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Posts tagged ‘writing tips’

Using your grief and other emotions to deepen your characters

It’s difficult to write about deep painful emotions, even in our characters, unless we’ve experienced them. And, even then, it’s not an easy task.

Strong emotions can be overwhelming. Sometimes we numb ourselves or run away in order to avoid our feelings. I used to do that until I realized on some level that the emotions would fester inside me until I actually did the work of processing my feelings and healing myself. The advantage of doing this when you’re a writer is that you can use what you learn about your emotions to deepen your characters. I wrote about this earlier in “Draw on personal pain to write believable characters.”

But I want to delve deeper into this subject today because I’m working on a scene in my novel where I’m trying to understand the complicated grief my antagonist has about his sister’s death and how it motivates him to do bad things.

Grief is one of the most complicated emotions because it can have shades of guilt, shame, anger, and other feelings mixed in. Read more

Eight exercises to develop curiosity and become a better writer (and person)

Developing our curiosity can serve to make us not only more interesting people but also better writers and more creative artists.

Being curious has helped me dig deeper in my writing, develop an authentic voice, and create more well-rounded characters. It has also improved my relationships and, overall, made me a happier person.

When I was younger, if someone started talking about a subject I wasn’t interested in (history, westerns, reptiles), I’d listen but my attention would wander after a while. Over the years, I learned to look at these exchanges from a different perspective.

I started asking myself, “What can I learn from this person about this subject that I didn’t know before?” Then I’d listen and ask questions. Suddenly, everything became much more interesting, including me! These types of interactions can also be mining grounds for future story ideas and character traits.

Artists need to be curious about their world, but with the stress and busyness of our daily lives, how do we maintain our child-like sense of wonder and curiosity?

Here are a few exercises that have helped me:

  1. Have an open mind.

Practice looking at things, people, and situations with a clear, open mind. When you find yourself judging someone, let go of the judgment. Instead, ask questions. Read more

Use rhetorical devices to evoke readers’ emotion

My mom loved puzzles. She spent most of my childhood in our little mom amd pop grocery store, and in between ringing up customers, stocking shelves, and keeping me occupied, she loved to work on puzzles. Crosswords. Cryptograms. Hangman. Word search. Maybe this is where my love of words came from.

I never enjoyed puzzles like Mom did, but it dawned on me a few years ago that writing poetry is my form of puzzle work. I enjoy hunting for just the right word. Sometimes I wonder if the joy I feel when a poem finally comes together is what Mom felt when she successfully completed a crossword.

Another part of puzzling together a poem is the fun I have in playing with rhetorical devices. What are rhetorical devices?  Read more

Using theme-specific language to relay strong emotions in poetry

Recently, I was notified that my poem “Butterfly House” was awarded Honorable Mention in the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition. The poem is in my newly released book of poetry, “The Dragon & The Dragonfly” and was one of those poems that came quickly.

I’d decided to celebrate my late husband’s birthday by going to the Butterfly Museum at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. I’d never heard of the museum until the week before when a friend mentioned it. I decided it would be the perfect adventure for the day to honor his transition into his “new” life and to honor my struggle to find my own new life. I say struggle because I wasn’t there yet, but I knew this is what I wanted—to find my way forward.

It was a truly magical experience. At one point, I just stood with my arms outstretched and waited for a butterfly to land on me. Several came and went, but one—a big orange and black monarch—stayed for a while on my hair. Just call me butterfly whisperer. Read more

Four tips for writing a synopsis that sells

Before I wrote my first synopsis, I thought it would be a breeze—after all, I’d done the hard part, right? I had finished and edited an entire book! What could be harder than that? Plenty, I was to learn.

Recently, I helped chair a major literary contest where I read over 100 book synopses. I was impressed with a handful of the synopses, but, for the most part, they were vague or poorly written or trying to be “mysterious” when they needed to be clear and to the point. I realized that I was probably not alone in my dread of the synopsis. Writing a GOOD synopsis is one of the hardest tasks undertaken by a writer.

The main purpose of a synopsis is to provide a summary of an entire novel. It must provide an overview of the plot (including the ending), characters, and theme.

Put yourself in the shoes of a literary agent who is deciding from your synopsis whether or not to read the first pages of your book. Your synopsis has to be even more perfect than your stellar novel. No pressure, right?

No worries. Below are a few tips to help you make your synopsis sing: Read more

Discover the power of word choice

Whether you’re writing prose or poetry, word choice is paramount. The words you choose determine where the emphasis is placed in your line or sentence and, thus, where you draw your reader’s attention.

In honor of National Poetry Month I’ll use a few of my poems as examples of the difference a word can make.

From my poem “Suppose someday I say hot springs:”

 

Original:

will I remember our hike up Sol Duc,
how we riffed fingers over silk moss,
how we stepped stone to stone
over the creek that crossed our path,
how we posed for a photo on the rickety
footbridge dwarfed by fir and red cedar?

Revision:

will I remember our hike up Sol Duc,
how we riffed fingers over silk moss,
how we stepped stone to stone
over the creek that crossed our path,
how we posed for a photo on the rickety
footbridge under fir and red cedar?

As you can see, I changed the bolded word “dwarfed” to a simpler word “under” in the revision. Why? Dwarfed is a more unusual and striking word but, because of this, it draws more attention to itself—attention that I don’t want in that particular place.

My first choice draws my reader’s attention to the footbridge while the revision places the emphasis more on the “we” of the stanza and the trees—which is where I want it. Read more

Showing vs. telling: Take down the wall between your character and your reader

I’ve heard the phrase “show don’t tell” at least a million times in my writing career. And, mostly, that’s good advice—though there are times when “telling” is more economical and gets the job done.

But in most scenes, and especially when I want to draw my reader into deep point of view, I try to show as much as possible. I draw on the senses instead of my character’s intellect.

In other words, I want my readers to experience the event with my character instead of my character filtering the experience for them.

Below are a few “before” and “after” sentences from my current manuscript: Read more