Archive for the ‘Novel Writing’ Category

Writing: Reputation Vs. Character

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

“A man’s reputation is what other people think
of him; his character is what he really is.”

~ Jack Miner

Reputation vs. character. How can they differ? Perhaps the story behind the reputation differs from who your character is.

In the television show Burn Notice, Michael, the protagonist, is a spy who discovers he’s been removed, “burned,” from the CIA. Cut off from financial resources, a web of support and contacts, he has unseen enemies within the organization and outside of it. As he works on private cases, attempting to untangle the mystery and get back into his old job, his goal is helping innocent people while earning a living.

Through it all, his encounters with government agents allude to his past: he’s a ruthless killer. Is Michael’s character, as we know him, different than his past? What’s the story behind the story? Was he set up to be the fall guy?

As the story behind the story is revealed, suspense with the audience, or with a book, the reader, grows.

Writing Prompts:

Create a character who acts one way while shields his true self.

  1. Take your protagonists and put her/him into a situation where reputation, beyond control, is cast in a negative light. What is the story behind the story which casts the character differently?
  2. Now write the opposite. An antagonist takes credit for everything good, while acts deviously behind the scenes.
  3. In the photo below, write what happens when this dog’s family arrives home. Next, write the story behind the story. How can the pooch’s reputation differ from his true character?liz photo

 

 

Make a Scene with Jordan Rosenfeld

Monday, April 14th, 2014

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How can you write a scene with emotional impact, reader involvement, and suspense? 

Author Jordan Rosenfeld spoke to the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch and shared valuable tips for writers of all genres.  

 With every scene you create, ask yourself, what is the point of the scene?  Does it move your story forward, or is it just a block of setting description?  In showing setting, make your character interact with her surroundings

Great advice!  I critiqued manuscripts at one conference where a writer created a lovely Victorian Christmas which dominated the first chapter.  I suggested she weave in the setting elements as the character acted and reacted, foreshadowing the mystery ahead. 

She said, “Great idea!  But this house doesn’t play a role in the rest of my story at all.”  So why include it?  Once she began writing with her plot and character in mind, her character acted, reacted, and experienced the setting through sensory images.  It wasn’t overblown this time, and she created a reason for her scene to be there: she introduced characters and hinted at the mystery coming.

Rosenfeld advised writers create tension through emotional complexity.  Characters can experience more than one feeling at a time.  The uncertainty can be showed through their thoughts and dialogue, the writer’s word choice, how a word sounds, and imagery

For more information, read her book, Make Scenes, published through Writer’s Digest, and visit her website:  www.jordanrosenfeld.net  

Writing Prompts:

  1. It’s your turn!  Create a scene by involving your character in the setting shown through the elements above.  Make sure your scene moves the story’s plot forward.  Ask yourself:  Why must it be here?
  2. Tony Serra, attorney for Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Cow, at a federal court appearance said, “Law enforcement is supposed to investigate crime and criminal activity.  In this case, they created crime and criminal activity.”  (Source:  Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle.)  Use this quote to create a scene employing Rosenfeld’s advice. 
  3. Write an article, nonfiction piece, or essay with a scene focusing on the tips above.

 

How YOU Can Create Memorable Characters!

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Hollywood Producer/Agent Marilyn Atlas led an excellent writing workshop where focused on character.  She gave a multitude of terrific writing tips and I’ll share one of them.  She discussed three reasons characters resonate with readers or viewers.

The characters are:
1. fascinating or
2. mysterious or
3. relatable 

Writing Prompts:

1. Study a memorable character in literature or film.  Is this person fascinating?  If so, how?  Mysterious?  Explain.  Can you relate with her/him?  What makes him/her relatable?
2. What about the piece you are composing now?  If your protagonist isn’t fascinating, mysterious or relatable, invent back story and layers so he/she will be compelling. 
3. Before you write your project, spend time crafting your characters.  Draft scenes of conflict.  Every page should have tension, which can be done in subtext.
4. What is subtext?  Express characters through dialogue about one thing, while under their words remain an underlying meaning. 

 

How YOU can Write a Short Short Story

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Benjamin Franklin says it all: “I have already made this paper too long, for which I must crave pardon, not having now time to make it shorter.” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

The most common question which pops up in various contests I’ve judged, is: “My story is longer than the guideline’s length. May I submit it all?”

No! Writing short requires a much-needed skill. Revise so your story is written succinctly.

Below is advice on writing a short story of 100 words. It can be applied to all stories.

My favorite tidbit is this: “Think of the story in terms of a question and answer.”

Your answer will become the plot of your story. But brainstorm lots of options! If it’s too easy, your option may be too convenient.

http://www.rdasia.com/how-to-write-story-100-words

Writing Prompt:
1. Take a story you’ve written and tighten it. Can you cut out 100 words? More? Once you challenge yourself, the process can be fun and addicting!
2. Read your story aloud. Where have you “told” information? Can you show it with an action verb instead?
3. Choose a poem you’ve created and do the process of #1 and #2. Is the end result more vivid?

Cutting out vague words sharpens your writing and respects the reader to make conclusions. Use this new technique with all of your writing!

Are You Writing a Novel? Or Should it be a Short Story?

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

I love this writing advice from Elizabeth Sims in her recent Writer’s Digest article, “Miscalculations & Missteps.”

In both children’s and adult writing contests, I’ve read many short stories that try to become novels, and writing that someone identifies as a novel but it REALLY should be a short story. How to tell if your characters/theme/plot is suitable for which genre?

“Take two unrelated heart-clutching moments, or two unrelated story points, or even two unrelated characters, and challenge yourself to come up with a way to link them.”

Do you have enough complexity to hold a reader’s interest for a novel? This exercise will help you discover the layers or depth you need for a longer work of fiction.