Recently, I’ve started reading several books that I have swiftly put aside. Why? Because they had off-putting openings.
What did I mean by off-putting openings? I’d say the kind of start that left me—as a reader—confused, or bored, or annoyed. The kind of start that made me say something like, “if this is the best this author can do, then I have better ways of spending my precious reading time.”
Off-putting openings #1 : a crowd of named minor characters
When should an author give a character a name?
That’s not easy to answer. It may seem obvious that all characters have names—of course they do—but does the reader want to know the name, or need to know the name?
I’ve called this blog Points of View because that is what I’ve been thinking about, off and on, since the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference two weeks ago.
Not just in a relation to writing, either, as you will see.
I admit, however, that I have been struggling for some time with POV issues. I’m in the process of an Absolutely Last Edit of a book that, when I first imagined it, had a first person vibe. It didn’t last and it has much improved as a result. But in some places the “I voice” has left an uncomfortable shadow.
At least, I think that’s the answer. Especially after a really excellent workshop on Psychic Distance from Emma Darwin.
I bet you do. Perhaps all authors do? A few weeks ago, in her excellent presentation on snappy dialogue at the RNA Virtual Conference 2020, Virginia Heath confessed to overusing the phrase “he huffed out” as a speech tag for her heroes. Virginia, being a professional, knows how to catch and reduce her use of habit words. Do you?
To start at the beginning: what are Habit Words?
Repetition can be boring. And people do notice…
Habit words and phrases are part of an author’s voice, the words and phrases that come naturally and automatically, that trip off the tongue, that make the writing sound like you. Continue reading →
Last week, I attended The Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick for the first time. I must say that I’d forgotten what it’s like to be a writing conference newbie — I’ve been going to the RNA Conference for more years than I’m prepared to admit — and it was salutary to experience newbie-dom all over again.
(At my first RNA Conference, I wasn’t published and didn’t really know anyone. But I met loads of writers whose books I’d read and loved. I remember chatting with Nicola Cornick who was then one of my writing heroes, and still is. The RNA sort of enfolded me, from that point on, it seemed.) Continue reading →