Monday, January 21, 2013

Three Quick Tips for Self-Editing by Lisa Phillips

1.       Whatever your character is feeling, make sure you don’t NAME the emotion.
 Resources like The Emotion Thesaurus can help you SHOW the physical and mental effects of what the character is feeling instead of just saying it.
John was angry.
As a reader I don’t connect with this statement. But it you say,
John slammed his cup down and some of the liquid sloshed out onto the table. A fire raged in his stomach and the heat of it burned on his cheeks. Who did this guy think he was?
“I can’t believe you just said that.”
That? Totally different, because I know what that feels like, so I feel it along with the character.

2.       Do a search (“find” in word) for every time your character ‘thought’ or ‘knows’ something or if they ‘wonder’. 
This is a violation of what’s called ‘Deep Point of View’.  Think about it. In your brain, you don’t think: “Hmm..I wonder how she does that?” You just think, “How does she do that?”
That should translate itself into your prose and instead of:
Barbara just knew Jennifer cheated. The nerve of that woman. She thought she’d like to reach across the table and slap the woman.
When you’re using Deep Point of View, it becomes:
Jennifer must have cheated. The nerve of that woman. Barbara’s hand itched to reach across the table and slap the woman.
See the difference? It’s more directly in the character’s brain, in line with their thoughts.

3.       Another big violation of Deep Point of View is when the character ‘see’s’ something (or tastes, or smells etc.)
Sam heard a noise and spun around. She saw Peter in the doorway. “When did you get home, darling?”
Try this:
There was a footstep in the hall. Sam spun around. Peter was in the doorway. “When did you get home, darling?”          
The difference is subtle, but it reads more true to Sam’s viewpoint. “She saw” creates distance between the reader and the character’s head.

The Emotion Thesaurus is a great resource for showing what the character is feeling.
Check out Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View for a more comprehensive explanation of what it’s all about.

How about you? What’s your opinion on these three tips?
What have you learned recently that is helping you become a better writer?

Lisa Phillips can be found at her website, or on twitter if you want to chat.

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