Friday, October 30, 2009

Thought for the Day

Those who believe that they are exclusively in the right are generally those who achieve something.

Aldous Huxley

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where Am I?


Helen Haukeness in her article Setting Your Novel Straight, defines setting simply as "a backdrop against which your characters perform."

But, in reality, setting is a little more complicated than that. Mostly it's because of the problems that you may encounter with setting. We'll discuss those and with the help of some experts, the solutions.

According to Noah Lukeman in the First Five Pages, "setting itself becomes a character, interacting with the other characters."

As writers, we must understand that setting is a living entity of its own within our story. It changes, plies us with senses, and evokes mood. But, for an agent or editor looking at your manuscript, there are mistakes you can make with setting that will cause them to reject your story.

You must have setting in your story. If you don't that's your first problem. Some writers start their story with no hint of place or time leaving the reader in the dark as to where or when the story is set.

Then the opposite is also true. Some writers spend so much time opening their first scene with a description of setting that they've bored the reader and slowed the pace so much that the reader has given up on ever getting through your story. According to Noah Lukeman, "If you have a tendency to describe the setting all at once, try stretching it out over the course of several pages -- readers can't take in all that information at once anyway, and a setting will become more real if it unfolds slowly..."

According to Janet Evanovich, in How I Write, her opinion is to "Provide the setting and atmosphere information as close to the beginning of the book. This gives your reader a sense of where the characters live and work."

Judiciously, writers. Judiciously.

Helen Haukeness describes some frequently encountered problems with setting and identifies the solutions. I'll highlight the most obvious ones.

First of all, she indicates that writers fail to understand the depth of a setting. Ms Haukeness states that "A story's setting comprises more than buildings and roads and flora and mountains in the background. Setting involves an entire environment: furniture, weather, people, tools, toys, clutter, lighting, odors. In a word, details."

This is the biggest misconception I encounter with writers; involving all the senses and surroundings in setting their story. It's the easiest one to overlook because all the focus is on the characters. That is why in most beginner writers' stories, we see the "talking heads". This is where dialogue is composed of just two characters talking with no action, setting, emotion, or senses.

Second, Ms Haukeness discusses how writers fail to change settings. Changing settings is just like changing emotions within a character and adding and subtracting conflict within your story. Noah Lukeman tells us it's a great mistake to limit settings "because limiting settings often ends up adversely affecting stories and characters, hindering them from branching out, doing what they would if they had the space."

What all three of our experts can agree on, is this. Our characters must interact with the story's setting. It can be something as simple as the teacher writing on the chalkboard. The executive sitting at his/her desk fiddling with the computer mouse. Or the stableboy rubbing saddlesoap into his mistress' favorite saddle. Whatever. Get your characters involved.

Don't wait for your readers to ask, "Where am I?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thought for the Day

People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success.

Norman Vincent Peale

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who is going to tell your story?

Point of View: The combination of collective opinions, prejudices, tastes and attitudes of your story's character(s). (According to James N. Frey in How to Write a Damn Good Novel.)

How important is Point of View (POV)? It's so important that it will affect almost everything in your story. According to Joel Rosenberg, Choosing Your Storyteller, "Your point of view choice is also important in that point of view affects how much the readers can believe in the story being told. A proper choice can lead to the willing suspension of disbelief."

We all know how important POV is. The questions I get from my writers are What POV should I use? and What's the difference between the POVs?

Let's see if we can answer those questions.

What's the difference between the POVs?

Joel Rosenberg tells us that we have three basic choices: first (me), second (you) or third (him/her). He quickly dispenses with second POV as a poor choice because it puts the writer/reader in the story as a character, which the reader would probably never believe and would probababy leave your abilities as a writer in jeopardy.

First Person POV is where one of the characters tells his/her story. A beginning writer usually finds this the easiest way to write. However, it takes quite a bit of skill to manipulate first person POV. According to Mr. Frey, "You cannot go places the narrator couldn't have been and show things to the reader the narrator couldn't have seen. Not without a lot of burdensome explaining."

One of the best examples of first person narrative done right is J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

Third Person POV can come in various forms: omniscient, camera eye, single point of view, and sigma character.

Omniscient is the God-like POV. It's where the narrator of the story knows everything about every character and reveals all of their thoughts to the reader.

Camera Eye is the exact opposite of Omniscient. Instead of the reading knowing all, the reader only knows what is going on in front of them, not getting the thoughts of feelings of the characters. Just like watching movie.
Single POV is exactly what it says. The POV for the reader comes from one character only throughout the entire story.

Sigma Character is also known as multiple POV. According to Janet Evonovich in How I Write, she points out that "With multiple points of view, the action moves from person to person." It's important to understand; however, that with the changing of character POV, you should do so in a practical manner. Do not change POV in the middle of scenes in the middle of paragraphs. Make sure you use proper scene breaks or chapter breaks to indicate the changes of POV.

Ms. Evonovich says it best, "When you change a narrator's point of view, always use a transition such as a scene break or a new chapter. This tells the reader that he is now inside the head of a new character. It's best to limit the POV to a few characters because the more you use, the more confusing it is to the reader."
So, what point of view should you use?

According to Mr. Frey, the question isn't "what point of view?" but "Who can tell this story best?" Remember, to make your story the best it can be, you want to tell it from the character's POV that can best reflect your image of your story.

Again, according to Mr. Frey, "the selection of the narrative voice is based upon a consideration of genre." In his opinion, "for most genres, you are probably well-advised to use author-invisible, third-person, limited omniscient viewpoint. That's the standard; it's what readers expect and what editors want. You should deviate from the norm only for powerful and persuasive reasons."

In my opinion? I think all the experts have differing opinions. What's most popular? Depends on what book you're reading at the moment, actually.

Point of view is something that needs to be worked on individually with each writer with each story. What I hope I've done here, is helped you understand POV a little better.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thought for the Day

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.

Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

To Muse or Not to Muse - That is the Question

Does your muse guide you along your writing process? From the moment you put pen to paper; fingers to keyboard?

Do you write effortlessly with your muse whispering in your ear the characters' dialogue and emotions?

Does your muse lead you through an extensive outline so near perfect that you can write your entire story with nary an edit that you can draft and submit?

Or are you like the rest of us, who must nurture our muse and plead with our muse not to leave us high and dry while we struggle to write our first draft and then as we rewrite through the second and subsequent drafts?

Writing is a lonely profession and the only companion we have is our muse. So, we must treat it with kindness and love. Stroking its ego.

Robert Fulton Jr. in his book, But You Know What I Mean! asks, "Does a muse live in your soul, ready to inspire you at a moment's notice?" He goes on to say, "Some are vocal and others are tacit. Sometimes they are overpowered by our fear and insecurity."

Muses are sensitive creatures. And, no doubt they will abandon us at time, resulting in writer's block. However, we must persevere and continue to write.

Because, as Robert Fulton Jr. says, "When inspiration happens, treasure the moment. But know that you can write even if your muse takes a vacation." While your muse is on vacation you can get through your writer's block by following your outline or plan. Use the "what if" strategy.

Finally, I'll leave you with one last quote from Mr. Fulton: "If being a writer is important to you, make time every day and write. The productivity can be as powerful as any muse."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dream Your Way to Inspiration

We all dream. Well, I probably shouldn't be so literal.

Most of us dream.

If you work hard at it, you can remember your dreams, as well. And, if you do, they can become a great source of inspiration for your stories. The best way to start remembering your dreams is to put a pad of paper or a journal next to your bed and a pen so that you can write as soon as you awaken from your sleep, before the day begins and you start worrying about what you're going to wear or who's going to take the kids to soccer or what you're going to eat for breakfast.

Write when the sleepies are still in your eyes and the Sandman is still streaking across the sky. Search your mind and remember whatever you can. Scenes. Images. Voices. People. Whatever you can put on paper that will spark an idea later.

It will take practice, but you'll get better and better at remembering your dreams.

Trust me.

I've written two books based on dreams I've had. One dream I had was so vivid that when I woke I immediately grabbed pen and paper and wrote for nearly and hour and when I was finished I had the entire synopsis for my book. When I finished my book, it literally was straight from my dream with a little embellishment of my own imagination.

My second book was also from a dream, although it was a much darker dream with less than complete images. I was still able to come up with the synopsis and complete the book.

My first dream book was titled Trust in the Wind and has been published, and my second dream book is titled Out for Justice and will be released Summer of 2010.

Did you know that Stephen King dreamed the book Misery?

Imagine what success is lurking beneath your subconscious right now?