Author Chat Saturday – June 6, 2015

cropped-bryandavistribute.jpgI didn’t have an author/reader chat Saturday in May, so I will try to have two in June, including today.

Please post any questions (writing, author, book related) you have, and I will answer them as soon as possible. You may ask questions or make comments about specific books, but if you include spoilers, please start with a spoiler warning.

If you want to ask a more personal question, I will consider answering that as well, but no guarantees.

Let’s chat! πŸ™‚


Categories: Author/Reader Chat

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206 replies

  1. I think even if you only do one that we will be happy, because we got to enjoy having the contest with you, and that was a lot of fun. Is there a specific genre that you want to write in, but you simply haven’t gotten to writing in it yet? =)

    • As you know, I am working on a middle-grade science-fiction story and series, which is new for me, and I am enjoying it immensely. I would also like to write a pseudo-historical/ psychological story that has been haunting me for years.

      • I would love to read those. I know what it is like to have a story to write that has been haunting me for years. I have a book that is military futuristic science fiction in nature that is laced with christian elements, that I have started in 2010, but only have about 12 pages written, because I have been focusing on all of my writing for school. However, I have been refining the idea more and more over the years, and as soon as I am done with school I plan to put my writing skills towards writing it. When I write it and when it gets published, you will be in the acknowledgements section as someone who has greatly encouraged me. When I do write it, I would love to get your opinion on it after it is edited.

  2. Also another question I have is in relation to my Master’s thesis. I am writing my thesis on Creating a Cyber Security organization based on the Christian Faith, would you have an resources that you would recommend to help for research? From what I can tell I am pretty much pioneering this research.

  3. I saw on your Twitter feed that you had a Skype conversation with a home school group. I was wondering, what would you talk about? I am part of a home school group and if I know what the subject of your conversation would be, I will recommend it.

  4. I was just reading echoes from the edge series in the first book Kelly’s hair was brown but in the second it was blond do you know why that it changed?

  5. I’m a bit curious. What color is Bonnie’s hair? My big sister and I have been trying to figure this out since we first read the books. I thought it was blonde, but she insisted it was brown. I know in the “Children Of The Bard Series” it said something about her hair turning brown or something like that. So, what color is her hair?

  6. I was wondering what was Gabriel’s other dragon trait?

  7. Bryan, I love the fact that you do this. Thanks a ton. πŸ™‚

    Have you run into any problems (writing, marketing, working with your publisher) because you write for different audiences? What sort of differences have you noticed between writing YA and adult, and now middle-grade? What’s the biggest challenge?

    • The main problem has been marketing to adults. My four books that were geared to adults (the three Tales of Starlight books and I Know Why the Angels Dance) have not sold well. I think the Dragons in our Midst story world branded me as a YA author, which is a shame because I think the adult books are every bit as good, if not better.

      I am just beginning to try a middle-grade story. It has been fun so far. I don’t have to be concerned about the issues teens inevitably think about, because younger characters aren’t aware of them, which makes writing the emotional aspects a lot easier.

      • I just wanted to let you know as a reader, that it is a shame that those ones did not sell as well, because they are some of my favorites. I started reading your books as an adult, and I could never pick any one of your books as a favorite over any others, except for maybe your ones geared to making men better men, and that’s because they have helped transform me into a knight.

  8. Mr Davis, have you ever cried when you are writing a book?
    Also, your writing tips have really gotten to me. Right now I’m reading Anne of Avonlea, and I notice information dumping, POV switch, and lots of other mistakes. Thanks! πŸ˜‰

    • I have cried many times while writing. I think if a writer doesn’t cry while writing, then the readers probably won’t either.

      I’m glad my writing tips have helped. Regarding the Anne series, the author likely employed omniscient POV, which allows for shifts, but information dumping is tedious no matter what kind of POV is in use.

  9. I received the four free books today! Thank you, Mr. Davis!

  10. What color is Ashley’s hair. I’ve always pictured her as a blonde but the Enoch’s Ghost cover has her portrayed with brown hair.
    I think it’s funny that I’m the third person to ask about hair color. πŸ™‚

  11. I’ve written a couple books before but they seem pretty boring. It’s more of a ‘grocery list’ kind of book. They do this, encounter some monsters, beat the monsters up, keep going along with their quest, run into more monsters…
    How do you suggest turning it from that ‘grocery list’ kind of books to your kind of books, where the readers get in touch with the characters and gasp, cry, and laugh along with the characters? And how do you dig deep inside your character and bring out every emotion and make them so real?

    • That’s a tough question to answer, because you see how I do it when you read the books. It’s there in print. In other words, the instructions are in front of you. I don’t mean this in a condescending way at all. πŸ™‚

      If you need step-by-step instructions, keep reading my weekly tips. In the next few weeks, I am going to teach on this very issue.

  12. Did you know when you first started raising dragons that Billy and Bonnie and Walter and Ashley were going to get married at some point?

  13. How do you usually do character development? Do you creatr a character, or do you let the story write the character?

  14. Is it okay to have multiple types of POV in one story? Like using omniscient in the beginning before the main character appears. And then switching to first person or third person?

    • There are no hard-and-fast rules about that aspect. You can switch from omniscient to a more limited POV as you suggested, because the appearance of a main character is a clear dividing point.

      Switching from first to third and back to first is reasonable if you are consistent in keeping the first-person character always in first person and the third-person characters always in third person.

      • So, could I have the main character always be in third person and whenever he is not around, use omniscient?

      • There are two issues to clarify. When you say “whenever he is not around,” do you mean “whenever he is not the focal character”?

        Second, omniscient POV is a type of third-person POV. It is unlimited in scope. Third-person limited narrows the POV perspective to only the focal character.

        I think switching from third-person limited to omniscient and back again could be confusing, but I suppose it can be done if you shift only at scene changes. In other words, an entire scene if written in omniscient without changing during the scene, and another scene is written in third-person limited without changing during the scene.

  15. Do you have any tips for juggling a large cast of characters? I’m starting to work on rewrites for book 2 in my fantasy series, and the two main characters’ families start to play a part in the story. Book 3 will eventually see all eleven members of the two families together. My early drafts of both books do a poor job of introducing them and keeping them balanced within scenes. :/ Any advice off the top of your head?

    • I have faced that problem many times. I usually give a bunch of characters something to do off-screen, or I disable them somehow, like when I gave most of the anthrozils a disease that landed them in the hospital.

      • That’s exactly why I thought you’d be a good person to ask. πŸ™‚ And those are great ideas! (I’m also planning to introduce the two families in separate storylines–different locations, different scenes–before they converge and the reader has eleven people of which to keep track.) Thank you!

  16. I have a question about Shiloh and Gabriel’s son, Isaiah. I don’t think this was ever specified in Omega Dragon, but what type of Dragon trait did he have? (Or if the book never said, what trait do you think he would’ve had?)

  17. Do you brainstorm and think about an idea before you write? Or do you have an idea, write it down, and continue without any idea of where you’re going (well, maybe a little idea)?

  18. I have a question that you may have answered before, when you wrote the Dragons of Starlight and Tales of Starlight series, what order did you write them in? Was it the order published or is their another order?

    • I don’t remember. I will have to look it up and answer later.

    • Here are the dates I turned the manuscripts into the publishers:

      Starlighter – May 4, 2009
      Warrior – February 11, 2010
      Masters & Slayers – March 1, 2010
      Diviner – August 13, 2010
      Third Starlighter – June 23, 2011
      Liberator – August 5, 2011
      Exodus Rising – March 27, 2013

      Although I turned M&S in after Warrior, I finished it earlier. Originally, Zondervan was supposed to publish M&S, but they canceled the project, so I turned to AMG to publish it, which took a while to set up.

  19. I have a couple questions.
    1.) Do you as an author ever struggle with coming up with good names for characters? How do you come up with names for characters? And particularly with all your dragon characters, how did you come up with those names?
    2.) My best friend and I are currently writing a story together that is in 1st person. But we have 5 different character telling the story. Is this too many people?
    3.) I was having a discussion with a friend and we couldn’t agree, so I would like clarification. What makes a main character a main character?

    • Good questions. I will try to respond soon.

    • Those are some really great questions, Kara!

      I went to a writer’s conference recently and author Angela Hunt defined the main character/protagonist as the character that changes the most.
      e.g. Who changed the most in:
      Wizard of Oz ~ Many characters changed, but Dorthea changed the most.
      The Sound of Music ~ Maria
      Mary Poppins ~ Mr. Banks! [This was a surprise to me.]

      I hope this helps. πŸ™‚

      1. I usually don’t have problems with names. I used baby naming sights a lot and search for good meanings for names, something to match the characters. I tend to choose names derived from old languages such as Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Hindi.
      2. I advise against using multiple-first-person stories. The main reason for first person is to establish intimacy with a single character. Splitting that into multiple characters hurts that purpose.

      3. As Levia Star indicated, most people describe the main character as the one who changes the most. Technically, that is the description of the protagonist. The “main character” can be defined as the one in focus most of the time, which can differ from the protagonist.

      Levia mentioned Mr. Banks. He is the protagonist, because he changes the most, but he is not the main character. Mary Poppins is. She is in focus most of the time.

      In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Jem is the protagonist while Scout is the main character.

      In Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc, Joan is the main character while the nation of France, in the person of the narrator, is the protagonist.

      Again, most people equate the main character with the protagonist, and that is what usually happens. The protagonist is the one who is on a journey, often both physical and spiritual, and that person is most often also the main character, but it isn’t always that way.

    • Thank you to both Mr. Davis and Levia Star! You’re answers have helped alot!!!!

  20. Hi, Mr. Davis. πŸ™‚
    I have a problem with one of my stories. It’s writing-related.
    My primary POV character begins the novel with no memory of his name, so I cannot use his name in the narration. I don’t want to do first person, because it is important to go into my other POV characters head later on in the story… And just saying “the young man,” or “he” would give it a very distant feel.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get around this?

  21. Hi, Mr. Davis, I have a couple writing questions:
    1) How do you start a chapter? It may sound silly, but I have a really hard time starting chapters [especially the first chapter, I still need to fix the beginning of “True Strength” as you suggested].
    2) If someone asked you “What are the singlemost important things in writing a book/novel”, what would you say?
    3) Any tips for writing “Show vs. Tell”? I find it very difficult to do…

      1. I start a chapter with the POV character doing something so readers are immediately situated inside that character’s skin. I begin the first chapter by giving the POV character something important to do, a goal to achieve, so he or she won’t be wandering around aimlessly while I am establishing the character’s traits.

      2. The merging of motivation/reaction units with intimate point of view, which I will be covering in upcoming writing tips.

      3. That will also be in an upcoming writing tip.

  22. Have you ever noticed recurring themes in your books?
    And in the Dragons in our Midst Series were you planning on bringing portals/different dimensions in or was it a twist that occurred in Circles of Seven?

  23. Would you describe your “Seat of the Pants” writing style as a “God-lead” writing style? What I mean is have any of your stories felt like they weren’t your idea in the first place [or as you’re writing it for that matter] and felt like they were being written by God thru you? {I know this sounds weird, but please bear with me.}

    • I don’t describe it that way, though I hope that God does lead me. I do think sometimes that God did lead me, because I write things that don’t make sense until later, but I don’t want to be presumptuous and be wrong about the leading.

      I do ask God to lead me, and when something works out really great, I give Him credit.

  24. Hi Mr. Davis! I heard someone the other day saying that dragons were bad because in the Bible they represent Satan. I love your books and I think they are wonderful, but I was wondering what you would say if someone says something like that to you? I wanted to tell the person that dragons were alright but I wasn’t sure how to defend my point of view. Thank you!

  25. What’s the story behind the picture at the top of this post? I’ve seen it a few times. I think It might be you typing your stories on the computer and your thoughts that you’re typing are visible above your head. Or somethin’ like that. πŸ™‚

  26. My biggest problem with writing is that after writing a few chapters, when I review my work I am displeased with the original story idea, and tend to want to trash it instead of revising it. Any tips?

  27. Another question, Bryan Davis. You put as the suggested age 16 for the Tales of Starlight. I’m 13, do you think I could read it? I love all your other books and I really want to read them. Thanks!

    • Forgot to say, I’m a huge super hero movies/ books with fighting person, so that doesn’t bother me.

    • The main reason for the older suggested age is the element of romance. It is stronger in this series than the others, but it is clean and wholesome.

    • To be honest I would much rather have kids read those books than read many of the main stream books that are geared towards children today. At least at the conclusion of Mr. Davis’ books they would still have good values instilled into them. For example, as much as I enjoyed the Harry Potter series, I don’t think I would ever encourage kids to read them, because of different themes that it supports, such as encouraging people to lie to accomplish their goals.

  28. One of my biggest problems with writing is making the story long enough. I will put in all of the plot elements and details but the story will end up being far shorter than I intended it to be. Any tips?

    • When that happens, a writer is usually hurrying the story. Make sure you have significant rest periods between conflicts in which the characters contemplate their recent conflict, take in what they have learned, and plan their next step.

  29. Did you ever reveal the movie you were watching when you came up with the idea for Reapers?

  30. Do you read a lot? If so, what do you like to read?

  31. What do authors need for the legal part of a self published book/could you do a blog post about the subject? I mean mainly in terms of what needs to be printed in the book, like the copyright page and any disclaimers. I see disclaimers that often state that a book is a work of fiction and resemblances to real life events and people are purely coincidental. Are there any others that might be necessary in some cases? I notice people putting content warnings on their art on deviantart (even when it may not be necessary) for fear their art could be a suicide trigger or any number of things. Books don’t seem to have nearly as much precautionary labeling as movies, but I was wondering if you’ve heard of other times when authors have needed to use disclaimers other than the one that helps protect them from being sued for libel.

    Thanks πŸ™‚

    • As far as I know, no content is required by law. Publishers add copyright page content for protection against theft and/or lawsuits, so they include whatever they think will aid that cause.

      The most common item is that the work is copyrighted and who owns the copyright (usually the author).

      Another is a statement of copyright protection, something like: “All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.”

      I have seen the “work of fiction” blurb, but I don’t think it’s in any of my books. Maybe my publishers think a work of fantasy is obviously fiction.

      Most books also include the publisher contact information, ISBN, printing date and location, and Library of Congress registration.

      I am not an expert on this topic, so consider this an educated guess.

  32. When you’re writing, and copyright material is used in your story (e.g. Legos, Tigger, Superman, etc.) is there any copyright thing you have to do to use those names/brands in your book?

  33. I know this is the day after, but I still have one questions. I’ve always wondered what are your kids names?

  34. My question is concerning the writing process. I know to avoid simple use of senses such as “He saw” or “He smelled” and that sort of mistake is usually easy enough to avoid by just omitting those two words from the sentence. But I find the use of phrases like “the sound of” or “the sight of” or “the smell of” just as bland and unimaginative, but far more difficult to work around. Are these phrases generally more accepted or should they be avoided as well? Do they qualify as weak verbs? And at what point does replacing them with more colorful verbs become ridiculous?

    • Regarding acceptance, phrases like “he saw” and “he smelled” are accepted by many readers and writers. It is my opinion, however, that they harm intimacy between characters and readers.

      Since I can’t get a good handle on exactly what you’re asking, it might be more efficient if you post an example that your wrestling with, and I will see what I can do to help.

      • I apologize sir,
        My previous post was made at the end of a long night struggling with a troublesome chapter. After a good night’s rest, I reread my post and tried to make my question clearer, only to answer it myself.
        However, as to not leave you hanging. . .

        My question was concerning the use of senses that harm intimacy.The particular line I was struggling with was. . .

        The sight of the thing made her breath catch.

        In the context of the story, ‘the thing’ is describe in the previous passage.

        Last night in my groggy state I could only picture a varied form of “she saw” but dropping the sense and writing it as “The thing made her breath catch.” made absolutely no sense to me. The thing didn’t physically make her breath catch, it was what it looked like that did that.

        I realize this morning, at least in my opinion, the phrase “the sight of” in this instance doesn’t harm intimacy, but rather creates an emotional response. I could be wrong, but looking at it with a clear perspective, that is what I see.

        I will refrain from late night posts from now on.

        • No worries about the late-night post. I understand completely.

          If you described “the thing” in the previous paragraph, can’t you just have her catch her breath? Something like the following (I’m conjuring the first sentence in ignorance):

          The creature stuck out a hairy tongue and vomited a gelatinous mass of worms.

          She caught her breath … (and whatever else you would add as her reaction)

          Since the visual was reported, readers know she saw it, so the reason for the catching of her breath is clear.

          • hmm, perhaps I was fretting over the wrong words. She caught her breath implies that she was winded or out of breath before the description of the harry-tongued creature.

            Perhaps. . .

            The sight of the thing took her breath.

            I realize that small phrases like this are largely a matter of personal opinion and style. Admittedly, I have never read any of your works so I am completely unfamiliar with your style, but I have only recently discovered your instructional videos and found them extremely informative. You put the creative writing class I took twenty years ago over the full course of a semester, (not to mention the 300 some odd dollars I spent) to shame. So regardless of your writing style and content, I value your opinion.

          • Thank you for the kind compliments.

            You’re right that catching her breath can connote being winded. If she is reacting to the sight, you could write “She gasped” or “She sucked in a breath” or maybe “She grimaced.”

            In my own style (which is personal, as you suggested), I would probably leave out “the sight of the thing” because if the reaction immediately follows the visual, I think the reason for the reaction is clear.

  35. I know it’s late but I have a question. In Omega
    Dragon, when Listener and Matt were talking
    about SVPs, it says that Lauren pointed at the
    numbers. Is it supposed to be Listener pointed
    at them or am I just missing something.

  36. I just got back from vacation and so I missed being able to ask a question Saturday. I hope it’s alright if I ask it today. So I have a submission that I’m trying to clean up before I submit it to be critiqued by you. I have one part that says ” ‘Is it morning?’ A soft voice whispered behind her. Marin turned to see Jaymie sitting up in the bed.” Would “Marin turned to see” violate narrator phrases, number 3 of the error avoidance list?

    • An infinitive verb phrase like “to see” has multiple purposes. In the example you provided, “to see” can be interpreted “in order to see,” which would be a purpose for her turning. An infinitive can be used following a direct object, as in “He told me to see you.” It can also be placed after another verb, as in “I can’t afford to see that show.”

      In each case, “to see” is a purpose statement of sorts, whether fulfilled or unfulfilled. The verb isn’t actually being directly performed in the sentence. In each example, the subject of the verb isn’t actually seeing. Yet, in your example, you seem to be saying that Marin is seeing Jaymie, which would be a confusing way to use an infinitive. It feels like a replacement for “and saw” as in “Marin turned and saw.”

      Another possibility is that your use of “to see” is “in order to see,” that is, Marin turned in order to see Jaymie sitting up in bed. Yet, that isn’t her purpose. She turned to find the source of the voice. She did not yet know Jaymie was sitting up in bed, so “to see” her could not have been her reason for turning. In such a case, it would be better written, “Marin turned to see who spoke” or something like that. But we already now why she turned. That’s obvious, because you mentioned the voice.

      Also, since “a soft voice whispered” is a speaker tag, the “A” would be lower case.

      I would probably write it this way::

      “Is it morning?” someone whispered from behind.

      Marin turned. Jaymie sat up in bed, blinking.

      The presence of the voice is the motivation for Marin to turn, so she does. Then I reported what she saw without writing, “she saw.”

      It might be a good idea for me to write a blog post about using infinitives.

      If that doesn’t make sense, please ask for clarification.

  37. That makes sense. Thank you!

  38. I am sorry Mr. Davis but I have another question. . .

    This one is concerning the ‘was/were’ problem in passive writing.

    ‘Ellis hadn’t explained why he changed his name.’

    Is ‘hadn’t explained’ an example of this problem? If so, can this be fixed by changing it to. . .

    ‘Ellis didn’t explain why he changed his name.’

    Does this sentence then become active? I admit it reads better but I don’t know if ‘didn’t’ is still considered a form of ‘to be’. As I understand it, passive is created when a form of ‘to be’ (most commonly was/were) is followed immediately by a word suffixed in ‘ed’ (or possibly ing), is that correct?

    And somewhat referring to my earlier question, would . . .

    ‘She could only guess why Ellis changed his name.’

    Is this a matter of style or just incorrect all together?

    Thank you.

    • Great questions. I have heard writing teachers get this wrong way too many times.

      Although “was” and “were” can be used in passive voice, their presence doesn’t always mean a phrase is passive.

      Active voice means that the subject of the sentence is performing the verb:

      “The dog bit the man.”

      Dog is the subject, and it did the biting. This is active voice.

      “The man was bitten by the dog.”

      Man is the subject, but he did not do the biting. The man is passive, and the verb is being done to him. This is passive voice.

      In this case, “was” is present to create the passive voice, but “was” has other uses. Consider the following.

      “The girl was jumping rope.”

      In this case, the girl is performing the verb, so it is active, not passive. Was is used as a state-of-being verb in an active verb phrase. The same would be true using “is” as follows:

      “The man is being bitten by the dog.” – passive

      “The girl is jumping rope.” – active

      Passive voice is often frowned upon, because it can feel weak. Yet it can be used effectively, but that might be fuel for a separate post.

      State-being-verbs can also be weak, but they are sometimes necessary as well.

      Regarding your specific questions:

      “Ellis hadn’t explained why he changed his name” versus “Ellis didn’t explain why he changed his name.” Neither sentence is passive. The proper one to choose depends on the context.

      Adding “had” makes the verb phrase “past perfect,” which indicates that Ellis, at some time in the past, did not explain, but it could mean that he explained later. In other words, “At some time in the past, Ellis declined to explain why he changed his name, but afterward other events might have occurred to change his mind.”

      Using “did” indicates the Ellis, at a particular moment in the past, declined to explain. This form gives no indication that his decision might have changed.

      These choices have nothing to do with passive or active voice.

      Regarding “She could only guess why Ellis changed his name.” This isn’t technically incorrect, but it can probably be improved. If it is narrative, then it feels like a narrator. If it is interior monologue, it can be more vivid through use of showing instead of telling.

      “She gave Ellis a piercing stare. Why wouldn’t he explain his name change? Might he be hiding a dark secret from the past?”

      This shows her guessing instead of telling that she could only guess.

      Please let me know if you have further questions.

      • You make my head spin. It makes sense, but keeping track of everything while trying to revise is daunting. In any case, I considered the possibility of changing it to a question, but in this particular instance, the fact that Ellis had changed his name was unimportant to ‘her’. It was merely a piece of information she lacked that needed to be relayed to the reader as Ellis is his true name and the name he has assumed is unknown. Which, I suppose, may add yet another element entirely to how it should be worded.

        • Yes, I would have to know the story better to give meaningful advice.

          One issue you have to deal with, though, is the matter of importance. If the issue isn’t important to the POV character, then mentioning the issue just so the reader will know can come off as contrived. It is definitely narrator intrusion.

        • And, yes, it is daunting. Writing well is much more difficult than many people realize. Here is a maxim I learned. “The more writing experience I get, the harder writing becomes.”

          • Actually, I will post the passage as in the entire revision process of my story, this single paragraph has given me more headache and sorrow than I can relate.

            In this passage, Wraith and Ellis are both male and Edge is Female. Antecedents are giving m a nosebleed and I am uncertain if I have overused their names…

            Wraith’s plan was simple, as all good plans are, but Edge still didn’t like it. The final member of their party was a low-level data processor named Arthur Ellis. Ellis was currently living under an assumed name and toiling in the obscurity of the working class. Wraith didn’t explain why Ellis changed his name or even what it was now, but he gave her a current image of the man and wanted him abducted from his home in Lennox Heights. That was the part of the plan she didn’t like.

            I realize you cannot write other people’s works for them, but any advice you could give on cleaning this up would be greatly appreciated.

          • Is there a POV character, or is this omniscient?

          • Oh, sorry. The POV character is Edge. It is Third Person Limited.

          • Edge set a fist on her hip. Wraith’s plan was simple, as all good plans are, but it still lacked something. What could it be? The weak link might be Arthur Ellis,a low-level data processor living under an assumed name–a grunt toiling in working-class obscurity. Wraith never explained why Ellis changed his name or even what it was now, choosing only to supply her with a photo image of Ellis including instructions to abduct him from his home in Lennox Heights. That part of the plan stunk. Too much mystery.

          • That is a radically different take on the same thing. Usable stuff though and I thank you!

  39. Another question, Mr. Davis,

    If I should be posting these in another location, please let me know.

    This question is about adverbs. As I stated earlier, twenty years ago I took a creative writing class and the instructor was adamant about avoiding the use of adverbs. Understandable as an adverb is often used to strengthen a weak verb. If we must use them, he advised putting them at either the beginning or end of a sentence. I have tried to adhere to this rule over the years, but frankly, 9 times out of 10, it seems to make the sentence read awkwardly. Do you support this philosophy? Or is it something that has become outdated?

    Thank you again.

    • I have heard no-adverb advocates say to get rid of all adverbs. I don’t agree with them. Of course if you have a choice between dressing up a weak verb with an adverb or using a more vivid verb that fits the situation, you should choose the better verb. No question. Sometimes such a verb doesn’t exist.

      “She said the word softly, like the breeze on a summer’s day.”

      If the word was louder than a whisper, how would the anti-adverb people change that? I can’t think of a way.

      “My wound had not completely healed.”

      Maybe the would had healed quite a bit, so without the adverb, how would you express it?

      “I pulled the cloak’s hood up over my freshly shaved head.”

      How would you express this thought without the adverb freshly?

      I do advocate checking all adverbs to see if you can find a better verb to express the thought, but I believe adverbs are perfectly good choices in many cases. (perfectly is also a perfectly good adverb at times).

  40. Hello Mr. Davis, I have another one for you,

    I have a chapter that is a flashback. Right off the bat, its painful and tedious to do.

    It is a history of one of my POV characters as being told to another, but it covers several years. It is exposition in its entirety, which is difficult for me as I much prefer writing dialogue exchange, but there is too much information to do in dialogue.

    So, I used the past tense ‘Had/Had been’ in the opening paragraph and the closing paragraph rather than ‘was/were’ as I was taught years ago that this is the way to take the reader into and out of the flashback. Everything in between is written in regular third person almost as internal monologue. That might be incorrect, but another issue.

    I am finding it very difficult to avoid Narrator intrusion of senses such as ‘she saw’ ‘she heard’ etc, but I wonder in this instance if it is somewhat forgivable as it is largely a piece of narration anyway. Avoiding this issue is normally not too difficult for me as the narration is broken up with dialogue or generally just a single character’s internal thoughts. But in this instance, the narrator is actually the POV character and is relating her past to another character in five pages of exposition. It is a ‘coming clean’ sort of chapter where it all has to come out at once and revealed to the reader for the first time.

    Or is there a more effective way to do this all together?

    Does all that make since? Another of my convoluted late night questions for you to decipher.


    • Flashbacks are dragons. They are dangerous creatures that can cause damage, but if they are properly trained, they can provide a benefit.

      Here are some of principles I follow when including a flashback:

      1. Don’t include a flashback early in the story. In order for readers to want to read a flashback, they have to be fully invested in the main story and characters enough to care about the back story. If you jump back too early, you risk readers mentally complaining about the main story halting.
      2. If the flashback is long, write it in “real time,” that is, write it as if readers are watching it occur. To do that, you have to write a transition that makes this change clear. The decision as to whether it is “long” is subjective. I have no guidelines other than how it feels when it is read.

      3. When writing shorter, narration-style flashbacks, it’s all right to use narrator phrases, because the back story is being told by a narrator, but you will have to take out feelings, senses, and observations the narrator would not naturally know or relate. A narrator going into intimate POV style can feel odd.

      4. When writing narrator-style flashbacks, it can be helpful to keep the reader in the real-time main story by putting the entire flashback in the dialogue of one character speaking to another character and allow the second character to interject from time to time to break up the monologue. You can also interject some body language and a few actions, like “He poured a cup of tea” or “She settled back in her chair.”

      I hope that helps. Feel free to ask further questions.

      • It does, actually. Thank you.

        This flashback comes very late in the story, right at 2/3 of the way in after the character is well established, and it answers a lot questions raised about the character(which in turn answer a few questions raised by the plot).
        Except for the first and last paragraph, it is written in real time, as if it were any other part of the story. (I mentioned using had/had been rather than was/were in the first and last paragraphs). As the story moves rather quickly (the whole thing takes place in the span of about four days), I worry that five pages might be on the long side, but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t feel it is exhaustive.
        This was the tricky one for me, but your comment gives me some wiggle room that I wasn’t sure whether or not to take.
        The style I write in makes this difficult, but the previous and following chapters are written from the POV of the character that the flashback is being told to and it reads as if maybe ten minutes has past in real time, roughly the same amount of time it would take to read the flashback.

        Thanks again!

  41. Another question, or perhaps more of a comment concerning order of events in sentence structure and the difficulty of avoiding begin each sentence repetitively.

    An example…

    She circled the wide room in quick angry strides, trying to calm herself.

    The sentence itself is simple and sounds fine, but I find it difficult to avoid beginning a string of sentence with the same pronoun…She did this. Then she did that. etc. So I try to restructure this sentence by changing it up to something like…

    Trying to calm herself, she circled the wide room in quick angry strides.

    This sounds okay, but then the ing/ed factor makes it seem out of order to me. So I change it up again…

    She tried to calm herself, circling the wide room in quick angry strides.

    Sounds fine, but I am back to starting the sentence with ‘she’. so again I change it…

    Circling the wide room in quick angry strides, she tried to calm herself.

    Finally! The order of events is right and I have a sentence that doesn’t start with ‘She’ again. But now I realize that these events can be perceived as happening simultaneously and the ‘ing’ factor isn’t really a factor at all. ‘trying’ and ‘circling’ both work as long as one of them is in past tense. So now I have four working versions of the same sentence, two beginning with ‘She’ (which I was trying to get away from in the first place) and two structured the way I wanted…but which one is correct? Or are all of them correct? And if so, how do I decide which one to use? Revision is maddening.

    Thanks for listening.

    • I need a bit of clarification. You wrote, ” But now I realize that these events can be perceived as happening simultaneously and the β€˜ing’ factor isn’t really a factor at all.”

      What’s wrong with the perception that the events are happening simultaneously? The circling does occur at the same time she tries to calm herself, so perceiving that is a good thing.

      • They are happening at the same time. I was just so focused on changing the sentence that I forgot to take that into account. Its a matter of combing through a manuscript and trying to catch every instance of order of events as well as making sure sentences aren’t repetitive. You used an example in one of your videos. I’ll see if I can recall it correctly…

        He jumped across the river, landing on the other side.

        At least, I believe that is how it went. See, this sentence sounds fine to me, but if I recall correctly, ‘landing’ is simultaneous and therefore the sentence is incorrect? so it should be rewritten. . .

        He jumped across the river and landed on the other side.

        But how do you avoid starting the sentence with ‘He’ and still have the proper order of events?

        Jumping across the river, he landed on the other side.

        That is incorrect as well, right? The ‘ing’ still suggests simultaneous events. That is sort of the point of my post. I find it difficult to avoid starting the sentence with the subject and still have events occur in proper order without having an ‘ing’ in there somewhere. Does that make sense?

      • Using participles to indicate simultaneous events is fine. They do break up the monotony. The order in which you write them, however, can be crucial.

        As I noted below, even though events happen at the same time, one might have a logical priority. You would report the motivating factor first.

        You would also report a cause before an effect: As the food cart passed by, her stomach growled, These occur at the same time, but the first causes the second.

        As she walked, the corridor grew darker. These occur at the same time, but the walking causes the unfolding of the event. If she didn’t walk, she wouldn’t enter the darker part of the corridor.

        My example sentence was, “Peter jumped, landing on the other side of the creek.” He cannot jump and land at the same time.

        Your example concluded the action. “He jumped across the creek” provides the entire action from start to finish, so the landing phrase is fine.

        To alter the structure, I more often add dialogue to begin a paragraph. I try to avoid too many participles, especially to start a paragraph, because they are usually a weaker verb phrase.

        • Oh! That actually makes much more sense now. I was struggling with why it was wrong. It wasn’t. So, as long as the result of the first action is stated before the second action begins, it sort of negates the ‘ing’ occurring simultaneously? (More or less) That was probably worded poorly, but I get it now. Thank you.

        • As long as the two phrases can occur simultaneously, then it’s fine. Jumping “across the creek” indicates the entire jump from the takeoff to the landing, so landing is included in the action.

          • I understand. I had it right even though I thought it was wrong. So in short, I need to stop over analyzing and take my own advice to trust myself.

            Thanks again!

    • I prefer, Trying to calm herself, she circled the wide room in quick angry strides. because the motivation for her action come first.

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