Monday, January 18, 2010


Got Scene Problems? We've Got Quick Solutions!

If you're in the process of editing your NaNoWriMo manuscript, novel, or short story and find that a scene isn't working, it may have one of these problems listed below. See if you can pinpoint the problem and apply the quick-fix solution!

Scene drags at the beginning
Problem: Too much exposition
Solution: Get your characters interacting right away--at least by the second paragraph. Provide them with a conflict. The story of how they got there and why can wait.

Scene has too much dialogue
Problem: "Talking head" syndrome
Solution: Break up dialogue with actions, gestures, or character's thoughts. For example, instead of having a character say, "I'm so sorry," have them place a hand on the other character's shoulder. Instead of having a character say, "I'm so angry!" have them throw something. Remember, dialogue is a vehicle for moving the plot forward--for characterization, background information, description of other characters, and for creating suspense and building tension. If you allow dialogue to fill a whole scene, most likely, your characters will end up talking all over the place about anything and everything, and your action and narrative will suffer.

Reader can't visualize the scene
Problem: Not enough setting description
Solution: Add descriptive details to the setting to ground your reader. You don't want these characters in a blank room. Your reader needs to know where they are--just a few descriptive sentences. Choose descriptions that enhance the mood of the scene.

The scene is...(yawn) boring
Problem: The scene doesn't advance the plot
Solution: Cut it! If there are some parts of the scene you really love, you can combine those ideas with one of your existing scenes to make it more vibrant.

Tension has waned
Problem: Too many slow scenes in a row
Solution: If the scene is still good for character development, you may want to keep it, but you should consider rearranging your scenes.

Scene starts off strong but fizzles out at the end
Problem: Misplaced climax
Solution: Rewrite the scene and put the emotional high point at the end.

Good luck!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 18, 2008


What He Said/She Said About Attributive Clauses

By Annette Fix

I'll be the first to admit that when I was a newbie writer, I was guilty of using (read: overusing) busy attributives, and I had a bad case of the wrylies. When I look back at some of my early prose, it's completely embarrassing.

You know your dialogue is infected with wrylies if your novel has attributives like these:

The handcuffs clicked around his meaty wrists. "I am not a criminal!" he shouted loudly.

Sara ran around the room waving the lotto ticket. "I won! I'm rich! I'm rich!" she shrieked excitedly.

"Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom," the toddler jabbered incessantly.

"I got fired on Friday, so I guess that means I'm not busy on Monday," she commented wryly.

Focus on the "wrylies" in the sentences above--the use of adverbs explains how the dialogue should be interpreted or how it was uttered.

And there are attributives that use a variety of verbs to convey the speaker's emotion or physical action:

"Your place or mine?" he chuckled.
"You wish," she snorted.
"No one will find out," he smiled.
"I'll tell your wife," she warned.
"You're cute when you're angry," he winked.

Busy attributes try to pack too much into a sentence:

"He broke up with me. And now I'm falling apart," sniffed the attractive blonde as she wiped tears from her clear blue eyes, knowing she would never find another man like the rich doctor she married two years after leaving the leper colony where she grew up.

Take all the dialogue samples above as examples of how NOT to write your character's attributives. "Keep it simple," she said.

Using the "simple said" is the best way to make your attributives invisible to your readers. It won't distract them from the flow of your story. And if you craft your narrative and dialogue well, you won't need to be showy in your attributives.

Trust your readers to pick up on the nuances and tone in the interaction and dialogue between your characters. Don't hit them over the head with overwritten attributives.

Labels: , , ,