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Writers Tips

Our Fall Fiction judges explain the dos and dont's of good prose



Emily Carr, Director of Oregon State University-Cascade's Low Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

• Keep it simple

• End on a cliffhanger

• Make the most of the title

• Use details that show

• Whenever possible, present tense

• Speed it up with short sentences

Mary Heather Noble, Programs Director, The Nature of Words

• Use unexpected details when describing scene and character. And remember that setting and gesture can say a lot about characters and the dynamic between them.

• Tension is what drives the story. A story without tension is like a car without gas. One of my mentors has said, "Asking a reader to invest their time in your story is like asking them to get in a boat with you and paddle to the other side of the lake. You need to convince the reader that it's going to be exciting & interesting enough to be worth their time, and that you'll be a good guide."

• Scenes are almost always more effective than summary. Then the reader can see for themself, and come to his/her own conclusion about how the characters feel.

• Eliminate all unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Adverbs are bad.

• Avoid sentimentality.

• Never use dialogue to convey information, or it won't sound natural. And don't use dialect unless you are really skilled at it.

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