A Summary of K.M. Weiland’s  “Write Like a Master”

 

My summary of K.M. Weiland’s excellent article presented in Writer’s Digest, Work Book: Exercises and Tips for Honing Specific Aspects of Your Writing presents the key points of her exceptional article via Writer’s Digest 2014 Reblog. It is especially for writers penning their first novel, but also for seasoned writers to again remember a classic, Jane Eyre, a novel that was ahead of its time, by Charlotte Brontë.  Often, reading classics, as most of us do, gives us fresh insight to dramatic storytelling par excellence. K.M. Weiland gives us 10 distinct techniques for dramatic masterful writing.

  1. Hook: Start in the middle of some type of interaction within environment, statement, or internal angst to provoke reader curiosity.
  1. Characteristic Moment: Reveal/show a personality trait of the Protagonist.
  1. Setting Description of Scene: Start broadly, and then zoom in.
  1. Symbolism: Small details set story’s tone and foreshadows its course.
  1. The World Protagonist Inhabits: demonstrate character’s interior and exterior world.
  1. Back Story: Intersperse with dialogue, don’t dump back story in long paragraphs in chapter 1.
  1. The Premise of Story: Present the Dramatic Question early on, involving the moral foundation, the impetus that drives the story forward.
  1. Physical Actions: The physical movements of characters interspersed throughout dialogue increases depth of character traits.
  1. Protagonist’s Belief: Once Dramatic Question is identified, writer presents obstacles for protagonist until she/he can relinquish belief/misconception and meet deepest needs.

10.Extraordinary Factor: What makes the Protagonist important? How at odds is protagonist in his/her world with others that creates friction, tension, and thus the central conflict of story premise.

***see Writer’s Digest, October 2014 edition, for full article.

A Review: Far from the Madding Crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd is the first of Hardy’s novels to gain him widespread popularity. What can one say about the incredible writing of Thomas Hardy. This story is lavish and romantic with characters that are unforgettable. The historical details are rich in nuance and fascinating for the period. Hardy’s use of the English language is exquisite. When readers discover Thomas Hardy they always comment, “I fell in love with 19th Century English literature because of Thomas Hardy.” And, so did I.

The Story is set against the backdrop of the beautiful landscape in Wessex, England. The overall theme of the story questions rural values and is striking for its singular sensibility. The story revolves around Bathsheba Everdene and her suitors, as well as the Bathsheba’s difficulties managing a large farm.  One of her suitors, Gabriel Oak is attracted to the very modern sensibility of the independent and spirited Bathsheba. She is also charming, beautiful and vain. However, he must compete with the roguish and dashing soldier, Sergeant Troy, and the wealthy, respectable, middle-aged Farmer Boldwood. While their fates depend upon the choice Bathsheba makes, she must learn the consequences of vain flirtations with all three.

 

Emotion vs. Feeling: How to Evoke More from Readers

By: Writer’s Digest, David Corbett, Award Winning Author and Guest Columnist, Author of The Art of Character

The difference between writing emotion and writing feeling is more one of degree than kind. Feeling is emotion that has been habituated and refined; it is understood and can be used deliberately. I know how I feel about this person and treat her accordingly. Emotion is more raw, unconsidered. It comes to us unbidden, regardless of how familiar it might be. Rage is an emotion. Contempt is a feeling.

Both emotion and feeling are essential not only in fiction but in nonfiction. However, given their unique qualities, rendering them on the page requires different techniques.  Both emotion and feeling are essential not only in fiction but in nonfiction. However, given their unique qualities, rendering them on the page requires different techniques.

To accomplish this, the POV character should:

  • Dig deeper: As with emotion, surprise is a key element. You need a starting point that seems unexpected, because nothing shuts off the reader like belaboring the obvious. Instead, seek a second- or third-level feeling in the scene.
  • Objectify the feeling: Find a physical analogy for it (e.g. She felt as though her shame had created a sunburn from within).
  • Compare the feeling: Measure it against other occasions when it has arisen. Is it worse this time? How? Why?
  • Evaluate the feeling: Is it right or wrong to feel this way? Proper or shameful? What would a more refined, stronger, wiser person feel?
  • Justify the feeling: Explore why this feeling is the only honest response for the character.
  • Examine the impact on identity: What does this feeling say about the character or the state of her life? Has she grown or regressed? Does she recognize the feeling as universal, or does it render her painfully alone?

Eliciting Emotion

Emotion on the page is created through action and relies on surprise for its effect. That surprise is ultimately generated by having the character express or exhibit an emotion not immediately apparent in the scene.

  • To create genuine emotion when crafting a scene, identify the most likely or obvious response your character might have, then ask: What other emotion might she be experiencing? Then ask it again—reach a “third-level emotion.” Have the character express or exhibit that. Through this use of the unexpected, the reader will experience a greater range of emotion, making the scene more vivid.
  • Surprise can also be generated through unforeseen reveals and/or reversals. This technique requires misdirection: creating a credible expectation that something other than what occurs will happen instead.

Types of misdirection include:

  • Misdirection through ambiguity: Any of several results might occur.
  • Misdirection through fallacy: Something creates a mistaken belief regarding what is happening or what it means.
  • Misdirection through sympathy: Intense focus on one character lures the reader into overlooking what another might do.
  • To ground a surprise in emotion you must develop a belief that some other emotional outcome—ideally, the opposite of the one you hope to evoke—is not only possible, but likely.

Exploring Feeling

Feeling requires introspection, which thus necessitates identification with the character and empathy for what she faces.  The goal is not to get readers to feel what the characters feel, per se, but to use the characters as a device to get readers to feel something on their own.

This means allowing characters to think about what they’re feeling, which accomplishes two things:

  • It makes the feelings both more concrete and more personal.
  • It creates time and space for readers to process their own feelings. If empathy for the character has been forged, this allows readers to ask themselves: Do I feel the same way? Do I feel differently?

Within such scenes, the point-of-view character:

  • registers and analyzes the emotional impact of what has happened
  • thinks through the logical import or meaning of what has happened
  • makes a plan for how to proceed

Putting Them Together: Writing Emotion and Feeling

A character changes through the emotions she experiences, the refinement of those emotions into feelings, and the evolution in self-awareness that this process allows. This gradual metamorphosis creates the story’s internal arc, providing the character an opportunity to move step-by-step from being at the mercy of her emotions to mastering her feelings. And through the use of surprise and introspection, you provide a means for the reader to traverse an arc of her own, expanding her emotional self-awareness.

Deciphering Book Descriptions

Fresh Eggs

 

 

 

I am reblogging this post for good reason. I am reading books, lately, that don’t seem to have cogent descriptions and left me wondering: what’s it all about?

How interesting and telling are most book descriptions?  Most are not at all. Maybe there should be professional book description writers.  Reading a book description should not be a word puzzle to try and figure it out. It can be daunting to write your own book description, especially if one is so subjective, the premise can be lost entirely. It is  better to have a Beta Reader or a Reviewer with a successful blog write a book description, if the author is having problems pinning down a short description that actually describes.  On WordPress, there are many experienced and talented reviewers and beta readers.

Here is a book description that does not describe the content of said novel : Fresh Eggs – a novel by Rob Levandoski. 

“Calvin Cassowary is ready to do whatever it takes to keep Cassowary Farm in the family for one more generation. Hatching a scheme to specialize in chickens, soon he’s got a million hens laying eggs for Gallinipper Foods, b…ut he’s getting deeper and deeper into debt. To make matters worse, his chicken-loving daughter Rhea starts growing feathers. Filled with as many tears and chuckles, Rob Levandoski’s Fresh Eggs is a provocative father/daughter tale guaranteed to make you ponder the realities of modern farming and think twice the next time someone asks, “white or dark meat?”

What we know about this book:  All we know so far is that raising and selling chickens will get you into debt and chicken farm daughters tend to grow feathers.  So far, so what.  Who sheds tears and why is the owner chuckling? After all, I can’t think of anything worse things than to have a child grow feathers.  Pondering the realities of modern farming?

 

YOUR NOVEL BLUEPRINT, by author Karen Wiesner

 

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I found “Your Novel Blueprint” on Writer’s Digest,  it is a book by Karen Wiesner. It  is a very useful and very complete guide from start to finish.  I am posting the first couple of pages and then a link to her article (10 pages) and also her book  can also be purchased there.  Read the article and then see if it is for you. I loved it.

You can find Karen Wiesner on Writer’s Digest http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/your-novel-blueprint

Writing a novel and building a house are similar when you think about it. For instance, most builders or homeowners spend a lot of time dreaming about their ideal houses, but there comes a time when they have to wake up to the reality of building by analyzing what they expect from a house, and whether the plans they’ve selected will meet their needs. Architects argue that it’s better to build from the inside out.

This is where a home plan checklist comes in handy. This list assembles the key considerations to keep in mind when deciding on a plan, including what are called external monologues, relating primarily to the outside of a house and its environment, and internal (interior) monologues. (The word monologue, in building, refers to a single facet of overall composition on the inside or outside of a house, such as flooring material or landscaping aspects.) Writers spend a lot of time dreaming about their ideal story. Eventually they have to face reality and analyze whether or not the story will work. Authors, too, usually build from the inside out—in other words, they know what they want at the heart of their stories and they build around that.

This is where a Story Plan Checklist becomes essential, because it targets the key considerations necessary when building a cohesive story that readers will find unforgettable. The checklist has basic external and internal monologues.  Monologue, in writing, refers to a single facet of overall composition concerning the internal or external elements, such as conflict and motivation. Generally, these are composed individually in free-form summaries, but they need to develop and grow cohesively.

The Story Plan Checklist can ensure cohesion between character, setting and plot. This checklist connects all the dots between internal and external conflicts, and goals and motivations, thereby guaranteeing the cohesion all stories require. In its most simplified form, a Story Plan Checklist—which you can find an example of at writersdigest.com/article/first-draft-finish-novel—includes free-form summaries (or monologues) covering each of the following:

PART I: THE BASICS

  • Working Title
    •    Working Genre(s)
    •    Working Point-of-View Specification
    •    High-Concept Blurb
    •    Story Sparks
    •    Estimated Length of Book/Number of Sparks

PART II: EXTERNAL MONOLOGUES

  • Identifying the Main Character(s)
    •    Character Introductions
    •    Description (outside POV)
    •    Description (self POV)
    •    Occupational Skills
    •    Enhancement/Contrast
    •    Symbolic Element (character and/or plot-defining)
    •    Setting Descriptions

PART III: INTERNAL MONOLOGUES

  • Character Conflicts (internal)
    •    Evolving Goals and Motivations
    •    Plot Conflicts (external)

I call this list a Story Plan Checklist not only because of its correlation with a home plan checklist, but because if you haven’t considered each of these areas, written something solid about them and checked them off, your story may not be fully fleshed out and cohesive enough. Sooner or later, the basic structure will begin to fall apart.

While you’re in the beginning stages of forming a story plan, sit down and figure out some of the working details (which may change throughout the process).

TITLE AND GENRE SPECIFICATION

First, come up with a preliminary title. All you need here is something to reference the project. While you don’t want to lock in your genre too early (stories evolve in unpredictable ways), get started with genre specification. For now, list all the genres this story could fit into.

POV SPECIFICATION

Now, start thinking about what point of view you want to use for your book. It’s very important to start your Story Plan Checklist with this because the identities of your main characters will play a huge part in your characterization and, subsequently, each of the areas you’ll be summarizing on your checklist. Most stories spark with a character who may end up becoming your main character. Your best bet for deciding which character’s viewpoint to use: In any scene, stick to the view of the character with the most at stake—the one with the most to lose or gain.

HIGH-CONCEPT BLURB

The high-concept blurb is a tantalizing sentence—or a short paragraph with up to four sentences (one or two is ideal)—that sums up your entire story, as well as the conflicts, goals and motivations of the main character(s). It’s no easy task. Here’s a simplified explanation of what your sentence needs to contain:

A character (the who) wants a goal (the what) because he’s motivated (the why), but he faces conflict (the why not).

Or you can simply fill in the blanks—whichever works best for you:

(name of character) wants (goal to be achieved) because  (motivation for acting), but she faces  (conflict standing in the way).

A Glimpse into the Philosophy of Reading

davidbailey1-brainy-quote

 

 

I think, “reading is such a game changer. With every book I read, I feel changed somewhat, meaning, I have been added to or subtracted from some thought or notion. Beyond that notion, I have learned something important.  I am never filled up—nor am I ever emptied.”  The following are a few great quotes on reading and why reading is important – it helps one think and often great things are the result – like Democracy and our constitution, as well as the sciences, humanities, and literature. We are what we read and ergo—what we think.

“Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy – which many believe goes hand in hand with it – will be dead as well.” Margaret Atwood 

“I did the traditional thing with falling in love with words, reading books and underlining lines I liked and words I didn’t know. It was something I always did.” Carrie Fisher

“Expand the definition of ‘reading’ to include non-fiction, humor, graphic novels, magazines, action adventure, and, yes, even websites. It’s the pleasure of reading that counts; the focus will naturally broaden. A boy won’t read shark books forever.”Jon Scieszka

“Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well.” Mark Haddon

“By reading Huckleberry Finn I felt I was able to justify my act of going into the mountain forest at night and sleeping among the trees with a sense of security which I could never find indoors.” Kenzaburo Oe

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” Ray Bradbury

“Reading was very important to me as a kid. It was very inspirational to me. I went to a school where that wasn’t encouraged so much, but my parents encouraged that, and it has made me part of who I am.” Sasha Grey

“Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.” Joseph Addison

 

 

 

Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

Whispering3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes.  (this is a re-blogging from 2014 but I thought it deserved a revival now, because it is simple, straightforward, and to the point.)

As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1: 
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.  As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Secret #2: 
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.  

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Secret #3: 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.  

At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

IN CONCLUSION

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.