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Friday, February 17, 2012

Endorsements for worksheets?

Hey guys,

If you've bought and used my worksheets and want to write an endorsement for me, please email me at storysensei {at] gmail [dot} com. I'll post your endorsement on my Endorsements page and also include your name and website if you want, just let me know.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Q and A: Passive Voice

I recently had a question on Facebook about passive voice, and Heather let me answer the question on my blog. Thanks Heather!

Mrs. Tang, can you recommend resources for overcoming passive voice. PV keeps sneaking it's way into my story! I didn't see a entry about PV on your Story Sensei blog. Any advice?

Camy: When a writer mentions “passive voice,” there are actually two different things they could mean. (Or sometimes, they mean both!)

1) passive sentences, meaning sentences with passive verbs instead of active verbs


2) a passive writer’s voice, meaning the writing itself is rather stale rather than active and vibrant


Passive verbs like “was” and “were” are small and almost unnoticeable, but they tend to distance the reader from the story. By replacing passive verbs with strong action verbs, you can improve the prose dramatically.

For passive sentences, I have a quick and dirty solution that I use all the time.

First, I write the manuscript and don’t worry about passive verbs. I just write them and let them go. I want to just finish the manuscript and not worry about all the endless passive verbs I’ve used.

Then, I will do a “Find” in my word processing program (I use Mac Pages, but many of you probably use Microsoft Word, or Scrivener, or OpenOffice). I will Find “was” and “were” in my manuscript and revise each sentence with more active verbs.

Obviously, there will be places you can’t replace the passive verb, and that’s expected. There’s actually nothing wrong with the verb “was” (or “to be” in any form). It’s not passive in itself (example: She was his sister), but when you combine it with another verb (example: she was walking, she was feeling, she was hoping) it weakens the sentence. If you can replace as many passive verbs as you can find with stronger verbs, the overall vividness of your manuscript will skyrocket.


If your feel like your writing voice itself isn’t vibrant, then a book I can recommend is Finding Your Writer’s Voice by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall. Just to warn you, not all the exercises resonated with me, but there were several that really challenged me to develop my writer’s voice and helped me to really refine and bring it out. (Disclaimer: if you use the link above to buy the book on Amazon, I get a small kickback since I belong to Amazon Associates.)

Heather, I hope this answered your question! If it didn’t, let me know in the comments and I’ll refine my answer.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Q&A - Character Voices

I got the below message from Michael, who graciously agreed to let me answer his questions on the blog in case some of his questions are those some of you are curious about, too.

Hi Camy,

Do you have any tutorials, suggestions, tips on how to ‘hear’ a character’s voice? It is a problem that continually vexes me.
I have some evil dudes and their voice, the sound of their voice, is not something I’ve been able to hear in my head. I’ve searched
on you tube for evil voices, experimented with voice altering software and tried to imagine it. And sometimes, when I imagine the
voice, I can hear how I want it to sound, but I can’t retain the memory of so lose it for the future.

To hear the character’s voice, or at least a close approximation, would do so much for writing their dialog.

What do you do? Do you have that problem? Any solutions out there for aspiring writers?

Camy: That's a good question! I often have to resort to different measures to be able to write different character voices.

For me, the best way is to watch movies over and over. That way, I not only hear the character voice, I see the actor's movements and quirks and can incorporate that into my vision of the character.

Being able to visualize the character more fully usually allows me to write their voices in more detail.

It makes sense, if you think about it. The more you know about a person, the more you can predict what they'll say or do. Therefore, the more you "know" about a character--through vocal tone, cadence, accent, facial expressions, body movements, emotional output--the better you'll be able to write that character in your book.

I will usually pick one character in a movie and then watch that movie over and over to spy all the minute details of the actor playing the character. The character's backstory doesn't have to be the same as your character, they just have to have the type of voice and movements that you want.

Then, when you write, you imagine the actor having the backstory of your character, and you write the character with the actor's movements and voice but with your character's personality and backstory.

It's not a perfect system, but it seems to work for me, especially if I can watch the movie over and over. For Protection for Hire, I watched the TV series Dark Angel to get a feel for my character, Tessa, because I wanted her to have the look, voice, and street rat mentality of the Dark Angel character, Max.

I think it's best if you use an entire movie or TV series because then you have more time with the actor and the actor's character. If you only use a clip, I don't know if you'd get a good enough feel for the character to be able to completely know how the character/actor would react with the dialogue that you write in your book.

I hope that helps! Good luck with your writing!


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Deep Point of View Worksheet

Hey guys! I have a new worksheet available for download!

I have had a lot of requests for my Deep Point of View online workshop, but I haven't been able to hold it because of time and because I've been trying to cut back on my Story Sensei stuff due to my sore wrists.

So instead of holding my Deep Point of View workshop, I've made my notes and workshop into a .pdf worksheet that you can download for less than the cost of the online workshop. Those of you who have been hoping to take my Deep POV class can now download the worksheet and get all my tips and tricks.

Deep Point of View Worksheet

Want to rivet your reader to the page? Want to make your writing richer emotionally? Want your characters to be more vivid? Learn ways to draw the reader into the mind, body, and soul of your characters through deep point of view techniques. By the end of the worksheet you’ll have:

1) Ways to strengthen the emotional writing and draw the reader deeper into the character’s point of view

2) An understanding of the structural elements of a scene to help you know when and how to add deep-POV emotions

3) Tips for how to tweak wording in order to deepen point of view on a minute level, which contributes to a richer point of view for the manuscript as a whole

4) A finely honed radar for spotting “Telling” and shallow POV through exercises

This 31-page worksheet consists of lessons, homework, and fun exercises for you to see lots of deep and shallow POV examples. You’ll learn lots of simple techniques to help you deepen your character’s point of view.

10/2014: Update: I am in the process of updating and formatting these worksheets to have them available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks! If you bought them before and would like the updated versions, please email me at with the email address you used when you bought the worksheet (so I can find your order) and I will be happy to email you an .epub or .mobi file of the updated worksheet(s) you bought when they're available. If you would like to be notified when my worksheets will be available as ebook versions, just subscribe to my Story Sensei blog using the Feedblitz form on the right side.
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