Monday, December 31, 2012

A Rant About Mady

I wrote a post not long ago about how I didn't have a clear picture of my characters' appearances in my mind while writing them.

In it, I posted two pictures of two young ladies; I thought that those women looked the way I imagined the young daughters of my protagonist would look like when they became adults.

A good chunk of the plot of my WIP revolves around the girls having different mothers and therefore, looking different. That is, having different mothers and being identified as different races makes my fictional family an oddity in Georgian England. I should add that it isn't the fact that their father has two children with different women (lots of men did) or of different races (once again, lots of men did) that makes them peculiar; it's that their father raises them together, as equals their whole lives, that makes many of the villagers scratch their heads.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Transitions Are A Nuisance

Transitions. By definition, a transition is a word, scene, page break, scene break, summarization that eases the reader from one part of a fictional story to the next in the narrative or to a different point of view.

Phrases like "Afterwards" and "Three days later" and "In the autumn" are transitional phrases.

Transitions tend to be part of that great mass of invisible writing. Like the word "said" is supposedly invisible to our brains and descriptions are meant to paint a scene and not force the author's vision into a reader's head, transitions are--and should be--invisible because they have to do with the flow of the words.  They smooth, cushion and direct the reader: this chapter is ending or this scene is ending or the point-of-view (POV is another blog post for another day) is changing.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

10,000 page views!

This blog has now hit 10,000 page views!!

Wishing everyone out there a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Casting Your Characters: What Do They Look Like?

Inspired by this thread on the AW forums.

I realized somewhere in the course of this WIP that I didn't know what my characters looked like, beyond basics: if they were tall or short, blond or brunette or in-between, what color their eyes were, and if they were pale or olive-skinned or brown.

I have a folder on my computer with some images--English manor houses, Regency-era paintings, actors in period clothing--but while some of these actors might look like a few of my characters, I don't think of it as a casting sheet. I don't know that it's that important that I know exactly what my characters look like. Do you know what your characters look like? Or do you have your basic stats and maybe a face or voice in your head?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Downton Abbey Christmas Special promo

Via Downton Abbey addicts. The trailer for Downton Abbey's Christmas special (airing Christmas Day in the UK) was released Saturday, I believe:

You can check out some promo pictures here: ITV promo for DOWNTON ABBEY (2012) Christmas Special

Handwritten story, circa '99

Once upon a time, back in the Stone Age...

Okay, that's an exaggeration. Anyway. I rediscovered these notebooks crammed in between books on my shelves last night. They are fairly thin notebooks, from a relative or family friend who came to visit from Japan, bearing gifts for the whole family.

I, like many a budding writer in the days before laptops, coveted notebooks. My parents soon learned that bringing me along to Staples was an expensive venture, because I wanted pens and notebooks the way most kids want video games and ice cream.

Circa 1999, I wrote my first "novel" in the pages of these notebooks. I don't know what the official page count was. Truth is, I don't remember what it was about. But I remember staying up past bed time in my room, sitting on my bed, pencil and notebook in hand and continuing the story on from whatever point I'd left it the night before. I'd write it by lamplight, no outline, a total pantser.

I think it's about a dysfunctional family and a girl with a boy for a best friend? I don't remember, but this was post-6th grade, story-a-week "I want to be a writer" time and pre-fanfiction writing. Can we call it part of my "Juvenilia?"

Friday, December 7, 2012

The West Indies, 1790s

Basic writing wisdom, if there is such a thing, says when writing a scene, get in and get out. Get in at the last possible moment before the point of the scene and leave the scene and move on soon after that point is made.

That applies to novels as a whole as well. When I was reading submissions as a literary agency intern, I noticed that authors often had too much backstory in the first two chapters. Or the first chapter was all exposition.  I'm guilty of this too, especially in first draft when I'm exploring the idea.

Ruined plantation house in Saint Lucy, Barbados. Attribution: Postdif from w.

But in the case of my WIP, I've decided that some backstory is necessary to show. My characters lived in the Caribbean before moving to England in 1800. The book opens as they sail toward Bristol. But after ruminating on it and reading Plot and Structure, I see that "the first doorway of no return"--the first plot point--is an important character death which sends my fictional family away from the West Indies to England. Hence, research on the West Indies in the 1790s.

Britain and France were at war from 1793 until 1815. I vaguely knew that Britain and France got up to a lot of island hopping and fighting among their Caribbean territories during this long conflict. But since I didn't intend to set any of my book in the Caribbean--despite my characters' connection and past on Barbados--I skimmed over that and concentrated my research more on Britain in 1798-1801.

Yeah. Big mistake. If you ever find something during research that will provide background, even if you think you won't use it, do make note of it.

Barbados was a calm island in the 1790s. It was considered to have a good proportion of whites to blacks and most of its slaves had been born and raised on the island by the 1790s. It was the first Caribbean island that many British ships reached and docked at upon entering the West Indies. Barbados did not have a revolt until 1816.

But there were fears on Jamaica, for instance, of a major slave revolt. Why then, specifically?

St. Domingue, now Haiti. St. Domingue was a French colony. It was the largest market for African slaves and produced 30% of the world's sugar supply. It produced more sugar and coffee than all of the British West Indian islands combined.
Sketch of the Haitian Revolution, 1791. From Wikimedia Commons.

In 1791, St. Domingue's slaves rose up in rebellion, inspired by the French Revolution taking place in their mother country. They burned, killed, slaughtered across the northern part of the colony. The French were confident they could put down the revolt. But the slaves evaded the French soldiers and the Assembly then granted full rights to mulattos, then in 1794, formally decreed the end of slavery in French territories.

Britain, with warships in the West Indies to protect its own colonies, swept into St. Domingue, eager for the colony's sugar, welcomed by French royalist planters. Britain also captured the French territories of St. Lucia, Martinique, and Guadeloupe.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It Was All a Dream

This post contains spoilers about Breaking Dawn: Part 2. 

A friend and I went to see the last Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn: Part 2, on Thursday night. Although we have both read the Twilight series--a few years ago, to the point where we don't quite remember details--we're not fans of the series, per se. We have a little tradition, where we go to Times Square, buy tickets for whichever theater on 42nd Street is playing the Twilight movie, and then go eat barbeque and get slightly tipsy before going into the movie.

Watching those movies with a buzz is the best way to see them.

As usual, the movie was entertaining in an unintentionally funny way, with some of the most wooden but hilarious acting and cringe-worthy dialogue.

Also, many lessons on how NOT to write a story.

For example, you know that old adage about minor characters becoming more interesting than the protagonists? Completely true for Breaking Dawn. The Volturi, played by Michael Sheen (my friend and I clapped quietly whenever he came up on screen), Jamie Campbell Bower, Dakota Fanning and others, are by the far the most entertaining characters on screen. They are interesting, powerful, have presence and you know, can actually act.

Also, a climax.  As in, it's important to have one. The big storyline through the series is Bella and Edward, the danger of her knowing about the Cullens and whether or not she will finally become a vampire. In the last movie, Bella is a vampire and the tension of the story hinges on the Volturi and their belief that Renesmee was a human child turned into a vampire by the Cullens.

A large battle commences as the vampires face off. Carlisle Cullen's head gets snapped off by Aro and the theater went, "Whoa!" in unison. Did not happen in the book. Tension, finally.

But then..."it was all a dream." Or a vision. The big cop out of writing, a great way to get out of a corner. The battle was only a possibility about what could happen. So, as in the book, nothing really happened.

You know what writers say about stories in which nothing happens? Ugh! No conflict. Boring.

All right, writers. Fess up. I know you've read Twilight. Have you seen the movies? What did you think of this last installment?