Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Links of Interest

TESTING YOUR STORY’S EMOTIONAL STAKES:


SHOWING NOT TELLING YOUR CHARACTER:


MAKING YOUR READER BELIEVE THE UNBELIEVABLE:


HOW NOT TO START YOUR NOVEL:


FIVE COMMON LEGAL MYTHS ABOUT WRITING:


HOW TO SURVIVE A CAR AMBUSH:


MAKING YOUR PROSE MORE VISUAL:


MAKING SURE YOUR BOOK COVER IS A WINNER:


COMMON EDITING ISSUES:


FORENSICS, PACEMAKER INFO CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU:


THE FIFTEEN BEST EMAIL MARKETING SERVICES FOR AUTHORS:


MAKE YOUR HERO SUFFER:


COMMON CHARACTER PITFALLS AND HOW TO FIX THEM:


A QUICK GUIDE TO PRICING YOUR EBOOK:


FACEBOOK PROMOTION:



Monday, April 24, 2017

The Fourth Wall

In playwriting and stage performance, there’s a convention called the fourth wall.  Think of the stage as a room with three walls that contain the action.  The fourth wall is the invisible wall between the room and the audience who views the action through that invisible fourth wall.  The characters on the stage are unaware of that fourth wall and that they are observed.

If a character addresses the audience, they are breaking that fourth wall and acknowledging that what the audience sees isn’t real. Shakespeare broke the fourth wall many times at the ends of his comedies to ask for the audience’s applause.  

The fourth wall is often broken in today’s sitcoms and, occasionally, in TV dramas in a playful manner through dialogue directed at the audience but spoken to another character.  On a few rare occasions, I have seen a character actually wink or smirk at the audience/camera breaking the fourth wall for a few moments before the fourth wall comes back.  This is usually done when a show is making fun of itself and its conventions.  CASTLE and a few playful episodes of SUPERNATURAL have used this method during metafiction moments.  (Metafiction: Literary/performance techniques that draw the viewer/reader’s attention to the fact that he is reading/watching.  For more detail, go here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metafiction

Early novelists had a problem with the concept of the fourth wall and the use of narrative and viewpoint to tell the story.  Novels like Richardson’s PAMELA were told in the form of letters to make up for no narrative voice.  Later novels used an omniscient narrator who saw all the action, the character’s thoughts, and dialogue and related it to the reader.  Sometimes, the narrator spoke directly to the reader with such comments as “Do not despair, gentle reader, for soon, Becky shall have her comeuppance.”

Over time, the omniscient narrator has all but disappeared, particularly in genre novels, and the story is now told in the close viewpoint of one or more characters.  

In some stories, the character looks back on the past and reflects on what has happened as they relate what happened.  This method is particularly popular in older style mysteries in the “had I but known” style.  Example: Had I but known that going to that party would destroy my happiness, I wouldn’t have gone, but I did and here’s the disaster that happened.  Writers like Dick Francis, Gothic romance authors, and earlier romantic suspense authors have employed the story retold method to good effect.  

Most novels now have the reader inside the character’s head in the present moment so she’s privy to thoughts and what the character sees and hears, but the narrative element is invisible.  The reader can only see and know what the character does.  

To break that invisible fourth wall has always been considered bad writing because it pulls the reader from the story.  

Recently, however, I’ve read several novels where the author deliberately breaks that fourth wall at some moment in the story by letting the viewpoint character talk directly to the reader.  

Since the writer has, until that moment, written a competent book, I’m assuming this is a deliberate narrative choice.

Is this a good thing?  I don’t think so because it pulls the reader out of the book.

Is it a probable change in narrative technique?  That remains to be seen.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fantasy and Reality in Our Writing

In my dream, I walked into the snack bar of the student union of my alma mater. Daniel, the hero of my first novel, sat at one of the tables. He melted me with a sexy megawatt smile and purred, "Hello, Penn."

The awake part of me cringed--Penn was the heroine's name--and muttered, "You're going over the edge, Byerly. Writing IS a form of schizophrenia." 

"Uh..., hello, Daniel." I sat down beside him and decided, to heck with mental illness, I was going to enjoy myself. 

Even after many years, that dream remains vivid. It was my first encounter with the gray shadings between fantasy and reality in a writer's life. I know the difference between the two, every writer must. I've also learned their interplay enriches my characters and my life.

Parts of me litter my novels like confetti at a party--Tony Chaucer wore the ratty man's bathrobe I refused to stop wearing, Ariel at five snuggled with my teddy bear, and David had my vermouth dry sense of humor. Those parts help my characters live.

But each character is more than just chucks of me. They have thoughts and wisdom I've never had. 

I've borrowed Daniel's genius for quick puns and dear Nelson's serene wisdom and faith when my own was sadly lacking. In this manner, my characters have given back as much as I've given them.  Almost like real friends. 

Are you wondering what happened in that dream about sexy Daniel? We sat and discussed his own college days. You see, fantasy like reality doesn't always have the expected ending.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Links of Interest

FINDING THE RIGHT STORY QUESTION TO MOVE YOUR STORY FORWARD:


GETTING DEEP POV RIGHT:


ADDING HUMOR:


CREATING TIMELINES FOR YOUR NOVEL’S EVENTS:


CREATING POWERFUL HOOKS:


EBOOK CONVERSION SOFTWARE:


MAKING YOUR STORY MEMORABLE:


DISCOVERABILITY AND NEWSLETTERS:


CREATE MYSTERY, NOT CONFUSION, WITH YOUR OPENING:


GOOGLE ANALYTICS TO UNDERSTAND WHO YOUR READER IS:


DEFINING YOUR ANTAGONIST:


REBUILDING AN EBBING CAREER:


CREATING THE PERFECT LOVE TRIANGLE:


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE URBAN FANTASY AND HORROR MAIN CHARACTER:


PROMOTING A SERIES:


USING ZOOM IN THE THIRD PERSON NARRATIVE:


THE DANGER OF USING THE WRONG TONE:


PROMO, DO THIS, NOT THAT:




Monday, April 10, 2017

The Yin and Yang of Worldbuilding

One of the fun things about worldbuilding for a fantasy or paranormal novel is that you can take bits and pieces of religions and mythologies to build your own world.  Popular writers like Kevin Hearne have had confrontations between their main character and the gods of Greece, the Norse, and the Celts as well as demons, angels, werewolves, and vampires.  

This mix and match can be as much fun as an a la carte desert tray.  

However, and this is a big one, you must include the light/good and the dark/evil elements of these choices so that the playing field isn’t ridiculously one-sided.

One of the most common mistakes I see is the use of only the dark/evil part of a pantheon or religion.

A recent young adult novel I read had Judeo-Christian demons invading this world with only a small number of magical humans to fight them.  The two most powerful humans were a couple of ten-year-old boys.  

I kept expecting some force from the light to make its appearance to help give these kids and the human race a chance, but none appeared.   Any major victory without help is ridiculous and unbelievable.

Consider the show SUPERNATURAL.  The universe in this series has both angels and demons in play.  The angels, for the most part, are “big dicks,” but a few offer some assistance in the constant struggle against demons and other monsters.  Sam and Dean, even though ridiculously skilled, have more than themselves in this struggle.  They are also adept at creating alliances including with the dark side like the King of Hell when what they face threatens both sides, good and evil.  

As writers we must stack the odds against our heroes so that their victories are sweet and hard fought, but we can’t make the mistake of making that victory ridiculous by offering no help from the the light side.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Links of Interest


CREATING GREAT SECONDARY CHARACTERS:


HTML TAGS IN AMAZON BOOK DESCRIPTIONS:


HANDSELLING AT CONVENTIONS:


INCREASING SCENE CONFLICT:


STORY STRUCTURE IN THE ROMANCE:


THE NINE ASPECTS OF STORY PROMISE:


FACEBOOK ADS, A QUICK START GUIDE:


BOOK RESEARCH FOR BEGINNERS:


WRITING A TRICKSTER CHARACTER LIKE LOKI:


REVISION, FIXING GRAMMATICAL ERRORS:


REVISION, HOW TO DO A FINAL READTHROUGH OF YOUR NOVEL:


REVISION, WHAT TO DO AFTER COMPLETING YOUR REVISION:





Monday, April 3, 2017

The Zombie as a Character

Zombies are the animated dead.  In their usual depictions in movies and TV shows, they are shambling, disintegrating, and mindless corpses who seek to kill the living so they can eat their brains.  

Sometimes, they are controlled by magic so they appear to be intelligent but are really robots of dead flesh.

The traditional zombie is most often a mindless threat, part of a massive hoard of stupidity and appetite which moves toward its victims who must find a safe fortress to fight against them.  

The creation of the zombie is as often a scientific one -- a pandemic virus or a scientific genetic experiment gone wrong as it is a supernatural one caused by curses, demons, or evil magic doers.  

The zombie also appears under a number of other guises including the failed/feral vampires in Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels and Davidson's Queen Betsy novels.  

Other writers like Marjorie Liu in her "Hunter Kiss" urban fantasies used demons to infest the dead.

In most novels, the zombie is a threat, but it is rarely the main threat since it lacks the sentience that a good bad guy needs in a novel.  This lack of sentience doesn't matter in a movie, but it weakens a novel which is more intimate.  

An effective bad guy in a novel reacts to the main characters, he has snappy dialogue, and he threatens his minions and everyone else.    A zombie does none of those things.

Some writers have turned the zombie myth around by making the main character a zombie who is both sentient and blood-thirsty.  For example, Mark Henry in his Amanda Feral series had a zombie chick-lit heroine who was smart, witty, and a cannibal.  Black humor and horror are always included.

The zombie as a romantic partner in a romance has also happened which I find gross.  Your tastes may vary. 

NOTE:  Welcome back, iZombie, the only zombie show I’m a fan of.