Saturday, June 02, 2007

Virtual Editing Workshop Part Four

I promised you guys some more installments of the Virtual Editing Workshop. Are you just so excited?

All of these bits and pieces are taken from my current WIP.

1. How often should you use the characters' names? If you are handling a scene with a large group of people, you should use names frequently so the reader always knows who's talking. But when you've got just one man and one woman in the scene, it's perfectly all right, and in fact, desirable, to use "he" and "she" more often than names.

While reading through my WIP, I found:

Mark yada yada yada. Shannon yada yada yada. Mark yada yada yada. Then Mark yada yada.

Unfortunately, a lot of books are written this way, and it's not only not needed, but it's really distracting to the reader as well. How much better is it to say:

Mark yada yada. He then yada. Shannon yada yada. She yada yada. He yada yada.

Until another person comes on the scene, you can get away with "he" and "she" quite happily for some time. Although, I do hope they do a little more than just yada yada; that will make for a boring book.

2. We've talked about this a little before, but whenever possible, have the words the characters speak indicate how they are spoken, or have them perform an action that indicates the emotion. For instance, my character has hurt her leg. My sentence read:

Right, she thought sarcastically. I’m really going to walk on this knee.

If you have to tell the reader that the character is being sarcastic, it's probably not written well enough to come across. I changed it to:

Right, she thought. Like I’m really going to walk on this knee.

Adding the "like" in there, while not grammatically stellar, helps to indicate that she's being sarcastic without my having to say that she is.

Then I realized that this sounded like she'd literally be walking on her knee. (Ouch!) So with one more tweak . . .

Right, she thought. Like I'm really going to walk with this knee.

3. Finally he gave up . . . ah, here we have one of those dreaded point of view problems. The entire book is written from Shannon's POV. She can't know he gave up -- he has to give her some indication that he has done so. A simple "I give up" sometimes doesn't hurt. But the narrative can't just say, Finally he gave up. She's not a mind-reader.

4. Shannon found an ace bandage . . . This is a good thing for me to point out. Some common terms are not just the name of the item -- it's a brand name. An ace bandage isn't just any old bandage -- Ace is the brand name. In a case like this, you must capitalize the Ace. Same goes for Band-Aid. You need to spell it exactly like it's spelled on the package. It's eBay, it's Jell-O, and it's Ace.

5. We've talked about overusing words and about substituting tired old cliches for something new and different. I found this:

Slowly, she made her way . . .

Not only is that pretty boring, but I really need someone to do something slowly in the very next paragraph. So I had to go back and change this one. Let's see, she's hurt her knee and she's wrapped it up in an Ace bandage. So I changed it to:

Feeling like a peg-legged pirate, she made her way . . .

There now! That's much more interesting!

I hope that this little discussion of some of my foibles has been helpful. Believe me, I will be sharing more -- I've got nearly this whole book left to edit.


Lynne said...

I enjoy these little bits of writing wisdom. Hopefully, I'll be able to incorporate some of them into my run-of-the-mill writing style.

violetlady said...

Thanks for all the tips, Tristi. Your blog is tres interesting.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Lynne and VioletLady -- I'm glad you're finding it useful. I'm often surprised at how many of these seemingly insignificant things I find while I'm editing, but once fixed, what a huge difference they make to the overall quality of the story.

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