Saturday, June 30, 2012

Symbolism and follies

I am on page 212 of revision.I realized the other night, while going back in the manuscript to check a detail, that I actually have symbolism in here. So what? you say. Isn't that par for the course with novels?

I have ranted in the past about all the English classes in high school where symbolism was such a big deal. Here.
Here are some of the more ridiculous examples I remember from high school English:

  • Holden Caulfield's hat was a symbol for his hunt for...what was he hunting for again? 
  • Oh, yeah. And "Holden" could symbolize his efforts to "hold on." (Hold on to what? Being a brat?)
  • Ethan Frome and the sled being a need to escape. I thought that one was quite obvious, actually. 
Symbolism is defined as the practice of representing things by symbols or by investing things with a symbolic meaning or character. 
James McAvoy and Keira Knightley in Atonement

The broken vase in the beginning of Atonement. The moors in Wuthering Heights. Lady Mary's stuffed dog in the second season of Downton Abbey. Harry Potter's scar. They all represent something about the characters or the plot that is deeper than it initially appears. 

I find that symbolism can be read far too much into. Sometimes it's blue because the author typed "blue" and it doesn't mean anything more than that. If the symbol is not chosen well, it comes across as forced and doesn't work. Or perhaps it's not associated well with what it is meant to represent or it's not clear. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

200 pages of revision=blog party for myself

I hit my 200th page of my Marginally OK Second Draft tonight, which means that I have about 150 pages left and then hopefully somebody will read it and I get to revise all over again...

Anyways. Here's my reaching 200 pages party.

First, gratuitous current crush picture. It's from Wimbledon, which opened yesterday. It's just candid enough that I can pretend that I was lurking in the background somewhere.


You might not recognize him--a friend who saw his latest release exclaimed, "Whoa! He looks so different!" when I helpfully Googled him for her. He was in The Avengers, which I blogged about back in May: here.

Second, Thought Catalog article about current crush: Husband Material, Volume 7: Tom Hiddleston

And finally, via Downton Abbey Addicts. If you like your period dramas as I do. This is hilarious. Jane Austin is My Homegirl (Down Town Abbey) Rap

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

4,000 views

Hey everyone--

This blog hit 4,000 page views today. Thank you!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The London Season: 19th century society


Almack's, from http://www.regrom.com/2008/10/05/regency-hot-spots-almacks/

For the fashionable people and the social climbers of centuries past, the London Season was the highlight of the social year.

Parliament was in session. Debutantes were presented at Court and had their debut balls. Royal Ascot occurred during the Season, as did the Derby, and the regatta. Calls were paid, routs and balls were thrown, huge amounts of money were won and lost by gambling and people were engaged to be married.

For most of the year, many families would live on their country estate. Come early spring, they would move to either their London home or rented accommodation, if they chose to participate in the Season. On Downton Abbey, the Crawley family leave Yorkshire for London for Sybil's debut, for example. They refer to staying at Grantham House, their London home.

Aunt Rosamund: “There’s nothing like an English summer, is there?!”
Mary: “Except an English winter.” 
Aunt Rosamund: “I’m sorry you haven’t received more invitations. But then after four seasons one is less a debutante than a survivor.” 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Never Seconds, and the time Sunflower's article was banned in school

Let me tell you a little story about a school paper called The Beacon. I was on that paper, in high school, for two years. I wrote several articles in it, as well as copyediting bits and pieces as needed. Our advisor was very fond of reminding us not to plagiarize.

One day, our advisor told me that he wanted me to research and write an article about censorship--particularly of school papers. So I wrote the article--I can't remember a word of it and I'm pretty sure it was awful to begin with. It wasn't incendiary in the least.

I thought.

Because our principal banned us from giving out the paper.

It became our most popular issue.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Climax

I am on page 168 of my revision. I'm running about five pages ahead of my first draft at this point in the story.

It also means that I am about to reach the climax. The image above is Freytag's classic pyramid. I remember learning this in English class in high school. Freytag came up with this after studying ancient Greek dramas and Shakespeare.

Plotting has never really been my strong suit when it comes to writing. I think for a long time I thought it was the list of events that occurred in the story and not really a moving forward of the plot. If I was more of a plotter, then I think endings would've come easier to me.

The further into this rewrite I get, the more analyzing I am doing. I've been trying to think of what is the climax of this story; or, which climax is The Climax.

I've got:

  • The payoff on the 'Alexandra is an impulsive tomboy' arc
  • The 'we have different mothers?' storyline
  • Either the formation of or the breakup of Miles' ill-advised affair 
  • The village racist learns about the affair and uses it against Miles
  • Miles meets with his irascible father
Because it's a novel, there are several arcs and subplots going on at the same time. And maybe, in reality, all of these dramatic scenes make up the climax together. So maybe this model of dramatic structure is more appropriate:
I'll have to see what the AbsoluteWrite forums say about plotting and climaxes. Meanwhile, what's the climax of your story, if you're writing one? And do you think most novels have more than one climax or not?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sharing a Link: Danger of Superficial History in Fiction

Read this blog post and was reminded why I'm compelled to write the characters I am writing:

The Danger of Superficial History in Fiction

I like the look of the Regency, for instance. Jane Austen. Bath. Empire dresses. Balls.

But I've become interested in the real history of the Georgian and Regency eras as well and irritated by the endless drove of dukes and other assorted nobles. Any time Ireland is mentioned at this time, of course, I know what that really means. Or any time someone mentions a plantation on Jamaica, that means slavery. Or India: colonization. Macau and Canton: colonization, opium.

As one learns about the real history and the personalities of the time, you start thinking, "Well, where is all of this stuff in my historical romance novels?"

When I thought up the fictional family in my WIP, I started researching for real families of the Georgian era like them. I'm biracial, but that doesn't mean that I read a book and go, "Where's the ethnic minority in this story?" I tend to find the token minority an eyeroll-worthy experience. On the one hand, let's not pretend that the British aristocracy in the late 1700s were all-accepting of other types of people or religions. Let's not pretend that they are all mixed-race in some way. But on the other hand, let's not pretend that the late 1700s was necessarily a time when different people of different races never met or interacted.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mourning Customs

Sunflower here, looking up mourning customs.

Morbid, huh?

The family in my WIP are in mourning because their wife and mother has died before the start of the story. However, my character Miles being himself, he chose not to have black mourning dresses made for his young daughters. As a man, all he needs for mourning wear is a black armband and black gloves.

I've had to go back and look up specific points of mourning customs because I have a character who is a widow and she grows in importance from page 150 onwards, so I want to be sure that I get the mourning aspect of her character correct.