My late grandfather, Sid Fleischman, wrote over fifty books in his lifetime. Here are a few of his writing tips.
1. It’s the job of the hero or heroine to solve the story problem: Don’t leave it to a minor character like Uncle Harry. You’d know something was wrong if Watson solved the crime instead of Sherlock Holmes. This clunky plotting sank many of my stories when I started out.
2. The main character should be changed by the events of the story. Remember your fairy tales? Change is built into the refrain at the end: “And they lived happily ever after.”
3. If there’s a hole in your story, point it out and the hole will disappear. If you’ve written something that readers might not accept as plausible, don’t simply hope they won’t notice. Point at the problem and come up with an explanation that will satisfy them.
4. Dramatize important scenes; narrate the trivialities. Use dialogue and what-happened-next detail to bring your major scenes to full life. The rest can get by with mere summaries.
5. Give weather reports. It helps the reality of a scene if foghorns are blowing or kites are in the sky on a windy afternoon or the day’s so hot wallpaper is peeling off the walls.
6. The stronger the villain – or opposing force – the stronger the hero or heroine. A wimpy problem delivers a wimpy story. Stack the odds against your hero, then figure out a way for her or him to triumph.
7. When possible, give important characters an “entrance”. That’s why grand staircases were invented.
8. Write in Scenes. It’s generally hard to find any pulse in straight narration. Color it grey. Show; don’t tell. Color it splashy.
9. Imagery is powerful shorthand. It says in four or five memorable words what might otherwise take you sentences to describe. “He could bathe in a shotgun barrel” beats “He was by far the thinnest person I’d ever seen in my entire life.” Don’t settle for comparisons that don’t quite fit the bill. It takes time to think up fresh similes and metaphors, but it’s time well spent.