Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Good Story-Boring Sentences



Loved the Story But Hated the Sentences!

In a previous blog, I said I was writing a story in the Third Person on a gnome named Ansgar.  I write the rough draft in bits and pieces as they come to me.  The following is one paragraph. 

Ansgar returned with the ladder.  He leaned it against a tree.  He sat on the ground.  He watched the night sky.  He watched for the first rays of the sun.  He saw the darkness fade.  He decided to start before it became too light.  He stood and walked to the hole.  


Boring!

I underlined the noun and the pronouns standing for the noun. Notice they all began the sentence. I did not use the tip from last week on Show Don't Tell.  I want to illustrate the point of this blog.

The reader needs to know the character's name in the paragraph, so it is okay, to begin with the name and to begin one sentence with the pronoun, but no more.  The rest of the sentences should not start with the pronoun he or with the proper noun Ansgar.   They may appear later in the sentence but not as the first word. 

 Taking out some pronouns, my story becomes:
Ansgar returned with the ladder, which he leaned against the tree. (Notice I combined two sentences.) Facing East, he put his back against a maple tree and slid down.  The black night sky began to fade to gray as the stars were less visible.  The horizon turned purple, then pink, and began showing a light yellow.  I should start now, or it will be too light for my plan to work.  After he grabbed the ladder, he inched his way to the dark hole. (Italics are used on words the character is thinking.)

Yes, I did change the sentences.  I added more detail; some Show Don't Tell often helps.  However, notice I did use facing as a sentence beginning.  A verb with ing can begin a sentence but use sparingly.  When I was in school, many a long year ago, I was told not to start a sentence with a conjunction.  If you forgot what a conjunction is, it is a connecting word such as and, but, or, however, etc.  However, it is now okay to begin a sentence with a conjunction, but don't overdo.  (See how I started the last sentence, haha.)

An excellent way to begin a sentence is to tell where or when the action happened.  I used the word after to start my last sentence in the story. After he grabbed the ladder. . . . This describes when and moves the word he to the second word.  I could change the first sentence and still let the reader know who the character is by stating, Later Ansgar returned with the ladder. . . . This tells when.

Or, I could begin with the ladder, and write, Against the tree, Ansgar leaned the ladder. This tells where and identifies the character in the first sentence.

Adverbs ending in ly can also be used at the beginning of the sentence, but if you want to publish the story hardly ever, use an adverb.  Agents and publishers don't like them.  Maybe adverbs are used too often. Publishers want strong verbs that don't need help with an adverb.  If you don't want to publish and are writing for yourself and friends, go for it and use adverbs.

Summary of beginning sentences:  use when, where, ing, conjunction, combine sentences and Show Don't Tell. 

I hope this information helps.  Send me any suggestions you have.  Am I going too fast or too slow?  Let me know.

The next blog will be on making your own metaphors and some other little tips that help me.  Those who are writing for pleasure may want to stop after next week.  You can lift off into the atmosphere of creative writing.
Those interested in publishing may want the following week's blog.  Tips that help me to get ready to publish will be posted. 

Whatever your intent for your writing, do it for your enjoyment.  Have Fun.  

One more blog, and we will have climbed the elephant and lifted off into the creative writing atmosphere. 



Sunday, September 20, 2020

Step Five Paint A Picture. Don't Tell

                Paint a Picture   Don't Tell a Fact. 

This is the part of writing I think is fun and challenging.

When I pick up a book to read, I want to experience the story and not read a report on what the characters said or did.  To do this, the characters need to act out the story and show me their emotions.
The readers want to see pictures in their minds as they read. How do we do this? We make our pictures with our words.  We use the sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and feeling.  This sentence gives the facts: she took the mud off her shoes.   The following sentences shows the reader what happened. Taking a stick, she scraped the slimy mud from her shoes.  I see the stick, the mud, and shoes in this last sentence, and I almost feel the slimy mud.  Yuck!
How about this? She felt cold. Isn't it easier to relate to the character with the following sentence?  She rubbed her hands over the goosebumps on her fridged arms to warm them.
We need to show what the character did.
ALSO, we need to describe the emotion and not tell it.  For instance, we would not write Janet was angry, but Janet stomped her feet and pounded on the wall with her fist.  We know what Janet did and felt.
Dialogue can also be used to show emotion.  "Don't patronize me," she said.
"Darling, you are my sunshine," Jim said.
The main characters should show an emotional level and possible growth by the end of the story.
Watch people in your world and see what they do when they are happy, sad, excited, tired, etc.  Write down what you see to use at a later time.  Write down how you react in different situations.  When you read a book, notice how the author shows you the action and emotion of characters.  Write down the ideas.

I promised, in the last blog, to write a story as a beginner.  It will be short and in parts to show different information I have been blogging about.  I want to do this as if I were you trying to start climbing the writing elephant for the first time.  I will make mistakes, some on purpose, and likely some not on purpose.  Here goes.
I chose to write fantasy as I am not familiar with that genre (style of the story).  I am a beginner.
We all have seen garden gnomes, so I decided to write about gnomes, the real ones, not the much bigger statues.  As I do not know anything about gnomes, I am doing some research.  It is not as much research as I would do with an unfamiliar topic. I did enough to write sentences to be illustrative of the writing ideas presented in the blogs.
At the beginning of my writing years, I did not know about POV (point of view), so I won't consider that until later in my story.  I will start off with characters, settings, and some conflict.  I will write a few sentences in the bare bones, and then I will rewrite the sentences with the Show, Don't Tell.

Might be Gnomes and Troublesome Trolls

The mouse brought a slipper to the bed, and Algot got up.  She put the slipper on and found the other one and put it on.  She petted the mouse's head. She put water in the tea kettle and added dried leaves to the little fire in the stove.  Then she headed for the bathroom.

Ansgar heard his wife putting the kettle on and sticks his feet out of bed.  He put on his pants, shirt, boots, hat.
Algot leaves the bathroom, and Ansgar enters.  Algot wakes up the twins and begins to make breakfast.

NOW: SHOW DON'T TELL
The small gray mouse dragged the fluffy slipper to the alcove bed.  He scratched lightly at the wood. Algot opened her eyes, yawned, stretched, and said, "Thank you, Squeak.  I'm up.  She pushed the warm quilt down. Reaching out, she scratched Squeak's head.  She slipped the cozy slipper on and then searched for the other one.
"There it is. Squeak, you need to put your youngest baby in your nest under the table.  Did he crawl in there by himself?  Children! After putting on her slippers, she filled the tea kettle with water from the kitchen pump and set it on the stove.  Some dry leaves were added to the little fire, and she shuffled off to the bathroom.
Ansgar yawns and stretches before he gets out of the alcove bed he shared with his wife.  Rubbing his eyes, he looks about and sees his clothes where he left them the dawn before.  He yanks on his brown-green pants with suspenders,  slips his head into his blue smock shirt, and tugs on his birch-bark shoes.
Ansgar enters the bathroom.  He combs his white hair and beard and washes his face.  He lifts his red peaked cap from the hatstand and places it firmly on his head.  His bulbous nose twitches as he smells breakfast. 

I haven't written the conflict yet—another time.   
  



Monday, September 14, 2020

Number Four Step is Plots

Number Four in our steps up the Elephant                                    Ladder is Plots! 

You may have a plot idea already.  Great!  A story is a plot with characters, conflicts, and settings.  In our last blog, we covered characters and conflicts as they are entwined.  All characters have conflicts, and all conflicts have characters involved.  Now, we need a setting: a place and time for the conflict to happen and the characters to react.

So, let's look at the setting.  The setting is the time and the place where the story happens. It can be the same place all through the entire story, such as in a house or a forest.  Or the place can change as the characters move through the conflicts. You can make an entirely new place and time for your setting, such as Mars in 3030.  If you are making up something entirely new for a place it needs to be relatable to the readers.  That is also true for the time.  The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears would not be believable if Goldilocks called her parents on a cell phone for help or flew away on a jet. 

The characters can dictate the setting.  I write about the Old West in the 1800s, so my place and time are defined.  I research to find out what plants grew, in the area if there was a steam locomotive train service nearby, what did the people use for building houses, how did the people dress, etc.  Then I describe it so my readers can visualize the place and time.

If you are writing a modern-day mystery or romance you will likely not need to do much description to make the setting believable.

Now that we have character, conflict, and setting, we have a plot.  As explained before, the conflicts are problems, external or internal, or both, that makes sense in the setting.  You need a serious problem your reader can identify with and does not have an easy answer or solution.  The plots are character-driven by the way they react to the conflict.

There are three basic plots.

NUMBER ONE BASIC PLOT

Character(s) trying to reach a goal.  In the first or second scene of the story, introduce the goal (such as solve the murder), and show how much the character(s) wants it.  In this plot, there is usually a protagonist(hero), and an antagonist (villain).

The entire middle section should be of the struggle to reach the goal.  It should have unforeseen obstacles, a step or two to resolve the problems, and then a step or two backward.  Be sure you show the emotion and the action. (Show vs Telling is coming up in a Blog  Until then, it is okay to tell.).

The end of the story is the resolution.  It should answer the questions, does the character(s) achieve the goal or not.  Does the character change?  The plot could be a mystery, a romance, a fantasy, any fiction story you want to write.

NUMBER TWO BASIC PLOT

The character(s) is living in a difficult situation. In the first or second scene, describe the difficult situation the character(s) is living in and wanting to change it or accept it.  Difficult situations could be living in poverty and not being able to finish school  Maybe there is a bully to contend with.
The middle section of the  story should be filled with the struggles and obstacles the character(s) finds in the path.  It should have a step or two forward and then obstacles pop-up. You can show the character(s) on both sides of the situation.  For now, you can tell the action and emotions and after we look at showing and not telling, you can go back and change this part of your story, if you wish to do so.

At the end of the story is the resolution.  Does the situation change, or does the character accept it?


NUMBER THREE BASIC PLOT

The character(s) is facing a decision.  In the first scene or two, show the character in the middle of a dilemma.  Example: moving to a city to take a new job and others don't want him/her to move. Many decisions need to be made in life.  In a mystery, the detective may not want to solve the crime if he/she thinks if the suspect is a loved one. 

In the middle of the story show the pros and cons of each choice as the character struggle with the decision.

At the end is the resolution.  Show the choice that was made, how it affects the character, and how he/she feels about it.  Does the character regret the decision?

ALL STORIES

Now, let's talk about the first scene or two.  Besides identifying the problem, you need to identify and describe the primary and secondary characters.  The description should be what is necessary to tell the story and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest.
The first or second scene should also establish the setting.  Will it be on Mars in 3010, or in England in 1950 or the little made-up town of Whip-a-Shaw in 1840?  If the location is unfamiliar to the reader, you will need to describe the place and time in a way that makes the setting believable for the characters to live in and solve conflicts.  If your characters lived in a desert area in 1810, they would not be driving a Chevys on paved roads and getting to the next town, which is a hundred miles away in one-and-a-half hours.  Did you know that oxen pulling a wagon will travel 5 miles an hour?  Notice, the Harry Potter books need descriptions of this unknown world, at least to us mortals.  Also, the first scene or two need to "hook" the readers so they will want to read more and not put the book down.  Their brain will be asking, What will happen, next?"  We will get to "hooks"  later on.  

A summary of plots could be stated like this.  A Plot in the story is the conflicts the characters are involved in and the setting in which it happens. The action is driven by characters and their reaction to obstacles and events.

Write your story.  Don't worry if you think it is not following all this information.  Just get it down.


Next week we will look at this show don't tell concept.  Then you can look at your story and see if you can make some changes to enhance the reader's experience.

Last night I was thinking of this blog and it dawned on me I need to look at writing as I saw it when I first started.  I need to look at it through a beginner's eyes.
So next week, I am going to add to the end of the blog the way I would begin as a new writer.  I will chose a genre I am not familiar with as well as characters and setting I  know nothing about.  You will see the rough version and then in later blogs you can see my changes.  Hopefully, in the end, there will be a little story.


Write.  Write for Fun.  Use your imagination. Write.  Write.  Write. 


You may print the blog.
Please send me any questions or suggestions you have.  Also, I would like to know what genre you want to write.  Is it a mystery, fantasy, romance, science fiction, etc.?  Toodle-loo.














Monday, September 7, 2020

Number Two Step is Characters and Number Three Step is Conflict

 πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒNumber Two Step is Characters

Now, we get into the fun stuff.  The Characters!

Characters can be animals such as Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, or the animals in the forest such as in Rory Gumboots by Eileen Moynihan (both told in the third person) or Black Beauty by Anna Seawell (told in the first person).  Characters could be about wizards as in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, or the characters could be about children in the Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  The characters could be space aliens, or dragons, or robots or private detectives or ordinary people getting caught up in a mystery, a drama, an adventure, a romance, or a dilemma.  The character could be YOU.  Whatever you dream up for a character is wonderful.


HOWEVER, the characters, even the fairies, the monsters, the good and the bad ones must be BELIEVABLE.  The reader must be able to relate to the characters in some manner.  The reader needs to see human qualities in the characters even if the characters are not human.  If the reader does not see something they can relate to, they will not understand what the struggle (the conflict) is about and why it is important.

Characters give the story meaning and make the reader care about the events that happen.

We, as writers, need to know what the main character wants and how far he/she or they will go to get it. We also need to know what the obstacles are that stand in his/her, or their way and what will happen if he/ she or they fail.  This we must show to the reader.

Erma Bombeck was a humorist and wrote in the first person.  The reader would laugh at her take on the life situations as she saw them. The reader could relate to those same situations in life.  We all have life struggles and she showed the reader her take on the conflicts in a relatable manner.

This is also important in working with our characters.  We must decide how the characters change as they battle their way through the obstacles.  If they do not change we need to show how they learn to accept the situation and continue on. 

The protagonist is a fancy word for the hero, and the antagonist is a fancy word for the villain.  If you use the protagonist and antagonist you sound very smart. 

Most stories have a hero (the protagonist) and a villain ( the antagonist).  We need to show that both major characters and the minor characters are relatable.  They are not perfect, and they are not entirely evil.

Only part of the information above is true if the villain is nature, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, etc. that the hero is battling.  Of course, these villains would not have, in themselves, relatable concepts. But, still, there would be plenty of action and obstacles.  (And human nature being what it is, there will likely be some human obstacles as the hero encounters these natural disasters).

The main characters, hero, and villain need to have emotions and motives, and actions.  They need to express them in their own way.  We will look at how to do that in another blog soon.  It is an important concept of writing, so don't skip that blog.  

πŸ’£πŸ’£πŸ’£πŸ’£πŸ’£Number Step Three is                                                Conflicts

Conflicts, we all have them. For the characters in your story, the conflicts can be real or maybe the character is imagining a problem.  The house is still, and dark.  Everyone, except little five-year-old Susy, is asleep.  She lays in her bed with the covers close to her head.  Sh-Sh-Shuffle. The monster living under her bed is coming out.  Her parents have shown her many times there isn't a monster under her bed, but Susy knows better.

Our Imaginations are powerful!

There are internal and external conflicts; we all face both, and so will the characters.

Some conflicts are at the beginning of our story and others could pop-us later.

An external conflict could be with another character or a group of characters, or weather, a bully, poverty, looking for a missing person or trying to solve any problem that is important to the character. 

Characters and conflicts and solving them make the PLOT.  If at the opening of your story there is a murder you need to show the reader who was murdered, how it was done if it is known at the beginning, how does the hero find out about the deadly deed, what is the motive, are there red herrings (things that are considered clues pointing one way but turn out to be false), is the correct person arrested?  How is everyone's life affected?

I wrote a short story, "Maze", where a man died in his house, in his favorite room where he grew exotic flowers.  The police decided it was murder.  There were three suspects, all with motive and opportunity. There was enough evidence for all three but only circumstantial.  Then a police officer's wife looked at the crime scene photos and made a few comments which led the officer to look at a suicide where the victim staged his death to look like murder as he did not like the three people who would benefit from his death. So, was it murder or suicide?

I was chuckling and grinning all the time I wrote the story.  And I topped it off with the detective fantasizing he would kill his boss.  He thought about it so hard he began to believe one day that he did.  He didn't.  His internal conflict was with his boss and his over imagination.

The internal conflict could be a secret that is kept, a fear, self-doubt, going against ethics or morals or religious code, guilt, phobias, anger issues, disappointments, depression, loneliness, lack of self-confidence, embarrassment, etc.  The list could go on and on.

External conflict can lead to internal strife.

Internal strife can lead to external conflict.

You could even put in sub-plots with some minor characters.  More on that another time.

Conflict is the main point of the story.  It drives the story.  To be interesting, the story has to be about characters striving for something while other characters or circumstances try to keep them from getting it.  

Erma Bombeck put a humorist view of her conflicts in life. Ordinary, mundane things in life can be conflicts for us, especially now in the days of Covid-19,  Things grow out of proportion in how they affect us.  

Next week we will look at Plots.  "Wait," you say.  "Aren't conflicts plots?"  "Yes, they are, and some of today's information will appear next week but more will be added. So, stay tuned, as to a soap opera.  You ain't heard or seen it all yet," I say. Characters and Conflicts are part of plots so we are well on our way in working on it, but we will look a bit deeper next week.  But don't wait.  Write, and write, and write.

Enjoy the writing.  Write for Fun!

You may print this blog if you wish to do so. I can't print from my blog directly, maybe you can.  If not, try to select all, right-click, copy, open a blank word page, and paste.  I hope that works for you.

Please send me any questions, suggestions, or comments.  Love to hear from you. Pat.



  




Monday, August 31, 2020

Number One Step is POV

 Number One  Step is POV


Welcome everyone, here we begin climbing the writing elephant.  We will do it one step at a time.
If you have written a story, short or long, you can look at it as we discuss this week's post.  If you haven't written a story, see if you can write one this week.  A page or two is enough.

First, we need to go to step one which is POV.   I am sure you are thinking, Okay, Pat, you have lost me already.  I was lost, too, when I first started.  What is POV?   It is Point Of View.  What is Point of View?

If you have a copy of your favorite fiction book, look at any page and I am sure (almost) that the book is written in Third Person  Unlimited Point of View.   That is the POV I use in the fiction books I write.

Third Person Point of View Unlimited is the characters have names and the pronouns of he, she, it, they, her, him,  etc are used in the story. This is easy to understand and do and likely used in the books you like to read.  Now if you want to be high sounding you can call this POV   Omniscient Point of View. ( omniscient is hard to spell and hard to say (om nish ent), so I don't say it).
 Example of Third Person Point of View Unlimited.  Lucy spun her chair around and around until she swayed with dizziness. The boys banged into the room, and they yelled at her.


There is Third Person Limited POV which is about one character.  This is very confusing and I will skip it unless someone emails me or writes in the comment section they want more information on it.  I don't use it.

There is First Person with I or we as telling the story. Examples would be a story with all the sentences like this one.  I walked up the steps to the top of the building and took out my binoculars. We took out our pencils and began writing our stories.   This is used in memories and autobiographies.  Charles Dickens did write a fiction novel Bleak House, where every other chapter was in the first person.  Black Beauty was written in the first-person point of view of a horse.    It revolutionized the treatment of horses in the Victorian age.

 

The second Point of View is not used in fiction.  It is used in historical or political books or commentaries.  If you want more information on it let me know. This blog is written in second point of view as I am writing to you. 

By the way, I have never had a reader ask me what POV I write in. So why is it important for the writer to know. It helps to know POV to not head-hop. We will discuss that another time. No head-hopping!.


 

Take a look at what you have written and decide what POV it is in.  If you need help let me know. 

Bonus Tips:

I am told writers should not use the word VERY, as it gets overused.

Very noisy could be deafening

Very often could be frequently

Very old could be ancient  

Bonus Tips: Showing how the character feels (this will be discussed later).

Looking forward to something could be shown by the character by her rubbing her hands together, licking her lips, unable to sit still, grin.

The character is amused could be shown by thrown the head back in laughter, clap hands, shake with laughter, the character holding his sides in laughter. 

Write in the comments section or send me an email if you have any questions or suggestions.

You have my permission to print this posting. (The blog will not let me copy it so I highlight the post, I right-click and choose copy, go to my desktop and open the folder, pull up a new page, and right-click paste.