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Open Your Scenes with These 3 Cinematic Techniques

Let’s get to basics on writing fiction. And that’s your setup in the first few pages. Readers will often stop reading before they finish the first page of your story. While this has always been true, in this fast-paced age that foments impatience, it’s even more true.

If a writer doesn’t deliver what a reader hopes for on that first page, it’s going to be tough to convince the reader to stick around for the whole chapter—let alone the whole book.

We’ve been looking at all the things needed on a first page of a novel or short story. And while it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that all these elements have to show up on page 1, the more elements a writer includes, the better.

This, of course, is going to vary a lot. And if a writer is starting with a prologue or some scene that doesn’t introduce the protagonist, that makes a difference as well. But the overall objective, regardless of opening scene, isn’t going to change. And that is to engage the reader. Continue Reading…

The Art of Masterful Fiction Dialogue

Writing great dialogue is probably the hardest skill fiction writers need to acquire.

If you’ve tried your hand at it, you know it’s tricky because dialogue in fiction is not at all like real-life dialogue. Which seems counterintuitive because fiction often is meant to present “real life” in a realistic fashion.

However, ordinary dialogue is usually boring and wordy. Or vague. Or all over the place.

Fiction writers need to write strategically and purposefully, every line, whether it be narrative, action, or dialogue.

So what are some tips to writing masterful dialogue?

I’ve compiled what I feel are the most important and succinct aspects of masterful dialogue in fiction, and if you struggle with writing snappy, engaging, believable, and fresh dialogue, these tips are for you. Continue Reading…

Understanding the Difference between Author Style and Character Voice

I’m sharing a post from a few years ago on a topic that I feel is so important for fiction writers to understand.

I love talking about voice in fiction. I veer off from other “experts” in definition about voice. I believe that some people are referring to the writer’s style when they talk about voice.

Take a listen to what literary Donald Maass says about voice in Writing the Breakout Novel:

“I am looking for authors with a distinctive voice.” I hear that from editors over lunch almost as often as I hear, “I am looking for big, well-written thrillers.”

What the heck is “voice”? By this, do editors mean “style”? I do not think so. By voice, I think they mean not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre. They want to read an author who is like no other. An original. A standout. A voice.

How can you develop your voice? To some extent it happens all by itself. Stories come from the subconscious. What drives you to write, to some extent, are your own unresolved inner conflicts. Have you noticed your favorite authors have character types that recur? Plot turns that feel familiar? Descriptive details that you would swear you have read before (a yellow bowl, a slant of light, an inch of cigarette ash)? That is the subconscious at work.

You can facilitate voice by giving yourself the freedom to say things in your own unique way. You do not talk exactly like anyone else, right? Why should you write like everyone else?

I’ve written about this on numerous occasions, and I go deep into voice in The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction and 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. Continue Reading…

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