Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

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

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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.

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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.

Are You Creating Believable Characters?

November 29, 2018


My wife and I just returned from a marvelous vacation in the Caribbean, on the island of St. Lucia. It was a great time, that passed far too quickly, but I had a lot of time to think about the writing projects I have in the works.

I spent a lot of time listening to new conversations around me. It’s something I believe will prove valuable in the coming weeks, as I return to writing, by helping make my characters believable.

Because, and I know I say it a lot, but I also know I can never say it too often … knowing how to create believable characters is vital for any fiction writer.

If you’re not careful, whether it’s the hero, the villain, an orphan, or an unwilling savior, a character can easily become too predictable.

So, how do you prevent this from happening?

Original and Memorable Physical Descriptions
Think of one of fiction’s best-loved characters, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. He has a lightning-bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. This detail alone sets him apart.

Unique body language and gestures, as well as physical ‘flaws’ or distinguishing markers, such as Harry’s scar, help to create a vivid character readers are easily able to imagine.

What physical attributes should you focus on? Think about how they might suggest certain personality elements.

Describe Eyes Carefully
One of the first things many writers do is focus on a character’s eyes. However, too many beginning writers often let that simple attribute stray into the realm of cliché.

Think about other related characteristics. Does your character have a nervous temperament? If so, he might blink more than most people, which might be far more noticeable than the color of his eyes.

Height and Posture
People often infer things about others based on their height. But don’t merely say the character is tall to make him seem commanding. Compare him to something, to make the image memorable.

Posture is another attribute that can say a lot about a character. Hunched shoulders might suggest anxiety, but this posture could also convey that a person has led a life of labor, which might also be seen in rough, callused hands.

Also, consider contradictions. For example, if an ‘ugly’ character has a seductive voice, this contradiction with reader expectations generates interest, since it creates a sense of unpredictability.

Character Development and Environment
Characters should discover new things about themselves in the course of a story. However, sometimes an unchanging status can also be important. It can be used to convey tragedy and inescapable ‘fate’, should this be the effect you want to achieve.

Give your characters core beliefs that are tested and renewed, or altered. A believable character should be just as changeable (and sometimes contradictory) in outlook and opinion as real people.

How does your character’s environment affect his personality? If, for example, your character lives through a war, does this bring out fear or courage, pro- or anti-war sentiment?

A character might discover an inner strength he never knew existed.

Paying attention to lifelike character development also will help you set individuals apart. While some characters triumph over adversity, others fail. It’s a fact of life.

Make Fictional Voices Real
Finally, if you want your characters to feel real, they should talk like real people, so make their dialogue mimic real speech.

Make sure your characters’ styles of speech fit their backstories. If a character has a troubled past, for example, think how this might have affected the way they express themselves.

Think also about colloquialisms (slang) specific to the character’s age group, location and image. If a character swears frequently, is he angry? Or simply expressive and indifferent to social taboos?

Think about what the specific words a character uses suggests about him. To create individual, distinctive voices, create a checklist you can go through for each character.

Checklist
Ask yourself:
1. What is your character’s social status?
2. What is your character’s education level?
3. Is he privileged/underprivileged in relation to other characters?
4. How does he talk to other characters as a result?
5. What does this say about his personality?
6. How old is your character? Does he speak typically for his age, or are there details that convey something out of the ordinary about him (for example, a young character who uses bigger words than normal for his age group may seem precocious).

Including this variety of personality type and language in your story will help to convince your readers your fictional world is just as vivid, varied and interesting as their own, and who knows what kind of new, excited readership that can bring?

I’m willing to find out. Are you?

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake” was a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist. It was also named a 2018 Book-of-the-Year Finalist by TopShelf Magazine.

* * * * *

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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