This week we’re very lucky to have Sue Moorcroft Sunday Times and international bestselling author send us a writing tip. Sue is worth reading, she has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle, won the Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary; and she’s been nominated for several other awards, including a RoNA.
A writer of short stories, serials, columns and writing ‘how to’, Sue’s courses have appeared all over the world!
Her current release is Let it Snow, in which Lily the heroine searches for her half-brothers. Lily’s quest takes her from the frosty cottages of Middledip village to the snowy mountains of Switzerland. The ebook is out now with the paperback and audio available on the 14th November 2019
- A tip from Sue Moorcroft
You’ve written a story, a good one. You’ve created a high-stakes conflict to hurl at your central character and had her or him solve it via a pivotal moment. Your setting’s vivid; your characters jump from the page; you’ve spoken your dialogue aloud. There’s no overuse of adverbs, repetition, passive or loose sentences. Your metaphors and similes are poetry.
And yet you’re not satisfied.
Where do you look for that extra ingredient to catch the eye of an editor or judge?
How about a specific angle in your structure? An easy example of this is the ‘epistolary form’, which means a story told in the form of correspondence. For years – centuries, I suppose – it often meant letters but now we’re equally likely to see email or other electronic communication. For the purpose of this post I’m going to use the word ‘message’.
Maybe it’s because we’re taught not to read the messages of others that reading one within a story can be so intriguing? You can tell an entire story in the form of messages or just introduce one at the right moment.
We tend to write (text/message/e-mail) in our own voice or some version of it. You can use this fact to create a strong impression of the character responsible. This can be especially useful if you want to bring out the voice of a character who has no viewpoint and little or no dialogue.
A teenager’s text or WhatsApp:
hope u & dad r ok. thx 4 sending my course work can’t believe I forgot it lol.
A solicitor’s letter:
Dear Mrs Bell
I am writing to update you on …
A love letter:
Hey, sexy buns …
A threatening note:
Some people should know when to shut up …
Everyone knows you’re …
Messages can be a brilliant way of getting information over to readers without the dreaded ‘infodump’. If you’re writing about a character with an unusual medical condition, creating a message board for the sufferers in your story provides an accessible way to get background detail across.
Big Bob: What I find the hardest to deal with is the shakes from the meds. Anyone else get this?
Little Ted: It’s a stress when you’re trying to talk to a girl, isn’t it? I spend a lot of time with my hands jammed in my pockets.
This personalises the condition you’re trying to convey and prevents your story plunging into passages that sound like a medical text book.
Here are a few ideas for utilising written communications in fiction. Just add imagination:
o Social media posts
o Diary entries
o Log book entries
o Reports (medical/school/work/prison)
o Sticky notes
o Blogs/blog comments
o Newspaper/magazine articles
o Excerpts from books
o Songs or poems
Note: It’s important to be aware that it may not possible to use lyrics from songs or excerpts from books without gaining permission from the rights holder. Check out the relevant copyright law, especially if the author is alive or died less than seventy years ago. Or write your own!