Posts Tagged ‘award-winning writing’

Fiction in the Pandemic

November 4, 2020

Literary arts have long served as humanity’s means of processing reality. But as we reel from continued global crises, what stories are going to emerge from these odd and troubled times?

As our own reality changes, what happens to the world a writer imagines? With so many of the arts hobbled by the pandemic, fiction should be thriving. Unlike any of the performing arts, writing is a solitary profession, one that does not require the physical presence of an audience.

Even more than pursuits like painting and photography, which can require some collaboration, writing is best done in isolation. We have the ultimate “work-from-home” profession. But even as it is, by nature, removed from the world, much of fiction relies on realism, or some semblance of it. We call it “world building”…creating credibility for our characters and their lives.

But what kind of world do we build now?

This is only one issue facing writers in this difficult time. In addition to the common necessities of wrangling everything from child care and schooling to health care and shopping, not to mention worrying about a Presidential election, many of us have had difficulty concentrating.

The subconscious, where so much plotting and character-building happens, has been taken over for many by a silent, screaming panic.

I’m sure the current pandemic is spurring some writers. In two years, I expect a bumper crop of dystopian fantasy (as if we want to live this year over again). However, no matter what our genre, we face a choice. Do we depict a world in which people interact as we did so blithely only eight months ago? Or, do we try to set our stories in a world of Zoom conferences and masked, distanced meetups?

No matter what our conscious choices, reality is bound to seep in. One author I know has posted on social media about his latest manuscript. Drafted largely before the pandemic, he talked about revising it, and removing handshakes and embraces, at least between non-family members. He said these scenes now make him uncomfortable.

For me, the choice has been somewhat predetermined. When the shutdown came, I was already deep into the drafts of several new stories. Not only did it feel wrong to change the settings, even as our reality was changing, it felt antithetical to the purpose of my tales.

I also had a practical concern. One work of mine is the fifth (and probably last) in a series. I have another, darker book that’s a sequel to one of my well-received horror stories. I tell myself it’s neither wise nor fair to my readers to change too much at this point, even though their real worlds have changed as much as mine.

If I revise, like my friend is talking about doing, am I going to remove the hugs and handshakes? I’m not sure yet. But I have noticed another element of reality creep in, because I tend to right the world I create as I write it.

By that, I mean I try to resolve the obstacles my protagonists experience. However, this time around, my characters keep straying from the direction I thought the story should go. The real world has made it tough to keep my concentration as I write.

I’ve always claimed to start with a “what if” and let the characters tell me where they’re going. Now, as I struggle with writer’s block for yet another month, perhaps it’s because I no longer feel my inventions are that much different than reality.

Be that as it may, I voted yesterday, as I hope you did, and I’m waiting (not very patiently) for final results. I won’t get into my political leanings, but I’m sure this whole year would make one hell of a story…except no one would believe it.

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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;

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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, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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

Tips for Generating Great Book Ideas

September 25, 2020

2020 has been a weird year, that’s for sure. Like me, you may have been having trouble concentrating on your writing.

Just remember…when it comes time to start, don’t overthink things. Keep it simple. Whether you’re staring down writer’s block, or find yourself overwhelmed by too many good ideas, here are some thoughts to get you started.

Create a Character Based on Someone You Know
Many authors have mined the traits of a best friend, family member, or co-worker as part of a great book idea. I certainly have.

So, when you’re around people, jot down a few observations about their behavior…either mentally, or in a notebook…and see if those observations prompt any story ideas. A key supporting character, or even the main character, could be a composite of people you know.

Adapt Mythology Into Your Own Great Story
If you aren’t the kind of person who can generate a book topic by mining the depths of your own life, you can always go in the opposite direction and adapt folklore or mythology.

J.R.R. Tolkien used story elements from Norse mythology to craft The Lord of the Rings. Shakespeare’s creative writing process often led him to cast real-life kings and queens in his plays, adding his own embellishments to create better stories.

Find a myth or folktale you want to adapt in your own style.

Embrace the Supernatural
Sounds weird, right? But, trust me, readers love well-crafted ghosts and apparitions. In the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King, create a cast of characters…and make at least one of them a ghost.

Get Inspiration From Comedy
Some new fiction writers make the mistaken assumption the only books worth writing are those that are gravely serious. Fortunately for the reading public, that isn’t true at all.

Authors from Shakespeare to Mark Twain have had great success writing books and plays where comedy came first. Try twisting one of your writing ideas into something more absurd.

Send Your Character on a Journey
From road trips to epic quests, audiences love a character on the move. If you have a great character or premise in mind, think of ways that you can send that character on a journey…or how the premise can be extended over the course of multiple story locations.

Try Freewriting
Freewriting is a technique where you write without a prescribed structure. That means no outlines, cards, or notes (I like to work this way). In freewriting, you follow the impulses of your mind, allowing thoughts and inspiration to appear without premeditation.

Allow your stream of consciousness to inspire the words on the page. Let the characters tell you what they want to do. With practice, you can use freewriting to unleash your creativity.

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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, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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

Why Care About Hooking a Reader?

June 30, 2020

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

Seems Like an Easy Question
Simply put, if you don’t hook your readers, they won’t get into the story. If readers don’t get into the story, they won’t have a reason to keep reading.

No readers? No book sales. No book sales? Goodbye writing career. So, getting it right is an important part of the writing process.

Suspense is one of the techniques you can use to hook them, but it’s always been true that all suspense comes out of giving the reader information. After all, you can’t expect people to have anxieties, if they don’t have something to be anxious about.

Think about the pandemic and recent country-wide riots, and the fear many people felt, or still do. That’s what it’s like.

In other words, if you tell the reader there’s a bomb in the room, and it’s going to go off in three minutes…that’s suspense…and it’s a highly emotional process, like being on a roller-coaster ride.

Put Characters in Jeopardy
The information you provide for suspense all comes down to creating these four vital factors: empathy, concern, impending danger and escalating tension.

You create reader empathy by giving the character a desire or internal struggle. Something readers can identify with. Once they care about a character, readers will be invested when they see that character struggling to get what he desires.

The more readers empathize, the closer their connection with the story will be.

If readers become engaged in the story, suspense builds as danger approaches. But it doesn’t have to be a physical life-and-death situation. The threat could involve the character’s psychological, emotional or spiritual well-being instead.

However, if tension doesn’t escalate, the suspense you’ve been trying to develop will evaporate. Suspenseful storytelling is like inflating a balloon. You can’t stop blowing or you let the air out. You have to keep blowing more in, tightening the tension until the balloon looks like it’s going to pop any second.

Then blow in even more…until the reader can hardly stand it.

Include Promises
It’s important to remember that suspense happens in the moments between the promise of something dreadful and its arrival. If readers complain “nothing is happening” what they’re really saying is no promises are being made.

Contrary to what you might think, the problem of readers being bored by inaction isn’t solved by adding action. Suspense is anticipation, after all. Action is the payoff. You don’t increase suspense by making things happen, but by promising they will.

Keep Every Promise You Make
In tandem with making promises is the obligation of keeping them. But you’d better deliver. The bigger the promise, the bigger the payoff the reader wants. A huge promise without the fulfillment isn’t suspense…it’s disappointment.

If you spend three paragraphs describing a woman’s multi-colored silk scarf, that scarf had better be vital to the story. If not, you’re telling your readers, “Oh, by the way, I wasted your time. That part really wasn’t important.”

Never disrespect your readers like that.

When stories falter it’s not usually because the writers didn’t make big enough promises. It’s because they they broke those promises by never fulfilling them at all. When readers invest their time, they want that investment to pay off.

Know the Difference Between Suspense and Mystery
A story moves through action to moments of reorientation when the characters process what just happened…and make a decision that leads to the next scene.

We do this in real life as well…we experience something moving or profound, and then decide how to respond. When a story lags, it’s almost always because of missing tension.

Mystery, on the other hand, is an intellectual process…like a riddle.

In a mystery, you don’t need to answer every question. In fact, it’s important to leave some questions unresolved, so the audience will still be thinking about them at the end of the book.

Be One Step Ahead of Your Readers
When I write I’m constantly asking myself what the readers are hoping for, or wondering about, at each point in the story. Our job as writers is to give them more than they ever bargained for.

Make it personal. As you develop your story, appeal to readers’ fears and phobias. Think of things that frighten you most, and use them. You can be sure many of your readers will fear them as well.

No matter what you write, good prose really is all about sharpening the suspense. Follow these hints, and you’ll keep your readers up way past their bedtime.

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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, or see my three local television interviews. 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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