22 October 2015, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 475, Characteristics and Confusion Character Presentation Q and A
Announcement: Ancient Light is delayed due to the economy. You can read more about it at http://www.ancientlight.com. Ancient Light includes the second edition of Aegypt plus Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness. I’ll keep you updated.
Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.
I’m using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I’ll keep you informed along the way.
The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:
1. Don’t confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
All novels have five discrete parts:
1. The initial scene (the beginning)
2. The rising action
3. The climax
4. The falling action
5. The dénouement
The theme statement of my 26th novel, working title, Shape, is this: Mrs. Lyons captures a shape-shifting girl in her pantry and rehabilitates her.
Here is the cover proposal for Lilly: Enchantment and the Computer. Lilly is my 24th novel.
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I’ve started writing Shape.
I’m an advocate of using the/a scene input/output method to drive the rising action–in fact, to write any novel.
1. Scene input (easy)
2. Scene output (a little harder)
3. Scene setting (basic stuff)
4. Creativity (creative elements of the scene)
5. Tension (development of creative elements to build excitement)
6. Release (climax of creative elements)
I can immediately discern three ways to invoke creativity:
1. History extrapolation
2. Technological extrapolation
3. Intellectual extrapolation
Creativity is like an extrapolation of what has been. It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect). Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.
One of my blog readers posed these questions. I’ll use the next few weeks to answer them.
1. Conflict/tension between characters
2. Character presentation (appearance, speech, behavior, gestures, actions)
3. Change, complexity of relationship, and relation to issues/theme
4. Evolving vs static character
5. Language and style
6. Verbal, gesture, action
7. Words employed
8. Sentence length
10. Type of grammar
12. Field of reference or allusion
14. Mannerism suggest by speech
16. Distinct manner of writing or speaking you employ, and why (like Pinter’s style includes gaps, silences, non-sequitors, and fragments while Chekhov’s includes ‘apparent’ inconclusiveness).
Moving on to 2. 2. Character presentation (appearance, speech, behavior, gestures, actions)
An author develops a character first and then reveals the character through the plot. Plot revelation is what it is all about. We do not reveal characters by telling. First develop, then reveal.
Appearance, speech, behavior, gestures, and actions are means of character revelation. I really like this list–let’s look at each piece.
All of the list above provides IDs (identification) and tags the author can use in the novel especially during conversation to keep the characters straight. Let’s put it this way. Have you ever read a book were you couldn’t tell who was talking or you lost track of the characters during conversation? I’ve read many badly written novels and scenes with just that problem. It is a common issue for sloppy and inexperienced writers. The cause is poor id or tag of the characters. The most common example is when a writer brings a character back into a new scene especially when that character has not been present in the novel for a while, or if they are taken out of their original place of introduction. To be most specific, when a character is reintroduced, a name is never sufficient. Also, when a character is introduced, a name is never sufficient.
So, imagine that I properly introduced Bob with about 300 words in an earlier scene. He is, for example, the brother of the protagonist, Jane. I originally introduced him at his house. Now, I bring Bob back in a later scene. If I were to simply bring him into the conversation with “Bob said,” the reader would likely react with–who the heck is Bob? The writer knows all about his own characters, but this is all new revelation to the reader. The use of a simple tag or, in this case, an ID–Bob, Jane’s brother. If Bob had a mustache or a tag gesture, that would help too. If the author adds in the place or a reference to the original introduction in the novel, that can help too. For example, Bob, Jane’s brother, twirled his mustache, “Good morning.”
At the extreme, a shortened description might be appropriate. The overall point for the author is this–don’t assume your readers remember your characters and a name is never enough. Tag gestures and IDs (means of identification) in conversation and the narrative are ways the author can differentiate and communicate the character to his readers. And never forget, the novel is a revelation of the characters.