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and from a mystery writer named Shelly Singer. The two courses were very different in their attitudes, but both offered some very valuable insights. Comments by Lewis Buzbee: In many bad novels, the sense of shame and politeness is kept intact, so that the novel doesn't go into those private things which are normally too private and shameful to mention. In novels, the secret life is visible. Don't put a barrier between this secret life and the reader. We want to find within the main characters the whole raggedy bundle of that character, including the contradictions. What are your characters trying to get? What are they trying to give? How do these two urges work against each other? We don't normally read novels for plot. Novels are to baseball as movies are to football. The novel is a messy thing. André Gide: A novel is a journey from innocence to experience. A novel starts with a mystery we can't understand until we've gone back in time. Even in philosophical novels, we are drawn to the character s because of who they are, not because of their ideas. The main characters in beginners' novels are often too nice: boring. Don't be afraid to offend, to exaggerate. People who wait for things to happen to them tend not to be interesting. What is your character's quest/ambition? In a beginner's novel, frequently what's boring is the main character.
How is the character both altruistic and selfish? Make your characters smarter! Give them some edge. Don't think beyond the first draft. Don't worry about simultaneous submissions. The letters of Anton Chekhov and Flannery O'Connor are best books on revision. Go ahead and submit simultaneously. and stand. counter-turn. From the minor characters. On revision: Piece of Work.especially the beginning --. Take chances.is an act of seduction.The inner qualities of a character are made visible through action. we learn about the society the characters are immersed in. etc. Is your novel set in the inevitable place for your novel? The novel --. And inaction. You have to be playful in the revision. Aristotle said that action is character. dialogue. You'll only know how to write the novel when you've finished the first draft. The reader has to believe that the world they're stepping into is whole and entire. You are constantly flirting with the reader. Turn. Conflict: X wants something and Y is not going to give it up. You have to establish this at the beginning. Keep the characters in motion. Don't announce that fact. the locale. . and thinking. Thank about the connection between the characters as well as the conflicts. you do know the ending. edited by Woodruff. The end is implicit in the beginning. A novel is about characters in their society. If you've written a good first chapter. The journey from innocence to experience happens through action.
Landscape: a web of images. structure is not as important as the sentences and paragraphs. The best book on point of view is Wayne Booth. [This Doesn't Seem True to Me. Characters are in conflict. What are the ironies in your novel? When novels get too earnest. but there's also a connection between them. --L.L. An epiphany is not simply a major insight by the character. prose fiction comes closest to the intensity of lyric fiction." "The soul of the commonest object seems radiant. . 80% middle. There are several epiphanies in a novel. They are the key points in the character's forward motion. Mystery and Manners Anton Chekhov. Three best books on writing: Eudora Welty: Eye of the Story Flannery O'Connor. Characters need both flaws and assets. Incorporation motion into the descriptions of landscape and characters. often alienated from their society. Life and Thoughts Buzbee's comments on the short story form Frank O'Connor says that stories differ from novels in that we see the character outside their society. Write a telegraphic precis for each chapter. 5% end. It's an emotional transcendental moment. "In epiphanies.How can you capture the entire predicament and entire fate of your main character in the very first paragraph? The gap in time and the mystery are there in the first paragraph. we tend to put them down." In a novel.] Tom Parker: A story is 15% beginning. The Rhetoric of Fiction.
. You have to sell the idea that your book is just like one of the curr ent best sellers and is completely fresh. unlike anything ever written before. a good person. The type of vitality that person brings with them when they come into a room. Try to avoid a long synopsis. 1. as opposed to a suspense novel. In a suspense novel. etc. An idea the publisher can sell. A general scenario of the action. and is very very scared. Emphasize characters. intrigue. General Comments: The structure of a novel is a number of small climaxes gradually building to a main climax and then a denouement.The details of physical appearance that help give us a sense of who characters are. What is the great urgency in your life? Where do you find that urgency? Is the beginning of your story the place where the characters' fates are set in motion? Comments by Shelly Singer: Synopsis: Say what your book is about in a paragraph. . sense of place. Fast paced. "A narrative summary of the main action of your novel." Act like you really know the whole story. A cast of characters can be a useful addition to the synopsis. Occasionally a chapter by chapter breakdown. not clues and technical details. Refer to "the chiropracter. Don't keep any secrets in the synopsis. Name only the main characters." etc. A thriller is a work designed to hold interest by suspense. mystery. the protagonist is an admirable character. Write for drama. A sample of your writing that shows you can write. 2. The pace is what maintains the interest. The protagonist is pitted against a personal enemy.
Plot is how you arrange incidents. A thing unresolved. What's at stake must be hard to achieve. The novel is devoted to putting it back in place. Resolution. and ends with a lack of resolution. The first chapter has some seeds of the plot. 3. Strong emotions caused by the reversals and discoveries. . Something else is going on. Backstory: What happens before the book starts to create this situation? Basic plot: Challenge. Don't be vague or confusing at the beginning of a chapter. 4. or a hook. The book should exist on more than one level. Characters with strongly opposing goals. But the novel doesn't always start at the beginning of the story. Catastrophe. Discoveries. Drama includes action and reaction. 2. The story starts when the change in the events or characters begins. 5. otherwise they wouldn't be in the book. build the story. Conflict is dramatic tension. Theme: What is the point of the book? The setting has meaning and use. 6. a question. time the occurrences. 7. Recognition. Reversals.The story in a mystery tends to revolve around motives. Drama = desire or need + danger. resolution. Every plot has catastrophes. The antagonist must be powerful. show what happens in the story. The protagonist wants something or wants to achieve something. Complications. Fiction starts with something out of place. build in the conflict and the resolution. reaction. turning points. a problem to be resolved. A low point produced by a reversal. Structure is how you cut it up. All these should be present in any plot. All the characters have something at stake. Each chapter begins with something that drags the reader in. Aristotle on plot: 1.
The ambiance. People are where they are for a reason. Publishers insist on this. Arthur Miller: "A character is defined by the kinds of challenges he cannot walk away from. Richard Lupoff: Hit one or more of the editor's emotional buttons on page 1. Setting can be a huge part of the story. Transitions: If possible. They tend to get less respect and not pay as well. First person mysteries are more difficult to do. Each scene has some conflict. Richard Lupoff: Mystery fiction is in large part fiction of the mind. the politics. escape. fascinating. Part of a setting is the local conventional wisdom. event. The culture. adven ture. Characterization: Think about how a t raumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom. or conflict. and the ones he has walked away from and regrets. Structure is one of the things you use to create pace and rhythm. move from one scene to another with dialogue or description. Foreshadowing: Making the reader wait to the second shoe to drop.A chapter focuses on a single idea. The character's attititude toward their environment tells a lot about the character. A home and furniture tell a huge amount about the person living there. and real." Setting is an important part of the characterization. fear. a purpose. Additional Comment by Me . A promise of future conflict. The emotional climate of the book comes from the setting. Each scene has a point. Emotions a book can arouse: Curiosity. The protagonist has to be different. A series hero has to be unusual in some way.
See opening of The Godfather.. We are on Don Corleone's side because he is helping a character we sympathize with. although it still may be useful for a novelist with that goal.The classic definition of plot is that the protagonist has an important problem that he must solve. Frey: How to Write a Damned Good Novel This is a very useful book for a beginning novelist. in a novel characters are not simply obstacles. In a novel of substance. He takes action to accomplish his objective. (Lewis Buzbee hates it.e. which become worse and worst until finally the protagonist is faced with the black moment which is the climax of the book. but in real life. novels in general tend to be about the interaction of various characters. Although there are certainly man y novels that have a plot of this form. all the major characters have objectives of their own that they are trying to accomplish. Virginia Wolfe etc. In a simplistic action novel." i. or is trying to achieve something important. an d it is the conflict between their attempts to accomplish these conflicting objectives that creates the plot. make him sorry for your character.) You can win empathy for a character by describing the sensory details in the environment that trigger his emotions. or wants something important. In general. identification. a novel which is a wonderful piece of entertainment. but there are obstacles. James N. Suspense is created by something undecided or undetermined: a story question. The thing that moves the reader from sympathy. To gain the sympathy of the reader. It will not teach you to write a serious literary novel comparable to those by Faulkner. . and empathy to total absorption is inner conflict. a cardboard villain may devote all this efforts to t hwarting the hero's effort. Everyone has their own agenda. Identification occurs when the reader is not only in sympathy with the character but also supports his or her goals and aspirations and has a strong desire that the character achieve them.) Frey's book is in fact about how to write a "damned good novel. Frey. (This can be done even with an evil character. almost no one is that obsessed with some other person's goal. volume II. James N.
In a situational premise. A character's ruling passion is the central motivating force within that character: the sum total of all the forces and drives within him. you must be able to redream the dream. your novel will be structured and dramatically powerful. A sympathetic character is one most readers want to see good things happen to. Readers are intrigued by characters who are good at what they do. Desperation is the dynamo that fires up characters and pushes them into action. Dean R. the reader should be worrying abo ut bad things that might happen to sympathetic characters. Koontz: The worst error a novelist can make: not beginning his novel by plunging the main character into terrible trouble. not try and rewrite the same dream. some situation affects all the characters. One way to redream the dream is to start the scene earlier and give the characters different objectives in the scene. The three types of premise are: chain reaction. Lighting the fuse is one of the most powerful ways of creating s uspense. but avoid the constipated character: the one that cannot move. One dead giveaway that a story is not about anything is that the incidents of the story can be reordered without changing anything. as used here. characters must be driven by at least one ruling passion. but may be a consequence of the situation he's in. Wimps can be okay. In the opening and throughout the story. one needs a sympathetic character.To create apprehension and anxiety in a reader. opposing forces. One way to create a wacky character is to take a trait and exaggerate it. A dynamic character is driven: he wants something desperately. When what you have isn't working. If you structure your stories with a strong premise in mind. . is a statement of what happens to the characters as a result of the actions of the story. The ruling passion for the story need not be the same as the character's overruling passion in life. At all times. Premise. Wacky characters add spice to your novel and make a foil for the serious characters. As a result of the core conflict. and situational.
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