Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Some Writing Advice and Techniques

Some of these I've Tweeted or posted on Facebook, so you might have seen them before, but I'll post them here as well...

One of the bigger quandaries of being a writer is providing adequate description without bogging the story down.  One of my favorite writers is Dean Koontz, who squares this circle by working descriptions into sentences with action verbs.  I realized this one afternoon when I flipped through my old paperback copy of Phantoms.

Here's an example of this technique that I posted on my Facebook fan page and Twitter account earlier this evening.

"Beowulf drew a silver-plated Desert Eagle from his leather belt. He squeezed the trigger. Thunder cracked in the confined space of Hrothgar's basement. His bullet struck Grendel between his large pectoral muscles. Dreadlocks flying, Grendel hurtled backward, smashing the mahagony doors to splinters. His green blood covered everything."

That spawned some rather hilarious discussion about whether I was writing an updated story of Beowulf in which they're all gangsters.  If that were a movie, I'd watch it.

But getting back to the topic, Koontz's technique is a good way to strike the necessary balance.  I'm going to have to go over Battle for the Wastelands and plug in some new description using that technique, which will probably necessitate making cuts elsewhere so I can keep it at or below 100,000 words.

Another writing truism is "show, don't tell."  That's something that can be tricky, as sometimes the reader doesn't get it unless they're told and that bothers some readers.

However, I had a flash of inspiration a few months ago and posted something resembling this on my Facebook fan page:

Telling: The chair disgusted him.

Showing: The chair seethed with maggots. Its very appearance made his skin crawl. The stench of the rotten wood was overpowering. He swallowed. He'd have to sit in that chair.
This gets the point that the character finds the chair disgusting without "telling" and works in some spiffy description besides.
I hope you would-be writers out there find this helpful.

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