Posts Tagged With: novels

What is Through the Veil?

Soon the veil will thin and not all beyond is meant to be found…

Tentative sequence and titles of the Watchers of the Light series announced here. More previews coming soon.

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Improving Your Craft

The other day I discussed some tips on writing dialogue.  Roz Morris gives some more insight in keeping your dialogue from being awkward or stilted.  Hayley Knighten reveals the 5 Worst Ways to Start Your Novel.  Lastly, Lynette Noni explains how to create a real fantasy world.

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How Do Your Characters Speak?

Dialogue seems awfully easy in English class, yet many writers get it wrong. You see, dialogue in novels isn’t supposed to be realistic.

“Huh?” you say.

If you wrote dialogue with all the little extras – the pauses, the unecessary words (um, like…), every variation from accent or region – it would be very tedious. In everyday speech, the brain processes out these things. When a writer tries to include all of them in the name of “realism,” they only annoy the reader. One has to be very selective in where such items are included, a specific purpose for each.

It’s also easy to drift too far into unrealistic speech.  Characters (rarely anyway) launch into paragraphs long commentary. People don’t talk this way and this is usually a sign of author intrusion. That is, the author wants to teach the reader something , lecture them or impart some wonderful piece of knowledge to them. These “info dumps” are just telling instead of showing. Find a more organic way to include the information in your story. Very often you’ll find that the delete button is in order. Make sure it sounds like your character is talking and not you.

Many writers abhor short sentences, believing if it’s short that it must be grammatically incorrect. This is not true. Shortened dialogue can signify tempo, or change of it, of the scene. This is very popular in television scripts. Do people really talk like this? Rarely, but in writing it imparts necessary information to the reader (or viewer).

How should people talk in your books? There’s a great line in the film National Treasure that gives us insight. Nicholas Cage’s character says something profound to his female friend. She replies that people really don’t talk like that, to which he says, “No, but they think like that.”  People’s thoughts are usually clearer, more reasoned and more detailed than what comes out of their mouths. So dialogue, out of necessity, must project a bit more than normal speech, but not too much more.

Who said writing was easy?

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Why Stories?

Why do people love fictional stories and adventures so much? Because they mirror what is inside us. A desire to do to great things and go beyond the horizon. Do what we were meant to be. There is destiny written on our souls for us to choose or ignore. Jason Clark writes in his book Surrendered and Untamed on this discovery:

I no longer desire to be on the fringe, yet neither will I try to fit the mold. I’ve come to see there’s swimming against the stream just to swim against the stream. And then there’s swimming against the stream like the salmon do — to give others life so others might live — and to get back home. You face predators along the way and the trip is exhausting and you die a thousand deaths, but you do it for the glory and the story.

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Outlining Your Stories to Life

One tool writers like to debate the value of is outlining. The argument against outlining states it’s too restrictive and doesn’t allow the story to breathe. The pro-outliners write that the anti-outliners are still stuck in that rigid outlining method learned in the 5th grade. I think the latter is correct.

Yes, there are a (very) few people who can just start writing and end up somewhere great and not worry about dead ends, corners or poor endings. What outlining is not is a rigid, blow-by-blow plan of every detail of a book. In a shorter work like a short story or article, okay, an outline can be more detailed. For a novel, think of it as a roadmap with the best places to visit.

I take the storyboard approach, which, I suspect, is not original to me (Morgan Busse talks about storyboarding in a recent post). I even taped a long roll of paper on the wall initially, though this proved a bit problematic referring back to. I soon transferred it all to a notebook. In this storyboard, I put the main events I see occurring (or “set pieces”) in their approximate locations (and this must always include the beginning and end). Then this is followed with a sprinkling of other events, people and details throughout. Then the writing begins, sort of like connecting the dots.

In front of you there is a path, but you are uncertain of what is going to occur along the way. You do know where you want to end up. Just like using a roadmap, you don’t always know what will happen between point A and B and that’s where the fun begins.

Most writers are quickly surprised that their story will take on a life all its own when carving out these paths. New characters show up that weren’t planned. Locations that weren’t on the original map. C.S. Lewis wrote how Narnia “all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood.” Then “Aslan came bounding into it” pulling the rest of the story behind him. I think that is what he was talking about, the moment a story writes itself. The instant in time the author knows they are onto something big.

It all starts with a handful of ideas and characters in the mind’s eye of an author waiting to given life. Outlining may help you do just that, but in either case, nothing will happen if you don’t start writing.

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5 Things Not to Do on Your Novel

1. If the publisher is going to write the genre on the cover, make sure it’s right. I once saw “futuristic” instead of sci-fi. Really?

2. I realize some authors become so famous, whatever they write will sell. That doesn’t mean the back cover should just be a picture of them and nothing else.

3. I know a lot of research goes into many books, that doesn’t mean explain it all at the end in some “Author’s Notes.” For a few books it does work, but there is a fine line. In most others, it just sounds like you are trying to impress people, or worse, explain why you wrote what you did.

4. The teasers on the back of or inside the cover shouldn’t give spoilers to your plot.

5. Don’t put “A Novel” on the the cover. If people can’t figure out what kind of book it is, I’m not sure they should be reading it.

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Stepping Through the Mirror

Myth has inspired some of the great works of literature. Worlds that we disappear into, away from our real existence, yet the best inspire and teach as well or better than any nonfiction. Primarily because they engage our imagination, the most powerful part of our intellect.

So from here forward, I will be expanding the scope of this site to include more on fiction and the fascinating worlds they contain. Even though I am old-school when it comes to reading (paper please), e-books may have opened a golden opportunity to reintroduce the power of fiction. Still, paper is going nowhere too soon as it is far more durable than our best inventions. Funny, isn’t it?

Where to begin but with the father of modern fantasy, George MacDonald. Many readers probably are unfamiliar with this man, yet he inspired C.S. Lewis. He and his children encouraged Lewis Carroll to publish. Long before Tolkien, MacDonald was revealing fantastic worlds. More in the style of fairy tale fantasy than epic, but an absolute must for fantasy fans. Over a hundred years ago, this author started it all with his sophisticated and magical stories.

The Princess and the Goblin
The Princess and Curdie
The Complete Fairy Tales

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