Archive | May 2013

All Five?

Yes, there are five senses. If you need a refresher, they are: seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, and hearing.

Are you using all five senses in your writing? If not, re-read your most recent piece and highlight the senses you are using. Then, for fun, go back and add the other senses. Then read it again and see how much better it is.

A reader needs to feel connected to the story in every way possible. When you’re creating a new setting, bring the reader into it with as much information as you can, without boring them, of course! I’ve read some books that have so much intricate detail that I skim the pages trying to get into the actual story. Find that “happy medium.”

So, is your heroine locked in a dark, dank dungeon? How does it smell? What is the temperature in the room? Is it completely quiet, or does she hear noises like the squeaking of a mouse, or perhaps a cockroach skittering across the floor? And most importantly, what’s going on inside of her emotionally? Is she scared? Most likely. So, how can you show that?

I encourage all of you to read C.J. Redwine’s, “Defiance.” She has a gift with words that will take you to some of  those dark places, and make you feel like you’re actually there. In your mind you become her characters and feel their pain, as well as their joy.

When I was a little girl and would go to visit my grandmother, her house had a distinct smell. It was a combination of bacon and cigarette smoke. That may sound awful, but it was Grandma, and believe it or not, I found the smell welcoming because Grandma was a warm and inviting woman. I have great memories of that house and Grandma’s love. I developed a character in one of my books whose house smells like bacon. And unlike Grandma, my character doesn’t smoke, she chews tobacco. However, like Grandma, she’s one of the most lovable characters in my book.

When writing romance, it’s easy to focus on feelings, and the sense of touch. But those feelings are enhanced when you mention the “woodsy” scent of the man’s skin, or the hint of honey in your heroine’s hair.  Don’t neglect the nose!

I would love for you to tell me about some of your favorite ‘sensory’ writing. Write on, and don’t forget “the five.”

Grandma and Grandpa

Grandma and Grandpa

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The Wisdom of Elders

Write, write, write!

Write, write, write!

A lifetime of wisdom. How long do we have to live before we’re considered, wise? Hmmm….

I’d like to believe that my son, and even my grandson think I’m wise, and that I have a wealth of knowledge and life experiences to share and hand down to them. Many things I don’t want them to know, but in many ways, my life is “an open book.”

Though I doubt my life’s story would make an interesting novel, I have done some things that are worthy of writing about. And, there are those things that I wish I could erase from my memory. Mistakes I’ve made that seem to haunt me. But even those “haunts” bring out feelings and story material. Sometimes the most terrible things in our lives are the best material for stories. I remember hearing once that mistakes make a book interesting.  Who wants to read a book about someone who always does the right, predictable thing? Not much adventure there!

I’ve found that when I write events into my stories that deal with issues I’ve struggled with, the writing helps me heal.

I have a character in one of my books who is a horrible, womanizing jerk. (And that’s putting it nicely) I have a friend who “Beta reads” my books, and she told me that he reminded her of her ex. It made her extremely happy when I used a phrase in one of his conversations, that she told me her ex frequently used. I think in some ways, I helped her to heal!  Or, at least I gave her a good laugh.

So, I challenge you to dig up those difficult memories, and write! Consider it therapy!

 

Write What You Know

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, “write what you know.” Seems simple enough…

So, what do you know? Are you a stay-at-home mom, a business professional, a performer, or a dreamer? Or, maybe you are all of those all rolled into one. What experiences can you draw from to make an interesting story?

Some people may look at their lives and think they’ve not done anything worth writing about, but even “Seinfeld” was a show which claimed to be about nothing at all and yet was probably one of the most entertaining sitcoms ever.

The most wonderful thing about writing is that we can create any adventure we choose. Our characters are our “puppets” that we can manipulate by pulling their strings. Of course, the more I write, the more I find that my characters start telling me what they want to do!  They often disagree with the direction I intended to take them in.

Even so, when we create, we have to know something about what we’re creating. Details are important. Emotions are crucial.

I watched a movie once about a writer, (can’t recall the name of the movie), but he gave some advice that has stuck with me over the years. In teaching an apprentice, he told him that if he intended to “kill off” a character in his story, that it was imperative that the reader feel something when that event takes place. Is the reader happy that the person died, or grief-stricken? If the reader feels nothing, or basically couldn’t care less, then the writer didn’t do his or her job. If you’ve never experienced a loss, then writing an effective story line about it would be very difficult.

This goes back to…write what you know.

No, I have not done everything I write about in my books, but that’s where research and professionals come in. Lots of notes! Still, the best writing you can do, comes from the heart, and the majority of the  emotional experiences in my stories have been personally experienced. Each day that you live your life you have something new to draw from.

Currently, I am the caretaker of my mother-in-law who has Alzheimer’s. In caring for her, I’ve not only discovered the turmoils she’s enduring dealing with the disease, but I’ve also found emotions and moods I didn’t know I possessed. There are good days and bad days, but every day is a learning experience. One day I know that this will appear in my writing in some form or fashion.

Okay…so I feel like I’ve been around the world with this post! I hope I’ve made sense! Blogging is one of my newest learning experiences!

Just when you think you got it…

I can’t recall the first time I heard that you should learn something new every day. Even if it’s something minor. I assume it keeps the brain active and makes day-to-day life much more interesting. I enjoy learning, and also enjoy teaching. There is a time for both.

Writing has become more of a learning process than I ever thought it would be. In school, I excelled at grammar, and was one of those strange students who actually enjoyed dissecting sentences. I also remember most of the words and melodies to those Saturday morning cartoon fillers: “Conjunction, Junction, what’s your function?”  and of course, “Interjections, show excitement and emotion.”  Hallelujah!

Recently, while further exploring deep point of view, I’ve learned that some verbs are not good words when writing single person point of view.  I believe that I mentioned previously that when I first started writing, I was writing in omniscient point of view, which is not as popular as it used to be. I’ve been learning how to change my style to single person point of view, third person. Yes, my head is spinning too!  So, why are those verbs “bad?”

Basically, there is no reason to say, “Joe saw the dog run across the road,” if the chapter I’m writing is in Joe’s point of view. If I have already established that the story is being revealed through Joe’s eyes, then the “Joe saw” could be eliminated. It would be stated simply: “The dog ran across the road.”

I’m amazed at the difference in the flow of my manuscript, once I apply everything I’ve learned. Just when I think I got it exactly the way it should be, I find that it can be even better. This also relates back to my “show don’t tell” previous post. It all ties together.  Instead of writing that your characters; saw, heard, felt, wondered, etc… Show it.

I know that more tricks of the trade will be revealed to me, and I’ll be happy to write what I learn. I’d love for you to share some of your writing revelations to me too! In the end, a story will be told, and hopefully you will be enriched reading it.

The dog ran across the road....

The dog ran across the road….

 

Show, Don’t Tell

“Show your story, don’t tell it.”

Okay…this one really stumped me. I thought that as a writer I was supposed to tell my story! And then, over and over again at MCRW meetings and retreats, I kept hearing, “Are you showing, or are you telling?”

I think I finally “get it.” Simply put, it’s the difference between writing: “John was angry, and yelled, ‘I hate you.'” AND “John’s hands gripped the rail, tighter and tighter as his knuckles became white. His rapid breathing caused him to spit out the words, ‘I hate you!'”

It’s not some of my best writing, but I wanted to make a simple illustration. I’m sure you can see the difference.

No, I don’t yet consider myself an expert, but I hope that sharing my writing journey with you will help you on your journey too. Don’t get discouraged. You will be your best, worst enemy. Self-doubt can kill your inspiration, so always remind yourself that whatever you put on paper is better than nothing at all. Keep at it, and “show” your stuff!!