Writing descriptions

Sunlight, Sunbeam, Vibrant, Cloud, Storm

Today I’m going to talk about writing descriptions. When we write we need to bear in mind how people think. If you want your story to seem real you need to make the reader feel like it’s happening in real life even though it’s not. Your description needs to be detailed to make it like human experience.

The best way to write a description is to make it easy to understand and original. You want to make a connection with the reader and leave an impression on their mind. Sensory descriptions stimulate the brain. For example, the smell of a lemon. Avoid telling the reader what something looks like. Instead, tell them how it tastes or sounds. Tell the reader the details and how they affect the senses. For example, the smell of hot chips made his stomach grumble and he went to kiosk and bought some. His tongue burnt as he bit into one and made him thirsty.

Similarly, words describing motion stimulate the part of the brain that is responsible for co-ordinating body movements. You can do this by varying the rhythm of your writing. For example, if you want to add emphasis, shorten your sentence/s.

Close your eyes and try to envision each scene before you write it. Keep adjectives and adverbs to a minimum. Instead, try and find a verb to fit the image you’re thinking of.

Metaphor

The use of metaphors in writing is invaluable because it deconstructs a subjective event and recasts it into something familiar. Metaphors disguise comparisons as a statement and brings the subject into a new relationship which helps see the world from a different perspective. If metaphors are confusing or clichéd, they can ruin your writing.

Always try to describe something in a way no other writer has ever described it before. It’s not easy I know. Avoid descriptions such as ‘good’ ‘awesome’, or ‘beautiful’. These everyday figures of speech are so familiar that the reader will become bored and skip over them.

Get to the point

Don’t overwrite. The reader doesn’t want to get lost in a whole lot of unnecessary details. If you want to add emphasis to something put it at the end of the sentence. Don’t get it lost in the middle. Read your description out loud and ask yourself: Is this description really needed? Can I simplify it? Close your eyes and play the scene over again in your head. Work out what needs to stay and what you can delete.

Voice and Style

Old Books, Book, Old, Library, Education

Today I’m going to talk about voice and style. Voice is a thread that weaves through the characters stories showing us their experiences, values, beliefs, interests and personal preferences. Similarly, in non-fiction it is the author’s voice that does the same.

Readers

Readers are attracted to an author because of the way they weave their stories. For example, Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. Each of these authors are well known for their writing style and voice. By writing style, I mean their word choice, tone, sentence structure, sensory details, etcetera.

As a writer, uncovering your voice and style can be tricky because some elements are inherent while others are shaped by personal choice and experience.

Write what you like to read

The best way to establish your voice is write what you like to read. Look at your own life and don’t be afraid to use your own experiences in your writing. This will help establish your own voice and style.

When you read or watch a movie make a list of things you love and include them in your stories. What sort of characters do you like? What is your favorite setting, genre or theme? Write freely about them to influence your voice.

First person, omniscient or third person?

Do you like writing in past or present tense? Experiment with writing in first person, omniscient and third person. Once you’ve established which one you prefer, write in that style and stay away from the rest.

Don’t compare

Never compare your writing to other writers. That’s a good way not to develop your creative abilities. If you want to compare your writing look at something you’ve written a year ago and compare it to the way you are writing now.

 Give yourself time

Voice and style aren’t developed overnight. The more you write the more confident you’ll become.  It can take years of writing to establish your creative footing. I know I’m still trying to find mine.

You may find that your voice and style change just like your personal beliefs and priorities change over time. It’s like peeling back the layers and discovering who you are.

The secret to finding your voice on the page is to relax and be yourself when you write. If you’re relaxed, you will write fast, and fast writers sound more like themselves. Think of it as talking with fluidity. When you’re tense and agonize over every word your true self will be lost in formality.

Foreshadowing

 

Sky, Clouds, Sunlight, Dark, Cloudscape

Today I’m going to talk about a writing technique called foreshadowing. I like to think of this technique as teasing the reader. It propels the story forward with dialogue and imagery and is an excellent way to create tension and build suspense.  This technique adds depth to any work of fiction and when well executed, gives the reader a hint or clue of what’s to come.

I think the best foreshadowing is subtle and goes unnoticed by the reader. When the climax occurs, the reader recalls details that that have been placed throughout the story. Foreshadowing builds anticipation and tension throughout the narrative and makes the climax bigger. It can also be used to prepare the reader for a twist to the story.

Examples

Foreshadowing is when you’re telling a story to a friend and you say to them: ‘Don’t worry, you’ll thank me for this later.’ Saying this means you are hoping a foreshadowing of gratitude for something you’ve done for them.

Tarot cards are another example because they are used to foreshadow future events.

Mystery and Crime Writers

Mystery writers use foreshadowing by giving hints as to what the mystery might be. Similarly, crime writers use foreshadowing by giving clues as to who did the crime. They know the reader will be trying to work it out as they read and so the writer will often throw in a red herring to throw the reader off guard.

Plot

When you are plotting your outline my advice is to think like a gardener when he’s planting seeds. You’ll need to work out where to scatter your seeds i.e. hints/clues for the best results.

Surrealism

Fantasy, Girl, Sleep, Mask, Mystical

Today, I’m going to talk about writing surrealism. Surrealism came into being at the end of World War I to end rationality about the horror and strife of that era by artists, writers and political thinkers. The movement’s leader, Andre Breton, believed that by doing so, this would lead to freedom of expression. Surrealists embraced the chaos and primal energy of the unconscious and this can be done though automatic writing.

Automatic Writing

Automatic writing is a process that lets the conscious and unconscious voice express itself without limits or logic before the ego gets in the way thus bridging reality with imagination. All you do is write whatever comes into your head without censoring your thoughts. Just keep writing. It might be one word e.g. blank page. The idea is to keep writing whatever comes to mind until your writing starts to flow. I set a clock for ten minutes. It feels like agony at first but once you start doing it on a regular basis, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to get ideas.

Writing under the influence of drugs, alcohol or hypnosis also allows the writer to be free of all limitations to write freely though I’m not suggesting you try these methods. I don’t.

Imagery and Metaphor

Surrealism uses images and metaphors and expands the reader’s idea of what reality is. It creates stories that defy logic and differs from everyday literature because it focuses on imagery, discovery and the characters rather than plot. In this way, it allows the reader to expand their reality and opens their mind to new possibilities.

Dreams

Surrealism is like a dream but is much more than that because it can be anyone’s dream. You need to keep the reader connected to the story. No one wants to hear about your dream. If you listen to someone talk about their dream, it’s boring.

When writing surrealism, it makes things appear strange, dreamlike and unique. The world the protagonist is in is either emotionally, physically, or magically different, and it highlights what’s really at stake in the story, making it clearer and more urgent.

Creative Writing

Woman, Typing, Writing, Macbook

Today, I’m going to talk to you about creative writing.

Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, scripts, speeches, songs, autobiography and memoir are all forms of creative writing.

Creative writing gives you the power to create something to entertain someone. You can make them laugh, cry or think about what you’ve written. It is an art as well as a craft. There must be a plot, otherwise there is no story and your characters must be developed to tell the story. That means that readers should be able to engage and understand your main character, the protagonist.

There must be an underlying theme and description so the reader can understand the protagonist’s surroundings. All these things help the reader imagine being in the protagonist’s shoes.

The most common point of view that creative writing is written in, is first person and third person. Characters need to interact with one another to tell the story so you will need to include dialogue. To make it more interesting consider using metaphors, figures of speech, anecdotes and similes. This will help the reader feel how you want them to about the story. Make sure you vary the voice of each character, so they don’t all sound the same.

The more you practice the better you will become at creative writing. If you don’t practice, you’ll lose your skills. It’s the same with anything you do.

Here’s an exercise to get you started: You’ve woken up, and your reading this blog post. Write about what you’ve done since you’ve got out of bed. It doesn’t matter if it’s mundane, like brushing your teeth. Try and make it as interesting as possible for the reader.

Here’s my attempt: I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, unwilling to look at myself. I took my time brushing my teeth thinking about my new job and all the people I’d meet. The interviewer reminded me of a teacher I once had in high school. The glass smashed in the bathroom window and a brick landed at my feet…

Read your work aloud and make sure you edit it.

Good luck!

Book Reviews

Book, Reading, Love Story, Story, Roman

Today, I’m going to look at how to write a book review.

Before you start reading

Here are some things to think about before you start to read. Look at the cover and ask yourself:

  • What does the title and picture convey?
  • Read the back cover to get a general idea of what the story is about.
  • Is there a preface? What does it promise?
  • Who is the book’s audience?

If you’re interested in a book it will help you write the review, so choose a genre that interests you.

If you’ve been asked to write a review about a genre that you’re not interested in, you’ll need to find a way to become interested in it.

Once you start reading

Make brief notes in the margin with a pencil or write the page number and some points down on a piece of paper. If I own a copy of the book, I underline passages as I read though I wouldn’t do that on a library book.

If the chapters have headings note them and anything of interest in each chapter so it will be easy to go back to later if you need to. Are the chapter headings relevant to the text within them? Try summarizing what the chapter was about in a few sentences and write some notes about some of the passages you can discuss in your review.

Questions to ask while reading

Keep these questions in mind while you’re reading the book:

Is there a good hook to keep you reading?

What is the plot outline? Is it clear?

Are there any sub-plots?

Is the book well-written?

What is the ending like without spoiling it for other readers – what did you think?

It takes time to write a book, sometimes many years, so at the end of the review, try and pay the author a compliment.

 

What to include in a Synopsis

Once Upon A Time, Writer, Author, Story

Hands up who finds writing a synopsis harder than writing a book? I know I do.

A synopsis is a selling tool. It’s what the editor and publisher use to decide if you’ve written a novel they want to sell. If you are thinking of working with an agent, you might find that they will ask you to provide a synopsis.

Before submitting your manuscript and synopsis make sure the publisher publishes the same genre that you have written. You don’t want to waste their time or yours.

An editor will have set guidelines for you to follow. Some want a 1-page synopsis while others may request 2 pages. They may also request your synopsis to be single or double spaced. The publishing house that I recently looked at said they wanted 500 words with single spacing. Make sure you adhere to the guidelines. If an editor asks for 500 words, don’t write 1,000 and think, they’ll love my story because I wrote it. Wrong!

A synopsis is an outline describing the events that take place in your novel and it is usually written in third person present tense. Type your name at the top right-hand corner and the title of your novel underneath it.

The editor wants to know the protagonist’s conflict and whether it is strong enough to make readers want to read your novel to the end. Therefore, a synopsis must provide answers to the following questions:

  • What is the story about?
  • Who are the main characters and what do they want?
  • Why do they want it and what stands in their way?
  • What is the setting, tone and pace of your novel?

Include any sub-plots and how they interact or affect the plot and characters.

Leave out description and dialogue.

You must tell them everything that happens in the book.

When you’ve finished writing it, read your synopsis out aloud to see if it flows. At the moment, I’ve got a lot of work to do on mine because it sounds like he did this, she did that.

When you send it to the editor via mail, make sure you write on the envelope: ‘requested material for e.g. Melisa Quigley’s manuscript. Do the same thing in the subject line if sending it via email. That way you avoid it being placed in the slush pile.

Good luck!