Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Writer's Block

So I've been digging through some best selling books of the last decade or so and I've learned quite a bit in that time. I decided that many of you would benefit from this knowledge and so I'm going to post a summary here of things I learned over these last two months, not from writing classes, but by reading great books.

I've called this Writer's Block because I hope you will make these the building blocks of your own writing.

1. Writers add emotional reactions to every sensory experience.

Wow, that sounds really technical doesn't it? What I mean is they don't simply describe the scene "The rain drops pooled on his window and slid down." Rather what they do is they attach an emotion with it from the character's point of view. This has a huge impact on the way a reader sees the story. Compare the examples below:

A Farmer
The rain drops pooled on his window and slid down. Relief washing over him, he walked back to his table. His crops would be safe. He threw open the back door and breathed in the scent of earthworms and wet dirt but resisted the urge to dance in the rain.

A woman waiting for her husband to get home from an errand
The rain drops pooled on her window and slid down. It had been seventeen minutes since the cell phone dropped the call. She'd told him not to take route twelve. It always washed out with the slightest rain. Panic reached in her chest and squeezed her heart. She let the curtains fall back in to place and picked up a cup of tea with a shaky hand. She'd give him five more minutes before she called the cops.

A person afraid of the evil person coming for them.
The rain drops pooled on her window and slid down. She was certain she'd seen his outline in the last bolt of lightening. Fear intensified her senses and every sound amplified. Every drop of rain that hit the glass, every thud of her heart. She resisted the urge to step closer to the glass, to see clearer. If she could see him-then he'd see her. She took a step back in the dark. Pain shot through her foot and she stumbled back, reaching for anything close. She fell hard on the couch and lifted her foot. A thumbtack...

Okay, none of these are GREAT Prose. Some of them are downright bad, but I wanted you to see a bit of the physical and the emotional.

2. Writers create a sense of "it could happen to anyone"
This can be difficult but the really great books that I've read all have this element. Here is a person going along in their routine when the mundane transforms in to the extraordinary.
In "Three" by Ted Dekker, a guy simply answers his cell phone-and his life is turned upside down.
In "Winner Take All" by T. Davis Bunn, it is a man meeting with his ex-wife.
In "Watchers" by Dean Koontz, it is a man taking a hike.
In "No one to Trust" by Iris Johanson, it is a man doing his job.
In "Pompeii" {I forgot the author's name} it is a man repairing an Aqueduct.

In all of those stories people were going along doing nothing really outside of their routine when SUDDENLY something throws everything on its ear!! Watchers is among the best at demonstrating this. If you can get the book, I would.

3. Writers create simultaneous, seemingly unconnected, stories and then pull them together.
This is what I found MOST interesting as I studied great books. I've noticed many books introduce "the cast" at the opening of the book. What makes a book GREAT, however, is when this cast seems interesting in their own right and seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the other people. Then, as if pulling the string on a sack, suddenly these stories and lives begin to connect in mundane ways. You see the connection and get the sense of destiny-it heightens the tension because you know SOMETHING is going to happen. But WHEN!!!

There are many other things, but these are a few that I've begun to really work in to my story lines to create richer plots and deeper characters.

Would some of you like to share some of the great pieces of advice you've received on writing? If so, put it in the comments section.

I have to go now, I have creating to do.

Your Coach for the Journey, Tiffany Colter

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