Monday, July 19, 2010

Reactions, Part Two by Ocieanna Fleiss

This Manuscript Monday, please welcome back Ocieanna Fleiss as she continues her two part series on writing reactions into your fiction. Happy writing!

Reactions: A Recipe to Propel Your Scenes
from Bland to Delicious, Part Two*
by Ocieanna Fleiss

Last week, we talked about creating scrumptious descriptions, hot-out-of-the-oven plot points, and satisfying dialog. The one ingredient that thrusts a story beyond yummy, sends senses longing for more, transports taste buds is, you guessed it, a character to fall in love with.

One way to create a character to savor is to zero in on reactions. In Part One, we talked about obstacles and then people. Today: reactions to setting.

It Smells Like Coffee in Here: Reactions to Setting

Example from my life? At the sound of the word Starbucks, a sense of longing for a peaceful escape from four chaotic children surges through me.

Why not use this in writing?

The café’s music always seemed too loud, the temperature too cold, but the scent of brewing coffee, the baristas’ youthful banter, and the other solo customers clicking on keyboards enticed Merry to stay for hours.

We get the gist of the café—loud, cold, smells good, etc. But mere description won’t boost a story beyond blah.

Stepping through the door, Merry’s shoulders immediately relaxed, despite the slightly too loud music and frigid temperature. She scanned the small lobby. A guy absorbed—as she soon would be—by the vital workings of his laptop glanced up. Another funky couple slurping frappuccinos shared the corner table. And a burgundy-velvet cushy chair—the prize she sought—sat empty, like a waiting hug.

She plopped down a notepad to save her spot, then stepped to the counter to order. Digging through her purse for her ATM card, she found other treasures—a half-slurped lollipop wrapped in a tissue, a pirate, a binkie. She gave the barista the card. He returned it with a smile that made her feel young again, then zipped her purse closed. She had a sitter for two hours, and that comfy chair was hers.

It’s a typical Starbucks, but Merry’s reactions transform the everyday stuff into a measuring cup of her emotions. The loud and cold don’t deter her. The comfy chair entices her. The barista’s smile makes her feel young again. She zips away the kid treasures to enjoy a much-needed escape.

Cook’s Hint: Physical reactions like Merry’s shoulders relaxing should be used sparingly. A pinch is okay, but these descriptions come close to “telling.”

Now that I’ve given you a few tips to create a scrumptious story, try picking a scene from your work-in-progress and adding a cup of reactions.


* This article first appeared in Northwest Christian Author.


Ocieanna Fleiss has cowritten two novels with Tricia Goyer—both for Summerside press. The most recent, Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington, released July, 2010. Ocieanna has also written several articles for national publications and a bi-monthy column for Northwest Christian Writers Association. Homeschool mom of four little ones, she, along with her husband, stay busy at her home in the Seattle area.


Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

The Second World War has stolen Rosalie's fiance from her. But
rather than wallow, Rosalie throws herself into her work at the Boeing plant in Victory Heights, shooting rivets into the B-17 bombers that will destroy the enemy. A local reporter dubs her Seattle's Own Rosie the Riveter, and her story lends inspiration to women across the country. While Rosalie's strong arms can bear the weight of this new responsibility, her heart cannot handle the intense feelings that begin to surface for Kenny, the handsome reporter. Fear of a second heartbreak is a powerful opponent - but will it claim victory over love?

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