Anthea Stanwell and her sister are now, well and truly, off on their adventures in Trust and Tribulation. For those of you who are interested in entering the competition to write the final chapter of the serial (Chapter 11), I will be posting a series of fiction writing tips to give you some pointers on how to craft an engaging end to the story.First off, here are my "five fast tips" to quickly improve your writing skills:
1. Use the five senses in your descriptions.
We experience the world through sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. However, many new writers only use descriptions that are based on sight. Use all five senses and your writing will be far more vivid. For example, a description just based on sight: The kitchen was old and dirty. A description using more of the senses: The dirt on the kitchen floor crackled under my feet and the smell of fried bacon left a taste of salt on my tongue.
2. Use original detail.
Part of a writer’s job is to keenly observe the world around them and find new and interesting ways to describe it. A lazy writer depends on cliché and phrases that have been used over and over again. For example, as hard as a nail. Push beyond the banal and think of details that are fresh and exciting and reflect the way that you see the world.
3. Be specific.
A good writer helps a reader create clear images in their minds-eye. The more specific you are with your descriptions, the easier it is for the reader to picture the action. For example, if you wrote The dog ran into the room and knocked a vase off the table, the reader is left without knowing what kind of dog it is, how big it is, etc. However, if you wrote,
The black Labrador ran into the room. His long, wagging tail swept across the coffee table and knocked a glass vase onto the carpet
then the reader can picture the dog and the action clearly.
4. Show don’t tell.
You may have heard this maxim before, but it is a very important idea to grasp if you want to write engaging fiction. Show don’t tell means putting your characters in scenes using dialogue, actions and thoughts rather than just dryly explaining the story. If you hand everything to your reader on a plate, they don’t have to do anything to engage with the story or the characters. However, if you gradually give them information in a dramatic form that makes them think and feel, then you will awaken their curiosity and they will want to read on and will invest in the characters and the story. For example, if you wrote She was angry then the reader will get the basic information, but will not feel the character’s anger. However, if you wrote,
She slammed the heel of her hand against the desk.
“I don’t care what you think,” she said. “I’m going to do it anyway.”
“Then you’re an idiot,” I said.
Her eyes narrowed. “I may be an idiot, but least I’m not a coward.”
As you can see, a whole lot more information and emotion can be conveyed in a far more interesting way by using the show don’t tell method.
5. Read your writing out loud.
Find a quiet place where you can be alone and read your work out loud. Listen to the rhythms of your writing. If you run out of breath, you may need more punctuation. If you stumble over a few words, take another look at them. Think about how fast your writing is making your read – do you want that much pace, or do you want to slow the reader down? Short sentences make pace faster while longer sentences slow it down. Reading your work out loud is a good way to start the all-important rewriting that every author must do to make his or her work as strong and effective as possible.
I hope that helps. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment below and I will respond as soon as I can.
Cheers, for now,
Next Time: How to create scenes, the building blocks of a story.
Visit Alison’s website at www.alisongoodman.com.au