One Highly Effective Plot Secret You Never Heard about (I Promise)

One Highly Effective Plot Secret You Never Heard about (I Promise)

37 Remarkable Comments


Think of a story you found really exciting: Moby Dick? Breaking Bad? Cinderella?

Now think of a story you found really boring: The Fast and The Furious? Scream, part 58? A documentary about the sleeping habits of the common Burgundy snail?

And now tell me: What’s the big difference between the stories you loved and the stories you hated?

Pure plot?

Not so much, I bet. Summarize one of your great and one of your awful stories in just three sentences each. Now the exciting one doesn’t sound so exciting anymore, and the boring one doesn’t sound so boring, true? By only talking about their plots, they have leveled out.

So what’s the difference then, dammit!? Will you tell us already, Alex?

Yes, and here it is.

The difference is in the details.

The details of plot, of character, of scenery, of dialogue. It’s the small twists and turns of a story that let it sparkle and shine in your memory for many years to come.

In other words, what excites you is not the plain plot, but rather how this plot is presented to you. The nuances of characters that draw us towards them magnetically. The little lines of dialogue that crack us up or make us shed a tear. You derive all the joy from the details.

And this post will be one big ode to the details. It will explore the many ways you can use them to make your story oh so colorful, and it will answer questions like:

  • What are the best ways to bring some detail into your story?
  • Is it possible to add too many details?
  • How does, for example, Quentin Tarantino do it?

Yes, to demonstrate to you the power of details, we are taking a look at the work of a true master of little oddities and punchlines, a man who constantly keeps his audiences’ expectations on the edge, a man who probably steps into the shower with an umbrella and rides to work on a unicorn: My absolute favorite director, Mr. Quentin f****ng Tarantino (excuse the stars).

In fact, Tarantino is the only director whose movies get me hyped up every single time, and the only one whose movie releases I will always mark in my calendar. So I’m really excited to write about him. “Pulp Fiction” is such a fun, smart, engaging movie, and it shows Tarantino at his best – the perfect example to demonstrate the addictive power of details.

Get 4 More Examples How Tarantino Sneakily Introduces Detail to Dialogue:

I also have a free goodie for you. In it, find 4 more ways to introduce details in your dialogue in a totally natural way. Each of these suggestions includes one more example from “Pulp Fiction.”

Free Download: 4 Ways to Add Detail to Your Dialogue

No spam, ever.

Now let’s see how to make the best use of details to get your readers excited.

The Basic Idea

Creative WritingWhen Should I Add Details?

Thanks for asking. The short answer is: Always! Dig in, grab as many details as you can, and stuff them into your story like you were filling up a Thanksgiving turkey – you greedy, greedy writer you!

Which leads us to the second question:

Can It Ever Be Too Many Details?

Short answer: Yes, but you will probably not have this problem. For most writers, especially beginning writers, it’s a very theoretical problem to have.

It’s like asking: Can I have too much money?

Yes, absolutely, and with a lot of money a whole different set of problems will come into your life (wallet too heavy to carry; running out of rubber bands to hold your bills, etc.). But still, that’s a theoretical question, because most of us have the opposite problem. Just like most of us pay too little attention to detail in their stories.

Nevertheless, to be totally clear and before Tarantino showers you with his tickling details, here are two signs you are using too many details in your scene:

1. Your Details are Distracting

Read your scene. If you lose what your scene is about for a moment, because you are so focused on the details, that’s not a good thing. It means your details cover up your story and distract your reader. The relation of details to main thread has gotten out of hand. Time to cut back on the details.

2. Your Details are Boring

It could be that your details just can’t hold the readers’ attention. The common term we use for this is “boring.” If you read through your story and you get the nagging feeling of “When do we finally get back to the point?”, then it’s too many or just too uninteresting details.

The more time you spend writing your stories, the better your feeling for details and how many to include will become. I bet you are an avid reader and/or writer. Trust your sense for detail. You will know.

A highly effective plotting tip you have never heard about

The Master’s Way to Do It

Creative WritingAfter telling you what not to do, it’s time to lay out a plan for what to actually do.

You can include details on several levels of your story. Let’s start with the broadest scale and work ourselves down to the most specific cases.

1. Add an Entire Scene

The biggest element you can add to your story would be an entire scene, a “detail of plot,” so to speak.

Now why on earth should you do this? Doesn’t everybody and their mother tell you to tighten your plotline like flabby cheeks on an operating table for plastic surgery?

It is indeed a tricky thing to do, and in case of doubt better keep away from this delicate surgical operation on your story. But if you know what you are doing, it will make for a nice little additional ornament.

Your extra scene works for you in two ways: It entertains in itself, often with its very own (unimportant) mini-story inside a story. Plus it delays the overall plot and therefore gets your audience even more eager to know what will happen.

Just make sure to keep your extra scene short enough so it doesn’t become too distracting. Also justify your scene. The fact that your storyline is following your protagonist is oftentimes justification enough. But making too big of a jump in space, time, or between characters could look very much out of place and make your audience scratch their heads.

Creative Writing

And how does Tarantino do it?

Look at “Pulp Fiction” and the scene of Butch and his girlfriend Fabienne in the motel room (it’s actually three back-to-back scenes that feel like a single one). Butch is a boxer who was bribed to lose a fight. Instead of losing, he has killed his opponent and is now on the run.

The entire scene, except for its ending, is completely unnecessary for the plot, and it’s a long scene too (15 pages). But it adds oh so much spice to the screenplay.

I will leave it up to you to discuss whether this scene is too long or not. But look at what it does with the audience:

We, the viewers, are on the edges of our seats to know how that cat-and-mouse game between Butch and the gangsters he scammed will play out. But Tarantino doesn’t just tell us and kill all the tension. Instead, he brings in an interruption. He demonstrates at length the lovey-dovey relationship between Butch and Fabienne. He shows us the sweet talk. The teasing. The cutesy ideas. Their trust. How they deal with looming danger. Fabienne’s fragile and loving character. Their future projections and fantasies.

And finally, when we are knee-deep into their cotton-candy version of a relationship, Tarantino hits us hard with the shocker: Fabienne has forgotten to take Butch’s precious watch with her, so Butch has to return to their apartment, where the gangsters might be waiting for him. Emotionally, it feels like stepping out of a warm bubble bath and into the snow…


One highly effective plot writing secret you have never heard about

So while we are following the relationship of the couple and get served entertaining bits and tidbits, we constantly feel danger lurking in the background. These two elements keep the scene exciting, even though the scene doesn’t advance the plot at all.

Praised be Tarantino!

2. Add Details of Scenery

Moving right along to the next smaller unit, let’s take a look at how we can make things interesting within a single scene. There are many unique ways to take advantage of a setting.

You can either put the entire setting into an unusual environment: Think of two locations that usually don’t go together and connect them in a way that still makes sense.

A real estate office at a castle? That’s because the realtor is a count.

A library on a boat? It’s actually an art experiment. Don’t drown in the alphabet soup.

Just cross two locations and run with the hybrid.

Creative WritingYou could also take a common setting and spice it up with uncommon details. Tarantino demonstrates this in the restaurant scene between Vince and Mia. Whereas many screenwriters would just have this scene play out in a plain restaurant not more distinctive than the ordinary pub at your street corner, Tarantino goes totally over the top with it (which has to be expected…):


Compared to the interior, the exterior was that of a quaint English pub. Posters from 50’s A.I.P. movies are all over the wall […]. The booths that the patrons sit in are made out of the cut up bodies of 50’s cars.

In the middle of the restaurant is a dance floor. A big sign on the wall states, “No shoes allowed.” Some wannabe beboppers (actually Melrose-types), do the twist in their socks or barefeet.

The picture windows don’t look out the street, but instead, B & W movies of 50’s street scenes play behind them. The WAITRESSES and WAITERS are made up as replicas of 50’s icons: MARILYN MONROE, ZORRO, JAMES DEAN, DONNA REED, MARTIN and LEWIS, and THE PHILIP MORRIS MIDGET, wait on tables wearing appropriate costumes.

Vincent and Mia study the menu in a booth made out of a red ’59 Edsel. BUDDY HOLLY (their waiter), comes over, sporting a big button on his chest that says: “Hi I’m Buddy, pleasing you pleases me.”


Cut-up cars for booths? Dancefloor without shoes? Buddy Holly as waiter?

What a plethora of details! The scene gets interesting before even a single line of dialogue is uttered. This is how you let your creativity off the chain and add another layer to your story.

But you have many more opportunities to add detail. Let’s see what happens when you…

3. Add Details to Characters

We are zooming in on characters now. The more details you add to a figure, the more vividly she will appear in front of your reader’s gawking mental eye. Here are some effective ways to refine your characters:

A. Add a Character Trait

Add more details to your characters’ personalities, and they will intrigue your readers more. It’s just like in real life. If Herbert is your close co-worker and Answan works in another department, chances are you will know more details about Herbert and thus care about him more.

Creative WritingTarantino lends an unexpected trait to his cold-blooded killer Vincent (John Travolta). Vincent tends to take things personally and is easily offended. You can see it towards the end of the screenplay, when he complains to Mr. Wolf, who is just saving their asses, that “A ‘please’ would be nice.” Who would have known this hard-boiled hitman can behave like a spoiled princess?

Vincent’s princess-behavior also shows shortly after, when he and Jules have to clean the blood trenched car. Vince just shot a guy in that car by accident, so the mess is his fault. Nevertheless, he is easily ticked off by Jules’ comments:


I got a threshold, Jules. I got a

threshold for the abuse I’ll take.

And you’re crossin’ it. I’m a race

car and you got me in the red. Redline

7000, that’s where you are. Just

know, it’s fuckin’ dangerous to be

drivin’ a race car when it’s in the

red. It could blow.


Vincent, one of the main characters, has just gained an interesting facet. But the savvy screenwriter is able to add a quick brushstroke even to minor characters.

Taxi driver Esmerelda only appears in one single scene; she picks up Butch when he makes a getaway from his boxing fight.

Silence, as Butch digs in his bag for a t-shirt.


What does it feel like?


(finds his shirt)

What does what feel like?


Killing a man. Beating another man

to death with your bare hands.


Esmarelda gets excited by danger and death. Just this one piece of information alone makes her a lot more interesting to us and fits to the theme perfectly. You can add to your figures’ value massively by just adding a small detail.

B. Add a Quirk

If you add a plain habit or mannerism, your characters gain depth. This is really simple to do.

Want another Tarantino example?

Creative WritingHow about Vince once again, in the same restaurant scene we described above. During dinner, he is pointing at the waiters with his fork. Bad manners! We smirk about him, but the director/screenwriter just amplified his personality in our minds. Devious, devious director…

C. Add a Detail in Looks

What is the first thing you notice about a person? It’s their looks. Looks are a quick and subtle way to show who your characters are. In fact,One highly effective plot writing secret you have never heard about (Pulp Fiction Examples) actors can’t help it but to look somehow. Everybody has looks (and let’s hope they have good ones).

For screenplays, describing your character’s looks is extremely effective. But even in novels, description can make your readers visualize vividly. Once you paint that image in your readers’ head, it will pop up again and again like a jack-in-the-box, every time the character reappears.

You can describe your characters’ height, body type, hair fashion, tattoos, etc… You can also describe their attire: Trench coat? Suit? Ruffled skirt? Sport shoes? Stained t-shirt? Hat? High heels? Elbow patches? Goofy glasses? Take your pick.

Creative WritingWhen Butch first appears, it says he “sits at a table wearing a red and blue high school athletic jacket.” That’s very fitting for a professional boxer and a simpler, sporty guy. Or could you imagine him in a long, elegant leather coat?

No, that would be as fitting as a squirrel at a chess club.

D. Add a Prop for a Detail

Another interesting way to add a layer to your characters are props. Put a pipe in his mouth, or one of these little yapper dogs into her lap, or let her drive a pink car or grow weed in shoe boxes on her window sill. All of these items are statements about your characters.

Creative WritingAt the very end of “Pulp Fiction,” we learn that the words “Bad Motherfucker” are imprinted on Jules’ wallet. That should tell you something; precisely that he doesn’t give a f…avor. An entire character, clearly and spectacularly described by a simple prop.

4. Add Details to Your Dialogue

Now it gets super interesting. If we worked with carrier pigeons so far, we are now delivering our messages with container ships. By adding details to your dialogue, you can improve your dialogue and even improve your overall scene by a lot. And it’s soooo much fun to add this micro-layer to the words your character speaks. You can get really creative with it; I will show you exactly how.

This is the one big principle you have to bear in mind: Don’t let your character directly reply to the other speaker, but instead let her take a little detour.

What the heck does that mean?

If Floyd says “Let’s go to eat at McDonald’s!” (which you should never, ever do by the way), and Sandra replies “Let’s do it, I’m hungry,” or “No way, I just ate there yesterday,” then she has replied directly (bad!).

But what if Sandra replies “You are so boring, you always go to the same food places!” (snide remark) or “Ha ha, you won’t believe what happened to Angelina at McDonald’s last week!” (introduction to storytelling) or “Why do you like McDonald’s so much?” (curiosity/personal inquiry), then she doesn’t answer Floyd’s enthusiastic call directly. Instead, she is taking a little detour, adding detail to her dialogue. And that’s where things get interesting.

What’s really exciting is that you have a million possible ways to insert little detours into your dialogue. At any given moment, a million possible things could come to your character’s mind. Play with them!

We can’t ever make a complete list of how to add detail in dialogue, but here are three examples of how Tarantino does it. If this isn’t enough for you, you can download four more examples below for free.

1. Invitation/Flirt

Let’s go back to that restaurant scene, because we love it and we want more of it.

Creative WritingOn one occasion, Vincent wants to taste Mia’s drink. But instead of him just taking a sip, a little flirt around the use of her straw ensues. Watch how this detour unfolds in all its glory:


Can I have a sip of that? I’d like

to know what a five-dollar shake

tastes like.


Be my guest.

 She slides the shake over to him.


You can use my straw, I don’t have


 Vincent smiles.


Yeah, but maybe I do.


Kooties I can handle.

 He takes a sip.


These lines have a lot of subtext (can you read it?) and represent the little back-and-forward dance that is flirting. Vincent could have just asked and tasted it. But instead Tarantino uses another entertaining detail in his dialogue.

One highly effective plot writing secret you have never heard about (Pulp Fiction Examples)

2. Misunderstanding/Tease

Sometimes the difference between a misunderstanding and a tease is a fine line. You wonder whether your opposite really doesn’t understand, or just prefers not to understand (actually, you might know this situation from arguments with your parents or your children…).

Vincent and Jules have a love/hate relationship. They constantly get in each Creative Writingother’s hair. It also happens in the following scene, when Vince asks a question. Jules first replies to Vincent’s question with a question on his own, then Vincent replies with an answer he wasn’t asked about, and Jules again teases him about his answer:


I think her biggest deal was she

starred in a pilot.


What’s a pilot?


Well, you know the shows on TV?


I don’t watch TV.


Yes, but you’re aware that there’s

an invention called television, and

on that invention they show shows?




Finally! Vincent gives a direct answer (but even this direct answer is meant in an ironic way). Jules in turn answers Vincent’s original question and finally explains what a pilot is. Well, he could have explained that much earlier. But better not; better enjoy a spicy dialogue scene.

3. Storytelling

Now back to that famous restaurant scene one last time, because it also holds an excellent example of storytelling for us. Storytelling means one of your characters is telling an interesting little mini-plot, a story within the story to hook the audience, while they wait for your main scene to continue.

You can hook your audience easily if your mini-story explores the personality of the character who is telling it. Everybody wants to hear stories about people.

Creative WritingMia tells Vincent about the TV pilot she starred in:


What was your specialty?


Knives. The character I played, Raven

McCoy, her background was she was

raised by circus performers. So she

grew up doing a knife act. According

to the show, she was the deadliest

woman in the world with a knife. But

because she grew up in a circus, she

was also something of an acrobat.

She could do illusions, she was a

trapeze artist – when you’re keeping

the world safe from evil, you never

know when being a trapeze artist’s

gonna come in handy. And she knew a

zillion old jokes her grandfather,

an old vaudevillian, taught her. If

we woulda got picked up, they woulda

worked in a gimmick where every

episode I woulda told an old joke.


Do you remember any of the jokes?


Well I only got the chance to say

one, ’cause we only did one show.


Tell me.


No. It’s really corny.


And now we want to know about the joke, even though it has nothing to do with the main plot. Another sweet detour. We won’t get to hear it until the end of the “chapter” though. What a tease Tarantino is.

In the screenplay, Mia’s entire story is quite long. For your purposes, better err on the shorter side. And what does this story reveal about charming Mia? Can you guess?

Even though her TV show character is fictional, the role she got assigned tells us a lot about the type of girl she is: Adventurous, self-determined, capable, and a bit mysterious. She describes herself in a very indirect and gripping way, and we are hooked.

Now there are a million more ways to add details to your dialogue, but this post is getting really long. I’m not including more here, but I created a little extra cheat sheet for you with 4 more ways to add details to your dialogue and one “Pulp Fiction” example each. You can instantly download it for free:

Free Download: 4 Ways to Add Detail to Your Dialogue

No spam, ever.


The Writing Prompt

writing promptsTry this prompt and make adding details your second nature:

Gordon is a jolly hairdresser running his barbershop. The shop and him are one big blank though. This is where you come in to let your creativity run wild and add all the fun details. Give his shop an unusual setting, and fill that setting with details, just like in the restaurant scene above.

Some suggestions to inspire you: What’s unusual about his barbershop? Where is it located? What does it look like? What are the employees like? The customers? What does everyday life look like?

Or describe Gordon. Supply him with another character trait besides being jolly. Describe his looks. Give him a quirk and one special prop, if you like. He will say a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ for making him a real human being.

Or show Gordon doing the hair of one of his customers, who is telling him about her last vacation. Write a short dialogue and include a little detour (misunderstanding, feeling offended, small story, whatever…).

No need to write an entire scene, just jot down these fragments.

Oh, and watch “Pulp Fiction”! It might motivate you to insert many more creative details into your stories…

One highly effective plot writing secret you have never heard about (Pulp Fiction Examples)

Wrapping it up for you to go

Details are amazing. Details are the best. They will make your story sound 1000% better. Introduce them anywhere you can: Insert an interesting new scene to delay your plot. Add details to your settings. Lend your characters additional traits. Give them a prop, some detail in their appearance, maybe a quirk for good measure. Don’t let your dialogue run in a straight line, but take detours with counter-questions, absent-mindedness, misinterpretations, or whatever else you can think of.

Adding details is so much fun! Once you know where your story is going, you can focus on the nuances and let your quirky, imaginative self run wild with details. And reading details in stories is so much fun too. Details are what really excites your reader, and if you present a detailed and sparkling world to him, he will be intrigued to no end, devour your story like candy and love you forever…

Image Credits: Header Image: Chris Cooper, Instagram: ctcoops555; Devil: MaryValery/Shutterstock; Romance: Ganna Demchenko/Shutterstock; PF Movie Poster: Old Red Jalopy,; Mia on Burger Poster:  James Stayte,; Quentin Tarantino: Eric Rolon,

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37 Remarkable Comments. Join in!


  1. Babbs

    Interesting, entertaining, and informative posting. The section concerning adding details to dialogue was enlightening; a real eye-opener. Thanks.
    By the way, how do current subscribers receive the offered downloads?

  2. Anthony Metivier

    I’m really spare – even more spare than P.K. Dick in my prose. People say my recent novels read like screenplays.

    I suppose I write in this way because I skip the details in books I read. I wind up imagining things my own way no matter what authors say. Stephen King mentions this about clothes in On Writing … readers tend to create it themselves, if they bother at all.

    Great use of Tarantino here, by the way. Very detailed! ;)

    1. Alex

      Hey Anthony! That’s another way of doing it, a different style: Just leaving out the details altogether. Jorge Luis Borges comes to mind, his “The Aleph” reads more like the plot summary of a story. Leaves ample room for imagination.

  3. Pamela

    Here’s a piece of my own. I hope you like it. Only 1011 words.

    The Beatnik stood outside under an awning facing tonight’s venue watching the crowd trying to avoid the freezing rain hustling into the underground bar waiting for the moment to arise. Until then she hid in the shadows hunched in an oversized coat, galoshes, and an old cap stuffed low on her head. A couple passed her wearing the uniform of the “artsy” crowd skinny black jeans, black turtlenecks, and peacoats protected by a black golf umbrella. The Beatnik lit a forbidden cigarette, the woman looked down her long slim nose, wrinkling it at the filthy habit not noticing the person holding the offending tobacco. It was probably an ugly homeless boy. The Beatnik smiled. They were part of the crowd, going to a poetry reading in an illegal bar filled with smoke and booze far away from the laws put in place to protect the protect the people from their own selves. The Beatnik waited as she slowly savored her cigarette, the moment would come soon.

    A bedraggled nurse stumbled by, dead on her feet from her typical horrid day that usually lasted thirty-six hours. Today was worse, it lasted forty-eight. Most of it being held by the inept police suspecting her of murdering a patient. Her head still ached from the bludgeon the real killer had used to subdue her. She could still taste the coppery stench of blood on her even after a disinfecting shower and put on clean clothes from her locker. She needed rest and a drink or three before she walked home twenty blocks and six stories to her apartment where the wind rattled the windows which barely kept the cold out. A flash of light caught her attention as a beautifully dressed couple furtively stepped into the underground bar. She needed an escape for maybe a couple of hours.

    The Beatnik slipped in behind the nurse and took her place behind the readers of the Greats and other poets who would read their own opuses. When the poet before her stepped onto the stage, she carefully stubbed her cigarette carefully saving the butt. It was a habit left over from the days when she could only afford a pack of cigs on payday.
    As the last poet stepped onto the stage and into the spotlight, the beatnik slipped out of her oversized coat revealing the gracile body of a dancer. She peeled the cap from her head exposing her henna-colored hair and heart-shaped face. Kicking her boots from her feet, she slipped into shiny red ballet flats she had pulled from one of her deep coat pockets.
    The crowd snapped their fingers as the last poet finished clutching his opus in his hands lest the precious thing be forgotten. Their eyes hooded in an alcoholic stupor as the smoke from their forgotten cigarettes dangling lazily from their lips snaked its way over their heads drifting in tendrils in the spotlight over the stage, the cinders dropping unnoticed onto the table tops.

    The poet stepped from the stage and saw who was left in line, “The Beatnik,” he breathed. The exclamation circulated the room. She was never in one place for long, and she was here. The affected boredom evaporated. She was a legend.

    The beatnik glided onto the stage and into the spotlight with cat-like grace, the stale smoke wreathed her like a halo. She wore black capris revealing her ankles and slight curves, a black and white striped tee shirt with the sleeves pushed up her arms, a vee neckline highlighting her pixie face, and a red square scarf tied around her neck. Her light hazel eyes sparked as she a smiling gaze over the chablis and chardonnay crowd as she looked for her audience. The nurse was tucked away from the pretty people in a back booth sipping her second whiskey sour. She focused on her. The unworthy crowd fell away from her consciousness as she focused on her audience. The Beatnik was in her element.
    A single microphone stood in the center of the stage, she adjusted it to her petite height. She brought her crimson lips close enough to kiss the mic. She closed her eyes as the mused stirred within her. Her raspy voice uttered the words her audience needed to hear, to feel. The moment was now.

    The Beatnik’s words built in her soul and she released them to the universe in rhyming couplets that existed only now drifting over the crowd touching her audience. She was only the vessel of her muse as her audience’s soul reached for the beauty of the poetry spun and woven just for her. In the moment of her profound despair when she was considering ending it all she entered this bar this night, she pushed the cocktail aside and leaned into the words flowing into her. The Beatnik’s words mingled with her unspoken prayers that lifted the nurse out of the dire routine of death and dying that made up her world. The weight of the years bending her shoulders lifted as the words found what was left of her inner strength. She found hope again as the words existed and evaporated around her. The nurse smiled.

    The crowd sat in stunned silence as the words floated meaningless over them. A few of their number sat taller and catching their meaning and beauty. But most of the crowd sat smugly satisfied that the Beatnik appeared only for them. The beauty was lost to them that chose not to hear it. When asked later, they would remember nothing of it.

    The Beatnik finished and slipped unseen by the crowd from the spotlight. Only the nurse acknowledged her with a smile and nod, she glowed with inner peace. She shrugged into her oversized coat tucking the flats in her pocket, stuffed the cap low on her head and tugging on her galoshes. She lit the but of her cigarette as the bar manager handed her portion of the reader’s profits. She opened the door ready to go where her muse led her.

    1. Hannah

      Wow! It took me a while to get into it, the first paragraph was confusing to me, but then it caught me, especially when I remembered the earlier part of the nurse’s story from a different comment of yours here (it is that one, right? Where she wakes up with the patient’s blood dripping on her? Couldn’t forget it!)
      The only thing that got me confused were the ‘she’s – I was never sure if it was the nurse or the Beatnik or someone else. I guess this could be because the POV isn’t so defined, you switch between them a lot.
      (just noticed your piece was posted a year ago. Enjoy it now :)

      1. Pamela DG

        Thank-you Hannah. That first paragraph was hard. The story came to me while I was at work during a jazz concert. I forget who the headliner was, but the jazz stayed with me. I’ve since edited and expanded it to help clear up that problem. I’m glad you stayed with me.

        Yes, the nurse was from the “How to begin your novel” exercise. Both these entries come from a darker place than where I usually write. However, the Beatnik and Nurse may make other appearances that may lead to a dystopian noir story that is percolating in the back of my mind. A detective is impatiently waiting for me to let him loose to solve the murder and perhaps find a HEA with the nurse, Elise.

        As my mentor can attest, I do struggle with POV shifts. When my WIP (or 3) is complete, I’ll be looking for beta readers to help me fix the POV problems before I send it to an editor. It would be nice if my editing program could note those so I can clear them up before sharing! :)

  4. Pamela

    I’ve never read the authors you referred to above. But I have seen film noir. Writing this was very similar to writing a sermon or homily.

    Thanks again.

      1. Pamela

        What does a writer do on a holiday weekend after flagging veterans graves not tended by families of their own? After, visiting and eating with family members and neighbors? I wrote a lot over Memorial Day. Now, I’m back to my busy routine. I’ve never written a prompt, but I’ll try. I’ll add it in my own time.

  5. Mary

    Spot on! The very issue I grappled with all afternoon, and even if I can’t stand (sorry) Tarantino because of his tendency to ‘get it wrong’ in the portrayals of main characters (he’s better at the minor ones)–maybe something about ego gone wrong–your goading us to detail, especially in dialog, is hilariously like my real-life granddaughter who has developed the art of going off on another line and MAKING you follow! And the details of what people are doing–I used the description of how to make a very intricate kind of dumpling in a recent short story and it got picked as best and published this month–the description was even pointed out by the judge–because I think it turned out pretty mouth-watering. So description that drives the senses and makes us follow, tongues out and ready to taste. Thanks!

  6. Lance Haley

    Alright, Alex. You just ruined my day…

    I have always had a difficult time getting into Pulp Fiction. In spite of the fact that every one of my buddies, as well as my brother, cannot understand why. Of course, I liked Reservoir Dogs. And True Romance.

    Guess I’m going to make myself sit down and watch Pulp Fiction from beginning to end. And take notes. All because “Alex told me to…” :)

    Thanks, as always, for your poignantly detailed insight. Pun intended.

    1. Alex

      Hi Lance, I can’t tell if you mean the second to last paragraph ironically. If you do: I sincerely hope you don’t always follow all things people on the internet tell you to. It makes for a pretty sad life.

      And if you don’t, then good choice, and (try to) have fun!

  7. Lance Haley

    Sorry if my writing wasn’t clear. I was being ironic, Alex.

    Not sure why the movie never grabbed me. But now I am going to sit down and watch it with a whole new set of eyes. Particularly given the way you explained how Tarantino used detail to draw his viewers into these scenes. I’m actually rather excited about seeing it now that you have dissected some of those salient moments in his film. Storytelling at its finest.

    Thanks for the great advice…

    1. Alex

      I see, and I’m glad that you liked the post that much!

      I studied law for two years (but never finished my studies). It’s funny that writing for matters of law is pretty much the opposite of writing fiction dialogue: One is about being very logical, to the point and meticulous, and the other one is about thinking sloppily and not talking on point – just following human nature.

      1. Will Bontrager

        Probably having a mind that’s trained in a non-creative discipline helps when it comes to creative writing. There is a depth of perception that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

        But it may also be a hindrance until residence of the duo in the mind is comfortable.

        I have 20+ years of computer programming experience. There is some creativity in computer programming. Really, there is, but the creativity is within volumes of “must do it this way”.

        During those years, I wrote lots of technical articles that often required creativity to construct sentences that explained a concept yet weren’t so dry a person had to reach for a sip of wine before finishing the paragraph.

        Both of those are enjoyed with feelings of satisfaction and being on purpose. And I continue to pursue them.

        My foray into short fiction was liberating, a release from the restrictive nature of my other pursuits. Basic story structure became easy. Of course. It was a resonance of my experience.

        Plotting, however, is tough for me. My inclination is to present a problem, have the protagonist solve it, and be done with it — the direct method I’m used to. My tough learning is the creative introduction of plot points, inner stories, and unexpected situations that compel the protagonist toward where a solution can be seen. It seems like introducing gratuitous delaying action when a person could step right into the ending, instead, without all that in-between rigamarole. Suspension of logical sense seems to be required.

        Alex, this article has revealed a tool that I’ve already found useful and I think will make plotting much easier. It is perhaps not exactly what you intended the message to be — introducing the unexpected, throwing a wrench into the machinery (perhaps dropped into the machine from a drone), a beautiful butterfly fluttering by that somehow reminds the protagonist of a bumblebee sting when they were a kid — things that somehow throw the protagonist off track even though it seems the off track is the true track.

        Thank you.

        This is the best author’s learning website I have found.


        1. Alex

          Yes, Will, that’s a left side/right side of the brain problem. If you have spent a lot of years training the logical side, then using the intuitive side is harder.

          But you can also take advantage of the logical side when you go for creative endeavors: Especially in the outline stage and (even more so) in the editing stage. When you check your story, and sometimes also when you create its basic construction, it’s good to take a clear rational look at it.

          While writing the first draft, on the other hand, it’s better to keep your thinker in check.

          “This is the best author’s learning website I have found.” —> Thank you, that means a lot! And knowing pretty much all other creative writing websites in English, I can’t say I disagree with you that it’s the best one.

  8. Chris

    It’s sometimes good to insert a scene which completely contrasts the tone of the book.

    My ‘Lena’s Friends’ crime novel – ‘Selected’ : “Perverts, or not, Constable… Murder is still murder, OK?” – is about a serial killer who preys on pædophiles in a particularly nasty way. The other main (connected) thread involves the grooming of young girls into underaged prostitution. The police officers and many supporting characters tend to err towards the earthier side of polite society, and much of the narrative and dialogue reflects this.

    As a contrast, I wrote the following scene in a more tranquil, even pastoral, style more suited to a romance than a murder story (though still relevant to another, also connected, thread of the plot).

    To set the scene, the girl has been working at a massage parlour as a means to ensnare new converts to a bizarre Christian cult… a spin off of the old Californian ‘Children of God’, who once used ‘flirty fishing’ techniques to lure lonely men with a promise of free love and salvation. The UK based spin-off group are reverting to the original ethos of the cult.

    The man was a punter of the girl’s, who has fallen for her undoubted charms. Their relationship has moved beyond the commercial basis it began as.

    From ‘SELECTED’ (

    Debbie Lovegrove lay back on the grass and gazed up at the almost cloudless blue sky. A bird performed its virtuoso wonders from the tree that had once provided a little shade, until the sun had moved across the sky as the day wore on.

    It was one of those afternoons when the spirit of summer herself seemed to be singing. There was an almost imperceptible warm droning in the background, overlaid with lighter tones, while the more delicate notes of birdsong provided an upper register.

    Had she tried to analyse the sounds, she’d have realised that the identifiable humming of insects going about their day, were being backed up by the incessant but muted noise of the distant M5 motorway as between them they accompanied the feathered soloist that had been delighting her ears.

    She turned her head at the sound of a breaking twig, to see Samuel emerging from a nearby clump of bushes while zipping up his flies. She grinned at him.

    “Better, Samuel?” His need for modesty while relieving himself had amused her.

    “Much better, my dear… It’s that Coca-Cola stuff. It always goes straight through me.” He grabbed a plastic carrier bag from the ground and gathered up the wrappings and cartons that had once contained fried chicken with all the trimmings, but now only contained gnawed bones, cold chips, and greasy tissues.

    The girl laughed at him, as he stuffed the rubbish into the bag. To his ears, her laughter was like music. This was their second meeting away from the parlour: a fast food picnic in the country.

    He’d even polished his car for the occasion, as borne out by the sun glinting brightly off the gleaming paintwork from where it was parked in the field’s gateway. He was sure he was falling in love, but no one fell in love with a working girl from a massage parlour, did they?

    “Consideration for the environment, Sammy.” She smiled warmly. “That’s the sign of a caring man, you know? And I do love a caring man.” She gently patted the grass alongside her with her hand, “Come back here, lover.” She delicately ran the tip of her pink tongue along her slightly parted lips. “And I’ll show you just how much.” The expression on her face promised unimaginable delights.

    Samuel wedged the bag of rubbish under the discarded jacket on the ground, despite there being no wind to blow it away. Laying down on his back beside the girl, he turned his head to look at her.

    She rolled onto her side and kissed him, while reaching down to the zipper he’d only recently closed.

    1. Hannah

      oops, posted twice – it’s a comment on Pamela’s post above. Can you remove it Alex? And thanks for another gripping article full of details :D

  9. Lola WIlcox

    “Hiya, Gordon! Business looks good.” The Senator waves at the four chairs, each with a customer in them. All four barbers wore white shirts, ties, and a folded waiter’s apron over dark pants; they looked like eight barbers because of the mirrors which lined the entire shop from the counters up. At the top the hotel’s trademark chandeliers sparkled; the one in the mirror glowed.
    “I’ll just be a second, Sir,” the barber in the farthest chair said, flipping the white linen cloth from his customer with his left hand while brushing the last hair from the man’s fat neck with his right. Gordon glared at his new man, leaping in that like. Didn’t he have any sense of place. All the top pols were served by Gordon. He should have made the Senator wait.
    “You’re new here?” the Senator said, sliding into the chair as the new man pocketed his substantial tip, nodding thanks to his customer.
    “I am, Sir. Very grateful to be working in this famous hotel. I’m grateful Gordon gave me a chance.”

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