1
Jan

NaNoWriMo 2014 WriteTips

2014 Write Tips

62 Tips about Writing from NaNoWriMo to the End of the Year

 

1. Manuscript (MS) Format: 12pt Courier font, double spaced, 1-1.5 in margins, numbered pgs ‪#WriteTip ‪#NaNoWriMo2014

2. Never write a scene that doesn’t either reveal characterization or move the plot forward #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (2 Nov)

3. Research, research, research! Your knowledge of what you’re writing reflects your credibility as an author #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (3 Nov)

4. Don’t forget sensory descriptions—sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (4 Nov)

5. Never limit yourself to just a single plot—subplots only add to the intrigue and complexity of your novel #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (5 nov)

6. World building is just as important as character building #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (6 Nov)

7. Know who your audience is and write accordingly #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (7 Nov)

8. Try to avoid more than 3 paragraphs of exposition/narration on a single page #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (8 Nov)

9. Beware the cliché #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (9 Nov)

10. Use setting to reflect your character’s emotions #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (10 Nov)

11. Watch for tense shifts because they do more than just messed up the flow << >> #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (11 Nov)

12. Make your antagonist untouchable—that’s scary #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (12 Nov)

13. Dialogue tags don’t need an adjective with them bc most ppl skip over them once they see who’s talking anyway #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (13 Nov)

14. Too many POV shifts can confuse the reader. The less the better. #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (14 Nov)

15. Limit ‘!’ usage! No one likes to be yelled at all the time! #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (15 Nov)

16. Write 3-dimensional characters so the reader can relate #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (16 Nov)

17. Write shorter paragraphs to quicken the pace #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (17 Nov)

18. A Flat Character is like a stale cracker; give your character some flavor #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (18 Nov)

19. You don’t need a dialogue tag every time someone speaks; instead incorporate action to show who’s speaking #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (19 Nov)

20. Show me ‘He’s a good king’ don’t just tell me. How is he a ‘good king’? What does he do that makes him ‘good’? #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (20 Nov)

21. A good way to transition into a flashback is through ‘framing’ the scene #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (21 Nov)

22. Little details speak volumes #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (22 Nov)

23. Don’t give too much away too soon. Leave a little mystery for the reader to figure out for themselves #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (23 Nov)

24. Foreshadow through storytelling, action, and metaphor #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (24 Nov)

25. Never underestimate your readers; they’re smarter than you think #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (25 Nov)

26. Giving your character ‘emotion’ doesn’t mean making them emotional #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (26 Nov)

27. Give your character a voice that screams uniquely above the rest #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (27 Nov)

28. Even minor characters could be round characters, meaning they have depth #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (28 Nov)

29. The best research comes from experience, true, but Google is pretty useful too #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (29 Nov)

30. Always double check to make sure you spelled the Agent’s name right ;) #pitchtip #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (30 Nov)

31. The moment you touch pen to paper your idea and work is under your copyright #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (1 Dec)

32. Mostly, you can x-out words like ‘that’ ‘for a moment’ ‘suddenly’ ‘earning’ ‘started’ & ‘things’ #NaNoWriMo #WriteTip (2 Dec)

33. Expect rejection when pitching. It’s inevitable and nothing personal #WriteTip #pitchtip (3 Dec)

34. An easy way to keep tabs on your characters is character sheets #WriteTip http://nicolemichelleblog.com/5-character-sheets/ (4 Dec)

35. Don’t underestimate the power of setting #WriteTip (5 Dec)

36. Drop subtle hints throughout for the reader to key-in on #WriteTip (6 Dec)

37. If you’re bored writing a scene, the reader will be bored reading it #WriteTip (7 Dec)

38. There’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ chapter length #WriteTip (8 Dec)

39. The less the reader knows, the higher the tension #WriteTip (9 Dec)

40. Worry about edits later, just get it written down now #WriteTip (10 Dec)

41. Incorporating lyrics in a novel is tricky business and crosses into copyright infringement #WriteTip (11 Dec)

42. Never turn down or resent constructive criticism if you want to grow as a writer #WriteTip (12 Dec)

43. Don’t forget unwoven threads; once they’re in place weave them #WriteTip (13 Dec)

44. If you introduce a character he better have a purpose for being there #WriteTip (14 Dec)

45. Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need a prologue?’ #WriteTip (15 Dec)

46. — (or M-Dash) is just a fancy comma—use for greater impact #WriteTip (16 Dec)

47. Don’t get too attached to anything you write #KillYourDarlings #WriteTip (17 Dec)

48. ‘Protagonist’ is defined as the character that goes through the most change by the end #WriteTip (18 Dec.)

49. The reader is usually right, so listen to them #WriteTip (19 Dec)

50. There’s more to storytelling than just dialogue (unless you’re Hemingway…) #WriteTip (20 Dec)

51.  Write longer paragraphs with heavy descriptions to slow down the pace #WriteTip (21 Dec)

52. ‘Said’ is the invisible word #WriteTip (22 Dec)

53. Don’t rely on flashback, there’s other methods of getting the same info across #WriteTip (23 Dec)

54. Show us how your character feels; really get into their heads #WriteTip (24 Dec)

55. Know your characters—every. little. detail. #WriteTip (25 Dec)

56. Don’t rely on your editor to fix your grammar problems for you #WriteTip (26 Dec)

57. Writing a book is no easy task and certainly not one to be rushed #WriteTip (27 Dec)

58. Share your work & ask for feedback. It’s the only way to know where you stand as a writer #WriteTip (28 Dec)

59. Test the reliability of your narrator #WriteTip (29 Dec)

60. Definitely experiment. Absolutely. But first know the rules. #WriteTip (30 Dec)

61. Trust yourself. If you feel like there’s something wrong with the scene you wrote, you’re probably right #WriteTip (31 Dec)

62. You will always grow as a writer, unless you stop writing altogether #WriteTip (1 Jan)

9
Mar

20. Plot Twists

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A plot twist is an unexpected turn—or twist—in the sequence of events that outline the plot. Some authors use plot twists to get a reaction from their readers or to completely throw off the readers from conventional way they expect the story to unfold. It leaves the reader saying, “I did not see that coming.”

This usually happens near the climax of the story, but can be found anywhere in the story really. A good example of this is how frequently the tides turn in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. One moment everything is fine, then it’s not. One moment the protags are in the lead, and then the antags have the benefit. You just never know what’s going to happen haha. It leaves the reader on the edge of their seat, trying to guess what may come next, but the plot twist makes it impossible for them to foresee what will happen because of its unexpected nature.

The most impactful plot twists happen when the author does something unconventional to the protagonist (or sometimes antagonist). For example, at the end of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones (WARNING SPOILER AHEAD), GRRM kills off Eddard Stark, the noble protagonist that everyone loves.
You think, ‘Oh no, that character is fine because he’s the protagonist, which GRRM replies, “Nope!”

Another example is from the CW show The Vampire Diaries. (SPOILER AHEAD IF YOU”VE NEVER SEEN IT!) You think your main character, Elena Gilbert, will never become a vampire because she has established she never wants that for herself, and in fact, choses death over becoming a vampire, but in a twist of fate, she happens to have vampire blood in her system (a key component for humans turning into vampies when they die) when she dies…and then wakes up a vampire, which brings on worlds of new problems and conflicts.

So, to conclude, plot twists can be a good and effective tool for both shocking the reader and keeping them hooked longer to force them to find out the events to come :)

 

 

Nicole Michelle

 

23
Feb

19. Tone vs Voice

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     Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between tone and voice, but they are indeed two different writing elements. However, both elements are often seen together, which is where it gets confusing.

     Tone usually refers to the “feeling” of the passage or piece you’re looking at. Often people who are critiquing your work might say something along the lines of “this piece has a good tone,” which simply means the reader got a strong/consistent feeling that was translated from the writing. There could be a funny tone, serious/heavy tone, solemn tone, puzzling tone, the list goes on and on really. It’s the essence of the piece, which makes the reader feel.

     Voice, on the other hand, is the “speaker” of the piece. There can be a “strong voice” to the piece, which isn’t translated through dialogue, but rather the narrator and their feelings.

Examples

Consider these two passages from The Buddha in the Attic, a book about Japanese Picture Brides that came to America just before the War broke out:

 1) “On the boat we crowded into each other’s bunks every night and stayed up for hours discussing the unknown continent ahead of us. The people there were said to eat nothing but meat and their bodies were covered with hair (we were mostly Buddhist, and did not eat meat, and only had hair in the appropriate places). The trees were enormous. The plains were vast. The women were loud and tall—a full head taller, we had heard, than the tallest of our men. The language was ten times as difficult as our own and the customs were unfathomably strange. Books were read from back to front and soap was used in the bath. Noses were blown on dirty cloths that were stuffed back into pockets only to be taken out later and used again and again. The opposite of white was not red, but black. What would become of us, we wondered, in such an alien land?” (Otsuka 6-7).

     And, this scene when they have to leave to internment camps:

     2) “Misuyo left graciously, and with ill will toward none. Chiyoko, who had always insisted that we call her Charlotte, left insisting we call her Chiyoko. I’ve changed my mind one last time. Iyo left with an alarm clock ringing from somewhere deep inside her suitcase but did not stop to turn it off. Kimiko left her purse behind on the kitchen table but would not remember until it was too late. Haruko left a tiny laughing brass Buddha up high, in the corner of the attic, where he is still laughing to this day.” (Otsuka 109).

     The voice in both passages is unique because it is not from a single narrator, but rather the collective, or Royal, ‘I’ (i.e. “we”).  Regardless, the voice in Buddha in the Attic is still considered to be strong because of how the author, Julie Otsuka, managed to represent many voices, and tales/stories, in so little words.

     The tone seen in the first passage is that of hope, wonder, possibly excitement, and even fear. The reader gets the sense of these feelings just by the words that are used. In the second passage, the tone is very solemn because the reader is getting glimpses into the characters reactions to them having to leave everything they worked so hard to build away.

     As always, make sure Bird by Bird is in your writing book collection. That book covers everything, including tone and voice.

 

Nicole Michelle

Work Cited

Otsuka, Julie. The Buddha in the Attic. New York: Anchor books, 2011. Print.

9
Feb

18. Conflict

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     Conflict is your good ol’ problems, or struggles with characters or plot in story. It gives your story dimension and gives the reader something they want to read. No one wants to read a story about a perfect world, it’s just not that exciting, or realistic, honestly.
     There are two types of conflict: internal and external.
     
     Internal Conflict is a conflict that takes place inside the character. It’s their inner struggle with their emotions or morals that’s creating tension in the story.
     For example, in the short story The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, the Doctor, Jack Ferguson, has an internal battle over whether or not he loves Mabel, the daughter of a recently deceased horse dealer, who is now left without any money or hope for a future.

     External Conflict is conflict created by external forces. The external conflict in The Horse Dealer’s Daughter is when Mabel is drowning in the lake before the doctor pulls her out.

     Think of conflict as the things that go wrong, which isn’t such a bad thing in storytelling. Without any conflict life would be rather dull. This is conflict in a nutshell, if you want any more information on it check out Plot & Structure.

 

Nicole Michelle

 

 

26
Jan

17. It’s All In The Details

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     Come close. Closer. Zoom all the way in and focus. What do you see? What does it say to you? Does it speak wonders? Does it catch your interest? That may be because sometimes the details between the lines are more revealing than the actual words themselves.
     Writing and reading details is a lot like a director zooming in for a close-up on a certain object with the camera. The point of that is to call the audience’s attention to something without specifically stating what it is we need to feel or think about that detail. It gives room for the audience to speculate.
     And if the audience is paying attention, they can gain some sort of significant meaning from that detail. For examples, let’s turn to Hills Like White Elephants (link to short story) by Hemmingway.

 

Hills Like White Elephants

I could not think of a better example to give than one of Hemingway’s stories. With his Iceberg Theory (or also known as the Iceberg Principle), Hemingway is a believer in the bare minimum. His stories are really all about picking up on the details to come to a conclusion.

Most of the details the reader needs to pay attention to here, is in his symbolism.

The “operation”

This is the biggest little detail the readers are thrown. Hemingway even goes into more detail and reveals how the operation is done. “They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural” says the (jerk-face) American (his character infuriates me, but we’ll leave that rant for another day ;p) (Hemingway). What kind of operation is like that? That is what the writer wants the reader to think when reading this exchange, which is why our author doesn’t flat-out tell us what the “operation” is. The answer is in the details.

Jig

At one point our female main character is referred to as Jig, which is a dance and therefore could be inferred that the couple ‘dances’ around their problems. This is an important detail to know to better understand our characters.

White Elephants

Perhaps the biggest little detail we have is the “White Elephants”. Ever heard that saying “the elephant in the room”? Most likely that is what the reader thinks of when they hear Jig say, “The hills look like white elephants” (Hemingway). Any guesses as to what that elephant in the room (womb?) could be?

There are many many more details that give away what Hemingway’s story is about, but that would take all day to tell you about, so I will leave it at these three and let you read the story and find them for yourselves :)

1” Picture Frame

When it comes to writing details, as I said before, it’s all about zooming the readers attention on one little focus. In her book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott discusses writing through the scope of a 1” picture frame.

To summarize, she basically says write only what you see in that one inch frame, focus on the details there. She goes on to say, “So after I’ve completely exhausted myself thinking about the people I most resent in the world, and my more arresting financial problems, and, of course, the orthodontia, I remember to pick up the one-inch picture frame and to figure out a one-inch piece of story to tell, one small scene, one memory, one exchange” (Lamott 18).

Focusing on details can range from being extra descriptive on an object to symbolism. Everything we write is for a reason. There is a reason the curtains are open or closed in the room, there is a reason that rose is blue in color. It’s all in the details.

 

For more information on writing about details or the 1” picture frame, I highly encourage you to read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It is personally my favorite writing advice book and one that I have put much use to.

Nicole Michelle

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White ElephantsAsdk12.org. Web. 26 January 2014.

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird. New York: Anchor Books, 1994. Print.

12
Jan

16. Symbolism

But what does it meeeaaan??

But what does it meeeaaan??

     Look! There! Did you see that object that really meets more than the eye can see? It’s what we in the biz like to call symbolism :D
     When an object, number, color, etc. reappears more than once throughout a story (funny how that keeps showing up), it’s known as Symbolism. Similarly, if it appears only once but holds significant meaning, it’s known as an Emblem. So, once = emblem, more than once = symbol. Easy as pie.
     Writing symbolism in a story is important because it could 1) show foreshadowing, and 2) challenges the reader to participate by analyzing what that symbol or emblem means. Overall, symbolism just adds to the story and makes it less flat.
     For examples I’m going to look at the emblems and symbols from A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner.

 

Emblems

A ROSE For Emily

The very first emblem we see is actually in the title. This is the first and only time in the story we see a “rose.” The deeper meaning here comes from the context. If you haven’t read the story yet, I recommend you do so, before I spoil the ending right now :p (Link). It was much more common back in the day for women to press flowers—or roses—between the pages of a book; so, if you’ve read to the end of the short story (last chance!) you know that she kept a dead body in her bed…pressed between the sheets…like a flower…see the correlation??

So that is why the emblem in the title has a deeper meaning, and really, how the title relates at all to the story.

     

Symbols

Yellow/Gold

The color yellow/gold appears six times throughout this five-part short story. Now the color meaning usually translates to happiness, the sun or Sunday (which is also repeated 5 times), beginnings, joy, wealth (physical/emotional), etc. So, one has to ask, “Faulkner, why did you put such a vibrant color throughout your perverse story?”

I think the answer lies within the timing of the story. We mainly see these colors when good ol’ Homer Barron comes around, which we can equate the color yellow with him. Also, we see this color in the beginning when the house is being described (years later) as “once been white,” which we can assume then the house has ‘yellowed’ over time since  good ol’ Homer left (Faulkner 99).

Three

This number appears—wouldn’t ya guess it—three times through the story. Now, one has to ask themselves—why three? Considering this story is about death and not wanting the dead to be dead, I would have to say that this number equates to a biblical reference of Jesus rising after three days.

Idols/Sacred Items

Twice Emiliy is referred to an “Idol.” Once as “a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows—sort of tragic and serene” (Faulkner 101). Again, as if she were a statue sitting on a table, and then as the cabal.

I think this symbolism is repeated so many times, because Faulkner is trying to put it in our head that Emily is untouchable, like some sort of god almost, and in the end we see that time and time again Miss Emily got pass after pass from the towns people, and ultimately she got away with, at least, keeping a dead body in her house for many many years.

 

     As demonstrated, simple objects or concepts can have deeper meanings in literature, and, in fact, bring another level to reading stories.
     Linked below is A Rose For Emily, by William Faulkner. If you have not read it, I highly recommend that you do :) Likewise, I challenge you to attempt to analyze the story yourself without looking it up on the internet ;) Here’s some questions for you to consider while reading it:

            Did you see any other symbolism or emblems besides the ones I found?

            Who’s body was in the bed at the end?

            Is this story written linearly?

Who do you think the narrator is? Is our narrator reliable?

If you feel compelled to do so, answer the questions in a comment below or at my twitter! :) @TheNicole_C

A Rose For Emily: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr/wf_rose.html

 

Nicole Michelle

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. “A Rose For Emily. The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. Ed. Michael Meyer. New York: Bedford, 2013. 99-105. Print.

29
Dec

15. Authenticity

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     A key element to writing fiction, believe it or not, is the authenticity of what you’re writing. By authenticity, I mean the believability of what you’re writing. You can’t say, for example, that your main character is an astronaut without first researching all there is to know on the subject; otherwise, you, as the author, will, frankly, come off as a joke or unreliable. You need to know what you’re talking about in order for your audience to believe in you and your writing. This can be done in one word: research.
     Today, more than ever, there are many options one can find their research and really no excuses to not know your stuff.

 

 1.     The World Wide Web

     The Internet is a beautiful place full of magical wonder. You can Google anything and thousands of options will appear for your disposal. This is probably the easiest way to research just about anything you need to know on any subjects.

 

 2.     Go To Your Local Library

     There are these ancient buildings, once known as The Library. I hear they’re filled with hundreds of books that smell of old paper and dust. These books can hold many truths and wisdoms and they’re just waiting on shelves for you to go get them. Some of these Libraries even have a room filled with town records, censuses, and newspaper articles for any historical references.

 

 3.     Contact/Interview A Specialist

     If you’re talking about a very particular field that you are not already well versed in, you may want to consult someone who is an expert in that field. For example, some mystery writers, believe it or not, weren’t former cops or CIA and actually had to do much research in that field before having their main character be a Super Secret Agent and you bet your patootie that they interviewed many people in that field. Those authors do their research, which is why they’re so popular.

 

 4.     YouTube It

     Okay, one of us may or may not have been guilty of doing this. And one of us may or may not have wondered how to ride a motorcycle and looked up a How-To video. All I gotta say ‘bout it, is it was extremely helpful, sometimes we need to see how something is done—a demonstration is nice—and now one of our characters may or may not get around on a nice bike…and I don’t mean bicycle.

 5. Experience It Yourself

     There is no better way, honestly, to research something than to actually go out and experience yourself. If, for example, your character is an avid gun user, gosh dern it, go out there and shoot a gun! Feel what it’s like for yourself. Learn what it feels it, the adrenaline, how heavy it is, the recoils, the loud bangs, how to load it, clean it, gun safety, etc. etc. As they say, we write what we know. So go out and experience the many wonders of life.

 

6. Your Friends And Family Are There For A Reason

     Friends and family can actually come in handy. They may know something you don’t and therefore are a good resource to go to. If you look at the acknowledgements in the back of New Moon, you see Stephenie Meyer wrote, “A special thanks to my brother Paul for the motorcycle riding lesson—you have a true gift for teaching.” In the very least, we can say that Meyer got the motorcycle riding facts right.

 

     Please, please, never guess or assume facts. All you have to do, really, is a quick Google search. That simple gesture will save your writing career! :o
     No, seriously, it’s important to have that authenticity behind your writing. If anything, you owe it to your readers…and really yourself and your reputation as a writer. If you need more information on how to go about researching so your stories are authentic, I strongly recommend Bird by Bird, and also, Writing Fiction For Dummies.

 

 

Nicole Michelle

16
Dec

14. Pacing

Dedication in The devil's Highway

Dedication in The Devil’s Highway

     Pacing in stories is essential, because it determines the speed at which the novel is read. There are certain passages you want your audience to read more quickly or slowly, depending on the level of tension you are trying to build. Here’s three tips to help deal with pacing:

  

1.     Shorter Paragraphs Make The Reader Read Faster

     Writing shorter, more concise paragraphs creates suspense and tension in the reader. This is often during action scenes where many things are happening very fast. It’s shorter sentences and right to the point, usually without dialogue (although not always).
     Here’s an example from The Devil’s Highway, which conveys good tension:

 

     “Far back, far east from all the action, Edgar Adrian Martinez lay, still alive, still breathing. It was incredible that he’d lasted that long.
     He’d been lying in the heat for days. The rescuers did what they could for him, but he was in bad shape. They called in the coordinates on him and waited for the dust-off to get there. He never responded to questions, they tried to pour water between his split lips.
     It must have been his sixteen-year-old body that kept him alive.
     Finally, the helicopter came over the peaks. It hove into view and circled.
Edgar opened his eyes. They were dull. Maybe he saw, maybe he didn’t. The big beast hovered over them, kicking up dust. It started to descend.
     Edgar raised his head. He opened his mouth, but the motors were too loud for anyone to hear anything. He raised his hands as the machine landed.
     He put his head down.
     He died” (Urrea 175-176).

     This example has short, to the point sentences and small paragraphs that forces the reader to read faster. There’s tension as the reader waits for the helicopter to land and get to Edgar, until it peaks out and “he died.”

 

 2.     Longer Paragraphs Makes The Reader Read Slower

     It only makes sense that if shorter paragraphs forces a faster read, longer paragraphs forces a slower read and relieves tension. It gives the reader a break from all the built up suspense, which is necessary so your reader isn’t uncomfortable for a long time. That’s good for a little while, just not all novel long. A lot of times, we break from the action and details with narrative. Here’s another example from The Devil’s Highway:

 

     ““The highway’s right over the hill,” Mendez said.
     It wasn’t.
     They veered northwest in the dark. Mendez allowed few rest stops. No one knew what he was orienteering by—since the rain had started, the stars and moon were hidden behind cloud cover. Even with clouds breaking up, and the sky becoming partially visible, Mendez was hardly a master of the astrolabe. He wouldn’t have been able to tell the North Star from Venus” (Urrea 111-112).

     This example shows a break from action and tells the reader (through narrative) what is happening and that Mendez really doesn’t know what he’s doing. It sets the reader up for the characters journey of being lost in a desert because their guide mislead them.

 

3. Dialogue Is Essential To Pacing Too

     Dialogue can both create and relieve tension. For example, if your character is in a heated argument, then it’s likely the dialogue is going to be very short and fast, back and forth with minimal dialogue tags and no or little accompanied details. Think about your own verbal fights you’ve had, you argue with short and sharp sentences because your out of breath and your mind is racing. Here’s an example from The Devils Highway:

 

“One of the Border Patrol guys saw that Mendez had a rabbit tattoo on his arm.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked.
“What?”
“The rabbit.”
“The tattoo?”
“Yes, the tattoo. What does the rabbit tattoo signify?”
“Nothing.”
“Gang sign?”
“No.”
“Is it some kind of Coyote code?”
“It’s a rabbit. I like rabbits.”
If the Migra had realized who they had in the holding pen, the Yuma 14 might be alive today. But somehow, Mendez wasn’t recognized. They were looking for Jesus Lopez Ramos from San Luis, not some Rabbit Mendez of Sonoita” (Urrea 90-91).
     The dialogue here is short and concise so it reads fast. There is one dialogue tag to show who started talking so the reader knows who is talking.

 

     If you want more advice on pacing in novels I recommend Plot & Structure (Write Great Fiction).

 

Nicole Michelle

Works Cited

Urrea, Luis Alberto. The Devils Highway: A True Story. New York: Back Bay Books, 2004. Print.

1
Dec

13. Foreshadowing

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     Foreshadowing is a technique used by writers to hint to their readers what’s going to happen next in the plot. This is mainly to keep the reader interactive to keep them guessing what’s to come. Also when whatever the event being foreshadowed does come there is less of a shock to the reader so it doesn’t seem like it’s coming from left field, so to speak. Foreshadowing could be used at anytime throughout the story, in the beginning or at the end to show there’s another book coming, and is usually portrayed though symbolism, or sometimes dialogue (if you’re paying close attention to the way a character is speaking).

     
Foreshadowing through Dialogue

     This is probably not as common as foreshadowing though symbolism, but if you pay close attention to what a character is saying, their dialogue could actually be quite telling. Take, for example, “Oedipus the King” and how Tiresias, the blind prophet, speaks to Oedipus about the murderer he seeks. He says,

“Revealed at last, brother and father both / to the children he embraces, to his mother / son and husband both – he sowed the loins / his father sowed, he spilled his father’s blood!
Go and reflect on that, solve that. / And if you find I’ve lied / from this day onward call the prophet blind” (520-526).

     Of course Oedipus’ reaction is normal when he doesn’t believe what the prophet is saying that, not only is he the murderer he seeks, but that his mother and wife are one in the same. He refuses to believe it true and then he continues his search for the murderer; however one thing the prophet said, did bug him: the issue of his true parents.
     Oedipus then goes on a journey to find out his true parents, but his wife begs him not to go. She says,

“Stop in the name of god, / if you love your own life, call off this search!” (1163-4).

     Her speech is very telling here and foreshadows her knowledge of his death, if he continues to search for his true parents. Of course, it’s true that when he finds out the truth that Jocasta, his wife, is in fact his mother, Oedipus’ had his self-fulfilling prophecy come true and the play is ended in tragedy.
     The prophet gave the readers a bit of information that would make anyone perk with curiosity. Why would he say that? Is it true? It foreshadowed the truth. And then Jocasta somewhat hints of her own knowledge of the situation. Why would she be so determined to stop him from searching for his parents, if she didn’t already think that maybe she had married her son. The same son that she had abandoned because there was a prophecy that he would marry his mother and kill his father. The fact that she is showing worry, indicates that she knew, which prompts the reader to put two and two together.

Foreshadowing with Symbolism

     Symbolism is, perhaps, the most common way to foreshadow an event.

In the beginning of A Game of Thrones, the Stark family comes across a dead dire wolf and her live pups. Ned wonders what killed the beast and Robb points out that there is something in its throat. Ned pulls out a bloodied shattered antler (17-19).

     To understand this example of symbolism and foreshadow, one would need to know that the house sigil of the Starks is the Dire Wolf, while the Baratheon’s house sigil is the Stag. Ned was ultimately brought down from House Baratheon.

     
     Foreshadowing is a fun way to keep the reader engaged and fun for the writer to drop hints of what’s to come. It a good technique to prepare the readers so there is some sort of believability when the main events happen. Give the readers something to look forward to. For more information on foreshadowing and other writing techniques I recommend Writing Fiction For Dummies.

 

Nicole Michelle

     

Works Cited

Martin, George R.R. A Game Of Thrones. New York: Bantam Books, 1996. Print.

Sophicles. “Oedipus the King.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. New York: Bedford, 1986. 1442-1484. Print.

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Nov

12. Starting Your Book

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     So you’ve talked yourself into writing a book, but now you’re wondering ‘where do I start?’ Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place. Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken” and boy is Plato right (I mean seriously, who can argue with Plato?).
     The first fifty pages are the most important pages of your book. The author has a tremendous task to execute these pages with technique and precision. Here’s what you need to accomplish in this little amount of space:

This is very important, because without a character you don’t have a story!

  • Establish your character’s norm

This means your character’s “normal”, meaning define what a normal day in their life is like before it gets all haywire from what’s to come. It’s important to show this that way the readers recognize when there is, in fact, a change and they can recognize that it’s significant.

  • Establish your World (world building)

This is also important to establish what your World is like ASAP. If magic and fairies and vampires and werewolves are apart of your world, immediately let your reader know, so there are no surprises for them. Don’t one moment have your world as a contemporary, non-magical place and then all the sudden introduce that your character is a Master Witch. Either keep your world as the contemporary, non-magical place or immediately show that you character is a Master Witch that can take over the world. This 1) makes it easier for the reader to know what they’re getting into and 2) keeps the reader from being confused.

  • Establish POV and stick with it

Once you pick a POV stick with it consistently. This isn’t to say you cant ever change the pov from one character to another, it just simply means that whatever you do decide to do (i.e. third lim. from a man and then woman’s pov) make sure that is consistent throughout the entire novel. Reader’s need to connect with the characters and a way they do is partially through whatever POV the character is being portrayed through.

  • Establish a conflict/ antagonist/ something the protagonist has to lose

This is critical to move the plot along and will most likely be toward the end of the fifty pages. This can be either internal or external conflict or both. The readers crave something to go wrong in the character’s world, because we live in an imperfect world. Who would want to read a story where nothing goes wrong? Give the readers some drama, and quick!

  • Get the pacing perfect

This is a very difficult thing to accomplish, even for seasoned writers, but it’s crucial to have a perfect pace that’s not too fast or slow during the first few chapters of your novel. If it’s too slow you’ll lose the reader, if it’s too fast you lose detail and will ultimately confuse the reader. Just remember all the techniques of writing and try to balance them as delicately as possible for the best results.

  • Pull the reader in from line one

The beginning of your book is crucial for any reader picking up your book for the first time, or agent even, you’ve got to hook them by the first line. A good technique for this is starting off with action. Put the reader right into the middle of it.

     Let’s take a look at the opening of a popular book, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. By page fifty we’ve established that:

  • Katniss has a little sister, Primrose, and a cat that hates her.
  • She has a friend named Gale that she goes hunting with, with her weapon of choice (i.e. bow and arrow), even though its not allowed.
  • She lives in District 12, which isn’t doing too well.
  • By word two we are aware that the POV is in first person. By page seven we learn her name is Katniss, or “Catnip” as her guy friend Gale calls her.
  • There’s an internal conflict when Gale suggests that they run away. The external conflict comes when the Reaping happens. There’s tension while drawing the name. Katniss hopes it’s not her (be careful what you wish for they say) and then her sister’s name is called and she volunteers. And then the readers are introduced to Peeta, the male tribute, which we don’t know yet, but sets us up for a new internal conflict.
  • The pacing may seem a little fast, but it’s actually rather steady. It may just seem that way because the reader is dropped pretty close to the conflict to begin with.
  • And we have the first line pulling the reader in, “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold” (3). This leaves readers interested. Who is ‘I’? Why is the other side of the bed cold? Who usually sleeps there to make it not cold? And why did they leave? It’s good to have readers ask so many questions, because if they want those questions answered they will keep reading to find out.

     In The Hunger Games we have a good start where we have conflict, world established, a character norm before it’s distorted, and good pacing that slows after the excitement of the Reaping, to establish the new character norm of the tributes on their way to District 13. All in all this is a good beginning to model after.

DO NOT:

  • Open with a cliché

For example, starting with your character waking up from a dream and looking into a mirror—or any reflective surface (for gods sake, find another way to describe your characters! …I say this with love of course). Or starting off with a storm outside or having the charter’s first day of school—avoid avoid avoid avoid! Here’s some more examples of cliché beginnings that everyone will roll their eyes at:

http://michellewittebooks.com/2013/08/openings-that-dont-get-me-excited/

http://www.writersdigest.com/tip-of-the-day/12-cliches-to-avoid-when-beginning-your-story

  • Narrate a prologue

It is always always always better to show than to tell (Show vs tell). Start off your book showing what’s happening not tell your reader what happening. Your reader wants to see what’s going on not read some boring blurb about what happened. Listen, it happens, we’ve all been there (me included), but let’s be honest the reader would rather see the action than be told what to believe. It’s a common first draft problem and can be easily fixed through revision.

     You’ve got one shot to impress the reader or an agent you’re pitching to, so make your beginning good—make it a killer beginning. I believe in you :)
     Hopefully this advice puts you all off on the right start. Now go write! For more info on starting your book off, I strongly recommend adding The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke to your writing library. This book is a must add to your writing kit, so get your hands on a copy somehow.

Works Cited

 Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008. Print.