Monday, September 29, 2014
Friday, September 26, 2014
Here's a sample sentence based off of many that I've seen over the years:
Bullets zipped around them, causing them to veer off the path.
The problem with the phrase causing them to is that it insults the audience—it assumes that they cannot understand something as simple as cause and effect without having it explicitly explained to them. Give your audience some credit. If you first tell them that someone is shooting at the characters, and you then tell them that the characters veered out of the way, they will understand that the one caused the other.
Bullets zipped around them. They veered off the path.
See? Simple, perfectly understandable cause and effect. Removing causing them to turned a weak, awkward sentence into two strong sentences. In an actual story, of course, it wouldn't hurt to be a little more descriptive:
Bullets zipped around the car. Dave swerved onto a side street without thinking.
Bullets zipped around them. Shouting, Raisa dove off of the path into the bushes. The others immediately followed her.
Bullets zipped around them. In near unison, the posse veered their horses off of the path into the river.
There is almost no situation in a story that would justify using causing them to. You might use it in the text of a police report or the dialog of a witness in a trial as they describe what they saw—situations where the objective is to simply explain a past event in a plain and even boring manner. But in your prose, in the moment when bullets are zipping around your characters—when their lives are in danger—the last thing you want is to be weak and boring.
Go, right now, to your current work-in-progress. Pull up the find window, and search for every place that you've used the word causing. If it's an instance of causing them to or one of its variations, then get rid of it. I promise you your work will improve.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Pour is a verb which means “to cause to flow in a stream,” “to dispense from a container,” “to give full expression to,” or “to move with a continuous flow.” You might pour milk, or pour out your feelings, or the rain can be pouring.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Perspective Errors with the Figure Problem
These rules also apply to other perspectives. In first-person, we're also in the character's head, so we should see things as they see. In third-person omniscient, you can give even more information than the characters have, but you certainly shouldn't be giving less except in rare circumstances.
A Final Note
The word “figure” is extremely vague and nondescript. It gives the reader almost no useful information. Think about it: how often can you see a “figure” without being able to identify more descriptive characteristics? You could probably tell a figure’s gender from a distance; at the very least, you could tell that it was a human, a person. You might be able to tell their relative age—whether they’re a child or an adult. If you can be more descriptive, then do it! Only resort to something as vague as “figure” if you absolutely must.
Friday, September 19, 2014
The scene begins. Wind blows across a harsh desert, or maybe rain is falling on a dreary city alleyway, or perhaps sun is shining through gaps in the leaves of a peaceful green forest. Wherever the story is taking place, a figure appears in the distance. The figure is stumbling, or hurrying, or strolling; maybe we’re told that the figure is lost, or avoiding being seen, or is relaxing. They could be panting, or mumbling, or whistling. Slowly, the view dials in on the figure. It looks to be male, or female, or perhaps neither. We’re told the figure has a ragged beard, or a dark hat and trenchcoat, or metallic skin. Gradually, we get more and more details about the appearance and behavior of the figure. Perhaps we’re expressly told that the figure has survived a plane crash, or is a cat burglar on the way to a job, or is an oddly-built android; after this point, the “figure” might begin to be referred to as the survivor, the thief, or the android. Whoever they are, the figure keeps moving, and more details of their appearance and what they’re doing are gradually revealed.
Why is this a problem?
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Omission of letters
Monday, September 15, 2014
This can also be used in non-fantasy works. Say your story takes place in the fictional town of Oakdell and the fictional city of Davis. If readers are having trouble remembering which place is the town and which is the city, just change the name of Davis to “Davis City.” Bam. Problem solved.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Introduce things to the scene before they're being used
Using perspective errors to create tension = bad writing
Find a better solution
Thursday, September 11, 2014
- Verb has an E in it, so it matches up with breathe, which has an extra E at the end. Noun does not have an E in it, so it matches up with breath, which has no E at the end.
- Breathe has two Es, so it gets the longer ee sound; breath has only one E, so it gets the shorter eh sound.
Monday, September 8, 2014
Friday, September 5, 2014
- Read your story out loud—often, your mouth and ears will notice mistakes that your eyes didn’t.
- Have someone else proofread your story—you know what you’re trying to say, and often your brain will fill in what a sentence was supposed to say rather than noticing what it actually says. Other people won’t have this problem when it comes to your writing, so ask them for a hand.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Advantages and Disadvantages of Third-Person Omniscient Viewpoint
Advantages of the Omniscient Narrator
Advantages of Head-Hopping Omniscient
Disadvantages of Both Types of Third-Person Omniscient
Monday, September 1, 2014
- John, my oldest brother, came to see me in the hospital yesterday.
- The floor was made of stone—or at least it looked and felt like stone—and was freezing cold beneath his feet.
- She made me pelmeni (a type of Russian dumpling) and baked potatoes for dinner.
- Whenever I went to the theater, I would always invite the group, consisting of John, Mandy, and Gus, so that I wouldn't have to sit alone.
- Whenever I went to the theater, I would always invite the group—consisting of John, Mandy, and Gus—so that I wouldn't have to sit alone.