Here’s a great scene from Sophia Coppola’s The Bling Ring that I think says a huge amount about how not to write movie dialogue. It’s the sort of forced, totally unnatural piece of dialogue that only makes sense in a script, where the writer wants to tell us something but doesn’t know how to succinctly show it. Looking at it on paper, it might not seem that bad. It apparently worked for everyone involved in making the film. But if you read a little between the lines, it’s a textbook example of how not to write dialogue.
It struck me, as I was tossing from side to side struggling to sleep after eating an ill-advised spicy burrito, that my favourite authors have a lot to answer for in the way I’ve developed my writing style. Feverishly confused about why I wasn’t sleeping, I startled to rattle off single sentences that summarised exactly what I felt I’d got from reading the works of those marvellous writers. Not the specific points of English you could learn in style guides, but the special inspiration that only a successful demonstration can drive home. And, lo, here’s the result of that sleep-deprived thought process: Continue reading
This quick list of 6 proofreading tips and techniques will help improve find errors in a text and lead to better writing. I’ve learnt a thing or two about how to accurately proofread for mistakes through painstakingly picking back and forth over my own writing, and through occasional professional proofreading ventures, and mostly I’ve learnt that it’s not always easy – these tips help.
Editing and reviewing scripts, I’ve come across a number of common grammar mistakes that are worth flagging. A good script can be greatly hindered by these errors: even with a solid story, clumsy writing can lessen the integrity of the project and turn off potential investors. Some of these mistakes can change the meaning of what you write. Some are a matter of style. With so many scripts out there, readers are looking for an excuse to reject yours, though, and any one of these points could give them that excuse. However, they are all mistakes that can be avoided with some careful attention and editing. Continue reading
When I first started reading the works of Kurt Vonnegut, his style was a revelation to me. His novels tackle complex ideas, but the prose is simple and clear, the stories often very short. For example, Slaughterhouse-5 is a stark contrast to the complexity of Catch-22, despite similar themes, but is just as effective (hence both are included in my recommended reading list). One thing stood out for me more than anything in the way Vonnegut wrote, a very simple dialogue technique. The response: “Um.” Continue reading
Let the Right One In is one of those rare books that works so well that it transcends genres. Every author wishes that of their book, to write a story that appeals beyond its target audience. If that’s what you’re after, this is a brilliant example of how writing a piece of solid genre fiction is the best way to broaden its appeal.
Trying to transcend genres is a dangerous game for a writer. I used to submit my fiction to agents and publishers under the banner of literary fiction. Like some kind of arsehole, I announced the unique character-depth and quirky twists in my tales could not be pigeon-holed. Not wanting to submit to one genre achieved one thing: no one wanted to read it. Let the Right One In fits its genre perfectly, and, quite the opposite of my abortive efforts, has instant appeal because of it. Continue reading
I originally published these tips for my copywriting blog, but they’re as relevant to creative writing as they are to any other. George Orwell, famed for his essays and bleak political fiction, spent a great deal of time musing over language use and the influence it had on the general decay of society. He despaired that contemporary English was becoming ‘ugly and inaccurate’, particularly focusing on political rhetoric that he deemed vague and inaccurate. He wrote an excellent essay, Politics and the English Language, condemning overly wordy prose, with 6 language rules that are sure to improve anyone’s English: Continue reading
I used to be quite sceptical of offering writing advice, as everyone has their own style, but over the years I’ve come to recognise some basic technical rules that can help make any writing more effective. And to my mind, the quickest path to success is to aim for simple writing. Though this may be subjective in creative writing, it’s seldom wrong to make your message clear and direct. It is a mistake to think simple writing is basic or amateurish: to be universally understood is an art form. The following is the first few steps you should take to keeping your writing simple: