Tag Archive - Robin Patchen

How Writers Can Avoid “Underwriting” Emotions

This month our editors are tackling Fatal Flaw #9—Underwriting. Too often necessary information is left out of a scene, leaving readers scratching their heads. This may pertain to narrative, dialog, setting—every and any component found in fiction. Today editor Robin Patchen continues our look at “underwriting” by showing how we sometimes fail to explore and reveal the emotions our characters are experiencing. (Be sure to read all the prior posts to know how to conquer this fatal flaw, starting with this one!)

Show, don’t tell. That lesson is drummed into novelists’ heads, and for good reason. Readers don’t want to be told stories; they want to experience them. They want to charge into battle with your hero, face down the enemy with your heroine. They want to be in the action, not just watch it from the sidelines. They want to feel your story.

And great writers oblige, moving from scene to scene quickly, including vivid details to help the reader imagine the settings, filling each moment with tension and conflict. But sometimes, the emotions get lost along the way. And this can lead to “underwriting”—what we’ve been looking at all month. Leaving out important pieces that are needed to engage your readers. Continue Reading…

How Writers Can Seek and Destroy Banal and Obvious Dialog      

This month our editors have attacked Fatal Flaw # 8: Flawed Dialog Construction. Dialog is a tricky component to master in fiction, and it’s easy to fall into numerous pitfalls that will make dialog sound forced or phony, or come across jarring due to bad structure. (If you haven’t read the previous posts on this flaw, click here, here, and here). Today editor Robin Patchen wraps up our discussion by pointing out ways to identify and destroy banal, boring dialog.

This month, we’ve been discussing writing great dialog. I’ve heard editors say that when they’re evaluating a manuscript, they’ll check the first block of dialog to see how the author handles it. The manuscripts of authors who don’t have a handle on dialog get passed over. It’s that important.

The problem is that dialog needs to sound realistic, but you don’t want it to be realistic, for one very good reason—realistic dialog is boring. Here’s an example of what I mean. In this passage, the heroine, Reagan, is desperate to get some information from Walter. Continue Reading…

Layering Tension in Happyland

This month we’ve been attacking Fatal Flaw #7—Lack of Pacing and Tension. Tension is crucial in a story. Without it, readers will stop reading. Pacing is linked to tension, and there are many ways to ensure strong pacing in a novel. Today editor Robin Patchen shows how writers can take those dull “happy” scenes and infuse them with tension.

We’ve been talking tension and pacing this month, and today I’m going to add to our discussion by looking at layering undertones of tension in your scenes.

There are a lot of ways to add tension to your novels. You can have characters who disagree, characters who want conflicting things, characters fighting battles against villains and weather and animals and, often, friends and siblings and parents.

But some segments of scenes have no inherent tension. You have to get your character into a position where the bad thing—whatever it is—can happen, but until the bad thing happens, everything seems fine. How do you bring tension into scenes like that?

That’s where those subtle undertones come in.

Take a look at these Before and After passages and see if you notice the difference in tension. Continue Reading…

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