Tuesday, 28 January 2014

THE DRAMATIC ARC



Structure is inherent in everything around us - think of our own lives, or of anything living on this planet (including the planet itself) and you’ll have a beginning, a middle and an end. Starting with myths and legends, down through folk tales, Greek tragedies and comedies and up to the modern novel, you’ll find the same structure exists. 

Stories have:
       a beginning (introduces setting, character & conflict)
       a middle (escalation of conflict leading to climax)
       an end (conflict resolution)
For example, in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men the beginning shows Lennie and George arriving at a new farm for work; the middle where they settle down and make friends - with Lenny’s friendship culminating in disaster; and a tragic ending where George has to kill Lenny to save him from a worse fate.

There are of course many novels where the dramatic action is dealt with differently. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is a less obviously plot driven story, and the dramatic action, focusing on one day in Mrs. Dalloway’s life, is more subtle and internal. Woolf, as a Modernist writer, approaches time as a flow of successive events, where the meaning of a moment can only be realized in relation to that moment. She deftly demonstrates that dramatic arcs need not pivot around a grand sweeping event. The action can be small – yet its effect on a character can result in significant changes. 

Structure in a novel is the edifice on which you hang your story; it's something which is necessary, but should remain hidden in the background.
 
Writing Update.
I’ve been coasting along this week, editing a chapter every two days. At least I was until
I followed a link in a newsletter I subscribe to by Joanna Penn, and read a post by Russell Blake. I believe there is no one way to write – whatever works for you is the only rule anybody should follow – but when I read Blake had written twenty-two thrillers in thirty months, selling around 45,000 books in the last year or so, I had one of those, boy, I’d better knuckle down and work harder and faster moments. Every now and then, I realize I have to up my game if I want to achieve my goals. We'll see.

I probably should take the marketing aspect of writing more seriously than I've done so far. And with this end in mind, I’m working out how to make my Blogpress website look the way I want, as I'd like to reach more people. But I’m not holding my breath as this may take some time to come to fruition...

Today’s Haiku
COFFEE
I love that first hit
that jolt of caffeine – liquid
electricity

Useful Links
A great website full of helpful info for writers considering the self-publishing route. http://www.TheCreativePenn.com
A read of this post gives you an idea of what can be done!

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, 21 January 2014

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST.



Another aspect of writing sometimes neglected in today’s fondness for pared back writing is the use of imagery. We might think of imagery as being the domain of poets in particular, but metaphors, similes etc., are embedded in every aspect of language. Our conversations are littered with comparisons (the bees’ knees, spring clean, couch potato etc., etc.,) which have become so common we no longer connect them with the original concrete image. 

However, although using comparative images to acquaint readers with something beyond their experience is an effective tool for writers, using imagery to bring our ordinary, everyday world alive in a new way can be a more rewarding challenge.

Both uses increase the scope of our understanding.

The ability to create potent images stems from acute observation of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches around us. Using sense perception to tie disparate objects together allows writers to reveal new insights to readers. 

Mixed metaphors are a weak point to guard against as they can produce unintended results - witness the following which was originally from the Detroit News, and quoted in The New Yorker.
 "I don’t think we should wait until the other shoe drops. History has already shown what is likely to happen. The ball has been down this court before and I can see already the light at the end of the tunnel."
Mixed metaphors often arise because a writer hasn’t seen the clash of content inherent in the meanings.

Another thing which is hard for writers to spot in their own writing, because we often see what we aim to write rather than what is in front of us, is the use of clichés. Clichés are metaphors, but are exhausted, ready to be retired metaphors in use since Noah walked off the Ark. Ironically, because clichés do contain powerful images, if they are rejuvenated and rethought, they are often more powerful than a newly created metaphor. 

Sprinkled sparingly among your words, like small shining jewels, metaphors provide an exercise for the imagination of both reader and writer.

Writing Update
I’m chugging along with my supernatural mash-up, and finding it a very different experience from my first novel where I used an assembly line approach of taking, for example plot flaws, and fixing them throughout the book, before moving on to the next aspect. This worked fine until I met Pro Writing Aid and entered Purgatory for about five months.

This time I’m approaching the edit chapter by chapter, which breaks down the use of Pro Writing Aid into smaller bite-sized chunks. So far the process seems easier than last time – even my ‘was/were’ score for chapter three in the overused words section said ‘Perfect’. So despite having found this online editing tool a tortuous learning curve, I must give credit where it's due.

I’ve set a goal of finishing this book by the end of June (as always, a flexible date), and – please don’t hold me to this –  have scenes popping into my brain for a second in the series. A series? Seriously? I have no idea where is this coming from, but I’m going to explore it a bit. After all, while the conflict set up in the current book is resolved, the dilemma of the eternal triangle remains. I already have the basic outline of beginning, plot, climax and resolution, and my subconscious is under strict orders to incubate ideas. 

I took a two day break from social media over the weekend – life and other stuff. It’s good to change things sometimes – helps keep life and other stuff in perspective.

Today’s Haiku
WINTER
snow lies on the ground
one red apple left hanging –
blackbird finds a feast


Useful Links:
The title of this post tells you what it’s all about:
An interesting post on the role of editing in one writer’s journey to publication.
http://ellisshuman.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/how-i-found-my-editor.html

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, 14 January 2014

SETTING THE SCENE



Although many writers limit the amount of attention given to descriptions of setting, it's worth while exploring different ways you can employ this aspect of writing to advance your story.

Setting can be used to illuminate hidden facets of a character’s personality. A sharp successful business woman may sleep in a four poster bed, revealing a romantic side to her nature; a teenage boy might keep a collection of miniature cars from his preteen years as a way of holding on to happier childhood memories. Used in this way, setting can increase a character's complexity.

Another function of setting can be to instigate plot. If you place your character in a sympathetic environment where they feel comfortable, then as soon as you introduce a disturbing element everything changes – think of Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. In an alternate scenario, if you situate your protagonist in hostile surroundings, you immediately open up plenty of possibilities in terms of plot – think of Vianne Rocher in Joanne Harris’s Chocolat.

Exploring emotions through setting is another effective approach. By showing how characters view the places in their lives, home, work place etc., a writer can reveal something of who they are, and how they are feeling at any given moment. A young man frustrated with the lack of opportunities for advancement in his job will demonstrate his dissatisfaction both at work and at home. 

Setting also provides opportunity for both writer and reader to explore sensory experiences. Describing in detail the smells, sounds, sights, and even how a surface feels to the sense of touch are an excellent way to invoke the atmosphere of a place.

So whether your story takes place in the local convenience store or a future time in a far galaxy, setting is a valuable tool available to writers in making fictional worlds real and alive to the reader.

This Week’s Rant!
Why do these things - by which I mean computer stuff - have to be so tricky and awkward?

Having finished my first novel, I wanted to change the url on my blog as it said ‘myfirstnovel’. In my ignorance and haste, I thought if I deleted the ‘first’ everything else would remain the same as I begin working on my second (and hopefully) future novels. 

Alas, it turns out that although the blog posts remain, all the more recent comments have fled. So my apologies to those of you who so generously read and commented on any of my recent posts. And if you come across a bunch of lost, lonely comments (or, as the humorous Glen Perkins suggested - maybe they’re on strike) please, send them home to mama! All is forgiven!

And Google+: ********!

Writing Update.I
So while my mainstream commercial women's fiction ms wings its way through the ether to a series of agents and publishers, I’ve reread and started editing last November’s nano novel.  This is a supernatural mash-up, and, without doubt, there are a number of issues to address, not the least a distinct bullet point narration style which I’ve attributed to my determination to achieve that word count per day. And while trying to get a novel out to readers is hard work,  this writing thing is addictive - and I know it's what I love doing.

Today’s Haiku
WINTER
window icicles
glisten in cold winter sun –
stalactite daggers

Useful Links:
An interesting post about the publishing industry in the upcoming year:
This was one of several blogs I found helpful when it came to writing my synopsis:

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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