I’ve often said that I don’t particularly enjoy the genre of realistic fiction. I choose to read as an act of escape – to get lost in an adventure far from home, be it in the past of a historical fiction or a new world presented in a fantasy or science fiction novel. It’s why I rarely watch TV… it’s so much like real life… and I already spend most of my day there.
But lately the books I have most enjoyed reading take place firmly in our real world. This realization made me think about how much fun I had writing Champion Chocolatier and Reality Bites, both light-hearted chick-lit and also REALISTIC FICTION. I’m at the beginning stages of a new adult book and I’m betting it won’t take you too many guesses to figure out it’s genre. All things considered, I feel like I am turning over a new leaf and looking at this genre through a new lens.
If you’re wondering how I got to this spot, this mindset, this evolution of a writer’s topical choices, I wrote about that a few weeks ago and you can read it here.
However, this foray into everyday life kind of fiction, is not without reservations or fear. My greatest concern is how to make the activities and conversations we encounter each and every day… well… interesting. There are no evil queens or dragons to ramp things up. No cataclysmic disasters or impending doom to grab the reader’s attention. And I can forget about time traveling, imaginary creatures, historical events or other worldly landscapes to ensnare the imagination.
As I write this new story I keep asking myself, is this boring? How can I make this interesting for the reader? How can I move the story forward with this scene/conversation/mundane daily task? Often times I answer myself by saying:
This scene accomplishes world building.
This conversation adds characterization.
This interaction further develops a relationship.
This description gives necessary background information.
I’ve forced myself to be intentional in hopes of avoiding a boring, slice of life, story. To help you do the same, I’ve come up with a list of five techniques to try when writing your story. Most likely, these tips can be applied to any genre or style of writing, but for me, they have helped me take my realistic fiction story telling skills to the next level.
1. Add an activity that is going on at the same time as the conversation.
This will allow your reader to have more than one thing to focus their attention on, give setting details, and/or move the plot forward with action.
2. Add word play or witty dialogue to amuse or intrigue the reader on a deeper level.
3. Let your character voice out loud in private thoughts they wouldn’t say out loud in public.
This can add characterization and character motivation.
4. Add specific details.
These details will allow the reader to imagine the story world as you see it, making it a higher quality reading experience.
5. Be intentional about your word choice and phrasing.
This is all about voice. Make your writing stand out with your personal brand of telling it like it is. Readers will come to recognize and crave your specific style of storytelling.
It is always easier for me to replicate a technique once I’ve seen it in action. So, today for your reading pleasure and also for your writing craft instruction, I proudly present, a draft chapter of my current work in progress. As you read, you will see technique numbers called out, showing you where I applied the tips from above. I hope that you find this helpful.
Happy reading and happy writing!
Kristen was the queen of efficiency. There were twenty-four hours in a day, and she made diligent use of each and every one. It started out as a necessity. Endless to-do lists and only so many days in the week to get it all done. She learned early on that if she wanted to be the master of her domains – home, start-up company and beyond… that eh first thing she needed to master was her schedule.
Tips 2 and 5
When her alarm went off at 5 am Kristen resisted the urge to hit snooze and instead slid from beneath the covers into sweats and fuzzy socks. Sometimes she thought the simple act of having these items next to her bed, ready to go in the morning made the task of rising easier. Once down in the kitchen she poured herself a cup of coffee from the pot that had been auto-set to brew at 4:30. Seated at the kitchen counter with her laptop she went through her email inbox, checked to see that her social media posts had in fact posted and ran through her agenda for the day. When she reached the bottom of her coffee cup, she moved the coffee table from the center of the room so she could sit in front of the TV with plenty of room to do her Pilates DVD. By 6:15 she was in the shower and right on the dot, just as she emerged from the shower clean… and fully naked, Jonah wandered in.
“Give momma two minutes sweet pea,” Kristen begged as she wrapped a towel around her body and ushered her six-year-old behind the pocket door of the bathroom. “As soon as I get dressed, I’ll help you with breakfast.” Kristen slid the door shut to muffle the counting she could hear on the other side.
An hour and a half later she pulled into the day care parking lot, feeling like her first cup of coffee wasn’t helping her quite as much as she’d like. After depositing Abby she climbed back into her mini-van and tried to smile through the windshield at the other mothers who did little to disguise their judgmental glares.
“So, what do you do… at home?” Marissa, another mom had asked her one day at pick up.
“I work,” Kristen answered plainly.
“Yeah, but like, what do you do… all day… home alone?”
“I run a successful organization system business. I manage client projects and product lists and go on scheduled client visits. I implement organizational systems for families and places of work. I also run the accounting reports for my company as well manage the marketing and social media platforms.”
“And you couldn’t do that with Abby home?” Marissa asked. “Even though you are super organized?”
“No Marissa. I could not.”
Kristen now waved at Marissa who was dressed to the nines and driving her massive SUV to the bank. Both women plastered smiles on their faces and feigned friendship.
“What? Not managing those account portfolios with little Joey underfoot?” Kristen mocked. “You’re such a horrible mother.” She groaned and put the van in gear.
Kristen steered her car toward the north side and pushed play on her audio book, choosing to leave the negativity behind. As she drove across town, she let Rachel Hollis’ voice stoke her inner girlboss fire. She could do both. She could be an awesome mom and run a kick ass business. It was absolutely possible. Fifteen minutes later, post coffee pitstop at Moka, Kristen pulled to a stop at the Board Store. Leaning over the center console she grabbed a client project file from the massive shoulder bag, her most constant travel companion, on the passenger seat. She quickly reviewed her client’s file. They were putting a media room in their basement and had quite the DVD collection. The shelving unit she custom ordered and was here to check on was the most important part of the project. She tucked the file under her arm and went inside.
Tips 1 and 4
“Hey, Steve,” she called out as she walked in the front door.
“Back here!” she heard a voice call out.
Kristen wound her way through the store to the workshop in the back. She found Steve inspecting a tall cabinet, sawdust coating his beard.
“Is this the shelf?” Kirsten asked?
“It’s part of it,” Steve said with a nod. “Do they really own 2,000 DVD’s?”
“Honestly, I think it’s more. But I’m sitting down with them this week to weed out a few of them.”
“A few?” Steve chuckled.
“My goal is a few hundred. So, are you still on track for a Friday delivery and install?”
“Yes Ma’am. This was the final piece to sand. Staining is next. I have the color sample you dropped off last week, and your invoice is waiting at the front desk.”
“Well look at you, being all organized!” Kristen grinned.
“You’ve put a few years of hard work into me, but I think I’ve finally learned that your way is best.”
“Music to my ears Steve. Could you tell my husband?”
“Sounds good,” Steve said. “I’ll let him know Sunday at church.”
“Amen,” Kristen said as she shook the carpenter’s hand. Then she walked out of the workshop, pausing briefly to pick up her envelope from the front desk. Once back in her van, she headed for home.
Tips 1 and 2
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