Channel your rage onto the page

Every writer has hit the emotional bottom “IRL” before, whether it’s the day after a break up, a death, a scandal, a failure, or a presidential election. We may live in a world of make-believe most of the time, but us writers are people to. We hurt, we cry, we laugh, we love. And we do all of these things while attempting to balance along that precarious edge that is fiction writing (or non-fiction, don’t want to leave y’all out).

So, how do we write when we can barely function in life, due to its ups and downs and constant challenges? We write through it, that’s what we do. We channel that energy into our work. Sometimes literally, by creating a character just to kill them in a horrendous bloodbath. Or we throw a ‘happily ever after’ love story at another character. But…how? Perhaps writing is like therapy, a chance to be sad, be angry, be delirious, be hopeful, be madly in love, be homicidal, etc…in an environment that won’t gain us a shiny new set of metal bracelets that only come off with a key.

Author friends of America (and especially my NaNo comrades) and everywhere else in the World, I’m challenging you to do this today. This week. This month. The remainder of this year, and into the next. Channel today’s rage or sorrow, your love or fear, and put it down onto the page. Torture your babies with it, because this is what makes good fiction. And right now, I do believe the world needs more good fiction.

We use what we have, or what we are going through, and write it into our little worlds for the delight of others. This is how we cope with life, and this is how we cope with the voices in our heads. And today, that’s what I’ll be doing. Will you join me?

 

Wednesday Writer Tip – Use Your Senses!

It’s time to get back into the groove with my weekly writer tips! They may not come directly from me every week, but they are tips worth sharing – so hopefully you will appreciate them and find them useful! *wink, wink*

This week I’d like to talk about sensory description. For your book. Because it’s important. Why? Readers use their imagination to direct your story in their head…and in order to do this with the best possible experience, they need to be able to SENSE everything your characters do.

Make sure to experiment with these senses in your story:

  • Sense SightSight – Probably the most used in writing. What do your characters look like…what does the environment in a particular scene look like? Don’t forget to describe this with restrained flare. Meaning – let your reader use your visual descriptions to help form their own opinion on ‘looks’. Use colors, textures, and three dimensions to make this sense worthy and not boring. A fun experiment with this is to imagine your reader as a color-blind person. HOW would you then describe what a ripe Granny-Smith apple looks like if you can’t use the word ‘green’? Crisp. Clean. Juicy. Go there – it’s worth it.
  • Sense HearingSound – This one is über important. Sound can be subtle or overwhelming. What does your character sound like when he or she speaks, laughs, sighs, cries, shouts, pauses, etc… What does the room your character is standing in sound like? Is it quiet, busy, creepy? Rain water could be dripping off a window sill, echoing through an empty warehouse – this is a sensation your character should notice and something your reader can appreciate. Did a door ‘bang’ shut? Okay…we all know the sound of a banging door, but was this door heavy and solid, making the bang low and loud…or is this door made of glass or screen, making the bang a rattle sound or hollow? I advise against using just the word ‘bang’ to describe a banging sound. Please. I’m begging you. Unless the intent is to make a clear and short point. Also, don’t forget that sound waves travel and can be felt, not just heard. Loud music or the boom of a jet plane flying overhead can vibrate through one’s body – remember this point when describing sounds.
  • Sense TasteTaste – Is your character chewing a piece of spearmint gum, swallowing a shot of bourbon, spitting chewing tobacco, swapping spit during a first kiss? Taste is an experience your characters all go through, so let the readers know what’s happening on Jane Doe’s tongue. Imagine a party in your character’s mouth. I think this is one of those senses we don’t see enough in books. Think sharp, tangy, sour, sugary, spicy, gag-inducing. You can have a lot of fun with this. If you lost the ability to taste, what sensations would you miss the most? Use those as descriptors!
  • 42-21217958Smell – This goes well with ‘taste’ as the two are often times connected, but they are NOT the same thing. Use this one colorfully. Smells are a powerful sense and can range from minute (just the hint of something lingering in the air) to overpowering (think skunk or the perfume counter at Macy’s). Smells can also trigger memories, so describing what your character is inhaling while standing outside in a rain storm can very well bring back your reader’s childhood when they spent hours on end jumping through puddles.
  • Sense TouchTouch – We all know this one and use it often. In fact, I think touch might be one of the most used senses in literature. Is it rough, soft, cold, hot, slimy, hard, etc…? Since this is a popular sense nearly all of us have, be creative with using it in your story. In other words – try not to use the most basic adjectives…have fun with them. Browse through a thesaurus to find a few new words to use in replacement of (or in addition to) the words I listed above. This expands not only your vocabulary as a writer, but your readers’ vocabularies as well.
  • Sense 6th6th Sense – YES you can use this one! Every dog or cat owner has experienced their pet’s wigged out behavior before a storm, an earthquake or the upcoming approach of the mail man that you weren’t even aware was four houses down the street. Use this one in your story to give your readers a sense of what your character is experiencing. Are the hairs standing up on the back of Mick Jr.’s neck as he turns around in a dark hallway to confront the monster? Show your reader what little Micky is feeling – what is he sensing in the dark? Is Tabitha aware that she is not alone as she walks down a poorly lit street but she doesn’t know who or what is stalking her? Show your reader the fear of what Tabitha is sensing with that 6th sense of hers. How does she know she is not alone? How does the environment match her fear? Did the crickets suddenly stop chirping? Are birds bursting out of the tree tops in a startle? Use this one – your readers will love it.

So, now that your mental writer wheels are spinning with ideas, a warning: Do not use all these sense descriptors at once, and don’t overuse one and forget the others. It would be overkill to use every sense in each paragraph – so mix them up. When you edit your first draft, you can spot the places that need more or less sensory description. If you spent half a chapter talking about how things LOOKED, then perhaps you can switch up a sentence or two in each paragraph and add some smell, taste or touch. You want your readers to have an overall experience and feel as if they are right there in the story – and giving each of their senses a jolt, you’ll be able to do exactly that.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Nailing the ‘Close’

Happy Monday! It’s the start of a new week, one that I hope treats you well!

This week I want to finish my current WIP. I said ‘want’ because every time I think I’m only one writing session away from being done, my Muse or the characters (lately it’s TOTALLY the characters) throw out more for me to write. So I won’t jinx myself today and say for sure The Dry Lands will be done by Friday…but there’s a big fat chance it will be. 😉

Which leads me to today’s topic – The Close. There all kinds of ways a book can end, but one thing is certain for them all – they DO end. Some close out with a tidy ending…one wrapped up nicely in a bow, leaving no major plot questions for the reader to ponder over, no suspense over what might happen next to the characters they’ve become attached to. Others close with a cliffhanger, which is the exact opposite of a tidy ending. There are some in between, as well. Regardless of how the story ends, the close is important for not only the writer – but the reader. Do you like your romance to end with the main characters running off into the first sunset of their happily ever after? If you’re reading a series, do you like the uncertainty of not knowing whether the antagonist is really dead or the protagonist is going to live? Each reader takes something different away with them from a book, which is how it’s supposed to be. But for the author, I think there are things to consider when writing up your big conclusion:

  • Is the ending consistent with the flow of storytelling? By this, I mean – if you like to embellish and go into great detail throughout 60k words of telling your story – and then ‘end’ it with one paragraph, chances are the reader won’t find the ending satisfactory – unless you’ve been building up to it quite well.
  • Does the ending make sense for the characters? The ending is NOT the best time to suddenly turn your MC (Main Character) from a straight-arrow cowboy into an alcoholic alien. If the ending is confusing, the readers may not ‘get’ it. Again – not the most satisfactory ending. Tho, if written properly, this could be a fantastic time for a plot twist in a series.
  • Did you leave the characters hanging in ‘limbo’? As a reader myself, the only time I consider it okay to leave the characters dangling over a cliff, in between that anticipatory kiss, being discovered with a bloody dagger in their hand, or right smack in the middle of an action scene that hints at the demise of a beloved character, etc. is when there will be another book. For the author this can actually be a fun thing to do. I know readers might hate us for it, but really – it keeps people coming back for more of the story! But be careful with this. Like mentioned earlier, there ARE readers who like a story wrapped up in that shiny and pretty little bow. If each book in your series can stand alone – you can ‘close’ each out with their own ending. But if not – have fun with the continuations between books.
  • Does your ending have ‘WOW’ factor? You can take this any way you want, but the books I will love forever are the ones that made me laugh, cry, scream or shake at the end. It’s an author’s job to evoke emotion (of ANY kind, really) from their readers. Remember everyone gets something a little different from each book they read, so what makes one person cry from joy might make another scream in frustration. But emotion is emotion – and books just aren’t the same without it.

So now that I’ve put a few things up for you to consider when closing out your next story, I leave you with this: The story should tell itself, but the Author must tell the story. Don’t force the flow of things but pay attention – especially at the close. 😉

Happy reading and writing, everyone!

Thursday Writing Tip

This little tip is for the writers that stress over the question, ‘How long should my chapters be?’ My answer – it really shouldn’t matter.

Give your chapters room to breathe. Often times, us writers have an idea of how many words work per chapter, but limiting your chapters to a certain word count can put restraints on your story.

Think about it this way – as the reader, do you care if Chapter Three is 2,350 words and Chapter Four is 1,500 words? No, probably not. Why? Because the reader is reading to be entertained and if your chapters do that, they probably don’t care about how many words are in them. And they probably aren’t counting them either. Chapters that are short are fun at times when the reader doesn’t have hours to spare, and long chapters are okay because the reader knows how to use a bookmark. At least, we hope.

I’m not saying just write and do your chapter breaks whenever you want. Consistency is helpful for readers, because a few chapters in, they’ll have an idea of your writing style, and how long they have to go to finish each chapter, but there is no right or wrong way to establishing chapter lengths. Each chapter should have a story relevant to the whole book, and sometimes the writer can achieve this in a few words, sometimes not.

When I first started writing, I obsessed, and I mean OBSESSED over making each chapter close to two thousand words. I’m not sure why, but that felt like a good number for me. And it took me…oh, three books, I’d say, before I realized it’s not the NUMBER it’s the CONTENT that should be important. I still hit around 2k per chapter now, but not intentionally. I let the chapters choose their length, so all those little stories fit in the book better. And it takes the stress off me a bit. “I need to write 500 more words to finish this chapter…” is no longer an issue. If the chapter is done, it’s done. Period.

So stop stressing about your chapter word count. Just write. You can go back and fix your chapter breaks later, if you must. Write the way you want your work to be read, and the numbers won’t matter so much.

 

Happy Thursday!