Friday, June 13, 2008

Things I Didn't Know I Didn't Know

This afternoon, I'll be at the Windermere, Florida Library as the first author in their "Festive Friday" series for the summer. It's summer vacation, it's Friday the 13th, and the program is from 203 PM, so I have no idea what the turnout will be like, or the demographics of the group (assuming there is something one could call a group)

I'm definitely not a speech-giver. Talker, yes. Ask anyone who knows me. Talking is easy. Making sense, staying focused -- well, that might be another issue.

However, I decided to keep things informal. I have bullet point notes and handouts about all the things I learned when I started writing for other's eyes. Maybe I'll post these here as weekly or monthly craft topics.

So, here's my 'talk.' I'm hoping it'll be an informal Q&A, and I'll let those who made the effort to attend drive the discussion.

Point of View – choosing the right head and staying there.

This is a conscious decision on the part of the author. There's no 'right' or 'wrong' but it needs to work to draw the reader in. Current convention prefers one scene, one POV. So, what's a scene?

Scenes aren't just those double spaces or cute symbols. Think theater backdrops.

Show, Don't Tell, or slow down and describe the roses.

Avoid Back Story Dumps

Description – one of my major 'skip-overs' as a reader. And, as a mystery reader, if the blouse is blue, there had better be a good reason for me to know it.

Only Trouble is Interesting.

Characters. Make your readers love 'em. Back to that show don't tell lesson.

Dialog. Get past the mechanics. Eventually, you won't have to think about commas and quote marks; your fingers will do it.

Your Words Aren't Precious. If it sounds like a writer's voice, kill it.

You Can't Fix A Blank Page. Barf it all out, clean it up later.



Maryann Miller said...

Good advice for writers, Terry. Hope your library talk went well.

I've often wondered about the inclusion of description. What is too much and what is too little. And it is interesting to see how other writer's handle it. If it is the "laundry list" kind of description, where we pause to get every detail of what a person is wearing when they enter a scene, that is a definite no-no. But a really vivid description of a place where a scene starts, can really root the scene. John D. McDonald was a master at that. Anne Tyler is another good one.

Terry Odell said...

I think if the story stops so the author can describe something, it's going to pull me out (although I'm sure there are other readers who love it). I always try to make sure that descriptions are still in the deep POV of the character, so they have to be described in terms that character would be comfortable with.