3 Obscure Writing Tips

writing tips1) Clarify who is present at the beginning of a scene. In real life, if you walked into a park, hockey stadium, or corporate boardroom, you’d instantly be aware of who else was there. No one? One other person? Three hundred?

The same goes for the opening of scenes. Your character will instantly be aware of who else is there with them, and this should briefly be mentioned as close to the beginning of the scene as possible. But if you’ve got two characters talking to each other for the first two pages, then on the bottom of the third, a third character who’s never been mentioned to this point speaks up, you’ve effectively written a horror scene. Someone has just jumped out of the closet and scared the daylights out of the reader.

2) Make sure the reader knows who is speaking. Consider this paragraph:

She tied the apron around her waist with shaky fingers, while he avoided her gaze and kicked a log onto the bonfire. “I didn’t expect to see you here tonight.”

Who do you think is talking? Are you 100% sure? Answer: the pronoun closest to the dialogue is usually the speaker. In this case, it’s ‘he’. If you wanted the woman to be the speaker, you would revise in one of three ways:

“I didn’t expect to see you here tonight.” She tied the apron around her waist with shaky fingers, while he avoided her gaze and kicked a log onto the bonfire.

OR

He avoided her gaze and kicked a log onto the bonfire, while she tied the apron around her waist with shaky fingers. “I didn’t expect to see you here tonight.”

OR

For more clarity (and my favorite choice) it’s best to chop the action sentence into two sentences:

She tied the apron around her waist with shaky fingers. “I didn’t expect to see you here tonight.”

(new paragraph) He avoided her gaze and kicked a log onto the bonfire.

Each version has a slightly different meaning, depending on who is reacting to whom.

3) Go big. Have you gone as big as you can in the scene?

If your hero is a bit irritated about something, can you rewrite the scene to make him justifiably angry? If your heroine receives news that makes her a little sad, can you rewrite the scene and change the news so she’s completely devastated? Which characters would you find more interesting in a scene? The ones who aren’t affected by much, or the ones who really care about what’s happening?

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