Friday, May 21, 2010

How to Increase the Pace of Your Novel

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

Did you know CONFLICT is not the only tool you have to increase the pace of your writing? Of course, the more forceful the conflict, the faster the pace. However, there is another important concept available to help ramp up the pace of your writing. The second most important technique used to increase the pace of your writing is the rise and fall of tension.

Tension is different from conflict in so far as conflict is your character’s emotional reaction to the challenges he faces. In contrast, tension is the emotional strain placed upon your readers. It’s a bit of hostility you interject into their lives.

So, how does a writer place emotional pressure on a reader? Alfred Hitchcock presented this concept at it best when he said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

In my own mind, I see this concept in a scene where two characters sit at a table. Unbeknownst to them, there is a ticking bomb strapped beneath it. The reader knows the bomb is there and when it’ll blow, but the characters do not.

Can you see how a ticking time bomb, real or metaphorical, can propel your tension?

Okay, now for some tips on how to increase the pace of your writing.

1. Use sentences and scenes and chapters that leave them hanging.

2. Tension, like conflict, should ebb and flow through your novel. Think of a line chart that grows ever upward in consecutive peaks and valleys. Your tension should follow this same path. It should always build, then fall, then rise to the next higher level. After you slow the tension, make something happen, and soon, to regain your momentum.

3. DIALOGUE is a great tool to increase the tension of your writing. Not only are you able to use your characters words but also how they say what they say.

4. Quick lines make for quick reading. Quick reading makes for a fast tempo and greater tension.

5. In those nail-biting situations you create, sentence fragments will increase the excitement. Always. Every time. As here. I urge caution, however, for overuse of fragments can get out of control.

6. Consider the amount of white space on the page. Imagine a sheet of paper filled with text, one line after the other without breaks, from top to bottom and side to side. You can visualize how this would overpower the reader. Think instead of a page loaded with choppy sentences. This creates a great deal of white space to the right and makes the page read faster. Your reader will feel the increased rhythm if for no reason other than the speed by which they flip the pages.

7. Shorter, simpler words increase the tempo and the tension of your story. Anything that slows your reader will slow the pace, and the tension, of your scene.

Number 8 is one of my favorite sayings. “Be cautious of argot your middling might not twig.” That is to say, don’t use terminology your average reader might not understand. When you force them to take their mind off the story and focus on individual words, their reading slows in dramatic fashion. So does the pace. That goes double for medical thrillers and the like where difficult words are normal.

9. Strong, specific verbs and nouns can also increase the tension. Consider someone who dreams in nightmares in contrast to someone who is haunted by nightmares. How about someone who “falls” as compared to someone who “collapses.” These examples show how a single word can increase the tension of your novel. Therefore, seek precision with your words.

10. Use active voice. “He was going to fight it out,” reads slower and with less strength than, “He determined to fight it out.” Read this ARTICLE to learn more about active voice.

Now, might you have any tips to share?

As always, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to Write Imagery

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
by C. Patrick Schulze.

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

Welcome back, everyone. It’s nice to have you here again.

We, as fiction writers, have an obligation to take our readers to unknown and interesting places within worlds they would or could never imagine. And imagery is that tool we use to take them there. How to write imagery? It’s not as difficult as you might think, and today I’ll offer some tips and techniques on how to write imagery that I hope you’ll find useful.

Imagery is defined by in part as, “the formation of mental images.” Imagery is all about painting the proverbial mental picture.

Imagery can be one of the most important aspects of your novel. Let’s look a simple example, shall we? What type of picture do you see when I mention rain? Now think about rain that races sideways, propelled by a howling wind. Both pictures typify rain, but the second is much more powerful, don’t you think? These powerful pictures are what you seek with your imagery, for they will engross your readers in your story.

A common error among aspiring writers is they describe their setting as they might a photograph. The average writer just writes the various things he sees. This method tends to offer a dry, formulaic image, bog down the story and dampen a reader’s enthusiasm.

Instead, an author may attempt to write in a way that incorporates his images into his character’s actions. This next example, typifies how a writer might do this.

"He strode into the stone building and noted the poor quality of the landscape. Once inside, he wondered as to the purpose for the narrow windows which allowed little light to enter the rooms."

Now, here are some general tips on how to write imagery into your novel.

1. Paint your verbal pictures in nibbles more than great gulps of information.

2. A rule of thumb says to put no more than three sentences together when describing your scene.

3. Use your characters’ senses. Here’s your example.

He tiptoed farther in and noticed an odor waft up from beneath the floorboards.

4. Pepper your dialogue with imagery. That is to say you might allow your characters to impart images of things that happen when they speak. “I can’t seem to stop these goose bumps from rising, no matter what I do.”

5. Use strong verbs that convey action. Words such as twirled, jumped, scurried or plotted exemplify mental pictures by their nature.

6. If you can find a way to use ordinary things in other than ordinary ways, your imagery will come alive. What if you wrote about an automobile that pulled a tow truck or a short kid who is able to spike in volleyball? These seeming contradictions will ensure your imagery jumps off the page and into your reader’s memory.

7. Think small. Have your characters take note of the smallest details in your setting. Could you make use of the tiny nubs on the treads of a new tire? When might you point out the indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle? Can you employ the scratches on a cell phone screen in your novel?

8. Similes and metaphors are powerful tools to enhance your imagery. In my current novel, one character has hair as gray as a coming storm.

9. Personification is a useful tool when you create imagery in your novel. That is, give human-like qualities to something nonhuman. Here’s an example. “The breeze whispered through the woods.”

10. Not all of your imagery need be of the beautiful. In fact, readers will often appreciate just the opposite. In my second novel, the character all my female readers liked the most was the tall, chiseled hunk who fell for the dumpy farmer’s daughter. Without variation, they said they liked him for his love of the unattractive woman, not his good looks.

Do any of you have other examples as to how a novel writer might employ more compelling imagery? I’d appreciate your suggestions.

As always, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be brothers”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to Write Conflict into Your Novel

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
by. C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this Article.

Welcome back, my friends. It’s nice to see you again.

Conflict is critical to any good story. In fact, it makes your story worth reading and is the key component that weaves all the elements of your novel together.

The secret to CONFLICT is found when tension builds between two opposing forces then explodes. To translate that to your characters, conflict rests within the moral choices they make when placed in unusual situations.

Think of it this way. A daughter tells her father a lie, but the father could not care less. Where is the excitement? Where is the energy? Where is the conflict? The conflict is found within the father’s reaction to the lie, not within the lie itself. Now imagine this scene if the father gets angry about it and slaps his daughter. The lie builds the tension and the slap explodes it. All of a sudden, we’ve got a much more interesting event, don’t we?

Now for some general tips on how to write conflict into your novel.

Conflict begins and ends with desire. In your storyline, have your hero want something or someone he can’t have unless he completes some great struggle.

Too much conflict, or too little, will distance your reader. This is a delicate balance to achieve, but you can’t bore your reader with too little conflict or exhaust him with too much.

Two major points of conflict will most often carry your novel. One internal and one external conflict point is all you need. For example, a hero’s lack of confidence might be the internal conflict, whereas his need to save the girl from the dastardly Dr. Dowrong might exemplify the external conflict.

Use conflict to vary the pace of your novel. Think of a graph where you have an upward trending line that looks like a mountain range that always grows to the right. Can you see those peaks and valleys? That line represents the pace of your novel and the peaks represent your major conflict points or those times of greatest conflict. You get a peak at every serious point of conflict and a valley whenever your hero solves that specific issue. He then faces another peak and so on until he reaches his major confrontation with the big bad wolf.

Every CHAPTER in your novel should have someone wanting something. To say this another way, every chapter requires conflict. This may be as simple as a young girl who wishes her mother would allow her to walk to school, to the reactions of your hero as he is thrust into battle.

The essence of growing conflict, and thus tension, is choice. Your HERO must be forced to make choices to keep him moving forward on his quest. If you also offer your protagonist conflicting alternatives, it keeps your tension at a higher plane.

Your conflict must have a final goal in mind and that goal is most often the growth of your hero. This evolution can be emotional, physical or any other “-al” you wish, but the purpose of all this running around is to, in the end, have your protagonist come out a better person.

End each chapter of your novel with a cliffhanger, or conflict that is about to peak. This need not be as grand as your hero’s pending death, but leave a question in the readers’ mind. They’ll want to know more.

Fear intensifies conflict. Your hero must face his fears, so include fright at judicious points within your manuscript.

Use DIALOGUE as a major tool to build your conflict. If used effectively, dialogue increases the emotion, the tension and tragedy.

Are there any aspects to conflict about which you’d like to hear more?

Until my next post, you know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers"

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ten More Tips on How to Write Your Novel

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

Welcome back. It’s nice to have you visit again. In today’s post, I’ll piggyback off of yesterday’s Ten Tips on How to Write a Novel with ten more all-purpose tips. Hope you find something here you can use.

Here are the first Ten Tips on How to Write a Novel.

Let’s pick up with number 11.

Keep your attitudes in check. This relates to the classic issues of “show vs. tell.” If you tell your reader the forest is ominous, that’s your opinion. What if your reader finds your ominous is his exhilarating? Your goal is to allow them to make up their own mind by offering them setting rather than sets. If you must offer an opinionated word or two, it works better if you use them within your dialogue.

12. Readers enjoy a good riddle, so give it to them. If you can work in a bit of mystery into your story, all the better.

13. Watch your speech tags. Most recommend you shy away from the classic error of substituting actions for the word, “said.” If you must use a word other than “said,” it’s best to use them in a preceding or following sentence. Here’s an example:

     Jane sighed and responded, “If I must.”
     It should read, 
     “Jane sighed when she responded. “If I must.”

14. Effect never comes before cause. When writing sentences, your best option is to place your active noun first, follow this with the action that occurs and then the effect of the action. Your victim doesn’t die before the murderer fires the gun and people recommend your sentence structure should mimic this concept.

15. Write with specificity. Now there’s a good word. By this I mean to get away from all the weak words we all use. Generally, Most often, these words end in “ly.” However, you might also find those pesky three-word phrases that need paring. You know what I mean, all those, “long, hot nights” or the “hard, packed ground” entries.

16. Write with conciseness. Rather, write with simple words and not with words like “conciseness.” Also, search out and eliminate phrases that can be replaced by single words. An example is, “due to the fact” might become “because.”

17. The pace of your novel is important. Imagine a car chase at three miles per hour. Sort of loses something, doesn’t it? Short choppy sentences speed up your writing, while long sentences slow it down. The same holds true for paragraphs and even chapters.

18. Suspense is super. Imagine your hero rushes in to diffuse the bomb. He grits he teeth as he glances at the timer. It says he’s got forty-seven days. Puff. There goes your suspense. Ticking clocks, proverbial or otherwise, help to build suspense.

19. The primary tools you have available to build characters are details, mannerisms and dialogue.

20. Good scenes need good structure. Chapters fill in well when they have three scenes, all of which should move your story toward its conclusion. Each scene requires conflict and an outcome of that conflict. Scenes also either resolve conflict or advance it.

Now, which of these ideas would you like fleshed out?

Are these suggestions everything you need to craft a well-writing novel? Nope. But they’re good start. Best of luck.

As always, you know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”

Monday, May 17, 2010

10 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing

Tweet It!
Bookmark and Share
by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

Nice to have you visit again.

I am in the middle of wrestling my manuscript to the ground and find I learn something new every day. With that in mind, I thought I might offer all my writer friends some general writing tips on how to improve your writing. Outside of the first tip, these aren’t offered in any specific order other than what came to mind at the time.

Let’s begin with what I think is the secret to success as a writer: persistence. As a father, the mantra I imposed upon my poor daughters was, “Practice, practice, practice.” (Though grown, they still make fun of me about that one.) In any case, as with every profession, the more you do it the better you become.

2. Invade your readers’ senses. This means when writing you find opportunities to have your characters use their five, or as some say, twelve, senses. When your characters smell the honeysuckle, so do your readers.

3. Diamond’s are not a girl’s best friend. Well, I think it was Marilyn Monroe who informed all men that diamonds are indeed a girl’s best friend, but for women writers, (and their male counterparts), it’s verbs. The strength and exactness of the verbs you choose is the most powerful tool you possess to elevate your writing. The best verbs bring emotions or pictures to your readers’ minds.

4. Create interactive settings. That is, write in such a way as to have your setting come alive. The first time I took my writing to my critique group, every person mentioned a visual I had in my story. They commented on a scene where a boy reached up to grab his father’s shotgun from over the mantel and I wrote about the glow from the fire as it warmed the boy’s legs. It is those inconsequential images that paint those all important and powerful word pictures that immerse readers into your story.

5. Backstory belongs in the back. When I learned how to write backstory into my novel, I had to rewrite large chunks of what I already had on paper. Those long-winded paragraphs about what happened before my character came into my story became short, concise inserts within the story.

6. Bodies have language, too. Think of a person who has received astonishing news. What might they do at that time? Inhale? Shriek? Curl a lip? So might your characters. And best of all, readers love characters’ body language.

7. Conflict is king. Conflict is much like a drug drip in a hospital. That happy little bottle always hangs around and you get to dial it up whenever you want to. Conflict, not action mind you, but conflict is the power behind your novel.

8. If conflict is king, characterization is queen. Every novel rises and falls on the backs of those people who populate your novels. Effective characterization is a difficult skill to master but when you do, even you’ll fall for your books.

9. Knowledge is power. By this I mean, your writing has more strength if you give your readers the knowledge they require. It’s more interesting if your characters know the bomb is about to explode as this creates tension in your reader’s mind. As Alfred Hitchcock said, "There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it."

10. Give ‘em what they want. Your readers read for a reason and as a writer you should know that reason and cater to it. The lesson here is to learn your market. Write to satisfy your readers’ needs and not your own.

What tips might you like to share with my readers?

As always, know I wish for you only best -sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers"