As an author and workshop presenter, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “What’s the best writing advice you ever received?”
A variant of that question is usually, “Do you have any advice you’d like to give new writers?”
Ask a dozen writers for their best advice and they will likely each have a different response. Over the years, I’ve heard a multitude of suggestions from authors, critique partners, and workshop presenters. Each gem is valid and when applied, guaranteed to make our writing stronger. A few that come to mind are:
· Use Active Verbs,
Engage your reader. Transform those passive sentences.
Human beings are all story tellers. We tell stories to our family about what happened at work. We share anecdotes about our kids and our pets with coworkers. We pass on stories about our parents and grandparents to children around the Thanksgiving dinner table.
So how is it the fundamental element of fiction writing is to show not tell?
As we write, we naturally fall into the pattern of putting on paper, the story in we see in our heads.
However, by telling the story instead of showing it on the page, we…
What makes a character memorable? Why do some characters become so alive on the page we stick with them, turning page after page until the end of the story, and why do we, twenty years later, we still remember them?
Most of us have heard of the Mary Sue character. She’s pretty, young, and innocent. She’s smart and usually knows what to do, or can figure it out with little trouble. She doesn’t swear and treats everyone fairly. People always like her. She volunteers at the local soup kitchen, and rescues stray puppies. She lives in a nice house with…
One of the most common reasons manuscripts are rejected is because the author tells too much of the story and fails to engage the reader by showing action. Dialogue is action. It’s one of the best ways to show your story. Good dialogue is like having good tires on your car. Dialogue grips the road of your plot and keeps your story car going up and down hills, through the twists and turns of your plot road.
1. Reveal Character
When we meet new people on the job or in social situations, we gradually get to know them through casual…
Think of your story as a car. Your car starts a road trip in one place with a destination in mind. Depending how the journey progresses your car either follows the map and ends up where it intended to go, or it becomes diverted and ends up in a different place.
Wherever your car winds up, you want to bring the reader along for the ride. Let them experience the potholes and detours, the lazy country drive and the crush of city traffic. That’s why a reader reads, at least reads fiction.
Here are some of the reasons readers pick…
While scrolling through various social groups recently on the internet, I came across a discussion about the rules of writing and grammar.
· Do they restrict a writer’s voice?
· Do they inhibit creativity?
· As writers should we break them?
· Since we no longer follow the same rules as William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, who decides which rules are changed and when?
For me rules are merely tools of the writing craft, like chisels for a woodcarver or various brushes for an artist. …
My characters come to me first. I see them in the periphery of my mind, fully formed in period dress. They are in the middle of doing or saying something.
In my most recent novel I saw my heroine tackle an orderly in the middle of a Civil War hospital ward.
In another, the hero stood in the shadows doing nothing, his face hidden.
For my first novel I saw the hero lying in bed. He said, “Meggie, me back hurts.”
In my second the heroine, dressed as a boy said, “What the hell do you want now, lawman?”
Writers are constantly reminded to show, not tell their stories. How does one actually do this, when writing a story is essentially telling?
Showing is about creating visuals. Through sensory detail, active verbs, and body language, the one-dimensional words on the page come alive like a movie reel, creating a vivid three-dimensional image in the reader’s mind.
In her 1982 article, The Masked Meaning of Nonverbal Messages, Victoria E. Jackson cites the findings of Albert Mehrabian, an authority on verbal and nonverbal communication at UCLA, in which he found that during interpersonal communication only 7 percent of the message is…
How to Create Tension in Your Story
It has often been said that what a writer needs to do is put their main character in a tree and throw rocks at him. Obstacles create conflict. They make it hard for the main character to reach their goal. Sometimes writers like their characters so much they don’t want anything bad to happen to them. But as authors we can’t let an emotional attachment keep our characters from being pushed to the breaking point. Happy people equal a dull story. …
9 Rules for Writing Historical Fiction
Readers of historical fiction choose those novels not only to join a character on a journey, but to be transported to another time. They want to experience that life: the sights, sounds, and smells of a by-gone era. They want to ride on a stage coach, dance at a regency ball, or watch medieval knights in battle.
For the author, this means research.
1. Research Is Key
I love to look at old maps and photographs. For me fun is learning the rule of five beans in the wheel, when loading a Colt revolver…