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07:28 am: Wright's Writing Corner: My Writing Tips
 
Since we started last week with John's Writing Tips, I thought I would post my writing tips. These are not tips for new writers, but the cumulated wisdom I've scraped together for myself. I shared them with some writing friends once before, and they found them helpful. Hope you do, too!


Writing Tips

 

Two Strings:             Two separate issues need to be going in each scene.

 

The Trick:         Raising expectations in one direction but having the story go in the opposite direction. It sounds simple, but it may be the most useful writing technique of all...the book Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is just the trick over and over again. 

 

The Foil:           The trick applied to people.  Use other characters to showcase the strengths of your main characters and to make them seem extraordinary.  Example:  Nausicaa’s guys.

 

Senses:             Add three to five senses to every description.

 

Interior Dialogue:  Readers don’t trust dialogue.  Have your characters think, and have what they think be juxtaposed to the dialogue, showing a new angle.

 

Open active:     Start scene changes underway and then explain how you got there…unless change significant.

 

Measurements by example:  Tall as a man, rather than six feet high, where applicable.

 

Romantic Tension: To make a character seem attractive to another character (at least to women) list a character trait of character A and an emotional reaction to this trait from character B).  (example: she had an air of mystery that intrigued him. Or, her shy retiring manner made him wish he could protect her.)

 

Payload:           Every scene/fight/sex scene should have some moment that moves the plot along or heightens awareness, drawing the reader into something greater. Villains should reveal something important during a fight, and romantic partners should learn more about each other or reveal secrets.

 

                        Also, every character should have at least one paragraph/scene where the inner motivation of that character is revealed.

 

Dicken’s Trick: Using action in description: “There is not just a kettle on the fire, it is boiling over.” "Horses at the cab stands are steaming in the cold and stamping. When people enter a room they are sneezing or hiding something in their pockets."

 

Ping Pong Dialogue: Have some dialogue go back and forth quickly, taking less than one line on the page – leaving white space – to increase readability.

 

Pink passages: Add visceral reactions – physical involuntary reactions – to heighten connection with reader…but not too much.

 

Character dynamics:  To make a character come to life, give him two conflicting goals. Also, add a scene where he shows a trait at odds with his main traits—this has the same effect in print that shading does in an illustration. It adds a sense of three-dimensionality.

 

Checklist – To check every scene:

                        What does it look like?

Senses…what does it smell/sound/feel/taste like?

What is the character feeling?

What is the character doing to express this? -- nonverbal reactions

What Visceral reaction can the character have?

 

 

 




Comments

[User Picture]
From:damcphail
Date:July 22nd, 2009 11:50 am (UTC)

Watch out Maas

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You have some fantastic tips here. Some are familiar, but others I wouldn't even have thought of. Thanks for sharing :)
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 22nd, 2009 12:12 pm (UTC)

Re: Watch out Maas

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Thanks for visiting! (At least one, I got from you. ;-)
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From:damcphail
Date:July 24th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Watch out Maas

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:::blushes::: hmm...which one could that be!
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From:oscillon
Date:July 22nd, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
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I am not a writer or have any ambitions in that area. I have spent some time researching writing techniques. I only did this in order to get more out of reading.
One of the books I ran across (I think on recomendation from someone on John's journal) was "Narrative Technique" by Thomas Uzzell. Wondered if anyone else read it. The main premise was that a short story's real goal was to instill an emotion in the reader. The author should know what that emotion is and do everything possible to reinforce it. The novel was more complex but basicaly a larger version of the same thing.
It also had some very similar techniques you describe above.

(p.s. the link on the left to your website does not work right.)
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:July 22nd, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC)
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Weird about the link...I checked on my profile and the right URL is there...but Livejournal doesn't seem to have hooked it up.

Which is probably for the best at the moment, as my website is really still under construction.

I have not read "Narrative Technique" but I do think that there is some truth to what he says. I would say that there are other purposes one can have with a short story than to install an emotion...but that's not a bad goal or idea, if one does not have a different specific purpose.

My favorite writing book, by far, is Writing The Breakout Novel by agent Donald Maass. (I'll probably do a whole writing blog jsut about that book.)
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From:brni
Date:July 23rd, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
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re: the link - you've got an extra "http//" in there, which is causing it to redirect to a domain called "http.com" - which appears to be set up to catch such redirects and present advertised links to the victims.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 23rd, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
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Weird...considering that A) it used to work, and B) it works from my Profile and not from my Journal page.

I've tried to fix it...but it hasn't worked yet. I'll keep trying.

My website, for what it is, is at: http://www.sff.net/people/lamplighter/

Edited at 2009-07-23 06:22 pm (UTC)
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From:johncwright
Date:July 22nd, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)

Earn more sessions by sleeving!

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"romantic partners should earn more..."

I think you mean 'learn more'?

"every character should have at least one paragraph/scene where they reveal their inner motivation"

Agreement of number. Either say "Every character reveals his motivation" or say "All characters reveal their motivation." The way the sentence reads now, it sounds as if you mean every character should have a scene where the various scenes reveal the scenes' inner motivation.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 22nd, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Earn more sessions by sleeving!

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Ah...that's what I get for posting something that is really my own notes to myself...fixed.

Thanks, Handsome.
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From:princejvstin
Date:July 22nd, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
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Raising expectations in one direction but having the story go in the opposite direction. It sounds simple, but it may be the most useful writing technique of all...the book Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is just the trick over and over again.

I haven't read the book, but I love the film. Have you seen the film and if so, does it capture the book's writing techniques accurately?
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:July 22nd, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
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Alas, I have not seen the film, so I cannot tell you...I enjoyed the book very much, but it amused me once I noticed that it was basically just "The Trick" over and over again. The main character would weave an elaborate fantasy of something good...and something bad would happen. Then, she'd do the same thing with something she feared, and something good would happen...yet it was effective.
From:botticelli_s
Date:July 22nd, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
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You are a lucky lady, because you will have the pleasure of seeing Hitchcock's Rebecca for the first time. What a terrific film. Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine...perfect.

BTW, I want to encourage you in this particular project. I have already learned something and I look forward to more entries and comments.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 23rd, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
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Oh! I love Olivier! We'll put that on our Netflix.

Thanks for letting me know it's useful. A kind writer friend has already sent an interesting piece for next week.
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From:johncwright
Date:July 22nd, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)

Maybe this needs to be rewritten

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I hate to say it, but I think you should rewrite these notes into complete sentences, and explain to your poor readers, using clear examples, what you mean. The phrase "Two separate issues need to be going in each scene." is not crystal clear.
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From:marycatelli
Date:July 23rd, 2009 02:04 am (UTC)

Open active:

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A good rule. Except that I find that if you have to go into the past perfect in the opening paragraph, or even the first few, you probably started too late.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 23rd, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)

Re: Open active:

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Interesting point!!
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From:marycatelli
Date:July 23rd, 2009 02:12 am (UTC)

two conflicting goals.

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oh yes.

That's the only useful advice I've ever gotten on how to make character round.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 23rd, 2009 12:09 pm (UTC)

Re: two conflicting goals.

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Check out Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel...my comments are based on the exercises in his Writing the Breakout Novel Handbook...a really, really valuable resource for writers!
[User Picture]
From:marycatelli
Date:July 23rd, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)

Re: two conflicting goals.

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I've read that but I found the advice earlier in Robert McKee's Story.

And have further pondered about how to go about which you can read about here and here.
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From:rhystuck
Date:July 23rd, 2009 08:41 am (UTC)
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If you're interested in knowing what advice people would like, I'd like to know any tips about just getting started writing, and trying to get into the habit of writing regularly, like writing exercises etc, just so you're not just staring at a blank page, that sort of thing.
From:robertjwizard
Date:July 23rd, 2009 11:52 am (UTC)

Starting

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Oh, I got a good one for this, and I've used it twice. And one of them is paying off. Any real (read: published) authors can rebut me, but I think my idea is sound.

Right now I'm totally stealing from this author named John C. Wright, you may have heard of him. Alright, not really stealing, but you'll see what I mean. In his Golden Age series I was really expecting that we were going to the Silent Oecumene. I was utterly fascinated by the way he kept the mystery of this lost civilization interesting. My only disappointment was never going there.

A few weeks later I thought, "why don't I go there?". Use this concept of a sort of anti-Atlantis in a fantasy setting and see what happens. I've also "ripped" Rowling's Death eater mark, and now Wolfe's giant city gate sequence into the same story. Although I may have to point it out for someone to notice when I am done. I also started to trace the history of the word oecumene - I have no idea where this is going to end up yet. You just have to use the form, not the matter, make it all your own, use it as a jumping board and fly with it.

Because you can't start with nothing. You cannot create a story ex nihilo. Trust me, I've spent ghastly amounts of time tearing out what little hair I have left staring at a blank page.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 23rd, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)

Re: Starting

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That's exactly how John does it. ;-)
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From:marycatelli
Date:July 23rd, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Starting

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Run a dating service for your ideas!

'cause stealing from one person is uncreative; stealing from LOTS AND LOTS is creative.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:July 23rd, 2009 12:09 pm (UTC)
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Will do! (At some point.)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 23rd, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)

quota

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set yourself a quote of n words a day, no matter how terrible. (I started with 250 or a page because that was how long I needed to warm up.)

You can make them up after the fact but you can't pay in advance.

And find yourself some place online where you can post your progress. Post every day. If you do nothing, you have to post that.
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From:marycatelli
Date:July 23rd, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)

Re: quota

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Oops. That's me.
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From:jongibbs
Date:July 23rd, 2009 04:42 pm (UTC)
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Great stuff. Thanks for sharing :)
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 23rd, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
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My pleasure!
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