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Infusing Your Settings with Emotion

Editor Robin Patchen wraps up our look at fatal flaw #10: Description Deficiencies and Excesses (If you’ve missed the other posts on this topic, start with this one here):

After I finished my first novel, I paid for a critique of the first fifteen pages. It came back so riddled with red, I feared she’d bled to death on my manuscript. One of her comments was, “Floating heads in a blank space.” Apparently, writing description didn’t come naturally to me. I remedied that, and my next critique partner highlighted paragraph after paragraph and added the comment, “You don’t need this.” I still didn’t have it right.

Years have passed, and find myself making similar comments to my clients. Yes, we need to describe our settings, but we don’t want to bore our readers. There’s a balance. And a great component that makes setting meaningful in a novel or short story.

Emotion Makes All the Difference

You must infuse your descriptions with emotion. Put your characters in the scene, and don’t just show us what they see—show us how they feel about what they see. Unless your character is Mr. Spock from Star Trek, he will have some emotional reaction. Two people can look at the same thing with very different opinions. Think of George Bailey and Mary Hatch from It’s a Wonderful Life. Remember the scene in which they are walking home from the party and stop in front of the old house? He sees a broken-down place worthy of nothing more than target practice. She sees a home. For each element in your scene, think about how your character would see it. Continue Reading…

Writers: Beware of Body Parts Behaving Badly

This month our editors are tackling Fatal Flaw #10 – Description Deficiencies. Too many manuscripts are lacking essential description–of characters, setting, time or day and year, how much time has passed from scene to scene. These make for weak scenes and weak novels. Today, editor Christy Distler addresses a fun but serious topic–improper description of body parts. See if your writing contains this fatal flaw!

We’re covering description deficiencies this month, and today I’m going to talk about “floating body parts,” or FBPs. If you’ve been writing fiction for some time, chances are you’ve seen editors and other authors discourage their use.

Now, I’m not talking about the severed leg that washes up on the coast in a murder mystery—that’s a perfectly acceptable floating body part. There’s another kind of FBP that’s actually all too common in fiction: when a character’s body parts start acting of their own volition. While we’re at it, we may as well look at a couple of confusing clichés that can have multiple meanings too.

Here are some examples, along with some parenthetical snark. Continue Reading…

Tricks to Writing Descriptions in First-Person POV

Today editor Linda Clare continues our look at Fatal Flaw #10: Description Deficiencies and Excesses. Knowing how, when, and in what way to add in description can often be tricky, so take a look at these suggestions Linda offers (if you missed the first post covering this fatal flaw, read it here).

This month we’re examining ways to balance description in fiction. Writers often struggle to find this balance—too much description bogs down pace and tension; too little will muffle the immersive experience readers crave. In a first-person story this is especially true.

Manage  Camera Angles

A first-person point of view brings the camera as close as it gets. We know only what the character knows, and we feel what the character feels. In your own first-person viewpoint, you take in a wide range of objects, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures every moment. If you tried to write realistically to include all this, the reader wouldn’t know what to pay attention to, what was important, and what was simply enriching the scene.

In fiction, it’s important to manage the camera shots the first-person character experiences, including mostly details that point to the story problem—even if the character and the readers don’t realize it yet.

Remember, describing something in detail says to readers, “Remember this! It’s important!” Being less descriptive or leaving out a detail says, “This isn’t vital to the story—move along.” Continue Reading…

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