By Jacqui Murray
It’s hard enough to get published without making
rookie mistakes. Those are red flags that tell anagent to stop reading, deposit your baby in thetrash and go to lunch.I hate when that happens (one publisher actuallycalled me and told me where he tossed mine), so
I’ve collected the fifteen most common cures my
agent friends tell me would keep them reading.1.
Place the reader in time
. Give him/her aclue as to the time of day, like a lunch crowd or rush-hour traffic, so s/he can payattention to the story. Same goes for the time of year, the season. Are leaves falling? Isheat reflecting off the sidewalk? Do people wear short shorts and crop tops?2.
Place the reader geographically.
It makes a big difference if the character is in an office
or a restaurant. That’s easy to get across, too, with ringing phones, clatter of dishes–
like that. Once you’ve opened the c
hapter with these few details, the reader can relax intoyour prose.3.
Make sure you’re clear on who your audience is.
Who do you write for? Think about it
right now: You’re probably writing a novel or you wouldn’t be reading this
essay. Whodo you think will
read it? What’s their age–
adult, young adult
–and what’s their genre–
action thriller, science fiction, literary? Your word selection and plot construction isdifferent depending upon how you answered these questions. Decide that before you start
writing. If it’s too late for that, put your pen down and decide now.
Don’t be afraid to use words that fit your writing style but are longer than one
Beautiful words might be your signatures as it is for Elizabeth George. Readerslike insider knowledge and learning from what they read. If you love words, allowreaders to enjoy them with you.5.
If you switch POV’s in your story, identify who’s head you’re in by word selection
and interior monologue
. Don’t have everyone sound vanilla or sout
hern or like you.
Then, the only way readers can differentiate characters is by dialogue tags. That’s not