July 2017

Tip:  Nine times out of ten you can delete a prepositional phrase (sometimes more than one) at the end of a sentence and/or paragraph.  What’s left behind will be cleaner and stronger.

Writing prompt:  Find a better way to make your reader see this truth about your character:

Janet was addicted to gambling.

This is a classic example of telling rather than showing.  In a single sentence, show the reader instead of telling her.

Visual writing prompt:


What is this person’s name? Who is she looking at? What is she hoping for?

Essay: Research

Characterization is about getting inside somebody else’s head, and some of those heads will be dank, dark places to spend time — unless you’re writing greeting cards or stories for very young children.  It takes some preparation to write from the point of view of someone who gets pleasure out of causing pain. Fortunately there are resources to consult.

This article “Suffering Souls: The search for the roots of psychopathy” (The New Yorker, 10 November 2008) is one place to start. A quote:

Harenski recently interviewed a Western inmate who scored a 38.9. “He had killed his girlfriend because he thought she was cheating on him,” she told me. “He was so charming about telling it that I found it hard not to fall into laughing along in surprise, even when he was describing awful things.” Harenski, who is thirty, did not experience the involuntary skin-crawling sensation that, according to a survey conducted by the psychologists Reid and M. J. Meloy, one in three mental-health and criminal-justice professionals report feeling on interviewing a psychopath; in their paper on the subject, Meloy and Meloy speculate that this reaction may be an ancient intraspecies predator-response system. “I was just excited,” Harenski continued. “I was saying to myself, ‘Wow. I found a real one.’ ”

This is where I leave you: