Practice Useful Writing Questions

This is Part 2 of Talking Back to Your Brain by Susan Squires.

Just Susan

Last Sunday, I shared most of what I picked up from bestselling author Susan Squires. I queried Susan to find out if she was presenting the workshop anytime soon. The answer was no, not for the foreseeable future. That’s pretty scary when you think about the fact some of her characters can predict coming events.

In that case, I will share Part Two of her workshop for my chapter of Romance Writers of America, Practicing Useful Writing Questions. Because you can’t ask your brain, “How do I write a best-seller?” If you don’t have the skills to write well, if you haven’t done any research into book trends, and if you don’t have the least clue about plotting, you probably won’t understand the answer.

071617 books

If you didn’t read the last installment on Susan Squires’ Talking Back to Your Brain, you might want to go read it. You will learn more about your brain then you really wanted to know.

So we learned that we need to ask small questions and keep backing up if the question is too big. Like in The Wizard of Oz, you don’t ask How does Dorothy get home? You ask, where did she come from? Why did she hate living there? What happened to her to make her want to run away?

071617 kansas wheat field

The answers are, Kansas, no one had time for her, and her beloved dog’s life was in danger. Most of that has to do with setting. Setting is a small but important question you can ask your brain. When you ask about setting, your focus is smaller than character or plot.

Settings are universal for the arc of your book and specific for a scene. Paranormal settings may need to be a whole new world you create. Historicals reflect the social world of the time period as well as the buildings or farms or rivers. You must know what time of year it is, what the weather is like then, and if your story takes place in an urban place or a rural place. What is the area known for? Wines, cheeses, beggars, rich patrons of the arts? Once you have answered all of this you will have your setting and you can use the details to stay consistent. Clothes, religion, idioms of speech, more details will come up at every page. Take a minute to ask any other general setting questions you may not have thought up until now about your work in progress.

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For instance, if your Main Characters Upper Class – did they buy their own silver of inherit it? The Regency period in England invented the term nouveau riche for this reason.

Let’s think about descriptions for a minute. You can’t lay out everything your character sees so pick a the “telling details”. These are the things specific to that scene which tell us something about the story or the character. Don’t fall into the trap of leaving out descriptions just because your Point of View character is familiar with the house or park or ship or space station.

I’m looking at the notes that came with the talk and I could easily stretch this out for 10 weeks! But instead, I am going to wrap this up and then drop in a tidbit occasionally. Here are some teensy hints as to what’s to come.

071617 setting questions

Characters are a BIG subject! Every character has a history. Make any character sympathetic.Questions are everywhere, use them. No more saggy middles. Romance Plot Specifics.

In conclusion, keep using your resources, like the RWA chapter, on-line groups, the conferences, etc. Remember that before the internet made Facebook possible, people relied on the support of their social and family groups. You, too, can reach out and find what you need.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

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