Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Are Your Characters Living in the Moment or Watching it Pass By?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

Put yourself in a scene before you put your characters there.

Years ago, there was a bit of a scare in the Hardy household. Our oldest cat took a tumble and hurt his hind leg. He was fine (he just limped for a few days), but until I knew he was okay, I was a basket case. For the rest of the day, I was a nervous Momma, and that continued until my little guy was back to his old self.

In the grand scene of things, it was no big deal.

To me, it was a huge crisis. Someone I loved was hurt.

Even worse, someone vulnerable I loved was hurt and needed my help.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Telling Yourself to Show: How to Identify Flat Scenes

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

We don't always choose the right scenes to dramatize in a story.

I wrote a scene for my third novel, Darkfall, where my characters were sitting at a table talking about stuff. Now, from a technical standpoint, there wasn't anything wrong with this scene. My protagonist, Nya, had a goal for what she needed to do at that table, and there were stakes if she failed. 

This led to another scene where Nya was talking to someone else in a different room, gathering more information about things important to the story. It all advanced the plot.

But something felt off.

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Description Tip: Make “Sense” of Your Characters

y Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

You have five great tools for writing better descriptions, so why not use them all?

I’ll be honest—description is my least favorite thing to write. I always have to do a revision pass specifically to add more description, and I have critique partners who regularly whack me with the description stick when I slack off. 
So I created little games to make it more fun for me. One of them helps me focus and guides my brainstorming toward how my characters might see their world, and what ways they might describe their surroundings and experiences.

If you have a similar distaste of descriptions, or struggle with knowing what details to use, or you’re just looking for fun tips to help with description, try this:

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Turning Good Writing into Great Writing

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

The first words you write aren’t always the right words to use.

Tuesday, I spent at least a half hour writing one line—and it wasn’t an opening line. I was working on a new scene for my science fiction detective novel, and it’s an emotion-packed scene right after the Dark Moment that tacks onto the All Is Lost Moment. It’s one those “this is where the protagonist reveals secrets they’d been keeping from someone important in their life, and it goes badly” situations.

I reached the end of the scene and had my upset character storm off, and then dropped the last line of the chapter.

I knew the final line was the right way to end, but it just felt meh.

I also knew the action lines leading up to it were the right ones, but they also felt meh.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Faceless Villain: What to do When Your Protagonist Is the "Bad Guy"

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Not every story has a villain at its center—sometimes the problem is the protagonist.

For a lot of writers, the hardest-to-write conflict is the Person vs. Self conflict. Quite often, the antagonist is a physical being the protagonist can physically fight. But in a PvS conflict, there's no one plotting against the protagonist. The antagonist is something to overcome, such as depression, or grief, or a self-destructive streak that’s core to who the protagonist is and a flaw they need to fix by the end of the novel.

These stories are more challenging, but there’s no “Big Bad Guy” causing all the trouble.

But like any good conflict, even if your protagonist is dealing with a difficult personal issue, they'll still have an external antagonist to reckon with.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

When Stuck in a Scene, Look Around

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Sometimes the answer to making a scene work is inside the scene itself.

I’ve been struggling with a major turning point chapter revision the past week, and one scene was really giving me a headache. It’s the end of Act Two, and the scene that triggers my protagonist’s Dark Night of the Soul and All Is Lost moments. So yeah, it’s important.

What’s worse, is that I knew how the chapter needed to end (because of those oh-so-critical moments), I just wasn’t sure how to get there based on where the story was after all the new revisions. I had to connect Point A with Point B, mixing the original mystery plot with the new personal subplot I’d added.

This scene depended on my protagonist getting face-to-face with the antagonist’s minion and realizing something world-shattering about himself and the Big Problem of the plot. And after all the revising I’d done, I had no idea why that minion was in the scene now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

In the Beginning: Which Type of Opening Works Best in a Novel?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Opening lines are your novel's first impression on a reader. As long as it's a good impression, how you get there doesn't matter. 

The opening line of your novel is probably the most important line you'll write (no pressure). How you start your novel determines how many readers (or agents and editors) will keep reading it. And there are a lot of opinions about what that opening line should be.

Do you start with dialogue, description, or internalization?

Each one has a horror story associated with it about the dangers of using that type to start your novel. "Don't open a story with dialogue," or "Never start with description," or "Opening with internalization is just navel gazing."

Truth is, the type of opening line doesn't matter. It's how you start the story that's important. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

3 Places Told Prose Likes to Hide

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Told prose can steal the oompf from your story and make readers want to skim.

As a science fiction and fantasy writer, I was guilty of a lot of telling in my early work. I’d infodump, I’d write pages of backstory, I’d explain how rules worked and which gods did what to whom. It was a total mess.

But as my writing improved, I discovered how helpful showing could be. It let me put all those wonderful details I’d created into the scene without having to explain them. It let me suggest the backstories and create layered, nuanced characters. It let me background the description and not write boring paragraph after paragraph on what something looked like.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Did You Choose the Best Words to Describe Your Setting?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Your reader doesn’t know what you’re picturing when you write a scene. Make sure they see what you see.

Setting is a vital component of a novel, but it's one of the more awkward things to write naturally. People don't stop and describe the landscape, so having characters who do can feel forced and knock a reader right out of the story.

It gets even more complicated when you think about how pretty much every scene needs its setting described so readers know where they are. But if you over describe, or use the wrong details, readers can get bored and start skimming, or get confused and stop reading.

In a critique, such descriptions often get feedback such as: "The setting didn't feel real to me" or "I never felt grounded in this world" or even "I just never connected to the character."

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Problem With Flash Forwards as an Opening Scene

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

If you have to flash forward to hook a reader, you’re not starting in the right place.

I admit, flash forwards are a big pet peeve of mine. I find them awkward and pointless, because they’re trying to get me interested in “an exciting part” of the story without doing any work to actually create that emotional connection. Obviously, taste vary, but for me, they’re a trick, a bait and switch, and they fail more times than work.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a flash forward is a device that starts with a scene from later in the story, then jumps back in time to show how the characters ended up in that situation. On TV shows, it’s the “twenty-four hours earlier” text that shows up after the opening scene where we see the hero in dire straits.