Thursday, 19 April 2012

Questions For Mooderino


Since it’s Q-day in the A to Z Challenge I thought I’d open the floor to any questions you might have about the writing process. I can’t promise you a good answer, or the right answer, but hopefully I can offer you a new way of looking at the problem.


Often we can get stuck in a way of doing things that becomes obvious and predictable, amd very repetitive. But you don’t have to stay in POV and describe what your character looks like in a mirror, nor do you have to express emotion through endlessly raising eyebrows or spreading hands with palms up. 

You just need to look at it from another angle.

So, if you have any questions, either regarding writing in general, or specific to something you’re working on, please leave it in the comments section below and I’ll copy and paste it into the main body of the post, along with a link to your blog or website (a little free publicity never hurts).

And if there are no questions, then I’ll happily put my feet up and have a day off.

 
Alex from the world famous Alex J. Cavanaugh blog writes: Past and present tense. Attack!
while Pamela from The Death Writer asks: I'm all for a day off too, but here I am. I'm a nonfiction writer working on my book about death. In my writer's group there is much debate about whether I should write in present or past tense. I like present, as it creates more tension and creates the illusion of the reader being right there with me, but alas there is less reflection. What say you?

Assuming they are both asking pretty much the same thing (which I’m assuming because it means half the work for me) I would say that the effect of past or present tense on a piece of writing is negligible. Past tense is just as immediate and in the moment. Present tense allows for as much reflection as you want.

Neither innately makes for a more tense or more immediate story. Both can be written to emphasise those aspects, but there’s nothing inherent in either approach that puts it in there automatically.

There’s often a feeling that one approach will create a certain vibe, but it just isn’t true. You can make them both achieve the same thing if you have the skills, it’s just a matter of technique.

Because past tense is more common, and the one most people are familiar with reading, most people find it easier to use, and are better with it. Often when using present tense the lack of experience with it means you end up with a slightly dreamy, detached tone.

With present tense it can feel less convincing to be telling someone something as it happens. Where are you? How are you telling me this?  But the trick is to think of it like me sitting in a bar and telling you about my day: I’m sitting at my desk and the boss comes over, and he says.... I’m telling you about the past in the present here. Readers (and barflies) understand that.

With past tense, as long as you make it about the action characters are going through the reader will focus on what’s happening, not when it’s happening: My boss slammed his fist on the desk and then grabbed me by the throat.

In the end it’s a matter of preference and what you’re comfortable with, bearing in mind that unless you’ve spent a lot of time reading present tense stuff you’re probably going to find past tense easier to deal with.


Meanwhile, L. Blankenship from Notes From The Jovian Frontier  says: Here's a question: do you have anything ready to post after A to Z ends? :)

Mate, I don’t have anything for tomorrow. Luckily I’m a master at making it up as I go along.


Michael Offutt, well known Tebow Cult Initiate, hailing from SLCKismet, said: What do you think of buying advertising to help market a book? Is it effective?
 
Well, speaking from a position of complete ignorance (no change there, then), I'd say you'd have to know your market and exactly where to put your dollars. If you can target the sort of people who would buy your book then I think it can be very cost effective. A lot of marketing is just about getting the name out there. Popular scifi blogs and magazines could certainly attract readers. No guarantees in this business, though.


Julie Daines from A Writer's Compendium wrote: I'd some advice on writing good dialogue. :)

My advice would be to think of a movie that is roughly your genre and that you admire, and get hold of the screenplay (just google it and one of the many sites offfering free downloads will pop up). They key to good dialogue is to be able to express emotion within speech without having to state it in the narrative. This can be through word choice and syntax, but mostly through context (how dialogue builds between two people). The best place to see this done well is in a screenplay, which is  90% dialogue.

11 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Past and present tense. Attack!

mooderino said...

@Alex-not really sure what the question is.

Donna Shields said...

You deserve a day off.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I vote for a day off too! I don't know how you do it, I see you comment on so many blogs and get your in-depth posts up every day - do you get any writing done, or am I not alone in losing productivity in April?

And I think Alex's question was: If Past and Present were to attack, who would win?

Wagging Tales

mooderino said...

@Donna-thank you, I like the way you think.

@Charmaine-I finished my latest rewrite last week, so a bit more laid back. Have to start sending it out now. Actually already got a request for a full from HarperCollins through their online slush pile Authonomy, although they've never actually published anything from the site so not much chance there.

(I can only hope that's what Alex meant)

deathwriter said...

I'm all for a day off too, but here I am. I'm a nonfiction writer working on my book about death. In my writer's group there is much debate about whether I should write in present or past tense. I like present, as it creates more tension and creates the illusion of the reader being right there with me, but alas there is less reflection.
What say you?

L. Blankenship said...

Here's a question: do you have anything ready to post after A to Z ends? :)

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

What do you think of buying advertising to help market a book? Is it effective?

Julie Daines said...

I'd some advice on writing good dialogue. :)

Diane Carlisle said...

The worst of the worst:

1. shrugging
2. rolling of the eyes
3. raising the eyebrow
4. frowning
5. chat emotes and acronyms (yes, I've seen this...a lot)

She was my BFF and I don't know WTF happened, we just stopped talking.

I hope there's not a trend of this sort of thing going on. That's kind of scary.

mooderino said...

Thanks very much to you all. Did get to put my feet up for a bit.

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