I’ve been talking with a friend who is working on a novel and he asked me to give him some ideas on his manuscript. I found myself remembering many things I’ve read in books on writing and at numerous workshops and seminars.
Interestingly I also found myself drawing on things I’ve heard during the book discussion group I attend at my local bookstore. I am very lucky to have found a great group leader and an above average group of people who read a lot and share intelligent comments.
One thing is I am “forced” to read a wide variety of books that I normally wouldn’t read on my own. I’ve always tended to read mysteries, thrillers and true history. In the group we read classics, new releases, travel, adventure, historical and many other genres. Although many writers will say read what you want to write I think it is also important to learn what else is out there. So many books cross genres these days and new genres are constantly popping up. It’s good to know what they are.
I’ve learned that having too much dialect causes people to be jerked out of the story. Personally I hate to read books with a lot of foreign words, especially French.
Of course there is a lot of discussion about characters. Cardboard characters don’t keep the reader interested and even with a good plot they don’t develop a connection. I remember one lady calling a character a “noodle.” None of us really liked that book and the character just didn’t show the strengths we thought would make her “real.”
These chairs are on the porch of the Virginia G. Piper Writing Center at ASU. I’d love to sit in one of those chairs with a good book on one of our wonderful autumn days. Or, imagine sitting across from a character you are writing about. What would your conversation be?