The Power of Prose

Words are magical.

I mean, think about it. With a simple turn of phrase, we can make people see exactly who, what, or where we want them to. With one carefully placed word, we can turn a sentence from sweet to creepy or vice versa. There isn’t much that our words CAN’T do.

I know, better than most, that this puts a huge weight of responsibility on our shoulders. What if we choose the wrong word? What if the word we pick isn’t strong enough? What if we fail to make it come across as we see it in our head?

All valid questions.

The answer is: we never know if we’ll have the desired effect until we let others see our work.

I know, it’s a Debbie Downer. But, the good news is that there are things we can do to make sure we get our point across exactly as we want it to come across. Let me ‘splain.

For those of you who write Suspense or Thrillers, you’ll want to know how to heighten suspense in your scenes. Thankfully, I have a pretty good idea how Suspense works, so here’s my number one suggestion to create the suspenseful scene you’re looking for. Ready?

Use short sentences.

That’s it. The shorter the sentence, the more clipped the feel of the scene. And don’t just use short sentences in your narrative, throw some into your dialogue as well. Fragments are welcome in a suspense scene, because it inherently tells your reader that something is terribly wrong. (Despite what people think, anyone who paid attention in English during middle school subconsciously knows their grammar.)

For those of you who write Romance (or any sub-genre thereunder), you’ll probably want to know how to show your readers how sweet one or the other person is without being super cheesy. So, my number one advice:

Use body language.

“In my writing? Really?”

Yes. Really. Over half of the ways people express how they’re really feeling is in their body language. Do they have a nervous tick? Do they have a habit of reaching to push the girl’s hair behind her ear? Anything like that can add loads of layers to a scene and, ultimately, a story. This is one of those instances where “Show, Don’t Tell” comes in really handy. Don’t tell your readers he likes her. Show them by his actions. Just like real people.

So, you romance writers, go plug in your favorite Rom-Com and take notes on how he shows he loves her.

For those of you who write Historical, you’ll want to know how to keep your facts straight.

Google.

There is nothing better. Oh, and for heaven’s sake, please find out if the words you choose for them to speak were actually spoken in your time period. Please. I’m begging you. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

For those of you who write Fantasy…

Okay, I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing for you. It’s all in your head. As I am not a fantasy writer, I can’t give advice on the subject, except to say pay attention to your plot holes.

So, advice for the day, pay close attention to your genre and READ, READ, READ!!!

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What genre do you write and what’s your favorite part about it?

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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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Keep Your Eyes Open

Okay, guys, I’m soundtracking this one. In 3… 2… 1…

Why this theme? For one simple, very good reason.

The best piece of writing advice I have ever gotten came from a book I read recently. What was this sage piece of wisdom? Let me share it with you: “Don’t look away.”

Three simple words that changed my story method forever.

Why, you ask? Because until that point, I had been looking away. Away from embarrassing moments. Away from painful moments. Away from moments that could make you cry they’re so wonderful or could make you cry for other reasons. I had been stopping before I hit reality. And what’s the one thing every writer must bring a touch of to their story? That’s right. Reality.

As writers, our first and most important job is to tell a story. But our second most important job is to not look away from those everyday moments that make life… well… life. How are we supposed to bring readers to their knees or make them swoon or laugh or cry if we look away before the full effect takes place?

I’m not just talking about when we’re researching, either. Yes, it’s good to watch an entire moment play out before you, but the whole point of keeping your eyes open is so you can write it accurately. What does the audience gain if you end a touching (thrilling, tear-jerking) scene before its full conclusion, or if you skip the parts you think are “too emotional”.

Answer: nothing.

I know it’s difficult to write and it drains you emotionally, but I beg of you to put in those raw emotions. That’s what makes your characters real.

Is she heartbroken? Show her sobs.

Is he angry? Show his rage. ALL of it.

Study body language and psychology. See what makes your characters tick and how they react to a situation that throws them out of their comfort zone. It’s okay to do this! You know why? Because the second best piece of advice I’ve gotten is: “Kill your darlings.”

Don’t be so attached or so fearful for a character that you just can’t hurt them. Reality, remember? Everyone gets hurt, that’s the horrible truth. Hearts break, people lie or miscommunicate, and everyone has bad days. Just look around you. That girl sitting in the corner Starbucks booth all alone? What’s her story? That busboy in the restaurant that you pay absolutely no attention to – Why does he work there? The mom with three little kids in the grocery store – Is she alone or did she choose to be by herself?

Why?

That is the biggest question you should ever ask yourself. Why do things happen around you? Why are people where they are at this moment. Listen for the stories and when you find them: Don’t. Look. Away.

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What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

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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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“Return to Go”

The all-mighty rejection letter.

You know the one. The one that starts “We regret to inform you” and goes downhill from there. The one that crushes your soul (like a grape) every time you get a new one. And it seems they’re all the same, right? All telling you that you haven’t made it.

Do not pass “Go”.

Do not collect 200 dollars.

I know the feeling, because I’ve been there. Every writer has. Some are lucky enough to get someone who will walk them through the process of rejection until they’re finally accepted. Others, notsomuch.

What does one do with a crushed-grape soul?

First, I fully believe in going to the kitchen, finding a pan of brownies or an entire cake, and eating them. Something about it gives just the right amount of comfort for a grieving writer. It soothes the nerves and definitely boosts your endorphin level… Not really, but I’m trying to give you some hope here.

After you’ve gorged yourself on Marie Antoinette’s final piece of advice (“Let them eat cake”), It gets a little tougher to deal with. Because the next thing you have to do is return to go. Sweep aside your shattered plans, pick up the intact pieces of your dreams, and begin again. Grab that notebook. Turn on your computer. Put your fingers to the keyboard. And let it all flow out onto the page.

Writers work magic with words and emotion. No better time to write emotion than when you’re swimming in a sea of it.

Thirdly, stop thinking of them as “rejection” letters. Sure, the editor/agent/friend/magazine didn’t like that particular piece of work, but they’re not rejecting you as a person. Choose to turn that lie on its head and think of them as “not yet” letters. Most famous writers got hundreds — some thousands — of those letters before they hit their big break. All it takes is one person who believes in you enough to give you a shot.

The name of the writer game is Perseverance! (and a lot of determination) Don’t spend valuable writing time moping about the contract you didn’t get. Return to go and start the race toward the best finish line ever. The contract you have YET to get.

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I’m interested. Worst rejection letter you’ve ever gotten and best rejection letter you’ve ever gotten. What are they?

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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

Memorable Moments

Memorable moments in a book or movie are the things that keep people talking about it for years to come. My family and I divide them into two (unspoken) categories. 1: Great Scenes. 2: Quotables.

Great scenes are those moments in a movie or book where no one is speaking, but awesome things are going on. It’s the scene from Up! where you learn Ellie and Mr. Frederickson’s entire life story without a single word. It’s the tear-jerking scene in Becoming Jane where she leaves her true love so his family won’t starve. It’s the scene in Sahara where Rudy smuggles himself back over the border.

Scenes that make you laugh, cry, or throw things. Yet they usually don’t say a word. They are completely visual.

These kinds of scenes are important for movies, but they are SUPER important for books too! If you don’t have something that’s going to capture attention, people will stop reading/watching. And no one wants that.

An example from one of my works-in-progress:

Arkin runs across the brown, rocky surface, heading for the ledge on which Boden stands. A warrior leaps for him, but Arkin draws his broadsword and cuts him down.

Several more follow.

Boden leaps from his ledge and lands deftly on the ground before Arkin.

Swords entangle. Armor creaks as they battle.

Colors flash in the air behind Arkin, sparking and subsiding, quicker with every second.

Boden drops to one knee.

A round, shell-like disc falls from Arkin’s belt and clatters on the rocks at the same time the colors behind him become constant.

Arkin is pulled backward, through the wormhole. A small, bug-eyed creature on the ground is sucked up as well.

How do you create a great scene like this? I don’t have one specific answer. I can tell you that it should be detailed, and use emotion! Anger, hurt, humor. Great scenes are often those that break the tension surrounding people in the story. On the other hand, they can also be the scene that turns someone down a mistaken path. Maybe they get too angry at that best friend who’s telling them their boyfriend is an idiot. Maybe they don’t like to be told what to do, so they do the opposite and it’s entirely stupid. Whatever you choose, make it pivotal. Make it something your fans will talk about for eternity.

Quotables are just that. Quotable. Lines that we sit around and spout to each other, discuss, or even throw into everyday conversation. Some examples from other’s work:

“Please be a secret door, please be a secret door, please be a secret door!” (Door opens from wall) “Yay!”

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“I’ve got some bad news about your boat sir…” (explosion noise)

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“You think you can mess with my mother?” (As he’s totally beating the crap out of his arch nemesis)

I’ll admit, these are kind of lines mixed with action, but that’s because those are usually the best. Exemplar:

Arkin presses the button on the toaster down, and Emma applauds.

EMMA

                     You made toast!

She hugs his neck. Arkin tosses his head back and laughs. The sound fills the entire apartment.

(Background: he doesn’t cook. Anything.)

Making something quotable is the fastest way to get people to tell others about your book or movie. Why? Because if it’s quotable, they’ll quote it. Then their friends will ask what it’s from, and they’ll get the answer “This awesome book/movie about (your plotline here). Oh my gosh! You haven’t read/watched this? You should totally read/watch this!”

I’ll give you, it’s hard to just come up with something quotable on the spur of the moment. Usually it arises from the situation in your story. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s totally worth it. So what are you waiting for? Go write something quotable today!

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I want to know either your favorite quotable or one you wrote yourself. Ready?… 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!

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Writers are Weirdoes

Is it just me, or do people think writers are really weird?

Point and case:

“…and then, (insert character name here) just turned on him. And I was like ‘whaaat’?!”

“Wait, who’s (character name)? I don’t know anyone by that name.”

“Oh, s/he’s my newest character.”

“…But don’t you control what they do?”

Silly normal person! They should know better, right? Which is why we have friends that are also writers because we can talk like that with them and they UNDERSTAND! This is why it is important to have those friends. (Also point and case, my friend Amy L. Sauder has a blog where she is asking her characters how to solve life’s problems. You should check it out.)

Another dilemma: our overexuberant love for notebooks and pens. We see the aisle, we get distracted, we come home with fourteen sacks full of writing tools. It’s a thing, and I know I’m not the only one who does it. I have it narrowed down to the best kind of pen and the perfect width of lined paper.

Still more writerly quirks: Our excessive and often unfettered adoration for all things both lyrical and well-writ.

To be honest, I can probably blame Shakespeare for this one. I love to write with big words and in Old English. I understand the meaning of words such as “anon”, “Heretofore”, and “wherewithal”. Seriously, I sometimes read Shakespeare’s plays for fun. Because I love them. Call me crazy, do what you will, but it’s true. (Shout out to “Much Ado About Nothing”, especially Beatrice’s “if I were a man” speech. And the “dear lady disdain” argument! Anyway, moving on.)

I’ll write about one more insane quirk. Here it comes… The things we’ll do for research.

“Why are you jumping out of a plane with a parachute full of holes?”

“… … … -shrug- Research.”

OR

“Is that a leech in your refrigerator?”

“No, don’t touch that!”

“Why?”

“Research.”

We are worse than Sherlock Holmes when it comes to research experiments. We will subjugate ourselves to terrible pain and sorrow to find out what it’s going to be like for the characters we love so dearly. Oh, and did I mention that the more you love that character, the more you torture them (and, by proxy, yourself)?

Some wacky (not as bad as the examples) things I’ve done for research:

1. Googled “how to make a bomb”, “how to make poison look like an accident”, “how to commit the perfect crime”… seriously, if anyone looks at my Google history, it will be questionable.

2. Stood on the edge of a table to see how it feels to be on the edge of a roof.

3. Used Nerf guns to try out a theory I had for a fight scene. (My brother was the guinea pig)

4. Played with knives in the kitchen.

5. Other extraneous questionable methods.

So, writers are weirdoes. So what? Be weird. Do the zany stuff that makes you stand out. One day people will speak of your genius! (Again, I’ve been watching Shakespeare)

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What crazy things have you done in the name of research?

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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 Narcissist (And, Quite Frankly, Why You Should)

Narcissism: extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

The term comes from the story of Narcissus, a Greek mythological god who disdained those who loved him and fell in love with his own reflection. (Which, by the way, led him to his death. Let’s not use him as a role model, okay?)

I’m writing this today because I recently found myself writing a narcissistic character in a novel I’m working on. (Also, because I’ve been watching a lot of Marvel movies lately – including Age of Ultron – and, let’s face it, Tony Stark is my perfect example for this post.)

So what’s the big deal about narcissism? And why should I be using it in my novel/movie/short story? And how am I supposed to write a narcissist?

Great questions!

1 – How to write a narcissist

It’s a lot easier than you would think.

Narcissists are completely self-centered. They can take ANYTHING and bring it back around to be about them. You say you’re tired, they talk about how tired they are. You say you ate some Ramen noodles, they tell the story about the time they almost choked on Ramen. Everything is about them and what they like.

I’ll give you one thing: this sounds like it could get really annoying to write. And maybe it can. I don’t know yet, as I actually kind of like my narcissist. (Weird.)

You can use their narcissism to your advantage too. My character works as a Personal Protection Specialist (not something I’d recommend a narcissist for), and it works because he likes the attention he gets when he does his job right. Play with their narcissism. Readers/watchers will love you for it.

2 – Why You Should Put a Narcissist in Your Story

Sub-section A:

Because it’s funny.

Anyone who has watched a movie in which Iron Man/Tony Stark appears knows that narcissism is entertaining. Mix it with a little bit of sarcasm, and it becomes an unforgettable character. Technically, no one should like a narcissist, but it can be done. Stark is a prime example of this.

Sub-section B:

They’re annoying to the other characters.

And everyone knows that annoyance creates conflict between your characters. Conflict is good. Conflict keeps people reading. Can you imagine trying to tell a narcissist something important? For the most part, they’re horrible listeners, and often very impetuous.

“We need a plan of attack.”

“I have a plan. Attack.”

Point. And. Case.

This can be used for the perfect “Divide and Conquer” scene. Use the narcissist to tear your characters apart (but only for a few scenes. We want people to like him, remember?)

Sub-section tres:

They are an automatic candidate for change by the end of the story.

Example: Iron Man

He starts out as a complete narcissist that doesn’t care how business is done. He’s in it for himself, and collateral damage is just that: collateral damage.

But then he changes.

He starts to see what his weapons are doing to other people, and a funny thing happens. He starts to care. He starts to look beyond himself and see that his actions affect everyone around him. And he changes to help those people out. He tries to break out the scientist that helped him build the first suit, and he stops to go back for him when he’s injured.

This doesn’t fit classic narcissism. And it shouldn’t. This is compassion, and everyone is capable of it. Even your narcissist.

Narcissists are fun, but remember they are people too. Despite their outward demeanor, they feel things deeply. And they ARE capable of change. Everyone is. They’ll probably end up being your tearjerker character. Use wisely.

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So, two things this week. 1) Do you love Iron Man as much as I do? And 2) Have you used a narcissist before, and if not will you do so in the future? Why?

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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.