Friday, October 24, 2008
Sometimes things happen to us that lift the hair at the nape of our neck, send shivers down our spine and keep us awake. This was one of those nights. Midnight and I was trying to sleep after leaving my loved one in hospital, in the ICU.
My Halloween Short story....
I need light.
No, I am not a child. Still, Fear embraces me, wraps like the thin blanket around my shoulders.
No light. Be-gone Fear.
Darkness slithers through the cracks in the blind, spreads like a flood of tears across the floor.
Don't think about how alone I am; how far from home. Ignore the dark corridor, the empty rooms and the lingering aura of dissolving Hope.
Don't listen to the whispers.
Don't feel them.
Don’t invite memories. Close your mind. There is no-one there.
Austere but comfortable, the nurse's quarters host a hundred years of memory. The manic mirth of wind teased leaves, stutters against the open window. A zephyr of fresh air eddies into the cell-like room. Used now for hospital accommodation, terminally ill come here for treatment. Families stay while loved ones struggle in the ICU.
Death owns the narrow hallway.
Grief lingers in ever-present shadows.
Three days of stress weakens my resolve. Unwelcome memories, desperate for recognition from a living soul, escape oblivion. Seeking solace, ghosts struggle into existence.
Dare I close my eyes? Allow anguished souls access to my mind?
I need to sleep.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
The friendly, open forums, the informative chats and the readily accessible publishers, experts and writers have made the conference an experience to remember. I am already looking forward to next year.
So many people who are so ready to share their experiences, so ready to help and support and teach. All this is offered for FREE.
Lea Schizas has managed to create a community that succeeds in nurturing writers from all over the globe. She does this with no intention of making a profit from the event.
Donations are accepted but the generosity of those who participate is refreshing.
I would like to take this opportunity to say Thanks to all how worked so hard all week. Lea in particular, but the moderators, presenters, publishers and even the participating writers have all been brilliant.
See you there next year!!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
This is an amazing video. If you take it literally or not, it has to provide a huge amount of ideas for anyone contemplating writing Sci fi or Fantasy.
Just take five minutes to imagine what would happen if it comes off.... and I am sure 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo will flow without a moment's hesitation.
Look at how many the times the trailers have been watched!! Don't you wish we could get the same interest in your novel/story/idea?
Escape the Illusion blog
Looking toward the sky on the 14th.... and letting the imagination run riot. Remember the launch of War of the Worlds, back in the day, not the Tom Cruise remake.
The muse is keeping me awake at night.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
"One thing I try to do as well is keep in mind the Hero when developing the Villian and vice-versa. Making them equals in many ways adds to the tension especially in the final battle, and opposites in others creates a certain dynamic. Why is the Hero the only person who can counter this guy? M. Night's "Unbreakable" is a wonderful case study in this.
Posted by Lenora "
(posted here with permission)
Monday, October 6, 2008
Sarah peered into the screen of her laptop and clicked ‘save image’, adding the picture to her files. Again a light flashed across the screen. Impossible. She clicked ‘save image’ for later comparison.
“Did you see anything then?” She sent an Instant Message to Sexy Lexi, her courageous online ghost hunter friend. Without waiting for a reply, Sarah returned to the first screen, riveted by the dull image of an empty storeroom.
Ghost cam ran twenty-four hours a day recording the musty interior of a disused printing house for intrepid ghost-watchers. The ancient building occupied a corner of downtown Manchester, on the other side of the world. Yet here Sarah sat, hoping for a ghost to appear in the warmth of a wet summer dawn in Oz.
The screen looked hazy. Sarah turned away and rubbed her eyes.
In the corner beside her bed the candle flame fluttered. The perfect atmosphere for ghost hunting had taken only a few moments to create. Alone in a small suburban flat, huddled in bed with her laptop with the triple flamed candle for light, she listened to the steady drip of rain from an overflowing gutter.
Sarah’s impatient fingers tapped a rapid tattoo on the keyboard as she waited for her friend’s reply.
What had she seen?
Her eyes might be playing up. Perhaps her glasses needed changing again. Too long in front of these damned computers ruined her eyesight and produced memorable headaches.
On the screen the storeroom door stood open. Boxes and bookshelves lined the room. A chair rested beside a filing cabinet. In the gloom of a winter’s evening, the shadows tumbled across the floor, thrown adrift by security lights.
Sarah blinked. She leaned forward and forgot to breathe. The faintest mist seemed to rise from the area of shadow behind the chair.
Clicking ‘save image’ she peered into the monitor, her heart raced, her stomach filled with butterflies. As she watched, an image of a figure appeared. A woman seemed to be sitting in the chair.
“Did you see what happened then? Come on you must have seen something!”
The Instant Message sent, Sarah returned to view the screen.
Nothing. The room looked empty.
There. In the chair, transparent, insubstantial, the figure remained.
She could check the pics later.
With no reply from Lexi, Sarah saved images she could share with her friend later.
The figure looked like a character from a Dickens novel. A fair-haired woman wore a shawl and dull coloured clothes, with her hair tied back in an old fashioned bun. She appeared to rest in the chair. Resting, relaxing or perhaps working?
Could this be the ghost? What did the archives say? A young woman is supposed to haunt the building. The girl fell, or did someone push her, down the stairs leading from this storeroom to the lower level.
Sarah rubbed her eyes.
The figure flinched.
As if a disturbance caught her attention the young woman’s head turned toward the computer cam.
Sarah leaned away from the screen. She caught herself before her shoulders struck the headboard of her bed. What was she thinking? Her mind was playing tricks. Even if the figure was a ghost, how could an apparition from another century know someone watched her.
“This is getting weird. Why don’t you answer me? Come on Lexi, this is really strange. Tell me what you see!”
Sarah tapped the keyboard. Why didn’t Lexi reply? Her status said ‘online’.
“I know I’m being foolish, but I swear I saw a ghost.”
Nothing. No reply. Sarah glanced back at the screen. A flutter of fear exploded in her stomach as she focused on the familiar storeroom. The ancient chair now appeared empty.
Sarah exhaled, breathed in again, and mocked her wild imagination.
She brushed a hand through her hair and laughed out loud.
The sound of her voice disturbed the quiet of her room. The rain no longer provided a background noise. The candle fizzed. One of the flames flickered and went out. Sarah shivered.
A cat yowled, a dog barked. Normal suburban noises. Reassuring. Familiar.
She looked at the screen, collected her nerves and told herself the case of butterflies came from living alone. Of course, she was prone to flights of imagination. The whole idea of ghost watching centred on creating an adrenaline rush.
A woman’s face looked out from the screen. The woman smiled.
She hit the reduce icon.
The screen returned to a screen of an idyllic waterfall, the image from her desktop. Even so, Sarah’s hair stood on end. Goosebumps erupted on her skin. Whoever she witnessed on the screen, Sarah didn’t want to know about her any more. Ghost or no ghost, her hours of sitting alone after midnight on either side of the planet waiting for a ghost to appear, ended in that moment.
“Hey Lexi, I don’t know what you are playing at, but I’ve seen enough. Real weird stuff. I’ll email you the pics.”
Nothing. No reply.
“Ok,” she said aloud, putting the laptop to one side as she pulled the blankets over her knees. Funny, the room was strangely cold. In the pre-dawn hours of a humid summer she usually threw off blankets to sweat the night out in front of a fan.
The laptop beeped.
Sarah reached out. Her hand froze before she could grab the console. The screen showed the gloom of the storeroom.
Lexi’s icon flashed blue, to indicate an incoming message.
“Yes!” Sarah wanted, needed to talk to her friend. She grabbed the laptop and enlarged the message box.
No message showed. Lexi’s icon vanished, as if Sarah had deleted all Lexi’s details from her list of contacts.
Sarah shivered. She didn’t want to look into the empty storeroom, not even for an instant. What she had witnessed would satisfy her interest in ghost hunting for a long time. Again, she closed the on-screen window, and sent Lexi an email through another channel.
“Lexi, what is going on? Are you still online, I have lost you!”
The message sent.
The room grew colder. The two remaining candle flames flickered. Sarah glanced around the shadows. The atmosphere no longer gave her a sense of adventure. The night closed in around the light from the laptop screen as a breeze teased the candle flames.
Where did the breeze come from? Tonight’s rain didn’t ride on a windswept storm. The night brought the clammy humidity mosquitoes loved.
Sarah threw back her blankets.
Did she leave the door open?
The candle spluttered and both flames drowned in hot wax. Sarah reached for the light. Enough is enough.
This is way out of hand.
Light would fix the feeling of being watched, of sitting alone on a dark night with the image of a ghost replaying like a movie inside her head.
With a flick of the light switch…
Smell of dust, ancient mould.
Sarah covered her mouth to stifle a scream that skittered up her throat.
Matches. Candle. In the corner. Light. She listened. Could she hear another person breathing? Did the beating of her own heart smother the distant drumming of a heavy metal band or did she hear a second heartbeat?
The laptop hummed. Power on. No light, only the glow from the laptop. Sarah hit control; alt; delete; over and over. The computer hummed, the screen remained a steady glow in the darkness.
A pale mist rose in the corner of Sarah’s room. The scent of death burned her throat.
The Lexi message icon blinked. Alive after death.
Sarah drew a breath, reading the words as her mind rejected the smell, the cold and the imagined presence of a ghost.
Her fingers flew over the keyboard. Needing no more light than the glow of the screen, Sarah typed her message.
“Lexi, so glad to see you back. What a night, you won’t believe what I have seen.”
The icon blinked as the message transferred through the ether. Sarah wrapped warm blankets around her. She always felt safer wrapped in the old familiar bedding from her home.
The Lexi message icon flashed blue. Sarah opened the message.
“Good evening, Miss Sarah, what a fine coincidence.”
“Lexi? What do you mean coincidence?” Sarah typed.
“I do beg your pardon. Who is Lexi? My name is Miss Sarah Stevenson. This is a most wonderful contraption. My, my, what wonders the new century has brought us.”
Sarah’s heart pounded in her chest. She dragged air into her lungs. Her mother’s maiden name was Stevenson. The scent of death faded and the room filled with the heavy aroma of lavender and rosemary.
“The new century?”
“So very exciting, Miss Sarah. I am to attend my first ball, this very night!”
“A ball? Sounds great.” Sarah typed, shaking from her head to her toes. She wanted to scream and yet an overwhelming sympathy for the ghost stilled her terror. The young girl who died in the printing house, the archive said, planned to attend her first ball the day she ‘fell’.
“I can barely sit still, and yet, Mr Johnson insists I renumber every item from this month’s invoices. I do believe he has no soul, the monster. When will I ever get my hair done and my gown prepared?”
“Your gown? Sarah, do you know what today is? What year this is?”
“Of course, Miss Sarah, it is nineteen hundred and three, January the 24th. What a strange question to ask!”
“It is just, we have celebrated the turn of the century too.”
“Of course you have, dear, we know the colonies are civilized. I understand you would celebrate.”
Sarah exhaled, still shaking. Today would be 24th January 2003.
Her fright lessened. One of her father’s friends claimed to talk to dead people. He said a soul who lost track of their purpose when they met with a sudden death, often wandered for years as a ghost.
Miss Sarah was trapped in the moment before her death.
Alone in the damp night Sarah sensed if she couldn’t help Sarah Stevenson find her way to whatever peace lay before her, the young girl might wander the lonely halls of the old printing house for another hundred years.
Huddled in the gloom of a rented room, alone in the rain, tears flowed over Sarah’s cheeks. To spend endless nights waiting for the close of a day that never arrived, was tragic.
“How long have you been waiting for tonight?” she asked. She wanted to sound sympathetic, but the keys of her computer gave no hint of emotion. Sarah held her breath, not from fright, this time, but from suspense.
“It is curious you should ask, Miss Sarah, if the truth be told, it strikes me as forever. I do not remember in my life such a tedious and monotonous day. Mr Johnson has not returned from lunch. There is something wrong. The press is quiet. I do believe even the copyboys have left the building. It is so very quiet.”
“It isn’t so strange, you know, Miss Stevenson. A great deal of time has passed since you arrived for work this morning.”
“Why, whatever do you mean, Miss Sarah?”
“Have you not thought it strange, the others haven’t come to tell you it is time to leave? Time to go to fetch your gown?” Sarah paused, bit her bottom lip and kept typing. “Sarah, you have been in the building for a hundred years!”
“Your words frighten me, Miss Sarah. I have goose pimples on my arms. Why would you want to scare me? I intend on enjoying a most wonderful night.”
Sarah sat in the dark and didn’t know what to say or do next. She wanted to reach out and give the poor girl a hug. Never in a million years did she want to scare Miss Sarah Stevenson.
“Please, Sarah, I don’t want to frighten you. I don’t know what to say, but I am sitting in my room in Australia talking to you through this modern typewriter, and today is one hundred years, to the day, from the time you fell down the stairs in that very building. Don’t you understand these machines didn’t exist when you were alive?”
Sarah peered into the screen at the empty storeroom. She watched a gloomy office, in a cold and miserable building where a frightened ghost might haunt the corridors forever. Unless Sarah, her namesake from another century, could convince the ghost to let go of her ties to this plane and move on.
“If I am to believe you, Miss Sarah, where am I to go? I don’t want to be alone forever. I want to go home, now.”
On the screen, the haze seemed to vanish. The figure returned to the chair. Shadows faded as the room grew darker.
Sarah watched and wept as the woman in the chair drew her shawl around quivering shoulders. Sarah Stevenson’s head bowed, her whole body shook with desperate sobs.
Sarah reached out and touched the screen of her laptop.
“Sarah, I am sorry. So sorry. I only wanted to help!”
The Lexi message icon blinked.
Sarah wiped the tears from her eyes and sniffed. She opened the message box.
Lexi wrote: “Hi Sarah. Sorry, I fell asleep. What a boring night. Maybe next time hey!”
The pale light of dawn seeped through rain drenched clouds. The chorus of boisterous magpies shattered the night’s peace.
Sarah rolled her shoulders and un-cricked her neck.
“I’ll send my pics. You won’t believe what you missed!” she typed, throwing back the blankets. The day promised summer warmth and high humidity. Sarah opened the window and breathed fresh air.
Her laptop beeped.
“Sarah, nothing came through. No text, no pics. Your files are empty. What have you been dreaming?”
The laptop screen flickered. Sarah stared at the storeroom. The figure in the chair looked into the distance. The girl’s shoulders no longer shook. As Sarah touched the screen, the figure turned her head and smiled. Sarah Stevenson reached out to a shadow draped stranger. The ghost of the young woman pushed to her feet and seemed happy to take the first step on her new journey.
“Dreaming? You know Lexi… No, never mind. What are we going to do today?”
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Too many villains are based on characters who just want power for the sake of power. They need to have some motivation or redeeming trait that gives them a reason for their villainy.
How many times have you watched or read a story and found at the end a feeling of disbelief? The disbelief comes from knowing that the antagonist didn't have the three dimensional quality to hold the audience.
Discerning readers will return to a great story and a villain they can feel might have some justification for their actions, will help bring them back, or keep them hooked to the last page.
Strong motivation... that's the key to keeping your villain GOOD whether in Fantasy or any other genre.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Here is my review.
Time Well Wasted. The Story of 1st Platoon, 10th MP Co. in Somalia
Authors D. S. Haines and Tony Ciccone.
This is a gripping story. Intense, intimate and graphic retelling of time spent on a peace keeping mission in Somalia.
Written from actual journal entries and memories of soldiers who served overseas, Time Well Wasted gives the reader insight into the life of a serving MP. The matter of fact truth revealed as the story unfolds is shared with compassion, humour and courage. The grit and realism is delivered with a flowing style that keeps the reader committed.
D.S. Haines and Tony Ciccone tell of incidents that affected them on a personal level, as they survive the harsh conditions of war torn Somalia. The reader becomes immersed in the tedium of endless missions that occur without incident. They also share the adrenaline rush when the bullets are flying. The need to live in close quarters, in harsh conditions and under strict orders so far from home, impact on the lives of each member of the platoon in different ways. Time Well Wasted goes beyond the dust and boredom, the thirst, heat and danger. It reveals the mind set of the soldier. It is delivered with honesty. At times the realism is quite confronting. However, it is a story about a time of conflict and confrontation. It is the story of people from different walks of life working together to make life safer for those who live in Somalia.
Time Well Wasted is riveting, compelling and satisfying. Human emotions are conveyed with clarity, dignity and with a gutsy honesty that goes beyond the average ‘war journal’. Time Well Wasted doesn’t gloss over the mistakes made, the waste and inefficiency encountered. It revels in small successes and individual and broader achievements. Throughout the book the reader feels that D. S. Haines and Tony Ciccone have made the most of their experiences. They show that despite difficult living conditions, a hostile environment and the threat of constant harassment that they are unable to prevent or avoid, each member of the 10th MP Co. are in fact heroes in their own right.
It is the compassion, intelligence and overall humour of this story that lifts if from the ranks. Well crafted and concise reading this book is Time Well Wasted.
For a simple effective way to scare children try using a female who doesn't display motherly attributes. These characters can be very scary. It is the archetypical 'Witch' which fits Fantasy well.
And as we are told more and more often, at present the strong female lead characters are popular, so the strong female villain is becoming popular too.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
So.. I am going to tag other emerging authors...
Right, Six things about me.
1 I love being a grandma. It's the best.
2 I believe Family is the most important thing in life.
3 Thinking positive gets difficult sometimes. Hugs help.
4 Although I don't want to sound too excited, having a Fantasy workshop on the Museonline writer's conference is a huge buzz. I am looking forward to meeting the writers who have signed up. It should be a great week. I am humbled by having Lea Schizas invite me to participate.
5 My dream is to be able to write full time.
6 Another wish is to have Exiled:Autumn's Peril released BEFORE the conference.
I guess that is enough for anyone to know about me. I am obsessed with my family and my writing. It's not earth-shattering. It's just me.
Have a great day. Smile. You could be the next one tagged!!!
Monday, September 29, 2008
If the villain relies on being dumb for the hero to succeed there is a major flaw in the character.
A villain who stops to explain their diabolical plans and in doing so gives the hero a means of escape, just doesn't cut it.
Although it might have worked in the spy thriller's written by Ian Fleming and the films of that genre, in Fantasy we need to have antagonists who are consistant in their villainy. They need motive and they also need to be worthy opponents to a worthwhile hero. Don't sell them out for less.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
There are two villains from recent Batman and Spiderman movies who show these tendencies. In Spiderman the character of Dr Octopus began with wonderful intentions. His energy ideas were for the good of mankind, but things get out of hand and he becomes a lethal villain. Poison Ivy, one of the villains in Batman, started off being an environmental activist. She is seen as evil and mankind's enemy when her actions become destructive.
The idea that 'all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely' is one adage that can be put to use when creating an evil nemesis for a Fantasy novel. Good intentions can be warped when things become too easy, or the power too heady for a character to control. Losing sight of the goal, having a character turn from good to evil, can create a great villain.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
For example, when rage raises its ugly presence we can wish evil upon someone. What makes us reasonable people is that we do not carry out our wishes.
We can though, have a villain take their worst intentions to heart and act on them. Where a reasonable soul would rage and then simmer, finally allowing logic to rule their lives, our antagonist can take their rage and act on it. Even to over react and devise and enact those dastardly deeds that will keep the reader hoping justice is finally served. When the villain takes payback and revenge too far, when they fail to keep within limits of behaviour that are reasonable, that’s when their behaviour becomes villainous and dastardly.
An example of a villain whose actions are malicious and whose diabolical plan keeps the reader hoping for retribution is the arch villain in the Chronicles of Caleath. Throughout the series, readers keep asking if and when will the hero finally defeat/meet his nemesis. I take that as a sign of having created a great ‘bad guy’.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Villains can own their own set of injustices. If they feel they are ‘hard done by’, by society, life or circumstance, they not only have an understandable reason for maladjusted behaviour, but they will have enough logic for their actions to allow the reader to have some sympathy towards their plight. From a single human frailty, such as fear, jealousy, or loneliness your villain can still generate evil but they will also have at least one character trait for a reader to relate to.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The archetypical villain, dastardly and devious, comes from the pantomime stage. When writing Fantasy we need to look for an antagonist who will keep our readers hooked. The villain needs therefore, to have some redeeming aspects of their character.
Remember that average bad guys don’t see themselves as evil. They have purpose and although their means and actions might be malevolent, their intentions can be purely selfish. As long as your villain can justify their behaviour, seeing their actions as logical and working towards a certain goal, they can still be frightening and threatening but their character can also sustain some empathy and interest in the reader. A villain like Hannibal Lector can be more disturbing because he sees his behaviour as rational. ( although he's not from Fantasy, he's a recognisable character with a creepy habit that he thinks is justifiable.)
A strong motive can give the most dastardly villain some credibility.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
From the prologue, Mirella Patzer creates the atmosphere of 10th century Italy, with all the tension and emotion of childbirth. In the opening chapters we begin to understand the drama of life in those times. Death, marriage and family loyalty are themes that play a large part in this story.
Duke Amoro Dragone the handsome hero, is told that his father’s dying wish is for the feud between the house of Dragone and the house of Monterossa, to end. His father wishes for Amoro to marry Morena Monterossa the only daughter of the family who own Bloodstone Castle. That the two families have been feuding for three generations does not deter Amoro in his quest to win Morena’s love.
There is of course a fly in the ointment, or the story would be short and sweet. Before his death, Morena’s father promised her hand to Ernesto of Savona. Morena knows of this betrothal and would honour her father’s wishes. While reluctant to accept the advances of Amoro, Morena finds herself charmed and confused by his attention.
Should she follow her heart, or follow her father’s wishes? Is Ernesto’s claim valid? Or is he only after the treasure that legend says is buried beneath Bloodstone Castle.
With two father’s murdered both Amoro and Morena are intent on finding their killers. Amid a tempestuous romance, betrayal, murder, rape and torture, Mirella Patzer weaves a tale filled with intrigue, passion and power. Her characters search their souls for an answer to the predicament they find themselves in. Despite devotion, love and ultimate sacrifice will Destiny bring them together or will Ernesto’s original betrothal keep them apart? Bloodstone Castle explores the depth of passions and how they dictate behaviour. Passion, love and lust all play a part as this tale unfolds.
I would recommend Bloodstone Castle for anyone looking for a romantic trip back in time. Amoro’s loyalty binds him to his father’s dying wish, but he remains thoroughly heroic. Morena matures from a virtuous maid to a passionate woman who discovers her own mind and is not afraid to express her opinions. The villain is devious and dastardly enough to satisfy any reader.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Point of view can make or break a story. Used well, the character driven pov can create empathy with the reader, showing them the world as the main character views it. They will live and breath the main character's adventure, feel their pain, share their successes. For me it is the most fun. In truth I am still learning how to polish this pov, but I really enjoy trying to involve every sense as I 'see' the world through my character's eyes.
Third person character narration, or character driven pov, allows the character to think about things and in doing so the reader gains an intimacy with the main character. They experience their inner turmoil, their angst, their elation or despair. Writing Fantasy it is important to create a world that the reader can relate to. We are removed from what is familiar and the reader relies on the writer to give them enough information to complete the illusion. Always remember to allow your character to experience all the sensory stimulii possible. This is shared with the reader. Within character driven pov the information can be conveyed in various ways. Writers can choose to use 'internal monologue narration', a style that conveys the story as if the character is telling it.
An example of Internal monologue narration. With the reader inside the main character's head.
Stryder threw open the door, stumbled inside and looked around. How had he forgotten her bewitching wiles?
Or they can use 'Internal dialogue narration', (as opposed to monologue) Let's see...
Stryder threw open the door, stumbled inside and looked around. How did I forget her bewitching wiles?
When writing a scene, it is best to keep to the one pov. To begin with an omniscient intrusive pov (god like) (where the reader is told what everyone is thinking or feeling) and then close in to a character driven pov just doesn't work. It is called head hopping and is one reason a manuscript will be rejected. Jumping from one character to another within a scene is also head hopping and a big 'no no'. If you must change characters, change scene or chapter. There should at least be a double spaced paragraph between POV changes. If possible maintain the single pov for a chapter.
I read recently that it is 'ok' for pov changes in times of conflict. I don't know. I think it shows the author isn't trying. That's my opinion.
Another rule to remember when choosing a pov to use is to tell the story from the point of view of the character with the most to lose or gain from the scene. You might find though that if you have a character that the reader is following, breaking from their POV shatters the focus. I re wrote a novel that followed three main characters. Now it follows one. From reader's reactions it works well now. Sacrificing so many words seemed almost painful at one stage, but I have learnt so much since the book was written. I would be wrong not to incorporate new information wouldn't I? Writing and re writing.. honing our skills. That's what it is all about, isn’t it?
Poor POV and Passive writing both distance the reader from the action. Learning to avoid these two pitfalls should sharpen your writing. Seeing the same mistakes in others is often easier than correcting your own work, but once you are aware of the problems and how to overcome them you will find you notice them as you write. At least, that is what I have found.
Good luck and keep writing.
The secret to dragging a reader into a story and immersing them in the Fantasy world is to master at least one Point of View. The Character driven POV is useful to the writer when they need to include the reader in the action.
Now Point of View and Passive writing can actually cause the same problems. The problem is distancing the reader. So using a POV that works and that a writer is confident with can make the difference between a winning story and a yawn.
If the author does not succeed in describing, filling the reader's imagination, or giving enough information to keep them turning pages, it can often be due to a failure in using a workable POV.
An author should avoid at all costs anything that separates the reader from the POV character. Editing for this error is difficult. It means finding any instance where the author has backed away from the main character.
A useful analogy is to think of a cameraman filming a scene. To begin the shoot the camera angle would be wide lens giving an overview for the audience. Once established the camera would close in. Zooming in to focus on the characters and create empathy with them. As the scene continues the camera can be used to create tension, conflict or to establish how the main character is feeling. It is only able to relate what is SEEN or what the character believes. The camera cannot tell what other characters are thinking. Neither can the main character when using this POV. If a camera cannot SEE a thought, neither can the character. To suddenly read minds is to change POV and will distance the reader.
It is important with character driven POV to only reveal the thoughts and reactions of the main character. Actions and emotions of other characters can be described as if seen by the main character, but they must be interpreted through the main character's eyes.
When the narrator intrudes on the story, imposing their own thoughts or beliefs the reader is suddenly distanced. They no longer have the intimacy of being inside the main character's head, they are suddenly being told what is happening. This is called Author Intrusive narration.
There are many different types of POV. For example in fiction, writers are able to use: effaced omniscient narrator, limited omniscient narrator, restrictive omniscient narrator or third person character narrator. The temptation to write in first person also exists, First person POV has several styles all of its own.
I have trouble with POV. Hence the length of the discussion here. Trying to understand the various different styles, gives me a headache. Reading published authors who seem to head hop or change POV confuses me. I have tried to master the character driven pov. I don't know that I have managed to as yet, but readers comment that they feel as though they are involved and in the story, so I guess that's a good sign.
Good luck and keep writing.
Editing for passive voice initially means seeking out and replacing many of the instances where a writer used the verb 'to be'. Replacing weak verbs with stronger action verbs will improve their writing immediately.
Passive voice results from the over use of the 'to be' verb. Instances include using; am, is, was, were, be, being and been. The opposite of Passive voice is Active voice and this comes about when the writer uses action verbs. For example; run, hop, hit, crash, slash. A read can visualise an action verb. They can see somebody ACT, but they cannot visualise somebody BEING.
Passive voice will slow a writing and increases the word count without achieving stronger writing. Passive voice can be confusing because it does not conform to the basic SVO form of sentence structure. SVO for those who aren't familiar with the concept means SUBJECT VERB OBJECT. Without following this form senteces can become jumbled, confusing and can become too complicated.
Compare the following sentences.
Caleath swung the sword. ACTIVE VOICE Subject (Caleath) Verb (swung) Object (sword).
The sword was swung by Caleath. PASSIVE
The sword was swung. PASSIVE
The first sentence tells us who is doing the action straigh out. The second example leaves us wondering who might be swinging the sword and the last one tells us very little.
The ACTIVE voice is achieved by choosing strong, vivid verbs that will describe an action rather than weak passive verbs that tell us what has happened. Active voice can bring the reader into the story, while passive voice keeps the reader at a distance.
Another Example. Stryder copied the map. (active)
The map was copied by Stryder. (passive)
The map was copied. (passive)
So, to avoid creating passive voice problems go through your manuscript and remove and replace at least a third of the instances of the verb 'to be'. (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been). Look for sentences that do not follow the SVO form and change them. It isn't difficult. When you find a sentence in the OVS form, find who or what is the subject that is doing the action and start the sentence with them. Find the object and place it at the end of the sentence.
Passive voice can be edited out again, by combining weaker sentences. Revise weak sentences, to convey an idea in a more powerful, descriptive manner.
Note: Passive voice is used often in reports and essays. We are talking about writing Fantasy and as such we want to pull the reader into the Fantasy world we are creating. Reports have their place, and passive voice has it's use but we are learning how to improve our writing.
There are times when Passive voice works, even in Fantasy.
Caleath was lean, wiry and reticent, with unkempt blond hair and piercing blue eyes.
Keep writing and enjoy the journey.
Have you ever wondered how to avoid this simple problem? These simple steps can help avoid falling into the common trap of using too much passive voice.
When editing for Passive Voice it is time to seek out and replace the most common passive voice VERBS.
Using 'find' in Word docs is one simple way. Going through your ms with a red pen is another. Which ever way you choose, the time spent is worthwhile.
First, look for the two worst offenders, 'WAS' and 'WERE'. Where these occur try to replace them, even if it means re writing the sentence. One helpful bit of advice I was given was to try to describe what is happening in terms that can be illustrated.
For example.. I have used this before, so bear with me... "He was angry." Try to describe his anger. How did the viewer know he was angry. His face grew red, his teeth ground, his pulserate quickened. His temper frayed. etc.
"They were alone" Here there is a great opportunity to address all the senses. Don't just rely on sight.. What can the subject hear, or what doesn't the subject hear... or smell or feel that helps describe their isolation?
Ok, once you begin to find those pesky WAS and WERE verbs, it is time to go further and seek out and destroy examples of static verbs (other forms of the verb TO BE) such as: am, is, are, be, being, been. Then we have the dreaded..had, have, has, do, did, does, and we finish with the threesome, could, should and would.
You will have already begun to find your writing is stronger and more impressive as you learn to replace these lazy verbs with more aggressive, descriptive verbs.
It doesn't end there. Look for any instances where you might have over used got, get, went, and put.
That's enough for now. If there are any questions, please contact me. It sounds straight forward, but there are times when even these simple solutions become confusing. Remember 'all things in moderation.'
Have you ever written a piece and found that it doesn't work? Some authors write from the seat of their pants, but even these can find that once their story is complete there are flaws that need fixing.
This is where a simple tool like a plot outline can help. An outline can find problems like loose ends, unresolved plots, plot holes or pacing problems. It is in the outline stage that trouble spots can be identified and eliminated. Missing breathers, chapters that have the wrong tension, plot points in the wrong place or an inconsistent plot can be fixed at this stage. Other common problems like missing subplots, unresolved subplots or a climax that omits some of the sub plot elements can be worked out with an outline. An outline can prevent the problem of sub plots being resolved before the main plot resolution, sub plots that are not vital to the main plot or its resolution, weal plots, weak causes of conflict or motivation and missing twists or conflicts.
Although the time taken to work through an outline might seem tedious and unnecessary, if there is ever a moment when the finished story seems to lack drive and the necessary hook to keep the reader turning every page, then an outline could be the simplest answer.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Isn't the internet incredible. In particular I mean the people who design, maintain and provide websites. They are amazing.
My website has the option of a chat room. A place I can be contacted, where I will recieve notification of guests and can meet and greet. That in itself is great, but how much fun is COMIC chat. Choosing or importing a avatar and a background is just awesome.
Now all I need is to be online when my friends are!! Although, even if I am not there, messages can be left. I think that's a grand idea.
Anyone who is interested in checking out a COMIC chat room... feel welcome to visit my website at www.rosalieskinner.com , sign in on the Writer's showcase page and Open chat room. While you are there you might like to read some of the work on show, or even leave a sample of your own. If I am online, I would love to chat!
Like I said. Isn't the internet/website thing just wonderful!!
Monday, March 31, 2008
Words To Avoid
The successful Fantasy author needs to know the words to avoid and how to find adequate replacements. Here are some hints and tips to help the writer when polishing their Fantasy novel.
Creative writers always try to avoid adverbs. Adverbs usually end in ‘ly’ and are words that add meaning to a verb.
Walk slowly. Run quickly. Speak softly. Gently touch. Shout loudly.
There are better ways to say the same thing. Find stronger verbs to replace these.
Stroll. Sprint. Whisper. Caress. Yell.
Resist the temptation to add adverbs to dialogue tags. Beware of saying things twice.
He snarled angrily. She whispered softly. He yawned sleepily.
Note how the adverb isn’t needed.
Snarl demonstrates anger. The adverb isn’t needed.
She whispered softly. Whispered indicates softly spoken.
He yawned sleepily. Yawned is indicative of being tired.
Other Words to Avoid
Had. That. Up. Down. Really. Almost. Just. So.
These words are used without thought, but often do little to improve a sentence. When a Fantasy author is polishing their manuscript, they should go through and remove any case where these words are unnecessary.
‘Had’ places the action in the past. ‘That’ is often unnecessary. To bring immediacy to their writing a Fantasy authors will strive to keep action and interest in the present.
Up and down are often added when not needed. Really, unless in dialogue is unnecessary. Almost, again is not acceptable unless in dialogue, since the narrator should know things. ‘Almost’ is indecisive and will frustrate the reader. He was almost as tall. He’s shorter. She could almost see… again she couldn’t see.
Just and so are just so superfluous.
The damsel had watched the villain leap up onto the horse that had been tied up to the hitching rail outside the tavern.
The damsel was really frightened, watching the fire that almost burned the tavern down. She thought it was just so lucky no one that had been in the inn was hurt.
This is a bit obvious, but the idea is clear. Remove all the words that should be avoided. See how to improve poor writing by culling words we tend to ignore as we write.
The damsel watched the villain leap onto the horse tied to the hitching rail outside the tavern.
The damsel was frightened, watching the fire burn the tavern. She thought it was lucky no one in the inn was hurt.
Another cull and sentence rewrite can improve this example.
The damsel watched the villain leap onto the horse tied outside the tavern.
As the tavern burned, she shook with fright. Relief washed over her when no one in the inn was hurt. Her thudding heart quieted and trembling limbs stilled.
This example has tried to ‘show’ the reader how she felt rather than ‘tell’ them.
‘She was frightened’, is telling. ‘She thought it was lucky’, is telling.
The words to avoid that will prevent the author falling into the ‘telling’ not ‘showing’ trap are: felt, thought, saw, and was.
The Fantasy author, when writing in third limited omniscient should try to ‘see’ action and gauge emotions in characters and scenes from what their main character can see and understand. They will use gestures and mannerisms, as well as dialogue to give the reader insight.
Try this exercise yourself. Have a list of words you want to avoid and keep adding to it as you master the craft of writing. Soon they will disappear from your manuscript and your writing will become stronger, compelling and more attractive to a publisher.