Monday, 27 February 2017

The Art of Description

Description really is the bulk of a story, and a lot of people try and sidestep it as much as they can. I must admit, I used to be one of those people. Description would take me much longer to write, and I'd have to really think about it, so I'd tend to whizz past where I could. I'm a type, type, type and never stop kind of person. But it really makes a difference when you slow down and take a look.

The perfect balance with description can sometimes be hard to find. Too much and the reader will get bored and start skimming (guilty). Too little and the reader won't be able to picture what's going on. You want your reader to live in your story, but you don't want them to drown there. There is no strict rule about what's too much or too little. Personally, a full A5 page is too much for me. If a book's got a whole page of description, I'm afraid I will skim over it. I want action, action, action! Sorry, Bram Stoker, but you kept describing trees over and over, and all I wanted to know about was the scary vampire!

To make sure you've got the basics covered, check you've described at least a little bit of your character's appearance, their surroundings, and any events that are taking place. Also, make sure you're 'showing' the reader and not 'telling' them. If you were showing a friend around your new house you wouldn't point to your grandmother's china plates and say, "they're old". I'm sure they can work that out for themselves. Your friends aren't stupid and neither are your readers.

This mostly irritates me when people are trying (and failing) at writing emotion. Never state an emotion! Especially in your main character. Don't say, "I am so frustrated about people stating emotions", say, "the idea that some people still state emotions in their writing makes my skin crawl". Don't say, "I am overjoyed when people describe emotions", say, "when people describe emotions, a ball of light comes to life in my chest, and I can't help the smile on my face". See? You will achieve so much more this way. The reader will be living in the world with you instead of jumping up on their tiptoes, desperate to press their faces against the window.

And no clichés. No. None. Don't use them. They're so lazy. Show your reader you're a skilled writer. Please never say something was as "quiet as a mouse". When I read that--or any other cliché--nothing happens in my brain. It doesn't even register in my head. You need your readers to take notice. Plus, there are hundreds of things that are quieter than mice.

Description isn't as hard as you think it is, as long as you put in the time and effort to get it right.

Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Monday, 20 February 2017

Dialogue and Chatter

Dialogue shouldn't be the pain in the butt some people think it is. After all, we hear people talking all day every day, and we know our spoken language better than anyone. Once you know your characters and your voice for narration, dialogue should be a doddle.

The thing most writers struggle with is making dialogue sound natural. I must confess, dialogue was the first thing I truly nailed when I first started writing, but I think that's because I write in a very casual sort of way. If you can spin the most detailed and beautiful description, I'm guessing dialogue was more difficult to grasp. Something I've realised over the years is that people who 'get' description first struggle with dialogue and vice versa. They're two entirely different skills.

In your first draft, you should just go for it. Type your dialogue as fast as you can and have the characters' conversations out loud so you can hear them. I find that if something's not quite working, I'll never pick it out reading in my head. You must read dialogue out loud to understand it. When you read aloud, you notice that no one says can not anymore. Everyone says can't. In my novels, I go as far as wanna instead of want to with some characters.

It may make you cringe, but some characters won't use words correctly, and they won't speak in perfect sentences. Depending on where you're from, people say all sorts of things that don't make sense in the literary world. Ain't is common where I live, and we all know that isn't really a word.

I'm not saying to pepper your dialogue with slang, but a few choice words here and there will make the dialogue feel so much more natural. Whatever you do, don't feel the need to be technically correct. Your characters can say things that would make you cringe if you were to write them in any other way. People are expressive and excitable. We humans ask so many questions in a row and tend to not wait for the answers. We exclaim a lot too. (Though exclamation marks embarrass some people - me included to be honest. I only ever use them in dialogue.)

Once you've played around a bit, you can make each character's 'voice' distinctive. Some will be sarcastic. Some talk a lot and always want the last word. Some only speak when they have something important to say. Some will exclaim a lot and be more excitable than others. It's so useful to write dialogue in such a way that the reader immediately knows who's speaking. It can take away the pain of having to type 'said' all the time.

Before you get too carried away, make sure all your dialogue has a point. Sometimes I go off and have a fantastic conversation between some of my characters, only to come back and cut the entire thing because it didn't go anywhere. Chatting in real life doesn't usually go anywhere, but in your story, it must have some sort of reason to be present.

Dialogue is so important. It plunges your reader into your world and also gives you a way into secondary characters' heads. The things they say and how they say them are so important for getting to know them better. If you're lacking dialogue, you're also lacking heart.

The only other tip I have is to listen. Whenever you're having a conversation, listen to its flow. When you're in a queue, listen to the people chatting around you. Immerse yourself in the art of human conversation and make note of how sometimes (in fact most of the time) it's not what people are saying, it's how they're saying it, and how they're standing/looking at you. Sometimes a picture really does paint a thousand words.

So go, newly inspired chatterboxes! Go and irritate everyone in your search for perfect natural dialogue.

Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Favourite Fictional Couples

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

In celebration, I thought I'd list my top ten favourite fictional couples! Functional or dysfunctional, meant-to-be or doomed, who doesn't love a love story?

Caine and Diana (GONE series)
Cas and Anna (Anna Dressed in Blood duology)
Cassie and Evan (The 5th Wave trilogy)
Cathy and Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)
Gaby and Rafa (Rephiam series)
Hazel and Augustus (The Fault in Our Stars)
John and Sarah (Lorien Legacies series)
R and Julie (Warm Bodies)
Sam and Grace (The Wolves of Mercy Falls series)
Nora and Patch (Hush, Hush series)

Love Molly x

Molly Looby
Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Monday, 13 February 2017

Narration: The Perfect Voice

Narration can be both the easiest thing in the world and the most difficult depending on who's telling the story. It's crazy how different characters can narrate in different ways. Some are eloquent and thoughtful and others just want to jabber away. Some implore the reader to understand, others ignore the reader completely. The only thing that matters is that you pick the right voice.

I find narration can make or break a story. A 'voice' that I love will have me reading and reading. A 'voice' that grates on me is unlikely to get read to the end.

The most important thing to do is to make the narrator engaging and relatable, whichever way you tell the story. Decide whether you want your narrator to be funny, dramatic, poetic, emotional, whatever it is that works best for your story. Why are they telling the story? Are they the best person to? Why?

I cannot stress how powerful it is to keep asking yourself that simple question. Why?

There are a few ways you can go about narration. You have two choices of tense: past or present. You also have two choices of person: first or third. (Don't get me started on second person and future tense. Last time I said they couldn't be used in a full-length novel, I had an uprising on my hands.) What you use is up to you, and I encourage you to try them all. Once you've had a go at everything, you can decide what feels most natural for you.

I always write in the first person past tense. The third person felt too distant to me, and I kept falling out of the present tense. Let me tell you, the past tense doesn't mean you're not right in the now. You can be clever and make the past tense sound immediate. And if you want to write from more than one person's point of view and you're using the first person, just have another point of view character (but make sure you have a break between the two voices!).

It's not for me to tell you how to do this. But please think about who's telling your story, what they're like, and why they're the one to be telling it.

Narration can make or break you, so pick the most qualified character for the job!

Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Visit me on Facebook / Twitter LinkedIn / Movellas NaNoWriMo

Monday, 6 February 2017

Instagram Livestameet

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to be invited to Instagram's first "Livestameet" where a few awesome people were going to be gathered together to go live on Instagram at the same time.

A room full of amazing women! (Fay and I did not mean to co-ordinate!)

Going live was bizarre, but kind of great. It's like talking to yourself, but people can listen, which I found strangely powerful.

Other than falling into a Central Line tube train and almost landing on my face, I had an amazing day meeting some incredible people and catching up with my awesome friend Fay.

I must say, I felt pretty important when I realised there were only a handful of us invited! I've said it before, and I'll say it again, it's all about who you know.

Thanks so much to Instagram for the opportunity to get together and feedback on the new live feature. And thanks to all the girls for a great day!

We'll be back to book/writing stuff next week, I promise. In fact, I've got another awesome writing advice blog for you next week, so look out for that!

Molly x

Molly Looby
Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Visit me on Facebook / Twitter LinkedIn / Movellas NaNoWriMo