Using Backstory without Using It

The importance of backstory cannot be overemphasized. It’s a real joy when we create a character that comes alive and starts going her own way, thinking on her own, and making decisions. When it happens, we can pat ourselves on the back. What is backstory? It’s everything we (author) know about our character that never makes it into the final product. Because? It has nothing to do with the current story. Why bother with it then? The more backstory weRead more

An Opinion for EVERY Character

EVERY character has an attitude. An author MUST show this through Action and Dialogue. Or Action Alone, never dialogue alone. Why? Mere chatter is not an attitude. We need to throw some body language into it. Every character has an opinion about what’s going on. Even the bystanders. Let the reader see it. Perhaps … A smarmy look from an Extra (or equivalent) in a crowd. The stereotype is the gum-snapping, confrontational waitress with a hand on one hip (let’sRead more

Remain In-Tense — Verbs 2

In my editing travels, I haven’t run across too many problems with simple future tenses. _______ SIMPLE FUTURE I will play, you will play, he/she/it will play, they will play, we will play or I am going to play, you are going to play, he/she/it is going to play, we are going to play, they are going to play SIMPLE FUTURE CONTINUOUS I will be playing, you will be playing, he/she/it will be playing, they will be playing, we willRead more

Remain In-Tense – Verbs 1

Because verb tenses are so very important for communication, I am going to divide a chapter from Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them into two different posts. (The whole chapter in one post would be way too long. In fact, please forgive me for the length of this one. There was no good place to break it.) _______ Some languages do not use any more than three tenses: Past, Present, and Simple Future: I play, I played, IRead more

Go Ahead — Manipulate Your Readers

The Best Authors Are the Best Manipulators It’s all about what we put into people’s heads without having them notice that we’re doing it. We have to make them trust us so they’ll follow us into whatever world we want to lead them. Why would an author want to manipulate his readers? Let me put it another way: Why would an author want his readers unable to stop themselves from turning the pages? Unable to control their fear, their pleasure,Read more

Subtext — Talkin’ Dirty

Oh, the scenes we could write using this cartoon! Text/subtext: “Let’s meet at McDonald’s [where we had that big break-up fight because you were being such an ass].” Text/subtext: “Let’s meet at Giovanni’s [where we had that amazing dinner by candlelight and after which we spent the whole night exhausting each other making mad passionate love].” Subtext belongs in dialogue. I can think of no other place for it. Therefore, I’ll cite screenwriting examples because screenplays are full of subtextRead more

The TV Brain = Talking Heads

TV shows are talk-talk-talk. Movies are walk-walk-walk. Books are neither. Books are both. Books have the ability to get the reader right into the life of the character, “transplant” the reader’s head into the mind, heart and soul of the protagonist* but sadly, fewer and fewer books are accomplishing this. In order to have our readers experience the guts of the character, we as writers must be inside the head of that character, too, when we are writing. We can’tRead more