• Sailing with the Pigs: Where Do Ideas Come From?

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    My fabulous brother-in-law HP owns a 2-cabin, ocean-going sailing ship that he docks at Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound. We've gone twice to sail with him, and it's a blast. There's something about letting the wind carry you across the water with no other means of propulsion. Wind in your face. Cold. Thrilling. I wanted to ...

  • OOPS! Continuity in Your Novel

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    Let's say that Marilyn is introduced in Chapter 1 of your novel as a blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty. But in Chapter 10 when she reappears, she's a brunette. Oops! It's a break in continuity. How does that happen? I was once in a school library where the librarian was administering Accelerated Reader tests, which text a student's ...

  • Dialogue: 4 Ways it Goes Wrong

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    Dialogue is an essential part of fiction, the way an author shows a character through what s/he says. And it's so easy to get it wrong. Here are some ways dialogue goes wrong and what to do about it. Trivial. When character talk to each other, the reader doesn't need to listen to the trivial, or ...

  • Expert Help: Defeat the Black Hole

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    Everyone knows that you can't defeat a black hole. Right? But what if you're writing a science fiction story and you NEED your characters to defeat the black hole. Um. Hard. Your readers won't go there with you, unless. . . Seek Experts That's exactly the situation I found myself in. I had set up a science fiction story ...

  • Repeating Prose Elements: Did I Hear an Echo?

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    HELLO! (Echo: Hello!) As I child, I lived near the Continental Divide in New Mexico and we often played, "Echo!" Throwing words at a mountain is a great children's game, but echoes can ruin your story. Repeating prose elements There are a couple major offending prose elements to be on your guard against as you write. The subject verbed. ...

  • Book Notes: The War that Saved My Life

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    Narrators come in different shapes and sizes, and levels of trust. Katherine Patterson said that the everything the narrator said in Jacob Have I Loved was "tinged with green." In other words, her unreliable narrator was jealous of her sister. Nothing she said could be taken as truth, especially when talking about her sister. The ...

  • Reader Confusion: Your Story Needs Clarity

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    Reader confusion is a common problem with first drafts. Prose is ambiguous, and scene details leave conflicting ideas of the time line or the physical location of the characters. Reader Confusion: Clarify Your Prose The problem of ambiguous prose lies in the writing itself. Let's look at some common problems and how to solve them. Fuzzy thinking. OK, ...

  • Complex Character Reactions

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    Character reactions to an event, comment or action are often complex. For instance, what if Jill slaps Jack. So what? The physical action alone isn't enough to determine meaning in the story. Instead, the writer must give the reader some kind of clues as to what is really happening and what Jack and Jill think ...