Style

Funny, irreverent, somber, scary, sassy, reverent, childlike. I could do on forever with adjectives describing different writing styles. Style is wonderful. It gives stories something extra and distinguishes them from the works of other writers

That is, it’s wonderful as long as the author remembers the huge ‘don’t  that goes with using styl and that is… don’t overdo it because nothing pulls a reader out of a story faster than an identifiable, individual, absolutely wonderful style that’s taken to the max and then beyond.

Think of music, especially hip-hop with it’s driving rhythm and stylized use of language. The words and rhythm that are inherent to the  hip-hop style draw listeners in and focus attention on the story.  But if you had to listen to that rhythm and those words for hour after hour without letup, would you still like it as much? Would you even remember the message in the song? Most people wouldn’t.

So when you find your style… and every writer has one… use it to identify your work but remember that a light touch is enough.

The Essence In One Sentence

How many times have you been asked what you’re writing now? Friends want to know. Family wants to know. Publishers want to know. Editors want to know. But no one wants to stand around for the better part of an hour as you ramble on about your present work in progress. They want the short, sweet, economy version.

They want the logline, that one-sentence capsule explanation. They want the elevator pitch, that very short description of your story that got its name because it’s your story told briefly enough that you can use it to pitch your book to an acquisitions editor in the time it takes an elevator to go from one floor to the next. Not much time, but it should be enough for any listener to know what they will find between the covers if they pick up your book and start reading.

Because the elevator pitch, the logline, the short, sweet economy version is the essence of whatever you are writing. It’s what the story is about, the most important thing, the nugget of truth hidden in all those words.

So think about your story. Think long and hard. Think about both the story itself and the emotional impact you want your readers to feel when they read it. Because those two things put together are the essence of your story. They are what you should tell people.

“The clash of Roman and barbarian civilizations and the impact on two lovers caught up in the sacking of Rome.”

“The effect of small town life on two people with opposite world views and how lazy days in the sun makes them realize how similar they are after all.”

See what I mean. Include both the emotional and the plot in one sentence and you just might have listeners … and eventually readers … hooked.

Liking Your Characters

This tip can be summed up in a simple question. If you don’t like your characters, why would anyone else like them?

Did I say a simple question? Actually, this advice isn’t simplistic at all. Lots of writers think they’d never create a character they didn’t like, then they go right ahead and do so because they don’t realize that this advice applies to all of their characters, not just the main ones.

Even villains are part of the story. Even minor characters flesh out the plot. So you’d better like each and every character you write about, even your villain, if you want your readers to care enough about the story to become a part of it. After all, a story is a world that readers enter for a brief period and why would they voluntarily go to a place filled with characters they’ll dislike?

Make some aspect of the most dastardly villain likable. It’s easier than it sounds because no one is ever one hundred per cent bad. Make them bad but make them realistic.You don’t need to go into detail about whatever turned them to the dark side. Just write a sentence or two to sketch a side of them that’s decent. Maybe they love cats? Small children? Sunsets?

Then look at your throw-away characters and do the same thing. Make them real, make them flesh and blood, even if their part takes up less than a page. It only requires a sentence to make a minor character memorable, sometimes only a phrase within a sentence.

All of your characters will then be be interesting enough for your readers to finish your book in one setting and ask when your next one will be published.

What Wouldn’t Happen?

You have an outline of some sort. Whatever works for you. And you’re following it as faithfully as your characters will let you. You know where you came from and where you’re going.

But no journey is without side trips, problems, unexpected stops and whatever else must be dealt with because things happen. The oops moment. Or the eureka moment that’s so wonderful you can’t leave it out and can’t imagine why you didn’t include it in your story to begin with.

Problem is, when you’ve dealt with whatever needed dealing with and you’re ready to get back to your story as it was plotted, you find you’re lost. Completely, totally lost. You still know where you want to go but you’re no longer are sure how to get there because whatever happened that was so wonderful, changed your original itinerary. What to do?

Novels don’t have maps or Garmins but there is a neat trick to use in such situations. Stop writing and think of what wouldn’t happen next to your characters. What absolutely would not happen.

You might not use any of the ideas that pop into your head but you’ll get the creative side of your brain working once again and the exercise itself will uncover enough new story lines and ideas that you’ll figure out a way to get back on track.

There’s a potential added benefit to this working writer tip. Your new path might improve your story in ways that would never have happened if you’d not spent time in places your characters would never, ever go on their own doing things they’d never do in a million years.

 

Ignore Your First Idea

I remember one workshop I attended on how to write fiction. It was put on by two very knowledgeable women who have given many, many such workshops. The fee wasn’t much but I considered myself fortunate to get a seat because there are long waiting lists to get into their workshops.

I learned a few things. One was that I can’t write their way because it’s too complicated. Lines connecting plot points and outlines and long, detailed descriptions of the characters and plots. Some attendees even mentioned going home and plotting points on a graph to help them write better.

That’s not me. Never in a million years and the women giving the seminar were very careful to advise anyone who doesn’t work well with their method to forget it. So I did. Except for one very salient thing.

Forget your first idea. The idea that caused you to sit up in the middle of the night and know … just know … that you had to write a book about it because it was so right. So perfect. So complete.

It might have been perfect, but I can fairly well guarantee that it wasn’t complete. Because few stories are complete when they first come to you. So don’t begin outlining, plotting or whatever you do when you begin to put your idea down on paper until you’ve stretched your mind and your imagination and gone beyond that first idea.

Think it through … imagine every possible scenario … come up with other similar but different ideas … check out the opposite of your original flash of brilliance … do whatever you have to do to get past that first idea. And the second. And the third. And, possibly, even the fourth. Surprise yourself.

Because when you reach for the stars sometimes you actually catch one. And when  you dig deep inside of yourself and come up with newer, better, fuller and more comprehensive ideas you are creating a newer, fuller, better story than you’d have imagined yourself capable of. Then write it.

Not In The Mood To Write?

Common advice for writers is to put the seat of their pants on the seat of a chair and turn on their computer and start writing. This advice always gets a good laugh because everyone knows writing good fiction is a lot more complex than that.

But it’s good advice nevertheless. Some day when the muses are avoiding you like the plague, try it. Doesn’t matter if you have an idea or not. Just sit there and start writing. The alphabet. Drivel. Anything.

Because the physical act of writing causes something to happen. It’s like those laugh therapy groups. Even if you aren’t in a laughing mood, the physical act of laughing changes your body’s chemistry for the better and, before you know it, good things are happening to your body.

Same principle applies because the physical act of putting words on paper changes your mind’s chemistry and slants it towards writing something viable. What mind wants to scribble dribble forever? Even on the worst days, my mind … and yours … wants to do something worthwhile. So the rest is just a matter of figuring out where  your mind wants to go and going there.

Okay, the first few lines … or paragraphs … or pages … might end up in the waste basket as you and your mind come to agreement as to where you are heading. But the rest could be pure gold.

Witches Bell Book One by Odette C Bell

Product Details

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CR0K4CU

Review of Witches Bell Book One by Odette C Bell

I liked the way this book was written, the breezy, casual conversations and descriptions. I didn’t like that the entire book was written in that same style. I like a bit of change now and then. But that’s a personal choice, other people might feel differently.

The concept was great. The heroine, a witch, has a contract with the town to handle paranormal problems that happen because the town is situated on a fault line that connects the normal with an alternate, not-so-nice universe. The hero is a new cop who has a hard time accepting that fact. Oh, and he’s hunky and nice and a great guy if somewhat dense in the paranormal department.

The plot follows the two of them as they learn to work together through a paranormal crime or two or three or four. I believe it’s one of a series of books based on this same premise.

I liked it. I didn’t love it for the aforementioned reason but I enjoyed reading it. Great, light summer read and everything paranormal in the book fit. Nothing was stuffed or shoehorned in to give it a paranormal feel and even though there were many, many paranormal elements in this typical, small town, every one of them belonged because of the wonderful premise the author set up right at the beginning. I like that. Hats off to Odette Belle for knowing her stuff.