When I wrote The Silent Partner, I wrote it with visual stimulations of storytelling that I hoped would resonate with readers. Sure, there had to be great mechanics, grammar, structure, character, story construction, and prose. But to make emotion resonate throughout the story visually, the reader had to see and feel the story unfold.
I often get frustrated reading stories that have too much description (and adverbs) or not enough of it. (Straight dialogue does get right to it, doesn’t it? To me, this can be even more like a screenplay, but–personal taste–I desire to read stories that allow me to sink into the story.)
Of course, I had no idea if I was going the right direction with The Silent Partner, but after winning two Eric Hoffer Awards, including 1st Place in Commercial Fiction, now I really hope I’m onto something. I’m not proclaiming this process is revolutionary. It’s simple: connect with readers swiftly and powerfully. I wrote the novel this way, and will do this with the next one as well.
Simple tactics I employed:
- Details matter, but too many of them distract the reader and slow the narrative drive.
- Use the details that mean something. Use symbolism when appropriate, and don’t use clichéd ones.
- Stay away from adverbs whenever possible. It forces you to show the reader something a different way. Some readers think adverbs are lazy. I normally just don’t like the way they look on the page. (The occasional adverb is also more powerful then, too.)
- I was willing to get rid of “well-written passages” that didn’t move the story along aforementioned: swiftly and powerfully.
- I stayed away from melodrama but embraced drama. It connects.
- Stories are made great by fascinating characters. I spent a lot of time on building and complicating them. And they change with well-thought-out reasons.
- I allowed the story to have waves, or levels. Strong dialogue sections separate from action sequences. Exposition was simply written, and I worked hard to use the right language to get the ideas out quickly. With as few words possible. Then the story moved along more quickly, too.
- Find ways to say things without dialogue.
- Create scenes that have visually stunning–and relevant–actions. Then, they become memorable.
- The audience is smarter than we sometimes give them credit for. Don’t forget this. We don’t always need to spell everything out.
Here’s to more great storytelling.
The biggest problem working on a project is when you want to get started on another one. Been there? The juices aren’t just flowing, they’re growing, and you know that moving forward with another idea–or group of ideas–is a bad move when project number one hasn’t been completed to satisfaction. How do you cope?
Consider letting your new idea ferment a little, like a good chianti. (No fava beans, please.) Let yourself be even more inspired–if that’s possible–to finish your current work. Maybe you’ll move faster, or obstacles will know to move out of your way when they see you coming. (Don’t think of yourself as Moses. It will come off badly, I promise.) Embrace and document all of your ideas, big and small, and put them in a drawer, on a Word doc, or on a memo on your iPad . . . whatever . . . but don’t let go the focus of your current project. Get it done.
After all, wouldn’t you rather have one finished piece of work–to your satisfaction–than ten unfinished ones?
There are many articles and books out there to help the discouraged writer in search of inspiration. With no one right way to do it, many of my writer friends and entrepreneurs are looking for their next awakening. What will spur their emotions and catapult their careers? (Click here for 50 ways that one writer suggests to help you dig deep. I particularly enjoyed the “Read alumni newsletters” idea.)
This weekend I saw Limitless, with a well-written screenplay by Leslie Dixon, based on the gritty novel, The Dark Fields , by Alan Glynn. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a writer with writer’s block that comes upon a drug that helps him uncover his previously concealed and unknown brilliance. Of course, plenty of problems arise, his life is in danger, and he discovered that he really could write. If it was only that easy . . .
The movie made me think. First, I don’t need a drug of any kind to be neurotic about keeping my home clean. Next, I’m careful not to approach the subject of acquiring ideation as an expert because I, like everyone, know only what works for me. Where do good ideas come from? And where do you go when you run out of them?
I don’t read books on where to get ideas, but I do read books. And the news. Sometimes, when I’m busy or just irritated with the prospect of having to read the news––in any fashion––I watch it. Then, there’s music and movies. I share my time with motivating friends who have ideas for their lives and want to be more of what they are. Spend time with loved ones, because that’s where conflict is sure to come up. (You know it’s true.) I’m curious to see new places and when I’m trying to save money . . . I read about them. Or experience them in a more time-economical fashion, like going to new parts of town and visiting cultured restaurants. And listen to more music and watch more movies! (I really should play more outside.)
Then again . . . I could actually open one of my alumni newsletters.
This blog entry is dedicated to my good friend, Jerry Jao.