Tag Archive - Robin Patchen

Searching for the Poetry in Story

Today Robin Patchen takes a look at cadence and rhythm as we begin to wrap up attack on Fatal Flaw #12: Flawed Writing Mechanics. Don’t miss the other posts that tackle this important topic (start with this one).

If your readers wanted poetry, they’d pick up a Robert Frost anthology. Or perhaps Emily Dickinson or Shakespeare, right?

I don’t think so.

Yet, readers are looking for poetry, even if they don’t know it.

Well, maybe not poetry, but cadence. Readers want to hear words put together in beautiful ways. They want sentences to roll like waves or batter like bullets. They want to see alluring alliterations and evocative metaphors.

Readers long for beauty in words the way tourists seek out beauty in landscape and architecture. Perhaps they fly to Paris for the wine and cheese, but they’ll admire the Notre Dame on the way to dinner, and the trip will be richer for it. Continue Reading…

Writers, Wipe That Smile off Your Page

This week editor Robin Patchen wraps up our look at Fatal Flaw #11 – Pesky Adverbs and Weasel Words. If you’ve missed the other posts, start with this one here.

It’s been said (by someone) that 93% of communication is nonverbal, and of that, 55% is pure body language, including facial expressions, hand gestures, and postures.

For instance, take the word sure. If it’s delivered with a big smile, it means something very different than when it’s delivered with a glare. One is agreement, the other sarcasm or distrust.

We authors know this—we’re students of human interaction, after all. So it makes sense that we so often include facial expressions and body language in our stories.

But these nonverbal descriptions can quickly become weasel words and bulky phrases, shoved into our paragraphs to convey quickly—and perhaps lazily—our characters’ feelings and reactions. Continue Reading…

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…

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