Thursday, February 28, 2013

Character Deaths v. 2.0

I call this post version 2.0 because there is already a post on this blog about Character Deaths. Also, the video above is Mumford & Sons performing "Ghosts That We Knew." 

I have killed many characters in my time. The bulk of them died because I was bored with them or there was no plot and the story wouldn't progress without something happening--so I sacrificed the character. I doubt that I gave any of these past characters a really satisfying death scene.

Killing off Eva's mother, Evangeline, pre-story, and Brixton's dad, in-story, in Last Request was meant to psychologically scar both of them, but the way the deaths came out was not emotionally satisfying. They were too surface, if you get what I mean. 

Well, part of the work I'm doing for Draft Three of the WIP is starting it earlier in the timeline. That is, instead of opening it upon arrival in England or onboard the ship taking them to England, I've started it on the plantation Miles lived on with his wife and two kids.

And on page 52, Miles's wife, Delphine, dies.

By page 50 in a novel, a reader has to know the protagonist, have an idea of where the story is going, what the character's wants and goals are. By page 50, as one of the writing books I've read in the last few months have said, the character has to go through a doorway of no return--the first plot point.

I knew it was coming up. I wasn't sure how Delphine died, except that it was illness. I wrote her death scene at 1 am last night and after I was done, I felt really sad.

I don't know that I've ever felt sad over one of my characters dying before.

Of course, this could simply be those nightmarish dreams I had the other day (a recurring one, in fact, where there's a dude and a gun). Or that it's been raining and cloudy and gloomy here in New York for most of the week. Or that I watched That Scene with Sybil from Downton Abbey one too many times. Or that I listened to "Ghosts That We Knew" a lot. Or that I've been with these characters for...what? two and a half years? 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

It wasn't that I was looking for a writing book to read. But I find that I'm a lot more open to writing books or writing advice or writing tips these days. I blame this entirely on joining the AbsoluteWrite community, where I spend my days geeking out on writing topics.

Several posters on AW recommended Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, 2nd edition, by Renni Browne and Dave King.

Not only did I find the book helpful and insightful, it's also the first book I've highlighted on my Kindle. I'll go back and do the writing exercises in there some other time. I might buy the hard copy for that. Having to flip back to the chapter and then go back to the writing exercises feels like so much more of a chore on a Kindle.

I like these ideas on narrative summary, something I have difficulty finding the balance of:

Narrative summary has its uses, the main one being to vary the rhythm and texture of your writing. Scenes are immediate and engaging, but scene after scene without a break can become relentless and exhausting, especially if you tend to write brief, intense scenes. 

I also enjoyed this passage, on proportion:

If you have some plot development that you want to come as a surprise, spend less space on it before you spring it on your readers. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ye Olde Historical Epidemics

So. I started this thread on AW today. To reiterate, I'm killing off a character in about twenty pages and I need to decide how she dies.

You see, in draft 2, the death was backstory and I was able to get away with referring to this character's death as a "sudden tropical fever." I can't do that in this draft because her death is a big plot point.

My basic fictional requirements: something quick. Something doctors did not know how to cure. It's summer 1799 in Barbados, so something tropical will do. My problem is that, as of now, I haven't been able to find any references on whether Barbados had any kind of endemics or epidemics that year.

My top three choices are:
Yellow Fever
Typhoid Fever

One of the more unpleasant facts of historical fiction is the lack of hygiene and medication available in ye olden days. By the late 18th century, however, there were some preventative measures which were understood, so it wasn't as if I need to worry too much about balancing the humors or the plague.

When I think of historical epidemics, I think of this:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Who Do You Write Like?

It's an analyzer. Cut and paste something in and be entertained. Try it here. 

I put in a blog post and got this:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

I put in the first page of the new beginning of my novel and got this:

I write like
Edgar Allan Poe
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Predictions for Downton Abbey Season 4

Downton Abbey season 4 has started filming. Here are some predictions for season 4. Agree or disagree? Do you have your own storylines in mind? Sound off in the comments below. Contains spoilers for season 3.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday, Blog! (With a Short Story)

Dear readers, followers, subscribers, random visitors, commenters, and friends,

The Sunflower's Scribbles is 4 years old today. Aren't you excited? When I began the blog, I didn't think that I'd still be writing it four years later. And yes, sometimes it feels like I've run out of topics to post about--

But somehow, it's kept going.

I am, still, working on my novel. That is, the novel. I am, as ever, trying to improve as a writer. But writing is learning--especially if you're trying to be a historical fiction writer.

I wanted to do something special for this 4th Blog Birthday.

I thought of engaging a guest blogger. (in fact, one of my friends STILL owes me an essay on romance in Downton Abbey--let's see what she thinks after she finishes season 3...)

I thought of writing a new short story for the occasion.

I thought of talking about my cousin's fanfiction (I may still do that. Or badger her into guest posting about it. Ahem.)

Instead, I'm giving you a short story that I wrote in college. Specifically, in WP211C--Short Story #2. And by short, I mean 7 pages.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

An Update to Concert Etiquette

An edit and update of this past post: A short post on concert (or really, any live performance) etiquette

I went to a concert last night and I've been to a few plays in the past few months. So, here we go:

Continuing on:

6. Don't text during a musical. Just don't.

7. For the love of the God, learn how to turn your phone to silent.

8. Shut up during the quieter songs.

9. I can understand shuffling around in your seats to get a better view or because you have to go to the bathroom or want to get something to drink, but could you not do it every five seconds? Honestly.

10. Don't shout across the section trying to propose a switch between you and some strangers because the strangers are sitting closer to your friends.

11. It's okay to laugh when something is funny. Just because It's The Theater doesn't mean it's not allowed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Oh, That's Nice

Ever hear the phrase "any reaction is better than no reaction?" It's the truth when it comes to creative endeavors, whether it's music or a play or a novel. Beyond making a story work and be logical, satisfying and good is the basic underlying hope that it will elicit some sort of reaction.

Even if a person tells you they hate it, at least it evoked some kind of emotion or connection. My Beta recently told me that a particular story line in my book didn't work for her--it confused her and she didn't think it was necessary. Her dislike of that storyline made me go back, read it and think that an alternative would actually be more interesting. And certainly would show my MC in a better light, I think.

Do I want to make my Beta cry with my next draft? Do I want to make her contemplate some aspect of human nature by the end? Examine some historical or social event or attitude? It'd be nice, but not necessarily.

I just want to avoid the "Oh, that's nice" reaction because that's no reaction at all.