Writing Techniques – Narrate, Exaggerate and Characterise
We want it all and we want it now. Immediate scenes take place before the eyes and are not recounted to a patient audience. We’re still polite, but . . . writers, please.
We reach for the camera on our phones whenever something is worthy of it, sometimes we video it, sometimes click static photos. But that is the test. If we can film it then, by definition, it is immediate.
Sol Stein, A great teacher for creative advice, said: ‘Narrative summary, if written well and briefly, can transport the reader from one immediate scene to another, though this isn’t always necessary. Fiction and reporting have now borrowed a film technique called “jump cutting”, moving from one scene into the next with no transition for time to pass or locales to change. If the scenes must be linked, brief narrative summary can do the linking. How brief?
Martin double locked his door and went to work. In the office…
“went to work” is narrative summary.’ In short. Get rid, writer.
Editors reject books overladen with static description and narrative summary.
What does “action” mean? Hemingway said, ‘Never mistake motion for action.’
Spiked dialogue is action.
Just as we don’t put our own thumbs in the photos, (gulp) so too do we need to keep our own voice out of the story. Either it is natural for our characters to say it and the information moves us forward or it is not needed. Do not interrupt the reader by reminding him or her that there is a writer behind the words. They are not reading because of you; they are reading because of the characters you created.
Writer: Cue Action
‘Thibaut Courtois is so tall, he stoops into the room as if expecting the beam to hit him.’
Nanci Kincaid in Crossing Blood lets the reader experience Skippy’s bravery through action:
Skippy will pick up a snake as quick as he will a cat. He will let one crawl on his neck and down his arm, a black snake, until Roy and me go crazy watching him. More than once he let Roy and me hold one, which we did, but we had to practically quit breathing to do it.’
Add a DumPster FuLL of Stylish ExaGGeraTioN
‘The worst thing about George, though, worse than his nasty mouth, full of missing and broken teeth, worse than his fleas and sore spots, was the fact that he was missing one eyeball. He had an empty hole in his head. You could poke your finger in there and he wouldn’t even twitch.’
Own Your Tools as a Writer – Five ways to Characterise
- Physical attributes
- Clothing or the manner of wearing clothing
- Psychological attributes and mannerisms
What makes a character extraordinary?
Distinctive traits of an individual, made up, adhoc, of disposition, temperament, individuality and eccentricity.
Ooh. So True.