Writer Tips

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What's the best way to write intense fiction (i.e. horror, sexually explicit, etc.)

If you want to write words that pack a punch, the most invaluable thing to remember is that it is not the words themselves that have impact, but rather the IMAGES they conjure up in the reader's mind. If you are writing a gruesome horror, then describing every single detail about a mutilated-zombie-feasting-off-the-flesh-of-the-living is just going to be boring. Why? Because it leaves nothing to the reader's imagination! The best horror is IMPLIED horror. Make your reader aware that the zombie is eating the poor soul. Their own imagination can take it from there, so long as you imply what is happening, rather than explicitly say so. A clever technique, and one that Stephen King frequently uses, is to give a point-of-view description of the horrific scene where the viewer can only see a small fraction of the event. Once you have what the viewer sees, your own imagination is limitless and it creates a infinite landscape of gruesome possibilities. Far better than being told every single detail of what's going on! Similarly with sexually explicit material, it is the implication that can conjure more intense imagery in the reader's mind, rather than the outright description, which will never live up to the same expectations: In conclusion, you have to ask yourself, which is more powerful, the printed word or the reader's mind? And it's the latter every time.


I want people to hear my opinions!

Very few traditional methods (such as printed newspapers and magazines) allow you to voice yourself unless you have been a consistent writer/journalist for an extended time. This is a tough route and not recommended, unless you already have years of experience in the field. Now is the time to embrace technology and blog your way to fame! Experienced bloggers know that in order to be successful, you have to write for OTHER PEOPLE. This means, at the most basic level, keeping your spelling, punctuation and grammar at an above-reasonable level. People will not consistently read your work if it is peppered with mistakes or hArD2rEEd!!1! Also, you have to choose a style and stick with it. Go to great lengths to get your blog noticed. RSS is a good tool to get a single blog onto a million pages. People want an informed opinion to rely upon when they read blogs so do your research before you shoot your mouth off. There's nothing better than a passionate blogger fighting to overthrow the system. Then again, theres nothing worse than a passionate blogger ranting unfounded allegations and generally making a big, ignorable mess! Treat your audience like adults and respect them as you write.


I want to write for the Washington Post! Or the London Times!

Very few people in this world write for the biggest national and international newspapers in the world, so keep your sights high, but realistic. The most sage advice you can get is to start from the bottom and work your way up. Begin at the local of localest news outlets. You can often get unpaid journalist experience, which is invaluable for when you want to step up a gear and write for better-known rags. Also, if you think you are genuinely talented, then you know the cliche: the cream always rises to the top! Keep trying. If you show determination and unfaltering grit, then you WILL get noticed, and once you are noticed, it's a question of consistency. Your career can only rise if you keep going.


Should I kill off my characters?

Killing a character should always be a last resort. Why? Because the death of one character will have more impact, more emotion, more everything you could want in a story than the death of thousands. Even if you are writing gruesome horror; keep the death count down, as the fewer deaths there are, the more impact they have on the reader. (Plus if you keep many of your characters alive, it will keep the reader guessing who could snuff it right until the end!)


I want to write epic fantasy!

Here's a tip: Everyone loves immersing themselves in a world, and escape reality, and a book is the fundamental way to do this. If you have created your own world, then write a tale set in it, but always remember your goal is to tell a story; not to inform the reader of the most minutae details of this world you have created. This is a common pitfall. If you let the physics of your world interfere with the story you are telling, then you have lost the reader. You need to engross them! Fantasy epics are full of thrilling adventures: Make sure your adventure gets priority over forcing your readers to acknowledge every detail of your own fantasy universe.


How do I keep my readers engrossed?

Never make a sentence too long. The human eye needs to rest frequently, so a sentence should rarely be over three lines of the page. It is more dramatic to use short sentences if you are writing thrilling action. The shortness and succinct sentence writing is a fantastic tool employed by writers; Agatha Christie used a special structure of gradually decreasing sentence length throughout a paragraph, which encouraged the reader to subconsciously read faster: when the reader's eye was trained to read as fast as humanly possible, she would stop the action dead, similar to a climax in a movie when the music stops suddenly before the big finale, and this technique would make the reader yearn to read more. Write to lure your readers in! If it interests you, it will interest someone else, so always keep it interesting. Finally, always keep the reader guessing and asking questions. The ideal achievement you can have is by making the reader not want to stop reading for a second.

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Barbara Gibson