Write on Wednesday – What You See Is What You Get – October 24, 2018

An establishing shot in a movie or teleplay script tells where the subsequent action takes place. What you see is what you get. The New York City skyline shown at the beginning of Blue Bloods lets the viewer know the action takes place in New York City. Because I watch this show, I also know that when I see a shot of the brick facade of a traditional style home in an upscale neighborhood, the subsequent action is taking place inside Frank Reagan’s home in an unnamed suburb of the city.

NYC skyline

In a novel, if there is a Welcome mat and a wreath on the front door, you must tell the reader. Is the door painted an unusual color? Is the mat clean and new or ready for the trash bin? Is the wreath on the door seasonal, letting the reader know it’s Christmas or Halloween or Spring?  Does the shrubbery outside the front door indicate Spring while the wreath on the door says Christmas?

In narrative fiction you tell or show the reader where the action is taking place. If you don’t the reader gets confused and readers don’t like that. If they get confused too many times they’ll give you a bad review on Amazon.

In the revisions of my novel this is coming up over and over again. Apparently when I wrote the novel draft I was in screen play mode. I knew where the action was taking place — in my head. But sometimes I forgot to tell the reader.

In a screen play or teleplay you write in the words Establishing Shot: New York City and you’re all set. The viewer will get visual cues.

In narrative fiction you establish the setting with words. The visual cues are in the authors mind and must be put into words. This also provides an opportunity to expand information about your characters. Here’s an example:

“Martie wrestled a bag of groceries from the back seat of her vintage Candy Apple red Beetle–an expensive custom paint job she had come to regret. As she headed for the suburban home’s front door she noted the weeds in the flower beds along the brick walkway and realized she needed to call the gardening service in her sister’s address book. She opened the door with the key Julie gave her six months ago. Just three days before her sister disappeared.”

In a screen play the director figures out how to show the information in this paragraph or the writer puts it in dialogue. Phone dialogue between Martie and the detective assigned to her sister’s case could fill in some details. There could be a close-up shot of a calendar with the date of Julie’s disapearance circled in red.

As I revise my novel I have to keep reminding myself that what the reader reads is what the reader gets. It’s my job to make sure they have enough, but not too much. Enough so they can be in the scene, but not so much that it makes the writing ponderous.

If the paragraph above was the beginning of a novel I’d better make sure that a Candy Apple red beetle is important to the story. As I reread what I wrote I immediately began spinning off into another story. Focus your squirrel brain, Mala. Focus! You have a Caribbean novel to finish.

 

 

Write on Wednesday – Wattpad – October 3, 2018

I’ve been seeing references to Wattpad as I look for ways to plan marketing for my upcoming book. Here’s information I pulled together from Google and Wikipedia. It sounds interesting.

wattpad

“Wattpad is a community for readers and writers to publish new user-generated stories in different genres, including classics, general fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fanfiction, spiritual, humor, and teen fiction.  It aims to create social communities around stories for both amateur and established writers.”

“The platform claims to have an audience of more than 65 million users, who can directly interact with the writers and share their opinions with fellow readers. Although available in over 50 languages, 77% of its content is written in English. A number of Wattpad users are translating stories to continue to build the platform.”

“Founded with Ivan Yuen in 2006, Wattpad is removing traditional barriers between readers and writers and building social communities around stories. Wattpad asserts it is the world’s largest community of readers and writers.”

“All the stories on Wattpad are free. Readers don’t have to pay to join the site (or download the app), or to read any of those 3 million stories (which can also be read on any computer, laptop, or tablet). But they’re not just reading, they are writing too.”

“Wattpad Premium is a subscription-based version of Wattpad. It’s the same Wattpad you know and love, without the ads. Premium users will also unlock a fresh new theme within the app.”

“As per the Terms of Service, Wattpad is only available for people who are 13 years of age or older.”

“Through the Wattpad Futures program, interested writers can supplement their income with little effort. The program helps writers earn money by inserting ads between chapters of their Wattpad story.”

I also found a blog post about how one writer decided Wattpad was not a good idea for him.

Wattpad may be a good tool for some writers, so check it out to see if it might work for you. I’m on the fence.

Write on Wednesday – My Brain Is a Many Storied Thing – September 26, 2018

Lately I’ve been thinking about my brain as a department store with multiple stories. It has an elevator with an operator who takes me to different floors.  If you’re not old enough to remember elevator operators in their perky uniforms, you’ve probably seen them in movies. Second floor – Ladies apparel. Third Floor – Men’s Haberdashery. Fourth floor – Home Furnishings. The elevator operator knew what was on all the floors and was happy to answer questions. Something was lost when escalators and self-guided elevators became the norm.

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I’ve realized that while I am doing all the other things I do during the course of my life, my brain is navigating the department store that is my novel revision. The store has a lot of floors, one for each of the many characters in my book, and the elevator is whizzing up and down trying to keep details straight. It’s best if that happens when I’m at my computer. If I’m not and I wonder if what Yvie said in Chapter Two is consistent with what she tells her twin sister three scenes later, I have to stop what I’m doing – like folding laundry – and go to my computer to find the two relevant places in the text.

Folding laundry is easy to stop and restart. Searing scallops for dinner is another matter.  That requires me to hold a thought until I can write it down. Scallops do not wait. And my brain elevator may get stuck between floors.

Those niggly details pop up at unexpected times and demand attention.  Sometimes the scribbled notes I made don’t make any sense. Why can’t my  elevator operator take notes? Which makes me wonder — is this the sort of thing I could tell Alexa, if I had one?

My department store brain also has a basement, but the elevator operator – his name is Bob – doesn’t like to go down there. Bob says sometimes the elevator goes there all on its own and weird stuff gets on. I have known that to happen.

Write on Wednesday – Full Steam Ahead – September 12, 2018

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For the past two weeks I have been purging my office, culling old files and crawling under the furniture to dust. I brought in a new filing cabinet, removed a piece of furniture and repostioned a ceiling tall bookcase. All in anticipation of getting back the first full critique of the third book of my Caribbean series —  the whole thing. I’ve had helpful critiques on chapters by my Working Writers Forum group, but this was the whole manuscript and I wanted the decks cleared.

That happened on Saturday morning. I have to admit I was anxious. I knew this editor, who is also a friend, would give me her unvarnished opinion. And she did. Some parts she liked and she had some excellent suggestions for how to fix some things I knew just didn’t work. She brought to my attention story threads that had been left hanging.

There were a number of places where she noted that what I knew in my head about the characters had never made it onto the pages. I suppose all of us who write long fiction struggle, at some point in the process, of being too close to the story to know what is missing. She also made a detailed spreadsheet for me which included (among other things) the timeline, where and when characters appeared, and thematic issues. I printed it out on legal size paper and taped pages together.  This will be easier for me to work with than referring to the computer screen.

My next step is to read through all the notes in the manuscript. There are some plot and character arcs that need attention. I need to think about those and make some fix-it notes before I start the rewrite. My goal is to be ready to begin by the end of the weekend.

Full steam ahead.

Write on Wednesday – Revisions Ahead – August 22, 2018

In a week or two I will get back the comments of a writing friend who agreed to look at my third novel in the Caribbean series. I’m anxious. Mostly that’s the way I’m wired. Just ask my patient husband. But I am anxious to get back to the book after not thinking about it for most of the summer. And I’m anxious to see what suggestions she has for improving the story.

Then I will begin revisions.  Don Roff writes, “I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”

revision towel

I’m hoping I won’t need this.

 

Write on Wednesday: Make Me Care – August 14, 2018

I learn in small increments. If I can come away with a few new things from an hour long talk, I am happy.  This  virtual classroom Ted talk, by Andrew Stanton, is terrific. Not too long, not too short, but with some compelling suggestions for writing our stories.

Here are my take aways:

Make the Reader Care:

  1. When you tell a story, build in anticipation.
  2. Make the reader want to know what will happen next.
  3. Honest conflicts create doubt in what the outcome might be and make the reader wonder how the story will end.

The Secret Sauce:

  1. The best stories invoke wonder.
  2. A strong theme is always running through a well told story.

Use What You Know:

  1. Capture a truth from your own experience.

Storytelling has guidelines but no hard and fast rules. When you do it right, wonder happens.