Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jacquis 10 råd

Jag tycker detta var en så redig och bra uppställning med skrivråd att jag lägger in hela artikeln här. Av Jacqui Lofthouse, engelsk författarcoach.

1. Characters do not have enough sense of purpose. A writer conjures a very believable protagonist and writes an interesting scene, but the character lacks drive and purpose: things happen TO the character, they are passive and as a result the story loses momentum. To best engage the reader, a protagonist should have a real purpose, not only for the story as a whole, but for each individual scene in the novel. The protagonist should be motivated to achieve something or have a desire (even a very small desire but something that links to his/her overall desire) in any particular scene. This makes a huge difference to keeping the reader involved in the story.
2. There is a lack of clarity re Point of View. Often I receive manuscripts where the author is not clear on point of view. For example, it is a third person narrative, but within the first chapter, the narrator sees events from four perspectives. It is disorientating and 'jumpy'. Aim to get clear on WHO is seeing this and experiencing this. Think of a third person narrator more as a first person narrator and aim to really get a character to EXPERIENCE events, rather than telling us what is happening to that character. We are effectively inside their head. Regarding point of view, what matters most is that you are entirely clear about your own rules in relation to point of view for the novel and you stick with them. For example, you may have seven characters but your rule is that only three characters are allowed point of view narration and you never change point of view within a chapter. Or, you have a first person narrator and you never deviate from that. Or you alternate chapter by chapter first to third (if you're feeling brave and inventive) but again, you keep that as your rule. To avoid making mistakes here, take some time to really think about point of view in your work early-on in the writing process. And when you read, look at how other authors achieve point of view. Consistency makes the reader feel in safe hands.
3. The writer tells rather than shows. You may have heard a lot about 'show don't tell' but for those who don't know this rule, essentially it means that the writer should allow a character to reveal him/herself through action and dialogue rather than via the author telling us what the character is feeling. There are many takes on this rule and I've seen authors holding back on internal monologue as they believe this is 'telling'. It is not 'telling'. Internal monologue is vital! Telling is when the author uses an adjective for a character rather than allowing us to understand that aspect of the character for ourselves via their actions and words. Telling is where the third person narrator feels the need to give us an elaborate backstory to the character. These days the omniscient narrator is seen to be old-fashioned and whilst I wouldn't rule the omniscient out as a narrative voice, I would say it is EXTREMELY hard to do it well in contemporary fiction. A third person narrator with one or several close points of view or a first person narrator generally work best. To avoid this mistake, focus on drama and dialogue and keep the point of view close to one of your characters at any point. Keep focussed on the present moment of the story. If you need to go into memory, then do it from a specific moment in the present-centred story, rather than in a random fashion.
4. The writer 'tells' through dialogue. Sometimes writers try to cheat the 'show don't tell' rule. They think dialogue is not 'telling' so they let the characters tell us the backstory or the facts they want to know in the dialogue. DON'T DO IT! IT IS TRANSPARENT! To avoid this one, read all your dialogue aloud and ask yourself - would people really say this? Or am I trying to inform the reader through this dialogue? If it's the latter, cut it and write something that sounds more real.
5. Dialogue is too 'obvious'. Characters say exactly what you would expect them to say. This is rather banal for the reader. We want characters to say odd things; to come at a subject from a slant. What is NOT said is often more interesting. Or the lie that the dialogue is hiding. Read Hemingway's 'Hills like White Elephants' to see a great example of understated dialogue.
6. 'She exclaimed, loudly.' I'll agree with Elmore Leonard on this one. Stick to 'said' as the verb for speech. (Or occasionally 'asked'). Avoid adverbs at all costs. Go through your entire manuscript and remove every adverb now! Adverbs are simply 'telling' us. You want to show...
7. Breaking the spell. The reason that readers don't like adverbs and other forms of 'telling' is that telling breaks the fictive spell. When we are reading a wonderful novel, we want to be caught up in the world of that novel, we want to believe it is real. Where an author is seen to intrude and tell us how something is said or what happened in the past, we become overly aware of that author and the fictive spell is broken. 'But Dickens did it!' I hear you say. Yes, but when we do it now, it sounds like pastiche - and unless you're writing a pastiche, please avoid! Coincidence is another area where the spell can be easily broken. Paul Auster built his career on writing about coincidence of course. If you make the world real enough, you may get away with it. But be careful of anything that makes us doubt the truth of this world.
8 The plot is muddled. If you're on a first draft, don't worry overly about this one. I'm all for organic writing, as you'll discover, and if the plot comes out muddled in a first draft, it doesn't matter so much. In a second or later draft however, it becomes important to start at the beginning and to move through the story in a chronological way. If you can avoid backstory, that is ideal, but if you can't, I'd suggest starting the novel when the main story sparks off, generally where the main journey begins - often something happens to create a change in the character's life (the 'inciting incident'). Then, you can hold off on backstory until a relevant moment in the story where a vital memory would naturally arise - that's the time to bring in backstory, prior to returning to the present. In a second draft, try to get really clear on your character's main 'story arc'. What is his or her conscious desire? What will he/she discover in the course of the story (the unconscious desire)? What obstacles will s/he encounter on the way? Let the obstacles become progressively larger, but also allow for moments of hope and breakthrough on the journey...
9 The writer is uncertain about the genre of the book. Who is your reader? If you feel uneasy about genre - remember all it really means is - who will read this? Get really clear on your ideal reader and you'll be closer to knowing how to pitch the tone and style of your book.
10. There is too much generalisation. This is a point of style. Very often, when reading a manuscript, I find authors can be lazy with description. Whilst Elmore Leonard's maxim about avoiding over-lengthy descriptions can be a good one - I would also add that a brilliant well-observed precise detail makes all the difference to the reader's experience of the story. Sometimes that is all you need. The novelist Paul Auster writes: " There's a way in which a writer can do too much, overwhelming the reader with so many details that he no longer has any air to breathe. Think of a typical passage in a novel. A character walks into a room. As a writer, how much of that room do you want to talk about? The possibilities are infinite. You can give the color of the curtains, the wallpaper pattern, the objects on the coffee table, the reflection of light in the mirror. But how much of this is really necessary? ...When I write, the story is always uppermost in my mind, and I feel that everything else must be sacrificed to it. All the elegant passages, all the curious details, all the so-called beautiful writing - if they are not truly relevant to what I am trying to say, then they have to go." I adore Auster's work. However, he does in fact share some wonderful detail in his work. He talks in interview about the fact that the reader 'inhabits' the text and often invents an entire world in their head around a single image you offer them. In fact, if we share ONE precise detail of a room (in other words if we say 'The dust lay thick on the carpet and I could not find a surface on which to place my hat' we learn a lot about the room and its owner, much more than if we had generalised 'The room was dirty and untidy' but we do not need to be bored by learning about every object on the surfaces...)

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