There are lots of places in a book where the reader needs some detail but not a lot:
- When one character has to explain something to another character that the reader already knows.
- When characters travel from one place to another, but nothing key to the plot happens during the journey itself.
- When significant time passes between the end of one scene and the beginning of the next.
- When transitioning from one important sequence within a scene to the next key sequence.
In those cases—and a lot of others—writers summarize. Maybe summarize isn’t the correct literary term, maybe it’s telling when showing would be a waste of time. Either way, it’s something I struggle with. Continue reading
As writers, we’re all aware of the importance of conflict, plot, character and voice, but I want to talk about another element that can ratchet up the intensity of a story: contrast.
In painting, contrast is an essential tool for adding punch and drama. Painters use dark and dull complementary colors to make the bright touches sing, and light to give the darkness depth. The same principle applies to stories. Continue reading
Every book on writing emphasizes that your characters, especially the protagonist, need to change over the course of the story. But change how? What constitutes character change?
In the past, that’s been a sticky one for me. Whether it was because writing books seemed to emphasize the importance of personality flaws that made characters annoying or immoral, or because I didn’t catch the subtleties, I interpreted the phrase character change to mean a change in the characters’ characters.
Last month, during our Write by Midnight challenge, a friend recommended a writing app to me. I’d always been skeptical of those kind of writing tools. (Come on, either you write or you don’t; how could an app make you more efficient?) But, on a whim, I gave it a try.
To my surprise, it was a lot of fun. And because it was fun, it gave me a little extra writing motivation—for a few days. Then I got frustrated with the app. The problem was it didn’t do the things I thought it should do. Continue reading
In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, one of my all-time favorite books, the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. Like all of life’s best jokes, it’s funny because it rings so true. Everything in life can be described mathematically, as it turns out—even literature.
In February’s Scientific American, there was an interesting article, by Mark Fischetti, about a study on the emotional story arcs of novels. It turns out that the vast majority of stories fall into only one of six tried and true emotional arcs.