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Rita P Hestand

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7 Points of Writing
by Rita P Hestand   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, October 02, 2004
Posted: Sunday, June 08, 2003

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A quick, easy to understand guide to writing. 7 Points of Writing
outlines the seven most important things in writing a book.

7 Points of WritingI truly believe a writer has to learn their craft. Learning it can take years, I should know. I've been at mine forty years-and I'm still learning. So I've compiled a 7 point study here for writers to help them write perhaps a little better, a little smarter, with a little bit of an edge. Not that I know everything, but that I've made enough mistakes to have learned from them. I ought to get an award for making mistakes.1. Plot-Conflict-Internal-External, and motivation. 2. Characters3. Scene or setting4. Narrative5. Dialogue6. Point of View7. & Voice Okay now that we have it broken down into seven different major concerns. Let's talk about each one a little.PLOT- Plot is the meat of the story-what is it about. Conflict- is what keeps the problems coming throughout the story. Internal plot is why the hero or heroine struggles against the issue. Example: Jill is a straight-laced non-risk taker. Her father had been a policeman and was killed in the line of duty. Jill can't understand why her father chose such a dangerous lifestyle and refuses to get tangled up with a man like her father. She meets Jack who lives just down the hall and picks up his milk and paper every morning in just his pajama bottoms. Jack likes her, and is determined to get to know her. Jill is about to go on a date with Jack when Jill witnesses a murder in her building and Jack comes to investigate it. He's a cop. Can Jill put away her fear of taking risks and accept Jack for who and what he is? This is internal, when you character struggles against their own principles. External is a problem caused by something the hero or heroine has no control over. Example: Jill gets promoted within her company and has to move to Detroit. Jack is inDallas. Can they figure out a way to put aside their careers and deal with their relationship?There has to be conflict to move the story, to make your story interesting. The characters have to want something, have a goal, goal is what they want, conflict is why they can't have what they want, motivation is why they want it. I learned this from Debra Dixon in her book-Goals, Motivation, and Conflict!2 Characters: To write almost any book, you have to have characters. They can't be black and white characters. You must give them color to bring them to life. They can't be wooden-unable to change, for your story must help them grow and change. We must be able to see them in our minds. We must know not only what they look like, we have to know what makes them tick. What makes us want to read more about Jill? In order to make good characters you must literally bring them alive on paper. Let us see their good and their bad sides. Let us feel their emotions, see the scars of life on their faces. Jack's a hero, he saves people every day but why did he chose such a profession? Was his father a policeman too, was he killed in the line of duty? Did someone he know and love suffer an injustice and he wants to right the wrong. Does he secretly want to be a hero, want to prove himself to the world? What motivates him? Looks alone don't build character, your reader has to fall in love with your character. Make us fall in love and you'll have created an unforgettable character! For characterization you must read Robert Newton Peck book, "Fiction is Folks" best character book in the business!3. Scene or setting! Ahh, now here's where you say, "That's really not that important." But let's examine that statement. If we have not set the scene, how can we know what century we are in, what clothes our characters wear, how they talk, what period we are in? So scene my friend is one of the first things you have to figure out before you write the book. To clarify what I'm getting at in big bold print, "You can't put John Wayne in the middle of New York City with a horse and a gun". They won't fit. A pirate wouldn't be found surfing in California unless it was a time travel book. Although dialogue is more important these days, we have to take the time to set the scenes up in our book. We have to know where we are, and then we can use all the dialogue we want. So take the time to research your area for a setting or scene. And if you make it up, then make everything around your scene fit. You can't just throw things in for effect. Example: Creating a fog in Arizona's mid summer. Impossible. Making a desert out of London. Impossible. Sometimes setting scenes takes a lot of research, but it's well worth it in the long run. Know details about a place if you intend to use a real place. If you make it up, it all has to come together to be believable. So pay attention to scene and setting. To get a feel for setting, read the classics, they all had setting every one of them. And you can't miss it. Dickens, Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan Gone With The Wind. All of these had settings. Setting also enhances the book too. Even if it's a western in death valley. It can be beautiful, breathtaking, scary, romantic, set us a scene.4. Narrative:This can be part of the setting up, but it's also internal thoughts, description. A good writer knows how to sprinkle good narrative through a book without the reader even realizing what they are doing. We no longer have volumes of paragraphs with beautiful descriptive prose. Instead, the trend is to blend that prose into conversation, into internal thoughts, and break it up with dialogue, or point of view. Too much narrative can bore your reader. Too little can confuse them. One must learn balance to accomplish this in writing today. And it's one of the hardest parts of writing.Bad example:He went to his car, started the ignition, and slowly pulled out of the parking lot.Good example:He jumped into the blue sedan, jerked it into gear and sped off before she could turn around.Why is the first one bad? Because we don't need to see every detail of what he is doing, some things are automatically assumed, so we don't write them. Instead we use action words to show what he's doing. I believe Louis L'Amore had great narrative for a western writer.5. DialogueFor me dialogue comes easy. Part of the reason for this is almost funny. I'll share a small part of my writing life here. I found narrative hard, description lacking when I first began to write. But I worked on it till I thought I had it. Then when I sent my manuscript in, the publishers were no longer looking for beautiful prose, but great dialogue. Dialogue is easy if you can visualize your characters talking. There are however things that causes problems. When we speak of dialogue, we don't mean word for word of a conversation. What a good writer soon learns is that dialogue is pruned and cut down to the necessary part of the speech. Example:Bad: "Good morning, nice weather, huh? I really like that sweater." Good example: "It's too damned hot for that sweater, are you crazy?"In both sentences the sweater is not the problem, the weather is. The first example is boring. It doesn't catch your eye. It says very little. They are both talking weather, but the last one shows us. Always remember to show..Read Faulkner, Hemmingway.6. Point of ViewOkay, this one takes a beating by us all. We all tend to head hop or not hop at all at times. But most of the genres expect us to stick with the main characters of the story and not tell every thought from every person. Imagine how confusing that could get. This is a hard lesson to learn though. But the heroine can't see her own eyes, face, expressions and we can't tell the reader that she can. He wants her but we can't interrupt the heroines thoughts while he's getting turned on, it's distracting. We have to change the scene, so we can see the other's reactions. Bad example;She knew he wanted her, she felt the same and told him so with her soft expression.She can't see her own face, how does she know it is soft. Easy mistake.Better:He wanted her, and if he was reading her right, she wanted him too. So what was stopping him?Most good writers use one or two points of view throughout the book. Yes, there are many exceptions and made usually by well known authors who can afford to get away with it. In a mainstream or single title more viewpoints are allowed but still one must be careful. Rule of thumb is: Make it clear who is thinking what , use one at a time. I like to change the scene to give the other one's viewpoint. Less confusion that way.You can't read one book for point of view, you must read many and study them.7.Voice:Another hard one. What is voice? How does one go about using a voice in writing? The best I can answer this one is: Voice is attitude and the way in which you use that attitude in your book. Not to be confused with Point of View, but voice culminates many things. It's a feel the book has when you read it. In NICK'S BABY, I used Nick's voice. Because it was powerful, and steady and I knew how he thought. I was Nick while I wrote it. He was the story itself. Voice is style, how you tell your story. As a writer you are using a certain voice to tell the story. It's a combination of everything we have talked about here. It's the coming together of what you are writing. It must have a voice of it's own. Let me put it another way, think of Jackie Gleason, and Buster Keaton or a mime. Jackie Gleason was loud, obnoxious but a busman a strong personality. Buster Keaton was a silent movie star that used his mannerisms to create a personality. That personality was his voice. Now this is really going to throw you but this is how I see Voice:Voice is John Wayne. Why? Because the minute you see, hear, or watch the man you know his tone, his feelings, his direciton, you know him. Your book should have this kind of voice. Oh no, not John Wayne in particular. We can't all be John Wayne. But think about him for a moment and maybe you'll see what I mean. You always knew how John Wayne was going to talk, walk, act, and react to something. You knew because he was John Wayne. The same is true of voice in your writing. The true way to become an icon in this business is to have a voice, distinctly your own. You will be remembered long after you are gone if you have a voice. Think John Wayne, think voice!My writing this article is not to give advice, but to help you look at these points in writing in a different way. I'm no expert, I've just been studying this stuff for forty years. We can talk about all of this for years, but we must begin to implement them in our writing if we want to succeed. These seven points are in all books and we must be aware of them, study them use them to write a book.  

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Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader) 6/8/2003
Good article, Rita. Simplified beautifully.
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