Tag Archives: #amwriting

The author’s website #blogging #amwriting

January is a good time to think about your career as an author, even if you must still hold down a full-time job. Authors who want to find readers should have a website and perhaps a little blog. The website is more than just a pain in the neck that you haven’t figured out yet.

blogging memeIt’s a platform where you can advertise your books and discuss your interests, and most importantly, talk about what you are writing.

If cost is a problem, don’t sweat it. WordPress offers free blogs and free theme templates, so with a small amount of effort and a little self-education, you can have a nice-looking website. I began in 2011 with no website skills whatsoever, but I can hold my own now.

I have made a personal commitment to post three times a week on this blog. This allows me to rant about the craft of writing and gives me a place to talk about my growing love of fine art.

My first blog failed in 2010 because writing about current affairs has never interested me. Journalism is not my strength, but my unlamented first publisher wanted me to write about politics, etc.

Meh.

What I learned from that otherwise-negative blogging experience is important. When I stopped trying to fit into a mold someone else had designed for me and began writing about my interests, I learned to love blogging. When I made that connection and commitment to writing about what I enjoy, I began to grow as a writer.

This blog never fails to provide me with a sharp dose of reality. I proofread my own work, run it through Grammarly, have the Read-Aloud function of my word-processing program read it back to me, and then publish it.

Still, I drop words, phrase things incomprehensibly, and misspell things.

Nothing bursts your bubble of self-importance like discovering gross errors and bloopers several days after you published the post.

powerwordsWordCloudLIRF06192021Writing blogposts requires me to become a thinking author, as well as a pantser. I can write using the “stream-of-consciousness” method or from an outline of whatever interests me at the time. I do the research, and the post begins to write itself.

Readers like short articles. I have found that a reasonable post length varies from about 500 words to not much more than 1,000. Having that limit forces me to keep my area of discussion narrow. Also, topics that try to sidetrack me in the writing process often become posts in their own right.

This constraint helps me when writing flash fiction. Most publishers of flash fiction only want stories that top out at no more than 1,000 words in length. When I first began writing flash fiction, telling the entire story in so few words was often an issue. Writing blog posts really helped me learn that skill.

For me, writing blog posts isn’t that difficult per se. If I’m fired up about the subject, I can knock one out in less than an hour.

Finding new and interesting content can be a challenge. Sometimes, I consider cutting back to publishing only on Mondays and Fridays. I have written posts on nearly every aspect of the craft and worry about repeating myself.

But then, a complex subject is raised and can’t be dealt with in only 500 – 1,000 words, and I get fired up again.

strange thoughts 2I love to see what questions people might want to have answered. Sometimes topics crop up at my writing group that no one has an answer to, and then I get to do a little research—my favorite thing. Other times I find interesting questions in the writers’ forums that I frequent.

During the week, I make notes as I come across topics that might make a good blog post. The only day I write blog posts is Sunday. Usually, writing the posts for the week only involves the morning.

If you are a blogger who only posts once a week or once a month, writing your blog post should only take an hour (or less).

I spell-check and self-edit my posts as well as possible. Then I go to my website and preschedule them.

You can do this too. Use the tools that WordPress or whatever platform hosts your website offers to schedule your posts in advance. They will post without your having to babysit them.

Prescheduling allows me to work on my real job the rest of the week. (Writing novels, baking bread, cooking, and doing laundry.)

If you are an author, you might consider having a little blog as part of your website. You don’t have to blog as frequently as I do.

Your website is your store, your voice, and your public presence. We write novels and want people to find and read our work. Readers will find you and your books on your website. It’s your job to give them a reason to come and look at your books.

Authors regularly complain that it’s hard to gain readers when you first begin to blog. That is true but if you keep at it, you gain readers. If you write it, readers will come.

When we have a limited audience, gaining readers can feel like climbing Mount Everest.

In the world of blogging, as in everything else, we start out small and gain readers as we go along—but we gain them more quickly if we keep the content updated at least bi-monthly.

My advice is to write short posts, schedule them for a particular day and time and not worry about how many hits, likes, or comments you get. That’s a stress you don’t need. Instead, write your posts as if every person on the planet is going to read them. Just post them and forget about them until it’s time to post the next one. Don’t even look at the stats.

Once you’ve been at it for six months, you have a history of stats to look at. THAT is when you gauge what topics do best, and make sure the time the blog goes live is a good slot. You want to post it when people are looking for something short to read, like when they’re riding the bus/train to or from work.

Readers will find you, and you will be doing one positive thing to advance your career during this pandemic.

Authors want to gain readers, so we must use every opportunity to get the word out. Updating your website twice a month to discuss what you’re writing and how life treats you is interesting to readers.

softwarewordcloudIf you feel that it’s too much work, consider how you update your other social media. Try posting a haiku, a tweet-length post, or an Instagram-style post once or twice a week. Any social media platform post can be converted to serve as a blog post.

It’s your opportunity to connect with people who want to read your work. But beyond that, I’ve met wonderful people from all over the world through this platform!

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Identifying Tropes and Subgenres part 2 – Crime, Thrillers, Historical, and Westerns #amwriting

Last week, we began discussing how to identify tropes and subgenres when you are trying to sell a short story (or novel). We need to know what our product is if we want to find a buyer. Identifying the Tropes of Genre and Subgenre #amwriting

Tropes-writing-craft-seriesToday, we continue that discussion with four more genres, each with many subgenres. First up is westerns. This is a popular genre with several common tropes and can be tricky to write respectfully and find a publisher for.

I grew up reading my grandmother’s Louis L’Amour novels, so westerns are in my blood. The common topes of the classic western are evolving, but they still follow this pattern:

The setting will be the frontier of the old American West, set in the years after the Civil War and before WWI.

Our protagonist is likely to be the lone cowboy – who doesn’t love the handsome loner who rides into town and saves the day? In many stories, his trusty steed is also a character, as a good pony is critical to the hero’s ability to go places. At times, the horse is his only companion.

the-woman-who-built-a-bridgeHowever, more and more, we are finding stories with female protagonists. An excellent example of this is the novel, The Woman who Built a Bridge by C.K. Crigger. I found this novel on the Wolfpack website and loved it. Wolfpack Publishing offers a great article on the tropes that have historically characterized the genre of classic westerns.

The conflict between cowboys and Indians. This particular trope must be handled with care and an awareness of stereotyping and glorifying cultural oppression. Westerns are historical, so accuracy and research are required.

Also, one must avoid committing cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc., of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or culture. Talk to the tribes in your area if possible. They will help you find ways to portray your indigenous people with respect.

Romance – enter the beautiful woman/handsome ranch hand. Often these characters will have a mysterious and tragic past.

Revenge – the redressing of wrongs is often a significant plot driver. The need to avenge a wrong becomes a character’s obsession, and murder frequently ensues.

A Sheriff becomes involved when a murder happens, and this lawman/woman is frequently the protagonist or love interest.

And finally, when the law catches up to the criminals, a shootout ensues.

Two subgenres of Westerns are Alternate World Westerns and Sci-fi Westerns. The setting may be a different kind of Old West, but just as in a classic Western, there is always a moral for the reader to take away. The action and mystery are sometimes accompanied by a star-crossed romance. The emotional stakes make these stories popular.

Next up, we will look at the genres of Crime Fiction and Thrillers.

The Crime genre is comprised of two main categories, true crime and fictional crime. Crime fiction has several subgenres, but I’m going to talk about only a few of them here.

The Crime Noir is set in dark, gritty urban environments. It often features hardboiled men with anger issues and alcohol problems who work as private detectives. Women are often portrayed as repressed sex objects. The protagonists are usually divorced ex-cops with a nasty reputation. Female protagonists have been making inroads in this genre, with some success.

A modern subgenre is a cyber-punk crime noir. These stories are set in a dystopian high-tech society but with all the tropes of a traditional crime noir.

True Crime sheds light on the sensational crimes that made headlines in real life. These are meticulously researched, and the authors work closely with law enforcement as they detail the events and personalities of the people involved.

nemesis agatha christieThe Agatha Christie / Sherlock Holmes style of novel is the classic whodunnit. They feature a private detective with close ties to law enforcement but who is still an outsider. The detective sometimes has a sidekick who chronicles their cases. At times, the detectives butt heads with the police as resentment of the protagonist’s stepping on their turf crops up. This jealousy hinders the investigation. Clues are always inserted so that the reader doesn’t notice them until the denouement, and the sidekick never guesses right either.

An excellent analysis of Agatha Christie’s writing style and work can be found here: Analysis of Agatha Christie’s Novels.

Thrillers are a complex group of subgenres. Wikipedia says:

Thrillers generally keep the audience on the “edge of their seats” as the plot builds towards a climax. The cover-up of important information is a common element. Literary devices such as red herrings, plot twistsunreliable narrators, and cliffhangers are used extensively. A thriller is often a villain-driven plot, whereby they present obstacles that the protagonist must overcome. [1]

  • Political thrillers
  • Legal thrillers
  • Medical Thrillers

Then, there are Supernatural Mysteries, stories dealing with the paranormal. They may be gothic and dark.

One of my favorite genres is Romantic Mystery. I love a good mystery and a happy ending.

All crime novels and mysteries have common tropes: they involve a puzzle that the protagonist must solve, usually placing themselves in great danger in the process. Good mysteries have small clues embedded along the way for the reader. They also include many false clues that keep the reader on the wrong track. Mystery readers want to solve the puzzle—that’s why they buy these books.

Finally, we must look at Historical Fiction, which I don’t write. However, I can quote from the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia:

An essential element of historical fiction is that it is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions and other details of the depicted period. Authors also frequently choose to explore notable historical figures in these settings, allowing readers to better understand how these individuals might have responded to their environments. Some subgenres such as alternate history and historical fantasy insert speculative or ahistorical elements into a novel.

440px-Brock_Pride_and_PrejudiceDefinitions differ as to what constitutes a historical novel. On the one hand, the Historical Novel Society defines the genre as works “written at least fifty years after the events described,” while critic Sarah Johnson delineates such novels as “set before the middle of the last [20th] century … in which the author is writing from research rather than personal experience.” Then again, Lynda Adamson, in her preface to the bibliographic reference work World Historical Fiction, states that while a “generally accepted definition” for the historical novel is a novel “about a time period at least 25 years before it was written,” she also suggests that some people read novels written in the past, like those of Jane Austen (1775–1817), as if they were historical novels. [2]

When you know your story’s genre, you know what publication might be interested in it.

More importantly, you know where NOT to submit it.


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Thriller (genre),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Thriller_(genre)&oldid=1061575069 (accessed January 4, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Historical fiction,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Historical_fiction&oldid=1063618945 (accessed January 5, 2022).

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Identifying the Tropes of Genre and Subgenre #amwriting

I always suggest that authors build a backlog of short stories for submission to contests and various publications. But how do you know where to sell your work?

Tropes-writing-craft-seriesTo know that, you must know the genre of the work you are trying to sell. So, what exactly are genres? Publisher and author Lee French puts it this way, “Literary genres are each a collection of tropes that create expectations about the media you consume.”

So, genres are categories the publishing industry developed to enable shoppers in bookstores to quickly find what they are looking for. They’re like a display of apples at the grocery store – many baskets of apples are situated there, but each variety is a little different from its neighbor.

The difference in taste (tart or sweet) and texture (firm or soft) are what we gravitate to when we shop for apples.

In novels, the different flavors within a genre are created by the tropes the author has chosen to include in the narrative.

When you open the Submittable App and begin shopping for places to submit your work, you may find the list of open calls confusing. Many times, contests, publications, and anthologies are genre-specific. However, sometimes they don’t clarify which subgenres within that overarching category they are looking for.

Writers of nonfiction and poetry have no problem because their work is targeted to a magazine with a specific readership.

How do you decide who will be most receptive to your story? You must look at the tropes you have included in the narrative.

This list of genres and what they represent has appeared on this blog before. Genre is determined by the author’s intention, approach, how resolutions happen, and the ideas explored. The various tropes the authors employ form these industry-wide distinctions.

Nine_Perfect_Strangers_Liane_MoriartyMainstream (general) fiction—Mainstream fiction is a general term that publishers and booksellers use to describe works that may appeal to the broadest range of readers and have some likelihood of commercial success. Mainstream authors often blend genre fiction practices with techniques considered unique to literary fiction. It will be both plot- and character-driven and may have a style of narrative that is not as lean as modern genre fiction but is not too stylistic either. The novel’s prose will at times delve into a more literary vein than genre fiction. The story will be driven by the events and actions that force the characters to grow.

Science fiction—Futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life are the core of science fiction. BE WARNED: if you use magic for any reason, you are NOT writing any form of sci-fi. The tropes that define subgenres are:

  • Hard Sci-fi is characterized by rigorous attention to accurate detail in physics, chemistry, and astrophysics. Emphasis is placed on accurately depicting worlds that more advanced technology may make possible.
  • Soft Sci-fi is characterized by works based on social sciences such as psychology, economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology.
  • Other main sub-genres of Sci-fi include Space-operasCyberpunk, Time Travel, Steampunk, Alternate history, Military, Superhuman, Apocalyptic, and Post-Apocalyptic. Go to the internet and look up the typical tropes of these subgenres. Then write me an awesome Space Opera – my favorite subgenre of sci-fi.

The main thing to remember is this: Science and Magic cannot coexist in the genre of science fiction. The minute you add magic to the story, you have fantasy.

Green_Angel_Tower_P1Fantasy is a fiction genre that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting.  Like sci-fi and literary fiction, fantasy has its share of snobs when it comes to defining the sub-genres. The tropes are:

  • High fantasy is defined as fantasy fiction set in an alternative, fictional world, rather than the real, or “primary” world, with elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, demons, magic or sorcery, wizards or magicians, constructed languages, quests, coming-of-age themes, and multi-volume Often the prose is more literary, and the primary plot is slowed by many side quests. Think William Morrisand J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • Epic Fantasy is often serious in tone and epic in scope. It usually explores the struggle against supernatural, evil forces.Epic fantasy shares some typical characteristics of high fantasy and includes fantastical elements such as elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, demons, magic or sorcery, wizards or magicians, constructed languages, quests, coming-of-age themes, and multi-volume narratives. Tad Williams’s Memory Sorrow and Thorn is classic Epic Fantasy.
  • Paranormal Fantasy–Paranormal fantasy often focuses on romantic love. It includes elements beyond scientific explanation, blending themes from all speculative fiction genres. Think ghosts, vampires, and supernatural.
  • Urban fantasy can occur in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

Horror—Every genre has a subgenre of horror: Wikipedia says, “Horror fiction, horror literature and also horror fantasy are genres of literature, which are intended to, or have the capacity to frighten, scare, or startle their readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon has defined the horror story as “a piece of fiction in prose of variable length… which shocks or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing.” In Romance, the horror subgenre might be Gothic or Paranormal, but the focus must be on a developing romance. The roadblocks will not feature blood or gore, but terror and a perception of danger will be a feature the pair must overcome.

Romance—Novels of this type of genre fiction place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people and must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. The story will be character-driven, and the roadblocks must be believable but surmountable.

I mention Literary Fiction last because it is the most complicated and least understood genre of all.

Ulysses_(1967_film_dvd_cover)Literary fiction can be adventurous with the narrative. The style of the prose has prominence and may be experimental, requiring the reader to go over certain passages more than once. Stylistic writing, heavy use of allegory, the deep exploration of themes and ideas form the core of the piece.

Be careful when presenting yourself and your work to the prospective publisher. Never submit anything that is not your best work, and do not assume they will edit it because they won’t. No publisher will accept poorly written work or sloppily formatted manuscripts.

Read a sample of the work they publish and only submit the work that best fits their publication.

And most of all, good luck! May your work land on an editor’s desk the day they are looking for a story just like that!

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The Functions of the Scene #amwriting

Now that we are in the midst of December, many people are reviewing what they wrote during NaNoWriMo and trying to put it in order. This is a good time to look at the function of the scene.

ScenesNovels consist of a string of moments united by a common theme. These scenes combine to form a story when you put them together in the right order and link them with a plot featuring a compelling protagonist who must overcome adversity.

I see the scene as a story within a larger story, a moment with an arc of its own.

Scenes are the building blocks of the story. Small arcs of action form chapters, which form the larger arc of plot. They combine to form a cathedral-like structure: the novel.

If you ask a reader what makes a memorable story, they will tell you that the emotions it evoked are what they remember, and why they loved that novel.

Therefore, no scene can be wasted. Each moment of the story must have a function, or the story fails to hold the reader’s interest. I work to make each scene as emotionally powerful as I can without going overboard.

A few things a scene can show:

  • Capitulation
  • Catalyst
  • Confrontation
  • Contemplation/Reflection
  • Decision
  • Emotions
  • Information
  • Negotiation
  • Resolution
  • Revelation
  • Turning Point

Make one or more of these functions the core of the scene, and you will have a compelling story.

Let’s return to a watershed chapter I’ve discussed before. In the Fellowship of the Ring, book one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring series, the longest chapter in the book details the Council of Elrond. The scene is set in Rivendell, Elrond’s remote mountain citadel.

The characters attending the Council have arrived there on separate errands. Each has different hopes for what would ultimately come from the meeting.

Despite their various agendas, each is ultimately concerned with the One Ring. Each has their own idea of how to use it to protect the people of Middle-earth from the depredations of Sauron, who is desperate to regain possession of it. This chapter is comprised of several scenes and serves more than one function.

GANDALF

Gandalf the Grey, by Nidoart, CC BY-SA 3.0

Information/Revelation: The Council of Elrond conveys information to both the protagonists and the reader. It is a conversation scene, driven by the fact that each person in the meeting has knowledge the others need. Conversations are an excellent way to deploy required information.

Remember, plot points are driven by the characters who have vital knowledge.

The fact that some characters are working with limited information creates high emotional tension.

At the Council of Elrond, many things are discussed, and the history of the One Ring is explained. This is not done in an info dump; instead, each character offers a new piece of the puzzle at the moment the reader needs to know it.

The reader and the characters receive the information simultaneously at this point in the novel.

Confrontation: A scene comprised only of action can be confusing if it has no context. A properly placed confrontational conversation (an argument/dispute) gives the reader the context needed to understand the reason for the action.

At the Council of Elrond, long-simmering racial tensions between Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf surface. Each is possessed of a confrontational nature, and it isn’t clear whether they will be able to set aside their prejudice and work together or not.

Other conflicts are explored, and heated exchanges occur between Aragorn and Boromir.

Negotiation: What concessions will have to be made to achieve the final goal? These concessions must be negotiated. Tom Bombadil is mentioned as one who could safely take the ring to Mordor as it has no power over him. Gandalf feels he would simply lose the ring or give it away. He explains that Tom lives in his own reality and doesn’t see the conflict with Sauron as a problem.

Bilbo volunteers, but he is too old and frail. Others offer, but none are accepted as good candidates for the job of ring-bearer for one reason or another. Each reason that is provided for why these characters are deemed less than satisfactory by Gandalf and Elrond deploys information the reader needs.

Turning Point: After much discussion, many revelations, and bitter arguments, Frodo declares that he will go to Mordor and dispose of the ring, giving up his chance to live his remaining life in the comfort and safety of Rivendell. Sam emerges from his hiding place and demands to be allowed to accompany Frodo. This is the turning point of the story.

(The movie portrays this scene differently, with Pip and Merry hiding in the shadows. Also, in the book, the decision regarding who will accompany Frodo, other than Sam, is not made for several days, while the movie shortens it to one day.)

Within the story’s arc are smaller arcs of conflict and reflection, each created by scenes. The arc of the scene is like any other: it begins, rises to a peak, and ebbs, ending on a slightly higher point of the overall story arc than when it started.

The scene must reveal something new and push the story toward something unknown.

959px-One_Ring_Blender_Render

The One Ring, Peter J. Yost, CC BY-SA 4.0

We are also pushing the character arc with each scene, raising the stakes a little. Our protagonist grows and is shaped by receiving needed information through action and conversation, followed by reaction and regrouping. This allows the reader to experience the story as the protagonist does.

The reader can then reflect and absorb the information gained before moving on to the next scene.

I will continue this discussion in my next post, which will focus on transitioning from scene to scene. Transitions are vital as they affect pacing and keep the story moving forward.


Credits and Attributions:

Gandalf the Grey, by Nidoart, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons (artwork by Nidoart nidoart.blogspot.fr)

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:GANDALF.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:GANDALF.jpg&oldid=608049709 (accessed December 12, 2021).

The One Ring, Peter J. Yost, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:One Ring Blender Render.png,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:One_Ring_Blender_Render.png&oldid=575573354 (accessed December 12, 2021).

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The Surface of the Story #amwriting

One of my favorite places to walk is McLane Creek Nature Trail. Within that nature reserve is a large beaver pond, with several accessible, easy-to-walk trails that wind around the pond and through the woods.

McLaine_Pond_In_July_©_2018_ConnieJJapsersonStrolling along, watching the birds and animals that make their homes there grounds me. When we leave, I feel spiritually rested, more rooted in the earth, stronger and at peace with myself. It is a serene place, a place of stillness and calm.

The pond is always fascinating. When you watch the water, you can see the effects of the world around it reflected on its surface. On a windless day, the pool will be calm, still. The sky and any overhanging trees will be reflected in it.

When a storm blows in, things change. The waters move, and ripples and small waves stir things up. The waters turn dark, reflecting the stormy sky.

Just like the surface of a pond, the surface of a story is the what-you-see-is-what-you-get layer. It conceals what lurks in the depths but offers a few small clues as to what lies below.

This layer is comprised of

  • Genre
  • Setting
  • Action and interaction
  • All visual/physical experiences of the characters as they go about their lives.

Genre determines the shelf in the bookstore: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Children’s books—those labels tell the reader what sort of story to expect.

I see the surface of a story as if it were a picture. At first glance, we see something recognizable. The all-encompassing shell of a story is the setting. The setting is comprised of things such as:

  1. Objects the characters see in their immediate environment
  2. Ambient sounds.
  3. Odors and scents.
  4. Objects the characters interact with.
  5. Weapons (swords, guns, phasers)

The still, reflective surface of a pond is affected by the breeze that stirs it. In the case of our novel, the breeze that stirs things up is made of action and emotion. These are the structural events that form the arc of the story:

  1. The opening.
  2. The inciting incident.
  3. Rising action and events that evolve from the inciting incident.
  4. The introduction of new characters.
  5. The action that occurs between the protagonist and antagonist as they jockey for position.
  6. The final showdown

Depth_word_cloud (50 words)-page-001The components that form the visual layer appear to be the story. However, once a reader wades in, they discover unsuspected depths.

We shape this layer through world-building. We can add fantasy elements, or we can stick to as real an environment as is possible.

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll showed us how an author might play with the setting by incorporating an unusual juxtaposition of objects and animals. The characters behave and interact with their environment as if the bizarre things are normal. The setting has a slightly hallucinogenic feel, making the reader wonder if the characters are dreaming.

Yet, in the Alice stories, the placement of the unusual objects is deliberate, meant to convey a message or to poke fun at a social norm.

Most Sci-fi and some fantasy novels are set in recognizable worlds, very similar to where we live. The settings are familiar, so close to what we know, we could be in that world. That is where good world-building creates a literal layer that is immediately accepted by the reader.

Setting, action, interaction—these most obvious superficial components are the framework that supports the deeper aspects of the story.

WordItOut-word-cloud-4074543The real story is how our characters interact and react to stresses within the overall framework of the environment and plot. Depth is found in the lessons the characters learn as they live through the events. Depth manifests in the changes of viewpoint and evolving differences in how they see themselves and the world.

Creating depth in our story requires thought and rewriting, but in the last week of NaNoWriMo, we are just trying to get the world built and the events in order. The first draft gives us the surface. We have an idea of what lies below, but at this point, all we are concerned with is getting the structure of the story down, and the characters in place with their personalities.

The true depths and emotions are yet to be discovered but will begin to reveal themselves in the second draft, sometime in December or January. That is when the real writing begins.

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#NaNoPrep: Signing up and getting started #amwriting

Even if you don’t have an idea of what you want to write, it’s time to go out to www.nanowrimo.org and sign in or sign up. That will inspire you!

Navigating the website at www.nanowrimo.org can be confusing. However, if you take the time to explore it and get to know all the many tricks to using it, you’ll be more comfortable with it.

If you haven’t been a participant for several years and are considering joining again, you’ll find the new website is radically different from the old site. Many features we used and loved in the past are no longer available, but it includes numerous features that really are nice. The following screenshots will help you find your way around the website:

First, go to www.nanowrimo.org. This is the landing page:

nanoLandingPageOnce there, create a profile. You don’t have to get fancy unless you are bored and uber-creative.

Next, declare your project: Give your project a name if you have one. I don’t have a working title yet, so I’m just going with Accidental Novel 2 since it features the same characters as last year’s accidental novel. Pick the genre you intend to write in. Write a few paragraphs about your intended project if you know what you plan to write.

AnounceYourProject2021You can play around with your personal page a little to get used to it. I use my NaNoWriMo avatar and name as my Discord name and avatar. This is because I only use Discord for NaNoWriMo and one other large organization of writers. (Next week, we’ll talk about Discord and why NaNoWriMo HQ wants us to use it for word sprints and virtual write-ins.)

While you are creating your profile, write a short bio, and with that done, you’re good to go. If you’re feeling really creative, add a header and make a placeholder book cover—have fun and go wild.

right dropdown menu buttonNext, check out the community tabs. If you are in full screen, the tabs will be across the top. If you have the screen minimized, the button for the dropdown menu will be in the upper right corner and will look like the blue/green and black square to the right of this paragraph.

When the button is clicked, the menu will be on the righthand side instead of across the top.

Your regional page will look different from ours because every region has a different idea of how they present themselves, but it will be there in the Community tab. And don’t forget to check out the national forums, also on the Community tab.

Olympia_Region_homepageYou may find the information you need in one of the many forums listed here.

Now, let’s talk about eliminating heartache and attempted suicides among authors.

Losing your files is a traumatic experience. Some authors within my writing group have lost several years of work in a surprise computer crash – an unimaginable tragedy.

I use a cloud-based storage system because entire manuscripts can go missing when a thumb drive or hard drive is corrupted.

fileFolderMake a master file folder that is just for your writing. I write professionally, so my files are in a master file labeled Writing.

Inside that master file are many subfiles, one for each new project or series. My subfile for this project is labeled Ivans_Story.

FileDocumentGive your document a label that is simple and descriptive. My NaNoWriMo manuscript will be labeled: Accidental_Novel_2.

First of all, you need to save regularly. I use a file hosting service called Dropbox. I have a lot of images on file, so I pay for an expanded version, but they do have a free version that offers you as much storage as a thumb drive. I like using a file hosting service because it can’t be lost or misplaced and is always accessible from my desktop, laptop, or Android. I work out of those files, so they are automatically saved and are where I want them when I closeout.

You can use any storage system that is free to you: Google Drive, OneDrive, or a standard portable USB flash drive.

Save regularly. Save consistently. DON’T put off saving to a backup of some sort – do it every day before you close your files.

One final thing for those who have participated in the past: NaNoWriMo HQ has announced that there will be no sanctioned in-person write-ins again this year. While this is disappointing, we care about the health of all our writers.

WordItOut-word-cloud-4074543Still, we can come together and support each other’s writing via the miracle of the internet. My region is finalizing a schedule for “Writer Support” meet-ups via Zoom – little gab sessions that will connect us and keep us fired up.

Our region will use the Discord Channel for nightly write-ins in the general chat and word sprints in our wordwars room. The pandemic has had one positive benefit – our region has remained active for the last year, with several intrepid writers doing nightly sprints.

Check out what you region offers you for year-round support. You might be amazed what they are doing.

The #NaNoPrep series to date:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 3, the End

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What is National Novel Writing Month, and should I participate?

September is nearly here. I’m a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Over the next two months, my focus will be on preparing my region for 30 consecutive days dedicated to the act of writing a novel, and my posts here will reflect that.

MyWritingLife2021BIf you haven’t heard of this before, it’s a worldwide event that happens in November. Each year thousands of people in all parts of the world dedicate themselves to writing a 50,000-word narrative in only thirty days.

I’m a rebel. Some years I work on a new novel, and others, I scratch out as many short stories as possible in those thirty days.

NaNoWriMo is a contest in the sense that if you write 50,000 words and have your word count validated through the national website, you win. But it is not a contest in any other way as there are no monetary prizes or fame for those winners, only a PDF winner’s certificate that you can fill out and print to hang on your wall.

Depending on your intended audience, a manuscript of only 50,000 words is a short novel. It’s a good length for YA or romance, but it’s only half a novel for epic fantasy or literary fiction.

Regardless of the planned length of their finished novel, a dedicated author can get the basic structure and storyline of a book down in those thirty days. They sit for an hour or two each day and write a minimum of 1667 words.

That’s all you need to do, write 1667 words every day. At the end of 30 days, you will have written 50,000 words.

Author Lee French and I are co-MLs for the Olympia Region for NaNoWriMo. In our region last year, 175 writers created profiles and began an official manuscript at www.nanowrimo.org.

We’ve been doing this for a while, and we have seen a pattern.

powerwordsWordCloudLIRF06192021The first roadblock happens when reality sets in and the writers realize that it is work.

This usually occurs within the first few days. Last year 64 writers in our region never got more than 5,000 words written. One stopped at 34.

A majority of new NaNo writers are people who “always wanted to write a book.” Often, they don’t know what they want to write and have no clue how to be disciplined enough to write any words, much less the number it takes to make a novel.

They start, get 30 to 1,000 words in, and realize they have nothing to say. But in our region, 17 of these people made it to the 10,000-word mark before they stopped writing. That’s an achievement—it’s almost a novella.

Other new writers are fired up on day one. They go at it full tilt for a week, or even two, and then, at the 20,000-word mark, they take a day off. Somehow, they never get back to it. Their novels will languish unfinished, perhaps forever.

Even seasoned writers who have crossed the finish line at NaNoWriMo in previous years may find the commitment to sit and write 1,667 words every day is not doable for them. Things come up—life happens.

Plot-exists-to-reveal-characterBut by November 30th last year, 70 writers out of the 175 in our region had made it to the 50,000-word mark, 3 made it to above 80,000, and 1 exceeded 100,000 words.

Some of these novels had complete story arcs and were ready for revisions. Most were not, but these proto-novels could be made publishable with a lot of work.

It takes commitment and discipline to write 1,667 new words every day. You are not revising old work. Instead, you’re writing something new and not looking at what you wrote yesterday.

To do this, you must sit down at the keyboard, open the document to where you left off, and begin writing forward.

For me, having an outline keeps me on track and writing a coherent novel. We will talk about this later.

How did I do last year? I got started and was doing well, finishing a novel that only needs another 20,000 words or so. Then I intended to write the ending for Bleakbourne on Heath, a serialized novel that only needs 4 chapters. After that, I planned to write several short stories to keep on hand in case I needed a quick story to submit to an anthology or magazine.

strange thoughtsBut I got side-tracked. On day 5, I thought about an artifact’s origin that has a role in my still-unfinished novel. 80,000 words later, that bunny trail had become a novel, The Ruins of Abeyon.

I’m not a good typist. The words that fall out of my head during NaNoWriMo are not all golden, just so you know. When writing stream-of-consciousness, many words will be garbled and miskeyed.

This means that for me, the revision process is a long and winding road.

I had begun Ruins with no outline, so the story arc evolved as I wrote the book. I outlined as I went. Later, when I was revising, it was easy to see the arc and make decisions to move certain events to more logical places.

Fortunately, the story is set in Neveyah, a world I have been writing in for twelve years. I have a stylesheet for that world, so the magic and political systems are all in place, along with good maps.

Having the fundamental prep-work of magic and social structure in place made switching to a new project easy. This is because, unlike Bleakbourne on Heath, which was written and published one chapter at a time six years ago for a now-defunct website, Ruins had a coherent story arc from the beginning.

Participating in NaNoWriMo is a watershed experience. Some people don’t thrive when they have deadlines, but others work better under pressure.

The_Pyramid_Conflict_Tension_PacingSucceeding in writing even a short story gives many authors the confidence to continue. In their case, NaNoWriMo is about writing and completing a novel they had wanted to write for years, something that had been in the back of their minds for all their lives.

If you have a novel in your soul and it’s bursting to get out, this might be your chance. However, planning for a successful NaNoWriMo is like preparing for a marathon.

We let our families know well in advance that it’s coming and share how vital reaching our goal is to us. That way, we have their emotional support. We also plan ahead for meals and family time, so the important people in our lives aren’t neglected.

In many ways, we’re preparing for a writing marathon, physically and mentally. We build our strength and get our families behind us by ensuring we have prepared well in advance.

strange thoughts 2Over the next few weeks, we will focus on laying the groundwork for our novels so that we will be ready and able to write when November comes. Much of what I will be discussing has emerged from our experience and comes from my co-ML Lee’s prep work as much as from mine.

Together, we will get that novel written.

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How I Became a Keyboard-wielding Writing Fool

I grew up in a home that had more books than some libraries. My parents were voracious readers who insisted we read too. We had all the great children’s classics, and when we couldn’t play outside and were bored, we’d read the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Yep.

We read the encyclopedia for fun.

MyWritingLife2021My parents also had bought Grolier‘s Great Books of the Western World. Dad would occasionally assign me a book to read, something that I didn’t understand but wanted to.

This probably influenced my choice of classes in college, which is where I learned to understand and love Chaucer and James Joyce. Joyce may be the king of brilliant one-liners, but F. Scott Fitzgerald holds a place in my heart for his phrasings.

When I was first out in the world, I held two and sometimes three jobs just to pay the rent and feed my kids. My go-to genres were sci-fi and fantasy, but books were expensive, and food came first.

The libraries stocked a few sci-fi or fantasy books, but I had read all the classics in those genres. For whatever reason, librarians didn’t stock new speculative fiction books as comprehensively as they did contemporary and literary fiction.

The book aisle at the supermarket had a better selection, but they cost as much as I made for one hour of work, so I could only get one book per bi-monthly payday. Tad Williams and Anne McCaffrey got most of my “fun” money in those days.

My budget forced me to write the stories I wanted to read. Most evenings, I sat listening to music on the stereo, writing my thoughts and ideas in a notebook while my kids did their homework.

Besides the poetry or song lyrics I regularly turned out, my pen and ink ramblings weren’t “writing” as I see it now. They were more like frameworks to hold ideas that later became full-fledged stories.

IBM_Selectric (1)Then, in 1987, my father bought me a secondhand IBM Selectric Typewriter, and my writing addiction took off.

When my job situation improved, I scrimped and saved for my monthly Science Fiction Book Club purchase. I also scoured the secondhand bookstores for sci-fi or fantasy novels, budgeting for books the way others of my acquaintance budgeted for beer.

I found a secondhand bookstore where I could get novels that were in too poor a condition to sell on their shelves. A full shopping bag of beat up, and sometimes coverless books was only two dollars, if you had a bag of better books to trade.

I went through a full shopping bag of books every week, and within a year, I had read every book they had in my favorite genres. Agatha Christie’s books were high on my list of hoped-for treasures.

In the process, I discovered a new (to me) genre: regency and gothic romances written by Georgette Heyer, Barbara Cartland, and other romance writers of that generation. Along with beat-up copies of bestsellers by Jack KerouacJames Michener, and Jacqueline Susann, those books known as “bodice-rippers” began to show up in the pile beside my bed.

Always when the budget permitted, I returned to Tolkien, Zelazny, McCaffrey, AsimovBradbury, and as time passed, Piers AnthonyDavid EddingsTad WilliamsL.E. Modesitt Jr., and Robert Jordan, to name only a few.

And there were so many, many others whose works I enjoyed. By the 1990s, the genres of fantasy and sci-fi were growing authors like a field grows weeds, and I loved it.

All of the books I read as a child and young adult have influenced my writing. They still inspire me.

Editors_bookself_25May2018I’m proud to admit that my literary influences can be traced back to dragons, booze, elves, space-operas, Roaring Twenties morality, Don Quixote, and England’s romantic Regency, all of which I lived vicariously through these authors’ eyes.

Nowadays, I can barely read more than a chapter or two before falling asleep. My Kindle is full of books and having the luxury to spend a day wallowing in a book is a treat to be treasured.

I became a writer because my parents loved books and allowed me to read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Thanks to the uncountable authors whose works I’ve been privileged to read, I was inspired to think that my own stories might have value.

In the beginning, my writing style was unformed and reflected whoever I was reading at the moment.

ok to write garbage quote c j cherryhI shared what I wrote with other people and got feedback, some good, some bad. I learned from it all and kept trying. I bought books on the craft of writing.

I gained confidence and began to trust my own ideas and stories. Once that happened, I became a keyboard-wielding writing junkie.

Writing has always been necessary to me, as natural as breathing. Some days I write well, and others not so much, but every day I write something.

And every day, I find myself looking for the new book that will rock my universe, a new “drug” to satisfy my craving, even if I know I won’t have time to read it.

Reading is my form of mind-expanding inspiration. Without the authors whose books formed my world, I would never have dared to write.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:IBM Selectric (02).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:IBM_Selectric_(02).jpg&oldid=555742863 (accessed August 24, 2021).

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The Writer’s Holiday

This week we are in Cannon Beach, Oregon, for our annual family pilgrimage. It is the place where sand and sea meet grandchildren and dogs. This year, no toddlers, but one of the older grandchildren is here with his friend.

Sunset_Cannon_Beach_05_August_2019We booked in January, so we got our favorite condo on the beach. Some years we don’t get it, but we always have fun. My sister-in-law and her husband are in a small house a bit further toward the other end of town. The daughter with the teenagers is staying in the neighboring town of Seaside, which is more oriented to teenagers and caters to their idea of fun.

Cannon Beach is a pleasant village, with flowers in every public place, gardens that are maintained by the city. It’s an attractive tourist town, easily walkable, and with a free transit system.

There is a brewery, several coffee roasters, numerous art galleries, and bookstores. On the main street we find a fabulous wine shop, my all-time favorite bakery, and an old-fashioned candy factory that is to die for.

Most important of all, on the corner near our condo is the grandchildren’s favorite toy store of all time, Geppetto’s. No one can walk past it without stopping in. (Shh – don’t tell anyone, but I’m getting the youngest ones their Christmas presents today.) This store has the most amazing variety of board games and puzzles.

Our condo is in the thick of things, so pizza night is easy to arrange, and a great pub is just around the corner.

We usually stay at the north end of town in the same area every year. I have a full kitchen, essential for the vegan on the road, and can walk out my door to where Ecola Creek enters the sea. The creek is wide here at the estuary but so shallow we can wade across.

Amaranthus and Savvy at the needles by haystack rock cannon beach 2012

The best part of this condo is the lovely gas fireplace for when the teenagers come in dripping seawater and sand, with blue lips and chilled to the bone.

They never listen to Grandma. “Come in before you get hypothermia!”

Just sayin’.

The view from our condo is one that never fails to soothe me. Tillamook Head is just off to the north. A mile out to sea, resting atop a sea stack of basalt, the notorious Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, nicknamed “Terrible Tilly,” has had a long history of strife and tragedy. Although long closed to the public, she still stands today, battered and bruised. Her continued existence is a testament to the quality of construction, as she is much stouter than the rock she was built upon.

About Terrible Tilly, from Wikipedia:

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Cannon Beach Aughust 2014In September 1879, a third survey was ordered, this time headed by John Trewavas, whose experience included the Wolf Rock lighthouse in England. Trewavas was overtaken by large swells and was swept into the sea while attempting a landing, and his body was never recovered. His replacement, Charles A. Ballantyne, had a difficult assignment recruiting workers due to the widespread negative reaction to Trewavas’ death, and a general desire by the public to end the project. Ballantyne was eventually able to secure a group of quarrymen who knew nothing of the tragedy, and was able to resume work on the rock. Transportation to and from the rock involved the use of a derrick line attached with a breeches buoy, and in May 1880, they were able to completely blast the top of the rock to allow the construction of the lighthouse’s foundation.

On October 21, 1934, the original lens was destroyed by a large storm that also leveled parts of the tower railing and greatly damaged the landing platform. Winds had reached 109 miles per hour (175 km/h), launching boulders and debris into the tower, damaging the lantern room and destroying the lens. The derrick and phone lines were destroyed as well. After the storm subsided, communication with the lighthouse was severed until keeper Henry Jenkins built a makeshift radio from the damaged foghorn and telephone to alert officials.

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1957 and replaced with a whistle buoy, having become the most expensive U.S. lighthouse to operate. During the next twenty years, the lighthouse changed ownership several times; in 1980 a group of realtors purchased the lighthouse and created the Eternity at Sea Columbarium, which opened in June of that year. After interring about 30 urns, the columbarium‘s license was revoked in 1999 by the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board and was rejected upon reapplication in 2005.

Access to the lighthouse is severely limited, with a helicopter landing the only practical way to access the rock, and it is off-limits even to the owners during the seabird nesting season. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981 and is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. [1]

I spend a lot of time on the porch, looking out to sea at Terrible Tilly. The view is soothing, although the Northern Pacific waters are wild and untamed.

The lighthouse that I think of as a friend stubbornly clings to life, providing a home for seabirds. I watch it, sitting in solitude and letting my mind go free, and then I write.

KiteFlying2018When I feel need to clear my mind, I go to the water’s edge and fly my kite. While I do that, my husband roams the beach, watching the seabirds nesting on the God-rock of Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock.

I will admit, we overindulge in treats reserved only for holidays. On days when we have no grandchildren, we visit our favorite restaurants and pubs. Often we go to a play at the community theater.

Each year, when we return home, my thoughts are clearer for having come to this place of wildness and beauty. I feel invigorated for having spent a week in the company of our loved ones.

Winters on this coast are notoriously awful, as witness the battering of Terrible Tilly, but August is peaceful, with mists rising at dawn, sun all afternoon, and stars falling over the vast ocean.

Every year, the moment we arrive back in our inland valley, I long for this place, my spiritual home. In the days and months to come, this week will shine in my memories, a sliver of paradise outside of the pandemic, a quiet time of rest and rejuvenation.


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Tillamook Rock Light,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Tillamook_Rock_Light&oldid=1026355176 (accessed August 14, 2021).

All images used in this post are the author’s own work and are copyrighted.

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Character Development: Narrative Time

Last week, we discussed how the descriptive narrative of a story is comprised of three aspects:

Narrative point of view is the perspective, a personal or impersonal “lens” through which a story is communicated.

Narrative time is the grammatical placement of the story’s time frame in the past or the present, i.e., present tense (we go) or past tense (we went).

Narrative voice is how a story is communicated. It is the author’s fingerprint.

verb-conjugationToday we’re discussing how narrative time, or what we call tense, affects a reader’s perception of character development. In grammartense is a category that expresses time reference. Tenses are usually shown by how we use the forms of verbs, particularly in their conjugation patterns. The main tenses found in most languages include the pastpresent, and future.

The way that narrative tense affects a reader’s perception of characters is subtle, an undercurrent that goes unnoticed after the first few paragraphs. It shapes the reader’s view of events, but on a subliminal level.

Every story is different and requires us to use a unique narrative time.

Tense conveys information about time. It relates the time of an event (when) to another time (now or then). The tense you choose indicates the event’s location in time.

Consider the following sentences: “I eat,” “I am eating,” “I have eaten,” and “I have been eating.”

All are in the present tense, indicated by the present-tense verb of each sentence (eatam, and have).

Yet, they are different because each conveys unique information or points of view about how the action pertains to the present.

We often “think aloud” in writing the first draft. We insert many passive phrasings into the raw narrative, words that I think of as traffic signals. These words are a shorthand that helped us get the story down when we were writing the raw first draft, a guide that now shows us how we intend the narrative to go.

Subjunctives are insidious. The subjunctive (in the English language) is used to form sentences that do not describe known objective facts. In other words, subjunctives describe unknown intangible possibilities.

Maeve Maddox, in her article The Many Forms of the Verb To Be, says:

Of all Modern English verbs, to be has the most forms: am, are, is, was, were, be, being, been. In addition, the helping verb will is used to form a future tense with be (e.g. I will be with you in a minute.)

The forms are so different in appearance that they don’t seem to belong to the same verb. The fact is, they don’t. Oh, they do now, but they came from three different roots and merged in the Old English verbs beon and wesan.

William Shakespeare said it best in Hamlet: “To be or not to be… that is the question.”

Should he exist, or should he not exist—for the deeply depressed Dane, suicide or not suicide is the question. In his soliloquy, Hamlet contemplates death and suicide. He regrets the pain and unfairness of life but ultimately acknowledges that the alternative might be worse.

Subjunctives are small verbs of existence, but just like adverbs, they are telling words. These words fall into our narrative in the first draft because they are signals for the rewrite.

Be_Eight_Forms_LIRF05122019In the rewrite, we look for the code words that tell us the direction in which we want the narrative to go.

We look at each instance and rewrite the paragraph to show the event rather than tell about it.

If we write a sentence that says a character was hot and thirsty, we leave nothing to the reader’s imagination. The reader is on the outside, looking in.

When we take that experience of thirst and make it immediate, no matter what narrative tense we are writing in, it changes everything.

Which sentence feels stronger, more pressing?

  • They were hot and thirsty.
  • They trudged on with dry, cracked lips, yearning for a drop of water.
  • I walk toward the oasis with dry, cracked lips and parched tongue.

The way we show the perception of time for these thirsty characters is the same – the narrative is in the past tense in the first two cases and the present in the third.

Each sentence says the same thing, but we get a different story when we change the narrative tense, point of view, and verb choice.

“Were” is a verb, but it is subjunctive and is perceived as a weak word, where “trudged” conveys power. The narrative time in which the story is set (past or present tense), verb choice, and expansion of the imagery – these combine to change how we see the characters at that moment.

No matter what narrative tense you choose for your story, using strong verbs to describe their actions and emotions will reinforce the reader’s connection to the characters.

For my short story, View from the Bottom of a Lake, the narrative tense that worked best was a past tense, close third person.

Peggy Jayne smiled. Beneath the green-glittering gaze, her toothsome smile flayed her daughter, leaving Sarah breathless, panicking and longing for her lake.

Who are youSometimes the only way you can get into a character’s head is to write them in the first-person present tense, which happened to me with Thorn Girl. I struggled with her story for nearly six months until a member of my writing group suggested changing the narrative tense and point of view.

Once I did that, the story fell out of my head the way I had envisioned but couldn’t articulate, and I wrote it in one evening.

My first instinct is to shake my head and back away.

But I don’t. Long ago, my Lady told me that in every life, a time will come when you arrive at a precipice. You must either leap the chasm or fall to your death.

I stand at that place now.

In traditional first-person POV, the protagonist is the narrator. We must keep in mind that no one ever has complete knowledge of anything, so the first-person narrator cannot be omnipotent.

powerwordsWordCloudLIRF06192021Every story is unique, and some work best in the past tense, while others need to be in the present. When we begin writing a story using a narrative time that is unfamiliar to us, we may have trouble with drifting tense and wandering narrative points of view.

This happens most frequently if you habitually write using one mode, say the third-person past tense, but switch to the first-person present tense.

For this reason, when you begin revisions, it’s crucial to look for your verb forms to make sure your narrative time doesn’t inadvertently drift.


PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES:

Storyboarding character development 

Character Development: Motivation drives the story 

Character Development: Emotions

Character Development: Showing Emotions

Character Development: Managing the Large Cast of Characters

Character Development: Point of View

This post: Character Development: Narrative Time


Credits and Attributions:

Maeve Maddox, The Many Forms of the Verb To Be, Copyright © 2007 – 2021 Daily Writing Tips. All Right Reserved

Quote from View from the Bottom of a Lake, © 2020 Connie J. Jasperson. Story first appeared in the anthology Escape, published by the Northwest Independent Writers Association and edited by Lee French.

Quote from Thorn Girl, © 2019 Connie J. Jasperson. Story first appeared in the anthology Swords, Sorcery, and Self-rescuing Damsels, edited by Lee French and Sara Craft.

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