Monday, July 18, 2016

Pikes Peak Writers Advice Column: Dear Annie



Dear Annie:

Why do my metaphors and similes go splat? My critique group claims they simply are not working. I thought they were clever. What’s wrong?

Signed,
Not So Clever


Dear Not So Clever:

You might be right. Your metaphors may be astute, but ask yourself whether the comparison you’ve created does what you want it to do. Are your metaphors appropriate for the mood, the setting, and the character involved? Having an eight-year-old girl note that her teacher dresses like a prostitute may perfectly describe the teacher, but would this little girl have the background to make that observation? Similarly, would Harry Potter compare Ron Weasley’s flaming red hair to that of Anne of Green Gables? If you construct your metaphor to be appropriate as well as descriptive, you’ll accomplish your purpose while avoiding slippery banana peels, too. Oops! Splat!



Dear Annie:

My story is complete but the word count is less than expected for my genre. How can I fix that without ruining my plot structure?

Signed,
Coming Up Short in Manitou Springs


Dear Coming Up Short:

Have you developed each goal, motive, and conflict well? A careful analysis can prompt a writer to create an entire new chapter. Maybe there is a relevant aspect to the personality of your main character, for example, that you have not yet fully defined. Added words may be required throughout the manuscript to accomplish this. Or you may need an additional scene to demonstrate clearly this side to his personality. Also check that all plot points are adequately developed and that they demonstrate their relevance to the main goal of the protagonist.

Warning: be sure that you’re enhancing an appropriate element to the story and not simply padding to accomplish a certain word count.



Dear Annie:

My critics say that I hammer home the same emotions and motivations in the main character as she moves through the story. How can I be sure that I’m not being tedious and overdoing this? I don’t care to bore my reader.

Signed,
Hoping to Thrill


Dear Hoping to Thrill:

To interest a reader, characters need to be complex and multi-layered. While protagonists have one main goal, achieving that goal should involve complications in the plot which inspire growth and reveal the intricacies of their motivations. Don’t forget that subplots which run concurrently to the main plot also demonstrate the character’s minor goals and reveal breadth of personality. Including subplots deepens your story and necessarily increases word count though that should be a secondary objective.



Dear Annie:

I’ve written five novels without a problem. Now I feel tapped out, devoid of inspiration. I’ve heard that every writer has one good novel in him/her. Guess I had five. Any suggestions?

Signed,

Throwing in the Towel in Grand Junction


Dear Throwing:

Whoa. Sounds like you need some serious R ’n R. If you could accomplish this uncommon feat five times, you can surely do it again. Think of a cause that arouses your passion or that makes your blood pressure soar. Go for a long leisurely hike in a quiet natural setting and let your mind massage that issue or subject. Put zero pressure on yourself. If you don’t get an inkling of an idea, try again tomorrow. This process may take a week or two, but chances are, the potential theme will present itself as though from a deep Godlike voice descending from the clear blue sky overhead.

Once you formulate a concept, identify a theme, and establish a goal for the main character, sit down and write. The very act of writing should lead your mind in surprisingly creative directions. If writing a detailed outline is your stumbling block, skip it. Let the creativity flow. If you get off course, you can always rewrite. On the other hand, if your characters are guiding you in this alternate direction, take their counsel.


Dear Annie:

Do you ever run out of questions for your article?

Signed,
Just Wondering in Colorado Springs


Dear Wondering:

Not yet. But write to me at annshill@q.com with your suggestions. I will answer serious questions, and maybe some funny ones, to the best of my ability. Your writing is of utmost importance to me because it is important to you.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

~ Ms. Annie


About the Author:  Dear Annie is the pseudonym for Ann S. Hill. After hearing the call to write in her thirties, Ann set the ambition aside while life happened. Now that she has retired from her career as a dentist and her children are adults, she is seriously attacking that parked ambition. She spends significant time on her true passion and has recently completed her second novel. Her first novel, Wait for Me, was a finalist in the Zebulon, Pikes Peak Writers Contest. She has written several short stories. In the meantime, she remains a voracious reader and film aficionado.