“To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself.
- Anne Rice
My fabulous critique buddy, Cambria Dillon, will be joining us for this regular feature. She and I will work on the craft aspects together, and she will coordinate the prompt photo and the giveaway—including the excellent prizes. Please welcome Cam to the blog! You can read her bio in our About Us section, which includes her blog and twitter links.
And now, on to this week’s craft tip and prompt. Last week, Shannon K. O’Donnell did a blog post on using the Lynn Quitman Troyka’s RENNS Model of Sensory Details to add specificity to your fiction writing. RENNS stands for Reasons, Examples, Names, Numbers, Senses, and the system is often taught in schools for helping to enhance student work in essays and papers. Applying it to fiction is a stroke of genius.
Reasons Why: Goals, Motives, and Conflict
In any given scene, you have to know why every character is acting and reacting the way they are. Every sentence in your story has to move the story forward, add complications, and provide something new for characters to scramble to fix—or fail to fix. And if, in each scene, the motivations of the characters are opposed to each other, or if the main character has several goals that conflict, you have tension. Tension is what keeps a reader turning pages.
Examples: Voice, Backstory, Symbolism, Metaphor, and Foreshadowing
Telling is when your character or narrator makes a statement about what is going on or how they feel. This can usually be replaced by showing to increase immediacy and make the story stronger. However, even choosing what to show contributes to the voice of your story. It adds perspective and depth. Be specific and deliberate about:
· what your character sees or thinks.
· the examples he chooses to illustrate a point.
· how he feels about a situation.
· the words he chooses to describe it.
· how it relates to things in his background.
· how it relates to things in the resolution of your story.
In a good story, there are no generic characters and no stereotypes. Develop something unique about every character, and make sure their names, appearances, and personalities all work together to illustrate who they are. Make the characters move the story.
Numbers: Of Adjectives, Examples, Plot Points, Subplots, and Characters
Be deliberate and specific when choosing what you include in your story. Lists of generic attributes are never as effective as one concrete detail. But an overload of details can be overwhelming. Too much of a good thing applies to scenes and characters, too. Make sure they all contribute to the story in a unique way. If not, cut them out.
Senses: Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, and Touch
Setting should not only ground us visually, it should tell us about the people in the scene. Using examples of what surrounds a character sets the scene and tells us about the character of whoever created that setting. Providing the details of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch bring setting to life and give you the opportunity to use word choice and figurative language to illustrate the character of the people entering the scene. Choosing words and syntax that convey the emotion and texture of a setting or scene can add a further dimension.
|Christmas © 2006 Brian Scott|
Using the photo above, write a scene or flash fiction story keeping the RENNS elements in mind. If you’d like to share it with us, enter it in the comments below (up to 250 words) or provide a link to where we can find it on the web. (And please don't forget to credit and link back to the photographer if you choose to post the picture on your blog or website.) We also welcome comments on the stories or the craft tip.
One lucky commenter will receive a signed copy of the double RITA Award-nominated YA novel, Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick, courtesy of Cam! All you have to do is fill out the form below and leave a comment. The contest is open for U.S. residents and will run until Monday December 27 at 8PM EST.
Martina & Cam