Today’s Writing Tip

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As part of the admonition to “show, don’t tell”, learn to render emotions as opposed to using a simple modifier. Compare the impact of “He fumed with anger” to “His eyes flashed daggers, fists tightening at his sides” or “His heart raced, fury surging through him like a fire storm.” Concentrate on the physical sensations of the emotion you’re trying to express to capture what it actually feels like. One of the marks of good writing is conveying emotions to your reader in an effective manner. If your reader feels something, then your story is upgraded to an experience and becomes much more memorable.

“Wandering Feelings” by Boyko Ovcharov: A Glimpse into the World of Those Driven by Emotion

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Much of the prose in this story was poetic and beautifully rendered, such that it did an excellent job of capturing feelings, which can be elusive and difficult to describe with words. The descriptions of various places provide excellent imagery and added to the dreamy, flowing nature of the story. The style is definitely unique and doesn’t conform to formula writing. There is no plot in the usual sense most readers expect and the characters are nameless. In other words, it breaks plenty of rules, yet in its own way, as a chronolog of feelings, it “works.”

As an astrologer, this story struck me as a great example of getting inside the head of someone driven by emotion, such as those born under a Water Sign (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces). If you’re not a deeply emotional person, you’re likely to see the characters in this book as illogical and possibly even dysfunctional in their inability to dismiss their unloving, materialistic upbringing and get on with their lives. However, for someone ruled by emotion, this is not easily done.

And for those driven by logic, not easily understood.  In fact, this latter group will probably be unable to understand the emotions expressed in this story. They may feel uncomfortable and perhaps even disgusted with the characters, who simply can’t seem to “get over it.” This is something that can cause great divides in relationships when people can’t understand how others are programmed. We’re all egocentric to some degree, especially when we’re younger, and think everyone sees the world as we do, or at least should.

Thus, if you fully relate to this book and become blissfully immersed in its beautiful prose and deeply felt emotions, you’re probably an emotional person yourself. Those who roll their eyes, keep waiting for something to happen worth noting or for the characters to get a grip and quit whining are probably logical by nature.

The richest part of life is often that which is felt. Those who have never fallen deeply in love, felt overwhelming joy or even its antithesis of debilitating emotional pain, are missing something. I believe this book is most important for those who don’t understand how deeply emotions can operate because it introduces them to a world with which they are entirely unfamiliar. Emotions are not always positive, e.g. love, but can be viciously destructive as well. Understanding that brings new insights into human nature, of which no one can ever have too much.

Rather than dismissing or criticizing the book or the characters, learn from it. Yes, there are people out there who are that tied to their emotions. If you’re not one of them, this is an example of what you’re missing, for good or ill.

You can find it on Amazon here.

INDIE WRITING TIPS: The Final Edit – How are your IDEAS presented?

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Most writers have a propensity toward one particular element of fiction writing more than others. Some can spew action and dialog effortlessly, others render amazing descriptions which create vivid, memorable mental pictures, while others possess a narrative style as smooth as silk. What comes naturally and easily, however, is not necessarily enough to round out your story. What you want to achieve for the best possible impact and reader satisfaction is balance.
I’m one of those who finds action and dialog the easiest to write. If I can get my characters talking they will often take over the story and leave me as the observer, essentially taking dictation. Piece of cake. But talk alone does not a novel make. While I don’t want to interrupt the flow when I’m on a roll (or perhaps in this case, role) at some point I need to go back and fill in the blanks, sometimes multiple times, as I review each chapter for the proper balance. What do I look for? I remember them with the acronym IDEAS.

I = Imagery
D = Dialog
E = Emotion
A = Action
S = Suspense

IMAGERY

Stories don’t take place in a vacuum. They need to be grounded with a sense of place whether it’s the distant past, present, faraway future or any geographical location you can think of. Furthermore, modern culture is visually oriented, making this a critical element. Drawing in your readers so they can see the story in their mind is essential.

Descriptions don’t need to be long; you don’t want to run the risk of being verbose and, heaven forbid, boring. If your story is set in a familiar place like a well-known city, mentioning specific landmarks is an easy way to create a sense of place. Historical novels require enough description to take the reader back in time. Include plenty of reminders to differentiate life then to now. For example, your character from 1840 can’t text via i-phone, it will need to go via Pony Express or private messenger which could take weeks or months to arrive. Emphasizing challenges we no longer face in modern times helps convey the reader to that time and place.

Remember that imagery includes all the senses, not just vision. Sounds, scents, touch and taste all bring strong impressions as well. Think of things which are familiar to most readers such as the sound or smell of rain, colors and smell of autumn leaves, the crisp chill of the first frost, the sounds of summer whether kids playing in a pool or cicadas, or even the din of city traffic. The more senses you can call upon the more memorable and vivid your description will be.

DIALOG

Dialog moves a story along quickly as long as the conversation is relevant. This applies to not only the story’s plot but character development as well. You can often fit other descriptions into your dialog such as the character’s expression, body language and so forth, even things like the color of their hair or eyes.

Straight dialog with no break can get tedious as well unless it’s an extremely intense conversation and even then some description can make it even stronger. Tone of voice, e.g. angry, sad, cheerful, etc., or how you would describe the actual sound of their voice contribute to your means of character development. A simple statement like “his voice cracked with emotion” sends auditory as well as emotional input.

EMOTION

If you don’t grab your readers emotionally they are less likely to remember your story. Like they say, people won’t remember what you say but they’ll remember how you make them feel. Without it your story is essentially lifeless. Life is all about emotions and if there aren’t any in your story then you may not have a story, at least not one that anyone will connect to and remember. You may have felt it when you wrote it but will your reader?

Of course you don’t want to get all sappy, sticky and sentimental, either. This is where showing as opposed to telling comes in. “She felt sad” is pretty shallow compared to “her heart ached with loneliness.” Think of the physical symptoms typical of the feeling you want to describe and start there. The heart is the center of emotion and is a good place to start. Memories are stored in the heart as well as your brain which has been proven through the experience of heart transplant patients who suddenly acquire habits and other characteristics of the donor, such as their favorite food. This further shows why making your readers feel something is important. Laughing and crying represent two reactions which will make you and your story memorable. As a reader myself if a book can make me do both it’s a definite winner. I remember books I read years ago because they made me laugh or cry, even if I can’t remember exactly why.

This can be something that’s not as easy to include as action and dialog. As you’re writing you’re no doubt thinking of the relevant emotion but don’t take it for granted your readers will feel it unless it’s pointed out, preferably in a smooth, integrated way that is informative but not distracting. Clearly if someone is yelling and saying harsh words then anger is obvious but throwing in a few physical effects drives it home.

If this is difficult for you I suggest you take each of your characters and list the emotions that he or she will experience during the course of your story. Then, one by one, make a few notes of how you can bring them to life.

ACTION

Action can occur on various levels. It can be physical, mental, psychological, or emotional. It’s what moves your story along its intended plot line(s) and keeps your readers engaged and turning the pages. What are your characters doing? What is going on around them causing them to make decisions and take action? Something needs to be happening. Similar to emotion, the more types of action you include the better. Some genres will emphasize one more than others but including the entire spectrum gives your story more layers and complexity. What are they doing, thinking and feeling?

Physical action sequences shouldn’t be interrupted with long periods of internal dialog. If your hero is in the middle of fighting the antagonist or a dragon the description of the battle itself is of prime importance but this includes what your character is experiencing such as straining muscles, the impact of a punch, fatigue, fury, fear, etc. Don’t forget to throw in the other senses as well for added emphasis, e.g. the smell of blood and sweat.

SUSPENSE

Some authors have a natural flair for suspense which is often the single most important factor in writing a real page-turner. If your readers don’t wonder much less care what’s going to happen next then they’ll probably never finish your story. You want to keep them wondering how your character is going to get out of his current dilemma.

Even stories which aren’t technically in the suspense genre need it. The type simply differs depending on whether it’s a romance novel, a psychological thriller, murder mystery or any other fiction genre you care to name. There needs to be some sort of danger hanging over your character’s head which could drop at any time.

Don’t keep your readers in the dark and spring something on them out of the blue. You can actually build more suspense by telling them more about the looming threat versus not enough. Sprinkle a generous portion of clues and red herrings throughout to keep them guessing, regardless of genre. Your goal should be to master the art of writing a book your readers can’t stand to put down.

CONCLUSION

The purpose of this blog is not to tell you how but rather provide a simple checklist for when you do that dreaded final edit. While every chapter may not include all of these elements, the more you can fit in the better. Improving your craft requires stretching beyond what comes naturally and polishing it to perfection.

[NOTE:– If you have a favorite author who does a particularly outstanding job in any of these categories feel free to mention them as well as their books as examples for us all to learn from.]