Tuesday, 24 September 2013

ME, MYSELF AND I – MORE ABOUT FIRST PERSON NARRATORS.




When thinking what to write about this week, I realized there were a few aspects about the first person point of view which I hadn’t covered in last week’s post, so it seemed practical to include those points this week.

When you choose to tell a story using the first person point of view your narrator generally knows the entire story, but a writer still has several crucial decisions to make.
  
One choice you will have to make is who your narrator is telling their story to - another character, the reader or is the narrator remembering past experiences? If the latter is the case, then you will need to consider how much time do you want to leave between the events taking place and the telling? Are the incidents recent or being remembered from a long time ago? What are the narrator’s feelings towards their younger self who experienced the events – and has the narrator come to terms with their past?

Another option is to tell the story as events unfold.

I think one of the most important decisions is the form of your narration. Interior monologue, where the reader knows the thoughts and feelings of the narrator about events, is the most widely used method.  Diaries use of this type of narration where the speaker’s voice can be more laid-back and informal – think Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Dramatic monologue – where the protagonist speaks to someone else, or uses letters for the same purpose – allows an intimacy to enter the writing. J. M. Coetzee in Age of Iron has a terminally ill woman write the story in letter form to her daughter.

Detached autobiography, where the narrator is recounting events from the past, has the advantage of enabling the speaker to take a more objective position. Biggest Elvis by P. F. Kluge is a great example of how to use detached autobiography.
 
In the first two, interior monologue and dramatic monologue, it is as if the reader is overhearing the story, but in detached autobiography the reader is recognised as the audience.

Whichever form you choose for your narrator, you will need to develop one convincing voice telling its own story, in such a manner that you create an authentic reality for the reader.

Writing Update
I pushed myself hard over the last few days and felt rewarded by my progress – that bit of late night editing paid off. I know I’ve said this before, (when I thought it was the final tunnel...silly me) but I can see the end of the tunnel as I start chapter fifteen. Only six more to go.
Of course, I understand more clearly now there are several more tunnels after this one. But to quote – one day (or should I say one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter...) at a time. And I do relish the small satisfaction of knowing that at the end of each chapter, the writing is just that bit tighter, and reads just that bit more smoothly. Sending the manuscript off to a professional editor by mid October is appearing to be a realistic proposition.

TODAY’S HAIKU
curtains of grey mist
spread ethereal fingers -
the earth veils herself

Useful Links
This post has a great upbeat encouraging mood:
A good informative post well worthwhile checking out – including the further links:

Reading Recommendations:

http://amzn.to/18SbSaG  Gold Dragon Haiku  - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

WHOSE VERSION DO YOU BELIEVE?


Novels have a narrator. This seems an obvious statement but the role of the narrator is not always so clear. Jack Hodgins, used the term ‘voice-print’ to describe a writer’s own distinctive voice, and ‘voice-mask’ when a writer assumes another voice to tell a story. You can imagine, for example, a father will have a very different point of view (about almost everything) from his teenage son. So when thinking about your narrator, what might appear to be a straightforward decision can be an opportunity to intrigue readers and pull them in a bit more.

Using a first person narrator  (writing in the ‘I’ voice of the character who is telling the story) doesn’t necessarily mean that the story is about the ‘I’, and you should  make it clear to readers, right from the start, whether your narrator is the protagonist or not. Your narrator could be a witness to certain events and the version the reader receives comes via his/her perceptions. Another choice will be whether your narrator is close to the center of action or a peripheral witness.

Readers understand and accept the practice that first person narrators are frequently able to remember discussions and episodes from even their distant past with an exactitude rarely found in everyday life … and this is where the fun begins.  

Despite accepting the truth of a narrator’s words, no human being is perfect,  so can any one person have full knowledge of an incident or series of  happenings?  (I can see an advantage in introducing someone with an eidetic memory – though only near the end…) Added to the mix is the question of what kind of personality does your narrator have? Do they have a tendency to exaggerate or lie? Are they crazy, a rageaholic or do they have an agenda and play more subtle games?

Revealing your narrator’s quirks and alerting the reader that all might not be as it seems requires skill. Use of interior monologue is a good way to show a contrast between the narrator’s intent and actions. Slips of the tongue, prejudices and contradictions can also reveal unreliability. Once readers realize that a narrator is unreliable, they are compelled to match the speaker’s assessment against their own  - which involves them more deeply in the story. And at some point down the line the reader discovers the truth.

A good exercise to practice putting on different voice-masks is to imagine any situation where two people are in conflict. Take the father and son from earlier having an argument because the father disapproves of his son’s friends and wants to stop him seeing them. The father’s version of events would include both protective and disapproving elements, whereas the son will naturally see his father’s actions being about parental control. The two pieces will be quite different yet both will contain elements of the truth.

Advice in how to become more expert in taking on other voice-masks is the same as that for becoming a more skilled writer…read books, study other writers, maybe take a course and most important...just keep writing. 

Writing Update:
Sometimes I’m enthusiastic and feel genuine satisfaction at my slow, steady progress (currently working on chapter 13), but at other times I really want to be writing another story. A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep and I thought, hey, I could use my insomniac nights to write the new novel and the day to edit the current one. Needless to say, I did go back to sleep without getting out of bed, but when you start dreaming or looking for any opportunity to be writing something else, I’m not sure what that says.
On the other hand, I'm very aware of a dogged resolve, that no matter what, I am going to finish this novel! 
P.S. On the off chance anyone is having a déjà vu moment, I've begun recycling my drawings (at the top of each post) as I've not found time to do any new ones.  I hope by the time I have reposted all of them, I'll have done some new ones.
P.P.S. I'm adding this to my ever-expanding to do list...but first...must finish editing...must finish editing...


Today's Haiku 
BUS HAIKU
September sun warms
the window pane – I pretend
summer is still here

Useful links:
More pointers on things we shouldn’t do...

Reading Recommendations:

http://amzn.to/18SbSaG  Gold Dragon Haiku  - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

THE POWER OF TITLES




Choosing a title may only be one of many important decisions you make as a writer, but it is the first step in catching a reader’s eye. Your title is the hook which intrigues and attracts people to  your book - and don't forget that wonderful anticipatory moment between seeing the title and reading the first words.

The majority of titles fall into two types: descriptive and evocative. Descriptive titles have a direct link with the novel’s subject. Classics like Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities fall into this group with novels like Chocolat or The Sisters’ Brothers continuing the tradition. These titles have a clear direct connection with the book’s subject and almost summarize the story. They inform you – in a general way – what to expect from a book. 

Evocative titles work because they fascinate and tempt readers. I think The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a wonderfully beguiling title because, even if it’s on a shelf titled ‘Modern Fiction’ there is no clue as to where this story will take you. A Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies are two other titles which fall into the enticing category; it's almost as if not understanding what the title refers to invites you to find out what the book is about - and it may not be what you expect.

Of course, the question is how do writers choose their titles? John Steinbeck's title Of Mice and Men is from a line in  Burn’s poem To a Mouse, and J.D. Salinger's title Catcher in the Rye combines the children’s song with Burn’s poem Coming thro’ the Rye. So poetry can be a fertile field when looking for a title. However, using quotes from other writers can be a delicate issue, because if you don’t have permission you can be accused of plagiarism. Older works such as religious texts or Shakespeare’s plays etc. are generally safe but if you choose this route, check with a legal expert to be sure.

Many writers choose titles which describe the story (Treasure Island), main character (Anna Karenina) or even introduce the setting (Dune). A line or quote from your book can be a good choice, and although this may not mean much by itself at first, it comes to mean more once the book has been read. You can also choose something which resonates with the theme – Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a good example.

Once you have settled on a title you can ask friends, family, other writers for feedback but ultimately the decision is yours. My advice is don’t make your title the last thing on your list. I think, if you can, choosing a title early gives you time to live with it - and decide if it is the one you want. 

Writing Update
The more I edit the more I delve into, and understand, words as tools of the trade. It’s a new and fascinating aspect of writing for me. Rather than focussing on the story, character, setting or events, I’m working at a different level.  In some ways it feels like the minutae of the craft, but I’m also seeing how lots of  tiny, tiny steps add up to big steps. Sometimes it feels as if the world could be experiencing an apocalypse but all I want to do is find the right word! I’ve now finished 11 of my 21 chapters so have passed the halfway point and the patience is paying off.
I've a few bits and pieces to add as certain characters need a a bit more filling out, and I’ll work on that once this editing marathon is over. As far as titles go, I’ve got two under consideration. I feel a definite pull towards one of them, so I’m living with it and seeing how it feels.

Dear Google, I try not to moan but where are the rest of my posts gone? I've been blogging since February but my website shows only one post for 2013.  I've been into layout and edited the archive arrangements - nothing. Surely changing the template doesn't mean you start again?
Aagghh!!

TODAY’S HAIKU
Coffee Shop
titillated tongues
lean forward exchange secrets
friends gossip and giggle

Useful links:
This post is a good read, and a reminder of things we can forget:

Reading Recommendations:

http://amzn.to/18SbSaG  Gold Dragon Haiku  - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

HAVE YOUR CHARACTERS LOST THE PLOT?



E.M. Forster made a well-known differentiation between how story and plot operate. He stated a story is ‘a narration of events arranged in their time sequence’ giving the example ‘The king died and then the queen died.’  His definition of plot is story plus causality. ‘The king died and then the queen died of grief.’ He even added ambiguity and opportunities for development by the addition of ‘The queen died, no one knew why, until it was discovered that it was through grief at the death of the king.’

In these examples Forster shows the intimate connections between character and plot. Characters don’t exist in a void - and with the mention of a king and queen a grand court, with courtiers in all their finery, springs to mind. It's easy to imagine the drama of the two deaths and the possibilities for conflict. If these events were at the beginning of a story we’d be looking for our protagonist to emerge and face a series of conflicts before achieving his/her goal.

Action is a component of plot  as it moves a story forward and the rising action, climax and resolution of each scene integrally links the plot’s pivotal moments with your character’s journey. A story can have as much action, or not, as a writer wants (action can be as simple as receiving a letter which changes lives), but focussing on action at the expense of character development can easily result in two-dimensional characters. And non-stop violent action generally disguises the fact that there is no story. 

It is irrelevant which comes first, plot or character because inspiration isn’t dependent on rules and regulations, but wanting to know how a character deals with the conflicts they face is what keeps the reader enthralled. We identify, follow and share the hopes and fears of characters we engage with, and they can live in our imagination long after the book is finished.

An interesting exercise is to take a character you’re developing and see what kind of conflicts they might meet, and how they might resolve their dilemmas. I've learnt a good tenet to follow is: character plus conflict equals plot.

Writing Update
Editing has been slow this week but I’ve enjoyed sunshine and a break from the ‘head down, where’s the end of the tunnel, gotta keep going till it’s done and dusted’ mode which is my usual working state. Sometimes it’s good to just let go for a few days and be busy doing something else entirely - like remembering the other people in your life! Putting your writing aside lets you have a different perspective on the whole writing thing; you come back refreshed and ready to dive in again. Chapter 9 is almost finished, and then I’m straight into Chapter 10. If I work hard, I will (yes, I can – I do like that phrase even if it isn’t applicable in every situation) finish by the end of September.
My social media activities have also been sporadic – but 24/7, 365 isn’t possible. You do what you can, when you can – which why today’s update is short and, hopefully, sweet!

Today’s Haiku
FLIRTING
He looks, she laughs, soft
exchanges over coffee –
will it go further?

Useful links.
For anyone starting out with KDP this article has some good information: 
http://trainingauthors.com/47-places-to-submit-your-free-kdp-promotion-for-your-kindle-ebook/ 
And if you're thinking of going the traditional route, here are some pointers:

 
Reading Recommendations:

http://amzn.to/18SbSaG  Gold Dragon Haiku  - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
 

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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

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