Writing tools

Tool 1: Begin sentences with subject and verbs. Make meaning early, then let weaker elements branch to the right.
Placing the subject and verb at the beginning of a sentence helps maintaining clarity. They are often separated in prose, when the writer wants to ad something about the subject, it has to be done carefully not to confuse the reader. If the goal is to create suspense, the writershould rather save subject and verb for the end of the sentence without separating them.

Tool 3: Activate your verb. Strong verbs create action, save words, and reveal the players.
George Orwell wrote: «Never use the passive when you can use the active.» This advice allows the writer to power its narrative, whether in the past or the present tense. Use passive verbs to emphasize the victim.Tool 5: Watch those adverbs. Use them to change the meaning of the verb.
Adverbs should only be used when they change our understanding of the verb (example: she smiled sadly). If the goal is to intensify the meaning of the verb, the writer should rather change it for a more accurate one.

Tool 11: Prefer the simple over the technical. Use shorter words, sentences, and paragraphs at point ofcomplexity.
The strategy of familiarization consists in taking the strange and making it comprehensible, even familiar, through the power of explanation. Using short words and sentences help turning a complex passage clear.

Tool 14: Get the name of the dog. Dig for the concrete and specific, details that appeal to the senses.
«I see» often means «I understand». The good writer uses details notonly to inform but also to persuade. Details are powerful and leave the reader a mark when they stimulate the senses.

Tool 21: Know when to back off and when to show off. When the topic is most serious, understate; when least serious, exaggerate.
The more dramatic the subject, the more the writer backs off to create the effect that the story tells itself, and vice versa. Using the simple and theordinary may create the anxiety of anticipation when the reader feels that something important is coming.

Tool 22: Climb up and down the ladder of abstraction. Learn when to show, when to tell, and when to do both.
The bottom of the ladder is concrete language, while top is abstraction. Abstraction is not easy to use, it appeals to the intellect, it forces us to think about the meaning.Metaphors help us to understand abstractions through comparison. Be careful not to loose the reader, halfway on the ladder, right between concrete and abstraction, where he can neither see nor understand, between the visible and the invisible.

Tool 29: Foreshadow dramatic events and powerful conclusions. Plant important clues early.
Clues planted early offer « vague advance indications » of importantfuture events, by foreshadowing it gives more impact to the end of the story. It may require several readings to appreciate all the effects in a long story, but much more accessible and maybe powerful in short stories.

Tool 31: Build your work around a key question. Stories need an engine, a question that the action answers for the reader.
Good questions drive good stories. It creates readercuriosity that can only be slake by reaching the end, and keeps him focus from the beginning to the end. It’s not about question mark, but creating suspense. The reader should ask himself, not what but how. We can read a book even if we know what the end is, because we want to know how it came to that end.

Tool 33: Repeat, repeat and repeat. Purposeful repetition links the parts.
Repeating keywords, phrases and story elements creates a rhythm, a pace, a structure and reinforce the central theme. It can work in sentences, paragraphs or even longer passages. Repetition can be very powerful if used properly, if not it could overshadowed the message of the story. Read the passage out loud with and without the repetition, your voice and ear will tell if it’s too much.

Tool 37: In short…

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