Yesterday I attended my second meeting as a member of the Dallas Area Romance Authors (DARA), a chapter of the RWA. The speaker was Laura Drake, a 2014 RITA® award-winning author. She writes contemporary romance and has just written her first novel in the women’s fiction category, “Days Made of Glass.” The subjects of her earlier novel series included motorcycles (Widow’s Grove series) and rodeos (Sweet on a Cowboy series). I bought one from each! I started the first book, “Her Road Home” and was hooked immediately. If I wasn’t involved in writing this post AND writing for a class, I’d have already finished.
Laura is a very entertaining speaker, and for her introduction, she shared her writer’s journey with humor and honesty. I love hearing about an author’s path to their current success. I get a feeling that I imagine is similar to alcoholics attending an AA meeting. “These people have walked in my shoes!” Granted, my shoes aren’t very worn yet, but it’s so encouraging to hear the similar ups and downs that all writers seem to have. We collectively call it a “journey,” and each time I hear one it reaffirms my goal. Laura never stopped writing the words nor stopped making the queries, attending the meetings, and learning everything she could.
Her presentation consisted of ways that you can add emotion to your writing by “showing, not telling” and layering in the description of the emotion through the character’s words, delivery, body language, and personal thoughts. She explained each technique and read examples from her favorite authors and a few from her own writing. Some of the examples were very moving. Obviously, if you use the techniques well, they do work.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of the presentation yet, and I didn’t capture all the techniques in an exact list, but I did capture several nuggets I’d like to share:
- Focus on a detail to contrast with the situation – by doing so, you don’t elaborate on the “bad” because the contrast with the detail does that for you
- Use pacing – slow down and show a lot of detail to emphasize that something is important; then speed up again until you need to emphasize the next important point
- Write fresh – use new and fresh examples that reflect your voice
- Choose a theme that resonates with you – it’s easier to bring your own emotion into the words
- Get readers emotionally engaged – give them something different and a fully rounded character to root for
- “Don’t show the soldier, show the picture in his pocket”
- Pick the right places to layer the emotion – don’t wear out your reader
- Use protagonist personal highs and lows in the same scene
- Show the failure of a person, situation, or setting – it’s more interesting
- Be careful with back story – writing in the present is always more compelling than the past
- Non-verbal communication – use it to show the emotion of the words
- “Challenge every single sentence”
- Have courage…
I learned quite a bit yesterday from Laura and enjoyed meeting her. I plan to use some of these techniques in my writing – which reminds me! That novel isn’t writing itself. Back to my class. I’ll talk more about that in another post.