Posts Tagged ‘character development’

Transparent Narrative


2010
08.28

Day 46 of life with twin babies. The water is getting scarce and I am starting to hallucinate. My final brain cell will pop any day, leaving me a lifeless vegetable.

That being said, I have been forcing myself to return to a state of normalcy, one action at a time. Don’t get me wrong, my babies are AWESOME; I am just uber tired, and resuming regular activities (writing, exercise… breathing…) has been slow coming. Mostly because I only sleep about 3-4 hours a night (30 mins here, 30 mins there) and these two tiny dictators have a relentless supply of demands.

So, although I have been procrastinating my “writing life,” one of my readers, Melihah (from Desi Blonde), recently commented on my POV post, and had forced me to return. Thank you Melihah, your comment was MUCH needed!

So, on to the meat and potatoes! Quoted from my previous post:

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.

I realize that I made a promise there at the end and never followed through. This is the start of a series of posts about transparent narrative, and hopefully, I won’t be as sporadic with my blogging.

So, as I said/wrote above, transparent narrative is the goal, the most important goal, for every writer.

Wait, what? The MOST IMPORTANT goal, you ask?

Yes. THE MOST IMPORTANT goal.

How can I make such an audacious statement? Well, it’s simple. All of the “rules” you’ve been taught/forced to eat/hide from and pretend they don’t exist, are there because they are a “best practice” to attain transparent narrative.

Why should you start with action (not necessarily grenade-to-the-face action, but tension-inducing action)? Because it immediately draws the reader in. A quick trick to start the movie playing in their head, and thus, begin transparency.

Why should you have a main character that is flawed? Too make them more real. Why make them more real? Because when what you are reading raises a flag as “possibly fake” in your readers head, it temporarily pulls them out of the narrative. To attain transparency, the reader cannot be pulled out even for a moment (then they might realize that they haven’t eaten or showered for days!)

Everything you will be taught; every cool trick or tip from a pro; all of the books on writing; they all point (whether directly or indirectly) to transparency.

So, HOW do you do that, exactly? Great question.

I will answer with a question: how do you write good prose? Obviously the answer is long, variable, and subjective, but for now, know that I will be presenting MY viewpoints in upcoming posts about how to attain transparency through the use of:

  • Character development
  • Character motivation
  • Plot
  • Word craft
  • Voice
  • Pacing and rhythm
  • Tension
  • Point of view (HAHA! I already did this one here)
  • World construction / setting the scene
  • Reader leading (like a magician, making them look over here instead of your right hand)
  • Making (and keeping) promises to your readers
  • Showing vs telling

These are all I can think of for now, but I will surely add to the list as time goes on. For now, keep reading, and if you have anything to add to this, please do! I LOVE to hear how other writers attain transparency!

Balance


2010
06.21

As I eagerly await the arrival of my twins (anytime between now and July), I struggle with finding time to write, read, blog, etc.

See, my wife is basically on bed rest, so that means I have to work, come home, do laundry, dishes, dinner, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining at all (I would MUCH rather be picking up the slack than be the one pregnant… hand down!), I’m just preluding my point that finding balance has been the name of the game as of late; balance between work, chores, kids, wife and me time (which ranks low on the “necessity” scale) has been rough.

Earlier today, I was reading P.D Wright’s blog, and she has a guest post by David Oliver (GREAT post on slang, ninja’s, and writing). His post discusses the importance of avoiding contemporary terms in a fantasy (or futuristic) novel.  I suggest you check it out, then come back to read the rest of this… go ahead, I’ll wait. 🙂

Welcome back! Where was I… oh yes, balance. So his post got me thinking, “How can you remove all contemporary terms, but still have your contemporary this-world readers understand it all?” The answer is simple: you can’t.

Don’t let me detract from David’s post here. I don’t mean to say that you can throw caution to the wind and write however you like, rather, there are a certain amount of words and phrases that you will NEED to use in order to have your reader follow the story. You should strive, however, to remove as many unnecessary euphemisms as you can, and even create new one as David suggests. All in all, this is going to be a balance. Somewhere between losing your readers because they don’t understand you, and losing your readers because you continuously rip them from the story, there is a perfect balance.

That got me thinking about other aspects of writing, and it occurred to me, that ALL of writing is balance. Between word economy and wordcrafting (could also be thought of as the difference between showing and telling), between over describing so your reader has to use ZERO imagination, and using too little so they can’t picture anything, and between foreshadowing too much so the event loses its impact, or too little, and the event seems either hokey, out of place, or just unbelievable.

The examples go on and on, but they all boil down to balance. I think that they key to GREAT writing, is mastering this balance. This is what I strive for whenever I open my word processor.

When anyone figures out how to master that balance, be sure to let me know. I’m having a rough time trying to figure it out. 😉

Right problem, wrong fix


2010
05.21

So there you are, sitting in on your critique group as they ravage your piece. You thought it was flawless, yet they will point out this and that, have logic problems here, flow problems there, and show you how your characters are out of character. They make suggestions, and not wanting to disappoint, you rush home and start making those changes as soon as the group is over.

If you’re a writer who has a critique group (or lets ANYONE read your work for that matter), chances are you have been in that situation at least once. I know I have.

A few weeks ago, I lived through that very situation, but instead of rushing home to make the changed, something hit me.

What if they’re wrong?

Okay, so my particular group of critters and friends are all SUPER smart and talented, so they can’t be totally wrong, but what if they are partially wrong?

I pondered the large issue and the accompanying fixes that was suggested. The problem was really small, but would require a major rewrite of one of my chapters. Now I am all for rewriting if needed (trust me, I’ve done my share, and probably more), but what if the suggestions were wrong?

See, I could almost agree with the problem (two of my characters were acting way to relaxed and chummy considering the circumstances), but they didn’t understand that my characters were faking. They were clinging on to “normal” social idiosyncrasies to avoid the death and destruction around them.

I knew why my characters were acting this way… why didn’t the readers?

The more I thought, the more I realized that the situation wasn’t the problem, it was the presentation. I hadn’t sold it properly.

Instead of rewriting the scene and making them act different, I change a few words here and there, then reorganized the sequence of events. It too me all of 15 minutes.

The next week, I submitted the same chapter. Low and behold, everyone loved it! Okay, maybe not love, but they liked the changes just fine.

How could they be so wrong? Well, they weren’t… not exactly. See, this turned out to be a case of what I like to call RPWF, or, “right problem wrong fix.”

See there WAS a problem, but the fix they were offering wasn’t what I wanted, so I toyed with it and came up with a way to fix the issue in a way that I still liked.

All this to say that when you get advice, try to figure out what the root of the real problem is. Consider the advice, and if you think you can address the REAL problem better, go for it! The worst thing that can happen is that your critters still won’t like it 😉

On a completely unrelated note, Ryan and I were trying to figure out the most accurate genre for my wip, and this is what we came up with:

Survivalistic Contemporary Hard Sci-Fi, Pre-Post-Apocolyptic, Yet Still Dystopic Romance Thriller With Short Ventures Into Chick Lit

SCHSFPPAYSDRTWSVICL for short. Yep. I’m gonna claim that as a real genre.

Cheater Post


2010
03.16

I am tired. Still. I have been neglectful of my blog. Still. I am going to cheat here, and instead of writing an awesome post, I will merely point out an awesome post.

My friend, R. Garrett Wilson, has started a WONDERFUL series of posts on Character Development. This is EXACTLY the type of thing I would like to do… when I have time. For now, check out his posts, and prepare to be amazed. Seriously. You should probably sit down, so when your mind is blown, you won’t fall over 😉