Fic-Tricks

Written By: jOakes

Here are some writer’s tips to put you ahead of the game:

When you have a certain character talk to someone else – let’s say a guy named Ray is talking to his friend Tom – you always put a comma between the greeting, or preceding phrase, and the name. An example is “Hello, Darlene.”

Another example would be: “I really appreciate you helping me move, Tom.” In that case, it is clear that you need the comma – or else the sentence would be implying that the speaker is thanking someone else for literally moving Tom. This applies to all instances of someone addressing someone else; and not in instances such as “I’m going to visit Tom.” However, if in the second example, Ray is again talking to Tom, who’d just asked Ray why he is going to Seattle, you would definitely need that comma between “visit” and “Tom.” In that case, Tom is being addressed: “I’m going to visit, Tom.” You see why that comma is so important?

In writing, there is something known as the iambic pentameter. It is a certain rhythm that creates a sense of comfort in the reader. It should be intuitive. Compare the sentences, “I look forward to this months in advance” to “I look forward to this event months in advance.” It may seem like a subtle difference but it fills the meter a lot better – just adding that one word, “event.”

Avoid using slang contractions like “gonna” and “gotta.” Even though people may actually say them, for some reason when written down they come off as artificial. I would suggest using “going to” and “got to” and draw the characters distinctively enough to where people will translate to slang in their own minds.

Good dialog (and I believe that even in this essay you are free to deviate from what was actually said) isn’t always what people would *really* say. Sometimes what people really say comes off as stilted or artificial. You have to strike the sort of impressionistic tone found, for example, in dialog written by Tarantino or Mamet. A lot of it is more an issue of the right rhythm than the right words.

A journalistic rule of thumb: spell out numbers up through nine. At 10, begin using the numbers as opposed to words. Not that you had this wrong, necessarily, but it is a general journalistic rule to keep in mind.

Often, you can leave out the word “that” – which will make your writing run more smoothly. Example: “The person that she loved the most had greatly disappointed her.” Compare to “The person she loved the most had greatly disappointed her.” The second sentence is smoother, more musical. Go for absolutes. Instead of saying that you went somewhere fun and “had pretty much the time of your life,” go for the gusto and just say you “had the time of your life.” I think the statement is more powerful without the mitigating “pretty much.”

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