A Punch of Emotion What do you think about the emotional impact of the following passage? It was midnight and there was a full moon. Henri and Anne moved quietly through the tall grass toward the Spanish border. The four French guards were on the constant lookout for émigrés and patrolled the station with large guns posed to shot anyone without papers. The search light moved around in circles, alerting the guards to any movement. Henri and Anne had been watching the guards for over a week and they knew they had to run across the border when the guards […]

Descriptive Writing and the Five Senses Writing comes to life through the descriptions authors present. Readers are engaged when those descriptions draw them into the scene. But most authors rely only on the visual to describe. This makes for a one-dimensional scene that excludes the reader. Adding sounds, smells, tastes, and touch to narrative can turn a scene that reads like a grocery list of description into a dynamic three dimensional narrative. Here’s an example of descriptive narrative that relies only on the visual. Ashley threw her long dark hair back and adjusted her little black dress. She gripped the handle […]

Action Tags for Setting and Characterization What do you learn about the two characters and the setting from the following exchange? “Brian, is that you?” Lisa asked. “How are you? I haven’t seen you in a long time.” “I’ve been busy,” Brian replied. “Yes, your new job.  A new job can be overwhelming.” “It’s so far from home, too. Well, it was nice seeing you.” From the exchange you learn the characters’ names, that they know each other, haven’t seen each other in a while, and Brian has a new but distant job. Does the exchange make you care about […]

Writing the Action Scene An action scene isn’t just a car chase in an espionage novel, a sword fight in a historical, or even a hot and heavy sex scene in a romance. An action scene is any scene that needs the pace cranked up to its most intense level to build tension, deliver emotional impact, and thrust the plot forward with one big punch. So, how does an author turn an action scene into a heart-pounding experience for the reader, while building tension and emotional impact, and advancing the plot? First and foremost, the action scene should not be […]

Immediacy in Writing Genre To read a novel is to experience a character’s highs and lows and everything in between. To be carried away into the make-believe world of an author’s imagination. To experience what you would never experience and in ways never imagined. Yet some authors steal these joys from their readers by distancing them. They don’t bring readers into the character’s head or heart, the pulse of the action, the nuances of the fictitious world and so on. They rob readers of the immediacy or the moment of the scene. Recapping an important scene instead of presenting it […]

Characterization through Dialogue Have you ever overheard a conversation while sitting at a coffee shop or on a bus? Without looking at the people speaking, have you been able to pick up on their personality traits, educational levels, ages, social circles, etc.? The answer is probably yes. This should work the same when reading dialogue in a novel. No matter how much an author describes a character physically, the reader gains more insight about that character from the words that come out of his or her mouth and how he or she uses those words. What does the following piece […]

Characterization through Names Have you ever been stuck trying to come up with a name for a fictional character in your novel? Sometimes the perfect name comes to you easily but usually research is involved or should be. A name for a fictional character isn’t just a name. It’s a personality, a history, and sometimes a future. I spent a lot of time researching the names for the large cast of characters in The Witch’s Salvation. I not only needed regal-sounding names for the majority of characters who belonged to lost houses of ancient monarchies, but names that crossed social […]

Overloaded Sentences What’s wrong with this sentence? “On an unusually cold summer day for August in Peterborough, Ontario, Helen Anne Duncan dropped her newly washed load of Martha Stewart bath towels to run quickly to her second daughter’s fluffy feline that was lazily padding through her prized red geraniums, growing in a rectangular bed of carefully manicured low-spreading white periwinkle beside the Muskoka brown deck chair given to her for her fortieth birthday as her neighbor’s younger brother Raoul looked on with undisguised interest.” I’m sure you as a reader see the setting well and what Helen, the cat, and […]

Dos and Don’ts of the Opening Paragraph   Those of us who write genre have read all the dos and don’ts about that all-important opening scene. But who reads an opening scene when deciding on his or her next read?  We read the back cover blurb and then we read the opening paragraph. That opening paragraph determines our book’s fate with readers, and if the reports are accurate, with editors and agents, too. So what does an opening paragraph for a genre novel need to convince a reader that this is the book he or she has been looking for? […]