Monday, March 26, 2018

A Character's Profession and Viewpoint

I've written several blogs on how viewpoint affects what you description in a scene. For example, a character who is analytical will view a room differently from a creative person.

The profession of a viewpoint character also affects how you describe what the character sees. In one of my novels, the main character is a landscape artist. I kept a list of paint colors beside me as I wrote her viewpoint because she'd be precise about color variations. She'd see another character's eyes as cerulean blue, not blue. 

If that viewpoint character had been an expert on antiques, the other person's eyes might be the color of Delft blue china. 

Using this kind of description also makes writing love scene description, particularly evoking the intense emotions of sexual pleasure, a bit easier and less cliche-ridden. I've used space imagery for a heroine who was an astrophysicist, shapes and forms for an architect, and colors and textures for that landscape painter. 

An expert will also see something differently than the rest of us. Imagine a mechanic looking at a car engine, now imagine someone who knows nothing about engines looking at it. The terms used to describe the engine in viewpoint will be as precise or imprecise as the character's knowledge.  

Don’t be ridiculously precise, however, by naming too many parts or scientific elements because most readers’ eyes will glaze over.

Always remember that description is as much about the viewpoint character as it is about creating a picture in the reader's head.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Creating a Fictional Town from a Real One

QUESTION: I've tried to turn small towns I'm familiar with into fictional towns or settings--usually for a paranormal world. Each time, I've ended up with a big, confusing, frustrated mess. You have mentioned that you have done this. Do you have any tips or tricks for developing your hometown into a fictional town? 

In my novel, TIME AFER TIME, my heroine’s hometown of Moravia is literally my hometown with the location of streets, etc.  

The heroine's engagement party is in a country club that's about five miles away from where I live.  I fiddled a bit with the look of the huge room and the patio where she meets the hero, though, to fit the plot.

The hero picks her up in a horse and carriage and takes her to the golf course to the east of the country club.  

I know where the McDonalds is that they stop at for a late snack and the apartment complex where she lives.

In another series set in Moravia which is my go-to site for all my paranormal novels, the hero's house is about a block away from where I live. The house is across the street from the Methodist church I went to as a child. 

The hero and his best friend ride on trails I rode as a girl, and the heroine goes to a fictional version of my alma mater.  When she drives there, I know what she passes, and the campus is described accurately. 

If I change some element of the real town for my fictional town, I make a note to myself to that effect although I rarely reuse settings like the country club.

I give the streets different names because I don't want people to make too close a connection between High Point and Moravia, and for the series, I'm using the High Point of forty years ago because it fits better.  Those riding trails are now housing developments, for example.

Rather than a map, I have an equals list.  

Willow Street = Chestnut Drive
Nathanton = Greensboro

Most of my names have a word play involved.  Willow and Chestnut are both trees, and Greensboro is named after Revolutionary War hero, Nathaniel Green.

I never use exact distances, but I know how long it would take to get from the magic equipment storage warehouse to Daniel's house in the middle of the night if you were driving well over the speed limit.  

This information doesn't really change what happens or anything, but just knowing helps keep the place real for me, and, hopefully, that makes the place more real to the reader.  

Monday, March 12, 2018

Across a Crowded Room

QUESTION: I have a scene in a restaurant where staff is coming and going. How do I describe that? Do I mention all the movement?

This is really about viewpoint. You are describing the scene from your viewpoint character's perspective. What will she see?

Imagine this. You are in your favorite romantic restaurant. Across from you is your special someone or your favorite sexy actor. You are eating your meal, flirting, and talking. Would you be aware of who is coming in and out of the room?

Your character in a similar situation would do the same thing.

Imagine this. You are in that restaurant with that sexy lover, but someone wants to kill you.

You would be very aware of who is coming and going in the room, and so would your viewpoint character.

If it's a situation that's emotionally neutral like a banquet meal with servants coming and going to bring food, you can say something like "A steady stream of servants, each with a large tray of food or an empty bowl, moved through the room tending the tables.”

Then, unless there's a reason to mention the servants again, or a servant again, you don't mention them. The reader will fill in the visual blanks.

Monday, March 5, 2018

What Genre Is My Book?

Many writers, particularly those who self-publish, believe that genre has nothing to do with them.  They write what they write and refuse to follow the “rules.”

What most don’t realize is that genre is not so much about following a particular formula as it is about finding the right market and readers.  Publishers and Amazon want the writer to know the correct genre to insert their book in to because they know that that’s how the readers find the books they will enjoy.  

Nothing makes a reader madder than reading a book labeled as a romance where one of the romantic pair dies instead of offering a possibility of a “happily ever after.”  Or a mystery where the bad guys win or the murder isn’t solved.  This fails the promise made by the genre label.  

How do you determine your genre or decide what genre you want to write? 

One of the first things you do is consider the books that are similar to what you are writing.  What genre are they listed as?  Pick books that are from traditional publishers since some self-pubs haven't a clue about their genre or they slap on a popular genre to attract more readers.  

Once you have some clue about the genre or genres to look at, do some searching of terms.  If you think you may be writing urban fantasy but several searches and reading of articles on urban fantasy tell you that you aren't, do some more searching for terms like "contemporary fantasy."

As a starting place for finding good writers to read in a particular genre, go to a site like RTBookReviews and read a bunch of reviews to find books similar to yours.  Pick the writers who are recommended reads.  It's best to pick writers who aren't "names."  Nora Roberts can do what she wants because she's Nora Roberts so she's not the best example for the books you want to emulate.  Neither is Stephen King or James Patterson.  

If you discover that you have done very little to no reading in a particular genre, you need to rethink your book because you will open yourself up to writing cliches, annoying readers, and making massive mistakes that will destroy the book's market value.

Genre distinctions are a particular interest of mine so I have a number of articles on the subject.  Click on the "genre" label on the right side of this blog.  If you are writing a mix of genres (cross-genre) or a subgenre of a popular genre like romance, click on the label "cross genre."