Whether or not you read the last post, I highly suggest you go (re)read it now. It is an important example.
The answer really is to write short sentences. It’s a little more than that though. The habit of Steven King’s use of one word chapters was a little excessive. You. Can’t. Just. Write. Like this. And. Get. Great. Results.
I’d like to take you back to my story for a moment. Let’s return and look at Dragons of Wellsdeep pages 8 and 9.
If you look at page 8, we start off in Moonhunter’s thoughts. The second paragraph has Moonhunter being fired upon. Except for the second-to-last sentence in the paragraph, they are all relatively short sentences or are divided by commas, which gives a feeling of a break.
The third paragraph has the sentences stretching out a bit more. It kind of feels all short and anxious, followed by a bigger span in order to breathe. Then we have Balthier’s and Moonhunter’s action and dialogue sequence. See how it starts off long and starts to get shorter as they go along. I’m increasing the page here with the white space of the page.
Now, in the last post, did you feel the intensity of it? Maybe a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more? I set up the great question, then slammed with the answer.
Bam! I have you.
It’s those short, punchy sentences where action has to take place. It locks you in. But you also have to have those longer sentences where the reader feels the space to breathe. You’re probably starting to feel a bit of the hypnotic spell here with post. At least I hope you are.
Now look at page 9 and see the sentences vary in length depending upon the emotional impact I want for the action scene.
Now, go write great action!
We’re starting to get into a scene that was very easy for me to write. I’m starting to feel like I have a good handle on the characters, though what Moonhunter is up to is still a little vague and unclear. It’s developing and that’s good. I’m still also waiting to get his motivation, but I trust that it will fall into place; I’ve been giving it a lot of thought still.
In some ways, writing this is feeling a lot like writing The Loki Adventures. I don’t see the whole journey, only the next step. But, if you’ve been reading the posts I’ve been putting out on Thursdays as well as this one, you know that I’m a big believer in just getting the story out on the page. Once you’ve written something, then you can go back and figure out the actual story. It’s like going to the store and buying clay; okay, that part has been successful, but now you need to mold it into something. Honestly, I’ve reached a point where I wish my painting was as easy as my writing (strange, because for quite a number of years it was the other way around). Enough whining. Onward!
On these two pages, I’m wanting a lot more description. Yeah, that’s no shocker. I know that I first write with a lot of action and dialogue. You might be completely different. I know authors that write tons of description in their first drafts, then they have to go back and work it in. But for me, I’m moving with the story, transcribing what’s happening. Then I have to go back, re-dream the dream so to speak, and pull the setting out of my head to put it onto the page.
Now that I know exactly what Moonhunter is up to in the next scene, I really need to go back and heighten his worry that Balthier knows something. And because he’s developing his special powers, I need to really slow down and introduce the reader to what he’s doing and why. Again, I know it’s in my head. I just have to get it out on the page for the reader. I know you don’t realize it, but when Moonhunter’s voice deepens, that’s part of the dragon change and him gathering fire within him. You’ll see that again in the next couple of pages that reference is made to it again, along with a note to myself that when Moonhunter is aboard the ship with Balthier and he makes the room hot that it’s him working on his dragon breath. I might not have even remembered that when I was editing those pages, but I did make myself a note to go back and check.
Get it out, get it down on the page. Form into something later, once you know what you’re building.
“I’m plotting against you.”
On Facebook, a friend of mine shared an image of those words. I feel it’s so appropriate to lead in with this because as a writer you need to always be plotting against the main characters.
I understand it’s hard when you love your main characters so much. They are a part of you and there’s a desire within yourself to be this character. If there isn’t, then why are you writing about this character?
But you always have to ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen to my character at this point?” Even as you’re going back through editing your manuscript, you need to ask this question: is it the absolute worst thing that could happen? If your answer is no, then you need to push it harder.
This is when you get to the real meat of the story.
Don’t plan out how your character gets out of the position you push them into. Let them figure it out. This is when your character surprises you and thinks of the one thing you never saw coming. These are the moments when you laugh out loud because they are hitting you in the face with your own pie. This is when you will love your character more than you thought possible.
Then you throw them back down into the pit lined with fiery coals again.
Don’t just let your main character win. Make them fight to win.