Watching movies, we’ve all seen the planes in historical skies or gas cannisters powering Roman chariots. We’ve all experienced boredom and switched channels because the acting was poor or the dialogue amateur. We’ve all spotted the breathing corpse or the grinning hostage. Such bloopers also apply to your writing. To improve your self-editing skills, here are the three most common writing bloopers and how to deal with them.
1) OVER-WRITING – become a proficient cleaner
No not insurance, I mean depositing fluff. This is the biggy, the main man, and to make matters worse; to most it is invisible. Over-writing is responsible for a massive 80% of editorial pounces. De-fluffing isn’t as easy as swiping with a lint brush, but employing a simple technique can work wonders. Here’s how: Take one paragraph at a time, get into the narrative voice/character, read it out loud, and then: consider every single word for deletion.
Every single word!
Ask yourself if reader would notice the deletion? Ask yourself if the STORY would be spoiled if that one word or sentence was taken away. It is remarkable how much can be trimmed, thereby leaving STORY to work for itself. Picking the fluff away allows STORY to run with clarity, and hearing it read out loud and in character helps to identify the fluff. It works, and with practice, one just gets quicker at picking it away.
2) DUBIOUS DIALOGUE – become an outstanding actor
Ditto the above. Once again imagine the scene playing out on the screen in your mind, get in character, and read it out loud.
Does it sound realistic, believable?
Does a word need italicising for improved inflection?
Can punctuation be used for better effect?
Can improved word choice aid delivery?
Does word choice convey the expected character mood?
Reading aloud, and playing the part really does help.
3) UNCONVINCING MOOD & TONE – become a pedantic director
For your story to be conveyed satisfactorily, for reader to believe it and enjoy it, individual character mood (resultant of story events) must conform to reader’s inbuilt preconceptions of human reactions, otherwise the resulting perceived tone will be off-key. For a woman to chuckle in the scene after her husband got sliced in two by an axe murderer either says something wonderfully insane about the character, or something woefully lacking in the writer. For the POV narrative to wax lyrical about the rosy fingers of dawn when there’s a murder going down means the `writer` needs to shut up. To have the shy boy suddenly become brassy – but only for a page or two – or a character NOT reacting to a story event, simply won’t do. Fix this by standing back and watching the scene. Examine the event/s portrayed. Examine each character’s action and reaction, followed by their mood. And not only their current mood, but the after-effects. If a character loses a relative, or a pet, or even a job, then that character may take some time before the mood changes.
Character mood needs careful moulding and tracking through actions, best word choice, narrative voice, and dialogue before it can become believable. And to achieve that you must don the director’s hat and be hard on your cast.
Direct Diligently … the way to better writing.