The focus of the November issue is a special section on "The Power of Place". In his feature article "Power Your Story with a Sense of Place", Philip Martin suggests using a particular POV when describing a place for the first time, using only the detail that creates interest, the use of senses for a more vivid image, and using the place to develop characters, mood, and action.
Linda Lappin suggests a "workout" consisting of finding a place near you and considering the rhythm of the place (daily, seasonally, etc.), your explorations of and experiences in the place, and finally honing in on one particular experience to practice describing.
Nancy L. Sanders talks about the use of timelines in the development of plot and character. Separate timelines for what the characters are doing and what is going on in the world around your characters helps build the action.
From the archive, "The 10 Most Common Story Problems" by Joseph Hansen, first published in 1976, offers these points to think about: (my paraphrase)
- lack of action
- starting the story too soon
- repetitive text
- too many flashbacks
- lack of characterization
- too many characters
- lack of focused setting
- too much "talk" as compared to realistic dialogue
- overuse of a thesaurus
- poor pacing
- Thorough reading and summarization to aid understanding of the piece
- Finding things to praise as well as things to suggest need changing
- Eliminating personal judgment
- Saying what you have to say in a diplomatic way
- Remembering that the story does not belong to you but rather to the author, and he/she doesn't have to act on your suggestions for change
Two things to keep in mind:
- "We like to see a strong narrative design from beginning to end" and
- "He (the editor, J.T. Barbarese) looks at style and character more than plot, and he cautions against trite subject matter--as well as subject matter that stretches the bounds of good taste."
And go out and find a copy of the November issue of The Writer. Better still, subscribe. I count the money well spent on subscriptions to the 3 writing magazines that come to my mailbox each month.