Terry McMillan: Getting to Happy

Today’s Advice link is from Terry McMillan, author of Getting to Happy (Sept 2010), sequel to Waiting to Exhale.

Her thoughts for other writers on fiction, “Beginning writers often think because something really happened that it makes it more plausible. It doesn’t. It’s usually not as compelling as lying about how it happened. In other words: embellish, slant, make it crooked on the page. Tell it backwards. Fiction is not a reenactment of reality. It’s an exaggeration of it.”


Advice about voice, “First person is using “I” (of course). Limitations: Character can’t know what others are thinking. They can’t die. They can only be where they are, nowhere else! I LOVE 1st person. Characters flaws are easier to see, they appear more human but it feels more like you’re inside their head. Intimate. See through their eyes.

You can’t change/switch your point of view once it’s been established. It’s confusing and doesn’t make sense. Flare is the last thing you should be trying to accomplish. Throw that word in the trash. I don’t care what you’re writing. And what up and coming events? How do you know them already? There’s a danger in having too much planned and sorted out. Really.

You can have multiple characters all speaking or telling their story in first person. You just need to identify them for the reader, otherwise they might all sound alike, or it could make for confusion: who’s voice is this? Unless you know what you’re doing, I would hold off using this device. But who am I? IMPORTANT: A reader ALWAYS needs to know whose story this is. Who’s point of view are we seeing this story from. It’s crucial to how your story is being told.”

Read all of Terry McMillan’s Advice

Visit her site to view her work

 Writing Exercises at her site


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