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Description Errors That Result from POV Limitations

It’s important for writers to convey the description of setting and characters through the POV character’s eyes and emotions. But just as we don’t take notice of every single detail in a room or about a person we encounter (I think our brains would explode!), our characters are going to notice particular things, and that’s determined by their personality and mood at the moment.

For example, if a beautiful woman wearing provocative clothing walks into a diner, a young man is going to notice different things about her than, say, a five-year-old child would. He’s going to think different things as well, and it’s likely that, if you put ten men in that diner, you could have each think very different thoughts about that woman because of who he is. An old priest will think different thoughts than a twenty-something bad boy. The priest might notice how tarnished and unhappy the woman seems. The young man may only be checking out her curves and the hemline of her dress.

Scenes are going to feel deficient if description is dumped outside of POV.

But there are also other problems that can occur because of POV, and they stem from what happens when a writer forgets where his character is placed in his scene. Continue Reading…

4 Key Ways to Improve Tension and Pacing in Your Novel

Pacing and tension aren’t always easy for writers to assess in their scenes. How can you tell if your scene is dragging and there is little tension? How do you know when to speed up or slow down pacing for best effect?

Let’s bring it all together in four key points, from a previous post and excerpt from The Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing.

 Don’t Forget the Conflict . . .

 Inner and outer conflict. First, overall, you want your pages full to the brim with conflict. Meaningful conflict. Showing a character fussing for a full page about her lousy manicure isn’t all that meaningful.

Now, that situation could be the center of a really hilarious comedic moment, and if so, terrific. Humor—great humor—is so often overlooked, and it ramps up pacing and engages readers. But not all novels are full of funny moments.

Conflict is tension. Meaningful conflict creates strong tension. Hemingway said, “Don’t mistake movement for action.” Just because you have a lot of things happening, plot-wise, doesn’t mean anything is really happening. You could have tons of exciting car chases and plane crashes and shoot-outs and the reader could be dozing off, nose planting into your book. Continue Reading…

Showing Your Scenes through Your Characters’ Senses

One of the reasons readers willingly immerse themselves in a story is to be transported. Whether it’s to another planet, another era—past or future—or just into a character’s daily life, readers want to be swept away from their world and into another—the world of the writer’s imagination.

It’s challenging for writers to know how much detail to put in scenes to effectively transport a reader. Too much can dump info, drag the pacing of the story, and bore or overwhelm. Conversely, too little detail can create confusion or fail to evoke a place enough to rivet the reader.

In addition to knowing how much detail to show, writers have to decide what kind of details to use. I often read scenes in the manuscripts I critique, for example, that have characters engaging in lots of gestures, such as rubbing a neck, bringing a hand to a cheek, pushing fingertips together, turning or moving toward something—all for no clear reason.

Showing body movement, gestures, and expressions can be an effective way to indicate a character’s emotional state, but this needs thoughtful consideration so that the gesture or expression packs the punch desired.

I’d like to speak to the importance of showing setting—and not just showing it in any old way. What is key to creating a powerful setting is to show it through your character’s POV and in a way that feels significant. Continue Reading…

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