Happy Birthday, Chris d’Lacey, born 15 December 1954
10 Writing Tips (shortened)
- To be a writer, you have to write. Often. With genuine desire. From the heart. Write a little every day if you can. A little soon becomes a lot. Write what moves you, not what appears to be currently in fashion.
- Aim for a killer first line. Go for a sentence that gives the reader some idea of what the story is about.
- Beware the ‘alarm clock’ opening. We don’t want to read about Fred waking up, switching off the alarm, yawning, scratching his bum, putting his slippers on, going to the bathroom, etc. Just GET HIM DOWNSTAIRS to find out what the heck is clawing at those windows…
- Don’t over-describe things. Part of the enjoyment of stories is building your own picture from the clues the author provides. One interesting bit of detail is worth far more than ten bland ones.
- The balance between dialogue and prose is a matter of personal style. If your stories are all dialogue, think about writing screenplays. Writing good dialogue is an art. Fictional dialogue is engineered to move a story along. Quick tips: Keep it crisp. Try not to repeat what the last person has said. Don’t use an assignation if it’s obvious who’s speaking. Any character who blusters, chirrups, exclaims or declares, etc. more than once on a page should be shown a red card.
- A few words about fantasy. Truth is, you can’t research a fantasy novel, because you’re basically describing an invented world. So be as adventurous as you like. The only advice I would give is to keep things in context. I like to write the kind of fantasy where extraordinary things happen to ordinary people (Michael Malone in The UNICORNE Files, for example). But if you’re going to step into another world entirely, then stay in that world and live by its rules.
- Stuck? Don’t burn, shred or feed your manuscript to the hamster. Take a break from the story and listen to your subconscious. Follow up any peculiar ideas it’s urging you to explore. If all else fails, try talking the story through with a friend. Even if your friend isn’t listening this STILL WORKS. All you really need is a wall to bounce your thoughts off. You’ll get going again.
- To make characters convincing, you have to get right inside their heads and experience the world as they do. You have to be them and use their SENSES accordingly, whether they are human, animal or alien.
- We’re often told to “write what we know”. But don’t be afraid to write what you don’t know. Years ago, I collaborated on a YA novel with the author Linda Newbery. She wanted to write a story told entirely in email messages. The protagonists were two teens, a boy and a girl. Imagine my surprise when Linda asked me to write the girl’s messages, not the boy’s. If you’ve never written from the point of view of the opposite sex, I strongly suggest you try.
- Finally, always believe in yourself and don’t give up. If you genuinely think your story is good, there’s every chance someone else will too.
Source for Tips and Image
Chris d’Lacey is an English writer of children’s fiction who is best known for writing The Last Dragon Chronicles, which began with The Fire Within. His other books include A Dark Inheritance, which is the first book in the Unicorne Files.
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