Great Writing Advice on Plot, Tone, and How to Begin

Jessica Barksdale Inclan led a fabulous workshop this past Saturday at the Mt. Diablo Branch’s California Writers Club. Here are a few great ideas she shared: 

 If your work is too dark throughout?   Toni Morrison had this problem in her acclaimed novel, Beloved. The author said she “engineered moments of lightness.”

Don’t know where to start?   “Write little pieces and they’ll start talking to each other.”

Why would anyone want to write in second person? It’s good for hiding pain. Read the poem “House of Horrors” by Tom Sayars.

Her best words on plot?  Plot is tension. It’s developed by presenting a promise and then dropping bits and pieces in along the way. Your writing should be like a mystery. Don’t show everything at once.

Current trend: Editors hate prologues.  Call it chapter one!  They hate introductions.  Call it chapter one!

 Writing Prompt:

1.  Read your current project or a piece you have written.  Does the tone provide different feelings/emotions?   There should be a balance of light and dark, highs and lows.  Use Toni Morrison’s advice if there isn’t.

2.  Try writing a poem, essay or short story in second person.  Or take one of the pieces you have written or a character you have developed and try this point of view here.

3.  Read a work you have written and check to see you haven’t told too much too soon.  Is there enough suspense and tension in your writing?  You may have to take away or drop in more hints of mystery to create a better plot.

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