Posted by Erika Beebe
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Thank you Raimey!
On February 15, I finished a first draft of a manuscript. Since then I have been combing through some of my earlier scenes and making initial edits before I hand it over to my editor. I remember something important she told me several years ago.
Make the scene and the dialogue reflect who your character is, and what they are honestly feeling.
I remember back then thinking sometimes what we say and do doesn’t translate to proper English, or make complete sentences. And then I thought about English class. Who likes getting red pen marks all across their sentences in an essay that took hours to write? Weeks?
But after I saw her changes to my scene, the light bulb brightened and I think it might have busted from the brightness. She was right. Her edits were exactly what my gritty abused teen character would really say and do.
Today, I’m thinking about the craft in our stories. Most importantly, the ability to write like we speak, like we really react when facing conflict.
So how do you do that? After reviewing a handful of writing articles, I’ve listed my 5 top tips in no order of preference.
- Know your character’s reactions in different emotional settings and to different emotions.
In Sara Domet’s 90 days to Your Novel, she created several exercises to explore a character in different internal and external scenes. These scenes weren’t necessarily scenes in the book outline, but scenes to help a writer explore what you know about your main character. What does he/she look like enraged? Sad? Terrified? Is it different when they’re safe inside closed doors? What does it look like in public, or with his or her most trusted peers?
- Let yourself write first, then go back and ask the questions you need to perfect the action and emotion for your character.
In my first draft, I enjoy writing freely while the images and the emotions are fresh in my head. I don’t stop unless I’m forced to. I try not to overthink until the scene is done. If I did? I’m afraid I wouldn’t enjoy the art of writing so much. But now that the draft is over, and time has set between certain scenes, I am able to go back and ask the questions I need to ask: Would my character really think and do this? How is she showing it? How is she growing or not growing in the moment?
- Choose dialogue words carefully. Evaluate whether or not certain words are true to your character and fit. I tend to steer away from cuss words. But if I have a character who’s young and gritty and grew up with no boundaries, then of course they would push certain cuss words that make me uncomfortable. Or vice versa.
- Read your work out loud. Maybe read it to someone else you trust. Does it sound real to you? Does the motive or action feel real?
- Write to your reader as if you’re talking about the story and not writing it. This is an interesting point I stumbled across in my research. But it’s true. I want to feel my character like I’m watching them and talking to them. Why not write that way?
I hope my thoughts on writing to write or writing to speak helped.
Have a lovely rest of your day.
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