Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Enliven Your Writing, Part 2

The Red Table--1916 Leon-de-Smet-1881-1966

Yesterday I wrote about books and manuscripts with wooden prose and a flat delivery.

Ways I thought a writer could jazz up the writing a bit were by changing the voice, revising the work, including vivid setting imagery, changing the sentence structure, and by supplying character movement.

Here are some other ways to enliven flat text:

Use more dialogue. A conversation between characters; as long as it’s moving the plot along or creating some conflict, or playing a role; is a great way to liven up a wooden scene.

Use both long sentences and short sentences. Mixing up the sentence length lends the text a different rhythm and pace.

Show, don’t tell. Instead of telling how a character feels about something, show the emotion through the character’s actions. There are times where telling is better than showing (action sequences, for example), but for the most part, it’s more interesting for the reader if they can draw their own conclusions instead of being spoon-fed information. It brings the reader into the story and gives the novel depth—gets rid of the flatness.

Consider your choice of words. Are you writing in an accessible way? What kind of an impression is our vocabulary or style giving the reader? The worst thing to do is sound pedantic or as if we’re talking down to our reader. Plus, it’s not drawing the reader in. And, usually? It reads very woodenly to me.

Consider the project itself. Have you lost interest in it? If you’re writing woodenly day after day, it could be symptomatic of a problem on your end. Have you fallen in love with an idea for a different novel? Have you written yourself into a hole? Assess what’s changed. See if you can get excited again about the WIP or whether it’s time to put it in the graveyard of unfinished projects.

Has your WIP ever sounded flat? What did you do to fix it?