Everyone seems to know what constitutes writing style, yet can’t describe it; one of those things you know it when you see it, but can’t explain. One element of style that’s important to master is rendering emotions. If you can do that, your book will be memorable and much of the rest will take care of itself. Here are some tips for that as well as other things, like creating vivid imagery, that take your writing to the top.
Avoid using the same word more than once in a paragraph, much less sentence. It slows down the story and annoys the reader.
Avoid adverbs by using a better verb. Instead of “He walked slowly” use strolled, dragged his feet, etc.
Avoid adjectives. Instead of “noisy talking” try chatter.
Use all the senses in your descriptions. No one perceives the world around them through a single, solitary sense.
Avoid prepositional phrases by using possessives. Today’s Writing Tip vs. Writing Tip of the Day.
Avoid redundancy with effective use of pronouns and possessive pronouns. “He took her hand in his” vs. “He took her hand in his hand.”
Use active voice as much as possible. “The boy threw the ball” vs. “The ball was thrown by the boy.” It also eliminates a preposition. Tighter writing is better writing.
Watch for mixed metaphors! “Her eyes flew across the room” is a classic example. This can also happen with misplaced prepositional phrases. Make sure they’re in the most logical order or they can have a similar effect.
If you’re writing a series, refresh your memory of previous events by rereading the book’s predecessors. Tying them together in small ways pleases your loyal readers tremendously.
In long conversations, remind the reader who’s speaking from time to time. It annoys readers to go back and figure it out. Be more creative than “he said” or “she said.”
Don’t slow down an action scene to describe the locale. Do that long before it happens, so the reader is already familiar with it.
There are several ways to say “said”, but don’t overdo it; that gets annoying as well. Use them to avoid adverbs, such as “he yelled” vs. “he said loudly.”
Every occupation has its own jargon. Use enough in character dialog to sound authentic, but don’t boggle the reader’s mind with too many acronyms.
Writing a crime novel? If you want to gain and maintain credibility, be sure to keep police protocol authentic.
Some descriptions need to be repeated as reader reminders, such as what a character looks like, while others don’t. If you do a good job the first time, you can minimize them later, especially for specific places.
If you write science fiction, don’t violate the known laws of physics without providing rationale for doing so. Invent new laws if you like, but make them believable.
Suspense is essential in any story. If you don’t know what will happen next, that’s a good indicator your reader won’t, either.
If part of your story takes place in the military, make sure you use rank, terminology, and dialog correctly. Authenticity add to the flavor and credibility of your story.
Learn to render emotions as opposed to using a simple modifier. Compare the impact of “He fumed with anger” to “His eyes flashed daggers, fists tightening at his sides.” If it’s your protagonist’s viewpoint, try something like: “His heart raced, fury surging through him like a fire storm.”
Omniscient viewpoint can confuse the reader; make sure it’s really necessary & the most effective before using it. Separate chapters and/or sections from different characters’s POV might work better.
Try to maintain comfortable chapter lengths. If you find a chapter has multiple section breaks, maybe you should start a new chapter instead. Most readers prefer to stop at a chapter’s end. If it drags on and on, it can be frustrating.
Never underestimate the importance of moving your reader emotionally. This is the key to making your work stand out as memorable.
Economy of words makes your message stronger. Using too many that are extraneous distract and dilute it. This is why adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases often add extra bulk that should be trimmed.
A fundamental rule of good writing is to show, not tell. Saying “He was angry” is telling. Saying “His eyes bore into his opponent like steel rods, fists clenched at his side” shows it.
Fully developing your backstories always pays off. Not only do they contribute to the quality of your characters and plot; you can always offer them as freebies to potential readers.
Don’t over-use exclamation points! Save them for where they’re really needed for emphasis! Too many gets annoying and reduces their impact! Capisce?
Understand what it means to stay within a characters viewpoint can be difficult for new writers. Bear in mind that all narrative, including the vocabulary, that relates to the POV character can’t be anything s/he doesn’t know or understand.
One way to check whether you’ve slipped out of a character’s viewpoint is to consider the subject scene as if it were written in first person. That will usually identify anything that doesn’t belong.
Know the difference between omniscient point of view and multiple points of view. Omniscient goes into everyone’s head in any given scene. Multiple concentrates on one character at a time, but covers several throughout the story.
Remember to include scene transitions, especially when a significant amount of time has passed or the location has changed. Failing to include such details first and foremost can stall readers, causing them to go back and reread what came before, wondering what they missed.