Check out the schedule for my sister’s first blog tour, “Favorite Things”
This being my 100th blog post, I wanted to write something special to celebrate. I was going to post a list of the 100 most popular Fantasy books of all time since I’m a fantasy writer–scratch that. Next, I considered making a list of the 100 things I love the most about being a writer, but I have a hate/love relationship with writing, so to be honest, I actually struggled to come up with 100 things–that I like. Still determined to do something in a list format, I thought to myself, why not make a list of my 100 favorite blogs.
Below is a list of my favorite blogs in no particular order. I could have ranked them from favorite to least favorite and so forth, but that would be difficult and time consuming–not to mention hurtful. If you are not on the list, I apologize. I still like you. I would love to list all 200+ blogs I follow, but 100 is the number of post I’ve written, and the number of post I’ve written is 100. 100 shall I list. 200 is right out.
Whether you are listed or not, please check out these blogs because they are amazing–and it took me a hundred years to insert all of these links . . . one by one. I’m pretty sure it took me longer to create this list of 100 blogs than it did for me to write 100 blog post. Once you’ve checked out some of my favorite blogs, feel free to comment below to share some of your favorite blogs. It’s that time of year where we should share and care, so support your fellow bloggers and give them a shout out.
- Book Chat
- One Writer’s Journey By Chris Owens
- Susan Finlay Writes
- Random Ramblings
- The Rolling Writer
- Books & Such
- Mandy’s space to space
- Charles French Words Reading and Writing
- MT McGuire Authorholic
- Your Writing Lady
- Archer’s Aim
- Author Mysti Parker
- No Wasted Ink
- Authors Interviews
- Princess of Light: Shining the Light for All
- Suffolk Scribblings
- Blot the Skrip and Jar It
- Kristen Lamb’s Blog
- Ana is the Bookworm
- Sarah J Carlson, Author
- Deborah Kelly
- Shannon A. Thompson
- Nail Your Novel
- Rather Than Writing
- Nicholas C Rossis
- Story Medic
- Inside My Worlds
- Just English
- Carol Balawyder
- Writing Is Hard Work
- A Writer’s Path
- The Owl Lady Blog
- Therefore I Geek
- Storytime with John
- Ingrid’s Notes
- The Writer’s Cafe 247
- Confessions of Geek Queen
- Knite Writes
- Tara Sparling Writes
- A Tolkienist’s Perspective
- Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog
- Bare Knuckle Writer
- Chris McMullen
- Strange Writer
- CommuniCate Resources for Writers
- Write Lara Write
- Lit Chic
- Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams
- Ellen Brock
- The Nerdy Book Club
- Fiction All Day
- MJ Wright
- Poor Writers
- Inkspelled Faery
- Writing with Michelle
- Elaine Jeremiah
- Legends of Windemere
- Avid Reader
- Rachel Carrera, Novelist
- The Letter Vy
- Cindy Fazzi
- Geeky Book Snob
- Words Read and Written
- Tricia Drammeh
- There and Draft Again
- Michelle Joyce Bond
- Turning My Dream Into A Book
- Sweating to Mordor
- Committed and Caffeinated
- My Literary Quest
- 101 Books
- Eli Glasman
- Jean’s Writing
- Random Ramblings
- Interesting Literature
- Live to Write–Write to Live
- The Bewildered 20-Something Writer
- The Write Transition
- Staci Reafsnyder
- Blood & Ink
- A Writer & Her Adolescent Muse
- The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh!
- Shirley McLain
- I Can’t Possibly Be Wrong All the Time
- Anibundel: Pop Culturess
- My Little Book Blog
- Carly Watters, Literary Agent
- Writers In the Storm
- Jaimie M. Engle
- Just One More Edit
- Daily (w)rite
- The Editor’s Desk
- Tipsy Lit
- The Girl Who Reads Books
- Kev’s Blog
This week’s Tuesday Tip is about something essential, something crucial that you MUST have in your writing. Without it, the scenes between your action sequences will fall flat, and readers will get bored and take a break from reading your book or–gasp–stop reading it altogether!
Are you sweating yet? Nervous? You should be. Keep reading.
This Tuesday’s Tip is about–
Dun, Dun, Duuunn!!!! Tension and Suspense.
Do you see what I did there? That’s what you should be doing in your writing. Tension and suspense go hand in hand with conflict. To read that Tuesday Tip, click here. Suspense keeps the readers turning the page, asking questions, and wondering what will happen next.
When do you add Suspense and Tension?
You may think suspense and tension belong in your action scenes, and you would be correct, but mainly they belong in the scenes between the action scenes. Suspense creates build-up, anticipation, the promise that something will happen–usually something bad. Think of it as the foreboding dark clouds before the storm.
How to add Tension and Suspense
Tease the reader with future events. Let the reader see the problem before the protagonist does.The reader will fear for the characters, knowing that they are in danger.
One way of doing this is to change perspective. The reader will learn information the protagonist does not through the eyes of another character. This is a great way to show information the protagonist might not be aware of or understand clearly.
Reveal the Plan
You might be tempted to conceal what your character plans to do to add suspense, but contradictory to belief, revealing their plans and motives adds suspense.
But you just gave it all away! Now all that’s left to do is stop the villain and save the day, and the protagonist just said how he’s going to do it, so I might as well stop reading this book now. Wrong. All you gave away was the plan, not future events. This is where you add a dilemma, a twist, something your character didn’t consider or can’t predict. Let them make the plans. Make sure they feel good about them too, and then sweep the rug out from under them. The characters–and your readers–will be surprised.
Don’t forget the Antagonist’s plan. Knowing their plan when the protagonist doesn’t will add suspense.
And what better way to reveal a plan than in song!
In The Lion King, Scar’s plan (plot might be a more accurate word) is told in the song “Be Prepared.” Really, considering how dumb hyenas are, this was a rather catchy way to help them remember their part in it, don’t you think? Before Mufasa dies, we know he’s toast. We totally see it coming. This does not ruin the moment for us when he actually does. If anything, the viewer is rewarded with the feeling of foreboding doom while we watch Scar’s plan unfold, unhindered before our eyes. We shout at Simba to stop meowing at a lizard and to get the Hell out of the ravine. Run, you idiot! Watch out Mufasa! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You feel the pressure when you have a task to complete by a deadline. Your character and your reader can feel it too. Add a sense of urgency by creating a deadline for your character to complete their mission.
Example: The Hobbit
The dwarves have to get to the Misty Mountain by Durin’s Day before the last light fades in order to locate the hidden keyhole. If they don’t, they won’t be able to enter the Misty Mountain and reclaim their home.
Add a Dilemma
When the protagonist isn’t battling the antagonist, they should be battling their mind. Give the character something to sweat about between action scenes. Create a dilemma, a choice, a conundrum that they have to resolve.
Example: The protagonist must choose for one person to die in order for another to live.
Example: They must do something they swore never to do again.
Tip: Let the reader be privy to your character’s thoughts during these scenes. Their doubt, dread, and anxiety will fuel suspense and keep the reader hooked.
Apply Murphy’s Law Generously
If something can go wrong in life, it usually does. In literature, it SHOULD. Give your protagonist a full-proof plan and then foil it. Don’t let your character’s plan succeed without a hitch.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT end your chapters on a peaceful note. This is a great place for a reader to rest their bookmark … and stop reading for good. End your scenes, chapters, and series with a shocking revelation, a precarious predicament, or other suspenseful event.
George R.R. Martin does this well in his Game of Thrones series. But I’m tired of using A Game of Thrones as an example, so I’m going to reference The Walking Dead.
Example: In season two, when the farmhouse is overrun by walkers,the season ends with the characters getting separated and running for their lives. Who lives? Who dies? Who is that cool, badass character with the zombies on leashes. Dun, Dun, Duuunn!!!
It happens again in a later season when the prison is overrun by the Governor. Once again we are left with unanswered questions. Cliffhangers almost caused me to purchase cable; they will sell books. Trust me.
That’s all I have to say about suspense . . . for now. Dun, Dun, Duuunn!!!
Hope you enjoyed. Please comment below. I love hearing from you. Praise is nice. I get a lot of it from my Tuesday Tips, but how about some praise for authors who use suspense well. Who is an author that left you hanging?
When someone tells you good morning, you feel obligated to return the greeting. The same goes when someone opens a door for you or gives you a complement. It’s a gut-reaction. Studies suggest that this response is ingrained in all of us as a natural impulse. Think of it as a human default setting like Calibri font in Microsoft Office (Times New Roman is so much better). It’s called the rule of reciprocation.
The rule is simple: Reward kind actions with kind actions. So essentially it’s like the Golden Rule–or Karma. If you do good things, good things will be done unto you.
Example of the rule in action:
A salesperson offers you a free sample. You feel innately obligated to purchase the product.
A coworker buys you a present, so you buy her one in return.
It applies to every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional. So it goes without saying that it applies to your writing life.
Do you feel obligated to review someone’s book because they reviewed yours?
Do you follow someone on twitter or WordPress because they followed you?
Social media is a great example of how the rule applies. Have you ever noticed that the people you follow on twitter typically follow you back. Likewise, if someone follows you but you fail to follow them back, they usually unfollow you within several days.
To be honest, I don’t follow everyone who follows me just to keep more followers. If they unfollow me, they weren’t the type of follower I wanted anyway. I’d rather build my platform slower but have genuine followers who are interested in what I have to say. Those followers are more likely to purchase my books.
The same goes for blogging. Do you comment simply to have a presence on another blog? Or do you comment because you genuinely have something to say about a post?
So what kind of blogger are you?
We have no control over the delineation of time in real life. An hour-long meeting on a Monday morning can feel like an entire day; however, an entire day can seem like only an hour when we’re having fun. The only time we can control how fast or slow time goes is in our novels. This is called pacing.
How to Pick up the Pace
For some scenes, you’ll want to step on the gas: cliffhangers, action scenes, fight scenes, arguments, climaxes. To make sure your reader keeps turning the page, eliminate all but the following
- immediate action
- immediate dialogue
- sensory details
You’ll want to keep description brief. Likewise, only describe sensory details your character would notice at that moment. Perhaps he taste blood in his mouth during a fight or hears a gun shot.
Some scenes just drag. Travel scenes are infamous for this. Describing every detail of every day of a long journey can be exhausting and pace-killing. Summarize slower scenes so you can get back to the action. Think of it as the literary version of a montage. Tolkien does this quite a bit in “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” For instance, the dwarves stay in Rivendell for 14 days. During this time they rested, studied their map, and learned the origins of their weapons. What could have taken several chapters is condensed into one paragraph.
Eliminate Unnecessary Dialogue
Dialogue can be used to hasten or slow the pace of your writing. To speed things up, cut out all boring or unnecessary dialogue.
Example: “Hi, Bob. How’re you doing?”
“I’m good, Ted. How about yourself?”
“Did you hear about Jim?”
“Yeah, his wife told me he died Saturday.”
“Well, she should know; she killed him.”
Example: They exchanged greetings.
“Did you here about Jim?”
Shorten Sentence Length
Long, detailed sentences take longer to read than short, choppy sentences. To quicken the pace, use short sentences or sentence fragments–that’s right, you can get away with these, but don’t overdo it.
You can also eliminate adjectives and adverbs.
There’s a lot of hate for adjectives and adverbs. I never understood why until I read Karen Miller’s “The Falcon Throne.”
Let’s look at Chapter one.
“Brassy-sweet, a single wavering trumpet blast rent the cold air. The destiers reared, ears flattened, nostrils flaring, then charged each other with the ferocity of war.
“Huzzah!” the joust’s excite onlookers shouted, throwing handfuls of barley and rye into the pale blue sky. The dry seeds fell to strike their heads and shoulders and the trampled, snow-burned grass beneath their feet,. Blackbirds bold as pirates, shrieked and squabled over the feast as children released from the working day’s drudgery shook rattles, clanged handbells, blew whistles and laughed.
Karen Miller does to her books with adjectives what my sister once did to my soup with paprika–ruined it!
These sentences are heavy and cumbersome. She uses description in excess during the joust as well: every noise, every sound, the light shining off of armor, exposition, the character’s thoughts,etc. All this description makes the scene drag. Even though these are very pretty sentences, they make you tired reading them. The excess of adjectives and adverbs can blur a sentences’ meaning, while tripping the readers eyes. I know I had to go back and re-read several of them.
Describe only what Your Character would Notice
When writing an action sequence, like a battle, fight, or chase scene, don’t use as much detail, inner dialogue, or description.
Describe only what your character would see. For instance, in a chase scene, everything blurs as you run. Are they looking for a place to hide? They won’t notice the trees are beautiful, only that they are too skinny to hide behind. This is not the time to stop and describe the roses.
I read a book that began with a chase scene. The main character is running for her life when suddenly she falls. As the character is laying exhausted on her back, the narrator went into a detailed description of her clothes, hair, the scenery, and exposition.
So many problems with this scene. Where to start.
Firstly, she would not notice anything serene or pretty, like how the light shines through the trees. She is running for her life. She is focusing on survival, not the scenery.
Secondly, the exposition in this scene slows the action. The reader might want to know why she is running, but this is a horrible time to bring up all the events and politics that lead to her escape. It also kills the suspense. If the character had this much time to reflect, she didn’t need to run now did she? What probably was only supposed to be a brief moment in the story felt like an hour.
Lastly, the description of her clothes was pace-killing, and jarring. Description needs to fit into the narrative smoothly without disrupting the flow.
She ran, not caring that her new boots were ruined.
Her velvet dress hindered her in the brier patch.
She could hide, but her red hair made it impossible to blend in with her surroundings.
Create Rapid-Fire Dialogue
Minimize dialogue tags, reactions, and attributions so your dialogue is short and snappy. This will give the impression that your characters are talking quickly in rapid-fire succession. This is great for arguments. Some authors believe readers rely heavily on dialogue tags to know who is talking, but as long as you make it clear who is speaking to start with, and as long as there aren’t too many characters in one scene, it will be understood.
How to Slow Pacing
Have you ever heard the expression, don’t rush the good things. Maybe it’s a Tina Turner song and not an expression at all. Anyway, sometimes it’s better to slow the pace. This is good for slower scenes, character development, or romantic scenes.
There is a difference between slowing the pace and killing it. Let’s look at some tricks for slowing pace. You might assume you can take the tips from above and flip them. You’d be correct. It really is as simple as that.
To slow pacing include:
- inner dialogue
- all those things we crossed out from the list above
- info dumps
- being over descriptive
- too much inner dialogue or dialogue that rambles
Just like the fast scenes, focus on what your character would notice. In a slower scene they might have more time to reflect on their past, focus on setting, or stop and smell the roses.
In a slower scene, you can use more dialogue tags, actions, reactions, and inner thoughts than you could in an action scene. This does not mean you should have wasted dialogue. Whether the pacing is fast or slow, dialogue should start with the introduction of the important information and end when the characters conclude the main point. Don’t let them meander too long. Leave out lengthy introductions, greetings, and small talk. Let’s return to that first example. For starters, you would still leave out the “Hi, Bob.”
They exchanged greetings.
“Did you hear about Jim?” Bob spoke into his coffee cup as he took a drink, his voice suddenly lower as if there was someone else in the break room who might overhear.
Ted rubbed the back of his neck. He almost wished someone would interrupt. “Yeah, his wife told me he died Saturday.”
Bob slammed his mug down. “Well, she should know; she killed him.”
So there you have it, just a little advice on pacing your narrative. Hope you found that helpful!
Check out the cover reveal for my sister’s debut novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other.” Looks great, doesn’t it!
I was so conflicted about what to write about today. Well, would you look at that, conflict just happens to be the next item on the editing checklist. To see the full editing checklist, feel free to check it out here.
We all face conflicts in our daily lives. Small conflicts like what to eat or wear. Major conflicts like getting a divorce, having surgery, or moving for a job.
People enjoy conflict–not in their own lives, but in the lives of others. Ever notice how engaged your friends and coworkers are when you tell them about your divorce from hell, but for some reason they glaze over when you recap your relaxing weekend. People feed off of drama like plants feed off of light. Maybe it distracts them from their own lives; maybe they relate; maybe they are addicted to the chemicals released from experiencing negative emotions. Whatever it is, harness its power to engage readers. If conflict keeps people at the water cooler, it will also keep readers turning the page.
Types of Conflict
Conflict is the most important part of your novel. After you introduce your main character, you introduce the conflict. The story doesn’t truly begin on page one, but when the protagonist sets out to resolve the conflict. When we think conflict, we often think of something exciting, like a plane crash or a car chase, but a conflict can be something invisible and small-scale like an emotion. To help understand conflict, let’s break it up into categories.
External: Any force outside of the protagonist: fire, tornado, shark, sharknado, etc
Internal: Internal conflict adds meaning to the external conflict. Consider the Battle of Blackwater in a Game of Thrones. Since this event happened in season two, I hardly feel the need to announce a spoiler alert, considering there are five seasons now. You’ve had your chance to catch up.
There are a lot of external conflicts in this scene: Stannis’ fleet, under-protected walls, fire, etc. However, the true drama comes from the characters’ inner conflicts. There are a lot of characters we could choose to focus on: King Joffrey, Tyrion, or Stannis, but let’s look at The Hound (I don’t remember what his real name is). The character is a great fighter, so why does he freak out and leave in the middle of battle? It’s not the ships, it’s not the men with swords, it’s the fire. Because he was burned as a child, The Hound fears fire, which is everywhere at King’s Landing. This is a great example of inner conflict layered underneath external conflict. His fear, and inability to overcome it, makes this scene more dramatic. Kudos goes to George for playing on a character’s weakness, but before I hand out too much praise, let’s just see how this character arc ends. George typically fails at character conflict resolution. No, this is not just my opinion. There are a lot of arcs that are never closed off and conflicts unresolved because Martin kills off a character instead of developing a more satisfactory conclusion (e.g., most of the Starks). Lazy, just lazy. For the Hound’s conflict to be resolved successfully, he will have to overcome his fear of fire in order to achieve his goal, but George will probably just kill him off–which is ok as long as it’s with fire.
- Self: inner conflict: flaws, doubts, prejudices
- Person: an antagonist e.g., a villain
- Society: tradition, laws, culture e.g., Hunger Games
- Nature: weather, elements e.g., Robinson Crusoe
- Technology: tech takes over
- Supernatural: something superficial: Gods, demons, fate, destiny
How to create conflict
To add conflict, you don’t have to plan a ton of major events, like explosions, war, etc. If you’ve ever read The Teahouse Fire, you’ll notice there was only one catastrophic event in the entire story: the fire. Other than that, not a lot happened, but every page was saturated with conflict. To create conflict, simply ask yourself, what does your character want? Once you know what they want, take it away and make it difficult to achieve.
a Hippopotamus for Christmas
Give your character a goal that your audience can relate with. The more they can relate, the more they’ll root for your protagonist. Create situations that prevent your character from getting what they want, and show their struggle to achieve it.
How to increase conflict
1. Give a Deadline
Think of a ticking clock. Imagine the story of Cinderella without the midnight curfew. Not as exciting, is it? A race against the clock adds suspense and drama.
2. Make your Character Choose
Decisions, decisions. Giving your characters choices will keep your readers on the edge of their seats. What will they choose? Will they complete their goal if it means ruining the lives of others? What will they sacrifice to get what they want?
3. Conflicting Goals
Like real people, your main character can have more than one goal. Make those goals compete.
Example: He wants to get a promotion and save his marriage. To get the promotion, he has to spend more time at work. To save his marriage, he needs to spend more time with his wife. He obviously can’t do both.
Also, group your protagonist with side characters who have conflicting goals or who have personality traits that conflict with your character.
Returning to the prior example. He has a mother-in-law who hates him, persuading his wife to leave.
4. Include Conflict in Every Scene
To iterate, this does not mean you have to have an explosion in every scene. Just make sure your character is struggling with something. Are they conflicting with their morals, another character, nature?
5. Inability to take Action
Render your character helpless to act. What always comes to my mind is a villain hand-rubbing and cackling while the main character, usually tied up, declares that they won’t get away with it . . . to which the villain always replies:
Let’s look at Star Wars (The good ones). You might think the main conflict is about the battle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance; however, the main conflict is actually Luke’s inner struggle between choosing the honorable way of the Jedi or getting revenge. The war complements Luke’s struggle because it is a battle between good and evil.
One conflict is not enough. On the road to your character achieving his or her goal are smaller conflicts. Think of these like bumps in the road. A good story has layers of conflict. Multiple conflicts add realism, depth, and interest. Interweave them so they are related. Let’s return to A Game of Thrones, however, we’ll take a look at Daenerys this time. Her main conflict is her desire to rule the iron throne. The battle hasn’t begun, but already she’s had many side conflicts: choosing between her family and her rule, hunger, obtaining an army, her brother, etc.
Note: Don’t forget to give side characters conflict as well. Make their wants compete with the main character. Just make sure their conflicts complement, not compete.
Raising the Stakes
Every conflict should be worse than the one before.
Conflict one:They mess up your order at McDonald’s
Conflict two: You’re late for work.
Conflict three: Your boss gives you a write up.
Conflict four: You’re girlfriend calls you during lunch to breakup with you.
Conflict five: You get pulled over on your way home and receive a ticket.
Conflict six: You get home to find all of your stuff is on the lawn.
Conflict seven: You have nowhere to go and nowhere to sleep, so you spend the night in your car while your stuff gets rained on.
Compare the first and last conflict. I bet you’d happily eat that Mcmessed up egg muffin now.
What happens if your stakes decrease?
One of several things. Your readers will lose interest or the conflict will get resolved too fast.
How to make sure your stakes are rising.
It’s easier if you plan your conflict while you’re planning your novel. Map the conflicts on your outline in the order they occur. You’ll obviously put the major conflict last.
What if it’s too late? You’ve already written your first draft. It’s never too late to rearrange or cut scenes. Keep a list of the conflicts that arise in your novel and compare them to make sure they appear in the correct order. I did this while editing my sister’s novel, The Quest for the Holy Something or Rather. Kay and Pig’s conflicts include a bear, a salesperson, and a kidnapping. Obviously the salesperson came first, followed by the bear, and lastly the kidnapping.
Don’t Raise the Stakes too High
Sometimes writers raise the stakes so high the protagonist cannot resolve the conflict realistically, resulting in a deus ex machina. I love her, but Karen Miller is infamously guilty of this. Do not let a God step in or bull-shit a magic ability at the last minute.This robs the reader of a satisfactory conclusion.
Rules of Conflict
- Conflict must always be resolved (That goes for you too, George R.R. Martin)
- Conflict must always be resolved by the main character or as the result of their actions
- No deus ex machina
- Have conflict in every scene
- Have multiple conflicts
There you have it. When it comes to writing, don’t save the drama for your mama.