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Posts tagged ‘Michael Hauge’

First Monday Mentoring July 2015 – the crime of author intrusion and how to avoid it

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when I open this blog to your thoughts and questions on the wonderful, scary, maddening and exhilarating craft of writing. To start us off, this week I was asked how to handle author intrusion, sometimes called author convenience.

As the heading suggests, I see it as a crime that’s serious enough to get a book rejected.

Basically, the question comes down to whose book this is, yours or your character’s?

Since you’re doing the hard work, it’s tempting to say the book is yours, but you’re only the means by which the story reaches readers. They want to know what happens to the characters and how they feel and act as a result. Readers want to share the journey and forget they’re reading words on a page or screen.
Author intrusion is a bit like photobombing a photo – you stick yourself into a scene where it doesn’t belong. On social media, photobombs can be hilarious but in a book, they’re more often an unwelcome distraction.
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Here are a few ways an author can photobomb a book:

Give characters opinions that belong to you, instead of to them.
Their politics, religious beliefs or opinions may differ from the author’s, and should agree with the way you want us to see them. Creating characters to get your own beliefs across is a huge mistake and will almost certainly read as if you’re lecturing the reader.

Dump every bit of research into the story:
However fascinating your research, it only belongs in the story when it suits the characters’ experiences and knowledge. Say your story is about a farmer who’s had a meteorite come down on his land. Unless he’s a former scientist turned farmer, he shouldn’t know everything about meteorites, except as they relate to him and his experience.

Put modern thinking into your historical novel:
This can be a failure of craft as much as author intrusion. You haven’t researched the time period of your story sufficiently to notice when you have characters use modern expressions or act in ways that don’t fit the period. It’s okay if you’re writing about a time travelling character who would bring his/her own views and speech to the period, and would notice the differences, but the other characters must behave appropriately for their time.

You can also photobomb a contemporary, sci-fi or fantasy story by having the characters comment on settings and technology they would use every day. How often do you marvel at your tablet or smart phone, or even notice yourself using them? Characters should treat their world similarly.

Give characters skills or history that conveniently fits the story needs:
This is very common. Your mousy secretary is confronted by the villain and somehow knows how to fight him off. If you need her to defend herself convincingly, then go back and write in how her office had offered their staff self defense classes and a workmate had talked her into going. That way, when she’s attacked, we already know how she’s learned to handle herself.

Sharing her thoughts, fears and struggle to remember what she was taught will take us right inside the situation, as if it were happening to us. You can also share more of her character with us by showing how she acted in the self defense class.
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Putting yourself in the character’s place, writing much of the story in dialogue and through their eyes helps avoid author intrusion. Descriptions are limited to what that person would normally notice, depending on who they are.

A fabric designer walking into a room may notice the fabulous curtains, whereas a sportsperson is likely to see the expensive fishing rod propped up in a corner.

Story analyst, Michael Hauge, says you need to ask whether your characters would behave the way people with their background would normally act in this situation.

Say a business person stumbles on a dead body. Would they proceed to investigate the crime? As one of my editors said, too often the character fails to contact the police, the first thing most people would do. If the character is an undercover cop, however, their reaction will be different depending on the story.

Remember, the book belongs to the characters. Tell their story, rather than imposing yours on them. As movie mogul, Samual Goldwin, was reputed to have told his writers, “If you’ve got a message, send it Western Union.”

Now over to you. How do you avoid photobombing your story? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your post appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer In You
At http://www.valerieparv.com/course.html
Order Valerie’s Beacons’ book, Birthright, at http://tinyurl.com/mxtmbx6

My 7 favourite writing books for 2011

It may seem surprising that I still read how-to books despite selling over 70 romance novels and nonfiction titles. Yet the joy of the writing craft is never knowing it all.  These days I aim to discover one new nugget of information from a book. If I get that I consider the investment of time and money well spent. So here are the gems I’ve read this year, not all newly minted, but all with something valuable to say.

1. Doctor Who The Writer’s Tale

Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook (BBC Books 2008)

A 500-page monster I devoured with great glee. The writer of some of Doctor Who’s most memorable episodes, and creator of Torchwood openly shares his doubts, fears, writing methods and “how it really is” to be a writer. Love love love this.

2. Story

Robert McKee (HarperCollins 1997)

McKee’s beautiful prose turns me green with envy. This is not only a breathtaking look at the art of story from an acknowledged master, but pure reading pleasure. My copy is littered with post-it notes and I’ve tweeted more from this book on #quotes4writers than any other book I own.

3. Emotional Structure

Creating the story beneath the plot, a guide for screenwriters

Peter Dunne (Quill Driver Books 2007)

As valuable for novelists as screenwriters,  this books fills the gap between plot and story and makes their differences clear. Shows how to create scenes with heart and soul, so your viewers (or readers) will feel the passion. A very different approach.

4. Writing Screenplays That Sell

New 20th Anniversary Edition

Michael Hauge (Collins Reference 2011)

Any book that gets to a 20th edition is doing something right. Again the content speaks as much to novelists as screenwriters, covering everything from goal setting to brainstorming, editing and writer’s block all the way to the dreaded pitch, though Hauge addresses pitching more fully in Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds.

5. We Are Not Alone

The Writer’s Guide to Social Media

Kristen Lamb (whodareswinspublishing.com 2010)

A groundbreaking book on using social media to build a solid platform that connects you with readers. And you don’t have to know about computers or sales to benefit. Without Kristen, I might still be thinking about blogging.

6. Beyond Heaving Bosoms

The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels

Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan (Fireside, 2009)

The creators of the legendary blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, spotlight the good, the bad and the ugly in romance novels. Jennifer Crusie’s cover quote says “I love the Smart Bitches. They look at romance with clear but loving eyes, and they do it with wit, style, intelligence and snark.” As much a guide to what not to do, as a how-to.

And because I can…Heart and Craft

Best-selling romance writers share their secrets with you

Valerie Parv Editor (Allen & Unwin, 2009)

Indulge me for a moment. Imagine how many billions of books (not a misprint) a team including Helen Bianchin, Robyn Donald, Elizabeth Rolls, Meredith Webber, Jennie Adams, Daphne Clair, Kelly Ethan and Alexis Fleming have sold around the world. This book explains how we got there, with insider advice on everything from craft to editing and marketing. This was a “book of the heart” for me to edit and why it’s on this list – so you don’t miss the gems these much-loved authors share so generously.

There it is. Are there books I’ve missed that spoke to you? Share your comments here.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

On Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

Teaching and learning about writing – two sides, same coin

Last birthday one of my gifts was an Amazon gift voucher (thank you Virginia!). Coming right after attending RT Book Reviews Convention in Los Angeles in April, I knew exactly what books I wanted – those written by one of the speakers, Michael Hauge,<http://www.storymastery.com&gt; Hollywood script doctor and screen writing coach. At his talk I had a true “light bulb moment” that made developing my current book so much easier. FYI the standout comment was that conflict has to be “visible and solvable”. Ohkay. The inner angst was fine, but I hadn’t shown what problem the characters must  solve by the end of the book, the conflict; as well as how the reader will know they’ve solved it. Michael’s specialty is screenwriting but his advice applies equally well to novel writing, and he recently changed his web page to storymastery.com to reflect this.

“Surely you go to conferences to learn new stuff?” a friend asked me. Of course you do. Except that I was attending the conference as a speaker and to receive a career award for contributions to the romance writing genre. Yet no writer ever knows it all, no matter who you are. Ernest Hemingway was famous for hovering around the printing presses trying to change his books until the very last second. Writers who don’t actually do this probably wish they could.

RTBook Reviews Pioneer of Romance Award 2011

When I talk about my  latest find on writing, people ask why I need another craft book. Frankly, if you could see my groaning bookshelves, you’d wonder why I need another book of any kind. But like any craft, writing is a journey rather than a destination. Discoveries like the one above, even new ways of reaching readers such as by ebooks and manga keep the journey fresh and exciting. Rather than being the latest of 70 books, each of mine becomes an adventure into the unknown. What can I do this time? How can I make this kiss or this love scene read like the very first.  It is for your characters and it should be for the author as well.

Teaching writing is another opportunity to learn. Next month I’m conducting two workshops at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne – one on layering your novel with Harlequin author, Jennie Adams; the other on Creativity and Feeding the Muse at the Published Author Day. Whatever wisdom I impart, I know for sure that I’ll learn something new as well. Have you ever had a  “light bulb moment”?  Who are your writing gurus? What teaching moments have taught you as much as your students? I’d love to hear your answers.

Valerie

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