toast-coffee

Building better characters

 

Karlie asked about characterization.

I also read a good post about this subject of Character  on the Blog ‘The Living Notebook’

Here is my take on this element of writing:

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Angela Graff of Indie Reviews just ran a 5 ☆ Review of Claiming One, by E.J. Runyon.

Thanks Angela!!

Check it out folks.

Two Cigarettes

February 24, 2013

Two Cigarettes.

Physical. Visual. Visceral.

Think, see, and write like this when you want to go deep.

ej

For your reading, editing & coaching pleasure:  Sign up for Coaching or Edits ::  All About EJ   :: Oldie but Goodie Posts

IN SCENE VS. NOT IN SCENE

Karlie asked: I would like to hear more about writing in scene, and getting into character.

Let’s look at a excerpt and then at ways to move it into scene.

iliketowrite77, a fellow NaNoWriMo writer, lent me this excerpt:

________________________________________________________

Her heart pounded as she raced through the streets, three palace guards on her heels. She threw her head back and laughed, the wind whipping through her hair. This was her favorite part – the chase. She sped through the alley and hid in a small alcove as she waited for the guards to catch up. The king had sent less agile men this time. Fool. Hadn’t he figured out by now what she had taken? She drew the sword and looked it over – Freshly polished. Perfectly balanced. It was a masterpiece. And enchanted, nonetheless. She could see why the king would want it for his plan. To take someone out with this beauty would only take one well-placed jab.

Focus, Red. The guards are coming, she chided herself.

“Through here!” one whispered. Apparently they were attempting to sneak up on her. She almost snorted with the thought.

Hide, or fight? she questioned. One of the guards tripped and fell, and the sound sliced through the silence of the night. He lay sprawled across the cobbles. She laughed to herself. Fight, she decided, and her mouth twisted into a cold smile.

___________________________________________________________

My advice was to first look at the sentence structure, thinking of edits to make this chase scene even more exciting. I told this writer to look at the words she used to begin the lines.

I told her, “You can see when you line them up like this what your go-to type of sentence is. If some of them were edited to start differently, we might see things more ‘in scene’, rather than via narration.” Pronoun (Her, She, It) followed by noun or verb account for 9 line openers. A majority of her lines use mostly telling words, rather than showing ones:

(it took her a while to slip ‘into scene’, I think it happened at ‘Focus’)

Her heart. She threw. This was.

She sped. The king had. Fool.

 Hadn’t he. She drew. Perfectly balanced.

 It was. And enchanted. She could see. To take.

Focus, Red. The guards. “Through here”.

Apparently they. She almost. Hide, or fight.

One of the. He lay. She laughed. Fight, she decided.

Look at her first three openings for her lines above; they are telling the reader something. showing happend when we just see it rather than get told about it.  Of the 23 lines, 9 seem to be written in scene, rather than in narration (telling).

So take a look at any three of her ‘telling lines’ and you try an edit for scene rather than narrative. If you have your own excerpt to work with. Take it and first, highlight the ‘telling‘ lines, then figure out ways of saying it in the present tense of ‘in scene‘ writing.

Alternately,
Another way to try bringing thing right into scene, instead of telling us these story-facts in narration is just a shuffling of lines without even editing for structure. The only line that seems a candidate to leave out, or edit, is the one about her beating heart- (without a beating heart she’s not running anywhere). Adding in a how or why a heart is beating is a solution, if you can give that info to the reader in a non-telling way.

Consider this shuffling of the excerpt. You’ll notice that little of it was cut:
_______________________________

Focus, Red. The guards are coming, she chided herself.

“Through here!” one whispered. Apparently they’d sent three palace guards to sneak up on her. She almost snorted with the thought.  Head back and laughing, the wind whipping through her hair, she raced through the streets. This was her favorite part – the chase. She sped through an alley, then hid in a small alcove, waiting for them to catch up.

The king had sent less agile men this time. Hadn’t he figured out by now what she had taken? Her heart pounding fast from the race through the streets, guards on her heels, she drew the sword, looking it over. Freshly polished. Perfectly balanced. It was a masterpiece. Enchanted.

She could see why the king would want it for his plan. Fool. To take someone out with this beauty would only take one well-placed jab. Hide, or fight? she questioned. One of the guards tripped and fell,  sprawling across the cobbles. The sound sliced through the silence of the night. She laughed to herself.

Fight, she decided, and her mouth twisted into a cold smile.
_______________________________

Three other things to remember (or try for if they are new to you).

  1. Remove as much –ed word endings from narration as you can once you’ve slipped into scene
  2. Scenes have realistic dialogue, not exposition in the guise of characters speaking to each other.
  3. Setting within scene should be there to serve the scene, not to describe place.

Also remember that in tense situations, or when a character’s under duress, a short line is better than a longer one for heightening the tone of the scene.

Next week:

GETTING INTO A CHARACTERS’ HEAD

Things I’ve Lost Recently

February 19, 2013

I’ve lost a few things over the last two or three weeks:

slingMy balance–– I fell pretty hard, and now my arm’s in a sling, nothing broken, but there’s a lot of pain. – I ask myself – how can I sue this in a short story?

My appetite––  Just don’t feel like cooking myself anything. Plus with the arm/sling thing – they kitchen’s a bit webbly-wobbly now. My stomach growled so loudly it scared the cat. That I can definitely use in a story.

My ideas–– for a new post for novices about writing –– That’s the one thing I hate losing the most. But the cupboard seems to be bare.

Read the rest of this entry »

If you’ve gotten something from these posts, or if I’ve already worked with you on edits or coaching – give a shout-out in the comments.  Let’s hear if I’ve made a difference in your work.

This weeks thoughts:

I read a lot of blogs written by novice writers. Whether they’re blogging about wanting to write, about trying to write, or posting their work for us to read (in all versions of revision), there’s an underlying thing happening.

They’re risking those thoughts, plans, and words with the online world. And that should be applauded.  It takes guts to face exposure, and judgments from readers.

Some of us want to help those novices. But, how do you visit someone’s site and leave a comment saying,

 “Hey, I read this, great start! You want some help making that story better?”

It’s a tricky thing. Involving the fragility of the ego and its dreams.  Personally, I want to read wonderful stories.

And I want to  be able to tell others, “You’ve got to read this!” and mean it with all my heart.

But, most of all, I want to help the world to write a better story.  Without hurting anyone’s feelings because I pointed out that help might be needed. That can be a Hard Truth to hear.

That should be the type of comment coming from someone who knows you and wants you to be the best writer you can become. And sometimes that comment can be followed by pointing them to someone who offers coaching and editor-work.

My brand of help involves working with your story’s structure and concentrating on content edits. Showing you the craft of writing elements within sentence and paragraph work.

Not so much with the things a novice can do on their own: punctuation or line edits to fix small things.  My clients work jsut (< see what I did there?) as diligently as I do on bettering their writing.

So if you read this blog regularly (and it seems folks from over 50 countries keep coming back: Hello, Mongolia!) and if you know of a new writer who can use some help with their stories, novels, or memoirs, let them know I coach and edit. Point them to the posts here.

Or even better, give them a Gift of Coaching.

Make it a birthday, or Valentine’s day, or Because-I-Believe-In-You gift of an hour or two of working with someone who wants to help.

Why send writers to see me? Why see me yourself?

Because my main goal for students is facilitating their own innate skills; bridging that space between what’s in their mind and heart, and what is on their page.

I have the ability to ‘midwife’ images and intuitions. And my empathy and intuitive feelings of unity form the cornerstone of my Bridge to Story coaching program.

If you want to get mushy, you can even say that my subtle gifts of heart and imagination allow me to easily enter into the inner world of others (others have, thanks Liz Greene!).

Steampunk, fan fiction, memoir, mainstream, chick lit or Bronies, I’m there with you.

As you surf and explore online you may find that some writing coaches charge what seem like high rates for a novice. My goal is never to charge what I think I can get from my writers.  Rather, I do this for you; and ask the least that I can get away with.

Risk learning. See the contact info on the side bar and spread the word to those writers you love.

ej