Monday, 24 September 2012

Cliffhangers For Unscrupulous Writers

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The dirty secret about cliffhangers is that they work.

Whether they’re corny, cheesy, clichéd, obvious, predictable or downright contrived.

Sure, you may well get called a hack and a cheap manipulator, but cliffhangers only guarantee the reader will cross the chapter break, they don’t guarantee they’ll like what they find when they get there.

Obviously, it would be preferable if writers used this technique for good instead of evil. But we all know that's not how cliffhangers are used for the most part. Anyone with a television set can see the abuse and misuse they are put to nightly. Still, it’s worth having this weapon in your arsenal. How you use it is your affair.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Dialogue Clinic

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Dialogue is one of the most important parts of a story. Readers will skim through everything else, but rarely will they skip over dialogue. It’s engaging, it’s fun, it brings a story to life. Plays, movies, radio are all constructed around speech.

Turning functional dialogue into something more, something that rivets and entertains, is difficult. It would be great if we could just listen to people talking and naturally condense it into sparkling dialogue—and some people do have that facility—but for most of us it takes a bit more effort.

The following three areas are key to good dialogue. You can ignore them all and still write engaging dialogue, but it’s a lot easier if you keep them in mind.

1. Saying exactly what you mean is boring.
2. People agreeing makes for terrible conversation.
3. What you say is more important than how you say it.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Good Endings Are Hard To Find

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Readers want you to tie up all the loose ends, bring things to a close, make it satisfying and logical, and they want it to feel right.

And they don’t want to hear any nonsense about realism and how sometimes in life there is no answer, no proper endings, no closure. But then, ending a story isn’t about realism.

And they all lived happily ever after... What the hell does that even mean?

The end is just a place for passengers to disembark. Journey’s end. But what you need to have achieved in order to call it an ending isn’t always so obvious.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A Writer’s Reasons For Falling In Love

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If your story has two (or more) people who fall in love, it’s easy to explain away those feelings in vague terms. She was beautiful, he had amazing eyes, it felt like he’d known her all his life, her heart skipped a beat and she just knew he was the one etc. etc. etc.

Although those sorts of reasons are perfectly believable and exist in real life as well as in numerous works of fiction, there is still a sense that the writer doesn’t really have much of an idea of why these particular people hooked up, or even what love really is. Readers make allowances for it because they don’t really know either. But just for fun I thought I would try to make a list of non-vague reasons for people to fall in love.
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