Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Fiction tip: If your characters are boring you and the action stalls — blow something up

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Whether you’re writing fiction or trying to keep the attention of college freshman physics students, take a word of advice my son once gave me: “Blow something up or set something on fire.”

In my son’s case, he found promising or even implying that good, attentive little students would be allowed to burn something down or blow something up ALWAYS kept their interest. He was a graduate assistant at the time working on his M.S. degree and could get away with it.

In Janet Evanovich’s case, it’s just almost a trademark move you’ll find in her series novels. I’ve never met Ms. Evanovich, but I would love to. She seems to be a really fun person. Her books are extremely well written and the five or six I’ve read are funny beyond belief. I challenge you to read one of her Stephanie Plum novels through without literally “laughing out loud” at least two or three times.

In every book of hers that I’ve read, any time the action slows or the characters seem to be standing around talking — WHAM! A building blows up, or a car explodes and burns into a charred cinder. I’m not kidding. I cannot recall having read a more hilarious, fun opening for a novel than the first 7-10 pages of her novel “Ten Big Ones.” I would highly recommend you read any of her novels in the Stephanie Plum series you can get your hands on. (Caution: They are absolutely “Mature Content” stuff. But we’re all big boys and girls here, aren’t we?)

If I wore a hat, I’d tip it to the lady. Okay, I do wear an occasional ball cap to keep the rain off my balding head. I’ll tip that to Janet Evanovich.

So if you’re writing fiction and you feel your characters are getting boring, if the action is just about gone and you need an extra little “spark” to stir the story line up a bit — burn something down or blow something up. I guarantee you, you’ll surprise yourself even. It’s a great cure for writer’s block.

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