Lucid Writing Advice II by Antavius S. Flagg

The five things that creates a better manuscript

Pace
Closeness to reality
Clarity
Enjoyment
Great Characters
When writing a manuscript, you have a lot of topics to consider. This section of Lucid Writing Advice will touch upon these topics, and hopefully steer you in the right direction.

PACE

Everywhere you look in a bookstore you see books of all shapes and sizes. Tall ones, small ones, thick ones, and slim ones. If you are an avid reader, the size of the book is directly equivalent to your span of interest. To the writer, the size of the book has to do with the pacing.

Seldom do you find the ending at the beginning or vice versa. The pace of the book has to do with how much action is happening and what is essential to the manuscript. Starting a story that has nothing to do with the main topic of the work is quite ridiculous. You should always judge your pace, and the faster the better. But haste makes waste.

When writing vital scenes you want them to be just that: vital. Below is an example of a scene that has been rushed:

Max stood in the center of the sandbox with Big Willy looking him squarely in the eye. Dozens of classmates surrounded them in a corral of hooting and hollering. Big Willy rose his fist in the heat of the action. Max ducked, and ran through a spilt in the crowd. Big Willy spotted his escape, and charged, but tumbled to a thunderous fall on his shoe laces.

As you can tell, the above passage is rushed. We are given no description of why the fight has broken out. Perhaps Max was throwing sand on Big Willy? Maybe he accidentally knocked down his sand castle? Who knows, and we’ll never know unless the pace can be shortened and there is more description. The entire scene went by without an ounce of detail going into the fight. The reader will weep at the fact.

Below is the exact scene, but will a slower pace, and more description of what’s happening:

Max lugged the remaining sand from his phial on top of the sand mound. Big Willy eyed him closely as he was putting the finishing touches on his own creation, a sand castle, a few feet off. Max smiled at the fact of the mound growing to a least his three foot height. But it had to be bigger.

With a sigh, he gathered more sand, filling the phial to the brim. He was breathless once he finally heaved it from the ground. Big Willy stood back to marvel at his show of strength. Max stammered to the mound. Between clenched teeth he emptied the sand on top.

There was an avalanche of sand. The cone of the sand mound disappeared as the sand bled away. In a silent rush, Big Willy sand castle was smothered beneath the sudden avalanche.

And if we were to connect this passage with the one above, you see that they each flow smoothly, and we are thus given the reason for the fight.

Closeness to Reality

Your writing fantasy or science-fiction, so what if your story as nothing to do with the real world? It should have a lot to do with it. Just because it’s something that your making up, is no excuse for it to be down right alien. Fantasy and science-fiction writers run into this problem all the time, unless your a professional..

Trees sway in the wind, as do grass and flowers. Birds sing in the morning, and rarely in the afternoon. Summer nights are warm, winter nights are bitterly cold. Big cities are festering with high crime, small towns keep mostly to themselves.

Such basics have to be the root of her story. Even if its F/SF, you must always create a believe foundation that will force your readers to believe that such things just might have a chance at happening.

Here is an example of no reality:

Evelyn walked through the moonlit forest. The sound of her steps rustling the undergrowth filled the silence.

Filled the silence? Why is there silence in a forest at night to began with? In the real world, this cannot happen. Surely, there were insect chirping away as Evelyn thread her way through.

Unreality errors can arise when we least expect them, so it is best to observe each scene of your story thoroughly, and rewrite it without prejudice when such instances occur.

Clarity

Susan groped for the slender long silver chain behind her, but found only the dense air of the summer morning. A scream caught in her dry throat. It was supposed to be there.

With an untrained eye, you would think nothing wrong with the above passage. But yet it fails the test of clarity. Let us examine the opening sentence.

Susan groped for the slender long silver chain behind her, but found only the dense air of the summer morning.

We have three adjectives modifying the word chain, and all but one of them can be deleted. If we were to take out ‘slender’ and ‘silver’, the reader can read the sentence and not miss out on anything. Having too many adjectives for one word will hinder your writing, and as with the passage above, can be tongue twisting at times. Even if you read it in your mind and not aloud.

The second sentence:

A scream caught in her dry throat.

If the fact that Susan has not had anything to drink for quite some time, then it matters little if you the writer mention that her throat is dry. Omitting the word serves justice to the sentence, and quickens the pace.

The third sentence:

It was supposed to be there.

We know from reading the previous sentences that the chain was there, or else Susan couldn’t have known it was long. Such a sentence can be rewritten.

If the entire passage is reworked to the objective of clarity, we arrive at this:

Susan groped for the long chain behind her, but found only the dense air of the summer morning. A scream caught in her throat. It wasn’t there.

Enjoyment

You write to entertain. The reader and writer are two totally different people: One caring and devout, hoping to create something that will satisfy his or her creative mind. The other: phlegmatic, wanting only to laugh or fill the weight of sorrow.

When you write, you must keep in mind that people will read it. People read what will entertain them, what will give them enjoyment.

Having characters hiking to the summit of a majestic mountain can be exhilarating. But bogging the scene down with talk of plant types inhabiting the mountain side, and given in-depth description of the fauna and rock accumulation, can turn the story into an article fit for a science journal.

Keeping the story simple and concise will make an enjoyable read.

Great Characters

Maybe I should say good characters, unless your Tolkien or Dickens who can make wonderful characters.

Characters are like ravioli , when you bite through the fleshly noodle of the story, you arrive to center of what makes it worth reading. Good characters are a must if you want your story to be read and enjoyed. No one can be truly ruthless, and no sorcerer can cast a spell and make it work a hundred percent every time. You must create characters that readers will enjoy knowing about, someone they will care about.

With your main character, you can accept nothing less. The following are vital attributes that any character should have:

Emotions
Enjoyable
Having problems we can relate to
The ability to change at the end of the manuscript.
The last two are what readers can directly relate to. You should always keep these attributes in mind when designing your characters.

Without good characters, you have some rather disgusting ravioli.

You can email the author of this article at americans1376@yahoo.com

Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Antavius S. Flagg, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

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