Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lynn Truss on Punctuation

Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss, is officially one of my all time favourite books. Who would have thought a book about punctuation could have me giggling and snorting, my nose so glued to the page, I honestly couldn't put it down once I started reading it.

I'm going to share a couple of her little gems of wisdom with you, just to whet your appetite.

Taken from the "style book of a national newspaper: punctuation is 'a courtesy designed to help readers to understand a story without stumbling'."

Punctuation is just good manners and: "Truly good manners are invisible: they ease the way for others, without drawing attention to themselves."

"Punctuation directs you how to read, in the way musical notation directs a musician how to play."

What a lovely picture. Who ever dreamed punctuation could be so artistic, so beautiful, so precisely particular?!

Get the book! It is a must for every bookshelf.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Writing Tip #2

Today's tip:

Don't tell the reader what is happening, let them experience it for themselves.

Your reader wants to experience what the character is experiencing.
So, employ the five senses:

* See

* Taste

* Smell

* Hear

* Feel

For example: Tim showered and had a coffee.


Tim flicked on the shower faucet and cast a towel over the rail. Brushing his teeth over the basin he waited for the water to steam. Stepping in, a torrent of blistering rain hammered against his back only to trickle down his calves. Bliss. He lathered, scrubbed and cast away the showerbud. Then switching off the water, he stepped onto the bathmat, dragging the towel after him.


The jug whistled loudly, spewing forth a cloud of steam. Humming tunelessly, Tim spooned coffee into a mug. He splashed hot water over the milky granules and the rich, bitter scent filled the kitchen. He could almost taste it. Tim sighed contently and stirred it, watching a creamy vortex form in his mug.

I'm not saying that in every paragraph you write we need to experience every one of the five senses (God forbid!), but we should experience at least one, I think.

Nor am I saying, every time your character does something like eat, sleep, dress, shower or kiss, etc, you need to write an entire paragraph of moment by moment detail about what happened (your readers would fall asleep), rather you can use these experiences to draw your readers into your story.

This method is especially good for longer pieces of writing, use it sparingly in short stories.

So what inspired me to share this tip?

I critiqued the first chapter of a novel that was written entirely in this way.

Tim woke up. The alarm was ringing. He turned it off and got up. Tim went down stairs. He showered and had a coffee. Sitting at the table he thought about his girl friend.

That wasn't a quote, but it wasn't far off. Needless to say, I didn't read the whole chapter. I was bored. Why? Because nothing is happening! I'm not drawn to Tim. I don't know who he is, what he is experiencing or what he is thinking... nothing. Dull!

So happy writing everyone. Get busy experiencing your character's world!