But of course MY brain always goes from non-fiction to fiction, especially since I started blogging to have an outlet for my fiction, rather than my blogging leading to me writing fiction, so my fiction answer is longer, and it relies on something I never thought I’d use this way: basic training as an actor.
It is an odd question – how to find your voice – but most writers who read a lot have to consciously:
a) become aware that they are using voices from their reading, or from their teachers in school, or from wherever they’ve picked up ‘how you do voice.’
Our chinchilla, Gizzy, turned 2 on the 4th of July, and has lived with us for over a year and a half of that time. She is what they call a ‘legacy pet’ – one inherited from one’s children.
Gizzy deigning to sit on my hand
I am not a pet person – but the kids were moving to Houston, and were afraid they couldn’t keep her cool enough. Chinchillas are animals of the high Andean mountain desserts, and will fry if they get too much over 70° F, plus can’t stand much humidity. Think of it: there she is, my little Gizzy, wearing a thick coat of the softest fur on the planet, but she can’t get rid of excess heat because she doesn’t pant and has no sweat glands. The only way she cools is through her feet and her ears, which will turn bright pink to warn you she is approaching heat stroke.
Chinchillas are not pets, not really. They are wild animals we sometimes keep around, but it is a symbiotic relationship at best, and basically I am allowed to have an exotic little creature in my house, and interact with her as much as she will let me, on her terms. Observing her and taking care of her has led to a lot of thoughts about Readers and Writers.
Novelists don’t think of themselves as being in ‘Customer Service.’ But we are – we are in business to satisfy our customers – readers – with our work: a constant stream of words, properly presented, for the entertainment and delectation of the person who honors us first with his money and then with her time.
We want to keep that customer satisfied. Basic customer service.
A satisfied customer will:
be happy he spent money to acquire our book for entertainment purposes
be happy she read our book
buy future books from us
tell other readers about our book personally, on a review site, on his blog – in positive, possibly glowing tones
become a true fan
possibly even become a friend.
In contrast, an UNsatisfied customer will, after throwing the book against the wall (TTBATW): Continue reading →
Dramatica was developed for screenwriters, and some of the features are much harder to implement in a script than they are in fiction, with its variable length and format. One of these is the concept I will call a ‘group character,’ and I will show how I implement a group character using epigraphs.
Most people consider a ‘character’ to be a single entity (say, a human, or HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey) which behaves in a more or less self-consistent way, and either stays the same or changes in a character arc as the story progresses.
Dramatica has a goal: to help create stories which are complete, meaning the argument put forth by the author has been examined from all applicable points of view, and the author has made his/her case for the conclusion presented. Dramatica calls this kind of story a Grand Argument Story (GAS). Continue reading →
She pouted penitently, interlocked her fingers primly in her lap like an attentive schoolgirl. “Proceed, please.”
Good. She could laugh at herself. He lifted the bottle in assent. “Colonel Strathmore––that’s me––forbids her to see young Winston––that’s John––but her sympathies are shifting. It’s complicated because my freed slave––Peter Hyland––doesn’t trust the insurgents…” He let the cool bitter liquid slide down his throat. Not bad—for colonials. The big room, the fire, the view, and the perceptive questions conspired with the lager to soothe him into his story. It amused him, how safe and peaceful she made it seem.
I seem to be attracted to writing triangles. My work-in-progress, Pride’s Children, is an adult love triangle. A play I wrote, Tangled Webs, is another triangle story, this time about a young woman who finds out she’s adopted – and is the bone of contention between her two mothers.
I am fascinated by triangle stories: Agnes of God, by John Pielmeier, tells the story of a young nun who has an unexpected child – and the fight over her soul between the Mother Superior of her convent and the court-ordered psychiatrist who must try to figure out how the baby ended up dead. Eleemosynary, a play by Lee Blessing, tells the story of three generations of women in a family.
A proper triangle has two-person interactions between each pairing. The interest comes from the rotating interaction between three characters – if a story is merely that a guy is interested in two different women, and picks one over the other, it isn’t what I call a proper triangle: the women MUST interact separately of their interaction with the man, for it to pique my interest.
“You should’ve seen your face.” He’s teaseable. He followed as she went to the kitchen. “In-house joke. But isn’t it colder than Guinness in pubs in Ireland?” Ack!—damn brain. Would he notice she knew his favorite? Shades of Misery. She added ice to an insulated mug, filled it with cold water from the refrigerator tap.
He opened the beer. “Water?” He leaned an elbow on the counter, his face a comical look of pure horror.
He looked so domestic she needed him out of her kitchen. Now. “Come on back—I’ll light a fire—to kill the chill.” She talked over her shoulder as she led the way back. “Can’t tolerate much alcohol, I’m afraid—and I still have work to do.” Damn. That’s exactly the wrong thing to say.
In the process of revising the scene I’m working on, I made my self a note:
It’s a credible draft, and everything I wanted to put in there somewhere is there.
But it lacks 1) a consistent pov – Andrew fades in and out
I took a minute to ask myself why I had this thought, and realized that it happens regularly: a scene feels as if the point of view is going back and forth from a general omniscient pov to the first or third person pov I’m aiming for. Continue reading →
Update 10/25/13: If you would like a blank Scrivener file with all this structure stuff already in it, drop me an email address to abehrhardt [at] gmail. I tried really hard to upload it – but WordPress won’t let me, and Dropbox won’t let me make a file public. I have it all ready and will just attach it to a reply email. No obligation whatsoever. Use or modify to suit yourself.
This is the final Scene Template post, and I will discuss where I currently store all the template’s structure bits in my Scrivener file. Scrivener is incredibly versatile – there are places to store anything you can think of. If you’re not a writer using Scrivener who is a plotter, it will all be gobbledegook – with screenshots – and I recommend you skip the whole thing.
If, like me, your current system is getting overwhelming, jump right in. I wish I’d been able to get a copy of someone else’s complete system BEFORE I made the transition, so I wouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel.
There are advantages to having the template on a single page and filling it in as a single file, but, for me, that entailed either burying the structure in the same file as the text (using Word’s Hidden text feature) – or maintaining a second, parallel set of files, and updating that simultaneously. Needless to say, the ‘simultaneous’ part of the updating was often out of date.
And for ebook publishing (my eventual aim), having a Word file laden with buried hidden text would have ended up a complete disaster. Continue reading →
In an insidious form of ‘writer’s block,’ I used to be brought to a complete standstill by something I didn’t even realize was going on: each side of my brain wanted to be the one in control, firmly confident that IT had the ONLY correct method for writing. EVER.
The LEFT side of my brain was convinced that we HAD to start by MAKING A LIST. It had good arguments: once everything is written down, I could then focus on each item, do it and check it off the list.
The RIGHT side of my brain was convinced that, no matter where we were in the writing process, it was much better to gather up ideas, possibly writing them all down to generate even more ideas – the number of notebooks generated by the WIP approaches 20 – and the ‘writing down’ was already a compromise: my attempts to nap were filled with wild flights of imagination. Continue reading →
Holly will be building this Sunday, Aug. 18, in Yardley.
She sent: “We are going to be at the house on Sunday – putting up the beam!! & Roof.”
This will be exciting – having a roof on makes such a huge difference to a tiny house – and to the workers, who spend a lot less time covering up piles of parts with tarps – we’ve had such a rainy summer!
See you there. Email me if you don’t know the location and want to come help.
to become aware that there are people out there – ordinary people – who, for whatever reason, need a little more space to get through an aisle, to park their car so they can get out, to clear a path for a chair or a scooter or a stroller.
Don’t wait until your son or daughter brings home a love of a different ethnicity –
to get over your automatic ‘other’ thoughts about anyone who doesn’t look exactly like you do.