Tuesday, October 27, 2015

6 Eyesores to Chop in Writing

I edit my photos like I write. I want clarity and subject. I want to know exactly what I'm looking at. I want all the distractions out of the way so I can admire the view. If anything hinders that, I toss it. First rule: dump the blurry photos. Doesn't matter if it's a great shot; it's not a great shot if it's blurry. There are some I keep just for myself, like if it was a once-in-a-lifetime catch of my kid, but just for me. I don't post it for anyone else. Blurry makes the entire subject an eyesore. If people treated writing like I do photos, there would be more intriguing things for me to read. Like I toss my photos, I toss my books. If I see excessive use of narrating (someone telling me about something, and not letting me experience the moment through the character), I close that book. Especially first couple pages. I'm super picky because my time is valuable. I don't want to waste my day reading a book that could be good. I want to know it's good. (The Shack is still the crappiest book in existence. I don't care how many Christians try to tell me otherwise. I tried three times. I threw it three times.)

The huge turn-offs in reading are found in six eyesores of writing. Want your reader to keep turning the page? Dump the blurry photos.

The 6 (6?) Eyesores:

1. Passive Voice
2. Distracting Prose
3. Said Synonyms
4. Type Usage
5. Telling
6. Cliches

#1 Passive Voice

Active: Sam stabbed Tallis in the face.
Passive: Tallis' face was stabbed by Sam's knife.

Active: I ate the cookies.
Passive: The cookies were eaten by me.

Active: Active is aggressive and hits the point.
Passive: The point which Active hits is aggressive.

Nobody likes beating around passive entrails except politicians, so keep your voice active. In Active, the subject makes the action. Have you ever heard someone talk indirectly? I'd hate to bring up politics again (passive-sounding, did you catch that?), but they're so good at beating the dead Passivity that it's eye-rolling. During the Benghazi hearings, Clinton couldn't come up with a single Yes or No answer. "That could be correct." "That is possible." And so on. Besides making my military blood boil, she makes every use of INDIRECT voice, aka passive. She can't own up to the responsibility of the subject's actions.

Your job is to own up. In dialogue, you need your characters to get to the point because that's what your reader wants. Unless you have that conflicting character who's making life hard for everyone, or is trying to keep a secret. In which case, Clintonify the crap out of that dialogue. Annoy your other characters and annoy the reader. Then at the end of the book, make someone punch that character in the face, because that's what the majority of your readers will want to do.

#2 Distracting Prose

Those over-elaborate details of setting, the character's description (even though the character may not even be noticing these things about themselves), the long sentences with too many adjectives...

...stop it. Read some Stephen King. They're "scary" books. So what? Know what's scary? An angry reader with a tome in their hand waiting to chuck it across the room.

Here's an example page: Declutter Your Prose

When you're writing journalism, you do not use filler words, especially in the first paragraph. News is news, not excessive poetry. In this age, people are fast-paced. Make it so the fast-paced people want something to read in the short amount of time they have between checking Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and calling Mom before lunch break is over.

In fiction writing, don't overstep the "crisp, clear blue water cascading the mountainside, splishing with plumes of mist that cast a veil over the--"

I threw the book away at "crisp" and "clear". I used to write like that. I still might. If I do, and I notice, I growl at myself. Grrr... Yep. You're not the only one I'm hard on. *snorts* Difficult with. That's better. I spend enough time catching myself in my own errors, I really don't need others to do it for me. Color Code Personality: Blue. That's me. Honesty and Rules. I love them. I love rules. I know when to bend them but in distracting prose? No bendy! No breaky! Get to the point!

If you're going into descriptions of setting, make it a short paragraph. Practice journalism and realize what's really important for setting. What is it that your character notices? If it's a male character, do you think they'd notice what shade of pink some girl's lips are? What type of tree they're leaning against? If you leave out detailed descriptions, you give freedom to your artistic fans. You know...the ones that like to draw fan art. Yes. Make them happy. Give them freedom. Make them imagine for themselves what kind of tree he's leaning against. Unless he's an arborist. Then go nuts. But guys don't care about shades of color.

#3 Said Synonyms

One of the best poems I listened to used said over and over again. It didn't matter because it was about the dialogue.

If you keep the "saids" monotonous, it won't distract the reader from what's being said. Fuss over synonyms because you think you said "said" too many times and you're overthinking it. There's a post going around on Pinterest, talking about different ways to say "say"......do not like this. It's for amateur writers who aren't ready for the big books yet. If you're worried about using "said" then you're going to slow yourself down.

I use said even when I know my character is screaming. I use an exclamation point when a character shouts. The exclamation does the shouting for me because I don't use it often. And you don't need to make fence posts out of it.


#4 Type Usage

Italics. Underlines. Fence posts. They're distractions and the reader will come out of your world because they'll notice they've been reading. You don't want them to notice they're reading. You want their eyes to move over words, vessels into your character's eyes. Make them become the character. Type usage goes into deep perspective, or deep point of view.

Leaving out italics kept the words moving. It's Svetlana's perspective, so all words will be hers. The reader is in her head, so any use of italics to show she's thinking is irrelevant. Any underlines for a word she may strongly pronounce isn't necessary if the sentence structure is written well. The reader will get which words are emphasized. They're smart. Let them show you how smart they are. Svetlana wouldn't have an impact on the situation with Caelum if the reader had to read this:

Svetlana looked down at her hands.

If it were that simple then she could just turn her skin to ice.

Her hands frosted over into an amethyst hue.

Now I'm just telling you what she thought with type usage. You're not actually feeling it.

#5 Telling

Will Smith's character in Men in Black brought the viewers along for the ride in the world of sci-fi. If he was just sitting at Kay's desk, being told all the happenings of his new job, there wouldn't be a movie.

Show don't Tell.

We mean it. Get rid of the She thought, he thought; he realized, she saw. It'll look like the story is told to the reader, not the character going through the story. Telling is narrating. Narrating is bad, mmmkay? A character's thoughts are the words. Let them go.


“Holy spades on a rainy day. Did you quad-shot this?” Darlana asked.

“Only for you, my dear.”

Darlana plugged the port into the register; it beeped, and she placed it back in her pocket.

“You are a blessing,” Darlana said, walking away.

The straw never left her lips from the stand to outside. She even maneuvered herself onto the bike without having to drop the cup in her custom holder. How long was she at work for? In all the gloomy, rainy days, today turned out to be clear, and glistening. As Darlana pedaled (one hand on the handlebar), the chilly air nipped her face; she took in the scene, eyes glancing at the array of flowers and bushes about the parking lot, and the birds singing in the trees.

What a perfect day—away from the curse of monotony, away from judgement, away from the hassles of survivalism. She had a credit port to unleash on the sinking ship of capitalism. What a better place to go than where a girl can drown in a sea of fashion: the shopping center.

* * *

Getting coffee is a favorite pasttime, even for characters. Makes people happy. Makes them do things. Splurge, even. A fantastic example (not of coffee) is in The Shining, where Stephen King pulls us into Jack's mind, and uses deep perspective to make us feel Jack's experience. The movie isn't as personal as the book; recommend reading it to gain insight.

#6 Cliches

One of my problems as a writer is coming up with ways to twist a cliche into something original. Watching shows and hearing the characters talk and know exactly what they're going to say--. Hello, eye roll. I went to a writer's workshop where Brad Bell and Jane Espenson discussed several topics, including this one. They showed us a screenplay Bell did with Husbands (?), and how the character said "elephant in the room" without saying it. It was brilliant. They said, "Wow, how'd that elephant get in here" or something like that. I have the screenplay somewhere in my folders. If you catch your characters saying cliche things, maybe because you're just spitting out dialogue, and those words are the first things that pop into your head, then go back, and re-direct the phrases.

In the earlier text, I wrote "beating around the bush" without saying so, but you got the idea. "...beating around the passive entrails..."

It's time we get creative with cliches because there truly is nothing new under the sun...oh look at that...a bible verse. I wouldn't redirect anything from the Bible...but if it needs to be changed in your book, do so. I'm won't leave God out of anything, though. Bad things happen. O_o (<---oh look! distracting type usage!)

Cliches don't have to be about dialogue, either. Characters and genres play into it. I used cliches in my first book to make a point, that not everything is entirely cliche.

A mad scientist is one layer, a bad German accent is another layer, but add everything else into the story--like how he's not so mad, and he's actually a bio-engineer, and he really is German but only his accent comes out when he's stressed, and some other things I can't say cuz it would spoil the story of my first book...

But everyone loves a mad scientist. And everyone makes them their own style. In order for your audience to care about them, there has to be more than mwahahas and crazy hair.

Practice twisting the cliches. Watch what you say and see how people react. Watch a cheesy show. Once Upon A Time is good. Most of what they say on there is total cliche. Sorry, Espenson. I don't know what the writing team was thinking. Riding old characters for several seasons is a Hollywood cliche in itself. Make something new. Stop reliving old ideas. It was nice at first. Now?

Now I'm ranting. I gotta get outta here!

One week until NaNoWriMo. Are you doing it?

I am. Blogs will be shortened for November, if they exist at all. Maybe I'll post crazy somethings to inspire you, or terrify you, into doing NaNoWriMo next year. XD Fun times.

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