Saturday, April 30, 2011

Structuring a scene...

So it's all starting to make sense.  Don't get me wrong, I still have a lot to learn, but the pieces are staring to fall into place.  I think I'm starting to see the light. When you write a novel, it's not just about the finished piece.  It's about all the little pieces that make up that final finished work.  I grew up in Chicago.  I spent a lot of time at the Art Institute.  Its one of the places you can walk to easily from the train.  As a result, my friends and I would take the train downtown on the weekends and walk to the Art Institute to explore its many exhibits.  When you go into the museum, there is a stairway in front of you.  At the top of the grand stairway, there is a room that houses the most amazing piece of art I have ever seen.  It is A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte  by Geoge Seurat.

This piece exemplifies the idea of the parts making up the whole.  It also shows how important it is to choose the correct parts to ensure the proper flow.  Each individual point works by itself as an individual dot, each image working alone as a beautiful image in and of itself, but then, as you move further and further from the image, the whole picture becomes apparent as a masterpiece.

Likewise, in your novel, each scene should be able to stand alone.  Each scene in your book should have its own purpose for existing.  It should move the story forward.  It should tell it's own story.  It should have its own POV, and the characters should have their own goals.  If your scenes do not do this, then they either need to be rewritten, or they need to be deleted.  No scene, no line, no word, should exist within your book without a purpose.  Each piece exists for a reason and each works with the others to create a masterpiece.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Breaking the Rules

Okay, so I'm trying to resolve some conflict I'm having about some comments I've been making lately.  See, I read my little books about what all the good little boy and girl writers are supposed to do, and then I read my "fun" books and I go through my little analyses. 

See, I'm a college professor by trade so I'm used to grading things.  And as a general rule, I grade things "by the book."  I don't give a lot of leeway for creative thinking because you have to learn how to do things by the rules before you can break them.  Because I teach primarily 100 and 200 level courses, that doesn't leave a lot of room for breaking the rules.  Well, as a writer, I really fall into the 100 level course load (if I even fall into the college level courses - frankly, I think I'm still in Kindergarten and running with scissors, or maybe eating glue).

So here's where I'm going with this.  I read what I like, regardless of the "rules" and I find that this is true of *most* people.  For instance, I haven't reviewed my book on here because quite frankly I'm frightened of what I might say, but overall, the feedback from readers has been pretty positive.  That doesn't mean I'm not going to try to follow the rules on the next book and do better, but readers like what they like.

Another example would be Adrian Phoenix, she definitely breaks the rules - I mean talk about Queen of Backstory - but that doesn't mean I'm not jonesing for her next novel.  And then there are people who are very good at following the rules - Tom Clancy is a great example.  But really, I find myself nodding off whenever I try to read a Tom Clancy novel (though they do make great movies).

As a college professor, I know as well that there comes a time when you know the rules well enough that it's okay to break them.  And really, as a writer, I think that you *must* break the rules.  If every writer followed the same mold, there would be nothing new and exciting to read, it would be the same old story over and over and over again.  Well, okay - really it is, but the story teller is what makes the story unique and makes it come alive!  How do they do that?  They break the rules - or maybe they bend them a little.

See, that's the thing - how do writers do what they do so well?  Does every book on your keep shelf follow *all* of the rules?  Or can some of the rules be broken?  Are there some rules that are absolutely set in stone, and some that are mere guidelines? And if so, how do we know the difference?  How do we, as newbies, find our own voice in this world of rules and more rules?  The more I learn, the more I find myself locked in a prison of words.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Great study in goals, plotting and character development....

So, part of the reason I blog is because I'm trying to become a better author. In doing that, one of the important things to recognize the good examples when you see them. I'd like to offer an excellent example in all this goal, plotting, character development jungle.

Inferno, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is an outstanding example of not only goals, but plotting and character development. So, here are the main characters: first you have Carpenter, he died because he was drunk and fell out a window. He ended up in Hell, but not so much. You see, it's Dante's Hell, and well, Carpenter ended up in the outer circle, not so much because he's a bad guy, but because he doesn't believe in God. Then you have Benito. That would be Benito Mussolini. Yup - you read that right. We all know why he died, and can pretty much guess why he's in Hell. Then of course, you have the Devil and his Minions. These are the bad guys. Yeah, that's right, Benito is a good guy. (If that's not enough to get you to read this book, I don't know what is). So anyway, Carpenter and Benito want to get out of Hell. Actually, let me explain, Benito wants to help Carpenter get out of Hell, because that's what he does. He's not so much trying to escape as trying to get Carpenter to the exit. Now Carpenter on the other hand, is trying to get out - at least, that's how it all starts out. Of course, the Devil and his Minions are trying to stop them from succeeding at their goal. What He wants to do is put them in their proper place - that's right, Dante's Hell, seven rings, the whole shebang.

So throughout the book, we meet up with other characters. Some of them we know and love, like Billy the Kid, and others, not so much - like the catatonic woman, but they all challenge Carpenter as he makes his way through Hell to the Exit (yes, I capitalized that). But along the way, Carpenter has sort of an epiphany as he meets and gets to know people in each of the seven levels. And by the end, Carpenter has grown and learned something about himself.

Truly, it's brilliant. The goal is as clear as day. I mean, throughout the book Carpenter says several times that he wants to get out of Hell, but his emotional growth is where we learn about character development. And the obstacles that are put in his way challenge his morals and his beliefs and force him to look at himself. It's really a great study for anyone who is challenged in character development, goal setting and plotting. And for a great follow up, try Escape from Hell.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A little help from my friends....

Have I told you that this writing thing is hard? I mean really...really...hard? Well, like I told you, I went to this retreat over the weekend where I was lucky enough to listen to some wonderfully talented people discuss the ins and outs of character development and plotting. What's that you ask? Well, remember all that stuff you used to do in English where your teacher would ask "what was the author thinking about here?" And your response was "well maybe the author wasn't thinking about anything...maybe the author was just writing stuff." Well, turns out the author really was thinking. And thinking...and thinking...and writing...and then thinking some more... and then rewriting...and then throwing things in the trash....

So anyway, I'm learning about the thinking part. It turns out that authors do a lot of that. Thinking, and planning. So ever since Saturday, I've been thinking, because I really do want to improve my writing. It's not good enough to just write for the sake of writing. While that's cool and all, I really want to put out a quality product. I've built up a small following of fans and it wouldn't do any good to write a substandard book. I mean, when you read most authors, you can see how they've grown and developed in their writing style from book to book. So that's what I'm shooting for, growing and developing. So one thing that I was lacking was a goal for my characters. What do my characters want? You may be thinking, who cares? That was my first thought. Truly, I was thinking, who cares? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that all of the books I really loved, the books I cherished and read over and over, well, the characters all had goals. They had some final destination they wanted to be.

So I kept asking myself, what does Jewell want? I thought about it when I woke up in the morning, when I was driving in the car, when I was making dinner, while I folded clothes, and even while I was reading. The only time I wasn't thinking about it was when I was working. I walked down the aisles at the grocery store asking my 11 year old daughter, "what does Jewell want?" Sitting at Sonic waiting for dinner "What does she want?" Well, that's when my sweet, beautiful daughter, laid out the whole plot for me. I had been racking my brain for weeks, trying to figure this out and my sweet little daughter figured it out for me in five minutes.

Okay, granted, I had been using her as a sounding board for the entire time, but still...she was able to see the trees that I had apparently been missing in the forest. So now I see the benefit of having a brainstorming partner. It doesn't have to be an author, but it has to be someone willing to listen, and input ideas. I use my husband for my medical ideas, and I have yet another for my conspiracy theories. It's important to have people there to help you with your writing, because as much as we want to say "I did it all by myself" having a little help from your friends, can be invaluable.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

RCRW Retreat....

Basket Raffle Winners
So - I have just returned from my first *official* writers retreat.  It was a full day conference beginning this morning bright and early at 8:00 and I did not leave until after 8:00 this evening.  It was a very long day but it was positively full of great information!  So, in the picture above you see all of the basket winners.  On the bottom left you will see Deb Dixon - of GMC fame!  Yes, she was one of our speakers!  She owns (or runs) a publishing company and gave us some brilliant advice on the publishing industry.  She was even kind enough to give me some advice on a book my daughter is working on!  More on Deb's talk later though....

Me and Karen Docter
First, we had a talk with Karen Docter on The "W" Plot.  I will have to say that this was great because one of the things that I have been learning about in my book Fiction Writing for Dummies is the 3 scene or 3 act book.  Basically, your book should be divided into 3 main parts with some key action occurring in each part, with an escalation in each.  Karen Docter elaborated or elucidated upon this idea by introducing the W.  So basically, what you have is that the 3 points of the W are the characters' 3 high points, and then the bottom points of the W being the characterss low points.  Of course, your main characters should each have a W, and then your plot or romance gets a W too.  Then, there's the antagonist (or villain) who gets an M.  Obviously, when your character is in a high point, your villain is in a low point, and vice versa.  But ultimately, the villain should end down, and the main characters should get a happily ever after. 

She also was really awesome in helping us with defining character goals.  Now, this is a real sore spot for me because about 3 copies of my sequel have been "filed" in the circular file because my characters lack goals.  Yeah - I get it.  I'm sorry to say that I still don't know my characters' goals (Karen gave me the advice to start from the end and work my way back - someone else told me that too....), but it seems that whenever I try to think about what my characters really want, I end up realizing that this or that can't work.  Karen spent a lot of time working with me individually, and it really helped me work toward solidifying where I need to go with this.  One thing though, that I realized, is that I am not the only one that struggles with goals.  Other people didn't know what their goals should be, and some had trouble grasping the idea of what a goal really was.  I guess that made me feel a little less like I didn't belong, and I think a lot of us really moved closer to defining those character and story goals.

Of course, once you have goals, then you need to determine your motivation, and conflicts.  For me, this is the easy part - I have a whole list of conflicts, and if I can ever nail down those goals, motivation will come.  Some of us were challenged with this as well though and Karen did a great job of explaining how we can figure out our motivations and conflicts once we have our goals. 

Then, after all we figure all this out, we get to the W.  I never made it this far.  I'm still stuck at the goals, but I can't wait until I get to start playing with my Ws and Ms!
Me and Debra Dixon

Deb Dixon of Belle Books spoke to us about the difference between publishing with a "Big 6" publisher and a small press publisher. It was really a great talk.  I thought that I had done a lot of research on this industry when I was trying to publish my book.  I did my research, I sent my manuscript out to agents, I was rejected, and I went to self publishing.  One thing though that was really great was that, had I actually found an agent when I first started sending out my manuscript, I would have been ill prepared to sign a contract.  I think this is important because as an attorney with 10 years experience, and having had my start in theater, I thought that I was prepared for finding an agent and publisher for my book.  I realize now how little I knew.  I had barely skimmed the surface as to what publishers really do.  I mean, I know they publish books, and I always felt that they should do some level of copy editing, cover design and marketing, but after the research I had found, I think I could have very easily been taken for a ride.

Deb explained that there are the "Big 6."  These are the publishers that everyone knows.  Hatchette Book Group, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon Schuster.  Now, what's cool about the Big 6 is that they pay huge advances (sometimes), they have huge marketing budgets (sometimes), and their books are the ones that end up on the shelves of every bookseller across the nation (sometimes).  That's right, sometimes.  They are also too big to notice and give personal attention to *every author they sign.*  So if you make it with them - awesome.  But you had better be prepared to put out.  And if you don't, you can't take it personally if they drop you.

Now, the smaller publishing houses come in three flavors; National, Regional, and Digital First or Digital Only.  With National, you get better distribution, better advances, but they do smaller print runs than the bigger houses.  Some of their books may end up Nationally.  With Regional or Niche publishers, you usually have a mom and pop publisher.  They may only publish certain types of books, like Memphis Gardening - or Cooking with Kudzu. These publishers will only sell locally or to very limited markets. Then, there's the Digital First/Only.  These may have huge distribution but they pay little to no advances, and they usually don't invest much in their books.  However, they  may have a very loyal following.

So, how do you know which publisher is best for you?  Well, if you don't have a very marketable idea, but are still set on publishing - self publish.  There's no rejection, no editing demands (expcept those you impose upon yourself), no marketing (except what you do for yourself), and the only advance is the money you pay in advance to having your book published.  If you do it right, this can be really reasonable.  This is the way I went for my first book, and the way I will publish my daughter's book that she is writing (on Deb's advice).  I'm not sure about my sequel though.  It's going to have to hit some new levels before I feel like it is ready for the agent/publisher world.

Now, if you have a great idea and you have an agent, and you have a publisher that is interested in you, do you go with the Big 6, or the smaller publishing house?  Well first, is a Big 6 publisher offering you a contract?  If so, you might do well to go there, but if you demand personal service and you want a company that is going to focus on you, and focus on selling your book for the long term, you may want to consider a smaller house.  A smaller house is going to be more interested in the long term success of your book (probably) than the big 6, but this is something that - if the situation arises, you really need to speak to someone about.

So the long and the short of it your character development, do your goal setting, write a *great* book, find an agent, then worry about it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Off topic thoughts....

There are some people in this world  that will go out of their way to help someone even though it doesn't benefit them in any way.  All it does is give them a bit of a warm fuzzy feeling for doing something nice.

But sometimes when we see another person hurting, there is so little that we can do to help.  We want so badly to reach out and shoulder some of that pain, to take the the hurt from them.  It is so hard to watch helplessly as another suffers knowing that there is nothing we can do.

To my friend who offered me kindness and help even though you had no obligation.  You have given me so much.  I wish I could give you more, but this note is to let you know that I am thinking about you and your family and hope that my thoughts offer a little solace in your time of uncertainty.

Meet Tim...the Red Shirt

Any good Trekkie knows that the Red Shirts aren't supposed to be main characters in the show.  They have a name, and they have lines (sometimes), but their primary purpose is to die so that the main characters don't have to. 

So, the purpose of a scene in a book is to move things forward.  It's to give the reader new information, expose them to something important, and basically advance the story.  Something that I have learned from my meandering through the books that have been written on good writing is that you don't put something in a book just to put it there.  It must have a reason, a goal.  According to Debra Dixon there should be 3 reasons for a scene, and she gives a list of potential reasons indicating that it is potentially endless.  She also gives a list of three very distinct purposes for the scene.

So that brings me back to Tim, the red shirt.  I'm reading Etched in Bone by Adrian Phoenix.  Last night I read a chapter where the whole scene revolves around Tim and how he is going to "effing die" or whatever.  He dwells on that idea *a lot* in this scene.  In fact, it gets rather repetitive.  After several pages of Tim, the red shirt dwelling on his impending doom the holy, holy, holy creature emerges from the hole and scares the living daylights out of everyone allowing Tim to make a bolt for freedom.  (Okay, so maybe Tim wasn't technically a red shirt - perhaps he will reappear at some later point in the story to tell his tale of doom on the Mike and Jill Carr Radio Show - we can only hope that he had some other purpose than to effing introduce the appearance of the effing monster from the effing hole).  So my question becomes, first, what is the purpose of the scene?  My thought is perhaps it changes one of the character's goals (Kaplan or Slade - not sure I remember who either of these characters are), or it may bring someone into conflict with opposing forces.  I guess that remains to be seen.  Again though, this brings up another point.  WAAAAY too many characters. Who are Kaplan and Slade?  I just don't remember.  And why bring up Tim?  Is he going to be (yet another) character in the ever growing list?

Which brings me to another point.  There's that narrative thing which Adrian Phoenix (usually) does so well.  Yesterday I was reading my newsletter from RWA and they mentioned the concept of using italics for inner dialog.  The argument was that readers don't want to read large chunks of italicized text and are often inclined to skip it.  Well, usually, Adrian Phoenix does a great job of including small chunks of italicized text to relate to the readers things that are going on in Dante's head or things that have happened in the past.

Yesterday, however, I read a *whole chapter* of italicized text and frankly, I was quite inclined just to skip over it because not only was it all in italics, but it was a whole chapter of information that I've read over and over and over.  It was talking about Heather's mom and the night she died.  Now, this particular chunk of italicized text had just a wee bit of new information in the end (which I won't share with you due to spoilers) but really?  A whole chapter of replicated information for one sentence of new information?  And really, the new information didn't do anything at all with regards to Heather's goal.  It didn't change her goal (no new information), it didn't bring her into conflict with opposing forces (all characters in dream are already dead), *maybe* it strengthened her motivation....maybe.   But really, there was only one sentence in that whole chapter that related to that.  ONE.  Couldn't that chapter have been just a wee bit more creative?  Maybe given me something new to think about instead of feeding me information I already had?  Then, as far as the three reasons for the scene - just didn't see it.  Didn't get it at all.  Seems to me, on this one, she was trying to meet her publisher's word count requirement.

Now, you are probably wondering - who am I to criticize?  Well, I'm no one.  But, I have been a student long enough to know that the best way to learn is by example.  Adrian Phoenix is one of my favorite writers.  While it's tough to critique someone you admire, it's also a great way to learn.  If can critique someone you respect, it makes it easier to critique your own work.  Try it!  Remember, you never stop learning.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

GMC...The Challenge

From Goal Motivation & Conflict: The building Blocks of Good Fiction by Debra Dixon. (pg 117)
  1. Take ten to fifteen minutes to work up a GMC on one character. Create a completely new character and do not use the story you are currently working on
  2. Write a scene.  Allow yourself one hour to show GMC and get the book started.  The trick is to do this in the shortest amount of page space possible.  SHOW DON'T TELL.  And don't put more time into this exercise than one hour.
  3. The only unbreakable rule: Somewhere in the scene, your character must utter the phrase, "What's mine is mine, what's yours is up for grabs."
So this is the result of my exercise:

Kathleen’s knee’s shook as she walked into the conference room.  Her court appointed counsel looked shabby among the high powered attorneys that populated the room.  The mahogany conference table was polished to a glossy finish and surrounded by black leather and chrome chairs.  She looked down at the second hand dress she purchased from Goodwill yesterday in anticipation of this meeting.  It was clean, and fit well, but didn’t convey the image of the woman she knew she was; strong, confident, well educated and powerful.  Her hands strayed to the short curls that had so recently been long enough to pull into a power bun; the burns on her ear and neck reminding her why it was no longer long and beautiful.  She thought of the suits that hung in her closet, untouched since the night she had fled for her life, leaving her children against her better judgment.  What had she been thinking?  How could she leave her babies with that monster?

At the gentle touch of the mousy man standing next to her, she moved from the doorway into the center of the pool of sharks.  They circled her, scenting their prey.  She stiffened, cowering behind one of the leather chairs for safety, relying on the meek and mild mannered man next to her to come to her rescue.  Despite the posturing of the lions, he stood tall, staring down these men that were poised to attack.  He pulled out her chair for her, gifting her with a reassuring smile as he gestured for her to sit, barely glancing at her black eye as she removed her dark sunglasses.  The cast on her arm made it difficult for her to fold her glasses and put them in her purse, so she settled for resting them on the table in front of her, hiding her broken hand under the table.

Suddenly, the air shifted, and everyone turned.  Lifting her eyes, Kathleen saw him.  He was as beautiful as she remembered that day she met him.  She was a real estate agent selling high end homes in Boca Raton.  She had just started her own firm having broken ties with the firm she was working with in New York.  Things had been difficult to start.  She lived in her car during the first month, and then spent nights in the homes she was showing.  When she finally sold her first property, it was a six million dollar beach front house with a six percent commission; she was on her way.  She met Asher Jake when she was working with her thirteenth client.  That should have been the first sign.  Asher was her client's “newest discovery” on a project they were working on.  He brought Asher along to help him decide “which condo was chick worthy.”  That should have been the second sign.  It was easy to overlook these now oh, so obvious signs though because Asher was perfect in every way.  Not only was he every woman’s physical dream come true, but he was the perfect gentleman.

Within the month, Asher proposed.  He was an up and coming movie star, soon to be famous, gorgeous, and treated Kathleen like a queen.  There was just one catch.  Kathleen had to sign a prenuptial agreement.  Of course, this was to protect her, he said – because she had all the money. It was nothing personal, just business.  Kathleen understood.  After less than a year in business on her own, she had made not only a name for herself, but she had a few million of her own in the bank.  A prenup would protect her, it was just business.  The first year Asher worked hard, going on auditions, handing out resumes and tried to get noticed.  They lived comfortably off of Kathleen’s income, but promoting Asher in his new capacity cost money.  Soon, they were living paycheck to paycheck.

But then Asher made it big and most of his work was in California, so Kathleen gave up her real estate practice to move so they could live where Asher could get work.  Besides, Asher was making enough money for both of them, there was no reason for her to work, and after the kids were born, well, it just made more sense for her to stay home with them.  But then Asher started to change.  It was the little things at first.  He had a lot of jobs that were filmed on location.  Before the kids were born, Kathleen always went with Asher to the shoots, but afterwards, well, it was just too much stress on the kids, he said.  Then he would spend more time at the studio when he was filming at home. When she started questioning him, he would get angry.  When she demanded answers, he became violent.  When she found out the truth…

She glanced at Asher as he deliberately sat in the empty seat directly in front of her.  When she caught his eye he mouthed the word “prenup” and grinned wickedly.

His lawyers began the conversation “as per the prenuptial agreement, Ms. Jake is entitled to nothing.  Asher Jake is also entitled to sole custody of the children.  Ms. Jake is entitled to visitation on the weekends and every other Federal holiday.  We’ve drawn up a list of the assets.  The house and its contents were purchased with Mr. Jake’s earnings.  Thus, those belong to Mr. Jake.  Mr. Jake will allow Ms. Jake to keep her clothing and other personals, and Mr. Jake has consented to let her keep the BMW.  If you’ll just sign here, we can conclude this meeting rather quickly.”

Kathleen started to reach for the pen knowing full well what was in the agreement, after all, her attorney had drafted it, but her hand was stayed by her shy and quiet representative.  “As you know, the agreement does not apply if either party is forced to leave the marriage due to infidelity or assault.”

Asher smirked.  Kathleen looked at the table.  She hadn’t filed a police report the night she fled, fearing for the lives of the children she had left behind.  If she filed a police report, he had said, he would kill the children.  The infidelity was her word against his, unless she would come forward, and Kathleen doubted that would happen.  Jake had been too careful in his pursuits.  Even Kathleen hadn’t been certain until she made the accusation.

Slowly, deliberately, Kathleen’s reserved attorney pulled his briefcase into his lap.  Drawing a cell phone from the front pocket he pushed several buttons looking serene as he searched for the evidence that would save his client.  Placing the iPhone in the center of the table, Kathleen heard her screams echo through the plush conference room.  Knowing that even as they sat there police were on the way to the house to take custody of the children Kathleen rose, once again the strong, confident, powerful woman of her past.  Asher seemed to melt into his chair as she glared at him.  Smuggly, she said “What’s mine is mine.  What’s yours…is up for grabs.”  Turning on her heel, she strode, tall and confident, from the conference room.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

First lines and backstory

"Call me Ishmael"
"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair"

Let's face it, many a great novel start with a great line, a memorable line.  Something that not only captures the reader and draws him in, but stays with him long after he has finished reading and lingers, long into posterity.  I speak of this because yesterday on Facebook, Smashwords asked us "Smashers" (that's what we are called) to post the first line of our 4th chapter.  So you're thinking - the fourth chapter?  Who cares?   The first line of my 4th chapter was "Jewell walked into the women’s locker room at the hospital."  This is a rather boring, non-descript line.  So I looked at the first line of the 4th chapter of the book I'm currently reading "Etched in Bone" by Adrian Phoenix "Fury pulsed through Dante like blood."  Wow!  So I flipped to a random chapter - 10 "The trumpet blast faded, rumbling across the horizon like long rolling thunder." Wow!  16 "Dante steered himself toward Bourbon street, hunger drumming a savage tempo through his veins."  You get my point. So I started reaching for other books, and I began to see a pattern emerge.  Sure, every once in a while there was a mundane line, but for the most part, the first lines of chapters hit you like the first lines of books.  There is nothing mundane about the first line of a chapter.

Now a few words about backstory and bringing your character's past into the present.  Adrian Phoenix does this in a way that may or may not work for many authors.  There are three things she does.  First, Dante, the main character, was the subject of experimentation when he was young.  Throughout the story, she has the other characters in the book review his files, thereby bringing bits and pieces of Dante's past into the present.  The second thing she does is flashbacks.  Dante slips into the past periodically, having difficulty distinguishing present situations from past situations.  These all help to catch the reader up on things that we have not read before.  The third thing she does helps to remind the reader of things that have happened in her previous books.  When reflecting on something that has occurred previously, she will flashback and actually include text from the previous incident in her writing.  She actually uses these three elements very effectively, however - I would warn most writers away from her style of writing.  Somehow, I feel that if most people could do this easily, they would.  It seems to me that this use of flashback is difficult to master.

For us newbies, narrative backstory such as that used by Adrian Phoenix would probably bore and alienate the reader.  Thus, we need to find more creative ways (or perhaps different creative ways) to let our readers know the important parts of our characters' pasts.  And that's the key word "important."  The reader doesn't need to know everything.  The reader only needs to know those things that affect the character's decisions or the character's motivation for reaching the goal.  You, on the other hand, should know all of the mundane details about your character, because that will help you to understand what drives your character.

I know - this isn't the Blarney Stone
as I have kissed the real thing,
hanging upside down atop Blarney
Castle in County Cork Ireland, but it
showed the legend and it's a cool pic!
 So how do we let the reader know about the character's past?  Well, a little narrative, a little dialog, a little inner dialog, and perhaps a little prayer to the writing gods.  I also suggest you kiss the Blarney Stone as it is well known that anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone will be sent forth with the gift of eloquence.

©2009 Red Velvet Reads | by TNB