Quick Fixes In Writing

Over the past few years I’ve discovered there are a large number of quick fixes in writing, particularly in dealing with the “context” of how a passage is written. And I’d like to share my experience with other writers, pointing out the simple fixes to return the balance of perspective for the reader.

In doing so, I’ll provide real writing examples, because I love to show. So let’s see if you can spot the mistakes within the first line of each example. All are written in 3rd Person from the heroine’s POV.

  • She heard the tap of John’s boots coming into the bedroom before she saw his tall, athletic body, his head held high, his stride firm.

I’ll rewrite to fix the sequence of events. Read the changes and see which of the two you believe is more accurate.

  • She heard the tap of boots in the hallway. Someone was coming. The bedroom door opened and John strode in, his chin lifting, his white t-shirt pulling tight across a broad chest.

Both passages say the same thing–but which do you prefer? If you’ve noticed, in the first example we are “told” what is happening, and in the second there is a switch to “showing.” Do we really know who’s coming into a room before we see them? And how do we show an athletic body? How do we show a head held high? Read it again and see what you think. Is the rewrite more accurate?

Let’s do another example. To set the scene the heroine has rung her divorced mother, telling her she has a problem with her father.

  • Anger sizzled down the phone line. “What has your father done now?” her mother asked.

I’ll rewrite to fix the context of writing, because can anger really sizzle down a line? No. We understand what is being said in the line, but there is a better way to “show” it.

  • “What has your father done now?” her mother bit out, low and hard.

In this rewrite we hear the dialogue first–and this is the key. For how is our heroine meant to know her mother is angry before she even speaks? She can only know once she has, and only from the tone of her voice. Anger is an emotion, and not viewable down a phone line. It is heard, and therefore must be shown in the correct way.

I hope I’ve enlightened with these quick fixes in dealing with “context in writing.” If you’ve enjoyed this week’s post, then tune in next week for some more tidbits. Simply check out the right-hand side panel, and enter your email address to “follow the blog.” If you want, also click “like” on my FB author page to the right. I’d love you to join me.

* * * *

Flower-Art-Pistil-Pink-1-1920x1200 - Copy

PROTECTOR–BUY THE BOOK: Amazon Kindle / B&N Nook / iTunes / Lyrical Press / Kobo.

Flower-Art-Pistil-Pink-1-1920x1200 - Thank You2

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Quick Fixes In Writing

  1. Joanne you’re going to get tired of me because I don’t ever seem to be able to leave short comments. It’s just that when it comes to writing, I *love* discussing it.

    First let me say that I like your tips. They come in short, easy to digest amounts so we don’t get ‘information overload’. 🙂

    In your first example I was a little confused which was the right one, but only because you didn’t set the scene up like you did for the second example. The first example looked fine *if* she knew John was in the house with her. If not then yeah, that second example is awesome!

    You could also surprise the reader like this (and I hope you don’t mind me using your example):

    *****

    She heard the tap of John’s boots coming into the bedroom. She turned, expecting to see his tall athletic body and that arrogant look he always wore and gasped when she realized it wasn’t John, but a stranger standing there.

    *****

    OMG! Who is standing there? A man? A woman?

    Of course that only works if your story calls for it. I was just having some fun.

    Your second example: I LOVE your first example! I love it when authors describe something mundane in unusual ways.

    Ex: ‘He groaned as she moved her hands over his body, her own skin tingling in sympathy.’

    Can skin tingle in sympathy? I dunno, but it sure sounds nice!

    Ex: ‘Time slowed down, the minutes dripping one by one like tallow.’

    Can minutes drip? Nope, but it reads well, maybe for a Western where the reference can work.

    So, for your example, could you maybe write it like this?

    *****

    “What has your father done now?” her mother bit out, low and hard.

    She swore she could hear the woman’s anger sizzling down the phone line.

    *****

    I’m totally not trying to upstage your post. I’m tossing ideas back at you. Your writing is spot on and I love the tips!

    What do you think about the phone conversation though? Could you use the ‘sizzling’ descript, or is it still incorrect? I just really loved that 🙂

    1. Hi Cadence. Lovely to hear from you. I really don’t mind long comments. You go for it. Now to cover your examples, which I think are great.
      Eg–“He groaned as she moved her hands over his body, her own skin tingling in sympathy.”
      You asked if you could write it like this–and what I’d do is have fun with the word sympathy by changing it to dialogue. Your sentence is tantalising, and as a reader I want more than what you’ve given me.
      New eg– “He groaned as she moved her hands over his body, her own skin tingling. “(Now give me the sympathy in dialogue–what would she say.)”
      Your 2nd eg–“Time slowed down, the minutes dripping one by one like tallow.” –This is great, because you’ve used the words “like tallow.” This is spot on because you’re giving your reader a visual with a “like” reference. You haven’t actually said the minutes dripped as tallow, but like tallow. See the difference?
      Your 3rd eg–“She swore she could hear the woman’s anger sizzling down the phone line.” Again you’re referencing to “she swore she could hear.” This is great. You can’t actually hear anger sizzling, but you’ve written it in a way which is accurate, for the heroine is imagining she can hear it.

      That’s exactly what this post is about–looking at our writing and “applying the quick fixes.” Oh–I am so proud of you. Great work!

  2. Hey Joanne, thank you for your patience. I enjoy volleying these examples back and forth. I appreciate your encouragement too 🙂

    Joanne wrote:
    You asked if you could write it like this–and what I’d do is have fun with the word sympathy by changing it to dialogue. Your sentence is tantalising, and as a reader I want more than what you’ve given me.
    New eg– “He groaned as she moved her hands over his body, her own skin tingling. “(Now give me the sympathy in dialogue–what would she say.)”

    _________

    I’m not really sure. This scene was taken from something I wrote around 10 years ago, and it’s during a very explicit sex scene between a human (woman) and an alien. They did not have a whole lot to say to each other 😉 It was more about how they felt during the encounter.

    This sentence was written at the end of one explicit scene as a small break before another explicit scene began. That is as much context as I can share because the rest is unprintable for a blog post such as this.

    May I ask how you would incorporate the word sympathy into a piece of dialogue here? (no worries about playing around with this – it came from a story I never submitted. It was something I wrote for a close group of friends who all wrote similar things.)

    Gosh I’m sorry if I sound totally dense here *blush*

    1. No problem. Firstly the new background you’ve given is tantalising. Sympathy can therefore be a little on the sly side. And even if your characters don’t have a lot to say to each other, during a sex scene there is usually inuendo within tone and body language that both would understand, no matter if they might not speak the same language. That being the case, my dialogue to play around with this would be–

      He groaned as she moved her hands over his body, her own skin tingling. “Don’t be worried.” She leaned in, curving her leg over his hip . “This isn’t going to hurt one little bit. We’ve only just begun.”

  3. OH! I thought you meant incorporating the actual word ‘sympathy’ into the dialogue – as in, I have sympathy for you. No wonder I was lost :p (See? I AM a denseling LOL!)

    That’s cool Joanne 🙂 Thank you for explaining, I really appreciate it you taking your precious time to reply back. I don’t really have anything further to add to this discussion so I’ll sit back and let others participate.

    xx

  4. Your examples help to point out that those excellent, tantalizing, can’t-put-it-down books don’t just happen. A lot of cerebral thinking and studying goes into each and every one. Well done, Joanne!

  5. I see what you mean. The first examples sound bland, especially the first one.Stuff like this makes a book more dynamic and more interesting.

Comments are closed.