Tag Archive - Christy Distler

Keeping It Real—Avoiding Weak Construction in Dialog  

This month we’ve been tackling Fatal Flaw #3: Weak Construction. Our editors have so far shown many ways our writing can come across as weak, including the use of boring, flat, or vague words and descriptions. Weak sentence structure plagues many manuscripts, but knowing how to spot these flaws, and how to correct them, is not all that hard. Today, editor Christy Distler dives deeper into the topic by examining what constitutes weak construction in dialog.

We’ve been talking about weak writing with the Wednesday posts this month, and today we’re going to look at dialog. Strong dialog is crucial. In fact, according to a literary agent I met at a writers’ conference this last summer, it’s one of the first things an agent evaluates when reading a manuscript.

Why? Because dialog gives a quick yet solid indication of a writer’s abilities. It conveys how much a writer has studied the craft and how well he or she understands the mechanics of speech.

Strong dialog keeps a story interesting by revealing characters’ traits, advancing the plot, and breaking up narrative with action that clearly describes what’s happening. Conversely, weak dialog results in shallow characters with no individuality, a dragging plot, and an ambiguous, unsatisfying story. Even the best plot lines won’t hold a reader’s interest if the writer lacks the ability to create good dialog. Continue Reading…

In Medias Res—Cutting to the Chase

This month our editors are tackling Fatal Flaw #2: Nothin’ Happenin’.  Editor Christy Distler explains in detail what in medias res is, and how to start scenes right in the middle of action. (If you’ve missed the first two posts on the topic, check them out here and here.)

In medias res. If you’ve been writing for some time now, chances are you’ve heard at least one seasoned writer or editor tout its importance. Or maybe not. The first time I heard the phrase was when I joined a critique group and one of the members commended my novel’s first scene with, “Nice use of in medias res.” Wait. In medias what? I thought. Off I headed to Google for an explanation.

Just what is in medias res? Latin for “in the midst of things,” in medias res refers to the literary technique of starting a story in the middle of the action instead of using descriptive narrative to provide background and build up to the action. Continue Reading…

Repetition, Redundancy, and Overused Punctuation—Oh My!

We’re continuing our look at Fatal Flaw # 1: Overwriting. Fiction writers often overwrite, and have trouble seeing how this manifests in their prose. Last week we looked at details, and considered how much is too much. This week editor Christy Distler delves into the topics of repetition, redundancy, and excessive punctuation:

The first time I heard the phrase “write tight” was in high school English class. Our teacher returned our short stories and called me to her desk when class ended. “I love your story line,” she said. “But you need to write tighter. I want you to go back through your story and cut out anything that’s repetitive or not necessary. Don’t use an entire paragraph to say what you can say with a sentence or two. And lay off the dashes.”

I no longer have that short story, nor do I remember the entire story line, but I haven’t forgotten the writing style I’d used. Three of its problems were repetition, redundancy, and overused punctuation. Just what are these three writing faux pas? Continue Reading…

Page 4 of 4«1234