First of all, a huge thank you to everyone for your well wishes and congratulations. I’m super excited about bringing Midnight Thief into the world, and I’m looking forward to sharing more details about the deal and process (BTW, if anyone has any specific questions, lemme know!). But first, for today, something different.
My freshman year of college, I took an expository writing class. One of the most important skills we learned was how to transition smoothly between different ideas. It was good, solid, advice, and improved my writing greatly. But like all writing rules, it doesn't always apply. I was reminded of this when I read Victoria Schwab's The Near Witch.
Take a look at this passage, in which the main character Lexi takes her sister Wren into town (the town is called Near). Everybody is talking about a stranger who showed up the night before.
Wren has strayed far ahead now, and Otto casts a look up at me, giving a sideways jerk of his head. I turn and go, making should note that Bo lives on the western edge of the village, so the stranger must have circled Near in that direction. Catching up to Wren, I pass by two families from the southern part of town. I slow my pace, careful to keep my sister in my sight.
"No, John, I swear he towers like a bare tree…" hollers an older woman, holding her arms wide as the scarecrow.
"You're daft, Berth. I saw him, and he's old, very old, practically crumbling."
"He's a ghost." "No such thing as a ghost! He's a halfling – part man, part crow."
"Crows are terrible omens!! You've lost your mind, John. I know I said it last week but I was wrong. To Dave really lost it…"
I've lost Wren.
I look around and finally see a slip of blond hair vanishing into the nearby circle of children. I reach the cluster and find my sister, a good head shorter than most of them but just as loud and twice as quick.
I love the abrupt transition from the dialogue of the villagers to the thought "I've lost Wren." If I’d been writing it myself, I would've been tempted out of habit to smooth over that transition with something like, "Suddenly I stop and look around. I've lost Wren." But our minds don't smooth over transitions in real life, and there's something about the abrupt switch that deepens the point of view and pulls you inside Lexi’s head.
Here's another example. In this scene, Lexi is watching the witch Magda arrange her cabin.
Magda collects her pieces of the world daily. I imagine it's all for charms. Small craft. Now and then a piece of the sisters’ work will find its way into the villager's pocket, or around their neck, even if they claim not to believe in it. I swear I seen a charm stitched to the skirt of Helena's dress, most likely meant to attract Tyler Ward's attention. She can have him.
Again, I love that last sentence. First she's talking about the charms villagers carrying them, and suddenly it skips to a much more personal comment about Tyler Ward and Helena. It's a neat technique to keep in mind.
What about your writing? Do your characters transition smoothly between thoughts, or do they let them run free?
The Ash-Born Boy, and it's available for free download at the Disney Hyperion website. I've just started reading it, and it's fantastic.
Also, I'm giving away a free hardcover edition of The Near Witch. To enter the drawing, do one of two things:
1. Share this post on twitter and leave your username in the comments.
2. RSS subscribers will see a secret code at the bottom of the post. Send an e-mail to liviablackburne at gmail com with the secret code in the subject line.
I will draw a winner on May 22 , 2012.
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