Tag Archives: Cattle prod

Plant vegetables, not information — Rule #27 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #27

27: Don’t plant information. How is Donald, your son? I’m quite sure Donald’s father doesn’t need reminding who Donald is. Their relationship is mentioned purely to provide the reader with information.

Ha!  If you’ve ever had a beta read done by me, you know I’m a viper when it comes to info-dumps.  But I usually tag them when they are paragraphs long.

What Guthrie mentions here is a little more subtle, but it should jump out at you as unrealistic dialog.

Anywhere where you are dropping information in an unnatural way is bad.  Also be careful, because you can insert information in a completely logical thought, but then end up going off on a tangent of info-dumping and lose your reader.

Do you have any funny examples of this?

Jennifer___Eaton

Advertisements

Stop feeling! And don’t “think” either while you are at it — Rule #24 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #24

24: Cut out filtering devices, wherever possible. ‘He felt’, ‘he thought’, ‘he observed’ are all filters. They distance the reader from the character.

Sometimes I consider typing this out and saving it somewhere so I can paste it into manuscripts that I beta read.  This is one I see time and time again.  This is part of show don’t tell, and it is the hardest for new and some seasoned authors to understand… but it is the difference between a good novel, and a great one.

Which sentence packs more punch?

He felt sad.

Or

Tears streamed down his cheeks.

 

He saw the train go by.

Or

The wind stung his cheek as the engine throttled along the tracks.

It’s not a hard choice to pick the better sentence, is it?

Search for felt, saw, looked, was, thought… and words like that… and replace them with active sentences.  The result will astound you.

Jennifer___Eaton

Cut it out with those full sentances! — Rule #23 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #23

23: Don’t allow your fictional characters to speak in sentences. Unless you want them to sound fictional.

Time for all the English teachers to cringe! But it’s true, right?  Do we speak in sentences?  Well, sometimes.  But there should be a good mix of full sentences and fragments.  Heck, even an incomplete thought here and there will help make the dialog seem more real.

And if you are not sure if it sounds real or not, read it out loud.  Even better… have someone else read it to you.  If it sounds weird with a voice attached, then you need a little re-write.

Jennifer___Eaton

Don’t sleep with him/her? Rule #19 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #19

19: Don’t allow characters who are sexually attracted to one another the opportunity to get into bed. Unless at least one of them has a jealous partner.

Umm…. What?

I’m staring at this, and trying to think about novels that were good, where there was a little bedroom time, but no jealous lover.

I have to admit… there are a lot… and they are fine. A sexual triangle just is not the main conflict of the story.

Sometimes the strong relationship between two characters makes the overall conflict (not necessarily a jealous partner) a deeper conflict, because the characters really care about each other.

Maybe Allen Guthrie has never read a romance novel? Maybe he just doesn’t like to read bedroom scenes?

What’s your take on this?

Jennifer___Eaton

Related articles

Goals and Obstacles in every scene – Rule #18 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #18

18: Give your characters clear goals. Always. Every scene. And provide obstacles to those goals. Always. Every scene. If the POV character in a scene does not have a goal, provide one or cut the scene. If there is no obstacle, add one or cut the scene.

I have talked about this with almost every beta partner I ever had.  Why?  Because my first few beta partners spoke to me about this, and when I started listening, things started coming together for me.

This is where we start having to ax out “Little Darlings” – those scenes where two characters have a nice conversation, but NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS.

Make sure every scene has conflict, and if it doesn’t chop it out.  If it is important to you, you can always post it as an “extra” on your website.  [Smile]

Jennifer___Eaton

Related articles

Rule #16 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_NovelI’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #16

16: Start scenes late and leave them early.

This is something that seems to come naturally to me, but I have seen people struggle with it.  This goes the same for “condensing” a dialog to make it appear like a longer conversation, but only giving the key points.

You don’t have to show the whole conversation from “hello” to “goodbye”.  It is completely acceptable to “fade out” once the important information has been relayed to the reader so you don’t have to bore them with the dull stuff that doesn’t matter.

The trick is to do it in a way that doesn’t make the reader feel like they have missed out on anything.

This is an art form, and the best way to learn it is to read, and read a lot.  While reading, flag the conversations that you really liked, and go back to them when you are done, and look at them out of context.

Why did they work for you?  Did the author convey unnecessary “fluff”? Did they get to the point and fade out?

Learn from what others have done, and try to work it into your own writing.

Remember:  Only the important info. Take the meat and leave the potatoes behind.

Jennifer___Eaton

Rule #11 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #11

11: Avoid sounding ‘writerly’. Better to dirty up your prose. When you sound like a writer, your voice has crept in and authorial intrusion is always unwelcome. In the best writing, the author is invisible.

My take on this, is to not always be perfect.

I have to admit… I’ve started sentences with “and” and “but”.  Correct?  No, of course not.  So why do it?

VOICE.

Voice is very important, especially in first person. Your character is narrating the entire story.  Do YOU think in complete sentences?  No, of course not.

We need to write how it is believable.

I recently had an editor try to “correct” this paragraph of dialog:

“You’re pretty, and have nice legs, and beautiful brown eyes, and an amazing smile if you’d ever use it, but you can’t see all these great things because you’re always too hung up on wishing you had what everyone else does.”

They wanted me to change it to be grammatically correct.  Their suggested edit:

“You’re pretty, have nice legs, beautiful brown eyes, and an amazing smile if you’d ever use it…”

The reason I pushed back on this is because the character is very emotional and upset.  He is rattling off a list of things popping into his head (and not thinking at all what he is saying)  The editor’s suggested change made it sound like he was dictating a letter with no emotion at all.

Luckily, despite not being ‘correct’ – my dialog stayed.  It is more believable this way, and conveys ten times the emotion.

Have you ever had to defend your choice of “bad” grammar/style?

Click here to tweet: Write bad to write good. Rule #11 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever from @jennifermeaton

_JenniFer____EatoN

Rule #10 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #10

10: Don’t be cute. In [your psycho-killer novel], your [psycho-killer] should not be named Si Coe.

Now, let’s be real.  This is not an all-encompassing rule.  Simon Bar Sinister is a ROCKIN’ name, don’t you think?  And Dudley Do Right?  Classic!

Bend_the_rules

But you need to be careful with your genre. Bend the rules where it works only.  If you are writing a serious horror, you don’t want people giggling about the name.  Keep the comedy where the comedy belongs.

Click to Tweet: Bend the rules very carefully on this one: Rule #10 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever via @jennifermeaton

_JenniFer____EatoN

Rule #9 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #9

9: Describe the environment in ways that are pertinent to the story. And try to make such descriptions active. Instead of describing a book lying on a table, have your psycho-killer protagonist pick it up, glance at it and move it to the arm of the sofa. He needs something to do to break up those long speeches, right?

This is one of my favorite simple rules.  One thing that bores me is when I read “Jessica walked into the bathroom.  The white toilet sat to her right.  The counter loomed before her, and a window let in the sunshine from the left.

“Ugh!  I just hate that.  However, she can walk over and close the window, check her acne in the mirror, and dust some cobwebs from behind the toilet, and then you have your setting dispersed in the action.  Get it?

Are you a “setting dumper?”  Go ahead, it’s okay to admit to it.  Now let’s grab one of those overly-described settings and make it active.  Let’s see how you do!

JenniFer_Eaton Sparkle__F