Saturday, February 25, 2012

Guest Post by J.C. Martin

The Fighter Writer is here today! When J.C. Martin isn’t reading or writing, she teaches martial arts and self-defence to adults and children. After working in pharmaceutical research, then in education as a schoolteacher, she decided to put the following to good use: one, her 2nd degree black belt in Wing Chun kung fu; and two, her overwhelming need to write dark mysteries and gripping thrillers with a psychological slant. I love how she says her favorite colors are pink and the black-and-blue shades of bruises! Her short stories have won various prizes and have been published in several anthologies. Her debut novel ORACLE will be released by J Taylor Publishing on 30th July 2012. Born and raised in Malaysia, J.C. now lives in south London with her husband and three dogs. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and on her blog, where she hosts cool things like Six Sentence Sunday and Writer Wednesdays. Thanks again for sharing a bit of your "butt-kicking bookworm" attitude with us!


Okay, so you’ve pictured the perfect setting for your story, where your scene plays out in your mind’s eye in full three-dimensional Technicolor. Now you have to put that movie into words on paper.
Stuck? Struggling? I don’t blame you. Unlike the movies, writers don’t have the luxury of sweeping panorama shots, of top-budget actors and an atmospheric soundtrack. One of the biggest challenges for a writer is projecting the scene in your mind’s eye into the minds of your readers.
So how do you get your readers to see the blockbuster playing in your head? How do you bring your writing to life? Whilst this requires constant practice, and I admit I’m no expert at it, I will nevertheless try to give you an idea of how to achieve it with a simple example.
Picture this scene:
Now, try and describe it in words. Here is one example:
The trees were bare, and the ground below was covered with dry, brown leaves. The sun was setting, casting the long shadows of the branches along the floor.
Simple and effective, no? It describes the place fine. But does it spring to life for you? Does it tell you if it’s a good place to be in, or not? Does it resonate? Not yet. The challenge is to turn this mere snapshot into a scene, a wonderland your readers can step into and experience.
Here’s example two:
The barren trees stretched skyward, skeletal branches shivering in the late autumn wind. Crisp leaves carpeted the forest floor, their dead and drying bodies crunching and rustling underfoot. A faint, sweet-sour whiff of fermenting vegetation lingers in the air, as the shadows cast by the setting sun lengthened like phantom fingers.
Now look at the picture again. Which example was more evocative, brought the photo to life for you? How do you think that was achieved? Both examples described the scene, but the second example puts the reader in the picture: rather than just seeing it, they smell, feel, experience it.
And that’s what makes it real.
Now, let’s further analyse example two to discern just how this was achieved:
1. Write in the active voice
Avoid ‘was’ as much as possible, as it makes your writing passive. Try replacing it with more active verbs. For example, instead of saying “The forest was silent,” say “Silence cloaked the forest.” It makes silence seem like an entity, something active and hence more engaging.
2. Make full use of your senses
To immerse your reader into that forest setting, they must not only be able to see it. What would they hear? What would they smell? How would the ground feel underfoot? Adding these sensory details will further enrich your writing.
3. Use effective verbs, adjectives, and metaphors to set the tone
Think carefully about the descriptive words you use. In the example above, the branches weren’t just bare; they were “skeletal.” Likewise, the shadows didn’t just stretch as the sun set, they “lengthened like phantom fingers.” The use of words such as ‘skeletal,’, ‘dead’, and ‘phantom’ evokes a feeling of foreboding, preparing the reader for what is to come next.
Now that you’ve (hopefully) learned a thing or two about bringing your writing to life, have a bit of a practice.
Can you describe the scene below?

1 comment:

  1. Love these pictures and advice!!! Thanks for sharing.