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Posts tagged ‘James Scott Bell’

Use a voice journal to capture your character’s original voice

Have you ever written a passage of dialogue between two characters who sounded just alike?  I have. After awhile, I couldn’t tell which character was speaking. With a novel full of characters, it can be difficult to make each and every one stand out with a distinctive voice.

One way to find a character’s distinctive voice is keep a Voice Journal. Author James Scott Bell says he’ll do this if he finds one of his characters is starting to sound too dull or pedestrian. Read more

Are your characters too polite?

Since the day we are born, we’re taught to be polite. Civilization depends on politeness. As writers, this can be a handicap. We strive for drama and conflict in our stories. Everyday, we strive to overcome our conditioning.

Reading over a chapter of my novel this morning, I realized the characters in one scene are far too polite. It’s not a scene that requires them to be rude or in conflict with one another but my dialogue could be shorter, punchier, and more direct.

The remedy is easy. Among the plethora of advice I picked up this weekend at the StoryMasters conference was a tip from author and writing mentor James Scott Bell. Sometimes, he says, he’ll just write dialogue down the page–a back and forth between the characters with no tags, actions or anything else. This can help us get in the flow of the exchange. Later, we can go back and add the other stuff in. Read more

How keeping a writing practice list can increase your NaNoWriMo word count

Today is the seventh day of NaNoWriMo and, amazingly, I’m on track with my word count! But I need to plan ahead for the rest of this week because, starting tomorrow, I’ll be attending the Story Masters writing intensive with Literary Agent Don Maass, author and writing mentor James Scott Bell, and Chris Vogler, a Hollywood development guru and author of The Writer’s Journey.

I’m super excited and blessed to be able to attend this event but that also means I’ll have to find snatches of time for writing to make sure I stay on top of my Nano goals. We’ll have writing opportunities in class and an evening gathering of fellow NaNoWriMos so that will help. My plan is to break it up in 500 to 700 word segments until I reach my goal for each day.

I’m also making a Writing Practice list (ala Natalie Goldberg). These are ideas that pop up as I’m writing that I add to an ongoing list and that become writing topics for later. I call it my WP list. Read more

How to tame the beast called plot

In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d write about plot. The word plot used to scare me more than the time I was ten years old and my cousin dragged me to the local haunted house our little town hosted for Halloween.

I screamed my head off (cliches are okay at Halloween when the veil between good and bad prose is thinnest)—monsters lurching out of the dark, re-enactments of beheadings and hangings, cobwebs tangling in my hair, but when a hand reached out and grabbed my ankle in that dark hallway, I let loose a blood-curdling scream that would make the director of “Saw” proud. (Not that I would ever see said movie). I nearly trampled all the people in line in front of me to get out of there. I’ve never been in a haunted house since. To this day, I still shiver when somebody mentions haunted house and Halloween in the same breath.

But I digress…. Notice, I said the word plot used to scare me. That was before I started reading James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure.As a newbie to writing fiction, I’d get confused about the word plot—what does it mean exactly? It sounds like some exotic species of plant that needs to be cared for in an exact, specific way or all will be lost. Read more

How to make your book’s setting come alive

Ever read a novel that you were really into and then suddenly hit a dry patch of description that made you start to nod off? I have. If the story is really good, I might put up with it and skim over those parts. But if the story isn’t stellar, the author is in grave danger of losing me.

I used one of author and writing teacher James Scott Bell’s tips when I began writing my memoir. Though I grew up in the small town featured in my memoir, I visited the area again once I started writing the story, snapping pictures and traipsing through back roads.

Through research and immersing myself in the location, I discovered interesting facts about our town that I didn’t know growing up. It was helpful to go back, because as an adult and a writer, I have a different perspective.

Bell has produced a short video on how to make your setting and writing come alive. He gives tips for turning your setting into a character.

Read more

Conquering your writing fears: what you focus on expands

I’ve never ridden a motorcycle in my life. Never even been on one. So when my hubby recently suggested we take a motorcycle class, I had no frame of reference. I didn’t even know he’d owned one when he was younger and living in Southern California. I’m not sure what prompted his sudden need for speed, but we talked about it and decided to take the two-day safety course to see if we could pass the test (back in his early riding days there were no classes, nor tests). I wanted to take the class to see if I even enjoyed riding.

Being a type A, my hubby arranged for us to have a private class and to have both days collapsed into one (to save time, of course, since we are busy business owners). We passed the written test in the morning. No problem. Then from 12:30pm to 7:30pm we went through two days of riding instruction. Keep in mind I’ve never ridden. Keep in mind I didn’t know where the brakes or clutch were or what a choke was. (Other than this is what I wanted to do to my husband by six o’clock that evening). Read more