Monday, September 05, 2011

Writing Journey Tourniquet . . . avoiding the contrived

In my writing journey, I've come across the word contrived. A contrivance is something that is hard to believe. It’s writing that does not seem to go naturally with the rest of the story. It is where the writer contrived some twist in the plot and added it in from seemingly no where to solve a conflict or add some drama to the story.

How would you fix something that is contrived in your story? You can mend contrived plot mishaps by giving it a reason to be there. When you give a plausible reason for the unusual then the reader can believe in it more. Think Lemony Snicket style. If a contrivance comes out of no where, simply give it a reason to be there or just rewrite it, removing the fantastical, completely out there, unbelievable, contrived, plot device.

To avoid writing that is contrived, write amazing characters who make us believe that they belong in this fantastical plot. With unique characters the reader believes would do something out of the barriers of belief, the contrived plot won't matter. It's the characters you create who make your story original. Focus on them and the story will unfold in a way that makes perfect sense.

There's another area that the contrived bug hits and that's within your sentences and dialogue. This happens when we try to over write or exaggerate a description in a sentence or try too hard to bring out the way a character sounds in their dialogue. The simple solution is to read your story out loud and make sure it sounds good to the ear. Remove all words that weigh the sentence down and make sure your characters' words or turn of phrases are those that they would use for the time and place they live in.

How do you avoid writing contrived sentences, dialogue, and plot?


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  1. My favorite way to avoid contrived writing is having teenagers critique it. Wish it wasn't so hard to get teachers to ask for class visits. If you check my website, you'll see why suspending disbelief is so important. My Heartland isn't on our world, it's on the first earth, a sentient planet. I blog at There's a chocolate contest there. Who doesn't believe chocolate is real?

  2. Great advice Brenda! I always read my ms's out loud to check for stuff like that.

  3. Great post! I say, to keep it authentic, write what you think that character would think, not what you think. Also, reading aloud? Great advice ;o)

  4. Thanks, guys, for the comments! When writing for youngster sometimes we feel like we have to over explain - I guess simplicity is best. <3