ABC’s of Writing
When you’re writing, you’ve got to Set the Scene. This is something I had trouble with. I have always enjoyed dialogue. I like my characters moving, talking, sassing each other. That’s fun for me. But setting the scene was a weakness…as I was told many times in judge’s comments.
The scene descriptions are not allowed to drag on either. It slows the story. So you choose your words very carefully, insert them in bits. Tag dialogue with, ‘she shoved the sleeves of her favorite, black Harvard Law School sweatshirt up to her elbows’
Is traffic whizzing by? She inhaled the scent of fresh hot coffee and warmed her hands on the heavy white pottery mug. The touch, scent, vision, sound, taste bring a reader deeply into the book in a way that’s kind of hard to explain and is easy to skip as a writer, but it’s really effective. Use your sense, use the senses. (Hey, that’s like a novelist fortune cookie!)
This is something that is NEW, IMPORTANT and CONFUSING. Especially in a world where so many established authors break this rule. POV is; Whose head you’re in?
One POV per scene. And no, Nora Roberts doesn’t obey this. But news flash: You’re not Nora. Obey this.
She saw his eyes brim with
tears and knew he had never gotten over the death of his first love.
can do that later when you’re in HIS POV.
had to fight back tears of relief that the battle-ax was dead.”
POV is tricky. And one POV per scene is the rule.
Next comes Back Story Dump. This is just an almost uncontrollable urge every author on the planet–including me–has to tell the reader what brought the characters to where the story begins. You’re supposed to begin your book with an explosion. Not always an actual explosion, an emotional one is fine…but honestly, I prefer if something really blows up. Bring on the dynamite. Well, we can’t be blowing things up now can we if we’re locked inside the heroine’s head while she’s driving along remembering her mother’s death and her fiancé’s betrayal and her boss firing her for not submitting to his disgusting advances and now she’s penniless and almost out of gas and there are wolves howling in the dark woods through which she is now driving.
NO! Stop thinking about the past and explode the story.
Here’s the thing with back story. You need it. You wouldn’t have made it up if you didn’t need it. So, you’ve got to assume you need it for a REASON.
Therefore, that back story is going to wind it’s way into your story somehow.
Seriously, it makes its way in. You do NOT need to write a three page back story, certainly not. Not even a one paragraph back story. Try half a sentence per page for the whole book.
Dialogue…get OUT of her head. If she’s fighting for her life then, okay, she can not talk, but otherwise, get her a friend or a dog or a teddy bear or something so she can talk not think. Thinking is very slow.
Which brings us to action. Make her MOVE. Please.Make someone move. If your book starts with her driving along for ten pages, reflecting on her whole life up to this point—alone—with no five senses—in an omniscient POV, which I am not going to attempt to explain here…Google it…then you’re making a mistake and you need to fix it.
blah, blah, blah… I’d have her dangle, fight her way back up (the word cliffhanger came from somewhere!). Some blood drip in her eyes, a wolf howl, I’m picturing sleet to wed the ‘frozen’ with the ‘lightning’. You know, the regular opening for a sweet Christian romance novel….
Dragging herself back up onto the bridge, she raised her eyes and looked straight into the dripping fangs of the alpha male of a growling wolf pack.
He was going to tear her to shreds and eat her flesh. Even so Maddy knew the wolf would treat her ten times better than her back-stabbing, cheating, lying, slimeball ex-fiancé.
That’s it. That’s all the back story you get for this page. We need a hero to jump between her and the wolves about now, don’t you think? Although I’m a big fan of heroines saving themselves. Still, this is a really tight spot. I’m sure she had a shotgun but it went over the cliff with her car. The hero’d better show up and be tough but have a real bad attitude.
Why the bad attitude? His own back story. But please, please, please don’t tell me about it yet. And you can’t anyway because we’re in her POV.
Anything about this you don’t understand you have to learn.
Go look at your book. Are the senses there, the dialogue? Is the back story gone? Who’s POV are you in? Did you explode your story?