Since we started last week with John’s Writing Tips, I thought I would post my writing tips. These are not tips for new writers, but the cumulated wisdom I’ve scraped together for myself. I shared them with some writing friends once before, and they found them helpful. Hope you do, too!
Two Strings: Two separate issues need to be going in each scene.
The Trick: Raising expectations in one direction but having the story go in the opposite direction. It sounds simple, but it may be the most useful writing technique of all…the book Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is just the trick over and over again.
The Foil: The trick applied to people. Use other characters to showcase the strengths of your main characters and to make them seem extraordinary. Example: Nausicaa’s guys.
Senses: Add three to five senses to every description.
Interior Dialogue: Readers don’t trust dialogue. Have your characters think, and have what they think be juxtaposed to the dialogue, showing a new angle.
Open active: Start scene changes underway and then explain how you got there…unless change significant.
Measurements by example: Tall as a man, rather than six feet high, where applicable.
Romantic Tension: To make a character seem attractive to another character (at least to women) list a character trait of character A and an emotional reaction to this trait from character B). (example: she had an air of mystery that intrigued him. Or, her shy retiring manner made him wish he could protect her.)
Payload: Every scene/fight/sex scene should have some moment that moves the plot along or heightens awareness, drawing the reader into something greater. Villains should reveal something important during a fight, and romantic partners should learn more about each other or reveal secrets.
Also, every character should have at least one paragraph/scene where the inner motivation of that character is revealed.
Dicken’s Trick: Using action in description: “There is not just a kettle on the fire, it is boiling over.” "Horses at the cab stands are steaming in the cold and stamping. When people enter a room they are sneezing or hiding something in their pockets."
Ping Pong Dialogue: Have some dialogue go back and forth quickly, taking less than one line on the page – leaving white space – to increase readability.
Pink passages: Add visceral reactions – physical involuntary reactions – to heighten connection with reader…but not too much.
Character dynamics: To make a character come to life, give him two conflicting goals. Also, add a scene where he shows a trait at odds with his main traits—this has the same effect in print that shading does in an illustration. It adds a sense of three-dimensionality.
Checklist – To check every scene:
What does it look like?
Senses…what does it smell/sound/feel/taste like?
What is the character feeling?
What is the character doing to express this? — nonverbal reactions
What Visceral reaction can the character have?