Your Writing-Coach-For-a-Day, With Obi Kemnebi

October 20, 2013

Hi folks, I’m back.

My FB- writer friend, known on her blog, , as Obi Kemnebi,  was gracious enough to give me a crack at 5 of her writer-questions. I’m her Writing-Coach-For-a-Day! Check out this guest-blog!

We were going to have this post on her site, but the darn text became too funkinated on the transfer, so here it is here:

EJR: Thanks for the guest blog post. Let’s get started. I’m at your command, what do you want to ask your Writing Coach-For-a-Day?

Obi: How would I make a character mysterious? I.e. how would I make a character mysterious? Or. how to make a character that wears a facade of ‘happiness and openness’ but also sort of drips subtle hint that he’s not being entirely honest?

 EJR: The best way to do this is by using ‘Dramatic Irony’. That’s where the reader sees the things you’re narrating, but your characters don’t—until you want them to—in your story.

You used the right word in your question, it’s about hints. And the best way for hints to the reader is in narration of reactions and responses. Not by stopping narration to explain or describe outright physical movements. Add in reactions and responses by storytelling, more than explaining stage directions.

Less opening lines that start with a Name or Pronoun helps, and more action and reactions on the page that is just happening does that. That means lessening the narration and slipping right into scenes in action.

Obi: How would I carry inflection and facial expression in dialogue and monologue, or, how to get around dialogue whenever possible?

EJR: Again, you don’t want to stop storytelling in order to give the reader story facts about inflection and facial expression. Lessening dialogue is best with visceral showing replacing it.

Some ways novices can deal with lesser dialogue goals is to mix in some “actions” to reveal or reflect the thoughts a character has. But avoid movements that have no use, make actions convey the dialogue you want to cut or lessen.

Write the piece, having the physical action you’ve added, and thoughts about the situation, so they convey the unsaid, let the reader see that instead.

Remember that internal monologues often show us, the reader, what the character cannot or will not say out loud. And that can be reflected in their posture too. In both cases, be light with that— no long explanations or describing— that stops the storytelling.

 Obi:  How would I describe setting without needing two whole pages every time the Hero Squad enters a new city/culture?

EJR: The trick to a setting that works on lots of levels is once you’ve established you’re there – stop describing it outright. Give the reader the benefit that they’ll be willing to find out slowly how things look.

But, give it to them in reactions, motivations, subtext even. And spread it out. Just because it’s a new setting, don’t stop the story to give us all the particulars all at once.

Let your story use that setting info in many other ways than just letting the reader know where we are or what they are seeing. Try to not rely on Telling or explaining to the reader so much of your setting in those first two thickly written pages.

Instead, use senses to allow your characters’ circumstances and reactions to reflect your setting over the length of the scene.

The warehouse was chilly.


Laura tastes the chill. It seeps though her shoes with each step.

That’s taste and feel, in scene– senses over the first example with the weaker verb, was, in narration.

Obi:  How would I give the reader important information without info-dumping?

EJR: Everyone wants to tackle getting story info to the reader by letting the story reveal (via characters actions, reactions, senses or dialog) the why and how of their backstory in more elegant ways.

Again, here’s that reactions and responses way of writing. We don’t need to read,

Julz was Leonard’s second in command, and Bragg hated her for that.

If instead (within the actions in a scene) you can give us,

“Think you’re big, Miss-second-in command, don’t you?” Bragg muttered.

Obi:  How much plot is too much plot? At what point is there just so much going on that the story can’t contain itself?

EJR: It’s a slow and sometimes painfully boring task, but the better writers can man-up and do this.

List every plot point. For the entire manuscript. It may take days. So what. Do it all the same if ‘too much plot?’ is a concern for you.

To run the exercise, mark up your list of points into Main, Secondary, Tertiary, Peripheral points. Then ask yourself, “In order to get this novel published, which would I agree to cut?” That’s you proof that you can, and possibly should, do some plot cutting.

Hope this helps.

Here’s links to my new book, Tell Me (How to Write) A Story; Good Basic Advice for Novices Ready To Write.

US:  UK:  CA:

There’s lots more help there.


One Response to “Your Writing-Coach-For-a-Day, With Obi Kemnebi”

  1. Keyla Says:

    You’ve really helped me unntaserdd the issues. Thanks.

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