By Mark W. Danielson
People read books because stories offer escapes. Some prefer fantasy, others like Westerns, still others love mysteries and horror. But as different as these genre are, every novel shares the same fundamentals of writing. Words must define the story, keep them interested, and define who is speaking. Smooth transitions are of the essence, but they don’t come without experience.
Transitions occur in many ways. Commas, paragraphs, and chapters are all examples. In good writing, the reader will barely notice as they read, but bad transitions are like skunks in the middle of the road. Our job as authors is to avoid the stinkers and keep things rolling.
In writing, sentences and paragraphs may look fine as your fingers hammer the keyboard, but when you read them aloud, they don’t always flow. This is where editing comes in. Somehow, you must find a means of melting everything together so it sounds as smooth on audiotape as it reads.
As a general rule, each chapter should begin anew and end as a cliffhanger. Think of chapter endings as commercial breaks in TV shows and you’re on the right track. Give the reader a reason to come back after the break.
When you have several characters talking, it’s easy to get into the “he said, she said” mode. Sometimes it’s necessary to use the “said” word, but you can generally avoid it with description preceding paragraph that identifies who is speaking. Having that person identify who they are speaking to can eliminate another “said” word. When you think you’re finished, do a word search to see how well you did. He said, she said may be fine for children’s books, but it should be avoided in adult novels. Enough said.
Editors will agree that volumes can be written on this subject, but applying these basic principles will make yours smile.