Tag Archives: rule

Jun 08

Details! Details! “Unseen Background Details” by Mary Deal

Unseen Background Details
by
Mary Deal

As a writer, you may find that TV characters can be emotionally flat time and again. What sets them apart, even what gets the viewer to like them, is that we can see them. We see their facial expressions and how they react to other people and occurrences. We see their actions, which express motivations and emotion. We see the background scenery and how they act and react in such a setting.

What we see on TV or in a film is exactly what many writers fail to include in their stories. What we see in a picture doesn’t have to be explained because we see it. When writing our stories and books, we have to describe most of this for the reader.

A simplified example: If the reader doesn’t know the character is caught out in a rainstorm, how will the reader know anything except that the character is walking down a street?

We must describe the setting. If it was raining, don’t stop there.

Was it a thunderstorm or simply sprinkling?

Did the character get caught without a raincoat and umbrella?

Was the sky dark, or was the sun shining through the rain?

Was the wind blowing?

Who else was nearby and how did they react to the rain?

We writers have to include in our written works anything that might otherwise be seen when viewing the same scene on TV or in a film. Yet, we cannot over-do the details by stopping the story and describing the background.

Every detail necessary should be woven into the action. Which do you prefer?

The sky was dark. Lightning lit up the distance sky. Thunder rolled. The wind was fierce. It bent her umbrella backwards. She discarded it. Rain pelted down. She wore a raincoat but was still caught in the rain.

Or this:

When lightning flashed and thunder rolled again and the deluge came, she grabbed the collar of her raincoat, drew it up around her neck, and began running. Her umbrella bent backwards as the wind tore it from her hands. Her hair hung in loose wet ringlets as water streamed off the ends and ran down inside the coat. How did she ever let herself get caught alone on a dark street with wind strong enough to blow her over the side of the bridge? And why had that dark sedan slowed its speed to keep pace directly behind her?

The rule is never to stop the story to describe the background or scene, but to include the surroundings among the action performed by each character and as it affects that character.

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

Posted in Author Blogs, Author Colleagues, Guest Blogging, Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Apr 06

Sex…with Finesse by Mary Deal (Contains Adult Content: That Ought to Bring in a Few Extra Visitors!)

Sex…with Finesse
by
Mary Deal

(Adult content)

One way to ruin a good story is with a lackluster sex scene or bedroom scene.

As I edit writers, one of the most important problems I find is that fledgling writers have great difficulty writing the obligatory sex scenes, love scenes, bedroom scenes, whatever. Men and women have different types of difficulty. Some women seem afraid to put their feelings and emotions on paper for the entire world to see. Men write withholding or censuring words, or they express the idea of sex without emotion.

What I tell both men and woman is to secretly write down – commit to paper in longhand – everything they know about sex – everything beautiful or every lewd act they know of. Writing with pen and paper keeps a person connected to their concentration. These can be quick notes or the whole scene in paragraphs. Write every dirty word that comes to mind. (Are there really any dirty words anymore?) In committing to paper, something they must do is to additionally write from the POV of the opposite gender. Too, the writer should describe the sex act from the first gleam in the eye all the way to orgasm. Since no one will ever see what is being written, they are to use any words or any language to describe the scene they wish to express.

Another exercise is to write a column of one-word descriptions. When finished, begin again at the top. Only this time, write a complimentary word from the POV of the opposite sex. This provides not only an idea of how well you understand the opposite gender’s POV but also provides a measure of how well you’ll be able to write a response from the opposite sex into the story.

Write everything you know about sex. Take the time to do the exercise just once. When I once ask a guy how much he knew of his real life partner’s ability to respond to him, his response was, “I just keep trying to —- her. She’ll come around.” Needless to say, he wrote some of the most worthless and incomplete sex scenes I have ever read.

One writer reached a point of having finally written a sex scene so well that she went on to write more. I know what her motivation was, considering when you write thorough love scenes, it has the potential to keep you rocking on the edge of your seat!

The simple rule is just once; write everything you personally know about sex. Every bad word and every phrase. When it’s all written down, for sure, you won’t want anyone seeing it or pre-reading some juicy love scene you’ve decided to include in your next story. Heaven forbid they might get to know you better!

This is only an exercise. To keep your thoughts private till you’re ready to do some serious writing, destroy your notes when the exercise is completed. But don’t just simply tear them up and flush them. Celebrate. Burn ’em! Tear them up into fine little pieces and burn them in a bowl much like a funeral pyre. Celebrate the end of frustration and inability to write about sex.

What one gains from the exercise is this: Once completed in privacy, with the repressed thoughts on paper, you will have brought yourself in touch with sex as you know it. You will have faced the fact that you’re either too shy about sex or too brazen, or anything in between. The simple act of committing your knowledge to paper in private seems to allow us to better write about the act when it must be included in stories. For once, you will have written all you know about sex. The initial reason for clumsily stumbling through the obligatory scenes is gone. Committing your views to paper that first time only once is, for the writer, like the first step on the moon. Once you take that first step, you overcome hesitation and apprehension.

You needn’t analyze your responses to these exercises and try to convince yourself that you understand yourself sexually. All this exercise accomplishes is to help you find easier ways of expressing sexuality through writing. It’s almost like saying, “Never mind who you are. Just get in touch with it.” The premise is that once you have written all you know about sex, you will not hesitate to write about it again.

You may not be happy with the very next love scene you write but now you will be able to examine and critique the scene in first draft. Having already written something you know conditions the mind, and the Muse. Now you’ll want to improve upon your scene and your Muse will happily comply. After all, you’ve already written out far more than you need.

Most critics say that in writing sex scenes that we are to suggest, or imply the action. Tantalize your reader with only suggestions of what people do in the sex scenes. Suggest. Writing out every last detail of the sex act becomes nothing more than pornography. That could ruin the image your story needs to convey. You will know exactly what you wish to include in your descriptions and what to leave out after having completed this simple exercise.

This is a good sex scene, leaving something to the imagination:

With all the teasing they had done through dinner – subliminal foreplay – he was already too excited when he slipped between the sheets beside her. He seemed hesitant. The moment she pressed her body against his, he pulled away suddenly and his breathing changed. He clutched a handful of sheet and drew it to himself as he struggled to maintain his composure. Then he said, “I-Im sorry. We’re going to have to wait a while.”

At first she was disappointed. Then she realized she had teased him mercilessly and kept him waiting right through coffee and desert and had herself, brought on his great embarrassment. She smiled, nibbled his ear then prodded his shoulder. “Roll over,” she said. “I’ll give you a feather massage.”

This, to me, is what I call porn writing:

With all the teasing they had done through dinner – subliminal foreplay – he was too excited as he slipped between the sheets. He pressed hard against her and his body felt coarse and clammy. He clutched at her buttocks and breathed heavily and immediately lost it on her thigh.

She felt dirty and frustrated. Her super stud was a dud. In disgust, she threw back the sheet and made a dash for a hot shower where one potential evening of good sex slid down the drain.

Did the coarseness of the second version destroy the sensuousness you felt from the first?

While I realize both versions will appeal to different audiences and that both versions have their places in appropriate plots, it’s still better to leave something to the imagination even if you have your character purging her disappointment in the shower.

Learn to write sex scenes with finesse. It’ll work in every plot.

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

Posted in Author Blogs, Author Colleagues, Guest Blogging, Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Feb 02

That Pesky Letter “S” As Only Mary Deal Can Tell Us

The letter S
by
Mary Deal

Drop the s. If you believe that one letter couldn’t possible cause you to receive a rejection, I encourage you to think again, especially if the same mistake recurs throughout your manuscript.

Incorrect usage comes from the lax attitude about our English language. Most people speak in jargon or a brogue that comes from a certain locale. I also call it family hand-me-down language. Truth is, no matter from where you hail, your written grammar must be correct for a broader audience.

I’m speaking of the letter “s.” Check out these sentences:

She ran towards the garage.

The ball rolled backwards.

Look upwards.

These sentences are all incorrect. That is, the use of the letter s is incorrect.

The letter s denotes something plural. In the first sentence, if you move toward something, you can only go in one direction. Toward.

If the ball rolled backward, it can only go in one direction. Backward.

If you look upward, you can only look in one direction. Upward.

Strangely, an example of an exception is:

She leaned sideways.

The rule here is that when leaning, you can lean sideways in more than one direction, therefore the use of the s.

You’ll find many other words that are incorrectly used with s endings. When you find these, make note of them, maybe a running list. You’ll have the list to refer back to when you question your own writing.

This is but one of the finite idiosyncrasies of producing better grammar when writing stories and books that you hope to sell. Study your own language and speech. Watch how the s is used or omitted in books that you love to read. Get into the habit of listening to the speech patterns of others. Be critical of what you hear, but never critical of a person who speaks that way. Instead, mentally analyze what you have heard. Learn the right from the wrong of speech and your writing will reflect your knowledge.

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

Posted in Author Blogs, Author Colleagues, Guest Blogging, Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
Jan 05

One of My Personal Pet Peeves: Fewer or Less!

Fewer or Less
by
Mary Deal

These two words are not interchangeable. I see many incorrect usages but the rules about how they are used can be easily explained. Can you tell which of these sentences is incorrect?

~ I’ve written less books than some authors I know.

~ I’ve written fewer books than some authors I know.

Or how about:

~ I spend less time writing than I do editing.

~ I spend fewer time writing than I do editing.

Or these:

~ There were less pencils on his desk.

~ There were fewer pencils on his desk.

In some sentences, you can tell when it doesn’t sound right. Here again is when the rule “write how you speak” does not apply. We all use colloquialisms and never notice our poor grammar, maybe till we become writers. But keep in mind, an avid reader knows when a sentence is incorrect and will make mental note of it. Too many of these errors and the reader will become frustrated and, perhaps, not read another story or book by that author.

The rule is:

~ The word fewer applies to individual quantities.

~ The word less applies to items in bulk.

My Oxford dictionary offers this:

“Make sure you distinguish between fewer and less. Use fewer with plural nouns, as in there are fewer people here today; use less with nouns referring to things that can’t be counted, as in there is less blossom on this tree.”

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

Posted in Author Blogs, Author Colleagues, Guest Blogging, Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Aug 18

“Choosing a Point of View”…Important Advice from Mary Deal

Selecting a point of view for your stories is the first step in finding your “voice” in writing.

When you begin to write a story, whether a short story or a novel, you first need to know from which point of view (POV) the story will be told. You can always change this once the story is written or just doesn’t work out the way you had intended, but it’s best to plan from the beginning.

You cannot successfully write a story unless you’ve chosen your point of view.

1st Person POV – The story is told through the mind of one character. 1st Person is also used when the author is telling a story or nonfiction experience from his or her own POV. When writing this way, what unfolds in the telling can only be what the point of view character perceives. The author cannot provide a point of view from another character’s mind.

2nd Person POV – The writer speaks directly to another character using “you.” 2nd Person is the least favored and most difficult point of view to use in fiction. The reader then becomes the protagonist; the hero or heroine. Joyce Carol Oates writes in 2nd Person.

3rd Person POV – Stories are usually written through the main character’s POV. Use 3rd person to replace the tightness of 1st and 2nd Person in a story. 3rd Person can be broken down into varying styles of points of view. Here are three:

• 3rd Person Limited – This means that the entire story is written from the main character’s POV and everything is told in past tense. The reader gets to know only what the main POV character knows. I find this stimulating because it can hide the obvious and keep the climax a secret till the riveting ending. This is the POV that is easiest to read and is readily accepted by publishers.

• 3rd Person Omniscient – The narrator takes an all encompassing view of the story action. Many points of view can be utilized. This can be quite an intricate way to write because too much detail needs to be included and may over-complicate the story. A poorly written omniscient story may inadvertently give away the ending thereby deflating a reader’s enjoyment. A well-written story in this POV was And then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

•3rd Person Multiple – The story is told from several characters’ points of view. This has an effect to heighten drama and action if successful at writing from multiple characters’ points of view. Tony Hillerman’s Coyote Waits is a perfect example here.

No set rule for points of view applies when writing. A writer usually sticks to the POV that feels comfortable.

If you are a beginning writer, try writing several paragraphs, including dialogue, from each POV. You will know immediately what feels right for your way of storytelling.

I suggest you stick with one character’s POV to begin with. Even successful writers risk giving readers whiplash when pinging back and forth between points of view.

Nora Roberts head-hops but does it with such skill the reader barely notices the jumps.

Once you have established your favored POV, get busy writing your story. Your “voice” will develop as you write. “Voice” is your storytelling ability; it identifies your style.
Read More

Posted in Author Blogs, Author Colleagues | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Jul 21

Mary Deal Writes about “Starting Your Story”

When starting to write your story, don’t begin at the beginning, please! One of the main reasons writers fail to get their stories written is that they don’t know where to begin.

Once we have a story in mind, we’ve most likely created our fictional characters, to a degree. We know what makes them the people they are. We may even know how they will play out their parts in the plot, and therein lays the pitfall.

Many writers want to include a character’s life history. They feel if they do not include all of that information, the reader will not build empathy. This thought is a fallacy. How many times have you met a person you’d never met before? When he’s introduced, he wise-cracks, but in a manner that leads to like him right away. You don’t know his history, but you know that you and he will get along.

Thinking along the lines of presenting a character’s history, a writer may try to include much personal history, known as back story. If this has happened to you, have you asked yourself why you’re writing all this information and you haven’t yet begun the story? My advice here is that if you try to include at the beginning – don’t.

Here’s an example:

You’re writing a romance and your protagonist, a lady, is much sought after and can have her pick of suitors. But she hesitates to allow anyone to know her because she’s been jilted more than once.

So you, the writer, feel you must clue your reader about what makes her timid and hesitant before you can continue with the story you wish to tell. You think a Prologue would do the trick. Don’t even try it. Unless you’re an experienced writer with an established following who don’t care what or how you write, a prologue comes across as a new writer’s inability to incorporate back story into the plot.

Any back story included should pertain to the action of the real story you wish to write. The rule is that if whatever you include in the telling of the tale does not move the plot along, it should be cut. Since all that history stalls the plot and keeps it in the past, it has no purpose for being included.

Getting back to the example above, in this case the reader should be told what makes this much sought after beauty so fickle. The way to include relevant information is….

Let’s say she is interested in a man but fights an inner battle with fear of rejection again. The way to show your reader her fear is to have her come in contact with one of the men who jilted her in the past. This keeps the story flowing in the now.

Can you imagine the duress of her wishing to fall in love, and then at the moment of truth she must interact with the person who was the cause of her previous hurt? Are you able to see the back story coming into play when readers begin to understand her anxiety? And it didn’t take a prologue to set it up. It happens naturally in the course of the story.

Back story is easily incorporated through other characters, thoughts and brief memories, or occurrences that remind of past events. You want your story to move continually forward, not stall while you explain the past of it all. When you embed your character’s thoughts in the scenes and dialog, it keeps the reader inside that character’s head and within the resent story.

When I say don’t start at the beginning–you know your story–choose an action scene that you plan early in the first chapter. Jump into the now, the present time of that scene. Introduce your characters through their activities within the scene and let the story move on from there. You will have many chances to include memories, motivation and purpose as each new scene unfolds.
Read More

Posted in Author Blogs, Author Colleagues, Guest Blogging | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Mar 03

Mary Deal Writes About “Words & Sounds” On The Child Finder Trilogy

Count me as one of the people who manage to confuse words in a most curious way. I have always had trouble with when to use “loose” or “lose” until I hit upon the fact that it wasn’t the definition of each word that caused me difficulty. It was the way I pronounced them.

Another difficulty I have is with names. When trying to remember anything, one of the simplest ways for me is to associate it with something else. In try to remember a person’s name, I usually have to say it several times, and associate it with the person’s face, in order to remember. Remembering faces is easier, but names elude me unless I work hard at remembering. Say the person’s name to myself as often as possible while in that person’s presence and while looking at his or her face sometimes works. Still, that’s kind of difficult to do when trying to hold a spontaneous conversation. Read More

Posted in Author Blogs, Author Colleagues, Events, Guest Blogging | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment