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Center on internal flaw for compelling story

To make a 13bstory more compelling, consider structuring it around an internal flaw in the main character. An internal flaw is some personal trait that makes a character less than perfect – perhaps being quick to anger, possibly suffering from jealousy or envy, maybe believing his outlook on the world is the only correct one. As none of us are perfect, an internal flaw makes a character who may otherwise be quite heroic appear more realistic to readers.

In a story, this internal flaw can be put to good effect, Begin with a central problem that sets the story into motion and that only the main character can resolve – except to actually reduce this central problem, the main character must overcome his inner flaw. The story’s plot then centers on the main character dealing with his internal flaw as he fails to adequately address the story’s central problem.

For example, if the central problem in a science fiction story is that an old, virtually invincible war machine has come “back to life” and is preying upon innocent starships and planetary colonies, the only solution may be to enlist the only living designer of the berserker to determine its weakness and stop it. This story can become much more compelling, however, if the only living designer is a hermit and believes his old age and frailty prevents him from being useful or capable anymore. His internal flaw – a lack of confidence and faith in himself – now must be overcome if civilization is to survive.

The central problems gives our main character adequate motivation to address his internal flaw but he does not have the emotional tools to overcome it. The story then may show how his failure to address his internal flaw means he can’t defeat the machine. It may show how when he slightly but inadequately addresses his internal flaw he fails to stop the berserker and takes this as a sign that he is right about his uselessness. The story may show that when he more adequately addresses his internal flaw he almost succeeds in resolving the central problem. The story ultimately, in its climax, must show him making the sacrifice of giving up this sense of uselessness that he’s become “comfortable” with in order for him to actually succeed in stopping the machine.

What makes this story so compelling is that it’s character-based. It shows the character growing. Many readers will be able to identify with and root for this hero. The berserker scenes become the special effects that helps draw readers into the story and that prevents the story from becoming pure navel gazing.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Birmingham, Alabama, or a small town like Buttzville, New Jersey, I can provide that second eye.


What is a writer’s ‘natural’ temperament?

An image Cup-2123710__340of a novelist as a melancholy, moody artists who dons black as penning books during fits of insomnia or alcoholic inspiration pervades much of our society’s view of writers. No doubt some writers are like this, and the fact that some of the most famous were – the existentialists and the beat writers typically wore black while Hemingway drank continuously – has no doubt contributed to the stereotype that writers are restless and unhappy.

Unfortunately, this also has led many budding novelists to believe that they can’t be successful unless in a state of “discontent.”

If there is a connection at all between temperament and writing "success," it probably is related to the genre one is working in. How does being discontented make one a great mystery writer, after all? That temperament probably does lend itself to writing the more literary works and the more philosophical of the science fiction works, though.

If there is an overarching temperament that is important to all fiction writers, curiosity about life and others arguably is paramount. Should that curiosity lead to discontent and anxiousness, then the author can write the kind of stuff of that discontented writers like to read. Hopefully that curiosity instead leads to a sense of self-improvement and love of craft so that one can master – or even influence – the genre that you write in.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Hartford, Connecticut, or a small town like Hebron, New Hampshire, I can provide that second eye.


Understand instructions before writing paper

Before you Education-614155_1920even begin writing your paper, you need to fully understand what the instructor expects. Knowing that will help you focus your thoughts about what you’ll write and will prevent you from later having to rewrite when the instructor reviews your paper before you turn it in.

Hopefully, the instructor has given more than verbal instructions about what to write. If that’s all he does, though, make sure you take notes. If the assignment is unclear, ask the instructor to clarify. Even if the instructions are given in written form on a marker board, in a syllabus, or via email, always ask for clarification if some element is unclear.

From the instructions, you should be able to answer the following questions:
What is the paper’s topic or thrust? You need to know the scope of what you can write about. This will help you determine what you should research and your thesis (or the main point of your paper).
What is the paper’s length? You don’t want to write too little or too much. Usually the paper’s maximum length is given by page or word count.
When is the paper due? Knowing the deadline will help you set up a timetable for completing the paper. The instructions also may include some pre-deadline dates, such as when you must meet the instructor for a conference to discuss the paper.
What kind of paper do you have to write? Not every paper is a straight report in which you describe what you learned from your readings and research. In some papers, you must take a position and support it with evidence; in others, you might analyze an issue.

Also, watch in the instructions for any information about:
How should the paper be structured? All papers follow a basic structure of introduction, supporting points, and conclusion. There are many ways, however, to organize that middle section of supporting points, which is the meat of your paper. Your instructor may have a preference for how you organize that section, such as three supporting points or using comparison and contrast.
What style should you write the paper in? You’ll likely need footnotes and a bibliography for your paper, especially as you advance in your coursework. Knowing if the instructor wants you to use APA, the Chicago Manual of Style, or another format is key as this determines how your footnoting, bibliography and more will be done.
What sources can I use? Your instructor may limit from where you can gather information to quote or reference in the paper (usually encyclopedias are a no-no). He also may require that you use specific sources, such as books read for class or experiences that you had while working on a class project.

There are many other instructions or bits of information that might be given (such as how many points or percent of your grade the paper is worth), all based on the paper you’ve been asked to write and the course you’re taking. It may seem like extra work to read or ask about all of these instructions, but fully understanding them will make planning and writing your paper considerably easier and in the long run save you far more time.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Hartford, Connecticut, or a small town like Hebron, New Hampshire, I can provide that second eye.


Editor guest blogger at Eat, Sleep, Write

I’m the Eat Sleep Write guest blogger at Eat Sleep Write this week. My article “When to use product names” ran Monday. Eat Sleep Write is a podcast and website dedicated to writing; it’s hosted by Adam Scull.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Hartford, Connecticut, or a small town like Hebron, New Hampshire, I can provide that second eye.


Oxford library hosts editor, cousin novelist

A special thanks PTDC0002 to the Oxford (Wis.) Public Library for hosting “An Interview with Two Authors” on Tuesday night. My cousin, novelist David Bignell (left in photo), and myself (right in photo) discussed our books and self-publishing for about an hour. The interview was taped and will play over cable stations in Marquette, Adams, Columbia and Waushara counties during the next month or so; I’ll post the interview on YouTube once it’s edited.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like New Orleans, Louisiana, or a small town like Searchlight, Nevada, I can provide that second eye.


Place commas inside quotation marks

One punctuation 240_F_115835422_VfuL5Y7eNQwe29uNTLK7RZx2Lt5RHA8c matter that might keep you up at night is where to place a comma when appearing with quotation marks. Well, you can quote me on this: Commas appear inside quotation marks, according to the book “Use the Right Word,” and other sources.

The British, however, place the comma outside of the quotation mark. But they also drive down the left side of the road.

This American “peculiarity” soon may be put to rest, though. Many websites place the comma outside of the quotation mark so that the comma doesn’t become part of a link (The title of a book probably is linked to its Amazon.com page.); having a comma as part of the link looks a little untidy, after all. In fact, in my print books, I place the comma inside but on my websites the comma always goes outside.

Given this, don’t be surprised if in a quarter century or so we revise this rule for print. For the moment, though, tuck that comma inside the quotation mark and sleep tight.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Richmond, Virginia, or a small town like Red Cloud, Nebraska, I can provide that second eye.


Treat readers to vivid passages in your story

One of the Vividkindest things writers can do for their readers is employ local dexterity. This occurs when images, sentences, paragraphs and scenes are pleasurable to read because of their vividness.

Consider this passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” just as Gatsby is about to die:

Perhaps he didn't believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true, he must have felt that he lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he saw what a grotesque thing a rose is, and how raw the sunlight was on the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about...like that ashen, fantastic figure drifting toward him through the amorphous trees.

Notice how Fitzgerald describes Gatsby’s perceptions in a clear and striking manner. Because the images are life-like, readers feel it as they would an immediate experience.

Be careful of using local dexterity to hide the absence of drama or conflict, however. If you enjoyed reading a passage you wrote but keep telling yourself that nothing happened in it, you’re going overboard with local dexterity.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Louisville, Kentucky, or a small town like Lodge Pole, Montana, I can provide that second eye.


Make story interesting by establishing stakes

The plot Filler-684922_640of a story is more interesting and exciting if the characters have something to gain or lose.

Because of this, the characters in your story should have something at stake, or some personal interest or involvement in solving the story’s conflict. Establishing what these personal interests or involvement are early in the story and then returning them through the rising action generates reader interest.

The “stakes” always revolve around two basic questions: “What does the protagonist want?” and “What if the protagonist fails to get it?” For example, in Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation,” the character Salvor Hardin wants to ensure his home planet of Terminus (one of two depositories of scientific knowledge and reason in which humanity’s future depends) survives the collapse of the Galactic Empire, which is fragmenting into several war-like kingdoms. If he fails, Terminus will be taken over by the warrior kingdoms – and humanity will fall into a dark ages that lasts thousands of years. Those are high stakes.

Remember that virtually all stories center on a character that possesses some want that if unfulfilled means some disaster. The plot of the story is little more than the obstacles that the character must overcome as trying to fulfill this want.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Oklahoma City, or a small town like Peculiar, Missouri, I can provide that second eye.


Smiling Tree Writing interviews IRES editor

The blog Smiling Tree Smtlogo Writing ran an interview of me Thursday about editing and writing books. Smiling Tree Writing is a run by Dava Stewart, a professional copywriter out of Tennessee; her blog covers writing, self-publishing and books. Among the topics addressed in the interview are common problem seen in manuscripts, red flags that would let writers know their work is not ready for an editor, and how writers can know what level of editing they need.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Memphis, Tennessee, or a small town like Eastabutchie, Mississippi, I can provide that second eye.


Get ideas from your head onto paper

Ever have an 0052image in your head that would be great for your story, but you just can’t think of the right words to use so it gets on paper? You’re not alone. Many writers frequently face this problem.

During my years of editing authors’ short stories and novels, many have shared with me how they dealt with such struggles. Usually I find out by saying to them, “That was one great descriptive paragraph you wrote! How did you come up with it?” They typically grin, shake their head, and respond, “You know, that was the most difficult paragraph to write! I couldn’t get onto paper this jumble of images in my head!”

They then go on to tell me how they worked through it. Generally it involved one of the following five strategies:
Freewriting – Rather than stress over getting the wording just right, simply write down everything that comes to mind. Sometimes it will be a list of images, other times it will be a long, run-on paragraph, but whichever approach you use, don’t worry about typos, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, chronological order, or anything else.
Sensuous dissecting – Make a list of what’s in your head by describing it through each of the senses. What does it look like? What does it sound like? Smell like? Feel like? Taste like?
Spatial examination – List what an object or landscape looks like by describing one section of it and then another section. For example, a landscape might be described by looking at the foreground, the middle ground, and then the distance. A person’s face might be described by looking at its top (eyes), midsection (nose and ears) and bottom (mouth and chin).
Journalistic scrutiny – Standard newspaper ledes answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how. Do the same with your scene, by telling who you’re writing about, what that character is doing, the time of day it is, where the character is, and why she’s there.
Concrete details – If you have an image in your head of someone experiencing an emotion, list all of the specific physical details that allow you to recognize what emotion the character is expressing. So don’t write that a character is “sad” but instead that he is frowning, walking with a drooping head and hands in his pockets, stifling a sniffle, speaking in a soft voice, and so on.

Each of these methods essentially gives you a verbal sketch of your image or scene. Now, like a master painter, you refine it – in your case as a writer through rewriting and editing.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Jacksonville, Florida, or a small town like Dinkytown, Minnesota, I can provide that second eye.