Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Attention Writers: I Need Your Help

by Rob Wells

In the last week, we've had Jeff announce that he was laid off, Sariah announced her husband was laid off, and Julie announced that she'd had to cut overtime and dental benefits for her personal chef and butler. However, I would just like to say this: I was poor and unemployed before it was cool to be poor and unemployed. I'm something of a trendsetter, and the rest of you are all unimaginative sheep.

Anyway, that has nothing to do with the rest of this blog.

I have been asked to speak on very short notice to a class of BYU freshman tomorrow. Specifically, I've been asked to speak on how to keep your writing interesting. Not how to make the story interesting, but how to make the writing interesting.

Now, I make no bones about the fact that I am not classically trained. I've only had one creative writing class in my life, and when I write I focus mostly on the stories and characters--not the words, sentence structure, etc. So, while I have a few thoughts about how to keep writing interesting, I'd love to hear from you guys.

What do you think? Comment early and often.


At 12/03/2008 11:31 AM, Anonymous mean aunt said...

They won't care unless the Class is interesting.

Use examples (of what? I don't know, that's your problem)Calvin and Hobbies cartoons, etc.

Wow, that was extremely not helpful--even for me.

At 12/03/2008 11:40 AM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

I agree, but do NOT read long strecthes. That will bore them to tears. I would definitely do something on voice. Take a couple of similar descriptions or dialogues from two different authors and show how each creates a unique style.

Talk about making sure each character has a unique voice as well. You should be able to read a couple of sections of dialogie from the same book, without tags, and tell who is talking. Unless you are reading Grapes of Wrath, inwhich case they all sound the same.

At 12/03/2008 11:41 AM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

And the only reason I went for the poverty thing was because you made it sound so dang fun in your posts. I even went and had $2000 or work done on my car. "Lokk, at me. I'm just like Rob Wells." So when does the fun part start?

At 12/03/2008 11:43 AM, Blogger Chillygator said...

Maybe they're trying to passive-aggressively send you a message?

At 12/03/2008 11:43 AM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

See, you can tell my writing style because I mispell many words, including lokk.

At 12/03/2008 11:58 AM, Blogger Worldbuilder Robin said...

Wait, that's not how you spell lokk? I'm confused...

Um, back to the subject. How to keep the writing interesting, eh? I think it's all about intensity: the drama is intense drama, the romance is intense romance, the comedy is intense comedy, etc. How do you do that? Not sure; maybe I should take class on that, or something...

(wow, that's not very helpful, is it?)

At 12/03/2008 12:12 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

A class of Freshmen?

Put in a video and tell them a picture is worth a thousand words.

PS: You could also tell them that how you say something is a relfection of the character's personality. Which leads you to the all important voice of a character. If you want the viewpoint character to come to life on a page, the word choices and phrasing make them interesting (in character) or dull (out of character). In fact that may be one of the most foundational points for interesting versus dull writing--wither or not your writing is in or out of character.

At 12/03/2008 12:15 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

By the way, you're not entertaining these students. This is NOT high school. They paid to learn something.

You're talking about making your writing interesting, not your lecture. You can bore them all you want. Just make sure that what you tell them about writing will make their pros interesting. Ha.

At 12/03/2008 12:37 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Create characters with distinctive personalities and let them show their personality through dialog. Don't depend on stock characters, the current "in" phrases, or repetitive words, especially those that are supposed to be shocking. Vary sentence structure and don't repeat yourself. An extensive vocabulary can either help or hurt. No one wants to be bombarded with obscure words or grandiose language nor do they want to be insulted with a second grade vocabulary sprinkled with sophomoric expletives. Use interesting words, but don't overdo it to the point where the words stand out more than the sentence, paragraph, or story. Avoid those poisonous story stallers like "and then", "after that", "and so", "next", etc.

At 12/03/2008 12:54 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

As soon as my personal chef is done with the handmade Canadian cream puffs and my personal masseuse has given me my deep tissue massage, I should be able to come up with some ways for you to keep your writing interesting.

Or you could tell your class to become life observers. The best stories have an element of truth in them and something that people can relate to. Invite up two brave students and have them describe their most boring day. Then have the class write down how they could write one of those days in an interesting way--describing sounds, tastes, smells, actions, feelings, and how to jazz it up until whoever is reading their writing wants to know more. It's a nice segue into how the best writing is kept interesting when the reader can feel like they are right there experiencing it with the character and is wanting to find out what happens next. If you are merely reciting a story without enthusiasm, (like your first two students recited their boring day) you might as well just have the book cover tell the reader "This is a boring story so prepare yourself for mind-numbing boredom." When you have the elements that you've talked about with the class in adding in pertinent details and have your reader wanting more, then you've got interesting writing.

Also, the best classes and lectures are the ones that have lots of discussion and participation because then you don't have to say much, everyone thinks you're great and before you know it, your time is up.

At 12/03/2008 2:17 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Just say, "Read my books. Do as I did."

Everyone else has great ideas. I'd actually like to sit in and listen it.

At 12/03/2008 3:59 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Tell them to choose a pen name, then they can write without inhibition. I just read a memoir, and I loved it, but I don't know if I'd ever write anything with such openness.

At 12/04/2008 1:35 AM, Blogger Laura said...

This is not an early comment so you might not get it but I was actually talking with a friend about this the other night and here's what we came up with.

For us, as beginning writers, we have trouble figuring out what the story is about. But once we know everything falls into place. It clicks like little puzzles pieces. A good/interesting story knows what its focus is and sticks to it. It seems to me that interesting writing introduces the important characters first and follows them intensely.

The other thing that I believe creates good/interesting writing is focusing on relationships and connections. If the writer can drop enough clues to guide the reader to interesting connections or relationship within the story it makes me pay more attention, it makes me want to know the details.

So take this for what it's worth! Since I'm relatively new to the writing world it's more of a reader's perspective. But maybe that's a good way to teach your students. Ask them what makes the books they read interesting. Good readers make good writers!

At 12/06/2008 7:00 PM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

Humor. That always makes writing interesting to me. I'm much funnier on paper than in person.


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