Posts Tagged ‘award-winning author’

Can You Make Your Narrative Voice Sing?

January 15, 2019

Telling a story is very much like taking a picture. You choose the elements you want to include and decide on the perspective.

For instance, imagine you’re writing a story where three very different singers – let’s say, Tony Bennett, Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin – are each singing “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”

Interesting concept … right?

I’m sure you can hear how each of them would interpret the song, making it his or her own by imprinting it with his or her unique style.

The plot doesn’t change at all from singer-to-singer; we know that persistent little arachnid will get washed out of the spout, yet will eventually triumph over adversity.

But each version’s style is determined by the singer’s tone of voice, which notes are emphasized, the tempo and the background music.

A writer has to do the same thing with words to establish style.

Which is a long way to go merely to point out it isn’t necessarily what you say, it’s the way you say it.

That’s the narrative voice.

First-Person
If your story is written in the first-person, like most of mine are, the relationship you’re developing is between the narrator and the reader. Whether you want the reader to like, dislike, admire or loathe the narrator, the most important thing is to compel the reader, to keep them turning pages.

Take this excerpt from my award-winning novel ONE WAY STREET:

*****

    As soon as the Medivac left and our cover-fire slackened, the NVA began to probe our position again from both sides.
    We had no air support as we made our way back to the top of Hill 882, where we regrouped and formed the most nervous night perimeter I ever hope to be in. We were short of just about everything, from ammunition to grenades, and weren’t supposed to be resupplied until the next morning.
    “Can I ask you something, Blake?” I said to a weary-looking Thompson when he took the position next to me.
    “Sure,” he said, adding, “Wish I could light up a fag. I really do need a cigarette.”
    “You and me both.”
    “Barrett, you don’t smoke,” Blake said.
    “Yeah, I do,” I replied. When he stared at me I added, “But only when I’m scared.”
    He chuckled a little, but still sounded nervous, “I take it your knees haven’t stopped shaking,” he said.
    “I don’t know,” I said, “my ass hasn’t stop leaking long enough to find out.”
    He broke into a loud, whooping chortle, which he tried hard to stifle. The next man in the perimeter shushed him. Blake was silent for several moments, looking from the stars in the dark sky to the safety on his M-16. “Think we’ll be OK?” he said in a whisper.
    “I wish I knew,” I said, as I reloaded my own M-16. “But I wouldn’t be giving us very good odds.”
    “I was afraid of that.” Blake’s eyes looked up at the jungle without raising his head. “Was that what you wanted to talk about?”
     I’d almost forgotten the question I’d asked him.
    “No, I was just thinking about a guy I used to know,” I said, “a friend…but you wouldn’t know him…so never mind.”
    “What was his name?” Blake turned to look at me. He had blacked his face for camouflage and muddy streaks were caked on top of it. He could have been a clown, if he smiled. Or the devil himself, if he was angry.
    “His name was Albert Parker,” I said, “He used to live right across the street from me.”
    “Good guy?”
    I thought about it a moment. “Yeah,” I said, looking over at Blake, “a really good guy.”
   “You said he used to live across the street. Did he move, or something?”
     “No,” I said, “he died.”
    “Aw, that’s too bad, man,” Blake said. He adjusted his bandolier and started to lean back against the mound of dirt behind us. “What’d he die from?”
    “Coming over here.”

*****

Even though it is all coming from the perspective of the character Barrett, hopefully you can hear the dark undertones of the situation. It’s also my hope that you’re just dying to know what happens next!

Third-Person-Omniscient
This often used POV has no restrictions as to whose perspective you use to view the fictional world. Often it seems to be a know-it-all voice outside the specific time of the story. The clearest example I can think of is the opening of Charles Dickens’ A TALE OF TWO CITIES:

*****

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

*****

In this POV, the intimacy is formed with a trusted narrator who isn’t really part of the story. The narrative voice has a wisdom about the world, and the reader must trust that this voice will continue to comment on events and put them in perspective.

Either way, always remember, description is a tool to enhance the story, the same way a frame enhances a painting. If the frame is too ornate or large, it overshadows the artwork.

It’s like stepping on the gas pedal of your car; only do so in relation to how fast you want the car to go … and remember that great Stephen King quote: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

* * * * *

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Feeling Productive?

January 5, 2019

If you’re a writer anything like me, you probably have lots of story ideas floating around in the wrinkled old gray matter under your cap. I know I sure do. There’s a lot waiting to bloom.

As I mentioned last month, 2018 was a productive time for me. I’ve completed several chapters of three entirely different books. A couple of them are sequels to my current novels, and I’m pretty comfortable with where they’re going. I expect them to be done by summer.

But the entirely new one has me in something of a quandary.

I’ve always heard it said you have to hook your reader within the first three hundred words, or you’ll never get them to turn the page, let alone finish reading. I’ve repeated that mantra often.

Part of me believes that conventional wisdom to be true … not because “conventional wisdom” says so, but because I often decide on a book purchase myself after scanning the first couple of pages.

So, I must be ahead of the game. I’ve actually got several thousand words down on the new book. It’s just … none of them seem quite right as the start of the story. I’ve changed the beginning several times already.

So, I need some feedback, and I decided, as I’ve done before, to put the (current) beginning of it here:

* * * * *

Harkau
Electricity came to the village of Harkäu in the year 1937. That doesn’t sound like much to the children of today, because they don’t realize what a blessing it was not to live by candlelight.

Once people got over the big, wooden poles stringing unsightly wire alongside all the roads, many of the old farmers, at least those few who could scrape together enough money, put an electric light bulb in a room or two, usually hanging it bare from the center of the ceiling.

Those lights, all by themselves, were a fabulous invention that changed our lives, but some in the village who could afford them also had an outlet installed and bought a radio to plug into it, and those radios brought the rest of the world into our homes.

My brother-in-law, the baker, ordered one for himself and another for his brother. In no time at all, the neighbors would gather in the evenings at one of those radios. It made us all feel so very worldly to listen to those broadcasts.

A lot of the local broadcasts were performances by some of Germany’s top orchestras and opera singers, which were marvelous, but the messages were also heavily laced with National Socialist German Workers’ Party ideals.

I wasn’t sure I agreed with all the rhetoric contained in the broadcasts we were allowed to hear, but I have to admit Hitler’s fiery speeches were raising German spirits, which had been down since the end of the World War.

Germany’s economic environment, still plagued with enormous war-related reparations, supported the rise of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party Chancellor.

He took advantage of the brewing economic discontent to find himself at the forefront of a political ideology. National pride, patriotism, Aryan pride, and things like that.

“I don’t think some of that is true,” I said one night after listening to one of his more vitriolic speeches.

“Auch der lieber!” my brother-in-law’s neighbor sneered when he heard me, “Oh, my God! What would a woman know about things like that?” If I had expected to receive any support, the idea quickly vanished as I surveyed the open stares of others in the room.

© Ron Herron

* * * * *

What Do You Think?
Is this something likely to grab your interest and make you want to know what happens next?

Leave a comment.

Don’t worry about hurting my feelings. Decades ago, long before the digital age, I once sold encyclopedias door-to-door. What can you possibly say to me I haven’t already heard?

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake”, a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist, was also named a 2018 Book-of-the-Year Finalist by TopShelf Magazine. At the end of December I learned they named it Number One in the horror category!

* * * * *

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

What is Historical Fiction?

December 18, 2018

As the holidays close in and another year comes to a close, I’ve had a chance to think about the books I’ve written, and those on which I’m currently working, one of which is definitely historical fiction.

The working title is the name of the town in Hungary where the protagonist lived – Harkau.

Not all of the events in the story are completely imaginary, as the main character is based on someone who actually existed (my late father-in-law’s great aunt).

It was her journal, after all, a spotty, inconsistent but interesting document, which my father-in-law had translated from its original German, that became the basis for my story.

The world of this story is based, as closely as possible, on the reality of the particular time and place in which she lived, even though most characters mentioned are totally imaginary.

In other words, it’s just a story.

However, in order to write it, I have to invent a tale about things that happened during real events and, no matter what options I choose, nothing in my story can go against the known facts.

That Means Research
While true historical fiction can be interesting to write, you shouldn’t attempt it if you hate research. You’re not writing about contemporary Americans in old-fashioned costumes, after all.

You have to remember the time period and place will shape your characters with different attitudes, beliefs and knowledge than might be familiar.

I normally research heavily, since there are historical references in many of my books. It takes an effort.

At the same time, remember your characters are more than just the historical moment in which they live. Everyone has a personal story, quirks, good and bad qualities, worries and secret desires.

Remember too … you’re writing a novel, not an encyclopedia article. After you’ve done all that research, it can be tempting to try to use it all, but resist that temptation! Use only the details that naturally belong in your story.

And always remember: show, don’t tell.

It’s the same caution I mention for other fiction writing. At the end of your novel, your reader shouldn’t feel as if he’s read a history book — he should feel like he’s visited the place you’re talking about.

Avoid Mistakes
I can’t say it enough. To write good historical fiction, you need to research, research, and research some more. If your readers notice a discrepancy, they’ll step out of the story which, as an author, is the last thing you want to happen.

You need to get to know your characters’ corner of the world well enough that you can move around it in your imagination, picture your character walking down a street or sitting at a table, and know exactly what they would see, hear, feel, and smell.

You need to research until the historical part of your novel becomes almost second nature, so that you can focus on the story.

If possible, take a trip! Travel to the setting of your novel, in order to absorb the atmosphere and take advantage of any local archives, museums, or residents … who may be a gold mine of information.

What to Look For
Like all good fiction, there are special things to look for in your research. What was the social structure like? Who was rich and who was poor? How did the social classes interact?

What were the attitudes of the time toward religion, family, marriage, the role of children, gender, race, etc.? What was education like?

What kind of homes did people live in? How were these homes organized? What would all of the rooms have contained? Were there servants? What was the structure and rhythm of domestic life?

What was the physical world like outside your characters’ homes? Farmland? City? Forest? What animals and plants would there have been? What kind of crime or other dangers existed? What were the modes of transportation?

What was the political situation of the time? Was the map different? What were the boundaries of the countries? What were the current events of the time? The latest scientific discoveries? Who were the important people? What did men talk about? Women?

Where would people in your characters’ positions have worked? Where would their money have come from? What kind of food did they eat?

How did people talk? What kind of vocabulary would they have used? Give little hints of the local vocabulary so your reader gets the flavor (without annoying him with hard-to-read prose) … and be sure any slang is appropriate for the time period.

Choose Wisely
Once you’ve done all that research, it will be tempting to show off everything you know. But remember, your reader is there for the story. Use only the details that belong in the story.

But be accurate. Even though what you’re writing is mostly made up, historical mistakes can be disastrous, because they interrupt the reader’s imagination. The last thing you ever want them to do is leave the story. You want them wanting to know what happens next.

That’s why it’s essential to get the facts right. Then your readers can sit back and enjoy their imaginary journey to another place and time.

Do it right, and watch the good reviews roll in!

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake”, a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist, was also named a 2018 Book-of-the-Year Finalist by TopShelf Magazine. Winners will be chosen before the end of the month. Stay tuned!

* * * * *

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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