I coach novice writers, offer services in story editing (content – not proofreading). And though folks like these posts just fine, I could use more clients.  Here’s what I teach new writers in my 1-on-1 coaching, and what I  offer as editing suggestions in my manuscript editing.

Anyone can write first drafts:

Jeri sat at the bar’s table, and picked up the drink. She paused for a second. The smell was awful. But she drank it down, hating the taste.
Laughing was heard behind her, as she sat with eyes closed. Opening them, she gave a look at her companion who was chortling to himself.

Tom teased her about the drink. And it made her defensive.
“It is…offensive,” Jeri  the android replied. Since she’d been discharged and graduated from the Group home, she found still she had trouble eating and drinking.

This is a writer telling the reader things. It’s a great start because the writer got some words down on the page. But it’s only story facts being told to the reader, so far. Very little is shown; we see almost nothing physical, visual, visceral. We can’t see much of what this bar, android, or her friend looks like or feels ‘in-scene’. We can’t hear the sounds in this bar. She must feel how her body is reacting to that drink, she must feel something about being laughed at, and a reaction might be in order because of that laughter.

You write well when you look at the first draft and then try showing a reader that stuff by making edits. And the best edits use senses to show more.

Take a look at the First round edits in the paragraph below. Again, like with most writing advice— This topic is aimed at Showing and not Telling: Telling is saying your character is in a seedy bar, having a drink she doesn’t want. And further, that she is not used to solid foods or drink for that matter. Everything in these paragraphs tells right now, and with the five senses they can show us instead.
IF you show it with senses then the extra words can be removed, which leads to a faster, tighter read: right now, these words tell but they are not visual words that show.

First round edits. Trying to show more:

Jeri sat down at a table in the dim bar, picked up the drink before her and took a deep breath. She paused for a second once it reached her lips, already able to smell it. Gathering herself she tipped it down her throat, baulking at the taste.
The sound of laughter filtered through to her as she realized she had scrunched her eyes shut in disgust. Opening them she shot a withering look at her companion who stood chortling to himself.
“That is their mildest drink, and still you can’t hack it,” noted Tom with a shake of the head.
“It is…offensive,” Jeri replied, looking at her glass. It was nearly a year since she’d been discharged and graduated to human interactions from the Android Group home and still she had trouble with simple things like eating and drinking.

Can this be made even more visual, physical and visceral? Here is a sample list of the senses.

Visual – What does this place we are in look like? Colors, textures, shadows, light. Mix it into the narrative – be sparse in this but show it to us in small ways and do that right up front, don’t keep us waiting. Use the senses to show the reader dimness, or silence, or the feel of residue of old, past spilled drinks on the table or the glasses. The time of day.

Smells – the same as above, is someone taking a drink? Don’t tell us that, “Jeri took a drink.”— have the character smell that drink: not in words like acrid, show us the reaction of acrid. Also, smell that ‘seedy bar’. The sweat of the unwashed patrons – machine oil and welding fumes. The amber lights, that conceal in their shadows – what?

Touch – Is a fan blowing? The air still? Is the glass in her hand cool? The bar none to clean? The bar or table where they sit – is it still damp from a rag carelessly swiped before she sat down?

Tastes – not in words “The drink tasted awful.”— in motion — Show us the reaction of the word acrid. Mime to yourself drinking and hating it. Pushing that swallow down. Then write that for us. What did your body do as it mimed? Put this in new ways. Not the tried and true [acrid stench] but in your words for a mouthful of something you’d rather spit out. Write that feeling. Show us. (Remember your verb exercises.)

Sounds – Did ice tinkle when her friend laughed? Did she slam her drink down in disgust? Did her strength of her grip make the glass squeak as she shuddered from the taste? Did she stifle a noise? Is there music playing, have they heard that song before? Is the music from this galaxy or from back home? Have they heard this song 50 times before, this month alone? Make this place come alive. Then do this for every instance when we are now in a new location of your story. Show it to us.
Second round edits. Writing for senses:

Jeri sat down at a table in the dim bar, her shoulder blades meeting tightly as she hunched, she picked up the unwanted drink before her and took a deep breath. She paused for a second once it reached her lips, already able to smell its inevitable stench, like some caustic chemical stored in drums in the mechanic’s bay. Gathering herself she tipped it down her throat, her shuddering intake of breath bringing its fumes into her sinuses, so that the torture lingered.
The sound of laughter filtered through to her as the noises in the bar bounced and magnified, mingling with the jukebox tunes; the rough scuffing of stools and the angry click of pool cues on ivory. She realized she had scrunched her eyes shut in disgust. Opening them she shot a withering look at her companion who chortled to himself.
“That is their mildest drink, and still you can’t hack it,” noted Tom with a shake of the head, his eyes on his own sweaty drink.
The burning sensation had reached an area just behind her sternum. “It is…offensive,” Jeri replied, looking disdainfully down at her glass, her elbows tight at her sides. It was nearly a year since she’d been discharged and graduated to human interactions from
the Android Group home and still she had trouble with simple things like eating and drinking.

 

What can you do with your own paragraphs? Give it a try, rewrite it using senses and showing verbs. Do it quickly and with the best word choices you can. Don’t be heavy handed with it. If you come up with five ideas for each sense, select the best of the 25 ideas and add those to your first round edit.

Worried that you need a second opinion for your work? Contact me. My rates are low.

We added maybe 80 words or so to our example, but in the final expansion, we also showed much more of this world via senses in the writing that weren’t there in the first draft.

Take any one of your own paragraphs and try this exercise. Make additions that will show us what you see when you visualize your story in your head. The goal is never just MORE WORDS.

If you think coaching will help, I can walk you though these steps in real time.

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A Quick Half Dozen

April 12, 2013

Narration into Scene

Narration into Scene

 

These six previous posts are a sly way of letting you see the type of coaching I offer in one-on-one session with my clients.

Work is slowing, and I could use more novices eager to learn the basics of writing well.

So check these posts out, and tell your writer friends too. Email me for rates. and Re-blog.

ej Read the rest of this entry »

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:

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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

Want to reach me for 1-on-1 coaching or edits to your manuscript? See my contact info to the right >>

Here’s the big secret:  It’s about writing in scene, and not telling the reader things so that they know what your story is going to be about.

That’s all there is to it.

But saying that means nothing unless you see what I mean: much like your story – it needs to seen, not told to your reader.

Some novices write their first drafts and feel pretty good about them, and then some feedback comes in suggesting they tightening the writing. And  so the novice asks questions, and rightfully, about what they thought was stuff put in for all the right reasons: to inform the reader. Read the rest of this entry »

Room with writing chair

A Space to Write

Aside from this very important link: Claiming One, a Collection of Short Storieshttps://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/heres-to-telling-tales/

here, below, is a list of my blog post links that, I hope, any new writer can use to think a bit harder, or write a bit cleaner when looking at their own work. I’m all about novices and sharing the craft of finding ways to write expressive, well-built, literary stories.

Currently I have blog stats that have tracked visits from 39 41 various countries around the globe.  In addition, I thank you, my newest readers from Hungary, Switzerland, Albania, Turkey, Greece, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, and Indonesia, Denmark and Singapore too! If you haven’t been there yet, try my Bridge To Story website: 52 free lessons.  Check it out and spread the word.

For the fiction reader, rather than novice writer, I’m at Amazon: UK, US, AU, CA, Italy, DE, FR, India, B&N, and other places too. And I’d appreciate any reviews you’d like to post.

In the meantime here’s a handful of links to some of my past blog posts that might be just the writing advice you’re looking for:

I Dreamt of Someone I Once Loved, February 1, 2012 https://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/i-dreamt-of-someone-i-once-loved/

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Storytelling At Its Best, May 17, 2012

https://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/storytelling-at-its-best/

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The Post-CampNano Word Diet, June 8, 2012

https://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/the-post-campnano-word-diet/

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Getting Physical with Action Scenes, June 10, 2012

https://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/getting-physical-with-action-scenes/

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Motivation over Movements, July 21, 2012

https://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/motivation-over-movements/

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The Visceral, Physical and Visual, July 23, 2012

https://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/the-visceral-physical-and-visual/

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Waiting for Writing, plus a Challenge, July 27, 2012

https://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/waiting-for-writing-plus-a-challenge/

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Better Than What I Write Now, July 31, 2012

https://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/better-than-what-i-write-now/

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Writing What You Know vs. Using What You Know in Your Writing, September 2, 2012

https://ejrunyon.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/writing-what-you-know-vs-using-what-you-know-in-your-writing/

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Here’s to being deadly serious in our writing.

Please, comment on any of these topics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some novices begin Nano writing with worlds of their own, some like to dabble in fan-fiction.

In either case, when it comes time to edit, there’s often a denseness to their writing. A bit too many words than are really needed for conveying scenes, especially when it comes to writing action.

Now for Camp NaNo, the more words the merrier. But we’re not always going to be doing a NaNo event.

Any tense situation, emotional, or physical can use words to their best advantage by cutting a lot of them out of a first draft.  Read the rest of this entry »