A Few Further Thoughts

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I’m still engaged in working out chapter two of my new science fiction novel The Guardian. Because I need some more serious thinking time to solve a particular problem, specifically how I go about introducing more characters, how many, and the gender ratio, I thought I might say something about a few things that tend to happen when we write, and some which get overused, not just by newbie writers I might add. A lot of what I’m about to say, I’ve said in previous posts. For my long time followers, please bear with me. This is mainly for any and all newcomers to my blog with dreams of one day becoming a published writer.

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Some of the novels and novellas by first time writer’s I have read recently, seem to rely solely on descriptive prose, while others believe that narrative and nothing else is all you need to tell the story. Neither of these techniques should ever be used on their own. Then there are a few who commit the sin of being verbose. To them I simply say, why use fifty words when ten or twenty will get across what you want to say?

But what I really want to get across to you is why descriptive prose should be used only when appropriate, and preferably not relied upon as a few writers tend to do – Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge 2000BC springs to mind as a book doubly cursed. It is mainly descriptive prose as well as being longwinded, i.e verbose. What was he thinking when he wrote it I wonder? Was it an experiment? Perhaps it was…

I saw this excellent quote on a writer’s Q&A site recently – Descriptive prose is simply writing that describes or gives a picture of a scene.” To give you an example, here is a short extract of mainly descriptive prose from my current WIP. To set the scene for you, remember that the story is set in the twenty-second century. Things are hotting up between my two main characters. Lynne loves wearing what she thinks of as vintage clothing from the twenty-first century. In this brief scene she has deliberately dressed in a specific way to get the attention of my male lead Adler while they are back on Earth. Up until now he has only ever seen her in her baggy flight suit, appearing indifferent towards her. Consequently she is determined to change his mind.

“Hi boss. God you are a hard man to track down.” Adler looked up to see Lynne standing before him. For a few seconds his eyes devoured the vision before him. Her makeup was perfect. The top half of her body was barely concealed inside a flesh coloured translucent Dolce and Gabbana tank top that clung to her breasts, leaving nothing to the imagination. As she slowly spun around for effect, the thought occurred to him that her perfectly formed rear was not so much covered by the Teal blue silk Artigiano miniskirt she wore, as lovingly caressed by it. Her legs were clad in a pair of Filodoro fishnet stockings. On her feet she wore an expensive pair of Marino Fabiani bright red stilettos. To complete the ensemble, she had an expensive Gucci bag slung over one shoulder. “Buy a girl a drink soldier?” she demanded rather than asked, giving him a smouldering look while deliberately sitting down directly opposite him to reveal the briefest hint of cream coloured silk underwear barely large enough to cover what now lay tantalisingly hidden from view when she crossed her legs. Yet again she was playing him. His wide eyed reaction told her she now had his complete attention.

What can I say, Lynne is sexually attracted to him. While there will inevitably be some prudish individuals who consider the above as bordering on the indecent, most will accept it as part of the story and move on.

Another point for you new writers to consider, even some of the old hands need to as well, is never state the obvious. What do I mean by this? Think about how many times while watching a film or maybe a play on television, that at some stage in the film one or more of the characters has said something like “we’re taking fire” when it is plainly obvious to you while watching it from the sight and sounds of ricocheting projectiles, part of the noise of any battle. Another absolute classic example is when a character states the obvious – “someone turned off the lights!” when the lights go out. Duh, really? Even screenplay writers don’t always get it right.

Of course when you are writing a book, unless you make a point of telling your readers what is happening by stating something maybe a little like the two above examples, how else would they know what has just happened. What I’m saying is think before you write!

Any story is always a delicate balance of many writing techniques. Each has its place. None should ever be solely relied upon. There are three or four other points for you to consider. Some of today’s writers see nothing wrong in the endless use of expletives. Don’t do it! Nor should you be explicit when it comes to sex scenes. By all means allude to whats going on, just don’t spell it out.  

Another thing is try to avoid using words in common use in your local vernacular. In the US, the made up word ‘gotten’ gets used on a daily basis. If your intention is for your book to only be sold in your country, then usually there will be no problem using such words. However, if you want your book to appeal to the rest of the world stick to English English and English spelling. In short if it doesn’t appear in the English version of the Oxford English Dictionary, avoid using it like the plague.

Lastly, avoid using the same old words all the time. By all means use them when writing the first draft of your WIP. But when it comes to editing it, make full use of a Thesaurus in conjunction with the synonym function common to all writing platforms. After all, that’s why they exist.

Now it’s back to thinking time for me, while I consume a Pomegranate for breakfast which I bought yesterday as a special treat. At my age, I deserve the odd pleasure from time to time. It’s a fruit I haven’t tasted since I was a child. Can’t wait…

PS – As for whether or not Lynne gets her man? Wait and see.

😀 😀 😀

30 thoughts on “A Few Further Thoughts

  1. I like the description, Jack, but I rarely meet a man who would recognise a particular designer’s clothes. Is Adler a fashion victim? Or a closet gay? Is Lynne in for a disappointment? Just wonderin’!

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  2. I did recognize the fashion names – expensive plus in the twenty-first century, but vintage clothing cheap in the twenty-second? I never considered a male writer would know enough about Italian fashion to put it in a book!

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  3. I’m not usually a science fiction reader. However, with the paragraph you shared with us, I may have to keep an eye out for The Guardian! Good stuff … interesting color combinations though 🙂

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  4. Good post. Lots to think about. I do occasionally use expletives, but only when appropriate (heated arguments or it’s just the way the character speaks). As for stating the obvious, I have actually done this in real life. Where I live, we have a lot of earthquakes. When one happens, I usually say, “Earthquake.” Most of the time, they’re just very weak and hardly noticeable.

    Although I can’t imagine someone walking around narrating everything they’re doing.

    Like

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