Thursday, April 8, 2010

What else?

I don't worry about tweaking at all - mainly because, at the rate I am going, I'll never have a tale to tweak. To wit: I have just killed off the heroine because I couldn't stand her. Alas, this requires a certain amount of rewriting.

However, I came across a really good article on tweaking, and since most of you are tweaking with a vengeance, I thought I would tell you what the man has to say.

Rather than be hung, drawn and quartered, or at least castigated, for plagiarism, I will tell you here and now that the article was written by James Plath, who seems to know of what he speaks, and it can be found in The Complete Book of Novel Writing.

I am cheating because it doesn't take much to tell you what someone else said. I have a different topic in my head, but I haven't found enough examples yet and time is getting short - two hours to midnight in fact. Maybe next time because it is a good topic but short, very short, as it is in my mind thus far.

But, back to Mr. Plath, editor and publisher of Clockwatch Review.

To make sure you aren't just throat clearing with your beginning, try x-in out paragraphs one, two, thre etc until you find a scene that contains more action, interest, contrast etc than your first opening. Personally, I like an opener that makes me have to read on to find out why. My first line is "She couldn't know that death lay just ahead". Curious?

The best endings are ones that resonate because they echo a word, phrase or image from earlier in the story. This makes readers think back in search of a deeper meaning.

Characters need to reflect during pauses in the action. A writer should show the internal workings of the character's mind as well as their actions.

Are there too many characters? If they are necessary, don't use their names, but call them by their occupation, function or dress e.g. the grocer. In contrast, do you have enough characters for your particular story?

Here's one of my own: a reader shouldn't have to keep looking back through the pages to remember who the character is. An impression should have been made the first time the character appears.

Are there enough or too many scenes? Too many scenes dilute a story to the point at which important scenes lose their power.

Why are you telling me this? Plath's explanation kills, for me, the stark importance of "Why are you telling me this"?

Use the senses. The character's senses makes the fictional world come alive for the reader.

Be sure to provide adequate setting so the story doesn't exist in a vacuum.

Do your characters have sufficient motivation? Is he going to bed because it's getting late? Or because he has you in his arms?

Have you given your story texture with similies, metaphors, allusions or echoes, which are repetition of key phrases or words from the story?

What if your narrator wasn't reliable? Is he telling you the whole story? Would that make your story more interesting?

Do your characters have enough trivial information about themselves to make them interesting or to make the reader want to know more about them?

Will lyrics, letters or lists add to the story e.g. who all was at the party? Or what all was on her to do list and what happened?

Would coincidence or irony improve your story?

Does your story have enough contrast? Are the characters too alike, for example? Give them their own peculiar 'weirds and wonderfuls' to set them apart.

Is your complication complicated enough? Does you need to up the ante or could a couple more complications help?

That's what the good man had to say, although he might not always recognize his own words, being as I couldn't help 'tweaking' it a bit.

Another interesting idea I came across recently is this: what if you started with the ending and built a story to get you there?


Joanne Brothwell said...

Oh dear! You've killed off the heroine? That is a problem!

James sounds like he's got some great pointers there.

Your comment on how characters need to reflect during pauses in action is timely for me - I just cut three pages of just that - reflection. I guess I'll go back and reconsider. Perhaps just one page of reflection would suffice!

Thanks for the great post.

Janet said...

Hey, Connie - great post! I'm going to come back to this once I seriously get into reworking Lady Bells (haven't got there yet because fear is stopping me dead in my tracks).

And for what it's worth - I love reflection. I can write chapters worth of reflection. I don't know why no one likes it? It's reflective.

Resuscitate your heroine, Connie - you usually need one for a romance:)

connie said...

Hi Joanne

I hadn't really thought a lot about reflection because I have never thought much about revealing the innerworkings ouright, as in:
"Dammit. She killed me off. I'm not that bad am I"? "I am"? "Oh".
She is going to undergo a major overhaul er makeover before she can be in my book.

connie said...

Hi Janet,
Hope all is well Way Down East. Alas, the weather we are sending you is no favour.
However, it may be the last snow we see (please God) so it will be your last chance to make tracks to not stop dead in.
Onward and Upward! Make that Belle ring!
As for my heroine, she's a doornail. She's last year's model. The new one will rise from the ashes - hopefully - a new and better model for 2010 - with reflectors

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Connie. I've seriously cut down my reflection scenes for this rewrite. I'm getting into the habit of having the protags reflect more often but for shorter instances. I think it's working because my CP's haven't been telling me to cut, cut, cut. :)

Thanks for your post. I'll keep it handy.

connie said...

Hi Anita
Glad to hear it is working for you
Shorter and sweeter? Sounds good to me!