Monday, July 07, 2008

You don't need to go to school for this

Well, I'm going to amend my title just a tiny bit. You don't need to go to school to learn how to write romantic fiction. But you do need to read.

I've found that reading is by far the greatest teaching tool for fiction writing. That's true whether you write SF or Fantasy or Romance or whatever. Just as a picture can illustrate a dress or car or cut of beef, a writing technique is best illustrated in its use. The wise writer will read countless books to compare these techniques and learn how, or how not to, use them.

Wait a minute. How NOT to use them? That's right. Books can be published with glaring examples of what not to do.

Okay, fine. What kinds of techniques are we learning from already published books?

Off the top of my head, I'd say: Characterization. Pacing. Descriptive narrative. POV handling. Effective dialogue. Plotting.

Who do I like for Characterization? Dean Koontz. His DARK RIVER OF THE HEART blew me away with the characterization. I mean...how many authors can make a psychopathic killer the least bit sympathetic? Koontz can and did.

While we're talking about Koontz...his INTENSITY is an absolute study in Pacing-- it's pure rapid fire, constantly building tension being pushed through to the end. Should you try to imitate this technique? That depends on your story and genre. Modified, it would work anywhere but in its purest form? I don't see it for Romance where the focus of the story must be on the romance, not the danger.

As for Descriptive Narrative, I like Karen Marie Moning, particularly in her new Fae series. She doesn't talk down to her readers but she also doesn't talk so far over their heads that they have no clue what she's saying either.

POV Handling? Well, I hear POV and immediately think Nora Roberts. Why? Because she shifts POV so often. Most of the time, it's fairly seamless but occasionally you'll get a real clunker of a shift and end up scratching your head wondering why the Fabulous Nora did that? And for an astounding take on POV, read Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. She NEVER enters the main POV character's head and yet we feel as close and sympathetic to him as we do to any main character we've ever read.

Some of the best dialogue I've read has come from Linda Wisdom. Yeah, I know, she's a friend but believe me, I wouldn't say it if it wasn't true. Her characters speak with their own voices, their own passions, and their own motives for driving the story forward.

Plotting. I've got a couple of favorites for this. Anne McCaffrey, JD Robb (aka the Fabulous Nora), Dean Koontz (again, LOL), and Moning (again I'm thinking of the Fae series). And I'm going to add Dunnett to this esteemed list too. Her Lymond Chronicles are dazzling in the scope of movement for the characters and their goals and passions.

These are my current paragons though I'm always looking for new authors who can usurp their places and teach me how to finesse a particular writing technique.

Who do you think shows, in their writing, shows how to accomplish these things?

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3 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Lynda, you're way ahead of me. And I don't get to follow in Nora's footsteps...well, somewhat. But POV shifts seem to be a big bugaboo to some in the biz and to some readers.
It's never bothered me.
Oh, I think I learned more from reading and actual writing than from anything else.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Savanna,

Me either of the POV shifts, though I do like to be a little 'particular' about who gets a spot on stage :D

As for Nora's footsteps, forget that. Break new ground of your own. You'll be happier for it :D

Angela Verdenius said...

you know, it's always interesting to see how different editors edit books. But one thing doesn't seem to change - the good old POV!!!!