Showing posts from 2013

How do flash forwards work?

Due to popular demand, I’ve been asked to revisit this subject because it seems to be causing a few headaches for quite a number of writers who are trying to grasp how to use them and where to use them in their narrative. Firstly, flashforwards, or prolepsis, to give its proper name, are quite different from flashbacks, so writers should understand the differences and how each one works with the narrative, specifically in the way they relay information to the reader. The flashback, or analepsis, that we are all familiar with is a narrative device that allows the character and the reader to step back into a defining moment in the character’s past ; one that directly affects the situation in the present. It assists with the main story and can also help move the story forward.   Flashbacks are used for all genres. Flashfowards, however, cannot be used in most genres. Why? Because the future has not yet happened. Common sense tells us that we cannot write about something that

Creating Character Dynamics – Part 2

Continuing our look at character dynamics (and not dynamic characters), we’ll explore the many ways of creating such dynamics so that the narrative gains greater dimension and depth. As explained in Part 1, remember that real life supports much of what writers learn from and incorporate within their writing. And clever writers will exploit it for all its worth. That means conversations, movements, interactions, reactions, behaviours and many varied perspectives all come into play. Character dynamics revolves around how characters interact with each other, and there are many factors that help create it:- ·         Dialogue – what characters say to each other and how they say it. ·         Conflicts between characters also creates dynamics - the reader gets to see how characters act with and around each other ·         Show a psychological perspective – what characters think and how their thoughts might affect others or impact the story arc and what emotions he or she might

Creating Character Dynamics – Part 1

This isn’t about creating dynamic characters , but rather how writers create character dynamics . In other words, it’s the way characters work with and against each other within the story. It’s the dynamics of characters and their relationships with each other that interest the reader and keep them engaged. It’s about setting up the conflicts with and between characters; it’s about ways that characters actually interact with each other, their actions and reactions, their thoughts and emotions. It’s about ways of bringing the characters to life for your reader through in-depth characterisation. But how do you get your characters to spark off one another in the first place?   How do you get them to simmer together, for instance, or to antagonise each other or fight one another?   Writers should first understand the mechanics of character dynamics if they want to create it within their stories. A writer has to enable the subtle undercurrents of complex character relationsh

Self Confidence and Writing

I’ve covered this subject in previous articles, but lots of you have been in touch asking about it, so it’s time for another visit to a common subject that clearly affects a lot of writers. Self-confidence is a bit of an enigma. Outside of writing, most people are confident about many things in their daily lives, but the psychology behind what goes on when that confidence does an about-turn goes much deeper for writers, because often they go from confident and assured about their work, to doubtful and uncertain in the space of days. But why?   Well, it usually happens the moment they have to submit their work for scrutiny by their peers, i.e. sending a MSS to an agent or publisher. The ‘jitters’ set in and they turn on their heels and run for the hills (metaphorically speaking). This isn’t uncommon, however. Plenty of writers lose confidence in themselves (and their ability) when the moment comes to send off their masterpiece to the big bad agents and publishers. Suddenly th

Dealing with Editors

As writers, we all aspire to be published, so when it finally happens, whether it’s a short story, a poem or a novel, you will find yourself working with an editor. We’ve all heard stories about dealing with editors, but whatever you think about them, they are there to assist the writer, not make their life unbearable. The role they play forms an important part in the writing business.   Without them, there would be certain chaos, because then every amateurish, badly written story would make it into print.   Of course, getting on the published ladder is not always a smooth process.   You may be lucky enough to receive an acceptance; however that doesn’t mean to say that your masterpiece is perfect, because it won’t be. The editor may want to change some aspects of the piece. This is quite common, so that doesn’t mean the writer should act like a stroppy teenager and stamp their feet. To coin a well-used cliché, working with editors really is a two way street. Writers must unders

How to Write Dramatic Dialogue

Dramatic dialogue can create the right atmosphere for the reader, whether it’s action or emotion, or it can fall flat, depending how well the writer has structured such dialogue. Effective dialogue in a story is one thing, but dramatic dialogue is somewhat different. It should create an edge, a sense of presence.   It should hold the reader’s attention for several reasons: to impart necessary or critical information, to create character-reader immediacy, to create tension and conflict and to move the story forward. The most common problem with dialogue is that writers tend to write lots of ineffectual and unnecessary dialogue in order to pad out the narrative, but most of it is rubbish.   It’s just not necessary.   Every writer should learn that dialogue must have meaning for both the characters and the reader. Dialogue should only contain information necessary to the story arc, otherwise it becomes unnecessary padding. The knack to writing great dialogue is all to do

Getting to grips with simple punctuation – Part 2

Following on from part 1, we’ll take a look at the remainder of simple punctuation, such as Semi Colons, Colons, Question and Exclamation Marks, and Dashes, and how to use them effectively in fiction writing. Semi-Colons These are useful little things, and often underused. There are those who argue against their use, however, when used correctly, they add so much to the readability of a story and can alter a sentence dramatically. They can separate two independent clauses that are too closely linked for a full stop to interrupt the flow and pace, for example: He barely had time to digest her news; she broke it to him, gleeful. The light flickered; she knew she was in trouble. Semi colons can be used to introduce an independent clause preceded by an adverb, such as then, so or however. For example: John thought she’d forgotten, as always; so he left it. He wondered why she hadn’t showed; then he remembered. While they are very useful, try not to overdo them. One thin

Getting to grips with simple punctuation – Part 1

Some things might seem simple to most writers, but sometimes the prospect of executing correct punctuation can bring many writers out in a cold sweat. We all have different abilities and weren’t all born with the ability to execute perfect written English. That said, there are plenty of writers who have fallen into bad habits with their punctuation and wrongly assume an editor will correct all their mistakes for them. They won’t. That’s the job of the writer, so it pays to get on top of punctuation. This simple checklist below is there to help those writers who struggle with punctuation. It shows how and when to use it, with examples of correct usage. Full Stops/Period It’s the single most important punctuation mark and yet the least understood by many writers. That’s because they don’t fully understand its significance to sentences, or how to use it to their advantage. Full stops in the right places can not only change the tone of sentences, but they can alter the p