John David Kudrick

putting words to work for you

Tag: stories (page 2 of 3)

To Cuss or Not to Cuss?

Handling Profanity as a Christian Novelist

“I’m a Christian who typically doesn’t use profanity, but that doesn’t stop me from allowing my fictional characters to cuss if they want to.”

If you’re a novelist whose first love is Jesus, then the preceding quotation may have your eyes popping wide open, perhaps with an accompanying gasp … or maybe it’s got you sighing with relief at the burden that just fell from your shoulders.

The quote is from an author I’ve worked with, and it feels a little like opening Pandora’s box to even begin to speak about this subject, but I know it’s a struggle for many Christian novelists out there. After all, as Christians, we don’t want to say or do anything that hurts our witness as a follower of Jesus Christ. At the same time, though, we want to write honest stories about engaging characters who resonate with readers—and most of the time, this means that very few of our characters are going to always sound as saintly as dear old Aunt Emma, who shouts “Fiddlesticks!” or “Sugar!” when she accidentally breaks a dish in the kitchen.

So what’s the answer to handling real-life speech in a novel if you’re a Christian?

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Another Thought on Writers Conferences

In my most recent post, I touched on why authors should attend a writers conference, focusing on two main reasons: First, it’s a great place to pitch your book to an agent or editor. And, second, it’s a place to be around other people who take writing seriously, allowing you to find new inspiration and encouragement.

In this post, I want to touch on another (multifaceted) reason why writers conferences are a great idea for authors: knowledge.

When you attend a writers conference, you have the opportunity to be empowered with knowledge from at least three sources: speakers, agents/editors, other writers.

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Keepin’ It Real with Dialogue

It will probably come as no surprise that editors enjoy the written word, which means that most of us wordsmiths not only work with words as a profession, but we also have our noses in books each day for the pure joy of reading. To wit, just the other night, I was re-reading an old trade paperback comic book (X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga) because I think it’s a great story overall, with super artwork to boot.

Anyway, at one point I came across some dialogue that is common enough in comic books because they are such a visual medium, and it reminded me of an issue that I come across all too often in my work as an editor: dialogue that doesn’t sound realistic because it’s so full of backstory and/or information dumps.

Again, in comic books I expect this to some degree because the writers have limited space with captions and word/thought balloons, but I have to admit that it still bugged me a little because it just sounded so unrealistic. When I see it in a novel I’m working on, I flag it and let the writer know that such dialogue will not ring true in a reader’s ears and will feel like a hiccup or speed bump even amidst well-written prose.

Here’s an example: Continue reading

How Do Authors Find Time to Write?

I enjoy working with authors no matter how they approach the task of writing, whether it’s with bubbly joy and passion or steely grit and determination—or, more typically, a combination of both. In any case, these authors have done something that many other wishful writers have only talked and/or daydreamed about: they finished a book, perhaps even several.

And yet most of the authors I work with or know aren’t household names in the world of books, and they’re okay with that. They’re everyday folks, and most of them have full-time jobs. Like the wishful writers who have never completed a book—usually because “I just don’t have the time!”—these authors spend time with a significant other, keep up with family and friends, raise kids, attend church, go to work, see the doctor/dentist, take their cars to the mechanic, cook meals, clean homes, exercise, take care of pets, catch some zzz’s, and the list goes on and on.

So, then, how in the world do these authors find time to write?

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Finding Your Writing Style as a Novelist: Part 2

In the first part of this post, we took a look at an author who lived and died by the plotter/planner method of crafting a novel—a method that had served him well more than once. But when we last saw this author, he’d just read a book on fiction writing that preached the polar opposite of the plotter/planner way: flying by the seat of your pants (aka, the pantser method).

So what did this author do? Did he just dismiss this blasphemous pantser drivel and stick to his guns as a plotter/planner?

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Finding Your Writing Style as a Novelist: Part 1

Are you a pantser or a plotter/planner?

If you’re a novelist and you’ve done even a little bit of reading about the craft of fiction, then you’ve likely come across the terms “pantser” and “plotter,” which is also called “planner.”

Simply put, if someone asks which kind of fiction writer you are, she or he wants to know if you:

  • fly by the seat of your pants when penning a novel and just let the story come to you day by day, or …
  • plot/plan out your entire tale ahead of time and then follow that road map step by step from the first word of the novel all the way until you type THE END.

Depending on the crowd you find yourself in at the time, you may soon be caught in the verbally violent crossfire between those entrenched in these two camps of thought.

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When an Appositive Becomes a Negative: Part 2

How to Solve the Appositive Problem

In the first part of this post, we looked at some basics of grammar, including the use of the appositive and how lengthy appositives can interrupt the reader’s flow. Near the end of Part 1, we looked at three examples of this:

Jason, the team leader ever since he’d landed the multimillion-dollar contract and higher-ups subsequently took note, demanded that the next meeting would be at 9:30 two days from now.            

The broad, a vivacious brunette with pale blue eyes that seemed to look through anyone who dared stare too long in her direction, sauntered her way into the hotel lobby as though she owned the joint.            

Rex, a German shepherd who had seen his share of combat operations in the Middle East during the battalion’s last deployment, didn’t come home the dog he’d been when they’d left all those months ago.

Once more, there’s not really anything wrong with any of these sentences in the most technical sense of grammatically sound writing. But it almost feels as though we’re reading a book in between each sentence’s subject and predicate, doesn’t it?

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When an Appositive Becomes a Negative: Part 1

Avoid Long Phrases Separating Subject from Predicate

Subject … Predicate … Appositive …

For those of you who are already cringing at the thought of an entire article focused on Grammar 101, take a deep breath and relax. This isn’t about grammar so much as good writing that allows readers to more easily engage, and thus enjoy, what you’ve crafted as an author of fiction or nonfiction.

With that out of the way, let’s glance at the basics we need to keep in mind. The subject of a sentence tells us who or what the sentence is about. The predicate tells us something about the subject—what the subject is or does.

Easy enough so far, right? You put a subject (noun) and predicate (verb) together, and you have yourself a sentence.

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Commit to Contract in Dialogue

Make Sure Your Characters Don’t Sound Too Formal

A common area of concern I hear from novelists relates to the dialogue in their stories. Mostly, these authors want to make sure that when their characters talk, it sounds smooth and natural. Thus, they often spend a great deal of time crafting carefully written dialogue—and many times actually weaken the novel in the process.

What do I mean by this? Take a look at the following passage:

“Where are you going today, Jimmy?” Polly asked.

“Oh, I am going to go see the new elephants at the zoo with my daughter,” Jimmy said.

“That sounds like it will be a lot of fun, so I hope that you will have a nice time with her.”

“Yes, I think it will be a really great outing with her, thanks.”

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Serious Novelists Must Read

Learn the Land of Fiction by Reading Every Day

I’ll start this post with one of my favorite quotes on the craft of fiction:

“If you don’t have the time to read,

you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.”

–Stephen King, On Writing

This quote came in King’s section on his two great commandments for every writer: read a lot and write a lot. The writing part makes sense, of course: regular writing will improve your skills as a storyteller. However, too many novelists seem to think that the second of King’s commandments is more of a suggestion, and they rarely spend any serious amount of time reading novel-length fiction.

The big problem with this? These novelists’ stories usually fall prey to some of the most common issues we editors find in manuscripts. For example: Continue reading

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