Showing posts with label Elements of a Novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elements of a Novel. Show all posts

Oct 19, 2011

Building a Character: How I Do It

Building a character can be tricky business because, just like Real people, a character has to be multifaceted, they have to have a past (even though it may not show up in the book at all), and most of all they need to inspire emotion from your reader.

The best thing you can do is take some time to get to know each of your characters. Here’s a list of things I make note of for each character in an attempt to better understand them:

First Name
Last Name
Middle Name
Hair Color
Hair Length
Eye color
Body Type/Build
Shape face
Distinguishing features
Normal clothes
Significant events
Who knows them

I have spreadsheet upon spreadsheet of character attributes for my different novels. Not only does it help you get to know the character, it also helps you to keep track of things so that your MC doesn’t end up with blue eyes on page 10 and brown eyes on page 219. And obviously I only do this for the main and secondary characters, though I do tend to go through and do a tidbit of stuff for those characters that aren’t in the books for long – in case they show up later ;)
How do you build a character?

Oct 13, 2011

Food in Fiction

So I was thinking about the appearance of food in novels – because some lout had to get me started on it. You know who you are.

In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund is somewhat controlled by his desire for Turkish Delight, which the White Witch provides him with to make him pliable.
In the Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin likes to give his readers an epicurean play-by-play, sometimes detailing each ingredient of a course… something that does, if I’m honest, get a bit trying. I haven’t bothered trying to study if there’s a reason or a pattern to his food choices (or their rather verbose recountings)
In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Larson’s characters seemed only ever interested in sandwiches and coffee.
L. M. Montgomery, proves that a mix up in cordial can have serious ramifications in Anne of Green Gables, as well as what happens when you forget to put the cheese cloth over the plum pudding (hint: drowned mouse)  
In Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series Tea plays a vital role in managing the main character’s temperament and Pesto takes on a whole new role with the revelation that not only does the garlic ward off vampires, but that Werewolves are allergic to basil.

Are there any instances of comestible occurrences that have caught your eye in your readings?

Dec 21, 2010

Just Because It’s Fiction Doesn’t Mean It Can’t Be Real


Some authors do it (J. K. Rowling owned research), and some don’t. Some genres require more of it than others (Historical fiction demands it), and some don’t.

It’s fiction

So… if it’s invented, why do you need to make sure things are accurate?

Because the human brain is a silly organ, that’s why!

The point of a good book is to pull the reader out of their own world and in to yours, for however brief a time. But certain things will push them out of your world while they’re reading and telling them that a person contracted Lyme disease from drinking untreated water and go on to describe what is basically Giardia, there are undoubtedly going to be people who think you’re either lazy or a little low on the IQ scale. Neither of which you want.

My advice on research is this:

The internet is your friend. But it can also be your foe. Make sure you are looking at reliable sites and if you’re not sure they’re right, look for a second source to confirm it.

When should you research?

I think this depends on you. I do my research when it’s needed.

For instance, I wrote a graveyard scene in the second novel I wrote and didn’t do a lick of research. Why? Because I knew the graveyard I put in the book extremely well. It’s the graveyard that abuts my grandmothers farm, it’s where my grandfather is buried and I’ve been there a bazillion times. I didn’t need to research it, because I already knew it.

I believe the grave at the bottom of the picture is my grandfathers, but I'm not sure because of the angle.

In the same novel, I wrote about a house that doesn’t actually exist in the real world, but I didn’t let that keep me from making the house realistic. I knew the age I wanted the house to be and so I went looking for stately English manors that were the right age. I found what I was looking for in the Ham House. I did this after I’d written the house, so the few things I’d gotten wrong were changed in the next edit.

When I knew that I’d be writing about the Dead Sea, I did a bunch of research on it before I wrote anything. A lot of that research wasn’t added to the novel, but it helped me to write a realistic hyper-saline lake.

Do you research at a specific time in your writing process?

Oct 21, 2010

Let me tell you a little about my writing process.

I don’t have one. Every book, so far, has been different.

(Two posts today because I don’t really feel that that last one was worth a full day and because I’m not sure that I haven’t actually already posted this one…. If I have, the other one is different. This is at least up to date.)

The first book, Duty and Death, was not in any way intended to actually turn into a book until I was well into it. Character development was done on the fly. The word “outline” didn’t exist in the same world as this book. It was 0% planning, 25% research after writing and 75% writing. (Then approximately 450%revisions – I never claimed to be a math whiz)

The follow up to duty and death will probably be something along the lines of 30% planning, 20% research, and 50% writing. This is simply because I have to fit things into a constraint now.

The second book, Forfeit Souls (which has since been shelved), started from a brief moment of madness when I contemplated death (obviously I’m not saying I was thinking about suicide) and wrote extensively on the subject from a first person point of view. The resultant pages became the first chapter in that novel, but there was much more character development and research than the first book before the bulk of the writing actually happened. It was 25%planning, 30% research and 45% writing.

Magic is for the Birds, my third novel started with a simple sentence that ended up in chapter 2… I think? (Not actually looking at the book right now) This was a strange thing. Because it kept mutating in my mind, even as I wrote it. The world kept expanding and expanding. Causing me to do a lot of mid-step changes and re writes. It was 5% Planning, 7% research before writing, 15% research after writing, 33% initial writing, 40% rewrites.

Bent, my space opera was comprised of 25% research, 30% planning and 45%writing. With my first foray into the SF Genre, most of my research was on SF novels themselves… and pacing and all of that jazz. I will admit that I did a lot of research on Cherenkov radiation too.

My untitled romantic SF novel (written in 20 days) was 100% writing – no planning or research went into this first draft at all… hence the fact that the revisions are probably going to involve 50% research and 50% rewrites.

I’m curious to see which of the projects floating about in my mind and in my “Idea’s” folder will make me finish it next and what sort of ratio it will have.

Oct 19, 2010

Plot Catalysts

Stories must have three elements in them to work. We’ll begin with the first.

The plot catalyst is a major factor in your novel: it’s the thing that get’s the proverbial ball rolling, that one incident that sets all the other bits of the novel into motion. It is you’re warning shot across your reader’s nose, letting them know approximately where this is all going.

Without a plot catalyst, there’s really no reason to keep reading. What entices the reader to continue? There’s nothing at stake without the catalyst they have no reason to care what happens.

Think about it. What’s the catalyst in your favorite novel?

Here are the catalysts in some popular novels/novels I’ve read recently.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling: Harry gets a letter telling him he’s a Wizard and gets to go to a prestigious school.

Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy: A group of rovers kidnaps Edie.

Lord of the rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: Bilbo leaves Frodo the ring he stole from Gollum.

The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan: Magicians attack the Ryves brothers and Alan is marked by a demon.

The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis: Uncle Andrew tricks Polly into touching a yellow ring and she disappears.

Man from Mundania by Piers Anthony: Ivy uses the Heaven Cent and is sent to Grey Murphy.

I myself was having an issue with the plot catalyst last week. While trying to fix the beginning of the novel that my revisions to Duty and Death had created, I realized that I had no plot catalyst – none at all – the way it was written. Obviously a novel doesn’t make sense if you have no catalyst, so that had to be fixed.

What's the plot catalyst of your favorite book's catalyst?