Showing posts with label Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Show all posts

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Shfting POV

Writers should be readers, we’ve heard that before. Not only can  superb writing strategies be observed, we can see poor techniques to avoid. A book I read last summer I was told in third person POV. It was was quite good except for one glaring problem. Somewhere, a quarter or so through the tale, the author shifted POVs. We were in MC’s head along then a minor character takes over. The change was so jarring, taking me out of the story. I vowed never to shift POVs in anything I write.

Fast-forward to now and the current WIP faces same problem. The story is told mainly through MC #1’s POV, but there are times when he cannot be in the scene. MC #2 and #3 will have to narrate. What to do to make a smooth transition?

A cruise on the internet referenced two experts, Renni Browne and Dave King and their Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I pulled out my copy and quickly re-read the chapter on POV. The whole thing gets rather involved. They say point of view is how you show who your characters are. It allows authors to convey emotions and readers to share a character’s concerns and to see the world as that character would see it. 

I became aware of point of view at my first WIFYR in an afternoon session. Can’t remember the speaker, but it was when the conference was held at BYU and she said writers need know who’s story it is and which character can best tell it. Most of us write in first or third person. There is also omniscient and others. 

Browne and King place first person on one end of a continuum with omniscient at the other. Third person falls in between. First person allows intimacy with your viewpoint character. In third person, intimacy is sacrificed in favor of a larger perspective of things going on around the MC. Omniscient widens the angle even more, allowing readers into the minds of other characters. Authors can vary the narrative distance and get in close to the character or not.

The best example I’ve seen of a use of an omniscient point of view was an MG book I used to read to my fifth graders called Bat 51. (I’m not sure of the author and a Google search won’t pull it up.) Set in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington after World War Two, it is about graduating elementary school girls preparing for an annual a baseball game against another town, this one in 1951. Each chapter is told by one of several girls who advance the story while adding backstory of their lives affected by the war in which some of them were interred in detention centers or had relatives killed by the Japanese. Each voice distinct and compelling.

I was concerned about shifting POVs in my story but Browne and King say it can be done. They present examples of point of view shifts done poorly as well as those of writers who have pulled it off successfully. A shift in POV is best down with a new chapter. The writer can also end the scene, insert a linespace, and start a new scene from the point of view you need. 

Point of view is a powerful tool and one of the most fundamental means for crafting a story, according to Browne and King. Effective writers learn to master POV.

On another note, registration is now open for WIFYR. Go here to learn about the options for attending this year’s conference.

(This article also posted at

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 11, Sophistication

Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication, The AS and -ING of Bad Style

Notes, highlight, thoughts and frustrations from Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 11, Sophistication

As per my previous chapter reviews of this very helpful book on writing, my thoughts are encased with parenthesis. I hope this helps someone out there, besides me.
One easy way to make your writing seem more sophisticated is to AVOID two stylistic constructions that are common to hack writers, namely:
"Pulling off her gloves, she turned to face him."
"As she pulled of her gloves, she turned to face him."
Both the as construction and the -ing construction as used above are grammatically correct and express the action clearly and unambiguously...if you use these constructions often, you weaken your writing.

Another reason to avoid the as and -ing construction is they can give rise to physical impossibilities. (There is one solution to this problem on page 194, if you care to purchase the book yourself! In fact, page 195 has an example with, then without, the as and -ing constructs. I must say, the latter does read better.)

Another way to keep from looking like an amateur is to avoid the use of cliches (Amen)...When you fall into characterizations like these (a list of common cliches), the result is a cartoon rather than a character.
There is one caveat: in narration, there may be times when you need to use a familiar, pet phrase-yes, a cliche, to summarize a complicated situation. But before going with a cliche, give some thought to the possibility of 'turning it', altering it slightly to render the phrasing less familiar.

In Chapter 5, we warned you to watch out for -ly adverbs when you are writing dialogue. (Stephen King said the same thing in On Writing, if I recall correctly.) But even when you are not writing dialogue, be on the lookout for -ly adverbs, for the sake of sophistication. (The next few paragraphs offer some great suggestions on resolving this problem.)

This approach may be all right for a first draft, but when you self-edit, you can root out these verb-adverb combinations like the weeds they are. (I like that metaphor.)

When you use two words, a weak verb and an adverb, to do the work of one strong verb, you dilute your writing and rob it of its potential power.

A simple departure from conventional comma usage can also lend a modern, sophisticated touch to your fiction-especially your dialogue...This comma usage, if not overdone, conveys remarkably well the way speech actually falls on the ear.

There are a few stylistic devices that are so "tacky" they should be used very sparingly.(I just gave you one, there are three others in the book, one involves sex. Really. It does.)

What is true of sexual details is also true of profanity...profanity has been so overused in the past years that nowadays it's more a sign of a small vocabulary. (A great, humorous example follows.)

The surest sign that you are achieving literary sophistication is when your writing begins to seem effortless, not that it will be effortless, of course.

The goal of all this careful, conscious work is to produce a novel or short story collection as though there no hard labor were involved in producing it. Fred Astaire worked tirelessly to make dancing look like the easiest, most natural thing in the world. And that is what you are tying for.

Please, stay off the damn walls. I just painted.

B Y Rogers
The Iron Writer

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 10, Once Is Usually Enough

The Redundant, Revenant Recidivist

Notes, highlights, comments and thoughts from Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 10, Once Is Usually Enough. Use them or lose them.

"Despite its tireless narrative energy, despite its relentless inventiveness, the book is bloated, grown to elephantine proportions... Repetition is the problem; the same stories are told several times, accruing more dealt in with each telling. Also, the principal characters have a way of regurgitating what they've learned, even through the reader was with them when they learned it."
Patrick McGrath, in a New York Times review of The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice.

The problem Mr. McGrath describes is one we see regularly in the writing of both novices and professionals; unintentional repetition.
The repetition of an effect can be just as problematic. Whether it's two sentences that convey the same information, two paragraphs that establish the same personality trait, or two characters who fill the same role in a plot, repetition can rob your story of its power. In fact, repetition is likely to weaken rather then intensify the power of that effect.

When you try to accomplish the same effect twice, the weaker attempt is likely to undermine the power of the stronger one.

One form of repetition that we've seen more often in recent years is the use of brand names to help characterization. The mention of what type of scotch hour hero drinks or what kind of car your heroine drives may help give your readers a handle on their personalities. But when all your characters glance at their Rolexes, then hop into their Maseratis to tear out to the house in the Hamptons, where they change out of their Armanis to pour themselves a Glenliovet-you've gone too far.

Interior monologue is also prone to needless repetition.

Keep an eye out for unconscious repetitions on the smallest scale-especially repetitions in which the repeated word isn't used in the same sense as the original word. ("She heard a sharp crack, the loud spring of her bed springs.")

A fringe benefit of getting rid of unnecessary repetitions is that it frees up the power of intentional repetitions.

Why would you want to repeat an effect? Roshomon Technique!

As you come to see what each element of your story-each sentence, each paragraph-accomplishes, you can learn o accomplish more than one thing at a time.

If each element of your story accomplishes one thing and one thing only, then your story will subtly, almost subliminally, feel artificial. When everything seems to be happening all at once, then it will feel like real life.

Another way in which the writers indulge in the large scale overkill is in the creation of the characters.

Then there is repetition on the largest scale, from book to book...of course, there is room in the world of fiction for the formulaic novel, it's been said that every James Bond novel has the same plot. (Oh, don't get me started. IF any of you EVER think that I am writing the same plot, over and over again, by simply changing the character names and the location, then, please, do not shoot me in the ass. Aim higher and put an end to my drivel.) (I refuse to read formulaic novels.)


Thanks for following (Get the hint?). I hope this is helpful to someone out there. It has certainly improved my writing. Please comment and share the blog. Who knows, it may make the difference to someone.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 9, Breaking Up is Easy To Do

"It's like a woman with a dead baby inside her."
Got your attention, didn't I?

Before I write about the next chapter in Self Editing for Fiction Writers, I HAD to share this metaphor. It is a pericope in the book  and when I read it, I was so stunned, I knew I had to include it when I blogged tonight. In fact, the skin on my forearms turned to goose flesh. I put the book down and just sat there for about ten minutes, pondering the depths.

The character who speaks the metaphor is a man who is losing his faith in God. It if from Fredrick Buechner's Treasure Hunt. It reads: "You don't know how it feels to say things you don't believe any more. It's like a woman with a dead baby inside her."

I am terrible at metaphors. I struggle with them and as a result, I probably do not use them often enough nor effectively. If anyone out there know of a good website or book on how to write and use metaphors, please leave me a comment. I could use the help.
In my book, this metaphor is the best I have ever read.
For those who are just now finding my blog (and thanks to those from the Kindle Community who faithfully follow) I have been 'reviewing' Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It is quite a remarkable book and I have learned much. You can surf my blog to find the previous eight chapters (and some worthless stuff as well).

What follows are the highlights that caught my eye in Chapter 8. I do not want to put too much of the book here, because I really think every aspiring writer should have this book right next to their computer or Royal typewriter. So, if the highlights do to make sense, buy the book. It's that simple. My thoughts are in parenthesis. Enjoy.
Another editing technique produces the dramatic difference between the two versions (two pericopes precede this highlight): the first is a single, page long paragraph; the second has been broken up into more manageable chunks. The second version has white space.

Whether it's because readers feel lectured to, or because they feel crowded, or simply because some white space on the page is visually inviting, lengthy unbroken chunks of written material are off-putting.
Paragraphing frequently can also add tension to a scene.

A novel that is basically a page-turner beginning to end is more likely to leave its readers feeling weary-and manipulated-than satisfied.

The leisurely and soft-edged tone to the details help lull the reader into a relaxed moment- to a purpose, since we are being set up.

Be on the lookout for places where your characters make little speeches to one another. In formal dialogue, characters often string together four or five complete, well-formed sentences. In real life, few of us get that far without interruptions. (I detest be interrupted when I am speaking! But it is true. Homework assignment: During the day tomorrow, count how many times you are interrupted when you are speaking AND count how many times you interrupt someone).

If the scene or chapter remains steady while the tension of the story varies considerably, you are passing up the chance to reinforce the tension your story depends on. You are failing to use one of the simplest of storytelling tools.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 8, Easy Beats

As usual, my thoughts and comments on in parentheses. All the other kicks are just there, man.)

Beats are the bits of action interspersed through a scene, such as a character walking to a window or removing his and rubbing his eyes- the literary equivalent of what is known in the theater as 'stage business'.

As with interior monologue, it's very easy to interrupt your dialogue so often that you bring its pace to a halt.

As with the Fran Dorf example at the beginning of the chapter, there is wonderful dialogue in here (another example)-surrounded by so many beats, both internal and external, that its effect is lost. The fact that the beats themselves are interesting and well written doesn't keep the constant interruptions from irritating the reader.

As with physical description, some writers may overuse beats because they lack confidence. After all, if you show every move your character makes, your readers are bound to be able to picture the action you describe...when you describe every bit of action down to the last detail, you give your readers a clear picture of what's going on but you also limit their imagination-and if you supply enough detail, you'll alienate them in the process.

Of course, it is possible to err in the other direction and include too few beats. Page after page of uninterrupted dialogue can become disembodied and disorienting after a while, even if the dialogue is excellent.

What's needed are a few beats to anchor [your dialogue] in reality.
The idea is to strike the right balance between dialogue and beats.
So what's the right balance? (see page 149!)

Knowing where to put your beats is not as important as knowing what beats to insert.

Beats can be pointless, distracting, cliched, or repetitive.
So where do you find good beats? (Oh, the tip offered here has kept me busy all week. Page 152 folks!)

(The last two pages of the chapter consist of an example with and then without beats.) The scene is still moving-the dialogue effectively conveys what's going on and its importance, and it's easy to tell who is speaking. What is lost is a great deal of resonance, the deepening of the emotional content. You need beats for those.

Dig it!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 7, Interior Monologue

(Same guidelines as previously. My  wayward thoughts and comments are in parenthesis.)

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 7, Interior Monologue

One of the greatest gifts of literature is that it allows for the expression of unexpressed thoughts: interior monologue...allowing your readers to see what your character is thinking is a powerful, intimate way to establish that character's personality.

Constant interruptions are just as annoying on the page as they are in life, and this writer (from an example in the book, which you need to purchase anyway) has interrupted her dialogue with interior monologue over and over again.

So how do you know you've gone too far with interior monologue? (See answer on page 118)

It is also possible to have too little interior monologue.
(A one page example of dialogue, between a husband and wife, without any interior dialogue, then:) But her (the character in the example) exhaustion and intimidation need to be present in the scene as well as in the context. She doesn't stop feeling these things while she is on the phone with him. Because she's too intimidated to confront him, the writer can't show her feelings in dialogue. It would be difficult  to work Nia's specific feelings into emotionally weighted descriptions without breaking up the rhythm of the dialogue.

So what's the right amount of interior monologue? (See answer on page 122)

(Throughout the book, there are several cartoons to emphasis a point. In this chapter, there is one that I found especially humorous. In the single panel, we see two women, sitting at a table, in a very sparse room. The caption reads exactly as follows: "So far all her dreams have not come true but she wants high romance and a baby while her husband want to be, and is, a very successful broker, who takes graduate courses at night and wants no baby and at the same time she has more or less recovered from being in love with the well-digger who dug her well, which is good since he is married with three children and is a drug addict and an alcoholic and he claims he's dying, although there are no signs of this and she says once she finds an outlet for her unrequited love she will lose eighty-five pounds.  I enjoyed that sentence." (Get it?)

(Oh, here is a great one:) It's rarely a good idea to have your characters mumble to themselves or speak under their breath.
How to handle your interior monologue depends almost entirely on your narrative distance. (I am still trying to wrap my mind around 'narrative distance'. I will work on it more the second time I go through this book.)

Thinker attributions. Whenever you're writing from a single point of view-as you will be ninety percent of the time-you can simply jettison thinker attributions.

Another technique for setting off interior monologue sharply is to write in the first person (often with italics) when you narrative is in third...Effective as this technique can be in letting readers into your character's head, be careful not to use it too often.

Interior dialogue can easily become a gimmick, and if overused it can make your characters seem as if they have multiple-personality disorder.

Generations of hacks have used italics to punch up otherwise weak dialogue...frequent italics have come to signal weak writing. (In other words, don't use italics.)

How do you set off your interior dialogue when you're writing with narrative intimacy?  (See answer on page 128)

(I failed to mention that this book is the 2nd Edition. I needed to clarify this so you understand the final paragraph.)

We have noticed since the first edition of this book came out that a lot of writers have taken our advice about showing and telling too much to heart. The result has sometimes been sterile writing, consisting mostly of bare-bones descriptions and skeletal dialogue. Yet fiction allow for marvelous richness and depth, and nowhere more so than through interior monologue. You have to be careful not to go overboard, but interior monologue gives you opportunity to invite your readers into your characters minds, sometimes with stunning effect.

B Y Rogers

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter Five, Dialogue Mechanics

I am positively giddy about this post. The next chapter in Self Editing for Fiction Writers is precisely what Matt Stover preached to me over three years ago and since then, I have had more than a few conversations about these principles, most with negative results.  But I have held my ground on and will continue to do so. What follows is so important so if you want to learn to write, again, I beg you, get this book.

Again, my comments will be in parenthesis (and there will probably be many of them).

Chapter 5  Dialogue Mechanics

What is the first thing acquisition editors look for when they begin reading fiction submission? (Not going to tell you! You will have to get the book.)

Because it is such hard work, generations of writers have developed mechanical tricks to save them the trouble of writing dialogue that effectively conveys character and emotion...Not surprisingly, these are tricks to avoid if you want to you want your dialogue to read like the work of a professional instead of an amateur or a hack.  (My graphic artist suggested I take a look at, which I mentioned in my previous post. I looked at two short stories that were submitted for comments on that site. One was so terrible when it came to dialogue that I could not finish reading it. It was too painful. I suggested to both authors to get this book. They need it desperately!)

Imagine you are at a play. It's the middle of the first act. You are really involved in the drama. Suddenly the playwright runs out on the stage and yells, "Do you see what is happening here? Do you see how her coldness is behind his infidelity?" (Great metaphor)

If your dialogue isn't written well, if it needs the explanation to convey the emotion-then the explanation really won't help. It's showing and telling applied to dialogue.

Perhaps it's a lack of confidence on the writer's part, perhaps it's simple laziness, or perhaps it's a misguided attempt to break up the monotony of using the unadorned said all the time, but all too many fiction writers tend to pepper their dialogue with -ly's. Which is a good reason to cut virtually one you write. Ly adverbs almost always catch the writer in the act of attributions that belong in the dialogue itself.
(Rennie Browne and Dave King make a reference to "Tom Swifties" , which made me laugh. What got me seriously interested in reading when I was in the 6th grade was the Tom Swift series, by Victor Appleton II. Ah, the memories!)

Don't make speaker attributions as a way to slip in explanations to your dialogue ("he growled," "she snapped")

To use verbs like these last three for speaker attributions is to brand yourself as an amateur.

Verbs other than said tend to draw attention away from the dialogue.
Said, on the other hand, isn't even read the way other verbs are read. It is, and should be, an almost purely mechanical device, more like a punctuation mark than a verb.  (BINGO! Think about this. When you read dialogue, do you really pay attention to the word said? We don't, at least I do not, unless the author adds an attribution, which then makes me pause. Should not the speaker's words in the dialogue tell me if the character is angry, sad, happy, clueless? If the writer builds the character correctly and develops the scene correctly, I will already know if the speaker is angry or not.)

(Here is something I did not know.) Decide how you are going to refer to a character and stick with it for at least the length of the scene. Don't use "Hubert said," on one page, "Mr. Winchester said," on the next and "the old man said," on the third. If you do, your reader will have to stop reading long enough to figure out that the old man is Hubert Winchester. (Purchase the book and learn what "beats" are, if you do not already know.)

If it's clear from the dialogue who is speaking-you can dispense with speaker attributions altogether. (Again, build your characters correctly!)

(Learn the difference between dashes and ellipses.)

The truth is, only editors and reviewers really notice these things. (You may not think these principles are important but they will make the difference not only with getting your tome published but how many sales you make.)

"Mr (Robert) Ludlum has other peculiarities. For example, he hates the "he said" locution and avoids it as much as possible. Characters in The Bourne Ultimatum seldom say anything. Instead, they cry, interject, interrupt, muse, state, counter, conclude, mumble, whisper, (Mr. Ludlum is great on whispers), intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode, mutter. There is one especially unforgettable tautology: "'I repeat,' repeated Alex."
The book may sell in the billions, but it is still junk.
-Newgate Callendar,
The New York Times Book Review

B Y Rogers is the author of The Sin of Certainty plus a growing collection of short stories

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter Four


As in my previous posts about Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, my thoughts are in parenthesis. The rest are direct quotes from the book. I hope what I post is beneficial.

(If you are wondering what 'proportion' has to do with writing, think of it this way. How much do I give to my readers in any scene? Do I give them too much or too little? Then ask yourself this: too much or too little of what? Information related to the plot? Did I take 5 pages to write something that should have been written in 3?  At least that is how I am defining proportion. Your mileage may vary.)

Proportion problems...arise from the same lack of confidence that leads beginning writers to describe emotions they have already shown.
When you fill in all the details and leave nothing to your reader's imagination, you're patronizing them. (AMEN!)

Sometimes proportion problems arise when a writer is writing about his or her pet interests or hobbies. (This is why I mention taking too long to say what needs to be said. Taking 5 pages to show what you want to convey, instead of 3 pages, will bore your readers. There is a great example of this on page 68 of the book, oh, wait... sorry, you haven't purchased your own copy yet have you?  Tsk, tsk.)

You didn't read the whole paragraph did you?  (this is from the book. No I didn't. I was bored by word 11. Again, get the book!)
Proportion problems can arise inadvertently, sometimes through cutting.

So how do you avoid proportion problems? In most cases it's quite simple: PAY ATTENTION.

A warning: paying attention to your story does not mean ruthlessly cutting everything that doesn't immediately advance your plot.
Is it really needed? Does it add? Should it be shorter/longer?
Bear in mind that most readers may not find such topics as interesting as you do.

Once you have trained yourself to see how changes in proportion affect your story, you can begin to use proportion to shape your readers' response to your plot

The safest approach is to make sure the material you're writing about helps advance either your plot or your narrator's character.

B Y Rogers

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter Three

Here is the next chapter of "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers". IF you haven't by now (what is wrong with you?), and you are or want to be a writer, you really should get this book. I AM SERIOUS ABOUT THIS!

Chapter 3  Point of View

The first person point of view has a number of advantages, the main one being that it gives your readers a great deal of intimacy with your viewpoint character.

What you gain in intimacy with the first person, you lose in perspective.

On the other end of the spectrum from the first person is the omniscient point of view. Instead of being written from inside the head of one of your characters, a scene in the omniscient point of view is not written from inside anyone's head.

Note that with the omniscient voice what you gain in perspective you lose in intimacy.

If the first person invites intimacy and the omniscient narrator allows for perspective, the third person strikes balance between the two. (There is quite a bit of additional information on this topic in the book.)
Another factor that controls your narrative distance is how much you allow your viewpoint character's emotion to color your description. (I am still trying to get my Pooh sized brain wrapped around 'narrative distance'.)

So how much narrative distance is right for you? Broadly speaking the more intimate the point of view, the better.

The emotions have to go someplace and the language of your descriptions is a good place for them.

You want to engage your readers, not drive them to distraction.
Readers need time to settle into a given emotional state, so when you move quickly from one passion-charged head to another, you're likely leave them behind. They'll know what our various characters are feeling, but the won't have time to feel like any of the characters.

When you make the point of view clear at the beginning of a scene, you get your readers involved right away and let them get used to inhabiting your viewpoint character's head.

Linespaces prepare readers for a shift (in time, place or point of view), so the change in point of view won't catch them by surprise. (I recently attempted to read a book where this skill was totally missing. It was a struggle to follow the story. The story seemed disconnected and halted almost on every page. I gave up and did not finish it.)

Point of view is a powerful tool. Master it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter Two

(Come on, get your own copy, will ya?)

Characterization and Exposition

Before I start, a few comments. Of all the lessons I have been given along my writing path, the one about exposition was the most profitable. It makes so much sense to me. The trouble is, it is now getting me into trouble. My thinking is evolving to the point that I detest conversational exposition. My mind keeps seeing Jack Webb sternly stating "Just the facts, Ma'am". (IF and when my wife reads this, I will be sleeping downstairs for awhile.)

Anyway, I cannot preach exposition enough. So pay attention. You will know when you have it right when you can quit your day job. I still do not have it right. Otherwise I would not be up at midnight writing.
My thoughts are in parenthesis.

(The chapter starts out with a few, very dull paragraphs about Eloise.) After reading the these paragraphs, you know something about-possibly something very important-about Eloise. But do you care? (I didn't.)

In fact, the show and tell principles underlies many of the self-editing points we will talk about from now on. But there's a second problem here: the writer introduces Eliose to h is readers all at once and in depth-stopping the story cold for an overview of her character. (Next time you are reading a book and you come up short, as if you have been jerked out of the story and back to your reality, stop and ask yourself why. Then take a look at what you have just read. Very telling.)

It is often a good idea to introduce a new character with enough physical description for your readers to picture him or her.As with describing your settings, all you need are a few concrete idiomatic details to jump start your readers imagination. (I tried to do this in my novel, only giving what is needed but nothing more. I want the character to become the readers character, not mine. Too much detail about physical appearance and the character is mine, not the readers.)
If your characters actually act in the way your summaries say they will, then the summaries are not needed. If they do not, then your summaries are misleading.

When you (completely) sum up your characters, you risk defining them to the point that they're boxed in by the characterization with no room to grow.

Allow your readers to get to know your characters gradually, each read will interpret them in his or her own way, thus getting a deeper sens of who your characters are.

Delving into your characters past can be a good way for you to understand the character in the present. But though it may have been helpful for you to write a character's history, it may not be necessary for your readers to read it. (I like this. In fact, I did not write out a history for any of my characters in The Sin of Certainty. After reading this point, I like it even more. My characters are still alive to me, growing and in a few cases, dying.)

Since you bring your present story to a halt whenever you start a flashback, it doesn't take too many flashbacks to make your story jerky or hard to follow. (This is taught in Writing to Sell also. Good advice. I used one  and only flashback in my novel. I could not find a way around it and the information was pivotal. In fact, without it, the reader will never learn the answer to the mystery. Let the reader learn about the character from the present, not the past.)

If you want to learn who someone is, watch what they say and do. If you want your readers to get a feel who your character really are, show them through dialogue and action. (This is true in life, in a movie, and in a book. And remember, action speaks louder than words.)

The information your readers need in order to follow and appreciate your plot...should be brought out as unobtrusively as possible.
Give your readers only as much background information or history, or characterization as they need at any give time.  (I really like this.)

When your characters start talking  solely for the sake of informing your readers, the exposition gets in the way of believable characterization. So be on the lookout for places where your dialogue is actually exposition in disguise.

Readers can best learn about your locations and background not through lengthy exposition but by seeing them in real life.

B Y Rogers