DO THE TWIST


Do the Twist

Nandy Ekle

Once upon a time a handsome prince came to a faraway castle and met a beautiful princess. They fell in love instantly. Her father, the king, saw immediately how much the prince and princess loved each other and arranged for the two to marry at once. And they lived happily ever after.

Ho hum. We have to find some way to make this story more interesting.  Luckily I took a writing class about a year ago and I know exactly what this story needs. This drab little tale must have some twists and turns.

Every plot must have a character with a goal and lots of problems ranging from very serious to very minor. And there is a very nifty way to create these obstacles.

I learned in the writing class that if you write down everything you assume is true about a character and/or a situation, then change one of those things, you have a nice little twist. So in the story above, what do we assume?

Well, we assume the prince and princess are young unmarried lovers. We assume they are sweet and charming. We assume their courtship is smooth and romantic. We assume they are earthlings and that they are human beings. And we assume the time is long ago.

Which one of those assumptions would you change, and how does it affect the story?

Congratulations.  You have just received a postcard from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

Advertisements

Static or Changing?


Static or Changing?

By Rory C. Keel

Almost every novel has two kinds of characters, static characters and changing characters.

Static Characters

A static character is one that does not change and remains the same through out the narrative. Minor characters are often considered static characters, such as an evil thug sidekick to a villain. Static characters lack the power to change or develop throughout the story.

Most often they are recognized as characters that have traits such as envy, pride, greed and revenge. While static characters can also be marked by any number of traits, they will portray them to a fault.

Changing Characters

Changing characters are truer to life because change is a part of life. A person who goes through a deeply emotional trial or event will usually undergo some kind of change.

A character in a novel will also face these internal and physical changes based upon the pressures of the situation they face in the narrative. Having the power to change makes the character less predictable allowing the reader to be surprised at unexpected changes the author writes.

As you write your characters, can you identify the static and changing characters?

Try living with your character


Try living with your character

When creating a character try this exercise.

As you build a character or characters, you should be able to see them and answer questions about them. As you take action and make choices during the day, do the same with your character.

What do you eat for breakfast? Does your character eat breakfast? What foods do they like or dislike?

Do you wear a particular style of clothes? What does your character WEAR? Why do they like to wear them?

Do you go to the store? Where does your character shop and what do they buy?

What do you do for fun, sports or hobbies? What about your character?

What’s important is NOT what the character did, but what you learned about what you know about the character.

Rory C. Keel

CHARACTER


CHARACTER

Natalie Bright

 

“What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?” HENRY JAMES

 

As David Morrell reminds us in his book LESSONS FROM A LIFETIME OF WRITING, plot and character are intimately related. Every character that comes on scene has interaction with your main character and will establish a relationship with that main character. Your protagonist will interact with each of those minor characters in some way, and their actions and dialogue move the plot along. Is that relationship from the past or a new one? (Be sure to add Morrell’s book to your writing reference library.)

According to E. M. Forster, main characters are multidimensional. They surprise us, they are complex, and they are difficult to describe succinctly. They are defined by who they are.

The iceberg theory is a style of writing coined by American writer Ernest Hemingway. “The dignity of the movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above the water”. Same is true for characters and their stories. What is obvious to the reader implies a much larger truth and depth. That is why the majority of your character profile will never appear in your story, but you know your characters intimately. As one workshop instructor explained, the writer should know what is in the main character’s closet.

What does your character want, and what obstacles can you throw in their way to prevent them from achieving that goal?

Characters & The Five Senses


Characters & The Five Senses

Natalie Bright

 

The main character Hassan in the movie The Hundred Foot Journey, is a culinary genius whose talent propels him to a world-renowned chef.  The title refers to the distance between Hassan’s family who relocates to France because of a tragedy and opens an Indian restaurant across the road from a traditional French restaurant. I have watched this many times, and I always tear up at the same scene.

The Power of Taste and Smell

One of my favorite scenes is the perfect example of how the power of taste and smell can be used to create powerful emotion.

While sitting in his darkened, closed restaurant overlooking the Paris skyline, Hassan hears a young co-worker on break. He raises his head, pauses, and then slowly rises from the floor. The young man is eating. “Do you want some?” he asks.

As Hassan dips pieces of fried bread into the dish, the young man explains that his wife cooks the traditional Indian way on an open fire in the courtyard of their apartment using spices from their homeland. Tears well up in Hassan’s eyes and you can see the emotion and internal conflict on his face. His mother, who had died in a fire, was the one who had taught him the use of spices. The family’s relocation from India to France had been a struggle of cultural differences. All of this is visible as Hassan buries his face in his hands and sobs. You understand the conflict that is going through his mind. There is no dialogue. He doesn’t voice his pain, but you know. It is a very powerful scene triggered by smell and taste.

INCLUDE THE SENSES

Characters should experience several of the five senses in every scene. This pulls your reader into the emotion and setting and reveals the conflict that the character is experiencing. During the editing process, I find it’s easier to deliberately focus on enhancing the five sense during one pass. As I read every scene, I think about the reality for that character. What more can be revealed? For example, the smells of food, the sounds of nature, the feel of satin fabric, etc. Dig deep into the slightest, most minute detail of what that character is experiencing. Maybe it’s good as written, but maybe it can be better.

Here’s Your Homework

Think of your favorite movie and watch a scene that triggers emotion based on any of the five senses. If you have a particular scene in mind, be very specific with your search terms to find it on YouTube.

Watch the scene several times. Now, turn off the video and write that same scene. Be descriptive about the senses that trigger the emotion. Fill your pages with emotion and rewriter the scene.

Characters have Secrets


Characters have Secrets

Natalie Bright

 

Grey’s Anatomy has me captivated again. Since first premiering on ABC in 2005, I’ve got thirteen yeas of writing experience and I’m watching the show in a whole new frame of mind. A writer’s mind. And thanks to Netflix or Hulu, I don’t have to be patient for another season to begin. Binge watching is extremely inspiring for a creative soul.

The characterization in this medical drama television series is brilliant and addictive. This show is the perfect example of developing depth in fictional characters. One of the ways you can make your characters leap off the page is to give them secrets. Real people have secrets. We have things buried deep within us that we’ll never tell. What we say out loud is not always reflective of what we may be hiding inside.

You’ve probably heard the story craft tool of throwing everything at your character. Conflict keeps the plot moving and holds the readers’ interest. As authors, we are all border line sadistic when it comes to the things we put our characters through.

Let’s look at the characters and their secrets in the show Grey’s Anatomy:

Meredith Grey: central protagonist, is hiding her mother’s illness, who was a brilliant surgeon herself, and is sleeping with her boss while trying to succeed under her mother’s shadow.

Izzie: feels unworthy of her smarts and success because she grew up very poor in a trailer park.

Christina: sleeping with her boss and she has an almost unhealthy obsession with cutting people open.

Dr. Burke: begins a romantic relationship with an intern.

George: is secretly in love with Meredith and is extremely smart,  and not the goof-ball that the world sometimes sees.

Alex: cares deeply about his career and relates to patients on a deeper level, as opposed to the A-hole, shallow attitude he sometimes displays.

Dr. Webber: Surgery chief hides a medical issue with his eyes and had an affair with Meredith’s mom when they were in medical school.

Dr. Shepherd is married and does not tell his girlfriend Meredith, who is an intern.

That barely scratches the surface as the show develops, but you get the idea. The fun part is that we know their secrets as an audience, and we can’t help but watch to see if, and when, they will reveal all to each other. It’s very entertaining and can be applied to the characters in your books.

In season 2, Izzie prepares a Thanksgiving meal for everybody. She explains to Dr. Burk that she wants just one day where they can be normal and act like everybody else. Dr. Burke mumbles, “A day without surgery.” That one line says so much about him as a character and about the entire theme of the show. You have to watch carefully and pay attention to those one-liners. When I first watched the show every week thirteen years ago, I was caught up in the medical issues of the patients. Now I’m focusing my attention entirely on the characters.

As an added bonus, Shonda Rhimes explains her writing process and development of the series at MasterClass.com.

Happy writing, and thanks for following WordSmith Six!

 

The Empty Room


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Empty Room

I stand here in this room listening for any sounds at all.  Nothing.  Dead silence.  I do hear echoes from past rants and raves, parties, fun, news casts, but all is quiet now.

The room is dark, but a little light comes in from the hallway where there are thousands of lesser doors.  The bit of light sneaking in behind me shows confetti, glitter, tissues, and even candy lying on the floor as a reminder of the phantom cheers and cries of the characters that are normally here.  There is a table near the podium in the corner covered with sheets of paper that contain words—happy words and lonely words, funny words and mad words, velvet words and loud words.

Where are the characters that inhabit this room?  There was someone in here not long ago, but they are all gone now and the silence is deafening.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

The Empty Room


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Empty Room

I stand here in this room listening for any sounds at all.  Nothing.  Dead silence.  I do hear echoes from past rants and raves, parties, fun, news casts, but all is quiet now.

The room is dark, but a little light comes in from the hallway where there are thousands of lesser doors.  The bit of light sneaking in behind me shows confetti, glitter, tissues, and even candy lying on the floor as a reminder of the phantom cheers and cries of the characters that are normally here.  There is a table near the podium in the corner covered with sheets of paper that contain words—happy words and lonely words, funny words and mad words, velvet words and loud words.

Where are the characters that inhabit this room?  There was someone in here not long ago, but they are all gone now and the silence is deafening.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

Thinking Too Much


Outtakes 212

Thinking Too Much

by Cait Collins

I believe certain aspects of a work should be researched. Historical facts need to be checked, and laws, procedures, and medical information must be accurate. However, too much technical jargon can slow the story and frustrate the reader. Barry Eisler writes some of the best thrillers. He uses a perfect marriage of a fast action story, memorable characters and spy-speak. He relies on good story telling instead of clocking the action in technicalities. There are other very popular writers who overwhelm me with their expert knowledge.

It’s not just technical over-thinking that can hinder a project. Back story and excessive description are also enemies of good story telling. The reader does not need nor does he want to know the whole story up front. And who wants to wade through three pages describing the sunrise or fly fishing in a mountain stream.

The old KISS philosophy works well when planning a story. Keep It Simple, Stupid. (Stupid references the writer, not the reader.) By adhering to good plot, dynamic characters, and proper setting, the story can be told well. Those fascinating details will season and spice the work when they are properly and sparingly sprinkled into the mix.

 

Timeless


Outtakes 208

Timeless

by Cait Collins

 

Do you ever wonder why certain books, plays and poetry are still taught in school? I have a theory. The classics were written by men and women who perfected their craft. They didn’t rest on laurels; instead they invested time in making the next work better.

Students groan when they open Julius Caesar but the story is still worth telling. The characters have the same concerns as men and women today. We have issues with government and power grabbing.

Mark Twain revealed a dark time in American history. TOM SAWYER AND HUCKLEBERRY FINN did not necessarily defend slavery. The stories revealed a truth that can bring about change. Tom and Huck are so right as boys in the late 1800’s. I’ve met a few shysters who could pull off the whitewashing of the fence with a wink and a smile.

JANE EYRE depicts the times when men ruled and women held a second class status. But it also shows the growth of a young woman beyond the customary role to become a strong and faithful lady of means.

Then there are new classics. I truly believe the Harry Potters series will stand the test of time. After all daring deeds and heroic action will always be popular. And like the previously noted volumes, the Potter books will be part of my library. As will Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Craig Johnson’s LONGMIRE stories, and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters.

These authors and others like them found the formula for success. They developed memorable characters, had good stories and plots. They employed the basis of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Above all, they wrote for the reader and not just for themselves.

What books are in your library? Is there a mixture of old and new? Are the covers pristine or worn? Are there some volumes that are dog-eared and faded from handling? I do hope your library is just like mine. I hope you have a mixture of everything and you read and reread your old favorites and acquire new favorites. After all, good writing never goes out of style.