For Aspiring Writers

Adding Depth to Your Story

A great novel has depth and complexity. It asks for it, with it’s 40,000+ words. It craves characters growth, plot development and all those elements that makes your reader think ‘wow’.

A lot of things I was taught in English Literature at school often have no real effect in the real world of writing. A key example:

My English teacher would say: Make your writing interesting with adverbs, e.g. She gleefully frolicked in the gardens of Fray.

Elmore Leonard: Using adverbs are a mortal sin.

But when analysing published prose, we learnt things that to the reader seems non-existent, but sets the tempo for a great, whopping effect. Here are a few examples:

  • Foreshadowing – the example I’m going to use is from Of Mice and Men. Candy is an old lonely man at the ranch. He owns an old lonely dog. The dog has no use. Carl becomes adamant on getting rid of the dog, and by goading, Candy is left with no choice. Later, when he sits alone with George, he explains his regrets about not shooting the dog himself, because he knows he could give his dog a less painful death. This sets the plant for George, when the time comes for shooting Lennie. We might not pay much attention to it at the time, but the subconscious mind is a work of art.
  • Symbolism – Another example from Mice and Men is when we’re first introduced to Curley’s wife. ‘She had full, rouged lips…Her fingernails were red.’ This is another way to show, not tell. John Steinbeck isn’t shouting, ‘Stay away’, he’s letting us make up our own minds.
  • Pathetic Fallacy – as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, yes, it is much advised not to begin your novel with the weather. But pathetic fallacy is another writer’s technique that works perfectly when used wisely and isn’t just another cliché. Don’t overdo this one. Don’t make it scream, ‘HE’S SAD’. A simple, Harvey walked along the wet pavement of Lisa’s street, making no attempts to avoid the cracked, weed infested slabs, would be sufficient.

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