Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Few Good Points

Posted by Eileen Astels

I've been working through James N. Frey's How To Write A Damn Good Novel lately and want to share a few key points that struck a cord with me as I feverishly work on edits once more.

#1: "...as soon as you open your story, give your reader an emotional touchstone--plunge a character into an emotion-provoking situation." Isn't that so true? When I think of the books that grabbed me right from the first line, they were all ones where I was immediately emotionally invested because the character dealt with some emotional challenge.

#2: Indirect dialogue makes a character "more unique and interesting." James Frey gives some awesome examples of how a straight shooting guy asking a girl on a date can be transformed from boring to a highly-charged character-revealing and entertaining scene. Indirect dialogue really does work to liven a scene. Have you tried it lately?

#3: When writing dialogue consider the following check list of questions. "Is it in conflict? Is it trite? Can it be said better indirectly? Is the line as clever and colorful as it can be?" Just thinking of going through all my dialogue and quizzing myself over and over with these four questions makes me nauseated. But...from seeing James Frey's samples and how altering to comply with these suggestions makes the dialogue so much richer, I know it will be worth the creative challenge.

And finally,
#4: Did you know there are seven senses for a writer to consider? And hear I thought I was writing to appeal to only five all this time. James Frey's seven senses are: "hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, the psychic sense, and a sense of humor." I love it. Don't you? By appealing to all these senses throughout our stories we create a fuller, all-encompassing read that has the ability to touch our readers. Do your characters have intuition or feel fear just because...? That's a bit of psychic sense, isn't it? And humor definitely goes a long way in grabbing and keeping my interest. Humor can really come alive in indirect dialogue. Have you tried it?

There is, of course, much more in this book to make a writer scramble for more editing time, but I thought I'd share the top four for me to work on in my manuscript. Is there any particular area you heavily address in your editing phase? Inquiring minds want to know.

Surrendering to Him,

Eileen

17 comments:

sherrinda said...

I hadn't thought about the psychic sense before, that intuition we all have at times. This sounds like a great book! Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer Shirk said...

When I go back and edit, I focus on adding more internal to layer up the emotion more and make sure their internal conflict is more clear.
Great post!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Hi, Sherrinda, I hadn't connected intuition or that sixth sense to actual sense we should include before, either. I've always utilized it in my stories, but never really thought of it as yet another sense to incorporate. This book just validated it for me. It's a quick read and very insightful. I do recommend it, even though some of the language he uses is a little offensive at times. He doesn't sugar coat things, let's say.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Jennifer, I do that too, but I also prune that in certain sections, too. Some days I must be an emotional high because I go overboard on the internalization thoughts, so in the edit rounds I have to snip away. But I also find areas that need a little beefing up of it. Oh, the joy of editing.

Terri Tiffany said...

I like the sense of humor! Great post as always!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Terri, I love sense of humor in books. I'm still working on mastering how to incorporate more of it in mine.

Jessica said...

These are awesome. I really like the indirect dialogue thingy, if I'm understanding correctly. I'm pretty sure I do that. Have one character ask a question but the other not answer directly, but instead ask a different question or make a statement.
LOL I have no clue if that just made sense.

Great tips Eileen!

Jody Hedlund said...

Great suggestions, Eileen! I hadn't ever heard of seven senses! But I like it! (Especially the sense of humor.) Reminds me of Sherrinda's blog post from yesterday!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Jessica, totally get it, but there is even more to indirect dialogue according to Frey. It can be like talking criptically and inventively, as well, to skirt the real issue the character is wanting to discuss. Not just answering a different question than was asked. It's a real fun way of writing dialogue.

Jody, this was a first for me too on the seven senses, but it makes total sense. I love those two extras.

Jeanette Levellie said...

So, you have managed to squeeze in reading with all your baking and editing... do you sleep at all?

I agree: sense of humor is an important factor. I never thought of it as a sense before now!
Thanks, Eileen!

When i edit, i look for zingier words, tighten up the sentences, and read aloud to see how it flows. I know yours is different with fiction, but the principles are similar.

Blessings!
Jen

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Jeanette, you're right, fiction and non-fiction is similar writing in many ways. And finding those perfect words and getting that flow is essential.

And, yes, I have been sleeping (must have my sleep), and I've even managed to add a couple pounds to myself, too, much to my dismay. I seriously wanted to avoid sampling. Guess I didn't pray hard enough. Bad me!

Amy De Trempe said...

I haven't read the book yet, but it sounds like I should. When I am in edits I have my list of senses, which now have 2 added, and make sure I touched on these. I always have to beef up my descriptions.

Keli Gwyn said...

Great post, Eileen. I like the seven senses idea. Fun!

As I revise, I try to work in more indirect dialogue. It does add so much to a story.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Amy, Thanks for stopping by. It's an interesting read for sure. I hope you get a chance to peruse it.

Keli, given the examples offered in this book, I was amazed at how much more alive a scene became with indirect dialogue. It really connects with the reader on a level that direct dialogue can't. A great writer's tool for sure. Thanks for stopping by.

Warren Baldwin said...

Eileen,
You've convinced me to get a copy of this book. Thanks. WB

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Warren, let me know what you think of it. I hope you find it as helpful as I do.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Wow!
You have some great comments, and no wonder. You wrote a good article.
Love,
Molly