Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bad words, bad words, what ya gonna do when they come for you?

Yes, you are supposed to be singing the theme to Bad Boys when you read this title J, but no, I’m not talking swear words. I’m talking about the words that make writers’ swear when we realize we have them lurking in our WIP's.

These words have many names, but for today we’ll call them the invisibles.

These are the words that do nothing for your writing, yet get tossed in everything we do. Many times they are place holder words, ineffectual words that just get thrown in during the heat of a fast and dirty first draft, yet become invisible when we go through and edit.

Was, that, then, just, even, obviously, these are just a small sample of words that gang up on your innocent novel and makes it weak and floppy. Now, sometimes a beta reader will notice them for you, a word, phrase, or term may pop out if it’s noticeably annoying. But oft times, theses invisible bad words hide even from a trusted crit partner! They may notice your writing doesn’t have much “oomph”,  that it’s not as forceful or evokotive as it could be- but they may not actually see these sneaky words.

You need to go on a hunt and destroy mission to eradicate them and give a shot in the arm to the resulting anemic writing. If you know what your problem words are, you can use your trusty 'find' program in word and hunt them down. A word of warning- sometimes these words are valid! You don’t want to go insane and create an unreadable mess because you’ve decided to have no “was” in your mss. But most times a careful examination of the sentence in question will let you see where a stronger, more vibrant word choice would clear out the bad word. Some common ones include: very, all, important, used to, every, never, feel, seem, think, often, almost, big, small, have got, just…to get you started.

But if you aren’t sure what your words are, or think you know but want to make sure, you really should find some of the lists floating around the internet, and do a search. You may be unhappily surprised ;). You can also use one of the programs out there that will do a search for you. One such critter is I’m sure there are more.

Bad words are like fudge- a little is ok, too much and you and your writing become bloated and weak. Some of my bad words are : was, that, even then, clearly, obviously, and and. What are some of your “not-favs”?

Thanks for coming by!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Death Does NOT Always Become Her

Today I was thinking about when writers kill characters.  Actually, this popped into my head because of a cute little cartoon on FaceBook.  It had Joss Whedon’s logo (the scary guy) chasing three figures.  The words said, “Guns don’t kill people, Joss Whedon kills people”.  The three figures were three well-loved characters (out of many) that he’s bumped off over the years.

 I’m an anti-death person myself.  I figure that real life has way too much of it for me to want it in my fictional pastimes (book/tv/movie).  I am still pissed about Joss killing Wash in the Firefly movie. Now for those of you saying, “But sometimes you HAVE to kill a character to motivate a major change in another character,"  I say, yeah, sometimes.  But alot of times a death is used for simply dramatic impact, or to make things seem more realistic.

For an example, I'll use the aforementioned Wash character from Firefly (and let me tell you all- I still think Joss is an insanely talented man- I just disagree with some choices he's made over the years ;)).  The character in question survived all sorts of things in the series, and most of the movie.  Then, just as he's safely navigated the ship through deadly peril- he gets run through with a pike and dies.

There was no, he gave up his life to save others moment, it wasn't needed to really motivate anyone (his wife was horrified, but she was already a fierce fighter- his death didn't cause her to suddenly come out and fight).  It was shocking, dramatic, and painful- all of which I think Joss was going for.

I don't like it.  Death without meaning is very real life- but I'm not someone who wants her fiction to be like real life.  Realistic, yes.  Painfully real? No.

Now, I have had to kill a few characters in my books.  But I made sure there was a BIG reason for it- usually saving someone else.

So, now that I've had my rant about folks who bump of beloved characters, what about you?  Do you like reading/seeing that?  Do you write it? 

Thanks for coming by!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Are You Saving The Cat?

Ok, just a quick post today, still having the same online issues I've had last week (hence the no posting :().

Lately I've been thinking of ways to really bump my writing up to the next level, make it so the reader has NO choice but to keep reading.  You know those books, the ones that grab you with both hands, shake you about a bit, and basically make you stay up all night reading them?  Yeah, I wanna be one of those :).

So, I've been prowling about, digging through writing info to find out what makes one of those "gotta keep reading" books.  A lot of things go into them, but I think the grabber element is characters.  Think about the books and movies you read/watch over and over again- what makes you do that?  Characters.

Now since I write fantasy and SF, I focus on plot more than some genres.  But for me it's always about the character.  Who is this story about?  And more importantly- how can I screw up their life? (Which isn't nice when you think about it, we create folks we like then look for ways to mess with them....could be argued that writers are a tad bit sick.  But that's for another day ;)).

I really enjoy my characters, and often get feed back (those lovely helpful personalized rejection letters, and contest comments) that folks like my characters.

So it's all good, right?

Nay says I.  I forgot to add a bit to make the reader really deeply contect to the character. As the late great screen writing guru Blake Snyder stated- I need to have them save the cat. This is something early in the novel (or screenplay) that shows the reader a softer, often hidden side of the character.  Yeah, he may be a tough ass gangster, but he pulled a pair of kittens out of a dumpster  in route to a shake down (exagerated example obviously).  That element, of something kind, soft, gentle, heartwarming, or just a good guy moment helps the reader connect to a character on an emotional level, especially if you have characters that start off tough.  I would also argue that if you can work in a "OH!  I do that too!" moment (for me- tripping, being shy or embarrased, etc) will also help.  The reader doesn't need to have a character who is them, they just need to want that character in their lives.

I'll be going back and doing some tweaking to my first pages, make sure I'm saving those felines and building a book a reader will be unable to put down :).

Thanks for coming by!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Does Your Writing Go With The Flow?

We work with a written medium, and unless our words are put into an audio book, they most likely won’t be read out loud. Yet I think every writer NEEDS to hear their work aloud- even if it is just them reading it aloud to themselves.

Many times our thoughts look fine on the page; we don’t notice little oddities that we may add to our writing like tics in speech, writers can have writing tics that they repeat. And if they are noticeable enough, they could disrupt the reader.

Another issue, besides tics, and over-used phrases (that we don’t even see any more ;)) is the actual sound of the words. We may or may not “hear” our words when we write or edit, but a repeating pattern will be noticeable to a reader. Even when we DO hear our words in our head, we may read/hear what we think is there and not what is really there. Words or sentences that sound too similar can confuse or annoy the reader. Also, repeated speech patterns may not be noticeable at the speed we write, but they are often VERY noticeable at the speed at which most readers read.

If we read our work out loud, or even better, have another person read it out loud for us (or a computer program- is free. A bit stilted, but still handy- I’m sure there are others) then we can catch those odd patterns, over-used, invisible words and phrases, and repeated sentences. We’ll hear where we’ve not varied the sentence length for a while, where something comes out either too short and choppy, or too long and convoluted. I know as a reader, if the speech patterns keep repeating, I will and have given up books simply because that’s ALL I begin to notice.

What about you? Do you read your work out loud? Have someone read it to you? Ever stop reading a book due to the “sound”?

Thanks for coming by!