19th October 2018 at 6:48 pm #61941
Hello, I’m new here and new to writing! I’m having major trouble coming-up with an idea for a novel, so am trying to get into the flow of writing and learn techniques whilst I work it all out! The following is a short-scene inspired by my daughter’s mistaking dancing in Disney movies for ‘marrying’ (I don’t make that clear in the scene, but I would include an explanation if it was part of a novel). Ok, here goes, please be gentle as I’m very new to this and a bit shy about sharing! Thank you in advance!
‘Dinner’s Ready!’ Laura calls, her voice preceding her as she bustles into the room holding steaming plates of carefully-prepared food. Dave removes his reading glasses and clears his space, but Lola is having none of it. “Now you’re here mummy, I want to Marry Daddy!” she exclaims, marching to the centre of the room. Sensing her urgency, Dave picks up his fork with haste and spears a chunk of meat. Laura casts him a reproachful look before shifting her owl-eyes pointedly to Lola’s lonely place at rhe table, and Lola folds her arms in defiance. Always caught in the crossfire between these two! Looking away from his wife, the fork disappears into his mouth and his chair squeaks in protest as he stands abruptly before shuffling towards a delighted Lola. In full Elsa-garb she holds out her arms dramatically to signal the commencement of the ‘marriage’. Laura lets out a sigh, but her eyes have softened and her smile is sincere. She turns up the music as Lola skips back and forth to the beat and Dave sways clumsily. In contrast, Lola speeds up her dancing to the music’s tempo, and Laura stifles a giggle at the juxtaposition. The song ends and the tempo slows. Dave looks down at his little daughter before catching her up in his arms. She laughs and squeals in abandon as only a child will, and he draws her closer, closing his eyes and breathing-in the sherbet smell of her. No longer clumsy and languid, he spins her around and around. Laura watches from the table, her previous haste forgotten. They eat their dinner cold that night.
21st October 2018 at 11:27 am #62054
Well done on getting up the nerve to post a piece. I’ve always found that getting feedback on my writing was the best way to improve, so its a good thing to do. This is a very sweet scene, and here are some pointers that I hope will help you improve it.
Point of view – you should choose a point of view and stick with it in a scene. I feel you’re head hopping a little. I initially thought the scene was meant to be in Laura’s POV, but having read it again, I think you’re actually writing it mostly from Dave’s, but it’s not always clear. For example, this is Dave’s POV ‘he draws her closer, closing his eyes and breathing-in the sherbet smell of her’ because only Dave can know the intimate fact that he’s breathing in the smell of her. But this is Laura’s POV ‘Laura watches from the table, her previous haste forgotten’ – only she can know her previous haste is forgotten, so it has to be her POV. Hope you see what I mean. It can be confusing for the reader if you hop between characters, because the reader doesn’t then know who the main character is, who they are meant to be investing in, and it becomes difficult to keep track of who knows and thinks what.
A really important trick is putting yourself in the character’s head. When you can do that, the magic really starts to happen. You do it here ‘Always caught in the crossfire between these two!’ That’s a thought directly from Dave’s head, and therefore puts us close to him. Rather than being told about the scene from the outside, we will start to experience it from the character’s POV. In a way that invites us to become the character. That’s also another good reason to have one POV character. At the moment a lot of this narration is quite distant (apart from that one line), so maybe try and make it more intimate. As an example in Dave’s POV:
‘Dave stuffed a hasty mouthful of food into his mouth. Better get some while he could; this dancing lark took a long time. But Lola was worth it. His beautiful little girl. Would she stamp all over his toes again tonight…’
That puts us in Dave’s heads and gives us a more intimate view of the evening. Hope you see what I mean.
I’d also suggest looking out for overuse of adverbs/adjectives. Words like clumsily, dramatically, carefully. You should use them sparingly, as they tend to mean you’re telling, rather than showing the reader something, and showing is always more effective.
When Lola ‘folds her arms in defiance’ , you’re telling us what she’s feeling with the word defiance. But the act of folding her arms is already showing us a lot, and you don’t really need the telly defiance. You could extend it further and have her tapping her foot. That would give the reader a lovely clear picture, from which they can infer the character’s feeling, rather than being told them. That makes the reader use their imagination and engages them in the story.
Another thing about adverbs is that quite often you just need a stronger verb, which will do a better job. eg moved quietly could be crept, stood up quickly could be leapt to their feet. You’ve got one ‘ picks up his fork with haste’ where grabs/snatches might work better.
Hope some of that is helpful and gives you some ideas, but most importantly, just keep practising. Writing’s like any skill. To get better you have to put in the time.
21st October 2018 at 4:29 pm #62090
Yep, I agree with Kate.
There’s some really nice writing there for a start. My biggest piece of advice would be, don’t overwrite. Starting out as writers we often feel like we have to show everyone just how brilliantly we can use language and cram as much description and wordplay in as possible – as Kate mentioned with the adverbs. While it’s sometimes nice to flex our pens, that should never get in the way of telling the story.
Just relax and tell us a tale :-)
22nd October 2018 at 1:47 pm #62204
I think Kate has given you some really great tips there. Well done for being brave, I know how scary it is to put yourself out there for feedback. I would suggest having a rewrite and posting again. The only other thing I would add is to use paragraphs. For example after ‘Always caught in the crossfire between these two!’ you should move to a new paragraph. It gives a structure to your story and a moment for your reader to breathe. But it’s certainly a lovely moment, and for a newbie, a really great start.
22nd October 2018 at 2:02 pm #62208
Thank you so much for all of the great, constructive feedback! I feel really silly for not using paragraphs now, I blame the sleepless night with my one-year-old! When I get a chance, I will rewrite this with your comments in mind and post again.
23rd October 2018 at 8:12 am #62280
I enjoyed reading this piece and all the technical points have been covered by the feedback given. After the statement “I want to marry Daddy” I think you miss an opportunity to slow down and really show us their reactions as you develop this misunderstanding further. Without your explanation I think I would have missed this wonderful look into a child’s mind.
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