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Posts tagged ‘viewpoint’

First Monday Mentoring October 2015 – 3 things I learned about writing from teaching and mentoring

Teaching master classes and mentoring new writers is a great way to shine a spotlight on your own writing process.
Focusing on how you construct a story reveals what works and – crucially – what doesn’t. The alternative, sadly, is learning by trial and error and many wasted words.

AORW cover
A few days ago, my agent, Linda Tate and I were working through a detailed outline of a new book.

It’s sci-fi, not a field she normally reads. Her feedback was invaluable for precisely that reason. She took nothing for granted, asking the “why” questions that someone more into science fiction might not think to ask.
During our talk I had one of Oprah Winfrey’s “light bulb moments” when a metaphorical light goes on over your head.
I knew why the bad guy was acting as he was. The key characters had to find out the hard way, as is proper. You should never make things easy for your characters. Far better to “get your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them.” The rocks being the difficulties you put in their way so they have to fight for every bit of progress.
I’d done all that. In my story things go from bad to worse, and then to catastrophic. But I’d overlooked one thing I’d learned from teaching –

What the writer tells the reader does not have to be the same as what the characters tell each other.
Sure, you want to stay inside their viewpoint as much as you can, so readers feel as if they’re living the story rather than being told about it.
But an element called “reader superiority” lets readers in on information your characters don’t have yet. By sharing secrets, you heighten your readers’ enjoyment of the story as they wait for the characters to catch up.
A good example comes from Where Are the Children by Mary Higgins Clark. Her heroine may have murdered her children and gotten away with it. The woman has started afresh under a new identity, when the children from her new relationship mysteriously disappear.
If we thought that she’d actually killed her children, we’d have little sympathy for her. So Ms Clark sets up an opening scene where someone sinister is watching the heroine. At first, we don’t learn what he’s about, but we know the heroine is not the villain. However, the other characters only know her kids have disappeared twice under suspicious circumstances. They believe she’s a killer who got lucky the first time, and they want her to be caught.
Had we, as readers, not known she was being stalked, we might feel the same.
You don’t have to step outside the book and tell the reader. As Ms Clark did, you can show us what’s really going on, so we empathize with the character. Knowing she’s innocent, we want the truth to come out while fearing it will come too late to save her. The result is a real page-turner.

My lightbulb moment:

Rather than springing the truth on characters and readers at the same time, I need to reveal my bad guy to my readers before the characters work it all out. This can be done with a scene where we meet the bad guy when the leads aren’t present. It’s a multiple-viewpoint book so it’s perfectly legitimate.

I just have to remember to take my own advice.

Valerie as first Writer in Residence at Young NSW Library . Photo by Maree Myhill.

Valerie as first Writer in Residence at Young NSW Library . Photo by Maree Myhill.

The 3 things I’ve learned from mentoring and teaching –
1. Giving advice is easier than taking it
2. Knowing why something works means you can do it again…and again.
3. Say yes to every teaching opportunity; you never know what you might learn.
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.
Happy writing,
Valerie
http://www.valerieparv.com

Sydney Oct 17, join Valerie at the Australian Society of Authors’ special event:
When Worlds Collide

adding romance to your speculative (and other) fiction.
Discounts available for participants attending from out of Sydney.

Click on car icon with $ sign on it.

To book phone: (02) 9211 1004 or go to
https://www.asauthors.org/event/14450/special-series-valerie-parv-am

First Monday Mentoring for October – are you writing or wasting time?

Hi and welcome to First Monday Mentoring for October. If you have questions about writing and publishing, I answer them here. Post your thoughts, argue with mine, share your experiences. This is the day for it, heck, sometimes we take the whole week.
I regret I have to moderate comments to deter spam and rudeness. To have your comments appear right away, click the ‘sign me up’ button at lower right to subscribe. I don’t share your email address with others.
Here’s a question on the minds of many of us: should we be writing more, or does staring out of windows count as work?

Firstly, it helps to accept that stories come in their own time.
I can be leafing through magazines or playing online, sometimes for days, while the work sits there driving me crazy. Why can’t I get on with it?

Simply put, I can’t get on with it any more than you can will a baby into existence much before nine months. Your brainchild – the child of your brain – needs its own gestation period to grow.
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As well, new story ideas are often a spark rather than a plot. What if a man discovers the single mother he’s hired as his PA is still a virgin? This is a spark, needing more layers if it’s to work as a book. For instance, what if the baby isn’t the heroine’s and she is out to get revenge for the hero’s mistreatment of the real mother, the heroine’s sister? Now we’re getting somewhere. FYI this idea became Baby Wishes and Bachelor Kisses, part of Big W’s newly launched ebook range at http://ebooks.bigw.com.au/search?q=valerie+parv&x=0&y=0

How do you know whether you’re in this gestation period or wasting time? Try looking at the writing you’ve done over the last months or years. If you’ve finished a manuscript or two, some plot ideas and contest entries or submissions to editors, you have a body of work and the daydreaming time is a normal part of your process.

Every writer works at a different pace. Nora Roberts has writer’s block. She just has it in shorter bursts than most of us. It’s also true that a story may resist you because you’ve gone off track. Do you need to start further in, choose another viewpoint character to tell the story, or add a twist to surprise the reader?

Repeat after me: writers are working when we’re staring out of windows. Or when we do boring tasks like mowing lawns or doing dishes. Taking the pressure off yourself can be the best way to get a story going. How do you keep your writing moving? Share your experiences by leaving a comment here.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

In writing – what you say matters as much as the way you say it

Most writers worry about getting the words right. I think we should worry more about getting the message right. A piece of so-so writing that has something to say can be forgiven a lot. And by message, I don’t mean something profound about the world or the human condition, though they can be in there, too. Mainly I mean a story we didn’t know we wanted to hear until the author wrote the book.

Have you read Clive Cussler’s first big seller, Raise the Titanic? I read this book many years ago, before Cussler became a household name, and a l-o-n-g time before the Titanic had been located. The book was riveting. The idea of finding this fabled ship, bringing her back to the light, and solving the mysteries of her sinking was what Hollywood and many publishers call high concept. The title says it all and is one of the best pitch lines (the single sentence you’re supposed to distill from your book idea in order to sell it)  ever written.

So what’s the problem? The book is also one of the most awkwardly written I’ve ever read,  riddled with grammatical flaws and horrendous viewpoint jumps. Perhaps they’ve been fixed in subsequent editions, but even if they had, the book couldn’t be a better read. In this 100th anniversary year since The Titanic was launched, even knowing the facts doesn’t spoil a good story.

What sold Raise the Titanic to millions of readers and to the movies, was the power of its ideas and the author’s passion to share them with us. Cussler had been an expert diver since 1952 and his love for and knowledge of diving underpins the story. I couldn’t put it down until I found out what happened on the next page…and the next…

It helps to keep your reader guessing

As writers, this should be our Holy Grail – to keep readers turning pages, anxious to find out what happens. If we can make them sneak a peek at the end to make sure the main character survives the journey, better still. We’ve got them involved, made them believe our fiction and care about our characters.

That’s your task as a writer.

I have my friend and neighbour, John Cooper, to thank for inspiring this post.  He spent some of the Christmas break poring over a book of very big words – VERY BIG words – and conceived a romance novel plot using his favourites. If words were truly the key to success in writing, this should be a best-seller. See if you think it would be.

A verisimilitude belles-lettres hypertrophic bathykolpian callipygian defenestration with

metempsychosis concupiscent anthropophagouseness.

Ooooo-kaaay.

The story stands a better chance when John puts it in basic English –

The true story of a lady with huge breasts and a nice azz who gets thrown out of a window

only to be reincarnated as a lustful man-eater.

Now that story, I’d buy.

What do you think of the role of words in writing? Post your comments and thoughts below.

Valerie Parv

http://www.valerieparv.com

On Twitter @ValerieParv

On Facebook

and ranting about life on The Hoopla

http://thehoopla.com.au/fun-fun-fun-seriously/

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