You Need A Good Idea

I don’t mean one someone would want to read before you write it. Those ideas are fine, too, but not mandatory. But, I mean, not one without any plot* Here’s a suggestion: think it over. I know, it’s THAT simple!

*see Mangobook

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Long and Boring

Lisa tried years afterward to describe the terrible to behold, and insanely vile taste of the mold colored cheese, but she found that after too long, the cheese actually became quite the enjoyable delicacy and she was quite addicted to eating it, an activity she found useful to practice daily for maximum comfort.

Ugh! That’s too long and detailed. Now try:

Lisa hated the cheese. It was even mold colored! But, she found that maybe the cheese could be fine. Maybe.

That was fine! It was short and sweet. But too short with no detail is like:

Lisa disliked the cheese. Then she liked it.

So which would you choose?

Imagine reading this:

In spite of the horrible cheese’s taste, it was quite pleasant to enjoy the delicate yet delicious taste of the cheese, which she graciously ate in exactly 3 bites in exactly 3.1415 seconds!

I thought she hated the cheese!

So, short chapter writers…

Well, I was just thinking, and I came up with, “don’t have two-quintillion(yes, it is a word) two sentence chapters hanging around”.

“Why not?” you ask.

Because if that’s how long your chapter is, things will go something like:

“Emma!” Rachael shouted. Emma came over. “What?” “The sun is up!” Rachael said.

instead of:

“Emma!” Rachael peered over the tops of hills, just in time to see Emma making her way over, holding her coat in one hand, and Rachael’s hat in the other. Rachael sprinted over to her, a smile on her face. “What?” Emma shouted over the wind. “The sun is up!” her sister called back. They were both smiling now. Emma looked happier than Rachael had seen her.

Never space your letters with  more  than  one  space. It’s annoying and, though it makes chapters longer, look at this:

“Emma!”  Rachael  peered  over  the  tops  of  hills,  just  in  time  to  see  Emma  making  her  way  over,  holding  her  coat  in  one  hand,  and  Rachael’s  hat  in  the  other.  Rachael  sprinted  over  to  her,  a  smile  on  her  face.  “What?”  Emma  shouted  over  the  wind.  “The  sun  is  up!”  her  sister  called  back.  They  were  both  smiling  now. Emma  looked  happier  than  Rachael  had  seen  her.

They[both passages] are the exact same thing, but one  is  double  spaced. Now imagine this:

” E m m a !”   R a c h a e l   p e e r e d   o v e r   t h e   t o p s   o f   h i l l s ,   j u s t   i n   t i m e   t o   s e e   E m m a   m a k i n g

h e r   w a y   o v e r ,   h o l d i n g   h e r   c o a t   i n   o n e   h a n d ,   a n d   R a c h a e l ‘ s   h a t   i n   t h e   o t h e r .

R a c h a e l   s p r i n t e d   o v e r   t o   h e r ,   a   s m i l e   o n   h e r  f a c e .  ” W  h a t ? ”   E m m a   s h o u t e d   o v e r

t h e   w i n d .   ” T h e   s u n   i s   u p ! ”   h e r   s i s t e r  c a l l e d   b a c k .   T h e y   w e r e   b o t h   s m i l i n g   n o w .

E   m m a   l o o k e d   h a p p i e r   t h a n   R a c h a e l   h a d   s e e n   h e r.

Triple between-word-spacing and a space between each letter. Certainly takes up more space, but imagine reading a whole book like that (and typing it!)

So. Short Chapters. Make them longer by adding detail.

A long name for your characters won’t cut it. Also, imagine this:

Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California for the only thing you call her would be like this:

Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California stepped out of the fog and gave Bella a sad look. “What, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California?” Bella asked. “The town is convinced the queen is still on their side,” said Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California. “What did you do?” Bella demanded. “Nothing.” Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California looked very depressed. “Don’t worry, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California.” Bella said. “I’ll convince them.” Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California looked doubtful. “Are you sure?” “Yes, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California. I am.” “But–“Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California started, but Bella cut her off. “Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California…” Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California sighed. “Fine,” she said.”I guess…it might work.” “Okay,” Bella said, suddenly getting a delighted expression on her face. “Come on, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California,” she said, walking towards Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California’s helicopter. “What?” Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California asked. “You’re coming with me, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California!” Bella cried, grabbing Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California’s wrist. “We’ll persuade them!” And, together, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California and Bella took to the sky, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California flying them.

If we gave Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California just “Elizabeth”, it would be:

Elizabeth stepped out of the fog and gave Bella a sad look. “What, Elizabeth?” Bella asked. “The town is convinced the queen is still on their side,” said Elizabeth. “What did you do?” Bella demanded. “Nothing.” Elizabeth looked very depressed. “Don’t worry, Elizabeth.” Bella said. “I’ll convince them.” Elizabeth looked doubtful. “Are you sure?” “Yes, Elizabeth. I am.” “But–“Elizabeth started, but Bella cut her off. “Elizabeth…” Elizabeth sighed. “Fine,” she said.”I guess…it might work.” “Okay,” Bella said, suddenly getting a delighted expression on her face. “Come on, Elizabeth,” she said, walking towards Elizabeth. “What?” Elizabeth asked. “You’re coming with me, Elizabeth!” Bella cried, grabbing Elizabeth’s wrist. “We’ll persuade them!” And, together, Elizabeth and Bella took to the sky, Elizabeth flying them.

Also, if I’d writ the first Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California thing in the ” l o n g   f o r m a t” we’d have some longness on our hands.

So (I seem to keep losing our point here) use dialogue to make your story longer. Like my Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California thing. Using dialogue, the characters’ talking makes it longer without (sometimes) contributing to the plot.

Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California stepped out of the fog and gave Bella a sad look. “What, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California?” Bella asked. “The town is convinced the queen is still on their side,” said Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California. “What did you do?” Bella demanded. “Nothing.” Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California looked very depressed. “Don’t worry, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California.” Bella said. “I’ll convince them.” Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California looked doubtful. “Are you sure?” “Yes, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California. I am.” “But–“Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California started, but Bella cut her off. “Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California…” Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California sighed. “Fine,” she said.”I guess…it might work.” “Okay,” Bella said, suddenly getting a delighted expression on her face. “Come on, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California,” she said, walking towards Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California’s helicopter. “What?” Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California asked. “You’re coming with me, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California!” Bella cried, grabbing Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California’s wrist. “We’ll persuade them!” And, together, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California and Bella took to the sky, Elizabeth Maybelle Evaliana Smithsonian from California flying them.

Imagine that being your name. AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

It Wasn’t a Dark and Stormy Night

Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton

Image via Wikipedia

Never, ever start a book with It was a dark and stormy night“.

Why?” you ask.

Because that was already used.By  Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the novel “Paul Clifford“.

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

See what I mean? Don’t do “It was a light and sunny day” either, because

  1. It is almost like “It was a dark and stormy night”.
  2. It sounds stupid.

Don’t do: “It was a ______ and ________ ______”

Here’s my list of beginnings:

  • The rain was pouring hard when <your character’s name here> arrived home.
  • <name> breathed hard in the darkness as s/he ran through the cave, the torches appearing as streaks of light as s/he ran by.
  • “<name>!” called <name>’s broth/sister as s/he froze in mid-action.
  • “Ouch!” <name> cried, clutching his/her foot in pain.

First Person and its (dis)advantages

First person is fun to write. Most blogs are written in first person (like this one) and some books are. People talk in first person! “I walked slowly up the hall, glancing sideways occasionally to check if anyone was watching.” is first person. Here are some advantages & disadvantages:

  • While writing in this POV, you can only access the main character’s thoughts.
  • You can write like you talk.
  • I, me, my, etc are used.
  • If you have trouble with beginnings, don’t do first person.
  • I’m kind of bad at it.

Once I read a first person book and I never learned the main character’s name because it was never mentioned.  I was going to write “Mangobook” on Cosmic Mango’s World in first person, but I couldn’t think of a start. So… did this help?