My almost three year old woke me up at about two am the other day because he had to go potty. (This is relevant, I promise!). I'm standing there, eyes half open, the other half fuzzy with sleep, and I'm really close to losing patience because I'm urging him to hurry up and get dressed again, and he's busy examining the new owie on his knee. And then it hit me! Oftentimes when I write, I hear voices. Yes, it's true, I'm mental :). Seriously, my characters talk in my head, and I'm so anxious to get their words written down that I forego the necessary tagging that comes along with it. What does this character look like when she's angrily yelling about Rowen wanting to kill her? Is he just standing there, or are his fists raised? Is a car passing while they're talking/yelling? What time of day is it? etc. I see all of these things in my head, but I'm so anxious to get the story moving that it sometimes gets overlooked. I always have to go back and add it in later.
Charlotte Cook, an aquisition editor for Komenar Publishing, did a critique on my first twenty pages (not the strongest point of my novel!) and she said, you haven't written a novel, you've written a radio script. Because all my characters did was talk to each other (that's not all they did, but you get the point). I saw it in my head and so assumed everyone else would too. (I'm happy to say that the rest of my book is not like that.) So I've been doing a TON of reading and I learned a TON at the conference and believe me, my newly revised opening scene is filled with life and detail, senses...with reality! (And this blog will touch on all of these things I'm learning!) Take the time to add senses--feel, touch, taste, sound. Don't just rely on sight, everywhere I've read says sight is way overdone and I agree. Slow down and smell the roses :) (okay, total cliche, I know.)
You've got to make your characters real. Readers aren't stupid, you can't just say "His words angered me," or "I was terrified." Don't tell the reader those emotions--Show them! Dramatize dramatize dramatize! Never never never never never use the phrase, "I felt..." because that slows whatever emotional interest you've got in your readers, you've got to create characters so real that the reader feels what they're feeling at the moment they're feeling it. I heard once, I think it's in Nancy Kress's book Characters, Emotions, & Viewpoint, that if you're character reacts in anger to a certain situation, even if your reader wouldn't react that same way, you've got to make the reader feel the character's anger. Is this making any sense? That's what hooks readers to your books. The emotion. Why do so many people like Twilight? Is it because Stephenie Meyer is an amazing writer and her plot points are to die for? Not here to bash, so I won't go into that, but the thing Stephenie did so masterfully was to create emotion. I fell in love with Edward right along with Bella. (yes, I got suckered in along with everyone else!).
Jack Johnson's "Inaudible Melodies" comes to mind as I'm writing this. "Slow down, everyone, you're movin' too fast."
Slow down in your writing. Jessical Morrell says to have a sensual element on every page. Not sensual in the kinky naughty sense, but in the sense sense! Have your character hear an airplane cutting through the sky above, or taste the smoke from a nearby forest fire.
On that same note, don't spend a page listing all the details of the park your characters are in, or your readers will be bored to tears. Intersperse senses and details along with plot and dialogue and character's thoughts, so that they flow and aren't separate from the rest of what's going on.
How do you create emotion?
Nancy Kress gives four ways:
1. Action. Have your character react to something, step away from something they're scared of.
2. Dialogue. "Why can't you leave me alone?"
3. Bodily reactions: the thrill of nerves, laughter
A good way to know what your character feels how he'd react to a certain situation is to identify his back story, his goal and current desires. More on that in a different post!
Sorry, this was a little all over the place, but, the moral of the post is: Don't be so focused on getting your pants back on that you fail to notice the bumpy texture and sting of the patchy red scar on your knee. lol