Instead of a paintbrush, you wield words in such a way as to transport your reader. Writing is a process of selecting just the right medium, colors, and tools. If all goes well, the result can be beautiful.
My novel, Dakota Blues, contains a scene at a small clapboard house in a Midwestern town, at a wake following a funeral. Toward the end of the afternoon, after the potato salad and Jell-o and fleischküchle are eaten, several women stood hip-to-hip at the kitchen sink, washing, rinsing, drying. As they worked, they laughed, cried, and gossiped. The camaraderie of that scene, the sisterliness of these women, reached my readers. They said they could imagine it. They’d been there.
Why did that scene resonate? Because it felt authentic. So that’s tip number one.
The next five tips are provided by a superb, if fictional, writing professor. Harry Hodgett exists only in the short story, “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events,” by Kevin Moffett. Here are some of Hodgett’s tips:
- Never dramatize a dream. (Hodgett uses “dramatize” as in, “don’t make it into a scene or story.”)
- Never dramatize phone conversations. It’s too easy for the characters to hang up.
- Never write about writing. Only writers find it interesting.
- Imagine a time for your characters when things might have turned out differently. Find the moment a choice was made, the choice that rendered all other choices impossible. Write it.
- Never end your story with a character realizing something. Characters shouldn’t realize things; readers should.
Here’s something else: in this article “Sacred Carnality” by Mary Karr, the writer is exhorted to find the one sensory detail that will “be the key that unlocks the full internal psychic cinematic experience” for the reader.
My first husband was a Viet Nam veteran. At age 19, he went to sleep in a rice paddy and woke up with leeches all over his body. What a detail. We can’t forget it.
What tips can you share about writing? (This post was shared by Lynne Spreen.)