Tips For Better Fiction Writing: SUDDENLY

Don’t write the word “suddenly.”

Write in such a way that it reads as happening suddenly.


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I’m not saying you can’t ever use that word. You can. But usually

the word “suddenly” is a signal to yourself that you want a dramatic event that surprises the reader – and you didn’t write it

You didn’t set it up, you didn’t emphasize it in punctuation and style, you didn’t add a character reaction physically and emotionally to sell it…

You just wrote “suddenly.”

You told the reader they were supposed to be surprised at what happened, instead of doing your best to have them actually be surprised by showing them.

Be better than that.

When you write suddenly in your first draft, add it as a crutch word at the top of your manuscript and go back later and flesh out that scene.

“SUDDENLY”

No suddenly’s.

Don’t say something happened suddenly.

Write in such a way that it reads as happening suddenly.

(And have a character react as though they are surprised by what happened, too.)

suddenly

Write so the reader is surprised – which makes it sudden to the reader. That’s what you want anyway.

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I did not see that coming. Neither did she, apparently.

WRITE like the goat.

Let the READER be the young lady.

Wild Bill smiled, raking the chips across the green felt table. “Gosh, Mike, I’m not sure I wanna play poker anymore—now that I have all your money.”

Suddenly, Mike stood and punched Bill, sending him reeling. Chips flew everywhere.

OR

Wild Bill chuckled, raking the chips across the green felt table. “Gosh, Mike, now that I have all your money, I’m not sure I wanna play poker with you any—”

Mike leaped from his chair and swung hard at Bill, landing a punch squarely on Bill’s chin and snapping his head around. Poker chips flew everywhere as the old man sailed backwards and crashed onto the floor.

You can argue that the second one isn’t really surprising, but you already knew what was coming because you read the first one. Either way, it’s more sudden and quick and unexpected to the reader than the first one.

A is for Action 12 FINALYou can do this stuff.

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And the less your reader expects it, the more surprised they’ll be – and the more sudden your scene will read. So set it up that way. Let readers think one thing and do the other without warning. Don’t announce it with “suddenly.”

Get A Is For Action today for 99 cents, part of Dan Alatorre’s Tips For Better Fiction Writing series.

4 thoughts on “Tips For Better Fiction Writing: SUDDENLY

  1. Truth. I don’t use the word much. Better without. I don’t have a huge problem with it when used sparingly. Although… *Suddenly* I’m rememering a book I read that had “suddenly” or “all of a sudden” every 3-4 pages. Holy crap. No.

    Liked by 1 person

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