Thursday, October 27, 2011

Three Things Writers Need for Balanced Writing

There are three things a writer should always look at to make sure their writing is balanced--setting, dialogue, and action. Like a three-legged stool, each one is needed and important.

The first leg of the stool---setting. A well-integrated setting is priceless. When the reader can imagine themselves right there in the scene with your character, without being beaten over the head with every little detail, then the writer has done their job. I’ve often used the example of being so incredibly bored by a particular book that described every single detail down to the cracks in the table and the dust motes in the air. If you’re giving too many details, your reader will know you don’t trust their imagination or your writing ability. Just use enough detail to make a setting that is powerful and memorable, yet still in the background. Because in the end, if your reader wanted to read a travel brochure they would. Your setting needs to be balanced with the action and dialogue of characters that we care about within that setting.

The second leg of the stool--dialogue. Dialogue is important to any scene because this is how we come to know the characters in the book and the people around them. Dialogue also says a lot about you as a writer, as well as the characters you've created. Is it sharp and witty? Is it full and descriptive or short and staccato? Does it fit your character? Dialogue done well can really move your story forward, but in order for it to be effective, you have to make sure each piece of it moves the story forward, and has identifiers with it as to who is speaking, and anchors for hints at what they’re doing while they’re speaking. Anchors are especially needed so that readers can imagine the scene. Pages and pages of only dialogue can be overwhelming for a reader. Make sure you have that balance with both setting and action in your dialogue.

And the last leg of the stool is action. Each action, whether it’s large, like the event your characters are dealing with or small like something a character is doing should advance the story. Make it deliberate. Action is the lifeblood of your story whether it’s an action of romance, an action of suspense, whatever it is, your book, your characters are made up of actions. Make it count. And be sure it is in balance with the dialogue and setting. Straight descriptions of actions will bore your reader to tears unless they know where the action is taking place, who it affects and how they're going to deal with it.

When you have a balanced writing stool in your novel, with all three legs carrying the weight, you have laid a foundation for your readers that will set the tone for a wonderful reading experience.

And in the end, your novel should be like a beautiful tapestry full of intricate threads of story including setting, dialogue and action, that all make one beautiful balanced picture.


Stephanie Black said...

Great post, Julie. Too much or too little of anything can throw the book off balance.

Rebecca H. Jamison said...

Thanks for the tips. These are very helpful.

Sarah Pearson said...

I like this, straightforward, no messing :-)