6 Important Questions to Ask About Your Characters

There are multiple layers that make up each character, and external forces can affect their dynamics. However, each character will always have an innate personality that they tend to go back to, especially in stressful situations. These questions (and others) can help establish that core personality.

1. Is he/she assertive?

2. Does he/she prefer solitude or to be with others?

3. When provoked, does he/she fight or flee?

4. Is there one person that he/she cares for more than anyone else? (It doesn’t have to be romantic.)

5. How does he/she react under pressure?

6. Is he/she resourceful?

Two Blogs You Don't Want to Miss!

A wonderful blog that I follow for wonderful writing tips, Dreamwriter12. The author of the blog is currently doing example edits that are very interesting to look through, get ideas, and just see through there eyes.

Another blog I love, not-ideal, posts interesting writings, passes on wonderful artists and shows lots of love to the people the author follows. I’ve found some wonderful blogs to follow through not-ideal.

I hope you’ll all give them a look and see if they might be what you need popping up on your dash.

Okay! So for that anon asking about blog recs for blogs similar to mine, here it** is:

ablogwithaview / abookblog / aliteraryescape / aseriousbibliophile / awriterabroad /
/ bibliophilefiles / bibliophilem / bookconservator / bookgrotto / bookish-soliloquies / bookishfellows / booksandpublishing / booksandquills / booksandtea / bookslutss / conqueringshelves / completelybooked /

days-of-reading / deadpoetsmusings / dreamwriter12 / dukeofbookingham / ehnlee / falling-inlove-with-books / feelingsofthesecondarycharacters / fiveflavorsofwriting / fmtpextended / freckles-and-books

girlinterruptedreading / hundredsofcharacters / iceman-writing / jessicameats / k-frances / ladyariels / libraryshelves / mellifluousbookshelf / microaerophilic / onewritersworld / parchmentjunkie / prettybookish

read-chocolate-books / tea-and-bookishness / tealeavesandpages / theartoffiction / thedancingwriter / theliteraryluggage / thescalexwrites / violinwaist / waitingforwinterr / wherethewildbooksare / whispering-literature / write-like-a-freak

**please don’t be offended if you weren’t on the list and I do follow you (or we’re on good terms, actual friends, etc)! I plan to do a follow forever eventually because there are a lot of other great blogs I’d recommend. I only listed the above ones because the anon asked for blogs similar to mine. Without anything further, I had to assume they meant blogs that aren’t heavy on the YA, maybe offer writing tips, and/or have an unhealthy love for Harry Potter sprinkled throughout**

***bolded blogs are my irl friends but still great book/writing blogs***

Make Every Scene Count: Action and Conflict

Action scenes are a crucial part of narration in a story. They aren’t always sword fights or full-fledged battles, but regardless, the nuts and bolts matter. Whether the scene is a small plot point in the story arc or a large one, the craft of writing one should be done with care; action scenes can be tricky. So my advice is to focus on two main areas when getting down to the nitty-gritty: the writing structure itself and the minute details that make up the structure. Each contributes to the scene to make it more intense and realistic.

Writing Structure
First, pick up the pace. Use shorter dialogue and sentences to move things along. However, try to harmonize this with natural flow and keep things in “real time.” By that, I mean describe the actions of each passing minute. A greater abundance of details in those short sentences lets the reader know that this scene is an important one that will likely have a long-term affect on the plot. Another trick to speeding things up is to make your characters react with their gut more than their brain; the act of deciding quickly without dwelling on future consequences brings a sense of urgency to the scene.

Action scenes are one of the few places where readers really expect and appreciate extra tension and big reactions. In other words, drama. Drama is one of those touchy elements that I’m not overly fond of personally. Too much drama throughout a book can be rather annoying, and it tends to make the book less believable. However, when paired with a specific action scene, drama has the power to intensify the situation and increase the reaction of both characters and readers. Adding unexpected consequences or extra conflict will heighten the drama in the scene and can increase the stakes, making the impending actions of the characters involved pertinent to the outcome of the plot.

Close calls will enhance that drama. They cause characters (and readers) to hold their breath and hope for the best. They can be used to build tension or to introduce new conflict. For instance, if one character is running from another and both have guns, a few near misses will likely be exchanged before someone is hit. But once one of the characters is wounded, the whole dynamic of the chase changes. If the pursuer is injured, the person he is chasing might very well get away, amplifying the stress of the situation and developing the plot further. If the character fleeing is the one injured, the reader will suddenly become tense alongside the character.

Details help polish a well-written action scene. They are the last-minute touch that really dresses up good writing. Strong verbs are one of those details. The stronger the verb, the stronger the action that is conveyed. If you see a weak verb anywhere in an action scene (i.e. went), replace it with a stronger one (i.e. strutted).

The five senses are another great asset. They increase tension and urgency. When a description of those senses comes into play during an action scene, a short wave of slow motion can be perceived. This type of effect is quite simple to achieve in movies but is a bit trickier in writing. Adjectives as well as a few well-placed lengthy sentences can be used to achieve slow motion.

General Tips
If you’re still struggling with perfecting that action scene, try these tips:
1. Act out the scene to get a handle on body movements before writing them.
2. Research any weapons being used in the scene and how they are used.
3. Study other writers, particularly ones that are known for their craft of writing great action scenes.

Overall, use action scenes sparingly and balance them out with other types of scenes. A nice balance of scene descriptions and effective pacing throughout the story can bring an intensity and power to the action scenes.

Make Every Scene Count: Is It a Keeper or a Write Out?

Many times during the writing and editing process, you will find yourself facing the question, “Should I keep this scene or toss it?” It’s important to first determine whether the scene is crucial to a plot. As a professional editor, my advice is generally to cross out any scene that does not propel the plot forward, develop a character, or create further conflict. However, we all have our scenes that hold sentimental value. When confronted with this type of scenario, there are two main options: write out the scene, or adapt it to the plot. The best choice depends on the particular scene.

The following are some questions you can ask yourself when deciding whether to rewrite a scene or scrap it:

1. Does this scene in any way significantly alter the outcome of the plot?
2. Does this scene strain a relationship between two or more characters?
3. Is this scene in line with the personalities of the characters and the overall feel of the book?
4. If there is dialogue involved, does it serve a purpose, and is it in character of those speaking it?
5. Does the scene contain extraneous information that could not be derived from surrounding events alone?
6. Does this scene change the mindset of one or more characters involved in any way?
7. Does this scene resolve any previous conflicts?
8. Does this scene further the complexity of the plot?

“Yes” answers to any of these questions indicates there might be need for the scene and that adaptation of the scene might be best. The more “No” answers you have, the more likely it is that the scene is truly unnecessary and probably should not be kept. The only question that is completely under the discretion of the writer is number eight. While complex plots are intriguing, you will eventually have to draw the line somewhere so you can start solving the issues you’ve introduced. However, it’s totally up to you where to draw that line.

So, is your scene a keeper, or is it a write out?

Why Good Writing Matters: Dialogue

Dialogue is one of those pesky details of crafting fiction that can make or a break a good story. Good dialogue can make characters really come to life. However, when written poorly, dialogue can make the story flat, unprofessional, and even annoying. It’s a tricky thing to get right. I don’t think the answer is as simple as “You’re either good at dialogue, or you aren’t,” either. So how does one approach writing dialogue that will make it both real and interesting to the reader?

Keep It Simple
Dialogue holds a number of emotions for the characters that say them. It is a tool for interaction between characters and one for conveying characters’ thoughts and emotions to readers. What they say and how they say it can tell the reader more about a character than the author may realize. Depending on the dialect, one might be able to tell a location from which the character originates and sometimes their educational background. So it’s easy to get wrapped up in what a character should say, especially when you’re trying to explain a complex situation. While you want to be clear with what the character is saying and feeling, you also want to leave out some information, allowing the reader to pick up on cues from the other context. Not doing so can be frustrating to the reader, making them feel as though you don’t think they’re smart enough to figure out the subtler meanings on their own. Keeping the dialogue as simple as possible can minimize these issues. Say what is necessary for the scene, moment, or what have you, and leave it at that. Make the dialogue unique to the individual, but avoid being overly wordy.

Why this method works: Simple dialogue is real dialogue. There aren’t many individuals (that I know at least) that go around spouting off their every thought and desire. We have a way of involuntarily communicating with our bodies that let other people know how we feel about a situation without having to say anything at all. We’re also good at saying as little as necessary to get our words across, assuming that the other person will know enough about us and the context of what we said to pick up on the full meaning of our words. We’re emotional creatures, and we’re often eager to express ourselves without much planning. Good dialogue will have this feel to it, but it will also include a subtle agenda.

If your dialogue is forced, it will be obvious. Bad dialogue is one of the easiest things to pick out, even for non-writers. So it’s important to get it right. The best way to pull off this balancing act is to let your characters be who they are. Start out by having them say what you think they would say rather than what you want them to say. You can always go back and edit out unnecessary text later.

Keep reading

4 Key Tips for Aspiring Writers

Becoming a well-known author is a common dream for most aspiring writers. The desire to write is part of who we are, and we often strive to make a living at it. But becoming a professional author isn’t easy; it difficult to get your foot in the door, and it’s even harder to keep producing top-notch books on a regular basis once you’re in. After all, it’s extraordinarily rare to write a best-selling book that makes you millions, forcing the majority of writers to also have day jobs. So how does one achieve the status of a professional?

1. Treat writing as your career, not just a hobby. If you want to be an author full-time, you have to commit yourself to it. That means forcing yourself to sit down and write every day no matter what. You also have to push yourself and strive to make your work the best it can be.

2. Get feedback from a professional. While many of your friends and family can give you valuable input as readers, they likely won’t know the ins and outs of the publishing world or much in the way of professional editing. The feedback you will receive from a good editor can give you an idea of whether your writing is publication ready. It can also help you establish the things you’re good at, and what you need to work on. Attending writing workshops is also a great way to improve your skills.

3. Don’t rush the publication process. While you definitely want to make an effort to get your work out there and establish a name for yourself, make sure your writing is the best it can be before you do so. The best books take planning and many, many rounds of edits.

4. Build your reputation. Run a regular writing blog and meet other writers. Create a Twitter account and other social media dedicated to your writing. Let people see your skills as a writer—but take precautions to protect your rights to your work. Basically, you need to connect with others and showcase your talent. That’s probably one of the most challenging things about being a writer, because most of us aren’t born salespeople. But the more you can establish a name for yourself, the more interested people will become in your writing. And don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to get response; for many writers, it takes years to build up their reputation.

Being a professional author takes a lifetime of commitment and hard work, as well as self-discipline. It’s a long road to travel for most of us, but one worth taking. The most successful authors are the ones who spend their whole lives writing and continue to do so simply because they have a passion for it.

For more tips on becoming a professional author, check out this awesome blog post by Larry Correia: http://bit.ly/12Lz2Po.

The Grammar Grind: Quotation Marks

Quotations marks are rather simple to understand. They are used to capture word for word what somebody has said. They can also be used to indicate sarcasm or to set off a term, though italics are often preferred in such cases. Implementing quotation marks is a bit trickier. Many people struggle with the specifics, such as determining whether to use single or double quotation marks and where to place punctuation surrounding quotations.

This post will address those issues as well as a few others. Please keep in mind all rules discussed follow U.S. standards for quotation marks. Other countries follow a different standard, particularly for single vs. double quotation marks and punctuation placement. The field of journalism (newspapers, magazines, online publication, etc.) also often uses different style guidelines.

Single vs. Double Quotation Marks
Choosing the incorrect type of quotation marks—single or double—is the primary error I see in articles and manuscripts. But the U.S. rules for single vs. double quotation marks are very simple and direct. Single quotation marks are used if and only if they are placed inside double quotation marks (i.e. when there is a quotation within a quotation).

Example: Mary said, “She told Fred, ‘Get out!’”

Grammar Girl has an excellent post on this subject and also discusses the difference between the terms quote and quotation.

Curly vs. Straight Quotation Marks
Though few people really notice, there are actually two styles of quotation marks: curly quotation marks (”) and straight quotation marks (“). Curly quotation marks are used to set off dialogue, titles, terms, etc., while straight quotation marks are only used to indicate measurements—a single mark to indicate feet and a double mark to indicate inches. However, since they are often sleeker and are more pleasing to the eye, straight quotation marks are often used as a replacement for curly ones, especially on websites and printed publications such as magazines and journals. But why do so when using straight quotation marks is technically incorrect?

It all has to do with typography. When typographers design fonts, they choose the type of quotation marks that best fits with the overall appearance of the typeface. When they use straight quotation marks instead of curly ones, they are opting for a better-looking design over a minor technicality. Browse through a few well-designed websites, and you’ll quickly see what I mean. The truth of the matter is, rules dictating a distinction between the two styles are becoming a thing of the past.

Punctuation Placement
Punctuation placement is another toughie for people to get straight. Again, this mainly has to do with stylistic differences between the U.S. and other countries. For the U.S., periods and commas always go inside quotation marks, no matter what the case. If you have a single quotation with a double quotation, the period or comma should go inside both sets of quotations.

Example 1: "Let’s try the next room,” suggested Sally. “I don’t think this one is big enough.”

Example 2: Greg explained, “She looked me in the eye and confessed, 'Not this time.’”

There also should never be more than one punctuation mark at the end of a sentence, even when quotation marks are used. If a quotation is a statement, use the appropriate comma or period—not both.

Semicolons and colons are next in the hierarchy of punctuation. They should always be placed outside the quotation marks and take precedence over commas and periods.

Example: You don’t always have to say “no”; you could suggest other options instead.

Question marks and exclamation marks are at the top in the hierarchy of punctuation. They will always take precedence over all other forms of punctuation. When coupled with a quotation, they should be placed logically within the sentence.

Example 1: Why would Jane have said, “The sky is green, not blue”?

Example 2: Judy exclaimed, “You’re such a prude!”

If the sentence itself is a question or an exclamation, place the ending punctuation outside the quotation marks (Example 1). If instead the quotation is a question or exclamation, place the ending punctuation inside the quotation marks (Example 2). Notice that there is still only one form of punctuation at the end.

Finally, never use quotation marks when paraphrasing. Quotation marks should only be used to capture word for word what someone has said. When determining whether or not a statement is being paraphrased, look for an occurrence of the word “that” before the stated material. If present, “that” signifies the speaker is using his/her own words to reiterate someone else’s message; hence, no quotation marks should be used.

Example: Johnny stated that Sally got lost on her way to the park.

Quick-Tip Overview
1. Single quotation marks should only be used inside of double quotation marks.
2. Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks.
3. Semicolons and colons always go outside quotation marks.
4. Question marks and exclamation marks should be placed logically within the sentence.
5. Question marks and exclamation marks take precedence over all other forms of punctuation; semicolons and colons rank next, followed by periods and commas.
6. Never use quotation marks when paraphrasing.

Make Every Scene Count: Ending Scenes

There are two particular scenes in a book that are rather telling of the writing quality in between: the opening scene and the ending scene. Each is vital to capturing the reader’s interest in a book and keeping it. I touched on some tips for writing opening scenes in a previous blog in this series, and now it’s time to go over ending scenes. I’ll cover both ending scenes for chapters, and the final ending scene for a book. This will then wrap up the “Make Every Scene Count” series.

Chapter Endings
Consider ending the last scene of each chapter with a climactic moment rather than resolution. Cliffhangers may be old-fashioned, but they work. Why? They urge readers to keep reading. Examples of climactic moments are important news (especially the start of an announcement that is interrupted), a revealed secret that impacts other characters, new information that changes the plot, or new potential problem. This allows room for sort of resolution of things, but leaves the scene open-ended enough that readers will remain anxious about the outcome.

However, just because a scene is climactic doesn’t mean it has to be dramatic. Dramatic scenes should really be kept for key moments. Otherwise, they become less effective. An example of a climactic scene that isn’t quite so dramatic is one where a main character discovers an important object (without realizing its importance) or notices a change in themselves. Both of these things can have a huge impact on the plot, but for the scene at hand, it really doesn’t change much.

Book Endings
Book endings can be difficult, especially when it comes to pleasing your readers. Some might be rooting for Ending A, and others for Ending B. So what can you do to please both audiences? Well, first realize you cannot make every single reader happy. There will always be some criticism of your choice, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not only can authors learn from the feedback of their fans, but the fact that there is a debate about how it should have ended usually means that the writing was at least thought-provoking.

When it comes to the writing itself,

Keep reading

A New Approach to Writing Young Adult Fiction

One of the most read and written types of fiction today is young adult fiction. Many of its authors find themselves at the top of the best-seller list and gain an ever-growing fandom. But many readers and new authors of young adult fiction find themselves shying away from it more and more. Perhaps it’s because of all the best-selling “love” stories creeping out of the woodwork. Or maybe it’s because the subject of vampires, zombies, and the like have been beaten to death recently (no pun intended). Whichever the case, I’m going to step out and be bold for a minute and proclaim that this genre should NOT be thrown out the window. Not only do I think it should be written more often, I think it should be celebrated and admired by new authors. No, I haven’t gone bonkers. I think what is required to transform this niche is simply a new approach. If any type of fiction needs a new makeover, this one is certainly it. So how does one go about writing a YA fiction that is both unique and well-liked?

Don’t make it a love story.

Love stories often are cliché, and they tend to lack a worthwhile plot. That’s not to say that you can’t include any romance in your story. Romance and love are very natural parts of human nature (and other creatures as well), so it’s unlikely that it can be avoided altogether. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be realistic if the subject didn’t come up at all. However, there are ways of incorporating love connections in stories without writing them as though they were shoved in there “just because.”

Develop a story arc that isn’t a love triangle. Figure out what you want out of the story you’re writing, the points you’re trying to make (if any), and what the reason is for telling the story. Then let things play out how they will in the romance department; let your characters guide you. If you get to know them well enough, you will see that they can sometimes act unexpectedly and will respond differently to one another (and others) depending on the situation. For example, an otherwise argumentative, yet passionate, pair who normally dislike one another and don’t typically see eye to eye may suddenly find themselves bonding (sexually or otherwise) when faced with certain doom. In just the same way, new lovers who are completely attached to one another may end up realizing that their differences are far more reaching when they are placed under extreme conditions in close proximity to one another. This can either strengthen their relationship in the long run, or it can break it. In real life, love can be unpredictable. If written correctly, romantic scenes and connections can portray this authenticity well.

Don’t avoid topics just because they’re supposedly overdone.

I know that the mere mention of vampires, werewolves, or zombies can lead to automated eye rolls and groans. But the truth is, if an author makes a story with these subjects unique but authentic, readers will enjoy and appreciate the story anyway. The trick is research and a vivid imagination. One certainly shouldn’t write a fantasy story full of supernatural creatures just because they’re selling well right now. But with the same token, don’t avoid the genre just because so many have been written recently. If you truly make it your own and create a story and worthwhile plot that captivates readers and keeps them yearning for more, the subject matter will matter very little. Keep in mind that there will always be those who like a certain niche more than others regardless, so you can’t expect to please everyone. Write what you intend to write, and write it well. This is how you will reap your rewards as an author.

Make your characters well-rounded.

Nobody likes someone who is perfect. Why? Nobody is perfect. Everyone of us has flaws, no matter how minor or major. So don’t make your characters this way if you want them to be taken seriously. If you want to write a character that is muscular, handsome, and attractive, give him some flaws—and not just personality ones. Make one ear higher than the other. Make him so vain that he’s addicted to plastic surgery. Make him a terrible kisser. Give the reader something unexpected. This will make your character truly unique and will likely make them more real and relatable to the reader. Complete stereotypes are also just as annoying as flawless characters. If you’re going to make a story revolve around a quiet, smart girl that’s a loner, don’t make her a Plain Jane. Make her attractive. Make her have self-confidence, even to a fault! That will keep every guy from wanting her. After all, not everyone will fall for a cocky b****, no matter how pretty she is!

I hope that after reading this, a few of you authors out there will take a new approach when it comes to both writing and reading YA fiction. Maybe you’ve even developed a new liking for it and would like to take a stab at it yourself if you haven’t already. The key is to keep a positive attitude about it and an open mind. It truly can be one of the most rewarding types of fiction; after all, in what other time of life does one change, learn, and grow so much?


Today is officially the start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Hundreds of thousands of writers will be participating, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried to give it a go.

I’ve been debating about whether or not to participate this year myself, because of a rather full schedule. However, I know that no matter how busy you are, the best way to improve your writing is to push yourself to do even more. In light of that, I decided to do an adapted version of NaNoWriMo. Though I won’t be working toward the goal of completing a new novel, I will be striving to reach a goal of 50,000 words through working on short stories and my current novel. I hope to at least churn out some new material for submissions by doing so.

For those who are participating, I wish you the best of luck, and as always, happy writing!

Write What You Don't Know: Writing Prompt #7

No matter what kind of story you write, there will be a time where you have to write about a character of the opposite gender, sexual orientation, or both. So for this week’s prompt, create such a character. Establish their personality, typical behavior around others, and sexual preference. Then, write a short scene from that character’s viewpoint.

If you find yourself struggling to make the character realistic, check out a few of these sources:

Start by selecting some traits and behavioral tendencies, and go from there. Bear in mind that no matter the gender, characters have individual personalities, meaning there will be a range of both feminine and masculine qualities in each. The trick to making a character realistic isn’t defining if they’re male or female; it’s establishing who they are on a personal level. That being said, there will be certain behaviors, traits, and interests that lie more with one gender than the other. Just remember that there are always exceptions.

Happy writing!

The Thesaurus: Evil or Not Evil?

Overuse of a thesaurus is a common problem among writers. And it’s understandable. When you’re in a bind and just can’t think of an alternative word to the one you’ve written, thesauruses are an easy way to get new ideas. The problem with thesauruses isn’t the actual use or intent behind using them; it’s how the words are then incorporated. If you’ve spent a lot of time working on a piece and have established a sound voice and style of narrative, you don’t want it to be ruined by something simple like a word that doesn’t quite fit. An error like that has an amateur feel to it, even if the rest of the piece is written well. It will be especially clear to the reader if you suddenly throw in some big words into the middle of otherwise everyday language.

Here are some tips for incorporating new words into your writing without relying on a thesaurus:

  • Follow/Subscribe to blogs with daily vocabulary posts. Even if you just glance at the posts for these, you’ll be taking in new information. It’s also the easiest way of checking out new words, as there is little to no effort on research involved.
  • Use interactive sites to learn new vocabulary. Interactive sites offer a valuable learning tool when it comes to unfamiliar words. Not only do they provide the word and definition, but they challenge you to see if you’re really retaining the information. Some, like freerice.com, actually use the traffic to donate to others in need. It’s a great way to learn and to give back.

  • Look up words you don’t know or are unsure of. There is no shame in not knowing a word or in being unsure about it. It doesn’t mean you’re dumb or that you’re bad at writing. I actually do it myself frequently. Writers and editors are responsible for questioning everything that goes into a story, and a bit of extra research is part of that responsibility. Plus, if you don’t know a word well and use it incorrectly, you’ll probably get some grief for it. Be sure to pay careful attention to the part of speechwhen you’re looking up a new word; correct usage is what trips people up most often.
  • Use learned words in everyday conversations. As is the key with everything else in writing, practicing use of these new words is essential. It’s comparable to learning a foreign language. The phrase, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” holds very true in this case. You can further increase your skills by incorporating the new words into your writing. The more practice you have using uncommon words, the more easily they will mesh with your prose and dialogue.

Sometimes a thesaurus simply cannot be avoided. It’s one of those tools that every writer needs from time to time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, if done consistently and in conjunction with the style of writing/prose, using one to find more sophisticated words (generally a big no-no) is okay.

Here are some tips for when you do use a thesaurus:

  • Pick the word that fits best, not just one that sounds neat. Specifically, use the word that is most consistent with the style of the prose and/or dialogue. Try out a few different ones to make sure the one you pick is really the best option. Get a second opinion if need be.
  • Keep thesaurus use to a minimum. Relying too heavily on a thesaurus can not only set you back after a while, it can alter your writing style and unique voice as an author.

  • If you use a word from the thesaurus, take the time to learn it. Doing so will allow you to make better use of it in your future writing, and you will likely become more adept at incorporating it.

Contrary to what you might think or have heard, thesauruses are not the spawn of Satan. They do not take away from writing when used correctly; they are often a great utensil for writers, barring a few reservations. The trick is being able to distinguish when their use is an advantage and when it’s a crutch.

Make Every Scene Count: Intimacy and Romance

As natural as intimacy and romance are in everyday life, they aren’t the easiest scenes to write about, especially when it comes to standard fiction. For pure romance/erotica novels, the task is pretty simple. Explain in detail the heightened emotions and surges of passion one experiences when engaging in any intimate physical activity. However, for standard fiction that doesn’t focus on romance, writing a sex scene or even just a romantic one can be tricky.

To establish a well-written and seemingly-spontaneous-but-very-integral-part-of-the-story love scene for your fiction novel, consider the following guidelines.

1. Use heightened emotions. As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, dramatic writing isn’t really something that I endorse very often. Nevertheless, love scenes call for it. When you’re in love, every motion, breath, and thought (especially of your lover) is intensified and becomes paramount to your next move. As such, these emotions often lead to instinctive reactions that are not well-thought-out. These scenes usually have a slow-motion-like effect to them.

2. Pay attention to physiological changes. Before any close contact is even made, our bodies adopt some physiological responses when someone we attracted to is in immediate vicinity. Some we notice ourselves, and others we do not. These responses include increased heart rate, perspiration, flushing of the face, clamminess (especially of the hands), and butterflies in the stomach. Some other common, less obvious responses are nausea, shyness (hiding or quickly fleeing the scene), loss of speech or stumbling over words, talking too much or too quickly, forgetfulness, and nervousness (i.e. playing with hands or hair, fidgeting, biting lower lip, looking downward, shifting position often, not able to look in someone’s eyes).

3. It’s all about the specifics. As with the previous points, note all actions and physical responses that each character involved makes. If the scene is unfolding slowly for the character being followed, so should unfold it for the reader.

4. Don’t be too revealing. Even with emotions portrayed and physiological changes exhibited, when it comes to full-on sex scenes, it’s good practice to leave some to the imagination. While the reader wants to know what happens, they are usually more excited and “turned on” if you will when parts of the action are eluded to but not actually stated in a count-by-count blow. A good sex scene in a fiction novel works a lot like clothes on a woman; unless you’re going for erotica, it’s best to show a few tantalizing parts that make your mind wander.

Helpful links:

Make Every Scene Count: Beginning with a Bang

Writing the First Draft
When planning the opening scene for a story, there are two approaches you can take: a direct approach and a subtle approach. The direct approach is the option most writers take. The so-called action of a story begins immediately, and the reader is submersed in the world created by the author, usually alongside the center character(s). The subtle approach, though less often used, can actually be just as effective if executed well. It involves starting with a seemingly normal scene that soon reveals unusual circumstances, objects, etc. A story of this nature is often told in limited omniscient point of view (though not always), starting big and zooming in on a scene.

One you’ve chosen your method, it’s best to get right to the action. And no, that doesn’t mean that you have to start with the stereotypical action scene. As I stated previously, you can choose a rather normal scene with some oddities. The key is to start with a place where the plot is progressing and not with backstory; you can weave backstory in later. Movement should be your focus; as long as the plot is developing, your readers will be interested.

The other thing you want to avoid is commonly occurring scenes for the particular genre you’re writing. For instance, if you’re writing a mystery, don’t feel that you have to riddle the opening scene with death. You could have an investigator studying an almost-closed case where he realizes something is wrong. You could have a convicted felon escape from prison with some inside help. You could have an investigator stumble on to what he thinks is a case only to have it be a bust. The point is, there are numerous ways to tackle a common genre without giving it a typical opening.

If you know the method you want to use and have an idea for a developing plot, there is only one thing left to do: write. The initial writing process is different for everyone. My personal take is to simply write and not overthink things. After all, what is written can always be erased or altered, but what isn’t written won’t always come back to mind later. The downside is that this makes for more editing later. Another technique is to write only what you feel is necessary in the scope of the whole book. This is certainly more difficult to do but reduces the amount of time you’ll have to spend editing later on. Both strategies have their pros and cons.

The Editing Process
Once the first draft of your opening scene is staring you in the face and you’re ready to tackle editing, be prepared to get down to the nitty-gritty. Here are some suggestions you might want to follow as you push through the editing process:

1. Keep an open mind. Yes, your story is your baby, and you probably don’t want anyone bashing it or tearing it apart; however, if you’re really eager to improve your book, know that editing is a must.

2. Get a second (and third or fourth) opinion if you can. Look to someone you trust to be honest. Getting an outsider’s view on your book can prove really useful in catering to your targeted audience.

3. It’s all about details. Details make or break a scene. Quite honestly, they make or break a book. The trick is to provide enough detail to paint a vivid picture but avoid excessive detail that might bore your reader or cause them to discover important plot points prematurely.

4. Only include what is essential to the plot. If a line, paragraph, or scene doesn’t alter the plot or cause it to advance in any way, cut it. A good story is a natural progression of events that are told in a specific and methodical manner. The point of telling each scene should be to propel the plot forward.

5. Cut out any extraneous words. “That” is one of those words that I am guilty of overusing myself. It’s the first word that I look for when weeding through unnecessary parts of my story. Here’s a good rule of thumb about using it: only keep it if it’s essential to the meaning of the sentence. Another example is actions similar to sitting down. It’s obvious that you’re lowering your body when you sit, rending the word down unnecessary.

6. Replace adjective/verb couplings and weak verbs with stronger verbs. Doing so makes for stronger writing and more compelling text.

7. Set goals and deadlines for yourself when editing. Editing is the part of the process that writers typically hate the most. So treat it like you would a deadline at work or school. Set a reasonable goal for what you want to accomplish in a certain time period and stick with it. Have someone hold you accountable if need be. Reward yourself when you meet your goals.

Once you’ve gone through the stages of writing the first draft and editing it, go through the editing process again. And again. And again. And again. Perfecting a book takes time and practice. It’s very unlikely that you’ll end up with the end product you want after only a few edits. A friend of mine (a fantastic writer by the way) is on at least round thirty of edits, and she’s still ironing out kinks. But after reading the revisions she made, I can tell you it was worth it. Her story was transformed from great to phenomenal.

Write What You Don't Know: Writing Prompt #6

Forgetting about mythology and anything you might have read about in any other story, make up an entirely new species. Write a short scene involving this species. Be sure to include things about their appearance, diet, behavior, and any special abilities they might have.

Happy writing!

Write What You Don't Know: Writing Prompt #4

You’re a college student studying religion in one of your classes. During one of the lessons, something strikes you about a particular one. Suddenly, you find yourself immersed in it, unable to keep from participating. What if you really believed in it? How would your lifestyle and current relationships change?

This exercise is meant to get you thinking critically about other religions and how someone of a religious faith might perceive things. Some characters with these beliefs may have few changes in their lifestyle, and others may have several drastic ones.

BONUS: Write about a religion or set of beliefs different from your own.

Make Every Scene Count: Introduction

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be making posts for a new series blog of mine, “Make Every Scene Count.” It will cover tips on making each scene you write a better one. The tips are meant to be tools to help you focus on which scenes are important, both in initial drafts and during the editing process. I’ll cover beginning and ending scenes, action scenes, love scenes, and more. The articles will be geared toward fiction writing.

If you have any suggestions for topics to include on scene development, or want to share any helpful articles for writing scenes, please submit them; I’d be glad to share, and of course, include the source. :)