Fill Your Setting With Farts

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Fill Your Setting With Farts
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


A quick ramble about setting.

Writers, you need it. You might not want it. You might not be good at it, but setting is like a good fart. Sometimes you have to expel a little gas out of your rectum in order to be your best.

Similarly, you want to have some setting in your story to make that story be its best.

If you are a pretentious writer, you might want to say, “I want readers to be able to imagine the story is in their town or city or part of the world,” but that’s not going to work at all.

Just by defining a tree you are telling the reader something about the setting.

Like if you write:

She stared up at the palm tree.

You’re giving the reader clues. A palm tree will not be in Iceland. They are somewhere comparatively warm.

If you write:

She got out of bed.

You’re giving the reader a clue that she is wealthy enough to have a bed and in a culture or world where people sleep in beds.

And the thing is that clues are needed. Specific clues. Real clues. Without a setting, without a place where the story happens and a time where the story happens, the reader floats there in the sky, ungrounded, unanchored.

And you know what happens when a reader floats in the sky? The reader drifts away. So you want to fart in some specific setting to help the reader sniff out and remember where they are.

Being specific anchors the reader. It ties them to your story and its characters. You will remember a fart that smells like eggs mixed with tuna mixed with a McDonald’s french-fry. So be specific.

More than that though? Setting anchors your characters and your plot. Place makes us (and our characters) who they are. It gives a story atmosphere. It gives the character a world to interact with.

Think of a creepy Stephen King novel. It’s creepy because he takes certain aspects of Maine and creepifies them. Think of Crazy Rich Asians or The Bridgerton novels. They are luxurious because of the places where they take place AND the places where they take place help inform the novels.

A rabid dog cornering you in a car isn’t as scary when you are in Boston. That’s because there are a ton of cops there and animal control officers, unlike a small town in Maine. 

Meeting a super-wealthy potential mother-in-law in her mansion isn’t as scary when she’s just the mom next door in her split-level.

You want to anchor your readers in that setting every time it changes. So, yes, you’ll want to fart out that setting multiple times in your story. You can have a big city for your story—Bar Harbor, Maine—and a smaller setting—Carrie’s office. And once you show us readers where we are, you want to make sure to slowly reveal aspects of setting rather than shoving it all down our throats at once in the first paragraph. Too much gas at once often pushes the modern reader far, far away, holding their noses and writing reviews that say, “THIS STINKS!”

There is a balance here.

To recap:

Setting is like a fart. Even if you don’t like to write it, it has to happen.

Without setting, your readers float away or are just in the dark, confused, lost, untethered.

Setting is important for the characters in your story. It gives them something to play off of, interact with, it informs who they are, it shows who they are, it creates who they are (I am currently a woman of the comma splice), and it gives your story atmosphere.

Ground your characters whenever the setting changes.

Reveal that setting slowly.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

Show More Details, Writers

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Show More Details, Writers
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Showing details in your writing isn’t just some annoying comment that agents, editors, and writing coaches and teachers paste into every student’s work.

You can see it now, right?

Big red letters. Loopy script. Maybe an exclamation point:

SHOW MORE DETAILS!

Every writing person ever

We do this not to be annoying (well, most of us), but because it’s important.

The thoughtco article by Richard Nordquist says it well.

Specific details create word pictures that can make your writing easier to understand and more interesting to read.”

And we want readers to understand the world that we’re building on the page and be interested in it.

As Stephen Wilbers says,

“You are more likely to make a definite impression on your reader if you use specific, rather than abstract, words. Rather than ‘We were affected by the news,’ write ‘We were relieved by the news’ or ‘We were devastated by the news.’ Use words that convey precisely and vividly what you are thinking or feeling. Compare ‘Cutting down all those beautiful old trees really changed the appearance of the landscape’ with ‘In two weeks, the loggers transformed a ten thousand-acre forest of old growth red and white pine into a field of ruts and stubble.’

Here, take this example:

The man’s face was happy.

Can you think of ways to make that more specific?

A smile slowly formed on Shaun’s ruddy face, lifting the corners of his eyes with the movement.

There’s a difference there, right?

There’s a great quick MasterClass blog post that tells writers four ways to add those concrete details to our narratives.

They include:

  1. Making the initial sentence abstract and the remainder of the sentences in a paragraph concrete. I’m not into this really.
  2. Use the senses—hearing, sight, touch, smell, taste. Let the reader smell diesel if the scene is on the side of the highway, taste the bitter coffee in the coffee shop, etc.
  3. Be super specific and concrete like I just mentioned.
  4. Remember to describe people and setting and action in a way that your reader can imagine. Don’t just say, “He sat under a tree.” Say, “He folded his legs beneath him, leaning on the gnarled trunk of the willow, its bark rough against the skin of his back, the tendrils flitting down—a perfect place to rest or maybe to hide.”

SOME LINKS

Nordquist, Richard. “Specificity in Writing.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/specificity-words-1691983.

Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 28). Exercise in Writing With Specific Details. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/exercise-in-writing-with-specific-details-1692404

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-use-concrete-details-to-enhance-your-writing#quiz-0


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

A Quick Overview About Point of View

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A Quick Overview About Point of View
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First, we should define point of view just in case you need a refresher. Truth is, we all often need a refresher even when we don’t want to admit it.

Point of view is all about who is talking and/or telling the story.

YOUR NEXT QUESTION IS:

Is There One Narrator Or Many? And who the heck is it?

That’s really one of the first questions you want to think about. You have to decide if you’re going to have just one point of view in your story or a lot.

A lot of our stories follow one character scene after scene after scene. Things that happen to the story happen to this character. We are invested in that character pretty heavily.

But sometimes, the story is about a person one but not told by that same person. This makes us a little more  worried that Person One might not make it through the story because our subconscious brain thinks, “Um, why isn’t Person One telling the story? DO THEY DIE?!?!”

Or sometimes the events of the story happen to a ton of people. Think of that zombie story that became a movie. We have a lot of different narrators because there we want to show all their stories.

Then, you have to decide which of the main point of views you want to use. They all have good points and bad points, but let’s just set you up with the big three. Each can be determined by the personal pronouns that the narrator uses.

First-Person Point of View.

This is the land of I. It’s all about me. It’s all about my story.

Here’s an example.

I went to the hospital and brought pizza.

Second-Person Point of View.

This is all about you, you, you. Yes, you.

You went to the hospital and brought pizza.

Or to some cooler

You went to the hospital, bringing pizza with you.

Third-Person Point of View

This is all about them and her and him. It can be omniscient or limited omniscient.

Here’s third person limited

Sadie went to the hospital. “I’m bringing pizza,” she thought. I hope they like it.

Or third person omniscient where you aren’t directly in the characters’ heads with internal monologue but know everything about everyone.

Sadie went to the hospital, a pizza box carried in her steady arms, the smell of pepperoni whisking around each person she passed, the orderly, the struggling father, the mother with the heroin-track arms, the gunman. He would kill for that pizza, but how could she know that? To be fair, right now he’d kill for anything and nothing.

There you go! There is also a Fourth Person Point of View, but that one would require its own podcast. So we’ll try to get there next week.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

Subordinate Clauses – a quick, sexy guide

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Subordinate Clauses - a quick, sexy guide
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


SUBORDINATE ME, SANTA CLAUS

Subordinate clauses are baby clauses that can’t stand all by themselves as complete thoughts and they demand a certain kind of punctuation – or lack of punctuation.

HERE ARE EXAMPLES:

If I can find Santa, then we can go party. 

We can go party if Santa ever freaking shows up. 

So, in both of those sentences there is a clause can’t stand alone as a complete thought: 

If I can find Santa

If Santa ever freaking shows up.

A subordinate clause or supporting clause is basically a clause that’s supporting the show-stopping regular clause, right? These clauses do not get a comma before them if they are at the end of the sentence. 

HOW TO DEAL

There are words that always lead off these clauses. What I do is go back and do a find/replace in my work (or client’s work) when I’m copyediting. 

Helpful hint for writers: If you include the comma in the find/replace search, it makes it so much easier. 

Those words are…

THESE CONJUNCTIONS: 

After, although, as, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order that, once, provided that, rather than, since, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, whether, while, why, for, therefore, hence, consequently, and due to.

And these relative pronouns that make the world of the clause even trickier. They are part of relative clauses but then these overachievers? Well, they are part of a subculture called restrictive or nonrestrictive clauses.

THESE ARE THE RELATIVE PRONOUNS

that, which, who, whom, whichever, whoever, whomever, and whose

ARE YOU RESTRICTIVE OR NONRESTRICTIVE MR. CLAUSE? 

These pronouns start either restrictive clauses or nonrestrictive clauses. Restrictive clauses also like to be called essential clauses because they are alpha like that, but also because they are – you guessed it – essential to the sentence meaning and shouldn’t be separated by a comma 

Do you enjoy watching Santa Claus employ lots of elves that wear sexy sweaters?

No comma before that because the sentence needs to know the qualifier for its meaning.

But in a nonrestrictive clause? Well, you don’t have that happen. Here’s an example: 

Watching Santa, who employs a lot of elves wearing sexy sweaters, is pretty freaking awesome.  

Bonus material for paid subscribers (it’s super cheap) is over on my Substack or check out how I can be your editor or writing coach at carriejonesbooks.blog


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

Pot Food at the Wedding and Positive Motivation Theory

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Pot Food at the Wedding and Positive Motivation Theory
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Last week on WRITE BETTER NOW, we talked about fear for our characters as we write, and not all of you are writers, but I bet a lot of you are characters. Sorry! We couldn’t help teasing you there.

Anyway, FEAR is great when it comes to writing novels and short stories and getting our characters to do things proactively on the page.

But in real life? Eh . . . It can be a problem.

A lot of us use fear to motivate us to do things. Sometimes we do this consciously. Sometimes we do this subconsciously. But it’s basically the act of doing things because we don’t want an outcome that we’re afraid of.

Like what?

We go to work because we’re afraid of losing our house to bankruptcy.

We go on a diet because we’re afraid of people’s scorn if we’re at our maximum density.

We are kind to our spouse when they are being a putz because we’re afraid of being alone.

And all those things? They are stressful.

It stresses you out if you’re always doing things because you’re afraid. And it also stresses you out if you’re always not doing things because you’re afraid.

Fear may keep you employed, fit, and in a relationship (albeit a potentially toxic one), but it’s not super helpful if you’re trying to not be anxious and stressed.

So, how do you motivate yourself instead?

One cool way is protection motivation theory.

What’s that?

According to CommunicationTheory.org,

“The theory therefore says that in order for an individual to adopt a health behavior, they need to believe that there is a severe threat that is likely to occur and that by adopting a health behavior, they can effectively reduce the threat. The individual should also be convinced that he is capable of engaging in the behavior which should not cost him a lot.”

Wait, doesn’t that sound like some fear-based motivation?

A bit. But a big part of it is that there is both a threat appraisal and a coping appraisal.

As the Warbleton Council writes

1. Threat assessment

Fear of illness or injury predisposes to act (for example, when you are smoking and coughing a lot).

In turn, this element is made up of the perception of severity (the possible harm to be suffered) and susceptibility (the level of risk the person is at), in addition to the intrinsic benefits of risky behavior.

2. Assessment of coping behavior

It is the probability of success perceived by the person, that is, the perception they have that their response will be effective in reducing the threat, in addition to the perception of self-efficacy (the person will be able to adopt preventive measures).

These variables will provide in the person a perspective on the costs and benefits of performing the behavior.

When you appraise the threat and coping mechanisms, you start to figure out if you should make change and what amount of changes you should undergo.

The Communication Theory article breaks all this down pretty brilliantly, so you should check it out, but it’s about intention and how you keep yourself safe and change your behavior when you perceive threats.

There’s a fascinating article about this theory and food purchasing behavior during COVID-19 and our shopping habits.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Just go for it, damn it. No fear.

LINK WE MENTION IN RANDOM THOUGHTS

https://www.ladbible.com/community/bride-slammed-for-entering-wedding-walking-groom-on-a-leash-20220423

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Here’s the link.

best writing podcast WRITE BETTER NOW
Write Better Now – Writing Tips podcast for authors and writers
best podcast ever
loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird
best poetry podcast by poet
Carrie Does Poems

The Big Scary Fear Monster Is Really the Rock Star of Your Novel

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The Big Scary Fear Monster Is Really the Rock Star of Your Novel
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


One of my favorite writing exercises is super simple. I take a bunch of novelists and ask them:

What is your protagonists more afraid of happening than anything else in the whole freaking universe?

We authors talk a lot about what our characters wants are, their yearnings, their goals, but we often forget about the dark side. Cue scary ominous music.

The fears are linked to a couple of really important things:

  1. Obstacles
  2. Motivations

Obstacles are easy. As the novel’s hero goes out in search of his goal to get his love, there are things that obstruct him. A terrorist. A snake. His sexy best friend who likes the same person. The obstacles GIVE him fear that he won’t get what he wants—the goal of the story, his perfect result, the yearning. The fear MOTIVATES him to keep trying.

But fear motivates in another way as well. When you make your character imagine the worst thing in the world—the fear can also hold him back from getting what he wants.

When you think about your character’s biggest fear, the deepest fear, the conceptual fear, the root fear, the FEAR OF ALL FEARS, you realize that it’s this fear that MOTIVATES the character. He isn’t just running to something. He’s running away from something.

Is it death? Isolation? Humiliation? Loss of wealth? Actual success? Failure? Humiliation? Aging? The big unknown?

Whatever it is, that root fear pushes your adorable character into the arms of the story, searching and working toward things that take him away from that big scary fear monster.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

Don’t Be Chunky – Put Your Dialogue in Paragraphs

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Don't Be Chunky - Put Your Dialogue in Paragraphs
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


It’s a super quick writing tip again today. Ready?

When you’re writing dialogue, make every new speaker a new paragraph. If you’re writing kids books? You might as well just keep each dialogue a paragraph of their own?

Why? Our brains are wired to read each paragraph as a new speaker. If we jumble a bunch of different speakers into one paragraph, it slows down the reader’s pace of reading and also can get their brain all hitched up as they try to figure out who is talking and when.

Why else? It makes more white space on the page. The more white space on the page, the less intimidating the text is for the reader—especially the reluctant reader.

So don’t write a paragraph like this:

Carrie said, “Please support our channel.” Shaun nodded and said, “We are insecure.” “That’s true.” They laughed. Shaun added, “Wow. This is boring dialogue to prove a point.”

Instead write the paragraphs like this:

Carrie said, “Please support our channel.”

Shaun nodded and said, “We are insecure.”

“That’s true.”

They laughed.

Shaun added, “Wow. This is boring dialogue to prove a point.”

Pretty easy, right? Now we know who said “that’s true” even though there wasn’t a dialogue tag there. No readers’ brains hitched during the reading of that dialogue and all is good with the world.

For other posts about writing dialogue, check out below:


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

Don’t Chunk! The Brain Science Behind Bad Exposition

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Don't Chunk! The Brain Science Behind Bad Exposition
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


This week it’s not so much a writing tip, but a writing explanation as we dive a little deeper into why too much exposition is bad.

It’s all about the human brain.

But before we start, once again, exposition is just a literary device that according to Masterclass:

“Is meant to relay background information about a main character, setting, event or other element of the narrative. Exposition comes from the Latin word expositionem, which literally means “showing forth.”

And in a story, exposition often bores the reader or breaks up the forward motion of the plot.

So why does that suck?

There’s a thing called working memory. Most of our brains can only keep four or five things inside our memory at one time.

That’s not super good. JUST FOUR OR FIVE THINGS!

So, our brains adapted because our brains are awesome and they do this cool thing called “chunking.”

As Anne Hawley, writing for Story Grid explains,

“Chunking is when we group ideas so that together they occupy only one of the four or five available memory slots in our brain.”

 Or the APA Dictionary of Psychology says chunking is

“the process by which the mind divides large pieces of information into smaller units (chunks) that are easier to retain in short-term memory … one item in memory can stand for multiple other items”.

She cites Steven Pinker who wrote The Sense of Style and gives this example:

M D P H D R S V P C E O I H O P

 If we don’t chunk those sixteen letters together, we would have a much harder time remembering them.

But we can chunk them like this:

M D  

P H D  

R S V P

C E O

I H O P

And voila! You think about the doctor and the Ph.D. who rsvp’d to the ceo of Ihop.

Amazing, right?

So, exposition inserted into our stories as an info dump? It keeps us from chunking. It makes our brain work harder and that can take our brains out of the story.

SPOILER ALERT: Be kind to readers’ brains. Most of them don’t want to be taken out of the story, but immersed in it.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

How to Conquer The Beast Called Exposition

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How to Conquer The Beast Called Exposition
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Exposition.

It’s a beast. And I never have a problem with it as a writer until I’m writing middle grade fiction.

This podcast we’re going to explain what exactly an agent or editor or writing coach or a teacher means when they look disdainfully down their noses at you and say, “You have too much exposition!”

Anne Hawley writes for The Story Grid:

There’s a tendency among many writers, myself included, to explain too much, and I’ve become ruthless about weeding out as much exposition as possible. So my gut reaction to the client’s question was, “None of the above. Get rid of it.”

Here are some definitions:

“Exposition is a literary device used to introduce background information about events, settings, characters, or other elements of a work to the audience or readers. The word comes from the Latin language, and its literal meaning is ‘a showing forth.’ Exposition is crucial to any story, for without it nothing makes sense.” Literary Devices.net

“Exposition means facts—the information about setting, biography, and characterization that the audience needs to know to follow and comprehend the events of the story.” —Robert McKee, Story (p. 334).

Over on Carrie’s new substack newsletter, we’ll share some examples of this.

So, while some exposition is allowed in a story, it’s something you want to clean up as much as possible. You want to be in the scenes with the characters as much as you can and this is especially true in the very beginning and that last third of the novel.

That’s because in the beginning the reader needs to be immersed so that they’ll keep reading and hooked along. In the end that’s because the reader has stayed with you for all these words and now they want to have the big emotional payoff. That doesn’t happen with exposition. That happens when you’re immersed in the scene.

Exposition can be ALL THESE THINGS SO LOOK HERE:

  1. Just an info drop where the narrator is telling (not showing a bunch of information).
  2. Too much internal dialogue for too long.
  3. Flashbacks.
  4. Dialogue sometimes. I know, right? Dialogue is action, but sometimes dialogue is an info dump particularly when a villain is explaining their motives or in science fiction or fantasy when a character is explaining the world to the noob.
  5. Letters pulled out or emails and presented as a block. Read it with the character instead.
  6. Those long, long paragraphs where you go on forever and ever describing setting and senses.

Hawley also has this great example:

Let’s go to the mall,” Heather said.

Imani thought back to the last time she had been to the mall. The terror she had felt at the sound of the first shot fired, the screams of people fleeing for their lives, the crash of displays falling over as customers dove under racks and counters for cover. It had been the worst day of her life.

“I don’t want to go,” Imani replied.

However vivid Imani’s recollection is in that middle paragraph, it does little to reveal her character. It explains some things about Imani, but it’s an info-dump—a Big Block of Explanation.

The block interrupts the action—that is, the dialogue between Heather and Imani—by referring you to a past whose details may or may not be relevant at this point in the story. Here’s what happens in your brain:

You expend energy time-jumping to Imani’s past.

You process terror, shots fired, screams, crashes, and people diving under racks. By the time you get to Imani’s response, all your memory slots are engaged, and you’ve lost sight of what Heather said.

So you expend more brainpower backtracking in the text to remind yourself of Heather’s initial suggestion.

Exposition? It’s a beast and it’s a beast that keeps your reader from being immersed. We’ll talk about it more again soon, but the first step to battling this monster? It’s knowing where to look.

Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

Three Hot Tips To Make Awesome First Pages

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Three Hot Tips To Make Awesome First Pages
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Carrie has been talking to a lot of her authors lately about the beginning of their stories and how to make them awesome. And Carrie has a lot of tips for the writers she works with, but we’re going to be fast here.

Make it Tense AF

You don’t want to make readers in our time wait for the good stuff. Nobody is into waiting right now. It’s all instant gratification all the time. This is even true for most books. Too many details. Too much setting or exposition. And too little tension means that readers aren’t going to want to read on. Your first page should make the reader ask a question that they want the answer to.

Show Us What Your Book and Character Are About

This tip really means we want to see the core of your character and what they are yearning for on the very first page. If your book is a mystery, let us see it. If your book is an erotic novel about a hamster and a gerbil, we need to know that, too. The first thing the reader sees your main character doing? That shows the reader who that character is. If she’s running to rescue someone because she hears yelling? That tells us something about her. If she’s running away because she hears yelling? That tells us something about her, too.

Show Us Where They Hell We Are

Nothing is more annoying than a book that has no grounding elements. Let us readers know where the characters are hanging out. Are we in this century? This world? A cold climate? A warm one? What part of the year is it? Let the reader know where your characters are.

Bonus Tip: You don’t want a prologue unless you really need it and you probably don’t need it. We know! We know! It’s super sexy to start with all that backstory instead of trying to expertly twist it into the forward-moving scenes. But it’s also super lazy. And agents don’t like them if you’re trying to get traditionally published.

Spoiler: You can’t just give up after the first ten pages. You want to make sure that your whole book is fantastic and keeps hooking the reader and making them want to read more.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

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