Lessons From a Recovering Writer
Judging by the suggestions in my manuscript, you would think I had just started out with this writing thing. I know better. When had I gotten so lazy?
Yes, I’d rushed a little to finish the manuscript. But what good is it if you have to go back and make dozens of changes?
Too many tags. I know not to do that. What are tags, and why not use them?
- “You can’t go that way, the road is out,” Darlene said.
- Darlene grabbed Gabe’s hand. “You can’t go that way, the road is out.”
#1 – “Darlene said,” is a tag. It identifies the speaker in the sentence. Nothing wrong with it, but read the second sentence.
#2 – In a deeper point of view (POV), you use an action beat to identify the speaker. “Darlene grabbed Gabe’s hand,” is an action beat. You’re in the story. Nothing distracts you.
It’s okay to use tags. But if you want a deeper POV, you’ll limit your use of tags. I had way too many, and they were distracting.
I also overused some words. I found 176 uses of the word, “whisper.” I also used whispers, whispered, and whispering. Again–distraction!
That’s lazy writing. When you have to go back in and change those, it’s not just distracting, but it’s irritating. And while I’m confessing, let’s talk about then. I have a habit of saying, “and then,” which translates to my writing. “Then he went…”
“Lou called Amy and then left for work.”–Not so bad, but 48 instances of “and then”–definite distraction. And just when I think I’ve learned a thing or two, I find out how little I know. Yes, I’m aware I started a sentence with and. I also occasionally start a sentence with but. Your editor may call you out on it, but it’s not the end of the world. But…if you overuse it–lazy. And distracting!
You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.–1 Peter 1:17 The Message Bible
Sloppy living. Yes, that’s another way of saying…laziness. *Sigh*
So, all you have to do is remove tags for a deeper POV?
Well, no–there’s a lot more to it than that. But it would take another, much longer post to talk about it. If you’re interested in learning more about deep point of view, here are a couple of great resources:
The Art of Characterization by Fay Lamb
Put on your director’s cap and prepare to set your story world’s stage with memorable scenes and unforgettable characters.
Great storytelling isn’t done haphazardly. Storytelling is an art which requires practice to master. In The Art of Characterization authors are shown elements of storytelling which, when practiced correctly, utilizes forward–moving description and back story, deep point of view, dialogue, and conflict to create a cast of characters readers will never forget.
Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
How do you create a main character readers won’t forget? How do you write a book in multiple-third-person point of view without confusing your readers (or yourself)? How do you plant essential information about a character’s past into a story?
Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by award-winning author Nancy Kress answers all of these questions and more! This accessible book is filled with interactive exercises and valuable advice that teaches you how to:
- Choose and execute the best point of view for your story
- Create three-dimensional and believable characters
- Develop your characters’ emotions
- Create realistic love, fight, and death scenes
- Use frustration to motivate your characters and drive your story
With dozens of excerpts from some of today’s most popular writers, Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint provides you with the techniques you need to create characters and stories sure to linger in the hearts and minds of agents, editors, and readers long after they’ve finished your book.
What word(s) do you tend to overuse in your writing?