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Monday, February 16, 2015

Writing Relationships Readers Can't Resist: Crafting Duos, Trios, Groups

There are loads of resources about creating great characters. But when it comes to creating great relationships--the perfect tag team, the favorite couple, the best friends--the writing world is lacking. Whether your characters are romantic partners, coworkers, best friends, siblings or what have you, audiences eat up a wonderfully crafted duo, trio, or group.

People love Sherlock and Watson's relationship so much, that there is an entire fan community that roots for them to actually be together. Agents Mulder and Scully from X-Files worked so well together that they belonged together. I was once watching Harry Potter with someone who turned to me and said, "You know, I love how Harry, Ron, and Hermione all fit together."

Some kinds of relationships would still be entertaining to watch if the whole story revolved around the characters going to the grocery store--their relationship is that amusing. (In fact, one of my favorite X-Files episodes is where Mulder and Scully have to go undercover as a married couple living a normal life together. It's hilarious.)

This post is going to talk about some of the key factors in creating this effect. How do you create a tag team that we can't get enough of? Well, here are some things to consider.

Monday, February 9, 2015

15+ Tactics for Writing Humor

A monster-length master list of over 15 tactics for writing humor, with examples from The Office, Trigun, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Emperor's New Groove, The Fault in Our Stars, Harry Potter, Pink Panther, The Series of Unfortunate Events, Elf, Enchanted, The Amazing Spider-man, and more. Be prepared to laugh.


I've been to a few workshops on writing humor, and I've read about writing humor, but the funny thing is, none of them really taught me how to actually write humor. But yet they all said the same thing: Writing humor is hard, harder than writing seriously, because if you fail at humor, you fail horribly.

I heard it so much, it made me fear failure rather than strive to develop that writing talent. For years I avoided writing humor, period. But the catch to that is that I also often hear how humor is a huge draw for an audience.

I read recently in Showing & Telling by Laurie Alberts that humor is hard to teach and that some writers believe it can't be taught at all. If you know these writers, send them to this post, send them to this post.

People think writing humor can't be taught because they don't know how to teach it. Some people can write humor, but can't teach it. They don't know how they are funny because it's just intuitive and natural to them. I was at one workshop on humor, and the only "how-to" tip they gave was that humor had to just come up naturally in the story. But professional comedians slave away and work their butts off writing their jokes, and then practicing them. That's not natural. Sure, some comedians do improv (Whose Line is it Anyway? was one of my favorite shows), so they're more natural, but I believe most comedians have to work to be funny.

Monday, February 2, 2015

How to Break Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Adverbs, Adjectives"

As I promised last week when I talked about using cliches in your writing, today, I'm talking about using adverbs and adjective in your writing. When it comes to breaking the rules for adverbs and adjectives, you've got at least five great reasons to do it. 1) The verb or noun you need doesn't exist in your language. 2) To control pacing. 3) To communicate interesting or unusual situations. 4) To create a specific tone or character voice. 5) The adverb or adjective is doing double duty.

What's the Rule?

The Rule:
Don't use adverbs because it weakens your writing. Use adjectives rarely for the same reason.

Why it's a Rule

Take a look at these sentences:

She laughed happily.
The yellow sun was beating down on us.
Jasper pulled hard on the door knob.
"Get your butt to your room right now!" Cynthia said, angrily.
I quickly put on my beautiful, silky pointe shoes and with my thin, spindly, little fingers tie the ribbons around my bony ankle, so they fit constrictingly. I walk awkwardly to the dark, dim wings of the huge stage. I think about one fun evening at a local theater where I lovingly watched a ballerina dance gracefully across the stage and into the soft air. Happy and thrilled, everyone there smiled with joyful eyes.