Do not underestimate the value of topic research
If you are looking to add additional layers and rich details to your writing, gathering information is essential. In other words, it is important to know what you are saying and to learn as much as possible about the settings of your story.
For example, imagine you are writing a book set in the 1930s. If you are looking to add more depth to the story and its circumstances, it might be a great idea to do some additional research. Watch documentaries, scour the World Wide Web for information or read other books set in the same age. By learning more about that specific era, you might be able to add more “visual” details to your writing and make it more compelling and intriguing for the audience. In addition to that, extra research could help you by offering a brand-new angle to the literary work you are creating. Perhaps, the new information you managed to gather could go on to influence the storytelling approach, or even contribute to a few storyline tweaks, if you need to match the settings of the story more accurately.
Creating your own backgrounds stories
Theater and film actors have precise methods to bring their characters to life. Their philosophies and approaches might vary, depending on their formal education and on their approach to the craft, but most of them share a common technique: creating backstories for their characters.
Such backstories might never be known to the audience, and in most cases, actors keep them secret, to add more depth and realness to the character they have to play. In short, it is easier for them (and for the audience) to empathize with their character, if they can create a background. Professional writers often use this trick. Famously, J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the successful Lord of The Ring Saga, was particularly keen on writing long and articulated backstories for his characters, to add more depth to the story. In this particular case, a lot of Tolkien’s work was later published in other formats, such as the massive Silmarillion, a collection of writings related to the Lord of The Rings universe spanning many decades. The remarkable author went as far as creating whole new languages, complete with grammar, for his characters. This book would would serve as a great example of how to create amazing character backgrounds.
Perhaps, the fact that Tolkien spent years crafting amazing backstories for his characters is the reason why his stories and characters are still so popular and well-received even many decades after the authors originally conceived them.
Even if you plan to never release the background stories of your characters to the public, it could be an amazing way for you, as the writer, to add more humanity to your characters and make them less one-sided. A background story can help you determine many aspects of your characters, including their feelings, their attitude, their slang, their clothing style or their motives. The possibilities are truly endless and only limited by your creative solutions.
Think from a reader’s perspective
As a writer, you are going to be the mastermind of the world you create with your words. You are aware of the story, the chain of events, the inner thoughts of your characters and many other things. For this reason, it might be easy for you to forget that your readers don’t know all that information. To avoid confusion, think from the perspective of the audience and make sure you are not taking their understanding for granted.
Clarity is an essential competent to any great read, but that’s not to say you can’t have some fun and make your work more cryptic for your audience. You could use the very same notion in “reverse” if you aim to create a mystic and slightly confusing narrative that keeps readers guessing.
Simplicity equals elegance
One of the most common writing mistakes is to overuse fancy words, just for the sake of it. Writers love to show off their erudite vocabulary and often employ metaphors, comparisons, and other creative solutions to enhance the wording of their works. Simplicity could be precisely what you are looking for in some cases.
Don’t be afraid of using simple words, even if they might sound a little average or overused. If you strive to sound too sophisticated, your writing might appear contrived and maybe even pretentious.
Simple wording might also make your text clearer and therefore, easier to follow. It’s all about balance. If you want to create a truly compelling narrative, you should try to find the right compromise between using beautifully worded phrases and simple passages that avoid overcomplicated vocabulary.
Be careful with digressions
A “digression” is a temporary departure from the main subject of your writing. Many writers love to use digressions to spice up their stories, add layers, or to show off different narrative perspective. When used correctly, digressions can indeed improve the quality of your work. On the other hand, you must be careful not to fall into an endless tunnel of digressions, where one leads to another. You don’t want your storytelling to transform into senseless rambling!
Whenever you decide to use a digression to add some details to your story, always make sure that you trace your steps back to the main topic in a smooth and easy way.
Active vs. Passive Voice
In the English language, active voice is usually more preferable for a variety of reasons. The most important reason is that the active voice allows for a more direct narrative approach. Consider the following sentences:
The knight holds a sword.
A sword is held by a knight.
Both sentences have the same meaning, but the first example, showcasing the active voice, has a much better flow. It feels direct and it keeps the readers engaged. On the other hand, the second example, which is formulated in passive voice, feels clumsy and a little bit awkward. In this setting, the passive voice is unnecessarily complicated, and you might be better off avoiding it.
While active voices are often favorite among writers, passive voices are sometimes necessary to add a different tone to your writing. For instance, the passive voice is often used in academical texts, resulting in a more sophisticated approach to writing.
What ever your approach. Decide how you want to write and don’t accidentally switch from active to passive voice. Use this same advice for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person perspectives as well. A harshly managed change of perspective can jolt readers from the world you are trying to immerse them in.
Many writers often try to add details to their writing by using adjectives. At times, however, too many adjectives can turn a work into a dull mass of text that has no substance. Don’t worry about the word count: consider the quality of your writing first. Many writers often acquire the habit of using up to 3 distinct adjectives in a single sentence to add some color to their words.
Consider the following example:
The sky was blue, wide and open, as the dragon flew on the horizon.
The above sentence features three distinctive adjectives related to the word “sky.” The result might feel a little clumsy and unfocused. Instead of stuffing sentences with multiple adjectives to add weight to the text, try reorganizing the content in creative ways.
The sky was blue and the horizon wide open, as the dragon flew by.
This is a small example of how you can re-organize sentences to avoid adjective “overload” and fall into the same writing patterns over and over again. Don’t be afraid to go back to your drafts and reword sentences to achieve a different tone, if needed.