Why You Should Hide Fluff Inside Action

Something I have learned recently: hide fluff inside action.

Let me clarify. It isn’t exactly “hiding”, but rather inserting in the middle. Still confused? I’ll explain.

I have recently fallen down the K-Drama wormhole (don’t judge, we all have one quirky obsession), and it has actually been very good for my writing. Being a writer, I watch with an eye toward what the writers were thinking when they pieced the story together. One of the first things I noticed is how hard I began to ship characters. (For those of you who don’t speak the language of “ship”, let me know and I’ll write you a post.)

I digress. When I started to realize how squeal-worthy these shows were, I (naturally) began to dissect WHY. I discovered something particularly interesting.

Generally, when you learn to write, you start to break down what needs to happen into scenes and the like. You ask, “what is the purpose of this scene?” and break it down into Action, Love, Filler, Plot, etc.

But what if you didn’t have to? What if one scene could serve multiple purposes?

You see, that’s what I began to discover. I shipped these characters so hard because their lives weren’t dissected into different categories. Everything intermingled. Everything in their lives touched.

And the best part? The most squeal-worthy fluff scenes weren’t fluff scenes at all.

My favorite scenes began to take on a pattern. Anyone who knows me also knows that I LOVE ACTION AND ADVENTURE AND DANGER. Hands down one of my favorite things to read, watch, or write. It’s so exciting! So, naturally, my favorite scenes had danger and action. But then I realized, right in the middle, the writers would throw in a sprinkling of fluff.

A kiss before the hero runs into certain death.

A heroine reaching for her hero’s hand when she gets scared or injured.

A simple confession of “I like you” as they realize they may never get to say it again.

And then, right on with the action and adventure. As if nothing ever happened. (*Cue me, screaming at the screen* YOU CAN’T JUST LEAVE US LIKE THAT! THAT’S CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT!)

Thus, they have created the need for more. As writers, I think that’s a cue we should learn from. Sometimes, less is more. People want to push characters into a relationship. We’re hard-wired to think two people in the story should end up together. If you give them an inch, your readers will take it a mile.

I personally believe — after much trial and error — that fluff as its own scene can be grating. However, if you give a taste of fluff inside a much richer, fast-paced scene, people will come back for more. They’ll crave that relationship and all it entails.

Raise the stakes, my friends. Let your purposes intermingle and bleed into each other. Life is messy, so why can’t our character’s lives be a little more realistic in that way?

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March WIP Excerpt!

I’m so excited to implement a once-a-month excerpt from my current WIPs. Whatever I’m working on, you get to see some sneak peeks once a month! I’m so excited for you to join me on this journey!

Here’s your first excerpt and I totally hope you enjoy it!

The lights came up. Hadassah inhaled sharply.

The hosts spoke, but she could hardly hear them over the blood rushing in her ears. Her gaze traveled over the judges, to the first rows of the audience, illuminated by the bright stage lights.

As she feared, eyes bore into her with steely determination. All but one bowed head full of brown waves. A head she recognized all too well.

Why didn’t Morgan look up? Why did he look so concerned? Something had to be wrong. He never would have looked away if something wasn’t wrong. Oh, she wished she could see his face, to look into his eyes and find the dilemma.

Morgan’s head snapped up and his eyes found hers.

Hadassah blinked. Had someone said something? She couldn’t remember, or she hadn’t heard. Her own gaze flicked to the hosts, who both smiled at her encouragingly. One of the girls next to her nudged her toward the one last circle in front of her. When did they call all those other names?

This had to be a sign of a breakdown. There wasn’t another explanation. She should have heard all that, her ears worked fine. How did she miss it?

The crowd’s cheers deafened her. Hadassah clenched her fingers in her skirt instead of taking the step back she wanted. Keep up the facade, she reminded herself as she took short, quick breaths through her nose. Don’t freak out on them. They want someone beautiful, not fragile.

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. When she thought of her stalker, a sinking in her stomach accompanied it. This time, it was more butterflies than Titanic. Hadassah lifted her eyes and found a pair of deep green, stormy eyes staring back at her. Her breath caught and her chin lifted, ever so slightly.

Have I Told You?

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Have you guys heard? I’m posting a series of short stories on Kindle for .99 cents each! I’d like to take some time today to give you an overview of what you can expect from this series.

The Realities serial stories start with five young adults, each trapped in a different world with different dangers. Some are wise and some are flighty. Some are afraid while others face their worlds head-on. Only one character connects them, and he is generally known as The Ringmaster.

As each story unfolds, these five young adults will find ways to communicate with one another, and they will have to decide which realities aren’t real at all. Whether you like dystopia, fantasy, or good old-fashioned action and adventure, these stories have something for everyone and the best part ? Each one takes thirty minutes or less to read. You can read them on the go! Anywhere you want, because they’re so accessible and easy to get through.

Intrigued? Good, I’m glad.

You can find the first two stories (Silas and Kennedy) on Amazon and the Kindle app. Once you get through the first two, you can pre-order Christian and it will be automatically delivered to your Kindle or Kindle app on March 1, 2017!

As a bonus, I’m going to let you in on the titles for the rest of the series! You ready? Let’s take a look.

  1. Silas
  2. Kennedy
  3. Christian
  4. Ariel
  5. Giselle
  6. Dawnbreakers
  7. Fears and Secrets
  8. Nightmares of a Generation
  9. Hauntings
  10. Sands of Time
  11. Enter the Flood
  12. The Circus Trap
  13. Invasive Maneuvers
  14. Creatures and Beasts
  15. Whispers of Death
  16. End of the Tunnel

And there you have it, my friends! Aren’t you so excited to find out what happens in each of these stories? Me, too. I hope you look forward to it half as much as I do and I’ll see you on the other side.

Realities: which will you choose?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

When a Project Ambushes You…

Recently, I was quite thoroughly and inexplicably ambushed by a project of epic proportions.

What is this project, you ask?

Well, apparently, I’m now writing a musical.  I can’t give you all the details, because it’s still a very early work in progress, but I can say that I never expected myself to write a musical. Even less so did I expect to be ambushed by a project I wasn’t even sure I wanted.

That brings me to the theme of today’s blog post.

What I like to call an “ambush” project is any project that springs to life seemingly on its own. You wake up, and WHAM! it hits you like an anvil over the head. (That just hurts like the dickens!)

These can, and most of the time (with me anyway) do turn out to be some of the greatest things you’ll ever write. Why is that?

Because it already has a life of its own.

The one thing we strive to do as writers is to bring a story to life so vividly that people never question whether the characters are real or not. They are.

If something abushes you, with dialogue and actions just spilling onto the page, you should embrace it! It has taken on a life of its own and flown off on its own. All you have to do is watch and record.

Honestly, sometimes it’s easier if a project ambushes you, because that’s less work to do for the first draft, but don’t get me wrong! Just because the first draft ambushes you and flops itself onto the page, don’t think you won’t have to edit.

If anything, you’ll end up editing more and being even more cautious, because you care about it more. Because it’s GOOD. There’s no shame in letting a project jump onto a page in a matter of 30 to 60 days. Heaven knows I’ve done it a number of times! Just make sure, in the end, you give it the attention and loving correction it needs to turn it into a masterpiece. A true bestseller.

Because being ambushed isn’t bad when you’re a writer.

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When was the last time an entire storyline or dialogue or book just came to you? Has that ever happened?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Kill the Bird

“Kill the bird.”

Okay, I totally realize that must seem like really strange advice to those of your reading this, because you have no point of reference for it. (“Kill the… bird? Why are we killing animals? What kind of sick sadist are you?”) But, trust me, it’s pretty genius. Just go with me on this, I’ll explain.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the little things in books. You know, the chair the character is sitting in or the mug she pulled from her cabinet. Little things.

Forget the big things for a while with me. Put aside the characters, the major settings, the plot holes, and even the main theme. Got it? Good. Now lean a little closer and study that little thing. Like a prop on a movie set. Pick it up, turn it around. Examine every little part of it.

“What does this have to do with killing a bird?!”

Shh. Calm down. Keep studying that little prop. Notice that crack on the side of the glass. Yeah, and what does it really say right there? Good. You’re doing great.

NOW I will explain what any of this has to do with a bird.

Like those things you were just examining, a pet is a “little thing” in a book. Like a prop. They’re there, but they don’t always show up as a major character.

For instance: I’ve been writing a story with a writer friend, and in this story there is a minor character that is a bird.

(A BIRD! I get it! Wait… what? You killed the bird?! Talk about a spoiler!)

Wait. Hey, hold on. You’re getting waaaay ahead of me here. Back up a tick.

In this story, there is a bird. Said bird is the pet of one of two main characters. Over the course of this story, we’ve grown very attached to this bird. VERY attached. To the point that, when bandits attacked and the bird went missing, both of us were very distraught because we honestly hadn’t anticipated this and had no idea what happened to the bird. Was it dead? Was it okay? Had it pecked its attackers to death?

If you’re still jumping ahead of me, you’ll see where I’m going with this. If you are with me, congratulations! Now I can tell you what the very important lesson is in this blog post.

We’re worried about the bird.

Whaaa…? (cue minion confusion face)

Let me repeat. We. Are worried. About the BIRD.

Remember when I said the bird wasn’t even that big of a character? Turns out, it didn’t have to be. For whatever reason, people (bless ’em) have the tendency to overlook the big things and pay attention to the small ones.

When we messed with that one little, tiny piece of the story, things exploded. (Not literally, but that would have been cool).

The two main characters bonded over a lost pet. It set up a great scene for the bird’s owner to have some introspection time and created a host of opportunities for metaphorical situations.

Again, for some reason, people are weird. Kill a character? Pfft, they’ve seen it before. No biggie, there are always ways to replace them or bring them back. Kill a pet or smash a small object? They go into overtime worrying (and some crying).

Are you looking for a way to make your writing more impactful? To rip out their hearts and dance on their graves while they weep uncontrollably over your book? (It sounds more maniacal than it actually is). If so, kill the bird. People quickly get attached to animals, pets especially. And what could be more evil than a villain who can kill an innocent animal and not feel an ounce of remorse?

I feel like I should end by saying that after a long and terrible ordeal (with lots of agitation and tears on all the writers’ parts), the bird is fine. She’ll live and life will go on. (AKA: no animals were harmed in the making of this blog post).

So… How are you going to make an impact? What can you do to “kill the bird”?

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I want to hear your stories about the small details!!! Whether you read it or wrote it, let me know what small detail changed to make you cry in a story you love.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

The Power of Daydreams

Tomorrow I will be attending an Olde English Faire. YAY! Why am I so happy? Because it’s a place where you can daydream all you want and no one second guesses you. You know what another place is where you can totally daydream all you want? Your story.

“But, Megan, I thought the purpose of writing fiction is to tell the truth in a new way?!”

It is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t daydream. People read books to escape, so escape with them. I’m pretty sure it’s a rule that if you’re a creative type, you have to daydream. So make the most of it!

“But, Megan, I don’t know how!!!”

Yes, you do. Don’t give me that excuse!

What do you think about when you’re all alone? Do you romanticize things and think about your first kiss? Do you think back on that movie and wonder how you would have done it differently and why? Do you make up jokes and imagine people laughing hysterically at them?

All of these count as daydreams. And all would make a great book/movie. One of the greatest books/plays of all time is titled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Heard of it? Yeah, I thought so. It’s all about a dream. (Just a daydream without the day).

So what’s stopping you from writing your daydreams?

“It’s not realistic enough. People will laugh and stop reading/watching.”

This is called fear, and it’s very easy to overcome. I’ll teach you. Follow me. 1) Take a deep breath. 2) Tell yourself “I can do this!” 3) Put your fingers to the keyboard or pick up that pen. 4) WRITE!

It’s just that easy.

“It’s stupid.”

This is called an excuse, and it’s very easy to overcome. 1) Take a deep breath. 2) Tell yourself “I am a writer!” 3) Pull yourself together and put your fingers on that keyboard. 4) WRITE!!

Seeing a pattern? Good! All obstacles can be overcome by simply DOING. Don’t let anything push you down and don’t let anyone tell you that your daydreams are impossible or dumb. Daydreams often come from your heart or your passion. Don’t let anyone kill that. Embrace the dream. Write the dream. You’ll be a better person for it, trust me!!!

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What’s your favorite daydream? I’d love to know!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

How to Write a Plot Twist

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book, and you think you know what’s going on until all of a sudden… BAM! Where did that character, event, or weapon come from? Should you have seen it coming? Did you miss something vitally important? It’s only later, when you re-watch or reread this story that you realize what was actually going on — and sometimes, even then, you’re left in the dark until that pivotal moment.

Do you, as a writer, want to write something that makes your readers take a step back and reevaluate everything they knew to be true up til that point? Do you want them to tell their friends to read your book because “the twist is the worst but greatest thing that ever happened”? Then you want to write a PLOT TWIST!

What Is A Plot Twist?

Well, I’m glad you asked!

Imagine a long country road, it doesn’t matter where. It can have trees on both sides, or fields… heck, who are we kidding? It could even run through a town. Can you see it? Good.

Now picture yourself in a car, driving down this road. It’s a beautiful day, you have your windows down (unless you’re like me, then you have the windows up and the AC on). You see a turn coming up ahead and you gently turn the wheel so you don’t run off the road. Ah, yes. The perfect Sunday drive.

Imagine this drive again, but this time let’s change just one minor detail.

It’s nighttime, and your headlights aren’t very strong. You’re doing fine, just following the dotted lines until all of a sudden the road ends in front of you. You jerk on the steering wheel and barely manage to round the corner without skidding into the field (or tree, or city building) waiting for your demise.

Amazingly, both of these analogies describe a plot twist. You see, a plot twist is simply that turn in the road. How people react to it is all about the circumstances leading up to it. You see plot twists in every book, movie, and pamphlet in the world. A plot twist is, simply put, a point where the story turns. It is when that guy who’s in prison breaks out. It’s when that girl goes from 21 years old to 22.

A plot twist is when something in the plot of the story changes. However, when people hear the words “plot twist” they usually think of the more drastic kind. The kind they don’t see coming. This kind of plot twist — which from my experience is generally referred to as a MAJOR PLOT TWIST — is what we’ll focus on. Who wants to talk about boring old plot changes? Not me, and I’m assuming not you, either.

From all I’ve seen, heard, and read, I’ve deduced that there are really 3 kinds of major plot twists. Each is equally different to write and usually just as difficult to decipher when reading. For our purposes here, we will refer to them as the “peek-a-boo”, the “boo”, and the “whammy”.

The Peek-A-Boo Plot Twist

This is probably the easiest of the three to locate. When a writer uses this twist, you generally have a sense that something is wrong for the duration of the story, until they finally tell you what it is. This happens because the writer plants a plethora of clues to what is going on, and they are set in a way that you pick up on them.

A good example of a peek-a-boo twist is found in the movie National Treasure. Ben Gates and company arrive at the underground treasure locale only to get left behind, discover a second door, and find that this new room is also empty. We all know something had to happen at this point because there is not way for them to get out of the underground rooms if they don’t find the treasure room. Besides, they’ve been searching for this darn treasure the entire movie! It would be unfair if they didn’t find it. The plot twist here is that there is yet another door that finally reveals the treasure (and a set of stairs).

This is a peek-a-boo because for just a brief moment we believe they might be stuck down there. When they find the treasure room we are only remotely surprised beccause we knew something was wrong. There was a niggling little voice at the back of our minds telling us that “hey, they’re gonna win”. So we like it because there is a twist, but it isn’t one of those that we have to re-watch a dozen times to fully comprehend.

The Boo Plot Twist

This is a lot like the peek-a-boo, but with a bigger reaction. The writer gives you clues, but there are less of them and they are farther apart. More hidden in the background of the story. A lot of times a “boo” twist will seem like it came out of nowhere, but when you look back you can easily see the clues that led up to it.

A good example of this plot twist is the movie No Way Out. The entire plot is set around a military guy who is in charge of a hunt for a spy named Yuri. The whole hunt is set up to look like this, when really they’re only trying to find a witness to a murder so they can kill him. All along we know that he’s hunting himself, because we know he was the witness. Then, boo! Turns out, he really is Yuri.

We’re surprised much more by this one, because we never anticipated his guilt. He was made out to look like an innocent person the entire movie, and even though we hear about this spy we never – not for a second – think he’s real. After all, he’s a ghost. Right?

This is a simple use of red herrings to redirect your attention off of the important clues that the writer laid the entire story. Going back, you can see where he did things that shouldn’t have settled right with you but did because you believed in his innocence. This is a twist that hooks you and shocks you, but going back to watch it a second time you understand where they got that from.

The Whammy Plot Twist

This is one you don’t see coming. Not at all. You’re going along, having a lovely time, and then all of a sudden your entire perspective is changed. It usually happens all at once and takes some explaining. You’re shocked. You’re scared. And you’re asking yourself, “WHERE IN THE WORLD DID THAT JUST COME FROM?!?

An absolutely fantastic example of this one comes from Next. (*Major SPOILER ALERTS*) We’re going along with it. It’s intense. He can see two minutes into the future. They’re chasing down terrorists and OH MY GOSH they have the girlfriend. We think we have the nuclear weapon when, nope. And just as everyone is about to evaporate from radiation… he wakes up. HE WAKES UP! It was all a vision!!! Where did that come from??? What kind of movie is this?

This is a whammy, because no one saw it coming. There were no hints given other than one mention of the fact that he can “see farther when he’s with her”. No one expected this to be a vision because he looked two minutes into the future at multiple points inside it. And we all ask ourselves what kind of sick, demented person came up with a twist like that. Look again and you’ll still be just as baffled.

This happens because the author gives little to no indication that anything like that is even remotely in the realm of possibilities, or the clues that lead you to the obvious (I use the term lightly) conclusion that the plot twist will happen are buried in things you take for granted.

These are the best plot twists. Let me say it again: THE. BEST.

If they’re done correctly, not only will you have loads of fun writing it, but your readers will come back time and again for more. When these are done right and fit the story perfectly, your audience just can’t stay away. They have to know how you thought that up, when you thought that up, why they didn’t see it coming, and more.

How to Write a Plot Twist

I know what you’re thinking, because it’s what I thought for a long time, too. “I can’t write a plot twist like that. Look at all the amazing whammies out there. I’ll never be that good.” Well, guess what? It’s not true!

I’ve found the easiest way to write any plot twist is to work back to front. Think about it: if you know what happens in the end and what the twist is, it makes it so much easier to finagle those clues in earlier.

The best thing you can do to set up a plot twist is to wiggle those little clues in places and conversations the reader will overlook. Make the clues look like pieces of useless information. Trust me, the reader will be so much more impressed when they read through it again and find what you’ve done.

Red herrings are your friends, but let me advise you: don’t make them too obvious. And, on the flip side, sometimes the only way to make a twist work is to make it so obvious that no one thinks it will happen. (I immediately think of Tangled. They tell you what’s going to happen and you’re still shocked.)

Sometimes, small events take place in a book or movie that seem coincidental or trivial, but in reality they are the key to a major plot twist. Things like a minor character dying (or surviving), or a faint glow that periodically shows up. Things that, at the time, will make people ask “what is that?” but will soon be forgotten as the rest of the story overshadows it. That is, until you bring it up again.

Whammies are hard to write because you want to. A lot of times, a truly successful whammy comes when a minor character suddenly walks up to you, says “hey, I’m actually the bad guy”, laughs maniacally, and walks right back into his inconspicuous role. It’s unexpected — even for the writer — but when they reveal this to you, you’re likely to walk around all day thinking about it and getting more excited by the minute.

The best advice I can offer is keep writing. If a twist falls flat, try again next time. Don’t take anything for granted. If your character has a small quirk, ask yourself why. If there’s a mysterious aura, ask yourself what it is. Leave no stone unturned! Who knows if, under that one last upside-down rock, you’ll find the very plot twist you’ve been longing to write.

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Best plot twist you’ve ever written OR Best one you’ve ever read/seen. Go!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

The Correction Bug

In my family, we have this beautiful, horrible thing called “the correction bug”. Allow me to explain with an exemplar story.

My brother is talking to me and he says, “you do that really good.”

“Well,” I correct him.

Later, we’re talking about a movie line. “Nobody kissed me, did they?

“Actually, it’s please tell me nobody kissed me.”

There is nothing more annoying than the correction bug when you’re on the receiving end, so we have worked hard to rein it in instead of letting it roam free. When someone gets on a roll correcting someone else, either they or the person they are correcting will slap their wrist/arm/shoulder/leg and say “correction bug” to remind that person that it isn’t always wise to correct other people.

Writers tend to get this way when reading other people’s work. We see a tiny mistake and we pick it apart. This can be both good and destructive. We have to be careful to not harm another writer’s feelings or resolve by picking apart everything they just did. On the other hand, it’s good to know that there is the possibility for you to be able to pick apart your own work and make it better.

Another fun part of the correction bug is that you can read or watch something and pick out what you like and how you would have done it. This is fodder for future works. Write it down. If you find yourself saying, “I would have…” then write down how you would have done it. There’s no telling when it will come in handy.

The correction bug is also good for first draft edits. You sit down, you read your work, and you tear it to pieces to fix it. It’s brutal work, and it hurts, but it is necessary. So, correct correct correct! (Anyone else have a flashback to Charlotte’s web here? “Double T, double E, double R, double I, double F, double I, double C”. I love that goose.)

Unfortunately for us, correction is a part of writing. Grammar, plotline, misspellings. I, for one, hate having to cut up the good work I’ve already done. It’s like tearing out my own heart and soul.

So, how do we deal with this?

Well, my first instinct is to sit down — just me — with a giant bundt cake and a fork. Unfortunately, if I did that every time I had to edit, I would be very, very fat. So I set up a reward program for myself (or, at least, I would like to). Here’s the general idea.

Edit first ten pages = piece of chocolate for me.

Edit first half of book = piece of cake/cheesecake or a giant cookie.

Edit all grammar and misspellings = a piece of jewelry for me.

COMPLETELY edit entire manuscript, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and fix all plot holes = BRAND NEW PAIR OF SHOES!!!

I’m not quite there yet, but I do reward myself with varying desserts and it seems to get me over the hump. Editing isn’t quite so menacing anymore. In fact, sometimes I actually (gulp) enjoy it.

So, even though the correction bug can be a bad thing when used too much, it can be a good thing for our writing. Keep it in its container until the time is right to let it out. (Kind of like those caterpillars you used to catch that never actually made it to butterfly stage).

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Need help editing or have questions about how it should be done? Comment or contact me! I’m giving out free advice this week.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

What Did You (Really) Say?

Ah, miscommunication. It’s the heart and soul of conflict.

I chose this topic for this week because I’ve been reading this book (The Fire In Ember by DiAnn Mills) wherein all could be solved if they would just COMMUNICATE!!! But, you know what? I love it.

So, how do we build a world around our characters where they don’t communicate perfectly? And why not have them communicate well?

Everyone has a reason to lie about something. Yes, even you. Think about it. There is always one memory, one embarrassing moment, one part of your most personal feelings that you CANNOT express, even when you need to. This often leads to miscommunication.

If our characters are to be real, then they will miscommunicate. They’ll leave things out (important things), lie to each other to cover up a painful memory. All these things lend to A) Backstory and B) Conflict.

Think on this: If you haven’t told someone an important piece of information, how can you expect them to understand your ations?

If you haven’t told someone you love them, how do you expect them to know and reciprocate your feelings?

If you (or your character) hasn’t told someone that they’re scared for their life because an evil person is chasing them down for the fun of it, HOW IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO HELP???

People miscommunicate by NOT communicating a lot of times.

Example: Guy sees girl (or vice versa) in a situation that, to them, looks like cheating or criminal behavior. Guy/girl doesn’t go to ask the other one what happened, just assumes they were in the wrong. Relationship suffers greatly.

If that character had just asked what happened, they would have realized the guy/girl was being threatened/played/taken advantage of. And when they finally do realize this (as they should to settle the conflict), they’ll kick themselves and possibly want to go shoot someone.

As humans, our biggest strength and greatest weakness is communication. Therefore, believable characters should have both strength and weaknesses in their social and communication skills.

Some examples:

In the movie Love Comes Softly, it isn’t so much miscommunication as it is failed communication. Marty doesn’t want to leave, but she doesn’t want to stay if Clark doesn’t want her, so she leaves a note in his Bible that doesn’t end up in front of his face. Because it was a stupid idea to slide the note into the book where it can (and did) fall out, Marty thinks he doesn’t want her. SO not the case!

In The Fire In Ember (DiAnn Mills, copyright 2011) the main character has been fed lies all her life. She’s too scared to really communicate why and she doesn’t think she’s worthy of anything. So, instead of telling people what she knows and getting help, she clams up.

A lot of stories depend on miscommunication to run longer than twenty minutes (for movies) or 50 pages (for books). Without something to figure out, we’d have no conflict. And we all know we LOVE conflict. We love watching the characters duke it out or shout it out and we love to see the bad guy get beat. (Except in the rare cases involving fandoms with crazy people who think the villain should have won.)

So, miscommunication. Use it. Love it. Keep it close.

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The Art of Illusion

You’ll hear me talk A LOT about how much more powerful it is to elude to something than to tell it straight out. To me, it’s almost as important as “Show, Don’t Tell” and quite honestly it’s probably technically covered in that statement. However, it seems some people just don’t quite get it. So let’s expound.

“The closer you look, the less you’ll see” is the theme of a fun little movie called Now You See Me. Most magicians use this trick. Why? Because it works. Magic is all about the art of illusion, and how do people refer to the best books and movies?

“It was magical.”

So let’s take the magician’s theme and apply it to ourselves, writers. There are several different things that demand a “far away” look when we’re writing. I’ll break them down for you and explain what I mean by “far away look”.

#1 – Character descriptions.

You know you’ve read an over expository character description before. “She had hair like… and eyes like… her teeth were… and her ears… don’t forget her hands… did I mention the exact clothes she was wearing?…” And suddenly we feel trapped inside a box. That’s not AT ALL how we pictured her (whoever she is).

When I write, I tend to give one or two traits of my character and leave the rest up to imagination. I’ve found I like this from other authors, which is why I try to follow their lead in my own writing. For example: my character Rosie Callahan, I only told the reader 2 things about her physical appearance. She’s 5’2″ and she has curly hair. I left the rest up to them.

I think you’ll find that if you stick to the important things about the character, like how they react to others and what kind of speech patterns they use, people will fill in the physical description without much help.

#2 – Back Story

I’m not saying don’t tell people what happened in the past, I’m saying expose it slowly. Have the character say something or do something that ELUDES to their backstory. They had a convict dad?

“I won’t be like him.”

Simple as that. And, yes, I’ve used that one. Another one I’ve used: The girl has a history of people leaving her without a word.

“Just… don’t leave without saying goodbye. Okay?”

Think through what your characters are doing. They deserve the thought it takes to weave their backstory in and out through their actions and words.

TIP: you have a backstory too, but you don’t tell everyone you meet. Everything that happened in the past is your backstory, and it reflects itself in what you do and say now, but not in an expository way. It is what it is, and nothing more. You don’t make a big deal about it. So why do your characters whine on and on about their past?

#3 – Relationships

This REALLY goes along with “Show, Don’t Tell”. The best advice I ever received on this subject was “loving someone means never having to say I love you.” SHOW that your characters love each other, or hate each other, or have known each other for a long time by what they do and say.

This all goes back to illusion. With vague answers and short flashes into the backstory, you’re giving the illusion of a full life behind the character, which in turn brings them to life. Why go into all that exposition when you can achieve the same thing by a simple flick of the wrist?

Remember, the closer you look, the less you’ll see.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

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