Stepping Stones Blog

Writing Seminar: Writing Lessons from the Front (Angela Hunt) – Part 3

This is the third part of a four part series which reviews Angela Hunt’s Writing Seminar for HACWN on Saturday, April 26th.  Other posts in the series include Part 1 (the Plot Skeleton) and Part 2 (Point of View and Character Development)

Evoking Emotion

There was so much to learn in this one session, and we were quickly running out of time.

Angela repeated several times, however, that the key to evoking emotion is to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  We must learn to tap into the existing emotions of readers.

Angela uses videos, often country music videos, because they tell a complete story in a 3.5 minute timeframe.  This can help writers discover the kinds of emotions to solicit, as well as how to SHOW those emotions rather than just talk about them.

Music videos can also help us understand PACE … when to slow down and fully develop a scene, and when to speed up.  Short staccato music is useful in speeding up the pace (just like short simple sentences), whereas legato style music is valuable when you wish to slow down (think complex sentences).  Volume in music can also be equated to volume in writing.  Begin a scene pianissimo (soft) gradually build to a full crescendo (the climax) and then quiet down again at the end.

Tension on the Line

We were quickly running out of time at this point in the seminar, and Angela wanted to leave time for a discussion on Publication options.  Despite the rush, however, she still imparted sage advice in developing tension – which is what the reader craves (otherwise, they have no reason to read further).

The key to creating tension is:  ask questions, but do not answer them right away.  And to extend that basic premise, always ask another question before answering the previous one.

The ebb and flow of tension must be evident throughout the story, beginning with the very first scene:  continue to bait readers with questions that entice them to read further.  However, be aware of three Killers of Tension:

  • Too much explanation
  • Too much description
  • Too much back-story

Unfortunately, we did not have much time to develop these in-depth, but the book details about a dozen different ways to add tension to a lack-luster story.  A worthwhile investment.

Track  Down the Weasel Words

Due to time restraints, this topic was barely skimmed, but worthy of mention here.  In essence, we all have “weasel words”…. words that we use over and over.  We shouldn’t chastise ourselves, just be mindful of the pitfall.  Once the draft is complete, conduct a “search and replace” to eliminate the excess repetition.

There are also weasel words that should be avoided for other reasons.  For example:

  • am… is… are (present tense) – was… were (past tense) – usually indicate passive voice
  • have … had – indicate perfect tense when simple past is sufficient

She also spent a few minutes discussing how she tracks other details in her novels to maintain proper consistency.  She uses an excel spreadsheet where each row is a scene in the book and the columns represent such details as:

  • Point of View
  • Timeline
  • Setting
  • Principle action
  • Weather
  • Principle mood

The afternoon was quickly getting away from us, so we only had the opportunity to touch upon these topics.  I look forward to reading the books in-depth and putting this valuable information into practice.

The final post in this series will discuss Traditional vs Self-Publishing.

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