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Showing posts from May, 2009

Developing Your Writer's Voice

Camy here: This is a compilation of my short series of posts on Developing Your Writer's Voice that I posted back in 2006, but I have put them all in one article for you here.

One vital way to make your writing stand out is voice. In many of the contest entries I've judged and manuscripts I've critiqued, writers have muted their natural voice to sound bland and generic.

Writing that's alive with its own distinct vocal flavor is a joy to read. The prose is richer and more vibrant, the characters more three-dimensional--all because the writer opens herself to her own writing style and revels in it.

However, voice can also be the most difficult and slippery aspect of writing craft to discover and perfect.

Raw, creative voice often doesn't result in a polished piece. The key is to first lay down the story with your unhindered voice and polish later.

But how to unleash your voice?

Many times, a writer's internal critic is hampering the free reign of his unique style, but …

The Basics of Introducing a Character

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I wrote this article, which originally appeared on Suite101, on introducing a character in your novel.

The Basics of Introducing a Character

A Few Main Points For When a Character Steps on the Page

Three things to remember when introducing a character, whether the main character or a minor one.

Whenever a character makes a “first appearance” in the novel, there are three things a novelist should remember when writing the scene.

Create a Strong, Quick First Impression

Ideally, the novelist wants the character onstage quickly, without a long paragraph of description.

Give a strong first impression without a lot of detail—simply a phrase to anchor the character in the reader’s mind.

Here is where a cliché could actually be used, because it’s a quick way to create a colorful impression with few words: “a spunky redhead” or “a one-legged pirate” or “a powerful businessman.”

Whatever the writer chooses to create that first impression, make it the most significant aspect of the character. Sho…

Fiction After 50 seminars

Here's a note from author Ron Benrey:

Janet and I are launching “Fiction After 50” seminars to help
late-blooming novelists write publishable fiction and market their
manuscripts to real publishers.

The first Fiction After 50 seminar is scheduled in Dallas, on July
17-19; the next is in Orlando, on October 2-4.

Each seminar is an intensive program -- 2.5 full days of classes,
workshops, and guided small-group brainstorming sessions filled with
practical exercises -- that will help unpublished novelists refine their
novels-in-progress (or their ideas for the novels they want to write)
and increase the likelihood that they'll sell to royalty-paying
publishers. We’ll also teach many “hurry-up” strategies that can
accelerate the process of finishing and marketing a manuscript.

For more information visit: www.fictionafter50.com

Incidentally, our Fiction After 50 seminars will be "managed" by Free
Expressions Seminars and Literary Services, the same group the does the
excellent Don Maass …

Strong Emotional Reactions, part two

Check out the second part of my two-parter at Seekerville, talking about Strong Emotional Reactions. On Friday, I went into the other TWO of the four different types of emotional reactions and how you can mix and match them to create stronger emotions in your story.

Also, check out the comments there--people bring up some good questions and I answer them in the comments.

Strong Emotional Reactions, part two

Stong Emotional Reactions, part one

I am over at Seekerville in a two-parter, talking about Strong Emotional Reactions. Yesterday, I went into TWO of the four different types of emotional reactions and how you can mix and match them to create stronger emotions in your story.

Also, check out the comments there--people bring up some good questions and I answer them in the comments.

Strong Emotional Reactions, part one

Create a Relatable Character

In my first drafts, I often have a problem in making my characters likeable within the first page or two. Since your reader will probably only give you a page or two in the bookstore, you need to capture their interest fast.

I wrote this article, which originally appeared on Suite101, with a few tips on how to do that.

Create a Relatable Character

Use Tips and Tricks to Create Character Empathy in the First Five Pages

In the first five pages of a novel, use actions or traits that psychologically cause readers to relate to or like a character very quickly.

Most readers—including editors and agents—look at the first few pages to determine if the characters are worth reading about.

Writers can utilize certain actions and traits that cause the reader to like the character or relate to him on a psychological level, without knowing anything else about him, and sometimes even showing him doing unsavory things a few pages later.

Utilize for Both Sympathetic and Empathetic Characters

The chara…

The first page, part 7 - Indicate point of view

This is continuing my series on things to look for in your first page.
Click here for part six.

Indicate point of view

Make it obvious to the reader whose head he/she is in. Don’t leave them guessing—readers want to be grounded in the story as soon as possible.

Here is where you can utilize deep point of view and WOW that editor. Drop them into a character’s head—a character who is so fascinating and unique that they’re struck by the vibrancy of the character’s personality or completely relate to the character’s struggles.

Use deep point of view to accomplish this. Let the reader experience the character’s emotions, reactions, thoughts. Let the reader cringe or laugh when the character does. Let the reader feel everything that character feels. Let the reader know exactly what the character thinks about the things happening to him/her.

Let your reader become that character from the first sentence, until your reader is transformed by the end of page one.

Again, forgive me for using my own book…

Q&A: hero

Dear Ms. Tang,

I've read a lot of your articles on writing, trying to shape my idea into a better novel. I've found that one tip I'm finding a hard time following is this...

As soon as you can in the story, commit the character to their goal for the book. There shouldn't be any easy way out or turning back. Once the character decides on a course of action, he can't stall, run, or quit--there should be something logical, believable and powerful preventing him. The character should irrevocably decide to fight whatever danger threatens him.

I don't have an apathetic/unmotivated main character, but I do consider his most identifying personality trait to be the opposite of such heroes as Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker, etc. as he does not yearn for adventure. He is full of self-doubt and lacks confidence, despite being the one destined to save everyone else and having the most potential/power to do so. My idea was to make his biggest enemy himself, needing to overcome h…

The first page, part 6 - Use key words deliberately

This is continuing my series on things to look for in your first page.
Click here for part five.

Use key words deliberately

In the first page, especially, you want to be extremely deliberate with every single word you use. If you have bland or neutral words, try substituting stronger key words that will indicate genre or develop your story’s atmosphere. You can always change it back if it doesn’t sound right or do what you want it to.

(Forgive me for using my own writing as an example, but it was easier than typing up a few paragraphs from a book. The following is from Single Sashimi:)

Venus Chau opened the door to her aunt’s house and smelled something terrible.

“What’s that smell?” She tried to hold her breath.

Her cousin Jennifer Lim entered the foyer with an angry look. “She’s making my kitchen smell.”

“Who?” Venus hesitated on the threshold, breathing clean air.

“My mother, who else?”

versus

Venus Chau opened the door to her aunt’s house and almost fainted.

“What died?” She exhaled sharply…

Story Sensei now offering phone consultations/mentoring

Hi guys!

I now offer telephone consultations or mentoring. Cost is $75 per hour, and I will be able to mail you a CD with an MP3 recording of our call.

I offer consultations/mentoring on a variety of topics, from writing craft to marketing and writing business. I can do brainstorming, advice/mentoring on agent and editor research, tips on marketing, pretty much any kind of question you might have.

Clients are welcome to "try me out" with a 20-minute call at a cost of $25. Finding the "right" mentor for you is like finding the "right" spouse--it takes time, trial and error.

Clients must prepay for their mentoring calls, and all calls are charged in increments of 20 minutes. For example, if your call only lasts 15 minutes, you will be charged $25.

See my info page for payment options.

I'm on deadline

Hey everybody,
Just a heads up, I'm going to be a bit scarce the next few weeks. I'm on deadline for a new book. I'll post a little bit but not regularly. I'll be back up and running in MayUpdate: I'll start posting again around May 10th!
Camy

Tips to Trim a Synopsis

These tips originally appeared as individual blog posts. I'm posting them all here for convenience. If I write more tips on trimming a synopsis, I'll include them here, too.

Why do I need to trim a synopsis?

While I haven’t talked to every editor and agent on the planet, the majority of the ones I’ve spoken to prefer a 2-3 page synopsis.

However, every editor is different. One editor will want a one-page synopsis, another will want an extensive chapter-by-chapter synopsis.

In my experience, it’s usually better to opt for the shorter synopsis when submitting a proposal. If they want a longer one, they usually specifically mention that they do.

Another reason to have a short synopsis handy: Writing contests often have you submit a short, 1-2 page synopsis with your entry.

Here’s a little tip: when querying a novel, it doesn’t hurt to slip a one-page synopsis in with your one-page query letter. And it doesn’t cost any more in postage.

Also, when submitting a partial manuscript or a prop…