Holding Back Story Info Doesn’t Always Create Suspense

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

 See the end of this post for more information.

 

Writers of all genres want—and should—create suspense in their scenes. They want to create delicious questions in the reader’s mind that the reader can’t wait to learn the answers.

Unfortunately, writers often create confusion instead of suspense. I’ve observed this especially in new writers.

Case of Confusion

The opening paragraph:

On her first day of classes, Cassie joined other students outside the classroom. Several smiled at her and welcomed her. While the students carried on lively conversations, Cassie narrowed her eyes and stared at them. She gave mental huffs when students turned away from her. The other students glanced her way less and less during their conversations.

Cassie dodged students in the corridor on her way to her next class. No one understood her. Why did Dad have to move the family so often. Didn’t he know blending in was hard for her? If only he’d change jobs.

A redhead approached her outside her English class. “You’re in my biology class. How do you like Sampson High?”

“It’s okay for a deaf person.”

The writer decided to hold off revealing Cassie is deaf. She wanted to make the reader wonder why Cassie continually narrows her eyes, stares at other students, and becomes upset when people turn away from her. What happens, though, is the reader is thrown out of the story’s flow and tries to figure out why Cassie acts so weird—is unlikeable.

The writer could have given better clues, such as Cassie concentrates on students’ lips, but the writer doesn’t want the reader to guess Cassie is deaf. The writer wants to surprise the reader.

The writer has created confusion when it’s the writer’s job to ground the reader with the information the reader needs to get into the story as smoothly as possible.

So, What Is Suspense?

 

Trent receives a phone call. “Meet me behind the cafeteria. I’ve got somethin’ for you. You ain’t gonna like it, but if you’re gonna survive the school year, you’re gonna need it.”

This makes the reader ask the question, “What does the caller have for Trent that’s not good but he’ll need to survive? I want to know.”

What other questionable techniques confuse readers?

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“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author Paragraph

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

 

4 Reasons to Ditch “There Is” and the Like in Stories

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

 See the end of this post for more information.

Here are the problems: there is, there are, there was, there were, it is, it was, and here is. Why do editors fuss over there is and the like?

1. Dialog should reflect what characters would say, but writers should tighten dialog.

Characters do say the above openers, such as there is.

Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “There is one good reason I shop at Cannamart. The low prices.”

Sentences similar to this example still stop me. Most people would use the contraction There’s:

Better: Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “There’s one good reason I shop at Cannamart. The low prices.”

But why not ditch there is?

Better: Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “I shop at Cannamart for the low prices.”

This says the same thing and is less wordy.

2. There is and the like employ the overused verb to be and exhibit passive voice.

Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff. It was his way of preventing them from lollygagging.

The second sentence is wordy. The writer slows down the pace. “Lollygagging” alone works for the contrast between the fast, machine-gunned orders and the slow hires’ speed.

Better: Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff to prevent them from lollygagging.

Better: Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff and terminated their lollygagging.

 This example moves the first example from passive to active voice.

3. Here was (is) is wordy and passive.

Jan was in a good mood. Here was the right moment to tell Janice what he thought.

Better: Jan’s good mood furnished the right moment to tell her what he thought.

4. Passive expressions such as there were contain the uninteresting to be verb.

There were six maids in the queen’s chamber.

Ditch there were and add an interesting action verb.

Better: Six maids flitted around the queen in her chamber.

There were four deer in the flower beds.

Better: Four deer trampled the petunias in the flower beds.

There was bitterness in my heart.

Better: Bitterness gnawed my heart.

Search for there is and the like in your stories and try to rewrite the sentences, ditching the passive expressions.

What other problems have you seen in writers using such expressions as there is?

Buy Link

“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author Paragraph

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

4 Problems with the Verb Go – Going, Going—Gone

image by QuinceCreative

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

 See the end of this post for more information.

Watch out for these four wordy expressions using the verb go. Use your search-and-find option to uncover these phrases in you story and revise the sentences.

1. “[Am, Was, Were] Going To”

Example 1

Diana didn’t know how she was going to tell Paul she’d lost her car keys.

Better:

> Diana didn’t how to tell Paul she’d lost her car keys.

image byAnnaKovalchuk

Example 2

He was going to hit a home run in the next inning.

Better:

> He would hit a home run in the next inning.

> He’d hit a home run in the next inning.

Example 3

I am going to go find Mark before it’s too late.

Possibilities:

> I’ll search for Mark before it’s too late.

Be careful. This may not mean quite the same thing as the original, which implies she’ll search until she finds Mark.

> I’ll find Mark before it’s too late.

This also may not express the original meaning. It could mean she’s sure she’ll find Mark before it’s too late.

> I’ll drive the Mustang around the city and find Mark before it’s too late.

2. “Go Get”

image by analogicus

Steve headed for the door. “I’ll go get the boat.”

Possibilities:

> Steve headed for the door. “I’ll retrieve the boat.”

For a guy who says, “go get,” retrieve sounds too formal.

> Steve headed for the door. “I’ll get the boat.”

This is less wordy and sounds like something Steve would say. It’s more important for dialogue to reflect the character’s personality than to be a stronger word.

If “go get” was written in a narrative, (He went and got the boat.) retrieve might work better. (He retrieved the boat.)

3. “Was Gone”

Example 1

Cam said his good-byes and was gone.

Better:

> Cam said his good-byes and left.

Example 2

image by LoggaWiggler

Petra’s eyelids closed, and he was gone.*

For death, “was gone” softens the event, but if you want the sentence to be less wordy and the reader to experience the harsh reality, use died.

Possibilities

> Petra’s eyelids closed, and he died.*

> Petra’s eyelids closed and he died.*

Omitting the comma on such a short sentence is acceptable and may make the death sound more immediate.

Better:

> Petra closed his eyes and died.*

I prefer this concise option.

4. “Was Going”

Example 1

Jess was going around the curve too fast.

“Was going” can work if the story is written in past tense and the writer wants the action to reflect what’s happening now.

Other Possibilities:

> Jess went around the curve too fast.

> Jess steered into the curve too fast.

> Jess approached the curve too fast.

These sentences have slightly different meanings.

Example 2

Bill was going for the rest of the supplies.

Other Possibilities:

> Bill went for the rest of the supplies.

> Bill had gone for the rest of the supplies.

> Bill left to collect the rest of the supplies.

Here “was going” is vague. Depending on the meaning, the other possibilities are better.

What other problems have you seen in writers using the verb go?

*The camel is actually asleep.