QUESTION from the e-mail: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Recently I finished my first book and got it published. Like most, I tried to promote it by getting book reviews. I got several three and four-star reviews, but many of the reviewers had a lot of negative things to say, too. Sure, they praise my story. They all like the action and suspense. But then they complain about my commas, and my “point of view,” and my characters all talking alike. I went to college. I got good grades on all my term papers, so I ought to know a little about how to write. This negative stuff is hard to hear. Half the time, I don’t even know what they’re talking about. How can there be “too many semi-colons?” You use them when they’re needed, right? Maybe I should just forget about this whole thing.
ANSWER: Good reviewers almost always talk about both the positive and negative aspects of a book. If they don’t, they are usually friends of the author who go and place a glorious, 5-star review just for friendship’s sake. So first thing I know from what you said is that these are “good, honest, unbiased” reviews, not the kind you pay for. They looked for things to pick on as well as nice things to say. That’s “fair and balanced” and tells folks right away that your reviewers are being honest with their praise. Every first novel gets hit hard by reviewers. Continue reading “Reviews Are Mixed. How To Deal by Arline Chase”
Question: You always advised your students to join writers’ groups as if they could give no other good advice they would, at least, ask “What have you written this week?” But I’m starting to think I ought to search for a new group. They all agree that my work is, “Too hard to believe” and all my plot twists are either “impossible” or “improbable.” Okay, my stuff “pushes the envelope.” But I have avidly read books with weirder plots than mine…any ideas?
Answer: Thinking back to my own writer’s group days (with many thanks to the critique sessions at IWWG) my best guess is that it’s either a lack of foreshadowing, or a failure to write the action convincingly. Knowing your work from your student days, my guess is foreshadowing.
It is important to foreshadow and many writers fear to do it, in case they give too much away. FORESHADOWING is a technique that leads the reader smoothly along, hinting at what is coming next. Foreshadowing makes future action more believable. Most of us don’t notice it, but when it’s not there, crises seem too precipitate, changes too sudden, surprises are — well, too much of a shock not to overcome some readers’ “Willing suspension of disbelief.” Continue reading “Too improbable? A Writing Tip from Arline Chase”
I have seen a number of “character planning sheets” some in courses I have taken and others in courses I have taught, but over the years found they all needed a bit of a refocus, to refine motivation as to why the character acts as he or she does.
This is the list of questions I came up with for my own character work sheets.
Who IS Your Character?
Plot should come out of character, evolving naturally from each character’s beliefs and desires. To understand your characters’ feelings, take a look at the events that shaped their lives. Look first at the character’s emotional life, then at world events they may have experienced. Continue reading “Character Creation by Arline Chase”
The best way to choose viewpoint is to ask yourself whose story or scene it is. Once you know who the story is about it’s safe to assume that most of the story will be told from that character’s viewpoint, either in first person “I” narrator, or third person “she or he” narrator.
There are several kinds of viewpoint. “First Person” is written with an “I” narrator, as if the story happened to you. “Third Person” limited is written in third person, but limited to a single point of view. This is the viewpoint chosen for most short stories. Most girl-in-danger stories are written in first person limited, while Harlequin and most genre romances are written in third person limited. In either case “limited” means limited only to the main character’s viewpoint. The reader cannot know anything the main character doesn’t see, think, or feel. Continue reading “Basics of Viewpoint by Arline Chase”