Jeff Gerke Notes

Focus on the Craft: CHARACTER (45)

  • Create interesting characters who don’t sound like you.
  • Create a likable protagonist, something the reader can build on.
  • Character arc: the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story.
  • Establish your protagonist, and other characters as well.
  • The ‘ticking time bomb’ is building suspense in the story.
  • 3 no-nos of Christian fiction:
    • Deus ex machine (God from the machine).
      • Ending must be built into the beginning.
      • Plant and payoff, don’t plant if unless you’re going to use it.
    • No sermons in the middle of a story.
    • Bad boy gets saved, end of story.
  • Show, don’t tell. Description is not telling.

Focus on the Craft: POINT OF VIEW (141)

  • Establish your POV right away.
  • Omniscient POV: in everybody’s head. lazy.
  • Third-person POV: he-said/she-said.
  • First-person POV: “I” and “me” POV. A great time to choose first person is when you’re writing about someone very different and distant from your typical reader, but to whom you want that reader to feel close.
  • Mixing POVs: Choose one character to be the first-person character and use third-person for all the others in the scene/story. Don’t do more than one first-person viewpoint in the same book.

Focus on the Craft: DESCRIPTION (163)

  • Every setting, every character must be described fully for the reader. If you can’t imagine the scene, neither can the reader.
    • Generic descriptors: stadium, desert, closet and cockpit.
    • Establishing shot: what am I looking at? Where am I? Who’s with me? Describe.
    • Comparison: Word picture or simile of what the place looks like.
    • Lighting:indoor/outdoor, day/night and the weather.
    • Detail: Bits and pieces to set the setting. Odd pieces of furniture, plus full sensory sweep. What do I hear,smell, taste, feel and see in this setting?
    • Place the players on the stage. Place the players on the stage as soon as the scene starts so the reader will know as if they are in the scene.
    • Describe actual places. Get on the web or visit the library for information about the actual location.
    • Beats: a pause in the story. Keeps the scene from being rushed, tells the readers the character’s actions.
    • Plants and payoffs: don’t plant it if you’re not going to use it. Avoid a payoff without a plant.

Focus on the Craft: DIALOGUE (195)

  • Stick with “said” or “asked” and not a myriad of others.
  • Great dialogue is layered.
  • Great dialogue is right for the character.
  • Good dialogue is good for the moment.
  • Don’t let characters say things to one another that they both already know.
  • Don’t use telling in quotation marks, using back story and surrounding it with quotes.
  • Profanity: use euphemisms instead.

Senses: aroma of paint, tar, freshly brewed coffee or jasmine tea. Bring reality to your story, allow the reader to hear locusts chirping, a trumpeter practicing, the crunch of dry leaves underfoot. Offer a taste of the delicate flavor of veal or soggy french fries cooked in stale grease. Sit in a chair that’s coarse and scratchy, or one that’s luxuriously  soft. By appearing to senses, you give your story mood, texture and color.