Make sure you’re living in the present…or future…

Posted: April 5, 2015 in Writing

But certainly not the past.

This is a brief touch on breaking the flow or the fun of your story with jaunts back in time.

Your story is not a sci-fi time machine and shouldn’t be treated as such.

I had this point hammered home when I spent 10 hours in a small 10 person class with the masterful writer David Morrell (the creator of Rambo, Murder as a Fine Art, and at least a dozen other best sellers).

So David takes a look at our 10 page submission, marks it up and finds a common thread we all failed. Dropping in what he called “flashbacks”. Using levers like the word “had” in the middle of a moment. This yanks the reader out of the present, flips you into the past and thoroughly disrupts the action of being “in the skin” of your POV character.

Now, it’s okay to do this, but don’t do it often and as he said, “Make sure you have a damn good reason to do it”.

I took a look at the rest of my manuscript and searched for the word “had”. Uggh. I found it too many times. In many places I was able to drop it altogether. In others I found crafty ways to import that pertinent piece of information without dropping you out of the present. It was tough to go back and fix, but completely worth it. When I watch people reading my book and continuously turning pages, I know I did the right thing.

So i urge you to go back and see if you’re constantly referring to some action in the past. Something that takes the reader out of the heart-thumping moment.

I think one of the things that makes growing as a writer so fun is that you learn to immerse yourself deeper and deeper into your POV’s. Probably much like an actor. When you’re writing and completely lost in the moment, typing so hard, sitting on the edge of your seat because you’re feeling yourself live through your POV, you’re readers will too.

So count the “had’s” and live in the present. You don’t want to make your thriller part “memoir”. šŸ™‚

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