On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Think Positive

We parents love the negative. We tell our children: don't get dirty, don't run, don't touch that, don't talk to strangers, don't get into trouble. The problem is, these negative actions are unclear. The child hears: get dirty, run, touch that, talk to strangers, get into trouble.

These negatives follow us into adulthood. "Don't worry!" we tell a friend. "I didn't think I ate so much," we moan after a particularly exciting dinner party. "I won't do THAT again." Isn't it better to say things to your friend like: "You can do it!" Or if you're worried about those calories or disturbed by the bloat: "The food was delicious, and I enjoyed it. I'll feel better going back to my regular eating patterns, though."

Negatives also become leading questions: questions forcing the *proper* response. Consider the following two examples:

"Do you want to work on this project?"

Don't you want to work on this project?"

The first question is open: the response can be either yes or no, without prejudice. On the other hand, the second question is forcing a response. The question implies an expectation and subtle coercion.


The negatives even pop into our writing. Think about it, how many times in your stories do you use DON'T, WOULDN'T, NEVER, NOT, and so forth? Do a word search and you may be surprised.

What does it look like to say your character is "not running"? Isn't it better to say he "shuffles" or "digs his heels in" or "meanders"?

Remember that these negatives are lazy writing. As a quick example, imagine you write the following:

"She was upset, and didn't follow her normal routine to get to work."

OK, if she didn't follow her "normal" routine, what did she do? Maybe she forgot to eat her granola bar for breakfast, or can anticipate a caffeine headache because she was too rushed to make coffee. Did she make a right onto 34th street instead of taking her usual route of staying on Spruce? Instead of entering through the front building door, did she sneak through the back entrance to avoid walking past Mike?

You can see that eliminating the negative adds a world of positives to further flesh out your story.

These negatives are a problem because they are abstract. They are difficult to imagine, leading to ghostly impressions rather than clear ideas. Get rid of negatives, in your writing and in your life.

Affirmatives rule.

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