Advice to Beginning Fiction Writers

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We’ve all heard we should show and not tell, but my advice is to decide where you want to show and where you want to tell. If you feel the story’s bogging down and slow, look to see if you can change a few paragraphs into a sentence by telling instead of showing. If, however, the section is all telling, it likely means you’ll need to make things even longer by showing feelings and emotions. I once spent three paragraphs describing a doorknob and the character’s feelings about opening the door because that section had felt slow and tedious. I drew the reader back into the character’s emotions while giving more importance to what happened next, so they couldn’t wait to turn the page / open the door and experience it along with the character. Your first paragraphs should almost always open with showing. Love scenes and climactic scenes should also be full of showing and very little telling. However, if the first three chapters cover the events of the first month of college, but you want to quickly speed through the next two months, it’s fine to take a few paragraphs to tell the reader what happened during this time before you dive back into showing them what happens next. Often, it’s best to start a new chapter before speeding through a long passage of time and then slowing the story again. The important point here is how showing everything bogs your story down. Be selective in what gets told versus what gets shown, but then listen to beta readers if they tell you they wish you’d told them how a character feels about something. The following points involve ways to tighten your writing and/or give your prose more punch. Search for every instance of the word that. Odds […]


Tense

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When considering tense in a first person narrative, let’s think about the way we talk. If I’m talking about someone who’s still alive, I’ll say, “He’s so funny, conversations with him are a hoot.” However, if the gentleman is dead, we say, “He was so funny. I loved my conversations with him. He could have me laughing at the drop of a hat.” If I’m talking about the Tennessee Aquarium, I speak of it in the present tense. However, I speak of the World Trade Center Towers in the past tense. Those are extreme examples, but we do the same with everything in our lives. I speak of the sofa-sleeper that used to be in our family in the past tense, and the wrap-around sofa in the present tense. “The sofa sleeper was so uncomfortable, but I love the way the chaise on this sofa supports me when I work.” Two tenses in the same sentence, and it’s correct. Tense was designed so people will know if you’re referring to the past, present, or future. Here’s a teaser from Ghost (releasing October 14th) I’ve read about people wanting a spanking — women who act bad just so their husband will paddle their bottom — but no way was I ever going to want this. Dare’s a werewolf and he’s fucking strong. I know he doesn’t spank with all of his strength, but that doesn’t matter because it’s more than I can handle and I was screaming and begging from the very first strike. She starts out speaking in the past tense, but since Dare is still a werewolf, Hailey doesn’t speak of his status as werewolf in the past tense. If she did, readers would think I (the author) was foreshadowing some traumatic event that would either kill him or […]