cj Sez: My first drafts are crappy and sparse, mainly for
two reasons: First, first drafts are supposed to be crappy, and second, before
a screenwriter course turned me on to creative writing, I was once a corporate
journalist/editor tasked with relating the gist of a story in limited line
When I’m finished with the first draft, and the
manuscript has its usual dearth of details, I start work expanding the details: The
five senses…hear, see, taste, smell, feel…and the who, what, when, where, why,
and how of the plot.
I incorporate action descriptors, but I consider too
many of them stage directions. Some writers may use them much like adverbs to
“tell” their readers what to think or as a way to add words to a short
Action needs to have purpose. If describing an action
doesn't contribute to the reader's knowledge of the character, scene conflict,
or mood, then it’s stage direction. I write mostly suspense and thrillers and
have a minimalist approach to action—using few words speeds up the pace and
heightens the tension. On the other hand, readers of cozy mysteries or more
narrative-based novels want, and expect, to know every detail.
It’s a good way to control the pace of your novel. Even in
suspense and thrillers, there are places where the reader needs a respite from
the action. These would be the spots where I add more detail or beats. Places
where I can reveal more of the characters’ growth, i.e., transformation, as the
Hint: Adding detail words slows the pace; being stingy
speeds it up.
When action is needed to set some
mood for the scene, then yes, I detail the action. Sometimes I add details to
slow the action and increase the tension. If I want a character to give the
reader a sense of impending danger and fear, then I add more description to the
action. I tend to follow the lead
of my favorite authors—Robert Parker, Stephen King, James Lee Burke. Their
succinct style of writing is what I like to read, and it is their fans who are
my target market.
Hint: Write what you like to read and hit your target
When I write, I take my cues from screenwriting, except I’m
the actor. Since internal dialogue doesn’t convert easily to the movie screen, I
tend to develop most of the characters’ personalities with action. I move
through the scene in my mind and react to the events as my characters would,
physically and mentally. I can do that because I’ve written their bios. I know
their personalities well enough to know what they would do in a given
situation. I want my readers to identify the character more by what s/he does
and says rather than what I might tell them, also known as “author intrusion.”
Fiction, non-fiction, whatever the genre, each has a
different set of “rules” because the readers have different expectations and
wants. The key is to make what you want to write the genre you read and analyze
most often. Over time, the structure of the genre will become second nature.
If you have any questions or more info to add to this post,
please leave a comment. A reader but not a writer? Readers, that means you, too. Lyrical Pens would love
to hear from you.
“All writing is
difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily.
Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why
should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the
difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?” —Philip Pullman
On a personal note:
My short story
"Puppy Love" in the Christmas charity anthology FINALLY HOME is being
lived by my daughter-in-law.
introduced me to her puppy Ziva, a German Shepherd mix, that had to have one of
her front legs amputated two weeks ago (birth defect). Ziva is running and
happy and excited and beautiful and loving, and D-I-L (who is a Special
Olympics volunteer) hopes her baby can be trained as a therapy dog.
I sent along copies
of my story for D-I-L to read and think you would enjoy all
the stories in the
anthology as well. The FINALLY HOME anthology stories have a universal appeal,
going far beyond the Christmas theme.
FINALLY HOME has eight stories, all about our four-legged friends and the special people who rescue them. From
funny to sad to romantic, there’s something to tug at everyone’s heart strings.
The publisher donates a portion of the profits to various animal rescue
organizations, and the anthology is free on Kindle Unlimited. https://amzn.to/2Y9VPpe
And now a few words from my sponsor:
and as a #SCREAM, series phone app.
There are a lot of
authors and their mystery/suspense stories available on #SCREAM. All you do is
load up the app and search for the author’s name.
You can ask your
local library to order my eBooks for you. You’ll need to give them the ISBN
number of the title you want to borrow.
THE DAWGSTAR … ISBN 978-17369146-0-1
DEATH ON THE YAMPA … ISBN 978-1-7369146-1-8
That’s it for
today’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.
If you’d like me to
autograph or personalize one of my books for you, be sure to tell them, and
I’ll run by the shop.
Bookshop has re-opened to limited hours (and they have an awesome bookstore
kitty, Mr. Bingley), so if you’re in the Mobile area, you can stop and shop,
➜ Follow me . . .