C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Pulp fiction doesn’t have to sound like pulp fiction

A friend of mine has a strict rule about writing: “Remove it from the manuscript if it sounds like writing.”

Writerly = Bad

Some sentences do call attention to themselves. It’s not supposed to be a good thing, but I don’t think it should be an unbending rule. To me, it’s a guideline reminding me that story always comes first (but we should enjoy ourselves along the way.) It’s up to the creator to make an informed choice about the narrative and the reader will decide if they groove on that choice.

In film, sometimes a director will take you out of the movie’s illusion by putting the camera somewhere unexpected, lingering, shaking or going for some special effect that reminds the observer, “Hey! You’re watching a movie!”

That can happen when you write something in such a way that it reminds the reader,

“Hey! You’re reading a book!”

Maybe the prose is beautiful, but some will accuse you of writing purple prose, being too precious or being maudlin. But many readers aren’t just readers. The best readers are also lovers of language. They want the reading experience to transcend mere delivery of information. When they read your writerly passage, it transports them.

I write a lot of action scenes, but I make sure to balance out the action with pauses so the reader can catch her breath before being thrown into the next chasm.

We’re pushed to begin in the middle of the action and make the pace fast. However, too many beats in too short a time sacrifices character development. Lose that, and we don’t care about the action scene.

Dare to go deeper so the bad guys don’t devolve into “Heavy #1” and “Heavy #2” come through the door with guns. You may or not remember details of the scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson take down the guys who stole from their boss. However, film buffs can recite the lines from the drive to the shoot out. Remember? “Royale with cheese.”

Take time to build tension. There are scenes (yes, even in novels about the zombie apocalypse) that pause to show how people and their relationships are changing. Sometimes the pause is a great chance to write something for comedic effect. If you can make them laugh on one page and cry on the next, they’ll love the story more.

We can use our words to communicate the power and depth of the ocean and of personalities. We can show happiness and tragedy in a few brush strokes or we can dare to go deeper sometimes, reaching for the uneasy metaphor. Readers appreciate a story that explores emotional range with developed characters they care about.

My friend, the hardliner, says, “Never sound writerly!”

“But dude!” I replied, “Sometimes it’s only the elegant turns of phrase readers remember. It’s the flourish that captures the detail that makes the scene memorable. Without a little reach in description, I feel like I may as well be tapping out the story on a telegraph.”

“You’re just writing a zombie novel,” he said. “That’s not what they’re expecting.”

“No book has to be just anything. Any writing can turn the dial up to eleven and sound epic with the right twist on the expected. We aren’t supposed to give them what they expect. That’s mundane.”

“Okay,” he said, “just don’t make it sound too writerly. You know what I mean.”

“I promise I’ll delete it if it’s too obscure or gets in the way of the story.”

Mostly, I keep my promises.

Filed under: writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Truman Syndrome & the writerly mindset

While sipping the best coffee ever at Coffee Culture, I saw a handsome, young black man standing across the street. Beside him sat an elderly white woman in a wheelchair.

I swear this is true: I watched him light a very fat joint, take a hit and pass it to the old woman. Without looking at him, she took a hit and passed it back. This wasn’t merely unexpected. It was surreal. As he rolled her out of sight I thought there was a story there but I wasn’t sure yet what it would be.

As I headed home, I had a Truman Syndrome moment. Everything looked slightly fake, like I was on a movie set made just for me. An old man with a nose like The Penguin’s beak and horrible posture scrabbled across the sidewalk as if pulled along by his cartoonish nose. At the same time, a woman ran the other way in a gait that looked…contrived. She wore a pastel green blouse that matched her socks and she ran like she was holding back a terrible case of diarrhea and trying to hop in time to an urgent nursery rhyme.

If I were to see each person individually, it would just seem odd. However, the juxtaposition of all of them made them not real people, but characters. As I scanned the sidewalk, everyone looked like an extra in an early 90s low-budget movie. I could picture the AD whispering instructions to concealed earpieces for each passerby. “Keep moving! Don’t look at the camera. Don’t look at the actor! Don’t look at Chazz! He still has no idea!”

The sense that everything is slightly off, somewhat “presented”, and utterly skewed? That feeling hasn’t left me all day.

I’m either in a writerly mood or this is a narcissistic psychosis.

Not that those conditions are mutually exclusive.

Filed under: What about Chazz?, Writers, Writing exercise, , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,849 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

  • RT @Authoralexp: How to be a bookworm: 1) Buy a book 2) Buy 2827368 more books 3) Read one book 4) Buy 10 more 5) Stare at your bookshelf i… 8 hours ago
  • RT @Mimirocah1: A grand jury of your peers did not indict McCabe. And, what we can’t live with is: a world where being in the FBI or a poli… 11 hours ago
  • RT @nadinehp4: #Frostquake occurs when temperatures drop drastically below freezing, causing groundwater to freeze and expand rapidly, prod… 1 day ago
  • RT @miafermindoza: It took @BernieSanders mere seconds; he offered his own water bottle tonight to a woman he noticed immediately wasn’t fe… 1 day ago
  • RT @HIGHzurrer: HIM: How goes showrunning? Doing anything to manage the stress? ME, ON SPEAKERPHONE: Well, right now I'm on a treadmill in… 1 day ago
%d bloggers like this: