Tuesday, 26 November 2013

ENDINGS - OPEN OR CLOSED?



You have written a novel which draws the reader, line by line, through your intriguing plot by managing enough unpredictable events to keep them engaged. People stay hooked, wanting to know how the story turns out, because you’ve kept something back which mystifies them and makes them ask how is this going to end. Not revealing everything is an important part of readers’ expectations.

However, matching surprise and anticipation is not easy.

Neither is achieving an ending where you cleanly wrap up all elements of your story in a suitable dramatic way.

Conventional closed endings, romantic comedies in marriage, or tragedies in death, are not necessarily feasible, or appropriate. Total closure, for example Raskolnikov, in Dostoyevski’s Crime and Punishment not only pays for his crime, but eventually finds moral and spiritual reconciliation, doesn’t always gratify modern audiences.

The opposite to a conventional ending, an open ending, is one which gives a sense of satisfaction, yet still leaves some aspects unresolved. Leaving questions open can result in the story lingering in the imagination for longer as readers speculate about the ramifications of the ending you’ve given, as well as what could happen next. Today’s audiences often demand a more true to life ending, which in turn creates the  possibility of a more emotionally complicated ending. 

This Week’s Rant
I’m not sure if this will ever feature on my blog again, ‘cos I don’t like to read other peoples gripes but...

Sony’s TV advertisement for their new X Box war game used the words ‘mind blowing freedom of war’. It appears they've lost all perspective in their quest for money. I know these games are popular but I object to the glamorization of war implicit in these words.

It makes me wonder if they've seen the news recently? Are they aware that at least 11,000 children have died in Syria’s civil war in the last couple of years? What do they think of the hacking off of limbs in Sierra Leone, or the brutalization and rape of women in the DRC?

In my humble opinion, war is an aberration of the human condition.

There, that feels better. 
 
Writing Update
Yeah! (bragging alert) I did it! I’m a nano winner! (Please note the award below – just in case your eyes glaze over at the sight of this badge - which they will soon do, as any participant who blogs, types the last word and posts the same award on their site.) I am gobsmacked (bragging alert no. 2) that I’ve completed it in less than 30 days as well.

                                           Winner Certificate

My supernatural mash-up isn't finished, and I will persevere at a more sedate pace which won’t challenge my ability to remember which universe I inhabit.  At this point I’m not sure if I’ll do it again. On the other hand, I have a friend who during childbirth swore to high heaven, never again, yet, as soon as the babe – a boy  – was born told her husband she wanted the next child to be a girl. 

So when the memory of my current euphoric exhaustion fades, (and I’ve cleaned the house and caught up on life outside my novel again) it maybe that sometime during this year, I’ll start to churn over an idea, and next November will find myself, once again, diving into the NaNoWriMo!

Today’s Haiku
EATING OUT
I feel one glass drunk
it was the sweetest red wine -
went well with pizza. 

Useful Links 
This is a helpful post – nothing to do with writing! 
http://havingtime.com/did-you-ask-yourself-these-5-questions-today/ 

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, 19 November 2013

LOOKING AT GENRE



As I’m writing a genre novel for the NaNoWriMo, it seemed a good time to look at genre. The Oxford Dictionary defines genre as 'a particular kind or style of art or literature'. Since Aristotle people have discussed how creative writing falls into different categories, and today we generally group writing into the three main divisions of fiction, poetry and drama - with each group containing many subdivisions.

The genre novel versus the literary novel, and the blurring – or not – of the lines between the two is a discussion I’m sure will continue, and which I’m not going to address. Literary fiction or genre novels, the writers of both have one thing in common - they want people to read their books. 

When someone chooses a book, they often have a particular idea in mind of the kind of book they want to read, and genre performs an active role in meeting those expectations. Readers are smart and know the codes inherent within a genre, and writers can use these to increase anticipation. However, it isn’t incumbent on the writer to meet all of those expectations – and this play between reader and writer enhances enjoyment of the story. Genre should be viewed as a great tool for writers with distinguishing features they can deliberately use to their advantage. 

Many stories are what is termed cross-genre, where themes and elements from two or more different genres are blended together. For example, a spy novel may have a romance element (Bond always manages an affair or two), there are futuristic thrillers like Philip K. Dick's  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and crime novels do very well set in the past, as demonstrated by Lindsey Davis, author of the Falco detective series set in ancient Rome. So which genre a story belongs to is not always clear cut.

Knowing the codes of a particular genre can present a risk in that if you stick too closely to the prescribed formula, you may end up with a story lacking in originality that isn’t the one you set out to write. On the plus side, if done well, you’ll find there are readers already out there, eager and waiting for your story.

Writing Update

My attempt to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words during the month of November continues, and my life revolves around achieving my quota each day. My brain is a bit of a mud pit first thing in the morning, but a few megajolts of caffeine clears the sluggishness, allows a thought or two to surface, and I start writing.

I have to admit, without an outline, I would struggle to maintain the pace (I am managing the quota - and a little bit more) but I’m hoping this month will give some long term strength to my writing muscle. I cut a chapter deciding I didn’t like, or need it, then couldn’t think of anything to put in its place, and put it back! 

When I wrote my outline, I decided I to have a battle – which is coming up in the chapter after next. A battle! What was I thinking of? And although it’s not the climax, it’s an appropriate increase in the dramatic arc. But battles really aren’t my thing, and although I know there is writing advice for battle scenes out there – I’m going to read a little Homer, (the ancient Greek, not the modern TV one) as The Iliad has some great battles – not a lot of interior monologue – but great detail on the action.

So with a bit of luck, if I keep my head down, and my fingers tapping those keys, I might even be finished next week! Yeah!

TODAY’S HAIKU
suits drink coffee, talk
profit – outside a homeless
man sits with his dog

Useful Links:

This is a comprehensive list of genres:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_genres
And for anyone wishing to find out more about the NaNoWriMo:

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, 5 November 2013

ALTERNATING POINTS OF VIEW



Alternating points of view (POV) is a difficult technique to master, so the question is, when you can tell the story from one perfectly valid point of view, why should a writer make life  more difficult by introducing alternating POVs? One advantage of multiple points of view is that it is a unique approach which can reveal variety, depth and deception in relationships; it’s also useful for slipping in information you want your reader to know. 

Another strength in the use of alternating points of view is that it allows the reader to have a varied experience of the story. When a writer uses the first person POV, it is unavoidable that the narrator’s bias will colour their version of events. Having more than one narrator always gives a fuller picture. A writer might choose to use an unreliable narrator, and want the reader to have other accounts to match against the first one. 

The challenge for the writer is to create characters with distinct voices (readers can tell if the voices are too similar) who can hold your readers’ attention equally - otherwise interest can be lost when it’s the turn of someone’s less favourite narrator.

When the narrator changes from one character to another, it can be a bit of a shock. One way to offset this is to give the name of the speaker at the beginning of each chapter. Although this may seem too obvious or clunky a ploy, at least it’s clear who is speaking. And the goal is to keep your reader interested, not leave them with their heads spinning! 

One example of how to use alternating points of view is Jodi Picault’s novel My Sister’s Keeper; another is Brando Skyhorse’s Madonnas of Echo Park. If you’re thinking of using this technique, I’d advise giving both of these books a read, as they are master classes in how to handle multiple POV’s with ease and clarity. 

Writing Update

Buzzing and fevered is how I would describe myself right now. I’ve used half the month’s adrenaline supply in one morning, and ...yes, you’ve guessed right (or you will have if you’ve ever attempted it) it’s nanotime!

I printed out my chapter outline – twenty five chapters, four to six lines per chapter - so it’s not a detailed description, but I know what events and emotions I want in each chapter. I carry this with me everywhere. 

When I finish one chapter, I start going over the next one, expanding the details, and jotting down anything relevant which comes to mind. Last night, every time I went to switch the light off,  another snippet of conversation or element of a scene popped into my mind. I think I wrote about three pages of notes before I finally went to sleep.

The last few months of editing have felt like running on a treadmill – lots of hard work and going nowhere – although I’ll admit the calories did come off - so participating in the NaNoWriMo is proving to be an excellent remedy.

Today’s Haiku
AUTUMN BUS
tired travellers
vacant eyes – street lights pass by
reflecting gold

Useful Links:
Check out this great new website:
I’m leaving this link up during November for anyone who wants to check out the NaNoWriMo:
http://nanowrimo.org/

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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