Is It Honest, True & Real: Touchstones for rewriting

Recently Elizabeth George visited a local independent (Yay!) bookstore.  I went for several reasons:  as a fan of her work, to see how a professional whom I admire conducts a reading, and to personally thank her for the information in her book Write Away which gave me the courage to do research in Ravenna, make appointments, take photos and the like.

During the question period she talked about rewriting.  She said that as she looks at a section of a manuscript she asks herself Is it honest, true and real?

Sounds easy doesn’t it?  In order to make this check viable you must know your story elements:  the characters, the settings, the time, the place.  Especially when writing historical fiction you need to have a solid base not only in the psychology of your characters but how they use the things around them, what social protocols are in place, and the details of objects that your readers may not recognize.

This is the point of editing/rewriting where you make certain that your story elements connect in a viable way to make the story work.  This is another time when all the work you did at the beginning such as developing background for each character, researching place and time, modes of dress, etc. will serve you well.

Is your character acting in a way that is true to her personality?

Is the weapon too heavy for your tiny heroine to wield with ease and force, fiery though she may be?

Is the villain revealing a hidden attribute without beating your audience over the head?

Would you watch this film? Would you read this story?  Would you read the entire scene?  You know what you like when you are reading or watching a movie.

Beyond getting rid of pesky adverbs, obscure straight-from-the-thesaurus adjectives, long dialogue sequences, unwieldy verb constructions and other traditional rewriting activities, check to see if your scene is honest, true and real.

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