Saturday, October 4, 2014

Guest Post: Every Word Counts by Shen Hart

Every Word Counts.

Jolene invited me here today to share something editing-related, what with my being a developmental editor and all. It took me a little bit to figure out which topic would best work for this, and then it hit me: every word counts.

I have no doubt you’re looking at me with an expression of, “Of course it does!” but just sit and think about it for a moment. This is the thing that I've really come to realize and understand over my years as an editor. Every single word has a weight, a meaning, and a purpose within your manuscript. They say something about the setting, emotion, character, plot, something.

Let’s just break it down for a moment shall we? We’ll start with the broader strokes; action scenes seem like a good one. Your action scene needs to fit in with your book. That seems obvious, but bear with me. The fighting style of the characters involved needs to fit in with their personalities, history, experience, and physical state, and that in turn must fit the setting, available potential weapons, and desired outcome. That’s a lot to take into account, isn't it?

That means that deciding to write a spinning kick could throw off the action scene, whereas a straight kick could work perfectly. That change in one word has an impact. It says something about the character, their style, their position within the scene, and their purpose with that particular blow.

A better example is dialogue tags. Now, there are plenty of people out there who say that you should only ever use said, and I have written a full post on that , but I stand by the weight that a single word can have on the entire scene. If you change your tag from said to whispered or screamed, you’ve completely changed the emotion held within those words. That emotion then carries over to the rest of the scene and can alter the chapter or even the plot on a broader level. It also says a lot about your character.

One little word carries that much weight.

Let’s look at it from a slightly different angle for a moment, shall we? 

Opening lines and closing lines are incredibly important. A good opening line will hook your reader, give them some sense of the character, setting, and opening scene. It will grab them and have them wanting to read more. A good last line will stick with them and have them eager to read more later. It wraps up the entire book, in one line.

You need to make them memorable, and wow do they need to pack a punch. The one which sticks with me is actually the opening line from a client’s book Elona.

“Is mother dead yet?”

That is one hell of an opening line. It hits the reader hard and you just have to read on to know what’s going on and what prompted that character to ask such a question.

Words are the little pieces that form the entire puzzle. Every single one of them carries a piece of the complete piece. It must fit exactly, so that the complete picture comes out how you want it to. The words come together to form the broader strokes, which are more what I really deal with as an editor. They help the character development and voice, and one word out of place can throw that off. They keep the flow, aid the pacing, and set the scene. They’re precious little tools that we must carefully manipulate and use for our own nefarious gain.

Which lines from books you've read really stuck with you and why?

Thanks to Jolene for having me.


About Shen Hart

I’m a passionate writer who happens to be lucky enough to call the beautiful city of Prague home. I enjoy nothing more than cavorting with my muse and exploring this amazing city. My writing is my addiction, collecting words and carefully caressing them until they form captivating stories is my drive. I have a particular fascination with the darker strains of fiction, the shadows whisper seductively in my ear and sociopathic protagonists whisper sweet nothings. Who am I to ignore such delightful, exquisite callings?


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About Shen's Book Wyrd Calling

Wyrd Calling
No one escapes the Wyrd Sisters.

Wyrd Calling blurb:

No one escapes the Wyrd Sisters. Thalia gave it her best shot. She ran away and devoted her life to tricking black market traders out of their money. She could only run for so long. They always catch up with you, one way or another.

Read an excerpt here!

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for having me! I love talking about stories, words, editing and everything relating to those things :D