Zadie Smith’s ON BEAUTY: telling the story through sensory detail Reply

In this video we look at two descriptions of the same place, which appear at different stages of Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. Although the place is the same, Smith is able to advance the story just by changing the sensory details on which she and her characters focus. Being able to do this, to show rather than tell, to use concrete description as an essential part of the story rather than a background, is central to how most writers work. But do remember that mimesis is not the only way to tell the story: there are many alternatives to the cinematic mode of narration.

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Making stories & scenes brilliant by finding your distinctive micro world (tip 60) Reply

Sometimes I’m asked to critique a story, or a scene in a novel, that, despite being well written, is somehow kind of bland. There may be nothing wrong with it – the author communicates clearly, and uses concrete detail, and writes strong dialogue, and deploys a consistent and appropriate point of view, and doesn’t clutter her prose with adjectives or adverbs, and yet, somehow, the story or scene doesn’t leap off the page – it’s dull. One option is to make the characters more distinctive, more idiosyncratic, more unusual. But very often the solution is to take the characters and their conflict and transpose them into a distinctive micro world.

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How to write something original 2

Writers often complain that it’s hard to be original. Here’s how to write something that’s never been written before.

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Beyond coffee: giving characters interesting & varied action 1

Sometimes writers think only of the function of a scene – for instance, if the plot demands that the protagonist argues with his wife then the writer writes the argument and, to break up the dialogue, has the characters doing something mundane such as drinking cups of coffee. This video discusses the value of getting your characters doing something interesting while they’re advancing the plot.


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The topics we’ll be covering in 2015 Reply

online writing tips logoWant to know the sort of thing we’ll be covering in 2015? Well, our posts will be grouped into the 25 topics listed below. We won’t be doing these strictly in order, but selecting from the topics menu on the right will bring up the videos we’ve done so far in any chosen category (thus far, we haven’t done any, so save yourself a click!).

  1. Getting started
  2. Writing as communication
  3. Selecting your material
  4. Story and plot
  5. Elements of style
  6. Specific concrete detail
  7. Tense and Point of View
  8. Dialogue
  9. Characterisation
  10. Setting
  11. Description
  12. Story time and narrative time
  13. Common problems
  14. Pet hates
  15. Metaphor
  16. Subject and theme
  17. Endings
  18. Entertaining your readers
  19. Short fiction
  20. Novel writing – mastering the narrative
  21. Advanced stylistics
  22. Editing
  23. Grammar
  24. Punctuation
  25. Getting published