Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The Spine

Posted: October 22, 2015 in Pointers
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Today I will discuss backstory and why it is very important to a story. Very important. Both backstory and lore are the best ways to display honesty in fiction.

Honesty is camouflage that makes the author disappear. It is what makes stories believable and there is no way to make a protagonist more believable than adding a backstory. You must always have a backstory. Always. It is, however up to you to write the backstory or not, for honesty in fiction affects both reader and writer… even when it is not included.

It is easier to tell a lie believing it than to tell the lie and know it for what it is. By adding a backstory it will be easier for both author and reader to connect to a character even though it might not be included in the novel. Adding it may affect pacing, but go on ahead if you feel it is important to the story.

You can add a backstory in implicit and explicit ways. Keep in mind that there is power in subtlety. Backstories have a way of making characters seem more real, because every human being has a backstory. It may not be grand, but we do have backstories. Another thing backstories accomplish is that it establishes motive. When a character acts, the reader will gasp at certain stages and say that it fits in with who the character is.

In other instances it may be better to hide a backstory. The Joker may be the best example of this as this leaves people with questioning his motives. This establishes his anarchism. He lies about his past, because his main motive is not his past. Most stories have their heroes grounded in past experiences. Some may be related to childhood.

This spine is to a character as lore is to a world. Next time I’ll discuss lore.

What are your thoughts on backstory? When would you include it? Is it important to you? Let me know.

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I believe in multiple arcs in stories. When doing a story with round characters, one arc is the minimum for a character. This title may be a reference to math, but believe me stories are anything, but mathematical. It was just a cute way of asking whether you wanted to build all arcs from the bottom.

Sin 0=0. You know the curve (it does not apply to most stories) but stories change and only authors know where arcs end. They surely do not end at the same place… mostly. However if a story has multiple arcs, this title becomes very important. For example one arc is a previously ruined romantic relationship and the main arc has the protagonist stepping up as a hero. Now, you may  well want to show the relationship for starting at ground zero, however you have limited time and space your story may not be about that relationship. Here you will be dealing with backstory.

It all depends on the author. If stories’ character and relationship arcs were to be put on a single graph you would have some weird form of modern art. It would look just like a jungle of ups and downs. However if two of these points are dealt with in a story and their difference is great…well we have a new ball game. Say arc A and arc B are both developing, but arc B is rising and arc A s dropping. Here you have some serious internal and external conflict going on. Dramatic kaboom!

When those lines meet. Man get ready for some hard hitting stuff. To most people reading this, what I am saying may not make sense, but that is since I am vague and I am only trying to ramble my journey. Stories can not be put into boxes. That is a lie we tell ourselves to keep us safe. Many authors have a formula and one arc and it works for them. All these terminology are just made up as well.

Maybe I am imagining another dimension, but hey… this is fiction.

Keep on writing, dreaming and plotting. Next up I will discuss the spine of a story. Do not worry…. it won’t be vague like this.

The Fable Ace

Posted: October 16, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Let’s face it. We remember childhood fables all too well. You may think that it is simple at first, because it is, but it is also a strong tool writers’ can use now and then. The other day I replayed a videogame that used a fable to characterize its protagonist. Now, I don’t mean to spoil any story you may or may never know, but it was powerful. Let me just say that the whole story’s emotions could have been summed up by all the jackdaw’s fables.

The jackdaw fables all depict negative qualities in man: vanity, pride and overconfidence. The bird also loves shiny things which ties in well with the character. Using fables in other stories may seem like a cop out. I mean there surely are more subtler (subtlety is key) ways to show your characters, but here the symbol needs to be revealed slowly. How so? Many people are not aware of the fable of the jackdaw and the eagle and it is never mentioned until the end. The protagonist liked the bird and called his ship, the Jackdaw. So this is a matter of knowledge. People who know the fable would easily see the foreshadowing, but the beauty of this symbol is that it has different meanings and does not have to be applied directly.

Let me put it like this. In the end you may call the protagonist a jackdaw, but you may only be right to a certain extent. Those thoughts of why will linger with you. This is because we easily attach meaning to symbols. What impressed me most was the fact that there are subtle hints at the fables and that this story reminds you of the fables while being a complete story on its own.

Using imagery, both known and personal is a clever way to characterize, period. We use animals in our everyday language. You know the similes.

What are your thoughts on fables and use of imagery? Share if you will.

Tears

Posted: September 10, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Have you ever wondered why people cry when they are happy? So have I. Some people do not get the idea of crying at all, but certainly it would not be necessary if there is nothing to cry about.

Well, too much, is enough said. Too. That word right there is the key to all imbalance. Too much of anything is a bad thing. Fortunately your body is equipped with state of the art homeostasis which also makes you look like a pansy or a misty eyed warrior when you are too happy. Shocker. How can a person be too happy? That’s probably the only thing that we can not get enough of, but apparently we can.

I am convinced that this is the reason that people embrace sad films or novels. Either they do not want the homeostasis or they suppress it. They then proceed to need a way to combat the happiness. That is also the reason some artists believe they have to be sad to make art. It is not that they need to be sad, but rather that they don’t want the high too high.

I first started my quest of uncovering the mystery of crying when happy, after I had watched soldiers’ homecomings. Many times kids and wives cried. There was this one soldier who’s seven year old daughter got out of class early. Her mother got her out of a math test. She was already on a high. Then around the corner waited a hero.(unbeknownst to her) When she saw him, they embraced. She started to sob. She repeated three times that she had missed her dad.The logical man that he is, he asked a clever question, “Why are you crying?”

“‘Cause I’m happy.”

Why was I even wanting to see this? I don’t know. I wanted to see the bonds that other people had.I then wanted to crush it.  I wanted to write some sad ending.

This brings me to writing. Wow, that took a long time. Writers love to write either happy endings, sad endings or a good old mixture of both. Now you have a good idea why. People love change. Boredom is static. Sometimes happy readers want you to do what their bodies should be able to do. You need to make them sad. Some authors do it too well. Then the work sinks in, leaving a reader in a state of melancholy. This works particularly well with great characters. On other occations you will lift their spirits and if you are real nasty you will drop it again. Maybe I have said it before, but here it goes again. Happiness is speed. We experience it detached. We feel the smile just as we see speed by looking at the road. We just do not feel it in our bodies. Change in emotion is acceleration. That can be felt. That is your rollercoaster. So go make people laugh with sadness and cry with hapiness. That is what we are paid to do.

(I am crying now, because I am not being paid yet, but I’ll laugh soon. You know, because there is one too that is okay. Balance.)

Fear (part 2)

Posted: May 26, 2015 in Pointers
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I have written about this a long time ago, but I can never address this enough. Fear is the enemy of creativity. It is a trap that can suffocate a writer and suck him or her into its abyss of self-doubt and worrying.

Across the ocean, east,
beyond the dangerous land.
A hop from there lies
a fun lair. Rugby balls and extreme sport… they have something to teach.

“Enough with riddles, man.” I am talking about New Zealand. Those people practically breath adventure. I have heard many New Zealanders love the outdoors. Also, they have the best rugby team in the world. I am a South African and I also love our Springboks, but that does not change the fact that we are a step down from the Kiwis. They handle the ball with such skill that you can’t help, but admire them and their creativity.

The other day I heard a coach giving his perspective on why they are the best in the world. You may be asking yourself what this has to do with writing, but I shall get to that in a moment. The coach told reporters that South Africans are too quick to criticize. We do not allow players to make errors. One bad game and the player gets a booing of a lifetime. This leads to order and precision of course, but never… ever, creativity. The All Blacks embrace the errors as part of a learning curve. Their fancy moves and ball skills just don’t happen. They may even mess up in a game, but the players aren’t being scolded into oblivion. They give room for creativity that ultimately leads to better players. Even from a young age they encourage the kids to master the basics and then develop their talents freely from there. In a way they love the sport more than winning.

This brings me to writing.You can try to hammer people into a system so that they will write in a way that will make them best-seller, but this will not make them the best writers necessarily. Being passionate about something is one of the most important things and fear strips you from this. Now, growing a thick skin is also a process that takes time. Criticism tears through your muse like a hot knife through butter. Just keep in mind that you can not change what you have shown. Your grammar could have been poor or you could have had many plot holes or (insert criticism here)… The point is that fear is your enemy, because creativity is your friend. So do not be afraid of messing up, but be afraid of cradling yourself in a corner where you convince yourself that you can be the best with fear.

Embrace your flaws like a friend and then stab it in the back. Be brave… you will make errors.

Art is part of the human nature and there is no way around it.

Writers, you probably have heard the saying: You can’t write if you don’t read. (there are hundreds of paraphrases) Usually an author or reader tells you this smirking, whilst having a firm grip of a five hundred page monster beneath their arm. Sometimes I wonder if they can be used as some sort of armour. Anyway… the person telling you this have a logical case for interrrupting your thoughts. There are many writers out there who are better than you and you need to learn from them.

What do you have to learn from them? I don’t believe you need to make it your mission to adapt your writing, but  rather that you need to read their work critically and make mental notes. However as soon as you approach your story you need to have forgotten about them. Reading will only make you a better writer in the same degree studying art makes you a better painter or photographer. Even though you can be influenced. It is through the trials of errors that we learn and really hone our skills as writers. I would suggest that you read less, but that you do it more critically. If we can pick up good habits subconsciously then surely we can learn some bad ones too. Just take a hard look at life and I dare you to disagree with me. Your subconscious does have faulty filter.

If I still haven’t convinced you, I want to present my logical argument that reading should not be glorified to the point that authors miss the point by neglecting their writing. Take a literate human being and give him some novels to read. He does not have to be an avid reader. He just needs to be fluent in a language. Now tell him to critique the novels. The chances are that his critique will be almost as valid as a critic’s. Why is that? Remember my opening? Art is part of human nature. We know if narrative isn’t working. We know what bores us. We know what excites us. We know what makes a story good. We know these things… not because some great writer told us these things, but rather that we are part of a curious species that wants to be entertained.

So I wholeheartedly disagree that reading a lot makes you a much better author. If you can speak, you can write. (assuming of course that you are literate) I laugh at the fact that authors preach this idea of reading like an obsessed person, yet they fail to tell us to watch more movies or to go see plays. I am not saying you shouldn’t read. No, I am saying that you should write more and read more critically, because there is a little voice inside of you that knows the truth.

Write till you can’t. Read your own work and others’. Criticize it. Do this over and over and over again. Broaden your skills using any method necessary… even if it is only watching TV and reading the occasional book. (critically) I am telling you… art is in our nature.

Grandiloquence

Posted: May 12, 2015 in Pointers
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As days have passed by and it came to my mind that certain people think that they are unique… I want a grand return to my blog. I am the hero of this white page. My action is saving it from being utterly boring.. with the coming and going of the #hipstercop, I was so delighted by the wit of people. Enchanted, one may say.

This is my return. It may be slow and you should not expect much, but that (↑) is not my voice. So without further ado. With no more hesitation. It is time for me to speak about the ins and outs of a writer’s mind, my journey and some or other nonsense.

So what is grandiloquence? (I had to find the word) It is an essence of pretention. It can also be called verbosity and since I trust my Wikipedia writers- here is a list of synonyms “wordiness, verbiage, prolixity, grandiloquence, garrulousness, expatiation, logorrhea, and Sesquipedalianism.”

How often do writers use grandiloquence? Such a matter is up for debate and if you contemplate about it….( ←)TOO OFTEN!
Now, I don’t mean to boast, (this is a white lie) I do not use grandiloquence often .Here(↑) it was on purpose. I don’t want to make writing sound technical, because then I would be wasting your time, but here is another secret. ( you know… those common sense secrets)

Say it like it is and how you know it will be said. Always use appropriate language or language that applies to the character. If you do not do this you are making the character less believable. And believe it or not, (see the wordplay) ←(oops)↔ subtlety can be the writer’s greatest asset. (maybe that’s a tad diplomatic) You can not for the sake of your soul write without subtlety. It is also the master characterizer. Grandiloquence is the enemy of subtlety. A story is best told if the writer is not playing a trumpet announcing his grand vocabulary. A story is best told when the writer fades into his world and his voice becomes a part of the story without any reader suspecting it.

Do I have some hidden knowledge or am I a master of English? No. Is my vocabulary the greatest? No… but even without those aces up my sleeve I still consider myself to be a good writer and even if I am not, one thing is sure- I do not beat around the bush and neither should you.

Alpha Critic

Posted: February 2, 2015 in Pointers
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Hello writers. We all know what beta readers are, we love and hate some of the things they say about our work. However… we don’t fear them so much as the critics. Of course not… because when the stars shine and we feel lacking it can cause a huge blow to our psyche. When the reviews come pouring in… our hearts start to pump blood at faster rates. We just know it… we do.

Rule number… I don’t care: Watch how critics work and read a lot of books. Also, deliver your own critique. If you are being critical a sense of guilt will hopefully remind you off all of your mistakes. Another thing that I would recommend is to watch things like Cinema Sins and Honest Trailers. They criticize movies, but not only are they funny, you can learn a thing or two from how they tear art apart. Not that they are always right… cause their nitpicking can be quite irritating.

Read your own work over and over again. At the first sight of boredom and stupidity you can start to write your ideas down or just think about all the mistakes you have made. Remember that you are the first to criticize your own work. It belongs to you and many writers let mistakes pass them by just because they can’t let go of a biased lens. I know that it is difficult. That is why you should have a fun meter. You should try criticize yourself, because you are the only critic that you are in love with. In time, with self confidence… you can learn to only slightly dislike other critics.

Even if you have messed up in a big way… do not let their opinions be more important than the alpha critic- you.  For we know that if they get to you… if they get their mold around you, you may write like many people want you to write, but that you have forsaken what than author stood for. To sum it up: Be vigilant in reading and criticizing both your work and the work of others, but don’t try to change according to their wills. The most important opinion of all is the one of the alpha critic.

Silver is not white (1)

Posted: February 1, 2015 in Pointers
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It has been a few months after I have completed my first novel’s first draft and I have started on my second novel. I am going to send the first one to an editor I have met and then I will self publish it.

Today I want to talk about one of the mistakes many writers make, because of their love for the silver screen. It is important to distinguish between films and novels. Sounds simple, right? Yes, it does, but we do love to try and implement things that doesn’t work in novels, because it works in films. How do I put this? Subtlety is the master storyteller.

We tend to do what films do subtly: we will focus on expressions by characters and point them in detail. However, this only works in films, because of its subtlety. Writers on the other hand also have an awesome tool that they either utilize too much or too little. It is has almost been declared a sin in many films. Though I think it can work to great effect, comically. We have the ability to put a characters thoughts down. In film, the best way this can be done is through gestures. No novelist wants to over explain gestures. That is bad writing. I am not saying that you should leave it out, but I am saying is that we could tone it down. I also firmly believe in the show and tell. (Not don’t tell, because that would make it kind of impossible)

Writers need to utilize the thoughts of their characters more often, because we lack an ace of spades that directors do not lack. A soundtrack. Imagine a heartbreaking scene with the violin trying to tear the audience down. As a writer I would love to make my readers emotional, but I can’t use lighting and music. However, I can slip in a subtle thought of a character or perhaps a memory. Dialogue will of course work in both. We are working with the differences.

Remember dear writers that we don’t have an orchestra. We don’t want to use too many angles. We don’t have lighting or acoustics. We can however explain these through the eyes of our protagonist or antagonist. We have a strong POV and we need not forget this. I also love movies and have made these mistakes. One day I would want to write scripts as well.
Just know that silver is not white.

Killing Tales

Posted: January 24, 2015 in Pointers
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Sometimes the best way to be strong is to protect one’s weaknesses. It can also be a very good thing to look at how people fail and why people fail. More importantly, why we sometimes fail. When it comes to stories you only need an attitude to kill it.

After you have toiled through hours of typing, plotting and writing, you get time to reflect. Usually this can only happen if you care about the story you told, but many times authors look back at half a story or sometimes even a first draft and they get that blasé feeling. The root of the problem can be that you have lost that caring feeling. You don’t really care about characters, but about writing a book. The problem with this attitude is that writers’ own feelings will only set the amplitude of what they had written.

Let me explain what this amplitude means. It means that no one will care more about your story than you do, ever. So if you want your readers to not care, then all you have to do is write till the end with this attitude. Writing is like an endurance race in the same way that life is. To kill a tale is as simple as cutting off all love and care for characters and the world where they live. I know it sounds weird, but the cave rat told me that is what I need to tell you. (Just joking. That’s a reference to a game you guys won’t know.)

The real question is whether you can repair your relationship with characters. Of course you can as characters are only a subset of your own mind. Treat your characters as if they are real, because the readers (at least the majority) will not do this unless the author does. Get ready for some tough times, because they will happen. Then think whether you want to kill the story or not. In my mind it is murder, ’cause that’s how much I care about those figments of my imagination.