(by Ronald Knox)
- The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
- All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
- Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
- No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
- No Chinaman must figure in the story.
- No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
- The detective must not himself commit the crime.
- The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
- The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
- Twin brothers, and doubles, generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
It’s always fun to get someone else’s take on how to write a certain genre. I write suspense thrillers, and my Tazia Bates mystery series does have a detective in it. I do tend to violate his rule #2, though. Supernatural aspects are in all of my stories.
I hope you’ll follow me at http://sherrybriscoe.com
We all love the way an actor brings a favorite character to life on the screen. And you can bring your characters to life on the page by thinking like an actor.
Give motivation to the scene by dynamic dialogue and a unique point of view. Where was your character and what was she thinking the moment before she stepped into the scene you’re writing?
A character with a strong point of view will drive the story forward by giving your readers a through-line to follow throughout each scene and each act. We need to know where they are coming from and what they want in order to care enough to follow their story.
Sherry Briscoe, Gypsywriter
Give your characters compelling dialogue. Strong dialogue tells your readers exactly who your characters are within moments of them speaking their first lines. An immense amount of information can be conveyed with dialogue, without even saying anything specific.
Well written dialogue is comprised of something as simple as a character buying groceries. Even in a fantasy novel, we need to be able to relate to the characters and understand who they are on a raw, visceral level, and dialogue is the vehicle for achieving this.
But keep in mind that compelling dialogue doesn’t necessarily mean having lots of dialogue. You may have a character that says very little, which in turn says a lot about them without the use of words. You may have one character that’s speech is filled with slang and another that sounds like a preacher.
Having characters that speak in their own voices in tremendously important, and make sure that each of your characters sounds sound different, having their own voice.
Although it’s very important to have an idea of your story’s structure before actually doing any writing, you also want to allow for the story to unfold organically and naturally, and the only way to do that is to give your characters some breathing room. Rather than forcing your character into an arc and dictating all of their actions, try to let your character make their own decisions that will move your story forward.
As you write any given scene, ask yourself how your character would react to the circumstances they are in. Don’t think about what you would do.
So go into your scenes and story with an open mind, especially in early drafts. Don’t get too hung up on having a perfect character arc in the first draft. Let it unfold naturally, and in later drafts you can go back in and highlight the arc more, once your character has shown you what it really is.
When I send my draft to my editor, her first question is always, “Did you read it out loud?” And I have to sink a little and admit I did not. I just kept thinking, it doesn’t really make a difference if I read it out loud, or to myself. And on my fourth book, I finally gave in and started reading out loud before sending her the next revision.
Wow! What a difference. She was right. It not only helped me catch things that were wrong, that apparently my eyes couldn’t catch, it helped me think of things that fit better. And the revision continued. Better than before. Easier.
Now, I always read out loud!
Have you ever entered a writing contest and wondered what swayed the judges? What are they looking for? How do they choose the winners?
Here are my 20 top tips on submitting your writing with the best chance possible for you to win.
- Read the contest rules. All of them, not just the first few.
- Brainstorm your ideas. Either with your friends, your family, a fellow writer, or even your cat. Talk it through out loud.
- Write your first draft. And know that this is just a DRAFT!
- Title is everything. Make it interesting. Think of newspaper headlines.
- Lead with a good hook. That first sentence should grad a hold of the reader and hang on tight.
- Write characters we care about. Nobody wants to following a boring or bland character.
- Plot – plot – plot. Need I say more?
- Point of view. Be clear on whose point of view the story is written from, and stick to it.
- Beware of cliches. No editor or judge wants to read cliches. So don’t use them.
- Write something different. Don’t use the same common story line that most writers use. Find something unique and different, or write the story from someone else’s perspective to turn it around.
- The editing begins! Now is where the real work starts.
- Stay under he maximum word count. If the contest calls for entries up to 5,000 words. You don’t have to write a full 5,000 words. In fact, the judges will appreciate those who can tell a complete, captivating story in far less.
- Avoid being non-descriptive. The devil’s in the details! Oops! A cliche, but this one is okay. It’s relevant. If you don’t write clearly enough for the reader to SEE and FEEL it, you’ve lost already.
- Endings and resolutions. Make sure that the ending ties everything up. That all questions are answered or dealt with on some level. Don’t leave the reader hanging.
- Get in a critique group. This will be one of the best things you can do for the advancement and improvement of your writing.
- Revise for flow and organization. Go back through, scene by scene. Does it make sense? Is it orderly? Does Tuesday come after Monday?
- Put it aside – break time. Give yourself enough time to put it in the drawer for a week, or more if possible. Then come back to it with fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed at what you catch, that you overlooked the first time.
- Revise your contest entry. Writing is rewriting!
- Proofread, proofread and do it again. Have at least one other person proofread it too. The more eyes the better.
- Read the contest rules one more time before submitting. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Good luck. Contests are a great way to gauge the success of your writing.
Getting feedback from your editor, or critique partners can bring a mixed bag of emotions.
You need the feedback to know what you’re doing right and wrong. What’s good, and what needs to be changed. But sometimes it’s also hard not to take it personal.
Repeat after me “They’re critiquing my writing – not me!”
And just because someone doesn’t like the way you wrote, or didn’t write something, doesn’t mean you have to change it. It’s just their opinion. Remember that too! It’s just their OPINION.
Sift through all the comments, use what you can, and throw out the rest. No one, not even your editor, expects you to make every single change they suggest. Always give yourself time to digest other’s comments. Don’t rush into making changes right away.
And save old drafts, just in case you decide the changes don’t really work.
Sherry Briscoe sherrybriscoe.com