Thursday, February 4, 2010

Writing Tips from Expert Marvin Wilson!


Today I am happy to host my first guest - writer, author, & editor, Marvin Wilson!

Stop Butting In

Having a strong and unique voice is considered a good quality in an author. It is one of those intangibles that keeps readers coming back for more. But novice authors often have a rookie habit of "butting in" to the story to interject their own thoughts and/or information. It can be a jarring disruption to the story line. Here is an example:

John walked past the flowering shrubs, enjoying the smell. Forsythias are what he was smelling; they are indigenous to Southeast Michigan. He spotted Mary standing next to the water fountain, walked up to her and said, “Hi, Mary.”

Mary’s face lit up as she said, “Oh, hi, John, long time.”

~~~~~

See how the second sentence is just stuck in there? It stops the story's forward motion while the author tosses in a fact. It is better to deliver information by letting the characters do the talking - like this:

John walked past the flowering shrubs, enjoying the familiar smell. He spotted Mary standing next to the water fountain, walked up to her, and said, “Hi, Mary.”

Mary’s face lit up as she said, “Oh, hi, John, long time. Mmm, what is that lovely scent in the air?”

"Forsythias. They grow all over this part of the state."

***

Here's another example, one right out of a manuscript I recently edited-

Mark, the Attorney General Prosecutor, took his turn to speak. He assured the judge that the Texas Department of Public Safety, a division of the Texas Rangers, was part of the investigation. He also said his office was coordinating with the Rangers, and that pre-coordination had been made with the adjoining county to prosecute the case. This is what the Texas Local Code provides for if the case is against the District Attorney. He stated for the record that if Byar County failed to respond to the charges, the Attorney General Office was prepared to assume prosecution responsibilities.

~~~~~

The bold red sentence, and that's how it stuck out to me when I first read it, is this author spouting off his knowledge of Texan judicial procedure. Nice that he's doing his research, but no need to stop the story dead. The fix is easy. Read it rewritten like this:

Mark, the Attorney General prosecutor, took his turn to speak. He assured the judge that the Texas Department of Public Safety, a division of the Texas Rangers, was part of the investigation. He also said his office was coordinating with the Rangers, and that pre-coordination had been made with the adjoining county to prosecute the case. He cited the Texas Local Code which provides for such relocation if the case is against the local District Attorney. He stated for the record that if Byar County failed to respond to the charges, the Attorney General Office was prepared to assume prosecution responsibilities.

***

Now the information is seamlessly woven into the story, with the author nicely "butting out." With this minor adjustment, his character is able to deliver the information within the performance of the scene.

# # #

Marvin D. Wilson is the author of three published books, I Romanced the Stone (Memoirs of a Recovering Hippie), Owen Fiddler, and Between the Storm and the Rainbow . The novel, Owen Fiddler, received the prestigious AVATAR award for excellence in spiritual books. Wilson has had articles published in multiple Ezines, and has been interviewed on hundreds of blogs, radio and TV shows, both over the internet and on the airwaves. He is a prolific blogger, posting daily on his internationally popular blog at The Old Silly’s Free Spirit Blog .

Wilson is a family man, married for thirty-four years, with three adult children and six grandchildren. He has been around the block of life several times, through the ups and downs, and has survived in good enough spirits to desire to write about life, to write about living life on purpose. Wilson is a self-described “non-religious, dogma-free, Maverick spiritualist Christian.” He writes books that deliver spiritual and inspirational messages in an engaging, thought provoking, often times humorous, more than often irreverent, sometimes sexy and even ribald way, through the spinning of an entertaining tale. Marvin D Wilson is an editor with All Things That Matter Press and does freelance editing as well.

Contact Marvin:
E-mail: marvwilson2020@gmail.com
Twitter: Paize_Fiddler
Facebook: Marvin Wilson
Blog: The Old Silly’s Free Spirit Blog


Thanks again, Marvin Buddy!

10 comments:

Crystal Clear Proofing said...

Wonderful examples! So often just the slightest rearranging of words makes all the difference in the flow.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Crystal picked the right word - FLOW.

Great post, Marvin!

Helen Ginger said...

I'm finding quite a bit of that in my editing also. I usually tell my authors to decide if this bit of info is really necessary and, if so, weave it into the narration so it's smooth rather than a bump.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

No bumpy stories! Great advice on working info into a story, Marvin.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

The Old Silly said...

Thanks, Alex, for having me on your blog today. It's always nice to get a chance to post to new readers. Good job on the layout, also!

Crystal and Diane - yuppers, it IS all about the flow, hmm?

Helen, my approach is very similar to yours it seems on this matter.

Elizabeth - Agreed - those bumps can be such a grind, eh? lol

Marvin D Wilson

Stephen Tremp said...

Marv is a terrific editor. I know. He's cleaning up my MS. Where would we writers be without editors? Unpublished probably.

Stephen Tremp

cassandrajade said...

Some excellent advice. Thanks so much for sharing these examples and suggestions.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks again for sharing with everyone today, Marvin!

The Old Silly said...

Hey you are SO welcome. We'll do this again sometime if you like, too.

Marvin D Wilson

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Marv! I forgot you were gonna be here today, so, it was a nice surprise to see your smiling face. Thank you for the butting reminder. I wish I could say I was not guilty of this particular writing sin. Alas...

Best Wishes Galen.
Imagineering Fiction Blog