Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tip O'Day #437 - I've seen how the rules worked for you...

Guest blogger author, columnist and teacher HMC on “Don’t Tell Me What to Write” (Part I of II).

I am overwhelmed with writing rules, just like I was when my daughter was born and all of a sudden everyone was an expert at parenting. No offense, loves, but I’ve seen how your kids turned out.

There are rules that some writers should follow and others should not. You know your capabilities. Take the rules that work for you. Someone once told me that it’s lazy to use brackets (as if I’d listen…I love brackets).

I am going to talk about what I have personally learnt from my amazing editor and mentor, Carson Buckingham, and some others here and there along the way. These are MY rules, not yours, so follow them… or don’t. I honestly don’t care.

You guys are getting an exclusive peek at my book today, as I use some short excerpts as examples — lucky.

Here are some nerdy things I’ve been practicing lately, in order to become a better writer.

The Adverse Adverb: We all know how terrible adverbs are when you can use a stronger verb instead — well I didn’t, but I do now. Take a verb and adverb, and then try to create a stronger verb. Then, the adverb becomes redundant (What? Can you repeat that?) Here ‘tis:

Hit hard = slammed
Touched softly = caressed
Moved clumsily = clattered

And backwards for fun:

Stressed = terribly concerned
Gawked = looked closely

Sentence play:

The door slowly opened = the door creaked open
The nurse was overly round = the rotund nurse

See the difference?

Underestimating Dialogue: Dialogue shmialogue! No, really, dialogue is your friend, not your enemy. If you find yourself reading a book and think ‘booooooooring,’ take the challenge and write the scene as dialogue between the characters. If you already do this too much (and your stories read like scripts) skip this one and go straight to ‘Killing a New Scene’ (in Part II tomorrow). Here is one — just for fun.

The policeman stood outside the building and waited to be buzzed-in to the apartment building. He argued forever with George, who simply refused to let him in. The policeman was getting mad as a hornet’s nest, and would soon crack it, and kick the door in.
‘What do you want!’ George snapped through the speaker.
‘Let me up. I have a warrant.’
‘Do you have donuts too? How about bacon?’ George cackled.
‘Not funny. You have thirty seconds before I kick this door in.’
‘Go ahead officer, make my day.’

Ha! I threw that last line in for good measure. Dialogue tells a story and notice that I didn’t have to use ‘he said’ all the time? Good dialogue shows who the speaker is.

Look for Part II of HMC's writing advice tomorrow.
Has anyone noticed that Dixon hasn't been blogging lately? The Wredheaded Writer blog froze up harder than a banker's heart and it took nearly a month to fix it. But now, life is good once more.

1 comment:

  1. I learned as well from my own studying to avoid adverbs when one or a couple of words can have more meaning; dialogue reveals character-show don't tell-and these are the same rules I apply to my writing.