Tuesday, January 26, 2010

As Advice Goes...

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I was lucky enough to attend Chautauqua a couple of summers ago and this is one thing I took away from that fantastic, week long, intensive workshop.

It is Peter Jacobi's definition of voice:

Consider the
startling
inescapable
visual
conversational
different with a purpose
vital
energetic

I recently pulled this quote out, laid it next to my WIP and started going through the pages.

Want to know what I found?

I'll tell you ... I need to work harder.

I'm writing a lovely piece. Nothing inherently wrong with it. But, it needs to be more visual. More startling. The characters need to have inescapable situations. It needs increased vitality and energy.

I'm not exactly sure HOW I'm going to thread these things through, but I know that I can. After a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears, I think I was able to accomplish at least some of these on my novel With A Name Like Love...so I believe it is a possibility in this current work as well.

And, I'm thankful for Mr. Jacobi's advice.

As advice goes, I think it was pretty good.

Questions for you: Which of these words stand out to you most? Which one do you have the easiest time with? Which the most difficult? What do you look for in a favorite read?

PS: a huge thanks to everyone who weighed in on my last blog post discussion. It was fantastic to get to really know you through your honest opinions and it gave me opportunity to learn, think, grow. All good things.
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41 comments:

Dominique said...

I think VISUAL should be my mantra during my rewrites. I don't tend to include a lot of description, so my pages look more like scripted dialogue than anything else. I tend to watch the scene play out in my head and take dictation from that, which often means I overlook the surroundings.

Sarah said...

Ooooh. I like different with a purpose.

Tess, I'd forgotten you went to Chautauqua! I'm pulling my application for the scholarship together now. It's a long shot, but it would be lovely if that worked out. I've heard so many good things about the program.

storyqueen said...

I am most intrigued by inescapable.

I am not quite sure what it means, though...

But I like it.

Shelley

Tess said...

Dominique: that's the one I am really focusing on now as well. It's imortant for the reader to have that sense of atmosphere and I need to craft that better on my current work.

Sarah: really? it was a great trip - I hope you get the scholarship. I lucked out and got free airfare (it was the only way I could afford to go coming from so far West. Fingers crossed for you!

Stroyqueen: It could mean different things. Perhaps the character is in a tight spot or maybe the reader just can't put the novel down (that's the one we all hope for, right? even in pb's)

Karen said...

Hrmmmm. "Different with a purpose". Love that, but I struggle with it. I worry that my voice isn't unique enough, but intentionality would be an important component in developing it.

Yamile said...

Energetic. I want my story to have a force coursing through it, that will connect me to the reader. I feel its energy when I'm writing it; I don't know if the reaction from the readers would be the same. Waiting on betas feedback.

Susan R. Mills said...

Visual is my biggest struggle, and I think I'm best at putting my characters in inescapable situations. I've been working hard on the visual, though, so I hope to make some improvements there. These are great words to focus on when writing. I'll keep them in mind.

B.J. Anderson said...

Vitality stands out the most for me. Visual is probably the easiest for me and startling probably the hardest. I look for all of these in a good read! :D Great post, Tess.

L.T. Elliot said...

I like the word "startling." I don't know why but that one jumps out at me. I'm not sure what I'm doing well but I know I need to do setting better. Back to it...

Michelle said...

ooo inescapable yes definately

Susan Fields said...

Great post, Tess - good food for thought, and I love reading what everyone else has to say. As for me, visual definitely, but also inescapable. Not only keeping the reader hooked, but also getting the characters into impossible situations. I don't think I do that nearly enough, but I love seeing how characters get out of their predicaments in other books.

Scott said...

What's with the questions so early in the morning? Geesh!

I think vital/energetic are the words that stand out most to me. I think when the characters come across as vital/energetic, then I'm more easily able to relate to them.

I also like the idea of inescapable situations, i.e., situations the character must deal with, in one way or another, before they (and the story) can move forward.

Great post.

S

Solvang Sherrie said...

I definitely want visual. I want people to be able to see it in their minds as they read--in as few words as possible!

Carolyn V. said...

Inescapable situations. I need more of that. As I revise I realize I don't have enough of that and need to work on it.

Nisa said...

Startling stood out the most to me. I think I have the hardest time with visual because when I read, I tend to skim over the more visual parts. I like letting my imagination run wild. Inescapable comes the easiest. I think the one thing I can do is conflict, but even that has come with practice.

Hardygirl said...

I like "inescapable". Children and teens often feel trapped by their circumstances because most of their decisions are being made for them.

Great post!

sf

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Vitality. I love that word and I love that in a book.
~ Wendy

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Inescapable and startling, for sure. I'm struck by these words, and I think I need them by my computer. THANKS for passing on the advice!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Inescapable jumps right out. I'm writing Historical fiction. Inescapable needs to be in every story-line, not just mysteries. I think I'm great with visual!

Michelle said...

I like startling. It has an onomatopoeic quality about it and it's a word you don't hear often.

Energetic is probably the one I need most to work on. Visual I'm pretty good with.

WindyA said...

For me, I think energy is what I need to work on the most. Keeping the energy consistent and making sure I don't hit any of those "walls" within my writing, even if I'm physically hitting them when I'm trying to write! On the flip side, I think I'm pretty good at the visual.

Amy Tate said...

I like to read words that describe something in a way that I've never heard. But the key is that the author does it without trying too hard. Easier said than done!

Tess said...

I love reading these comments because it helps me know you all as writers a tiny bit better. Man, I can't wait to pull these novels off the shelf someday!!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oooh, this is interesting! Vitality is what I look for when reading usually.
And I think startling is something I need to work on.

laurel said...

Ooh, I like startling! I tend to be far too apologetic that my book has a fair amount of this. But then I see "different with a purpose" on the list and I realize I ought to embrace the startling.

Davin Malasarn said...

Inescapable is a word I think about often. Once, with one sentence of prose, I had a mentor tell me my description was inescapable. I've been trying to write from that place every since, and only rarely am I able to do it.

The new word for me is startling. I love that! I think lately I've been getting better at being unpredictable, but "startling" is a much better word for it!

Tere Kirkland said...

Great post! I'm currently attracted to startling, but inescapable keeps calling to me. Maybe I need to up the stakes...

Thanks, Tess!

Lady Glamis said...

Great quote! I like the "startling" the most. That's what has gotten me the furthest on Monarch so far.

Terresa said...

I like "startling" the most.

I'm copying the link to this post so I can refer to it in the future. So much to learn here, and that quote is perfect.

Linda Kage said...

I really like that quote. I'm going to have to use it as a check list. Hmm... let's see do I have startling? Visual?

And now, I know where I need the most help. Thanks.

ali said...

That is EXCELLENT.

I think I'm good at "different with a purpose" but struggle with inescapable. I might also be somewhat good at startling, but I could step it up. And I don't know about vital.

Gonna have to ponder this.

Thanks Tess! ♥

Elana Johnson said...

I'm a very emotional reader, so I go for the visual things and the startling things. And I need to learn to write with more purpose in mind too. I usually just sit down and go all willy nilly.

Jill Kemerer said...

Definitely "startling." It's something I need to work on. I really like this list! Thanks, Tess.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Startling. I love a plot that startles me in some way. Now, being able startle readers... That's tough. Definitely something that I'd like to accomplish, though.

Crystal said...

Such great things to ponder in this post, Tess! Hmmm . . . I think I like 'startling' and 'different with a purpose' the most because, I guess, that's what I'm trying to incorporate in my WIP. For me, description is more of a challenge, so 'visual' is what I'm trying to get better at.

Thanks so much for sharing your notes, Tess! :)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

What an incredible quote. I'm going to savor that one for a while!

Robyn Campbell said...

Wow. Great quote Tess. And VISUAL for me. For all writing, especially middle grade. You know how important that is for them.

And you WILL pull it together. I will have to do it again in my new WIP. And so it goes. Thanks for sharing that quote. It's something that will be next to my computer to remind me every day. :0)

Lisa and Laura said...

Visual. I absolutely love being able to picture every character, every movement, every detail of the setting. I like the experience of reading a book (and writing one too).

Sharon Mayhew said...

Tess--I think what I write and want to read comes from the emotional level. Funnily, someone commented on my "deep meaning" on one of my posts. I'm not that deep. I write how I think. I don't try to add a hidden message...I wish I ws deeper and could be any of the things you mentioned...But, I'm just me and hopefully, my writing comes out like me.

Kristin said...

Hey, Tess, you have an award at my blog!

Kelly said...

Visual and vitality stood out to me the most. Let the reader picture the scene in his mind and give it life!