When you first started writing, what form did you use–short stories, poetry, memoir, or a novel?
In middle school, I chose short stories and I still like to write them. Next I wrote a few novels, and then poetry. In the afternoon writing class I teach, we are writing a Haiku twice a month based on a photo members take turns bringing to class.
My preferences for short stories and poetry affect my novel writing. The shorter forms make it necessary to be aware of exactly the right words to use and to eliminate too much detail. I’ve discovered that when building character in a novel, choosing the right words is more complicated. One has to think about interspersing physical description, feelings, thoughts, and how to show a deeper, rather than a superficial character.
In my novel, Norman in the Painting, I think I’ve created minor characters that have more personality than the protagonist. I’ve written a post-a-note to remind myself to deepen Jill. She’s the center of the action, readers learn about her values by her dialogue and by the decisions she makes. However I sense she’s hiding something or resisting a close relationship with the reader. I’ll have to figure out why.
What is your favorite form to write?
If any of your characters are addicted to being right, they would rather be right than happy. They have to have the last word in an argument and proving their point of view takes precedent over listening to others. Even after being shown they are wrong, they still search for ways to prove their point of view.
Characters that are always right are often eloquent, but they actually are stuck. Their focus is on making sure the other character understands why they are right. They explain over and over because they think the disagreeing character doesn’t realize why they are right. They need approval and appreciation. They have to be in control.
Low self-esteem and a lack of open-mindedness and willingness to listen to others’ beliefs underlie the need to be right. Contrary ideas frustrate them. Being right all the time is tiring. It demands an ability to distort facts, to make excuses, to delude themselves and to blame others.
Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”
James Russell Lowell said, “The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”
In my multidimensional mystery novel, Norman in the Painting, Reggie, the antagonist, is addicted to being right and he will threaten and kill to be in control. Jill was attracted to his eloquence until, too late, she discovered his flaws.
Do you have a character addicted to being right?
Information from Louis A. Tartaglia, M.D. Flawless!
Sagging middles in writing novels can be a mess. Often everything gets thrown into the middle while the plot goes around in circles. New characters or too many characters flounder, back story info dumps create road blocks, tension disappears, dialogue goes on and on by characters who are in their heads instead of taking action, and readers put the book down.
How to fix it? Try thinking of your middle in three parts, beginning, middle, and end. In the beginning of the middle, increase tension, create more conflict. Be sure there are hooks to keep the reader reading. In the middle of the middle, take out info dumps, sub-plots that aren’t needed, minor characters that are distracting and don’t support the plot, and take out dialogue that is unnecessary. The end of the middle should be close to the dark moment. Tension is at a high point, up the stakes for the main character, make the odds seem impossible, include a shock, a surprise, or twist. Check all the events and relationships to be sure the cause and effect chain makes sense and builds to the climax. Above all, avoid aimlessness. Good luck.
Elmore Leonard states in his book, Ten Rules of Writing, “Never open a book with weather.” He explains that the reader looks for people and will skip ahead to find them if the author writes on and on about the weather.
Sheldon Siegel, author of several modern legal novels, spoke at the California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Writers Branch, on September 20th. Among the many topics he addressed, one was “Setting/Mood–A Sense of Place” in which he said setting is important to orient the reader right away. He suggested writers include “What time of year? What season? What’s the temperature? Is it raining? Snowing?” He advised using all the senses especially smell.
I think Leonard would agree with Siegel if a writer can use those answers to not just create atmosphere, but to show the character’s reaction to the weather and to write it with as few words as possible. When I read a book, I like to know the season and weather conditions, especially if the scene is outdoors. I admire writers who can slip those details into the story without making them sound like description, but to help the reader feel, smell, and hear, what is around the character and react along with him or her.
How do you feel about reading or writing about weather in the first paragraphs?
How do authors write their novels? I’ve included some examples. Who are plotters and who are pantsers?
Katherine Anne Porter said, “If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin…I always write my last line, my last paragraphs, my last page first.”
“I start at the beginning, go on to the end, and then stop.” Anthony Burgess
Vladimir Nabokov used index cards to lay out the story, then he expanded and rearranged the cards before he started writing the novel.