Monthly Archives: April 2012

Apr 25

Part Two of a Three Part Series: ‘The End of Sagging Middles’ by Mary Deal

The End of Sagging Middles
Mary Deal

If you missed the first part of this series, you can read it here: Magnetic Beginnings.

Many books I’ve read start off with great beginnings and even end with surprisingly. However, their middles left me wondering why I should keep reading. Truth is, the beginning had set up a situation I wanted to see to completion, so I read to the end. But getting through the middle was nearly an arduous task.

You’ve heard the term sagging middles, right? Many books begin and end in a spectacular manner but the middles offer little. In order to keep your story from developing a sagging middle, you must keep the action going.

In a crime investigation, have some clues show up, only to be disproved. Or have the perpetrator almost caught but gets away.

In science fiction, when the hero flies to a distant planet to rescue his love, have him meet with landing bays locked down tight with no other access to the dying star which will eventually explode. He further meets resistance from ships guarding the planet who want it to fail.

In a romance, have two people falling in love, only to have one person come in contact with the person with whom they were previously involved in a obsessive and addictive affair.

The prescription for sagging middles in all genres is to bolster the action by keeping it going. Anything new can happen in the middle of a story as long as it follows the rest of the action and is written in such a manner as to not look contrived to hold the beginning and ending together. Whatever happens must be natural to what was offered in the beginning.

What action is included should serve to keep the conflict and great tension building throughout. By building in intensity, you not only hold interest through your story middle but set up a more dramatic ending.

Next week: Elusive Endings…!

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Apr 18

Part One of a Three Part Series: ‘Magnetic Beginnings’ by Mary Deal

Magnetic Beginnings
Mary Deal

I use the word magnetic because your story beginning should pull a reader in much like a magnet to metal. Readers look at the start of the first chapter as more than just a glimmer of what’s to come. Your first words, first sentence and first paragraph should give your prospective buyer a feeling of sinking deep into the story and being a part of the plot.

You cannot create this reaction with dead words, lackluster writing and non-descriptive verbiage that says little about the promise of the story.

You can avoid the above pitfalls by jumping smack into the middle of your plot right there at the beginning. Don’t tell how the weather was warm and breezy and no rain was expected. Open your story at a crime scene. Have the characters talk right away. Have the main characters present and also part of the dialogue.

In my novel, Down to the Needle, the story starts with the reader plunged into the middle a raging arson scene. The main characters show up after a few brief bits of desperate dialogue by firemen and police. You know who the main characters are – and they’re not the firemen and police who speak first – because I go on to describe their clothing at the first and insert bits of back-story about their experiences with fires.

For your story beginning, make the open scenes as exciting as possible. Also, make them apropos to the plot. In Down to the Needle, several more unexpected fires happen throughout the story. A fire scene is a great beginning. A person’s senses go on high alert. Adrenaline rushes as if the reader is present at the scene. You want your reader to sense those emotions, and feel the fright and also to share in what all of the characters experience.

In a romance, perhaps, you want your readers to feel the loneliness and longing of someone for the person they love. Or the reader might be made to feel the rejection of someone experiencing a broken relationship. Whatever that romance has to offer, the opening scene must get into the readers’ hearts.

In all genres, not only must your written word be magnetic, beyond being simply appealing, the setting in which the action takes place must grab immediate interest. Write the setting well. Write it to suit the action as well as the dialogue of any characters in the scene.

Beginnings must offer what the potential reader of that genre searches for. Understanding the genre in which you choose to write is the only way to make your openings work.

Next week: The End of Sagging Middles…don’t miss it!

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Apr 11

Want to Use Better Words? Follow Mary Deal’s Advice

Better Words
Mary Deal

Here’s something to ponder upon: There is always a way to say it better. These are some examples:

Afterward, she went on her way.

Ask yourself: How did she go? Instead of went, describe her movements or gait:

Afterward, she sauntered away.

Afterward, she walked away

Danced across the floor

Did a two-step across the floor

Waltzed across the floor

She felt around the floor of the car, trying to find the cell phone.

She groped around the seat and the floor of the car…

She slid her hand between the seats

The thought of dying came to mind.

The thought of bleeding to death came to mind.

The thought of succumbing to a coma and dying came to mind.

The above has two words to watch. We could have used….

The thought of slipping into a coma… instead, succumbing is more dramatic than gently slipping into a coma. Slipping hints at letting herself slip away. Succumbing tells us she put up a gallant fight to stay alive until more powerful forces overtook her. It’s more dramatic.

The fireman holding up her head managed to get his upper body through the open windshield space.

The fireman supporting her head managed to squeeze his upper body through the open windshield space.

Your prose must sing and dance off the page. Anytime you describe what a character does, always check to see if a more descriptive word might apply. Any word to help the reader see the detailed actions that your characters perform is better to use.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Apr 04

‘Becoming Your Characters’ by Mary Deal

Becoming Your Characters
Mary Deal

Several authors have asked why their characters do things they (the author) didn’t understand.

What I find is that you may know your character well, intellectually, as you have outlined in a character sketch or other notes. However, in order to understand the moves your character makes, you must BECOME that character.

In dialogue especially, stand in front of a mirror and talk to yourself as if you are the character talking to you. Notice the facial expressions and physical gestures. Include those in your descriptions. When you feel you are that character, you will understand why they suddenly do something in the story that you hadn’t expected. When you are the character, you will cut loose from any restrictive thinking. This will help you to move the plot or writing through the narrative as well.

In other words, you as the character – what would you do in the situation you have set up? Being the character, what you would do if you wanted to cut loose and respond to a situation in a totally off the wall manner? See where this is going? When you are the character, you understand everything that character does. It frees your thinking to take your story in unexpected directions.

An added plus is that you can and should become any and all of your characters. Once you get in the habit of seeing your story this way, your writing is freed up.

You won’t see your characters as if in a state of unexpected flux.

You won’t see your characters as people other than yourself.

You will see and understand their motives and moves – and they will makes those moves – as totally normal to their personalities.

If you cannot, at least to a tiny degree, become your character, how can you know what they might do? You are the characters you create and you’ve only to respond in a manner apropos to each of the personalities you’ve built.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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