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How to improve your writing: A Basic Technique

Updated on May 16, 2008

How do I improve my story?

Maybe you've finished your latest fictional works, but you just aren't satisfied. If you're looking for a way to really improve the emotional impact at specific moments in your story, this technique, which I will refer to as a snapshot, can completely change a story for the better.

A snapshot is a simple writing technique that can add emotion to a story. It is a small and simple writing technique that will help you write better, but at the same time it will make your story better.

The best part is that a snapshot is simple and quick to implement in a story, but if done well, it can breathe new life into a dead story. Read on to discover what a snapshot is, how you should implement it, and more!

Starting off: Power of Words

How you can harness the power

Words are a powerful tool. When you give a writer who really knows how to use words to create a beautiful picture a pencil, he'll be able to influence a wide range of people. Take Uncle Tom's Cabin for example. Uncle Tom's Cabin was written back before the Civil War. It was an anti-slavery piece of fiction, and it did wonders in firing up people. Abolisionists grew in numbers, and anti-slavery beliefs spread. When Abraham Lincoln first met the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, he said, "So, this is the little lady who made this big war." That's how powerful words can be.

And let's be honest, fiction has a way of creating a deep connection with people. I personally found Night by Elie Wiesel to be much more riveting than any textbook could ever hope to be. Books can help promote an understanding of certain topics, whether it be the horrors (A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer), the triumphs (Chicken Soup for the Soul Series), or maybe even the future (The Giver by Lois Lowry).

So, how do you go about making your pieces of writing more intriging? This is a technique I use called snapshots. It's a very basic tecnique, but it can do wonders for stories.

Riveting Stories to Check out

Here are some books that do a great job demonstrating how fiction (or narrative essays) can "grip" you. If you ever need some inspiration, pick up one of these books!

So, what exactly is a snapshot?

Learning how to create a snapshot

A snapshot is a basic tecnique, yet a tremendous aid to any piece of fiction when implimented correctly. A snapshot is basically a moment in a story where you take a temporarily stop from the plot to describe something specific in a story. Generally this can be used to create suspense or draw strong emotions out of the reader. It's a bit hard to explain, but you'll understand in once I give an example in a moment. For the sake of this example, I'm going to show you some before and after stuff.

When to add a snapshot

Whenever you feel your story is getting a bit dull, but you need to still build up to the plot, use a snapshot! Or if you want to add more emotion, feeling, and realism to a story.

Before adding a snapshot

This is an excerpt from a short story I wrote before revision and adding a snapshot:

I anxiously glanced around the room I was in. There was not much to see, just an old ripped bed with a washed out blanket. I continued to survey the room, trying to find something. Anything. After a bit of searching, I found a camera. I gazed at it for a moment, but felt unsettled by its stare. I diverted my gaze back to the blue walls, hoping to find some relief.

"I found a camera."

"I found a camera."
"I found a camera."

After Adding a Snapshot

Now, the excerpt I gave you above was a bit dull. In that specific excerpt, I tried to use the camera to add an eerie atmosphere to the story. Now, after I snapshot the camera:

I anxiously glanced around the room I was in. There was not much to see, just an old ripped bed with a washed out blanket. I continued to survey the room, trying to find something. Anything. After a bit of searching, I found a camera. Helplessly I glanced into its lens, hoping for some hint of emotion. Yet its stare was not affected by mine, and it still continued to watch me intently. I squirmed, trying hard not to think about it. Yet whenever I looked up, there it was. Its watchful eyes never faltered. Within a few minutes I regretted discovering it and I diverted my gaze back to the blue walls, hoping to find some relief.

---

Not the best, but even if you don't like my writing I'm sure you'll agree it did a much better job of conveying the atmosphere I was aiming for. The camera had no significance later in the story, but at the time it did a great job of expressing emotion. This can apply to any story. Maybe your character's walking down a road and finds a flower. Snap shot that flower for a realistic and potentially emotional (depending on how deep you go) moment. Or you can snap shot a major twist in your story you feel didn't convey enough suspense.

If the example didn't clarify what a snapshot is, I'll try to articulate further:

Take a scene from your story that you feel didn't have enough emotional impact, suspense, or realism. Once you have that sentence, expand on it. Try to get down every sense you can think of. My example didn't do a good job with this. How it made you feel, how it smelled, etc. It should be picture perfect. Depending on what emotion you want to convey will directly impact how you write your snapshot. Play around with it and find your own style - I've found that I do best working with emotions and sights in snapshots. There are others that write simply haunting snap shots on sound alone. Find where you write best!

When should I implement snap shots?

Anytime you feel you need to! Once you master this, you'll find it becomes easier and easier. I admit I am still mastering it, but it's a fun little tool that can expand your writing and entice readers.

Other hot reads, suggested by readers!

If you have any great books you've read lately, go ahead and click the "Add to this List" button to recommend your reads!

If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II, One American Officer's Riveting True Story
If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II, One American Officer's Riveting True Story

"If you survive your first day, I'll promote you."So promised George Wilson's World War II commanding officer in the hedgerows of Normandy -- and it was to be a promise dramatically fulfilled. From July, 1944, to the closing days of the war, from the first penetration of the Siegfried Line to the Nazis' last desperate charge in the Battle of the Bulge, Wilson fought in the thickest of the action, helping take the small towns of northern France and Belgium buildi...

 
Rescue in the Pacific: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in a Force 12 Storm
Rescue in the Pacific: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in a Force 12 Storm

In June of 1994 a dangerous "bomb" storm caught dozens of cruising sailors by surprise as they voyaged north from New Zealand. This is the true story of how nine yachts struggled to survive the hurricane-like conditions. Boats were battered by fierce winds and capsized by seas towering well over 50 feet high. Equipment was ripped loose, and water penetrated every weak point. Masts collapsed, rudders broke, and sailors lost steering control when they needed it most. The crews coped as b...

 

Leave any other tips or feedback here :).

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    • profile image

      pinkyverma 5 years ago

      Nice Sharing..am new to here and create a my first lense. pls tell me more effective tips.. http://www.squidoo.com/successful-sap-implementati...

      Thanks.

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      qlcoach 9 years ago

      Yeah for the snapshot. Thank you for sharing this. Feel free to interact at our lense too:

      http://www.squidoo.com/groups/publishingclub

      Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and therapist

    • profile image

      EricOlsen 9 years ago

      Thanks for the great tip! It should help cure writer's block and breathe fresh enthusiasm into the story.

    • Allison Whitehead profile image

      Allison Whitehead 9 years ago

      Welcome to my group! Great lens.

      Best wishes, Allison

    • profile image

      Dav1d0 9 years ago

      Hi, thanks for joining [url=http://www.squidoo.com/squidoovision]Squidoovision[/url] Good luck and keep rolling in the future ;)

    • profile image

      Histereo 9 years ago

      A fine piece of advice for the writers.

      The snapshot is really an innovative technique.

      3 stars for this lens.