours, you’ll get killed.”

You not only know that he’s frustrated and displeased, but you know who he’s speaking to. And it’s a lot stronger sentence than,

“If you don’t reign in this infernal habit of yours, you’ll get killed,” Sterling said with a frown to his brother.

An action isn't always needed, but if you can, avoid the tag line. In most of your dialogue, you could get rid of your tags. That's harder to do in a conversation with more than two people speaking but still possible.

Another thing is to make sure and introduce the driving force of the story right away. Even if it's just a shadow of what's to come. You need to leave the reader with questions and a desire to know what's going to happen.

A shot rang through the trees of the forest canopy.
Sterling Bennett’s chest constricted with rage, and he glared at his brother as they increased their speed.
His lungs burned; sweat ran down his back. Determined, he dodged the bushes and trees that jumped in his path compelling him to alter his direction. Mud oozed over his new riding boots with every step, and he groaned, wishing he hadn’t left his horse with the blacksmith.
Echoing off a large rock formation, his brother’s footsteps pounded behind him. “What kind of mess have you gotten yourself into this time, Bruce?” he asked in a hoarse voice as he searched for shelter.
“The usual.” Bruce’s laughter bounced off the trees. “A man needs to enjoy himself.” Bruce tore stray twigs from his jacket, breathing heavily beside Sterling. “Besides, what’s life if you aren’t going to have a little adventure?” Bruce stomped through a large mud puddle splattering them both.
Sterling frowned at the amused expression on his brother’s face. “If you don’t reign in this infernal habit of yours, you’ll get killed.”
Bruce had such potential – if the infuriating whelp would apply himself toward something worthwhile.
Bruce chuckled. “You’ll never let that happen.”
Sterling glanced around the rocks. “Don’t tempt me.” He pointed and then led them to a dense section of trees several paces away. “I’m tired of bailing you out. It’s time you started being responsible.”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
“I mean it, Bruce. One of these days you’ll land in a hole, six feet under if you don’t change your ways.” He stepped over a log and continued his fierce pace.
“You’ll keep bailing me out because you love being so helpful all the time,” Bruce mocked, “to everyone except your family.”
“I left Court to bail you out.” Sterling hissed. “King Rodrick will likely have my head on a silver platter. You call that selfish?”
Another shot whizzed through the air and Bruce buckled and groaned. Blood oozed from his shoulder at an alarming rate as he dropped to his knees.
Sterling reached over and tore away the fabric, silently cursing Bruce.
“We need to get out of here and find you a doctor.”
Sterling pulled Bruce to his feet and draped his brother’s arm over his shoulder. Together they continued their escape through the trees.

Are you left with a desire to know more? I hope so!! (Mostly because this is the prologue to Sweet Ivy which is currently under review by a couple publishers.)

I hope this helped a few of you with any questions you may have. Like I said at the beginning, get your thoughts down on paper. THEN go back and change things. These things will help your story to jump off the page. And as you do them and are aware of them, they will get easier to do!

Happy writing!

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