How to Ensure Your Characters and Plot Don’t Flat Line

Heart beat flat lining.Is it possible to sell a story that is high on action and adventure, but has flat characters?  Yes, though it isn’t easy.

What about a story that is flat on plot, but rich with three-dimensional characters? If your plot is flat, your reader (and that agent or publisher) has no reason to turn the pages. (Look out trash can.)

Your story stands a much better chance of being published if both the plot and characters are well developed. (Tweet this.)

I’m a writer whose strength is in [Read more…]

Writing Good Dialogue

“Bloated, chunky, dull dialogue is a five-alarm warning to the reviewer that you can’t write salable fiction,” says James Scott Bell in his book The Art of War for Writers.

Dialogue, like any other part of your novel, must move your story forward.

An important part of good dialogue is the distinctive voice of each character. Even if your characters grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same schools, they have different parents, siblings, and perspectives on life. Those things will affect the way they speak.

Discover your character’s voice by creating a voice journal, a stream of conscious writing you write from a character’s POV. Start your character’s journal by having her or him respond to the questions “Who am I and what do I want?” Then write for about 10 or 15 minutes.

I recommend creating a journal for each main character of your story. Utilize these journals throughout the process of writing your novel, especially when you feel stuck.

What tools do you use to create compelling dialogue?

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

How to Analyze What You Read

Even though I make it a point to read bestselling authors, I often go to the library to pick out books by authors I’ve never heard of. After all, how would new authors ever make it the best seller list? I’ve discovered some wonderful authors this way. And in all honesty, I don’t pay that much attention to the lists.

As a writer, I make it a point to read novels specifically to learn writing technique. If I happen to enjoy the story as well, all the better. I do most of my pleasure reading in the summer when I can sit outside while I read. Even when I read for pleasure, I learn.

How do I analyze what I read?

  • Does the first page grab my interest?
  • How does the author develop the book’s characters?
      • Are the characters individuals or do they all to think and talk alike?
      • What techniques does the author use to make his characters unique?
  • Can I follow the plot?
  • Are there passages of narrative that drag or begin to bore me?
  • How does the author treat dialogue?
      • Does it seem real? Why? or why not?
      • Does it flow smoothly? Why or why not?  
      • Does it create mood and express emotion?
  • How does the author make use of similes and metaphors?
  • Does the author draw me into the story by appealing to my sense of taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing? If yes, I make note of how and what I like about how it’s done.
  • How does the author employ point of view (POV)?
  • Am I bored? Why or why not?
  • Do I like the story? Why or what not?

The list could on, but I don’t have all day and neither do you. This should be enough to get you started on your own journey.

What do you look for when you read a book? Share your comments below.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

How Do Plot and Scene Work Together? Series Conclusion

Let’s connect the pieces of plot, scene, and sequel.

Plot at its most basic level is your lead character’s goal and the journey to reach that goal. That journey is played out in the scenes and sequels of your story.

Scenes show the reader the individual steps your character takes to reach his or her goal and the setbacks along the way. Sequels bridge your scenes and present the character’s reaction—emotions and thoughts—to the setbacks, and his or her subsequent decisions and renewed action toward the final goal.

In your WIP, can you identify:

  • The beginning, middle, and end of each scene?
  • How each scene moves your plot forward?
  • Your sequels?
  • How your sequels move your plot forward?

For practice, look for the scenes and sequels in your favorite novels. Does some aspect of your WIP have you stumped? Share below.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

Dealing with Time in Scenes, Part 4 of our series

Time is a story element with which many beginning writers struggle. Whether your novel occurs over a period of days or years, you must lead us through that time.

In scenes, time passes moment by moment. This means we see the action as it happens. Let’s pick up the action where Friday’s sequel left off (Marta had reached for the phone). [Read more…]

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