Saturday, July 1, 2017

You Write Like a Woman

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

A few years ago, I attended my first writers’ conference, the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. The sweet lady who critiqued my first chapter looked me in the eye and said, “You write like a guy.”

I thought, Great. John Steinbeck, James Patterson, or Jerry Jenkins?

Not what she had in mind.

She went on to explain I had the action and the setting, but I was leaving out the personal side, the emotions and internal thoughts of the protagonist.

I realized it came natural, and not because I’m male. I had always written articles and class handouts giving facts and how-tos. Now, I wanted to not only tell a story, but transport my readers into another world. It’s the stories we get caught up in that we remember.

Oooo. Sounds like an impossible task, doesn’t it? But it’s what we need to do with any book, short story, or even a devotion to find an audience. After all, we read not to just get knowledge, but to be entertained.

When I was preaching, it was easy to find the three or four points in the text to make up the sermon. I spent most of my time looking for just the right story that I could use to make the teaching come alive. It also made it easier to remember as I presented it because I had a clearer understanding of it.

We all know that few of us remember the text past Sunday dinner. But a good story may last to Monday’s drive to work. I knew I’d hit the mark if someone repeated the story when they called their mother Sunday afternoon.

In the hands of a master storyteller, a story is more than just a-he-did-this-then-he-said-that-then-they-did-something-else. You’ll feel the dust blowing in from the infield, smell the leather of the glove as the pitcher stares behind the plate, hear the crack of the bat, and then feel the explosion of the crowd as they all stand to watch as the sure homerun ball hits the dove flying over the field.

So, how do writers grab their readers’ attentions?
  • It’s in the details. He doesn’t drive some generic car. He drives an old Ford Taurus with mix-matched wheels or she drives a metallic blue 4X4 Tundra with oversized tires.  James Bond drives an Aston Martin. Complete the picture you want them to see.
  • Use internal monologue. What is the protagonist thinking? Not too much, just enough to let us into their motivation and maybe their worries.
  • Use dialog. Let the facts come from the characters mouths. In the above about the ball game, maybe the manager had just told the pitcher that this was the home run king and he had to get him out.
  • Know your characters. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, the more you know your characters and why they act as they do, the more real and alive your story will seem. Diane Mills has character sheets that she uses. What if I called the batter in the earlier story ‘the mighty Casey’ or ‘the Babe’? We’d then have a different story. Same dead bird, but the picture in your head is different. And if the pitcher was Sandy Koufax? (Google him.) Or Joe Shmoe from the Y? One detail changed, but it gives a totally different story.

There are some ways to make it easier to learn how to draw your reader in to your story.

Read. Study how others write their scenes.
  • The Emotions Thesaurus. It has lists of body cues and responses to seventy five types of emotions.
  • The Writer’s Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters. While a little dated being published in 1996, has great lists of physical and psychological characteristics.
  • Google and Pinterest. When I needed to describe a college student going to a reception in the summer, Google took me to some fashion catalogs to find an appropriate outfit. Pinterest is a great place to get a visual of a setting in your story.

Whether you’re writing a short article or a historical romance, remember, your reading wants to experience your story. Help your reader by giving them enough visuals and emotions so they can use their imaginations to have their own experience.

TWEETABLE
You write like a woman - @TimSuddeth on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Tim Suddeth has been published in Guideposts’ The Joy of Christmas and on www.christiandevotions.us. He’s working on his third manuscript and looks forward to seeing his name on a cover. He is a member of ACFW and Cross n Pens. Tim’s lives in Greenville, SC with his wife, Vickie, and his happy 19-year-old autistic son, Madison.  Visit Tim at www.TiminGreenville.com and on Facebook and Twitter. He can be also reached at timingreenville@gmail.com.

11 comments:

  1. I'm a woman and write like a guy! I struggle with characterization and inner thoughts. I just want to get to the story and dialogue. It's something I am working on. The old Shania Twain song should be my new theme song! "Man, I feel like a woman!"

    Great post!

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  2. Great post, awesome examples. Thank you, Tim.

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  3. Great post, awesome examples. Thank you, Tim.

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  4. My Emotion Thesaurus is well worn!Thanks for sharing your good ideas.

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    1. Mine too. It sits with my Websters thesaurus dictionary combo beside the laptop.

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  5. I love this!! Great tips on how details change a story.

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    1. They're the difference in eh, and wow.

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  6. Love this, Tim. Great advice. :)

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