Dystopic Blog… WIN!

2010
05.17

So I don’t know if I had mentioned this to you, but my current WIP is a semi-dystopic (yet contemporary) sci fi thriller… thing. I LOVE dystopic novels, and I just stumbled across this blog, The League of Extraordinary Writers. Yes!

Not only does it look promising, but they are kicking it off with a contest! Go check it out now!

New Chapter (episode) of the Podcast!

2010
05.14

So I was totally excited about releasing this chapter this morning… I had finished editing it late last night, uploaded it, then had my buddy Ryan proof it. Well, to my dismay, I had completely screwed it up. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I had missed a few serious items.

Anyway, I got home after work, argued with my 2 year old about why he isn’t allowed to stand in his chair at the dinner table (he’s a daredevil, and one day, he’ll be a ninja), then made my edits. Finally, it’s ready!

Head over to thewritepodcast.com and check out our third installment of the show. We have a cool interview with Author Mike Lawson (super nice guy), discussion on series vs. stand alone novels, and a rad writing prompt!

Whirlwind Weeks and Winners!

2010
05.12

What a crazy few weeks it has been! There was this rad blog phenomenon all started by Elana Johnson who spurred thousands of people to run around the internet reading new blogs. I spent some major time editing the next podcast for The Write Podcast, and you can read all about that here. These last few weeks also brought me a few awards and a contest win!

Phew, so many things to discuss… where to start. I suppose with my contest winner 🙂

Drum roll please… oh wait. That only works in person… and when there’s a drummer. I guess I’ll just come out and say it…

The winner is… Aik! Thanks for visiting my site, thanks for commenting, and I know you’ll enjoy this read! Please email me (chris[at]cmichaelfontes[dot]com) with the address and name you would like me to ship the book to.

Next on my agenda… the podcast. I’ve been working on a podcast lately, and am almost ready to post the third episode (which I call chapters, because I’m goofy like that). This last chapter is late (partly due to the crazy weeks, party due to my laziness), but should be up tonight. If you haven’t given the podcast a listen yet, I encourage you to check it out and give me some feedback. I want to give you a show that can encourage, inform, entertain and enlighten, so feedback is GREATLY encouraged!

What was next? Oh yeah! AWARDS! So I received two great awards recently… a Prolific Writer award from Myrna Foster, and a Sweet Blog award from Mariah Irvin! I am honored to accept awards from such great people, and am happy to pass them on!

Prolific Blogger Award

“By definition, a prolific blogger ‘is one who is intellectually productive…keeping up an active blog that is filled with enjoyable content.'”


For the Prolific Blogger award, I would like to pass it on to Elana Johnson! Not only is she a super nice and talented writer (and blogger), but she truly lives up to the “Prolific” part of this award! With the most recent event she started, the blogosphere shook and people were moved. That is truly prolific!

Sweet Blog Award

And for the Sweet Blog award, I pass it on to Lisa and Laura White! Their blog is both entertaining AND educational. More importantly, these gals are down to Earth. You guys are doing great so keep it up!

I think that wraps this up! Thanks you for the awards, and congratulations to those who earned them!

Hectic weekend

2010
05.10

Okay, with the hectic weekend I had (wasn’t really “hectic,” but regardless, I had zero time to think about my blog), I haven’t selected a winner yet.

I will get the entries into a spreadsheet, asign numbers chronologically, then pick a random number (someone else in this awesome even used this method and I loved it).

The winner should be posted by Wednesday. Sorry for the delay, but I’ll get to it as soon as I have a free moment!

I won! Woo Hoo!

2010
05.07

I won I won I won! Sorry… excitement grabbed me by the collar and tossed me around the room a bit.

What did I win, you ask? First place in a contest held by super blogger, and author, Natalie Whipple! Check out the post here! Oh, and if you’ve never read her blog, save yourself the time and add her feed to the reader of your choice now. She is sure to be one of your fav’s.

I would also like to add that I am particularly honored to win among such qualified and talented writers. Really, these folks are all worthy of publication (and I believe some of them already have books on the shelf).

The other two winners were Dara Sorenson and Jessie Oliveros. Be sure to read their entries and click on their names to catch up on their blogs. I am sure we’ll be seeing great things from them!

Point of View (POV) and Transparent Narrative

2010
05.07

Before you read this post, be sure to enter my contest if you haven’t already!

Now for the goods. I normally try to keep my posts short and snappy, but this one has to be long. Sorry 🙁 But if you hang in there, it’ll be worth it!

I was catching up on my daily blogs when I read a great post by Kristin Nelson about POV’s and which is best. I share her view that it depends on the piece, but I have more to add.

There are tons of POV’s to choose from. Really, tons! What? You think there are only two? Okay, time for a run down. For brevity (aka laziness), I am only going to cover the few that mostly pertain to fiction (not to mention that I covered them all, we’d be here all day):

  • First Person – Narrative told from the view point of a character. In this POV, the writer can only know what the character knows, and nothing more. It is very easy to *slip POV in this method, but this method also makes *transparent narrative easier to obtain.
  • Third Person Subjective – Narrative told from an outsiders view. Instead of “I said,” or “I did,” it’s “Chris said,” or “Chris did.” The “subjective” part means that it sticks to one person, and almost always that one person is the main character. When sticking to one person only, and never revealing anything more than the one character knows, it can be referred to as “Third Person Limited.” This POV also make *POV slips easy, and like first person, is an easier road to *transparent narrative.
  • Third Person Objective – Third person, like the last (“Chris said,” etc), but is not attached to any one person. In fact, the narrative may not jump into anyone’s head. No inner monologue, no inside view of emotion. Think of it like a camera that follows the story. It can only report what it sees, and nothing more. This makes for difficult *transparency, and as long as you remember to only report what you see, you are less likely to make a *POV slip.
  • Third Person Omniscient – Once again, third person narrative. This time, the narrator knows everything. And I mean everything everything. Consider it the “God” perspective. You can jump into anyone’s thoughts, motives or emotions. It is impossible to *slip POV, and *transparent narrative is moderately achievable.

Those are only a few of the points of view. There are several others (Second Person, Alternating, etc), but these are the most common in fiction today.

Within those confines, there is tense: past or present. I will discuss this further in a later post, but for now, know that my opinion is present tense is almost never a good choice. I would say never, but I add the “almost” because  Suzanne Collins has made me realize it can be done, and done well! (My friend Roh does a pretty good job too, but I still like her past tense writing better 😉 )

Okay, now on to my preferences. For me, there is only really two options: Third Person Limited (past) and First Person (past). Third Person Omniscient isn’t used as often any more (although it used to be the “bees knees”), and any version of the above in present is also a rarity.

I had asterisked (what a weird word!) a few terms above: POV slip and transparent narrative.

Transparent Narrative is what happens when your reader stops reading and starts seeing. They no longer read word by word, sentence by sentence, or paragraph by paragraph. Rather, they mindlessly flip pages, absorbing the story into their heads, unaware of the outside world and are completely immersed in the movie that is playing in their minds eye. This one thing, above all else, should be the goal of every writer. I know that I made comments about how POV affects transparency, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. Every thing else… I mean everything (character, plot, motivation, word craft, voice, pacing and rhythm, etc etc etc) will determine how transparent your story is. Once again, watch for a post about transparent narrative coming up.

POV Slips are major no-no’s. First, we need to identify the three types. The first type if slipping from either Third to First (or Second to Third, or First to Second, etc etc). The second type is actually a tense slip. Since tense (past, past past [more on “past past” at a later date], present, and even future) is part of the POV, is you slip that tense, you are committing a POV slip. Lastly, the third type of slip is when you break the rules of the POV, and get in characters head that you shouldn’t be in. These slips range from obvious (narrating inner monologue of a character other than the one you are attached to), to sly little devils (stating a characters feeling or motivation during action, other than the one you are attached to).

To illustrate obvious and not-so-obvious slips, consid For this example, Chris (me) is the main character. Ryan is not. I will be using Third Person Limited Past for my examples. :

Chris thought that Ryan’s joke was absurd. Ryan, however, thought that Chris was an imbecile and too stupid to understand his humor.

Obvious slip. Chris shouldn’t know what Ryan is thinking, therefore the narrator has slipped.

Chris threw a rock at Ryan’s head. Ryan dodged quickly, then frustratedly threw his rock at Chris.

Did you catch it? “Frustratedly” is an emotion that Ryan felt. The narrator shouldn’t know that. He could say that Ryan grunted, or cursed, or anything else that Ryan might have done to SHOW that he was frustrated, but the narrator cannot say he WAS frustrated, he can only assume, in which case, it MUST be clear. (Not to mention, that is a pretty gross adverb to use anyway!)

Chris through a rock at Ryan’s head. Ryan dodged, and apparently frustrated, he threw one back.

Still poor narrative, but at least it isn’t a slip. We can tell that the character is making an assumption, and therefore is not reading Ryan’s mind.  Please note that these modifiers (frustratedly, quickly, etc) are NOT something I would normally use, but they work for the purpose of the example.

Ok, that was long and detailed! Did you remember all of it? If not, here are the takeaway points:

  • Know, at minimum, what POV you are writing in and stick to it.
  • Choose the POV that works best for your piece, while considering the in’s and out’s and each POV.
  • Strive for transparency!
  • Unless you are willing to walk a difficult and lonely road, stick to past tense.
  • Enter my contest if you haven’t yet!

Thanks for hanging in there, my dear readers! I’ll post up the winners soon, then I will dive into the promises I made you.

Spreading The Awesome: Ender’s Game and a contest!

2010
05.03

Young Adult author Elana Johnson has started something REALLY cool. She has several writers blogging about “must read” books. I was fortunate enough to jump in on the fun, and the book I chose to share is Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.

The book follows a young and intelligent boy, Ender Wiggin. Here is the a portion of the official synopsis, as Orson Scott Card did a better job than I ever could 😉

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.

I just recently read this book for the first time. Several of my friends had recommended it, and even more impressive, is that this book shows up on just about every “Top Ten Sci Fi Books” list that I have ever seen. If you are even remotely interested in Sci Fi, I would say this is a must for your reading list.

To see other awesome books that are being recommended, check out Elana’s compete reading list here.

Now, the contest

I first heard about this whole thing from Natalie Whipple’s Blog(which, if you haven’t read this blog yet, you’re missing out BIG TIME). Anyway, Natalie is giving away a copy of the book to one lucky winner. In the spirit of the event, I will also give away one book to one lucky winner. All you need to do is leave a comment in this post, and viola! Instant ticket!

For those that really want a boost in their odds, link to my blog from yours, include the link in the comment, and I will give you a total of two tickets!

The contest will end on Friday, May 7th at midnight. I will draw from a hat (literally… I will print them out and use a super cool cub scouts hat)  Saturday morning, and post the winner over the weekend.

PLEASE make sure you use a valid email address in your comment!

Thanks and good luck!

Character Driven vs. Plot Driven

2010
04.28

You always hear about character driven vs. plot driven stories, but there isn’t really one solid definition of what that means. There are several definitions out there, but they all describe via example and are often based on how you “feel” about the story.

I would like to suggest my definition, one that uses something concrete to come to a conclusion, instead of how it “feels.”

Before we get started, it is important to note that there are two things in play here… how the writer creates the story, and how the story was written.

How the story was written
Character driven and plot driven mean (in my opinion), “What is moving the story forward?” Hence… what is driving the story?

For clarity sake, think of it as reactive driving (plot driven) vs proactive driving (character driven). If the character makes decisions, of his own accord, and that moves the story forward… it is character driven. If things happen to the character, and he reacts to those things, it is plot driven. There may be examples of both in the story, but which ever there are more of is the winner 😉

This is not to be confused with the prevalence of character of plot (or lack thereof).

How the writer creates
If the writer lets the character call all of the shots, and throws no obstacles at the character, then they are trending toward a character driven story. If they throw obstacles at the characters, then let the character react on his own accord, they are trending toward a plot driven story.

There is nothing wrong with either. At all. Nor do I want to even imply that one is better.

My only concern with the former method is that it can be  more susceptible to a lack of plot, and that could be a problem. If you let the character run free and still develop a plot as you go, then there is nothing wrong with that. I would find it difficult to do, but others may not.

Going back to how the story “feels,” I want to introduce a new concept. Character Focused vs. Plot Focused.

If the development of the character outweighs the development of the plot, then it is character focused. If the development of the plot outweighs the development of the character, then it is plot focused. Even better, you can have a well balanced story, where both are developed well and equally.

Under no circumstance, can you omit both. You must have well developed characters. You must have a well developed plot. While it is true, you may have one stronger than the other that carries the story, you have to have them both.

A story with no character is a news report — boring.

A story with no plot is just learning about a character — less boring, but still not a story.

So, what say you, reader?

Rad contest and a Rad blog

2010
04.27

Yes. I said rad. I know, my “nerd” is showing, but you’ll live.

I found this blog while motorcycling across the blogosphere desert, and instantly loved it. Mariah has fun posts all the time, and for some reason, they keep me inspired to write.

She is having a super cool (see, I can say other things besides “rad”) contest. She’s giving away lots of cool stuff, including a pre-order of Mockingjay! Woo hoo! Check it out!

Show vs Tell! Woo hoo!

2010
04.21

Showing versus telling has been the issue of the week. I have been going back and forth in a healthy debate between two friends and writers, Ryan Wilson and Toff (check out Ryan’s post to catch up on the details).

I am going to hash out what I think telling is, and you, the reader, may watch, laugh, make fun, and eventually, agree.  🙂

See, most often show vs. tell is applied to either action or emotion. Rarely is it brought up for description. Why? Why should description get off so easy? Dialog and monologue get a free ride, because the character is actually thinking or speaking the exact text that is written, so it is out of the picture all together. Description, however, should not get away free and clear.

Look at the following example:

“He was tall.”

vs.

“He ducked through the doorway as he entered the room.”

Most would say the first is not telling. Why? Because it is description (in Ryan’s case, it is telling because it is ambiguous). I say it is telling, because the narrator is just telling the reader a fact. To show, is to have action (a point that Toff will kill me later for saying). If there is not action — even invisible action (say, blood pumping) — then you are not watching (which I would assume if you are “showing,” then I need to be “watching”).

If you just tell me, I didn’t see anything.

Let’s look at another example:

“She has blonde hair.”

vs.

“She pulled her blonde hair behind one ear and continued to study.”

In the first sentence, nothing “happens,” so there is nothing to watch (hence, nothing is being shown). In the second sentence, there is something to watch, so we are being shown.

Lastly, a more difficult example:

“I tripped over a man. He was bloody from head to toe.”

vs.

“I tripped over a man who was bloody from head to toe.”

While iffy, the second is not telling. Here’s why.

“I                    kicked         a man.              He                     was                       bloody from head to toe.”

Subject     predicate      object.            Subject      (linking verb)       prepositional phrase (as an adverb)

“I                    kicked        a man      who was bloody from head to toe.”

Subject     predicate      object      prepositional phrase (as an adverb)

In the second sentence, there is action covering the whole sentence. Big difference. That brings me to my first rule of telling: a sentence that has a linking verb, with no other verbs, is telling.

I realize that my English skills are… questionable. If anything here is incorrect (as far as how I broke apart the sentence), please let me know. Additionally, I would love to hear your opinion on the matter. Post up and let’s see what happens!

*P.S. I am quite aware that my opinion is just that, and as I learn, I may decide that this is completely bogus, and my friends are correct.