The most important highlights from the e-book (read this morning, very quickly) – Art & Craft of Writing: Secret Advice for Writers by Victoria Mixon. E-book is free.
1. Meaningless dialog doesn’t count.
“Good morning. How are you?”
“I’m fine. How are you?”
“I’m fine. Did you get my email?”
“Yes, I got your email. Did you get my answer?”
“Yes, I responded.”
You know what our reader wants to know? What’s in the email. That’s all.
2. Rambling, unspecific, cliché description doesn’t count.
“Readers don’t waste time. They want excitement, they want it big, and they want it now.”
3. Straight-forward unexplained action counts.
“Honestly, nobody cares what happens. All they care is that it’s vivid, detailed, and unexpected.”
4. Surprising, inexplicable dialog counts.
“It wasn’t your bottle in the first place.”
“But there are eggs everywhere!”
“Besides which, bottles are outside the Law of Possession.”
“Listen, my Uncle Eunice threw up in that bottle.”
“What kind of name is Uncle Eunice?”
Characters speaking at cross-purposes drive each other crazy. And that’s how the reader likes them—chocked to the eyeballs on conflict!
What does it mean? Who knows?
But it’s clear, it’s concrete, and the reader can experience those details through their own senses.
Fiction is nothing but an experience for the reader.
5. A single line of original, unexpected exposition is worth a thousand words.
“Even waxed wings couldn’t help her now.”
It doesn’t need to make sense, only be exciting!
And this is the big secret: the reader is only interested in ONE PAGE AT A TIME!
We must make every single one a page worth reading—load it with tactile experiences, visceral action, thought-provoking dialog—and the reader will be happy.
6. Mistakes: too many protagonists.
“It’s everybody’s story, which means it’s nobody’s story, which means the reader has no one to identify with, and the reader’s real life echoes louder in their head than the call of our story.”
You must pick a protagonist!!
7. Surprise the reader!
“Curiosity killed the cat, and it will kill our reader too, and they will love it!“
That’s how good our ‘surprise’ must be: worth trading their life for. Because they actually are giving up a piece of their life to us—hours of time that they could spend doing something else—and they will never get that piece back again.
The thing about curiosity is that the reader doesn’t know what the heck is going on…
Amateur peer critiques are always telling each other: “I don’t understand what’s going on here!” Of course they don’t. That’s why they have to keep reading!
8. Be FUN!
We’re not just surprising. We’re not just mysterious. We’re not even just chock-o-block full of fabulous, riveting conflict and an endless series of quite intelligent and forceful attempts to resolve those conflicts. We’re fun to hang out with!
“We’re secretive—then honest. We’re twisted—then straight-forward. We’re subtle—then heartrendingly naked.”
This is charm, people. This is addictive charisma!
You know what’s the best kind of book to write? The kind that gets little rips in the bottoms of the pages from readers turning the pages too fast.
On every single page: Make something exciting happen!!
9. You know what nobody wants to read?
A novel about people being boring. We must write fiction that’s thrilling and entertaining enough to get attention even in this era of inescapable stimuli. Fiction that our reader reads because they simply can’t help themselves!
10. The technique: resonance.
This is the simplest technique ever, but aspiring writers rarely know about it. Resonance is that wonderful reverberating feeling inside the reader that makes their whole body feel like it’s been gong’d. Gonging a reader is putting them between two large brass gongs and giving it a hearty whangngngng!!!!
Great novels always have Resonance. The reader reels back in their chair at the end shrieking: “That was toooooooo fabulous!”
11. Add Mystery!
“…but clear clue to our Climax somewhere near the very beginning, then spending the rest of the novel drawing the reader’s attention away from it. This is why mystery writers have to put the culprit in the first 1/4-1/3 of the novel.”
The simplest technique ever!