GrubWrites

ARCHIVE FOR Mary Carroll Moore

Tools for Using Sensory Detail—No Generics, Please!

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Some people love lots of sensory detail in writing.  I'm one of them.  If a writer shows me the place, what the people wear, the smells and sounds, I'm right there with the story.

But I've learned over the years that detail only works if it's relevant to what's happening.  One of my teachers called it "salient detail."  In other words, if the character or narrator isn't experiencing shifts because of the detail, it's irrelevant to the reader.  It can even derail the story's pace and purpose, dulling its shine.

November 11, 2014 | Mary Carroll Moore

Craft Advice

Backstory for Book Writers—Where You Place It Makes All the Difference

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When we begin writing our books, we feel an urgency to catch the reader up, bring them over the hurdles of history in our story. We have a lot of past to pass along. We think this past is essential:  If the reader doesn’t know Jane was traumatized as a child, how will she understand why Jane is so careful with her adult relationships?  If the reader doesn’t know the entire history of the Scout troop, will he get why the boys are intensely loyal to each other?

October 14, 2014 | Mary Carroll Moore

Craft Advice

Book-Writer’s Toolbox: Crafting Strong Scene and Chapter Transitions

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By Mary Carroll Moore

In my MFA program, one of my thesis advisers, a talented novelist who read my novel-in-progress, told me a sharp truth about my writing:  My background as a newspaper writer hampered my transitions.  "You end each chapter like you would a journalistic piece," she told me.  "It's complete, nothing left to push the reader forward into the next chapter."

July 8, 2014 | Mary Carroll Moore

Craft Advice

Creating “Strange Alchemy” with the Magic of Place, Character, and Conflict

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By Mary Carroll Moore

Morning: writing at my sunny desk.  Task:  revise a stubborn scene.  Advice from recent feedback:  bring more emotion into it. 

Sunshine and early summer in New England today is no help.   In my fictional scene, it's chilly October in the northern mountains of New York state.  I'm sitting comfortably in my chair, laptop in front of me, spicy tea and good music and sweet air at hand.  My character, in her scene, has just crashed her small plane--on purpose.  She's bleeding, shaken, and starving ...

June 10, 2014 | Mary Carroll Moore

Craft Advice

Emotional “Gateways”—Your Key to the Inner Story

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By Mary Carroll Moore

Vivian Gornick talks about “the situation and the story”—the two elements of good prose.  What happens and why it happens.  Because of her simplicity in describing this complex idea, The Situation and the Story became one of the first truly influential writing books in my life.  Carol Bly’s The Passionate, Accurate Writer came next, teaching me about writing of consequence and how to stay unembittered while working with difficult material.  Finally, I found Kenneth Atchity’s innovative A Writer’s Time, which transformed the last five manuscripts I completed and published. 

For years ...

May 13, 2014 | Mary Carroll Moore

Craft Advice