It Was A Dark Stormy Night

4f7a9b905a1bc2d6c97e5c8f0157ee9d_fullWhen you hear the word setting, you think of a time period and place, but settings do so much more than that.

With sci-fi and historical novels, setting becomes an important part of the story. The setting doesn’t have to be real but it does have to be believable.

Writing historical novels, do your research and throw in some things that you would expect to see during the time period.

Writing Sci-Fi, you’re  creating a world. Your setting needs to be detailed. Help your reader to visualize it. Draw them in.

Settings should be visceral and vivid and allow us to experience the world the author is building as if we are one of the characters within the narrative.

Settings evoke mood. In horror stories, your description of a haunted house should evoke fear in your readers.  In a mystery your setting should evoke suspense and curiosity. In a comedy your setting should evoke laughter or an anticipated thrill.

Settings provide information about your characters. How does their home look? Is it messy, neat, compulsively organized? Do they surround themselves with darkness or light?

Settings can also be used to evoke the passage of time and movement

Who knew there was so much to writing. I hope this evoked thought and helped you better understand the use of settings in your novel

-Jan R

It Was A Dark Stormy Night

Sentences-The Long and Short

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAiMAAAAJDg5M2Q4NGJiLTBhMTQtNDA5Ni1hNGVmLTM2YWRiZjczMDhjNQHave you ever read a sentence and thought that is way too long? The author lost you two commas ago, and now you have to go back and read the whole thing again, to try and figure out what’s going on.

Or maybe you read a short sentence, followed by another short sentence, and another, and you’re thinking whoa, slow down.

There’s not a set rule for short or long. The sentence length you choose depends a lot on what you are trying to accomplish. There are good reasons for those long, lost me a long time ago sentences, and short, what just happened sentences. It’s up to you to decide when to use them, given the context of your writing.

What do short sentences do?

  • Create tension-When an author starts using short sentences, it’s usually a sign that something is about to happen.—-The dog growled. His teeth flashed. Jake turned. It was too late.
  • Call the attention of a reader to a significant detail—She walked past central park in Manhattan, with her head held high. Gorgeous woman. Long blond hair. Blue eyes. Impeccable taste.
  • Present sudden events-Out-of-the-blue actions that no one was expecting.—-We sat quietly enjoying our meal at the local fast food restaurant. Boom! “What was that?” I turned to see people rushing toward the gas station up the street.
  • To summarize the ideas presented in the long paragraph or sentence.

What do long sentences do?

  • Develop tension-While the short sentence is imminent, culminating with the actual event being acted out, the long sentence adds to the suspense, hinting at a situation in the process of developing.
  • Give vivid description-depicting a setting, love scene, or someone’s appearance.—Autumn came without special invitation, coloring the trees in orange, yellow and red, whispering the cold in our ears and hiding the warm sun rays from our eyes.
  • Investigates arguments, ideas, or facts thoroughly.

Although long sentences have the smell of the old-fashioned 19 century romantic prose, the usage of the long sentence in modern creative writing has it’s place.

When it comes to writing artistic literature, fairy tales, ghost stories, or mysteries, don’t underestimate the effects of short sentences.

Hope this didn’t confuse you too much. To sum it up, there’s a time and place for everything 🙂

-Jan R

Sentences-The Long and Short

What Would You Do?

148dd0dI was reading a segment of someone’s work-in-progress during my blog time this past week. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve navigated the blog scene very long. Some bloggers use their blog to post segments of their work.

The segment was very interesting and pulled me in to what was happening, but it was also distracting, because of the grammatical errors. I was hesitant at first to mention this, as I didn’t want to give the wrong impression or discourage the author.

I liked what she had written, but wondered if she realized how many errors were in the piece. At this point in my career, I’ve developed what I call a trained eye (for everybody’s work but my own 🙂 ).  Errors just jump off the page. I deal with the same thing when reading novels. And while they are few and far in between, yes, many novels have at least one or two errors.

Back to my dilemma. What was I suppose to do? What would you do? I did decide to point out the fact that there were quite a few grammatical errors, but also commented on the interesting storyline and her ability to pull me in. I didn’t want to come across as a know-it-all, you’re not very good at this writing thing, because I’m not, and like I said, I enjoyed her work. I just wanted to make sure she was aware of the errors.

Why? I think it’s partly because my first round of rejections from agents, included a blurb that pointed out numerous grammatical and structural errors. I didn’t realize how bad the submission was, or how perfect they expected it to be. I don’t want this aspiring author to go through the same thing.

She hasn’t responded to my comment, and I’m not sure if she will. I can only hope she took it as I meant it to be taken.

So what do you think? What would you do? Would you want someone to point out your errors or just not say anything?

-Jan R

What Would You Do?

Do You Really Know Your Characters?

fall-in-love-with-the-charactersYour main character should be a living, breathing, human being, at least in the eyes of the reader. He/she evolved into the person that they are today, just like you and me. What significant events in their life transformed them? Sounds like a little backstory to me.

You have to make your main character real, and in order to do this, that character must first become real to you. While you don’t have to include every bit of information you’ve developed and highlighted in your own mind, you do need to know that information.

  • What’s your character’s name
  • What does your character look like
  • When, where, and to whom was your main character(s) born
  • Brothers and sisters, their names and ages
  • Family dynamics(warm and loving, dysfunctional, abusive)
  • Where he/she attended high school, college, and graduate school
  • Any flaws-remember nobody’s perfect
  • Political affiliation
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Goals
  • Religious views
  • Friends (best friend)
  • Marital status
  • Worldview
  • Personality
  • What makes them angry
  • What makes them happy
  • What are their fears
  • And anything else relevant to your story

Take the time to flesh that character out. They will make or break your story.

Think of your favorite book. I bet when you focus in on what made that story stand out, you are going to run into some pretty amazing characters.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Do You Really Know Your Characters?

Antagonist-Friend or Foe?

1-darth-vadar-skull

My main focus for this particular blog is antagonists. I have two in my novel. One is amnesia, and the other is a young woman determined to marry the man of her dreams, even if he belongs to someone else. She uses his amnesia to her advantage, manipulating and deceiving him.

When you are creating antagonists, you must remember they are people too. Help your reader to empathize with them and understand why they act the way they do. Even bad people have weaknesses and can show love towards others. They are more than just a device to move your plot in a certain direction. Flesh them out!

Get into your antagonists head. Help people to see things from his/her point of view if possible. I write in third person omniscient, which allows me to get into the head of any character I choose, as long as I limit myself to one per scene. If this doesn’t work for you, have your point of view characters mull over and try to understand the antagonist’s point of view. You don’t want him/her to be seen as pure evil.

I have to admit, I’m a ‘Star Wars’ geek. If you’re a follower, you know who Darth Vader is. From my perspective, he is the perfect antagonist. The creator of this series, put a lot of thought into this bad guy. He is pure evil, but as Luke stated, “There is good in you, I can feel it.” Luke was right. Vader wasn’t all evil, as a matter of fact, he started out as a good guy. His motivation for turning to the dark side, was to save his wife.

 

You want your antagonists to be strong, smart, and capable. At least as much so as your protagonist. This serves to give the story balance and maintain interest.  It also helps to increase tension and suspense. You know the antagonist is capable of defeating the protagonist. The story could go in many different directions.

Back to the ‘Star Wars saga, Darth Vader was  the most powerful of all the Jedi, even though he turned to the dark side and fell under the control of the Sith Lord. His downfall in the end wasn’t his lack of strength, but his return to the light.  He sacrifices himself to save his son. In a split second decision, he destroys the empire and brings balance to the universe.

Many professionals recommended that you not use abstractions, such as corporations, disease, or war as your antagonists. They are unrelatable, but that’s a blog for another day.

If you do feel the need to use an abstraction, put a human face to it.  Instead of organized religion, you may consider a resentful pastor seeking revenge. Instead of corporate greed, you may consider a Bernie Madoff type. One of my antagonists is a medical condition that a second antagonist exploits to get what she wants.

Hope this post provided a couple nuggets and got you thinking 🙂

-Jan R

Antagonist-Friend or Foe?

If You Build It They Will Come

if-you-build-it-they-will-come-haha-just-kidding-you-still-have-to-sell-itWhen I started writing this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was I needed to start a blog. One of the agents I had queried, told me I needed a platform, and while it didn’t guarantee a book deal, it would make placing my book with a publishing house a lot easier.

So I read a book on platforms from Michael Hyatt and went to the WordPress site. I created my blog and decided to write about things I have learned, and/or had problems with during my journey to being published.

There’s so much we don’t know. So much I still don’t know, but my thought was if I shared information, it would hopefully help others to avoid some of the crazy mistakes I have made.

I was excited when I wrote that first blog. I sent it out to the world and waited anxiously for that first view. It never came. I wrote the second blog and again, there were no views. As a matter of fact, for almost six months, I wrote my blog faithfully with only a handful of views. I could literally count those views on one hand for each blog.

I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I reread Michael Hyatt’s book and looked at a few articles on successful blogs. Guess what? I finally realized that just because you write and put it out there, doesn’t mean they will come. This is not ‘The Field of Dreams’, you have to do your part.

I began reaching out to fellow bloggers. Like me, they were trying to build their platforms as well. I started visiting the websites of bloggers who shared the same interests that I did. Not only did I gain some great information in the process, but I picked up followers. I didn’t have to ask people to join me. I read their blogs, offered comments on their writing, and they responded by checking my site out and doing the same.  I discovered this was a win, win for all involved.

A delightful surprise, was the friendships that arise from exchanges with other writers.  Totally unexpected.

I have added a block of time to my weekly schedule for reading blogs of fellow bloggers (those I follow, as well as new ones I would like to follow). It’s not a chore, it’s fun!!! And you will build your following 🙂

I would caution  that your writing has to offer something. Once those viewers start visiting your site, it’s up to you to keep them coming back.

-Jan R

 

If You Build It They Will Come

Fact or Fiction?(Revised)

_shannon-wheeler-stop-fact-checking-my-story-new-yorker-cartoon-2If your hero is drinking sake in Tokyo, you better know which hand he should use to hold the cup; and when he is sunning on the beach at Cape Cod, remember that there won’t be any palm trees-Dean R. Koontz

You can’t get away with faking background information. If you fabricate a lot of facts on a wide variety of subjects, your readers will catch on.  I know it’s your story, and it’s fiction, but unless you are writing science fiction that involves creating your own world, you better stick to the facts when it comes to background.

Every time a reader knows that you are faking a bit of background information, your credibility slips a notch. When your credibility slips two, three, or four notches, you will lose that reader.

No one is saying that you have to limit your story to places/things that you know, but if you are going to step into unfamiliar territory, you had better do your homework.
There is so much information available, that there is no reason why you can’t write about any country you never visited, canoe making, basket weaving, or the floor plan for Biltmore house. I think you get the gist of where I’m going with this, but keep in mind that very few reference books are perfect.

If you do have to research certain topics, cross-check every piece of information, using two and preferably three sources.

Firsthand knowledge of background information is always more desirable than second hand. There is no better way to learn the sound, texture, smell, and look of  a place or thing, than when you experience it firsthand, but if you are diligent in your research, you can make your background come alive.
-Jan R

Fact or Fiction?(Revised)