Make Your Readers Worry, And They Will Be Loyal

[found on writersdigest.com]

“Predictability

Readers like to worry about characters in crisis. They want to tremble about what’s around the next corner (whether it’s emotional or physical). If a reader knows what’s coming, and then it does in fact come, the worry factor is blown. Your novel no longer conveys a fictive dream but a dull ride down familiar streets.

The fix is simple: Put something unexpected in every scene. Doing this one thing keeps the reader on edge.

So how do you come up with the unexpected? Try making lists. Pause and ask yourself what might happen next, and list the possibilities, centering on three primary areas: description, action and dialogue. For each one, don’t choose the first thing that comes to mind (which usually amounts to cliches). Force yourself to list at least five alternatives.

Description: Dump generic details for ones unique to the character’s perceptions. How might he see a room where someone died? What’s one surprising thing about the wallpaper? The bed? The closet?

Action: Close your eyes and watch your scene unfold. Let the characters improvise. What are some outlandish things that could result? If something looks interesting, find a way to justify it.

Dialogue: Don’t always use “on-the-nose” exchanges. How might characters say things that put other characters (and thus, readers) off balance? Consider Clarice Starling’s first conversation with Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice begins:

“I think you’ve been destructive. For me it’s the same thing.”

“Evil’s just destructive? Then storms are evil, if it’s just that simple. And we have fire, and then there’s hail. Underwriters lump it all under ‘Acts of God.’”

“Deliberate––”

“I collect church collapses, recreationally. Did you see the recent one in Sicily?”

You can make these lists in your planning stages, just before writing a scene, and/or when you revise. Either way, the unexpected elements that result will perceptibly elevate the quality of your story.”

For more tips on writing from , click here.

[found on http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-5-biggest-fiction-writing-mistakes-how-to-fix-them]
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Thriller, Horror, Terror — Oh My!

[found on writersdigest.com]
The three types of terror:
  • The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm.
  • The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one:
  • Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there …”
— Stephen King

“The horror genre is something that I’ve always been fascinated with. Luckily, I don’t think I’m the only one. People like to be frightened. If they didn’t, Stephen King wouldn’t have a thousand novels and you wouldn’t find every horror film ever made running on AMC at this time, every year. Seriously. Click over to AMC, I can almost guarantee Halloween, or one of its sequels, is on right now.

And horror has adapted. Yes, you can still find the slasher movies and those “gross-out” moments that King references. But it’s mental now. “Found footage” movies can be terrifying because it seems so normal, so everyday. The more real, the better. And the scarier. It’s the dark basement where the only thing you can hear is the beating of your own heart. That’s real horror. The kind of stuff that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, as if someone was standing inches behind you.

But writing horror isn’t so easy. With any type of fiction, it’s difficult to think of something that hasn’t already been done. With horror fiction, it’s especially true. Creepy basements, loud noises from the attic, hidden rooms, Indian burial grounds, old hotels, multiple personality disorder, etc.—it’s all been done before, and it’s all out there. These clichés shouldn’t restrain you, however. They’ve simply defined the space you’re working in. You know what’s there, now create your own story.”

For more tips from Writer’s Digest on writing thrillers, click here.

[found on http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/the-horror-genre-on-writing-horror-and-avoiding-cliches]

Prevent the Hatred of the Main Character

[found on jodyhedlund.blogspot.com; by Jody Hedlund]

“How can we know if we’re crossing the line and making our main characters too unlikable?

We hear this writing mantra over and over: Add tension to every page, increase the conflict, and get our main characters (MCs) into trouble. In humble obedience to the rules of fiction, we try to heap mountains of problems upon our MCs.

We do this externally in the form of villains, trauma, or drama. And we do it internally in the form of emotional struggles, character weaknesses, or relationship problems. A story wouldn’t be a page-turner without the conflict to move it forward.

However, at the beginning when we’re trying to establish the problems and the need for character growth, we may tip the scales too far. Yes, our MCs need flaws, things they have to work through as the story progresses (aka character arc). But in the process of making our MCs imperfect, we can’t turn them into bitter, whiny, selfish, angry, mean, cold-hearted jerks.

I’ve learned that in making my MCs have real, everyday, human problems, I have to be careful not to shape them into the kind of people no one wants to hang around for 300 plus pages.”

For more writing tips from Jody Hedlund, click here.

[found on http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-to-avoid-trap-of-creating-unlikable.html]

See Your Scene

[found on thewritepractice.com; by ]

“Visualize Your Scenes.

If you, the writer, cannot visualize the fight, expect the readers to have trouble as well. Visualize how each moment of the scenes will take place.

Try writing multiple ways of how the scene plays out. Ask other people to read them out. Did they like what they read? Were they able to picture out a clear image of the fight?

Remember: Action scenes don’t always involve fights. They can also be about your protagonist trying to race against time to stop a time bomb. But they always must be clearly written.”

For more great tips on writing from The Write Practice, click here.

[found on http://thewritepractice.com/pow-fight-scenes/]

Dialogue Your Characters

[found on theguardian.com]

“It’s never too soon to start thinking about what your characters will say and how they’ll say it. Giving each of your characters a distinct voice is key to writing great fiction.

The goal of Worksheet 9 is to encourage you to think about your characters’ individual speech patterns and specific word choices. Your characters will probably reveal these distinctions as your story progresses, but thinking about it early will make you more receptive to such revelations.

For each of your major characters, record information about individual speech patterns and any catchphrases they may use.

With this information in place on a dialogue sheet, you’ll know exactly what a given character will say and how he/she will say it. You can also use this worksheet during the final edit and polish of the manuscript to double-check speech patterns.”

[found on http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/oct/19/researching-your-novel]

Identity Creation

[found on writetodone.com; by Mary Jaksch of GoodlifeZen]

“Forge your identity. Say, “I am a writer!” Maybe you feel reluctant to say it because you think you’re not good enough? Well, forget about ‘good enough’! A writer writes. Do you write? If yes, then you are a writer. Plaster your home with notices that say, “I am a writer!” Tell people about it. When you next fill in a form, put ‘writer’ as your profession. Thinking of yourself as a writer will boost your confidence and unlock your creativity.”

For more tips from Mary Jaksch, click here.

[found on http://writetodone.com/zen-power-writing-15-tips-on-how-to-generate-ideas-and-write-with-ease]

Write With Passion

[found on fuelyourwriting.com; by Kim Phillips]

“Passion in writing becomes even more important in print or online, where the reader can’t be influenced by your tone, eye contact, or body language.

Michael Stelzner, who writes for the online magazine Social Media Examiner, is flat-out crazy about social media.  It’s not just his business; he’s in love with it, and it shows.  Contrast the corporate blog of Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, with that of Bill Marriott of the eponymous hotel chain and decide who loves his job more.

Some tips for writing with passion…

Write about something you understand. It’s not likely you’re going to have strong feelings about something you’re not familiar with.

Know who you’re writing for. This should always be the case, but it will be helpful if you know what you have in common with the reader.  If you’re a 55-year-old man writing for mommies about toys, you’re going to have to think about what experiences you share.

Don’t load up your writing with facts and stats. Unless you’re writing a blog for engineers, most people would rather know the meaning of the data and how it can help them.  If you’re writing about homelessness, describe one homeless family’s experience and leave out the chart.

Find your indignation. There’s nothing like a little righteous anger to get the juices flowing.

Tell a story. Relate not only what happened, but how you felt about it.  Be vulnerable:  people will consider it brave, and they will come with you.

Admit that you don’t have a clue. That happens so rarely that the reader will be intrigued.

Be yourself. You have a unique point of view and a voice that is not exactly like anyone else; that’s interesting.  Are you edgy?  Self-deprecating?  Thoughtful?  Irreverently funny?  The local curmudgeon?  Then be that.

If you want to engage people, get them on your side.  If you don’t care, why should they?”

For more tips on writing from FuelYourWriting, click here.

[found on http://www.fuelyourwriting.com/writers-embrace-your-passion]

Lean Writing Is Strength

[found on entrepreneur.com; by Susan Gunelius]

“As Mark Twain famously wrote, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” His point? Strong writing is lean writing.

When you want to make your writing more powerful, cut out words you don’t need–such as the 10 included in this post:

1. Just: The word “just” is a filler word that weakens your writing. Removing it rarely affects meaning, but rather, the deletion tightens a sentence.

2. Really: Using the word “really” is an example of writing the way you talk. It’s a verbal emphasis that doesn’t translate perfectly into text. In conversation, people use the word frequently, but in written content it’s unnecessary. Think about the difference between saying a rock is “hard” and “really hard,” for example. What does the word add? Better to cut it out to make your message stronger.

3. Very: Everything that applies to “really” applies to “very.” It’s a weak word. Cut it.

4. Perhaps/maybe: Do you want your audience to think you’re uncertain about what you’re saying? When you use words like “maybe” and “perhaps,” uncertainty is exactly what you’re communicating.

5. Quite: When someone uses “quite,” he or she either means “a bit” or “completely” or “almost.” Sometimes the word adds meaning; sometimes it’s fluff. Learn to tell the difference–but, when in doubt, cut it out. 

6. Amazing: The meaning of “amazing” is causing great wonder or surprise–but some writers use the word so often that the meaning gets lost. How can something be amazing if everything is? Ditch this diluted word.

7. Literally: When something is true in a literal sense, you don’t have to add the word “literally.” The only reason it makes sense to use the word is when it clarifies meaning (i.e., to explain you aren’t joking when it seems you are).

8. Stuff: Unless you are aiming at informality, don’t use the word “stuff.” It’s casual, it’s generic, and it usually stands in for something better.

9. Things: Writers use the word “things” to avoid using a clearer, more specific word that would communicate more meaning. Be specific. Don’t tell us about the “10 things,” tell us about the “10 books” or “10 strategies.” Specificity makes for better writing.

10. Got: Think of all the ways we use the vague word “got” in conversation: “I’ve got to go,” “I got a ball,” or “I got up this morning.” Though it’s fine for conversation, in writing, “got” misses valuable opportunities. Rather than writing a lazy word, look for clearer, more descriptive language: “I promised I’d leave by 9,” “I picked up a ball,” or “I woke up today,” for example.

Whether you’ve been writing for a few days or for many years, you’ll benefit from evaluating the words you use. Cut the filler to make your writing stronger.”

[found on http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229369]