Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Writers Thinking About Settings

If you don’t think much about it and just sort of throw settings in as you need there, just for color and background, then maybe you need to pause and think about that again…..


Okay, done thinking? Hope you’ve come to some good conclusions, namely just how important settings can be to novel or script. In fact, setting can become so central to a story that it’s almost another character. Think about it – Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian series – he created his own Mars.  Settings and characters to go with it. There were precise and detailed settings full of color and life on  their own. And when the movie was made all that detail became real on the screen. And, the director didn’t need to have pages and pages of written instruction to get there. 

He also didn’t need a lot of those pages when he has at his fingertips the ability to project lots and lots of images for the ‘reader/watcher’ to absorb.

Novelists are at a disadvantage when compared with their counterparts of movie world. It’s true, novelists must create the setting with words, passion and emotion that scatter across the written page. Screenwriters however, have a different disadvantage in that they must learn to put the same across on the page in very short passages.

However it’s done, by whoever is writing, setting dictates the need for detailed and precise descriptions of locals. And that means the writer must have a good grip on possibly a police station, a morgue or a rough city street for mysteries.  If it’s a thriller being written it might call for a more confining setting like an airplane, a small down, a haunted house or an island.  

A setting immediately takes the reader where the writer needs him to be. Without that immediately grounding in surroundings the reader loses his center and that’s definitely a negative for the writer.

So think about your settings and make it easier on yourself by realizing there are types of setting. Some are definitive in that the action MUST be set in a certain local. By that I mean if your book or script has a historical setting and something well-known that happens there then THERE can only be one specific setting.  The Gunfight at the OK Corral can’t be set in modern day New York City. So the writer is going to have to bone up on Tombstone Arizona in the 1800’s and get the details right.

On the other hand some scenes don’t necessarily need a specific setting. A guy asking a girl to marry him can be pretty much anywhere the writer wants to put it if it’s current history; whatever fits the story, or takes it in a new direction.

So what I’m saying is sometimes a scene is deeply rooted in the story and MUST contain a number of pre-determined elements. Other times, when you create a scene and that scene is not inherent many opportunities open up. There are possibilities to add an unexpected setting. You could use that to add tension and perhaps allow angles to emerge that help you create story additions you hadn’t thought of.

Play with your settings, even ones that may seem relatively minor. You might be able to add a whole new angle to your story.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writers and Readers Websites Wednesday - Story Generators

Kinda desperate for a new story idea? Or at least something that will kickstart the creative process and get that brain wandering off in new directions? 

Toss in location generator, first line generator and more and this site is perfect to get those ideas churning. 

About themselves Writers Plot Idea Generator says: This plot generator creates original and random story lines for plays, novels, short stories, soap opera, TV series or a movie script. The plot lines generated are not guaranteed to make sense but they do inspire writers by triggering a creative chain of thought. Most of the results might be off-the-wall but some are pure gold. Keep trying and sooner or later the perfect idea will appear. Some plots sound like a short story; some will fill a novel or could even be the start of a huge franchise. 

Go ahead, test it out, play a little! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“I cannot live without books.” (writing, reading and learning) ― Thomas Jefferson

Have you ever thought about how much the United States – and all it’s readers and writers owe to Thomas Jefferson?  

Throughout his life, books were vital to Thomas Jefferson's education and well-being. When his family home Shadwell burned in 1770 he most mourned the loss of his books.

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in Shadwell, Virginia. As a boy, Thomas Jefferson's favorite pastimes were playing in the woods, practicing the violin and reading – yes, READING. He began his formal education at the age of nine, studying Latin and Greek at a local private school. At the age of 14, he took up further study of the classical languages as well as literature and mathematics. A boy who grew to a man for whom reading and learning was second only to breathing.

Yes, he drafted the U.S. Declaration of Independence; he was the first secretary of state (1789-94), second vice president (1797-1801), and, as the third president (1801-09), the architect of the Louisiana Purchase.  Impressive. 

But, for those who love books, even more impressive is his gift to the nation of the Library of Congress. Now I’m not saying he built it, but he did acquire thousands of books for his library at Monticello, that personal library constantly evolving. And when the British burned the nation’s Capitol and the Library of Congress (with it’s 3,000 book collection) in 1814 Jefferson, having acquired the largest personal collection of books in the United States, offered to sell his library to Congress as a replacement for that loss, promising to accept any price set by Congress.

The broad scope of Jefferson's library was a cause for criticism by congress of the purchase, but Jefferson extolled the virtue of its broad sweep and established the principle of acquisition for the Library of Congress: " I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from this collection . . . there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer."   

The total number of books received by the Library of Congress from Jefferson was 6,487 which more than doubled the original size of the library. Then, proclaiming that "I cannot live without books," Jefferson began a second collection of several thousand books. The man was obsessed – but in the view of readers in a very positive way. 

Jefferson hoped for a national impact from his library and commented, "an interesting treasure is added to your city, now become the depository of unquestionably the choicest collection of books in the US, and I hope it will not be without some general effect on the literature of our country."

Then, disaster, a second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851 destroyed nearly two thirds of the books Congress had so recently purchased from Jefferson.

Nevertheless Jefferson's collection was the seed from which the Library of Congress grew into the world's largest library today. It is these days accessible to all Americans through its Web sites and in three buildings on Capitol Hill (if you haven’t visited, put it on your list) and it continues to grow. 

Other than books, the collection includes millions of newspapers, maps, prints, photographs, sound recordings, films and digital materials, as well as the personal papers of hundreds of famous Americans including 23 U.S. presidents. 

If you have a shelf of books at home, and I suspect you do, think of it as the beginning of your own private library. Imitate Mr. Jefferson. 

Take time to visit your public and school libraries often (yes take a break from the computer). From the beginning, libraries have played a vital role in American democracy. And we all know librarians are not to be messed with!

And don’t forget to thank Thomas Jefferson, source of a whole lot more than the Declaration of Independence.  A modest man, one who believe that his greatest gifts to posterity came in the realm of ideas rather than that of politics. 

Upon his death, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence, his simple tombstone in the family cemetery at Monticello reads: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and father of the University Of Virginia."

We could sure use Mr. Jefferson now.

Images – library of congress 


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Writers Wesites Wednesday - the belated edition

Well, Wednesday just kind of whipped on past with no Writers Websites Wednesday post - so I'm doing it a day late. What can I tell you, sometimes we run a little behind. 

Have you seen CJ Lyons' site for writers? She doesn't give a lot of lectures, just cuts to the chase and tells you how she does it when it comes to writing and promoting her books. Helpful site, check it out. have I mentioned I've just released my first comic for young kids? It's called The Guardian and it's on Kindle now. Grab a copy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Writers Revealing What Characters Don’t Want To Show

Oh, come on, you know your characters are just like you. They say one thing and think something else entirely, try to conceal you’re really doing that – and then give it all away with a flick of an eye, a gesture or some muted (or otherwise) sound you make.  Yep, that’s reality. Us humans evade, lie and maneuver (just for starters). We do it to protect ourselves, to protect others, out of embarrassment or an assortment of other reasons.

Now, knowing this it becomes a challenge for the writer. In a script for a movie the writer sets the scene, the mood, tweaks details to make things clear and then actors take over to do the subtle little things that portray what’s in the script, the character’s inner monolog.

For novel writers it’s a different kind of challenge.

The writer is dealing with characters who might be suppressing emotion, hiding them from outsiders as well as themselves. And the writer has to telegraph to the reader this is going on. So, just as we telegraph in real life, whether we intend to or not, the character can do the same in the novel. He or she can have something as obvious as a ‘tick’ of the eye when lying, or something as subtle as a lift of the chin. There can be a high-pitched laugh, the recognizable smell of sweat on the air or maybe hands that fiddle with a pencil or each other, or words that come out in a flood when the character normally speaks in a more reserved fashion.

All of these little signals (and oh so many more) telegraph through tension the movement of the story forward; they build up expectation for the reader and empathy from the reader for the struggling characters.

There are so many things that give us and the characters in a novel or movie away, things that let the watcher (or reader) know all is not as it should be.

As writers we need to remember how us human beings work, tap into our own experience. Remember smiling when you didn’t mean it, that stillness that settled over you when you were embarrassed or cornered, making excuses to leave a situation, using gestures that cancel each other out like telling someone no, but then stepping forward and reaching toward them, or the opposite, yes, then stepping away.  Can you recall avoiding eye contact or just flat out ignoring someone? Have you felt your chest tighten as you withdrew from a conversation or literally left a group of people?

All that and more you can attribute to your characters when writing. They are human. You created them. Fortunately for you, as the writer of a novel, if you’re writing the Point Of View character you can let the reader know something of the thoughts going through his or her head. The character can ‘act normal’ while all sorts of thoughts and intentions race through the character’s mind. And it’s a good idea to spice the novel with just such information.

However, to breathe intense life into the writing, you, as the writer, don’t want to depend on that little cheat exclusively. Seeing what’s going on and reaction to it is much more fulfilling and draws the reader or viewer much more deeply into the story.

So do a little people watching. Add to your repertoire, hone your writing skills and let the readers see just how writingly human you make your characters.

Other Posts Of Interest:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...