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Monday, January 21, 2013

Triple-Duty Writing

Picture Credit: http://despair.com/demotivators.html
Joking aside, triple-duty writing is an important writing technique that I learned from Clint Johnson. For more information about him or to get his help in editing your book, visit his website here.

The idea is that there are three parts in every book:
  1. Characterization- This is NOT a description of what a character looks like. That is closer to scenery than characterization. Real characterization is developing a character's personality and development.
  2. Setting Scene 
  3. Advancing Plot
If a line in the book is not doing any of these three things, then it should be taken out completely. It is not needed for the story.

Any place in your book where you are doing just one of these three things is progressing the story in a boring way. Think about it. A paragraph that is nothing but a long description about a character's personality is boring. The same is true about a long description about what the scenery looks like or how nice of a day it is. As far as advancing the plot, think of a cold turn-by-turn narration during a high-speed chase rather than concentrating on what the characters are saying, thinking, or doing.

Okay, so we've established that using any one of the three parts of a story will lead to boredom. What if you use two? The answer is that it will be much better! It will be engaging--but never gripping. To really let your story shine, probe every paragraph, and even every sentence, to see which of the three things is being accomplished. If there is one that is being left out, see if you can add it.

How? Point of view! The plot should force reaction from the characters, which in turn drives the plot further. Everything the character thinks, sees, or understands should be so strictly through his or her eyes that the story would be different if you substituted one character for another. The scene (whether it's placed in a garden or a haunted house) should elicit response from the character. What does he or she notice? WHY? Why does it matter? What does it reveal about the character?

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