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My Favorite Writing Trick

Hello everyone! Last time, I shared with you some good outside sources for learning about the technical and thematic aspects of writing fiction. In this post, I will share with you a tactic I love to see and use in fiction. Today, we will be talking about flavor text and specifically, fictional quotes.

Think about quotes in real life, you see them everywhere, don’t you? Whether it’s Gandhi telling you to be the change you wish to see, or Churchill mumbling something out government, quotes from historical figures are used to express worldly wisdom or carry cultural ideas all around the world. Since we keep the words of the wise with such dedication, wouldn’t it make sense that the imaginary worlds we wish to portray through the written word do the same?

Using quotes can do three things: contribute to the world’s three dimensionality, elaborate on the theme of a scene, and create a good cut between scenes.

Here is an example of a fictional quote:

“When you think of tanks, you think of metal, explosions. Power. When a general thinks of tanks, he thinks of gas, oil, food rations, ammo.” —Gen. Johan Keldon, Of Life and Shrapnel

If you opened a book and saw this quote without any context, what would this quote tell you? War must be a major subject, Johan Keldon must be important in the world of the story but not enough to be a main character, and the world must care about war enough for generals to author books about it.

You can stuff the typical quote full of delicious information, immersing your readers with your story’s shear detail and authenticity. Information isn’t all flavor text is meant for, as it can even help the reader read for longer.

If I were drafting a book with this quote somewhere in there, I would have it go between two different chapters; a chapter that ends with a battle, and a chapter that deals with the aftermath. If you read that book, and your favorite character died or the protagonists lost something important in the chaos, you would need a quick emotional breather. If you read a book in which every seen is full of tension and everyone’s’ lives are at stake, you’d either lose your immersion or your brain would get too tired to commit to long reading sessions. Inter-chapter flavor text allows the reader to get little breathers that don’t require putting the book down and potentially losing the momentum to keep reading.

You get all worked up from adrenaline or emotions, and when you’re flipping to the next chapter a little quote pops up to remind you that you’re a reader and you’re going to be alright.

Where you would not want flavor text would typically be between two scenes. Moving to the next chapter already causes enough of a shift in mood or pacing to lightly remind the reader that it’s just a book, so adding in flavor text won’t cause any disruptions and even make the shift more pleasant. Putting them in between scenes does the inverse of what I said in the earlier paragraph. Scenes tend to have little difference in setting and subject, meaning the transition from one scene to another won’t break pace enough to warrant flavor text like chapters do. Unless your gut is telling you to put it in, the safest choice is to stick it between chapters instead.

I hope my appreciation rubs off on you, and that you’ll be back next time!

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