Posts Tagged ‘Friends Who Write’

Transparent Narrative – Character Development


2011
10.14

As you may have noticed, it has been a long time since my last post. While I can’t promise my posts are going to start to become frequent, I can say that I plan on making an honest effort to post at LEAST once a month – to start. The end goal is a post a week, but we shall see!

Quick Update: My twins are now 1.5 years old, and still as time consuming as they were before… just in a different way. Right now, however, I am in the middle of move (from CA to UT), and while I started a new job in and moved right away, the family is still in California. I miss them dearly, but it has allowed me a few extra minutes to write – hence this post!

On to the goods!

First, let me say that there are many good books, posts, and articles about character development. My good friend, R. Garrett Wilson, has several posts on the subject, so I am only going to focus on how character development affects transparent narrative.

To reiterate for the newbies, transparent narrative, is in essence, a concept where the words, paragraphs, chapters, and pages become transparent, rendering a clear and unobstructed path from the story teller to the story receiver. This is the the most important goal of every writer.

An essential piece of creating that transparency is to sell the reader on the plausibility of what you are sharing. During your character’s development, it is very important to maintain believability. For example, let me introduce a character here while you pay attention to your doesn’t-feel-authentic-o-meter (DFAM for short).

Kyle, a short, overweight man, had always wanted to be a police officer. Always cautious to pay his debts and follow the local laws, Kyle was determined to have a spot-free record for his background checks – once he lost enough weight to pass his physical-exam, that is.

Early one Saturday in early summer, Kyle had decided that diet alone would not make him succeed. No, Kyle would need to do more than that. So, instead of watching the news that morning, he decided to go out jogging.

The day had already began to warm up as Kyle trotted away from his porch. He smiled despite the fact that had ran out of breath, only 15 seconds into his run. Breathing heavy, Kyle slowed to a walk and put his hands on his hips.

He continued to gasp for breath, finding he was much more out of shape than he had deluded himself to be. Lifting his arms above his head – a trick his mother had taught him to get more oxygen into his lungs – Kyle crossed the street.

A blaring honk and a screech made his heart race even more. He jerked to his left just in time to see the taxi cab slide to a stop, not two feet away.

Kyle raised his middle finger at the driver and swore. He stood there, waiting to see if the driver was going to get out to start something. Kyle was always ready for a good fight.

What struck you as out of character? Did your DFAM go off when Kyle flipped off the driver? Did that pull you out of the story? Now, what if the story went like this instead:

…A blaring honk and a screech made his heart race even more. He jerked to his left just in time to see the taxi cab slide to a stop, not two feet away.

Kyle stood in shock as the taxi driver swore at him. He put his hands up and said, “I’m so sorry! So sorry!” as he continued across the street. His heart raced fast as he realized just how close a call that had been.

He would have to pay closer attention, light-headed or not. You can’t join the police force if you’re dead, he thought.

Does that seem a little more in character? Sure it does, which makes for smooth reading. Keeping your character true to themselves is important. To do that, you need to know your character.

So if making your character contradict his own personality takes your reader out of the story, you should never do that, right? Wrong. Actually, contrary to what I had written, there are times that making your character act out of character, is actually in character. What do I mean? Well, Nathan Bransford, author and blogger-to-the-stars, has an excellent post on using contradictions to develop characters.

The takeaway from this post is that you want your characters to be well developed. If the reader doesn’t connect with your character, or if they do not believe your character is authentic, they will be removed from the story – hence, no transparency for you!

Watch for more on transparent narrative soon…ish.

Seeing your name in print


2011
01.16

There’s just something about seeing my name in print that makes me absolutely giddy. My writer’s group, the Fresno Sci Fi and Fantasy Writers Group, recently published (albeit self-published) an anthology of short stories.

I was one of the writers who made it through the selection process (yes, we had to meet criteria in order to make it into the book), and am quite proud to be in league with some of the wonderful writers in this book.

Life, with its many curve balls, has kept me away from the blog. I don’t see that changing for the next few months, but I wanted to post about our Anthology (like 2 months late, of course), and I wanted to share this picture with you:

My everlasting child-hood best friend took the antho with him on his honeymoon. Perhaps I should be jealous that he is sitting on this beach, but I am too elated with seeing my name, in print, being read there.

There’s just something about seeing my name in print…

Blogfest time!


2010
08.23

My friend Roh is hosting her first ever blogfest! I encourage everyone to swing over there and check it out! Click the image below to start the fun!

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. 😉

I LOVE contests!


2010
06.01

Don’t you love it when you are reading a blog, and up comes a contest? I do! It’s a chance to win at something and get free goods! How can you NOT love contests?

Anyway, my friend Roh is having a contest here. Books, gift cards, and ever lasting appreciation and bragging rights can be yours if you sign up.

Check it out!

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!

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.

Antother episode!


2010
04.16

Check out my newest episode of The Write Podcast! My friend, Ryan, joined in the show this time along with Toff, and we got to interview David Kuzminski of Preditors and Editors!

Rejection is a good thing… honest!


2010
03.19

I may sound a little optimistic here, but look what treasure I found in my email today.

Thank you for your submission to SUPER AWESOME MAGAZINE.  Unfortunately, it’s not what we’re looking for at the moment.  Thank you for sharing, and best of luck in the future.

-The Editors
(Chris-  I’d like to commend you for the pacing of the first few pages.  It’s quite eloquent.  Keep working. -SUPER AWESOME EDITOR)
Obviously I changed the name of the magazine and the editor, but other than that, this is totally real! Woo hoo!
While this email makes it easier to see rejections as a good thing, this isn’t a new revelation. Getting published is a numbers game. Sure, you have to actually know how to write, and it has to be interesting, but all things being equal, it’s all about how often you submit.
Every rejection you get is one step closer to being accepted. Start thinking of it this way, and you will actually get excited to see rejections. I know it sounds strange, but seriously, you will.
And, you also need to realize that it isn’t just you. EVERYONE gets rejected. I know someone will comment or email me to prove me wrong, but 99% of the worlds published authors have been rejected… several times. Even the greats like Stephen King, Michael Crichton, insert your favorite author here.
Next time you get a rejection I want you to jump up and down, sing, dance, and email everyone you know. You know why? Because it means you and the best of the best have something in common. 😉