Friday, March 1, 2013

It's a matter of emphasis.


 The word you end a paragraph on is the POWER word, and it'll pay off to find the type of word that affects readers of your type of book.

Not great example: Readers of mysteries are interested, natch, in mystery and puzzles and thought and deception. So instead of:
He was lying to her again.
What's the power word for mystery readers? Not "again." Not "her".
Lie. Deception.
He was doing it again. Telling her another lie.
===
Actually, I might try to make that last a bit longer so that the power word arrives on some momentum. Maybe:
He was doing it again. Once again, he was telling her a lie.
The emphasis is always going to be at the end, isn't it? The final thought.
I probably wouldn't do that with every paragraph. But at the end of a scene?

What would you say are the things that would interest readers of your type of book? What words might be associated with that (just samples)?
Alicia

2 comments:

liebjabberings said...

I use an old trick I found: at the end of each of my scenes, before being finished with them, I look around at the last couple of paragraphs - and then I see what I currently have as the last line.

9 times out of 10, there is a better line, very close to the scene end. I find it, polish it, and rearrange the end of the scene to leave that line as the power line - the last thought you get before moving on.

Here's an example from the WIP, Pride's Children:
---
Her knees turned to quicksand; she was grateful for the chair.
Fear is for children. The fear-beast crouched at her feet, clinging monkey-child, its claws embedded in her flesh. She stroked its head. Face the fear, reassure it. Dance with the fear. Surely Dana has plenty of tricks for inarticulate guests—I can’t be the first. You should never meet the author, anyway: it ruins the book.
Kary bowed her head, closed her eyes. The eight-hundred-page brick weighed her solidly in place.
---

After editing for last line, I now have:
---
The fear-beast crouched at her feet, clinging monkey-child, its claws embedded in her flesh. She stroked its head. Face the fear, reassure it. Dance with the fear. Surely Dana has plenty of tricks for inarticulate guests—I can’t be the first. You should never meet the author, anyway: it ruins the book.
She bowed her head, closed her eyes. The eight-hundred-page brick weighed her solidly in place.
Fear is for children.
---

[I've also kept it closer pov by replacing 'Kary' in the first instance with 'she.']

The originals both have 'Fear is for children.' italicized. Sorry I don't have the HTML skills to show this, but that is often a help to find the right line to end with. If I italicized it before, it is a close actual thought in Kary's mind - which makes it the most important bit in those few paragraphs anyway.

I do the same in the beginnings of scenes, and make it conscious by setting it up in my scene template (available and discussed on my blog).
ABE

David Y.B. Kaufmann said...

I liked this post. (Actually, I like all the posts, I just don't get around to commenting as often I'd like - or should.)

Have you seen Joseph Williams's STYLE? It's a great book; I use it when I write (fiction and non-fiction) and when I teach (composition and critical thinking). This post reminded me of one of his main points. But you differentiated according to genre - something I hadn't thought about - but will now. Thanks.