#IWSG POV: Protagonist or Antagonist? @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

  • March 6 question Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

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I definitely prefer first person point of view of the protagonist, as a reader and as a writer. My favourite novels, when I started reading adult fiction, in my teens, such as, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, David Copperfield, and Rebecca, to name a few, were written in this fashion.

The first person narrator, whether he or she is protagonist or antagonist, has the powerful advantage of speaking directly to the reader, but on the other hand, he or she also has the enormous disadvantage of limited knowledge and bias.

The first person narrator cannot be everywhere or be aware of everything the reader would like to know. Moreover, he or she is necessarily biased due to gullibility, innocence, ignorance, physical, or psychological problems, or he or she can be downright evil and purposefully lead everyone along the wrong path, which is usually the case of the antagonist as first person narrator.

The question posed, implies that only one narrator is possible, and that he or she is either protagonist or antagonist, but there are many more options available to the writer. There could be more than one point of view, and more than one protagonist and or antagonist, or the protagonist and antagonist could even be the same person at the same or different stages of his/her life.

The first time I read a novel with various first person narrators was Laura, by Vera Caspary, also in my teenage years. I remember being pleasantly surprised, as a reader, by two aspects, the multiple first person narrators and the presence of unreliable narrators, including the antagonist.

In one of my ‘A’ level texts, The Fall, Camus’ manipulative first person narrator, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, whose long series of monologues is a confession and reflection of his life, to a stranger he calls, ‘cher ami’, thus, mostly using the second person ‘you’. He is also both protagonist and antagonist, as he finally turns the mirror on his patient and unsuspecting listener/reader.

The options are endless. In my case, I’ve published three books and written five (two will hopefully be published this year), and all of them have multiple, first person narrators, including protagonist and antagonist.

Although I don’t mind reading novels written in third person, I can’t see myself doing so. I would especially avoid third person omniscient narrators, mainly because I think it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of manipulating characters, events and readers. I prefer to allow my characters and readers more space to grow and reconstruct their own novel.

I overcome the hurdles inherent to first person narration, at least partly, by having more than one first person narrator, which I believe gives the novel wider scope and perspective.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy has several, rotating first person narrators, and although some readers have complained, most readers have positive opinions. The use of various first person voices is innovative and enriching, but it’s by no means easy to juggle so many characters at once, and it’s not something I’m planning on doing again, at the moment.

My two latest, unpublished novels, both have only two points of view. In one case it is the protagonist and the antagonist, and in the second case a mother and daughter, who are both protagonists. So far, beta readers have responded favourably, and I’m satisfied with the end product, although, one still has to go through the final draft and editing stage.

I think two narrators give enough scope for multiple perspectives to allow readers more space to interact with the narrative.

I will probably experiment with other viewpoints in the future. As I said, I enjoy many  different points of view as a reader, but for the moment, I plan to continue writing novels with, at least, two first person points of view.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to like and/or leave a comment 🙂

What about you, how many and whose point(s) of view do you prefer as a reader and as a writer?

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#WorldBookDay ‘Stories make your heart grow’ #amreading #Audible

Readers enjoy all sorts of stories, but what makes a book outstanding, instead of enjoyable? 

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A book becomes outstanding instead of enjoyable if it’s ‘Written from the heart’ with the aim of ‘Reaching other hearts’.

I recently wrote a short post about ‘Writing from the heart’ and my conclusion is that the key is to: Write with passion about a meaningful issue.

I am convinced the world needs, has always needed and will always need, uplifting stories about wonderful, yet ordinary people, who struggle and survive.

The world’s a harsh place and we are all aware of the limited time we’ll be spending here, especially compared to the thousands of years we’ve heard about, but haven’t experienced, so we appreciate stories that remind us of our history and fill our hearts with hope for the future.

At the moment I’m in the middle of reading, or rather listening to, an outstanding book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

We were all told about WWII in our history classes at school, but it’s the novels and films of the period that reach our hearts and help us understand what happened and must be avoided at all cost.

And yet The Tattooist of Auschwitz is not only about events which took place in WWII. It’s about hope, the struggle for survival, the strength that lies in love and gratitude, and the value of the combined effort of many, as well as the power of positive leadership.

Lale could not have survived, or accomplished anything on his own. He needed the help and support of many others, and they needed a leader, an intelligent and compassionate organiser to manage and synchronise their combined efforts.

I’ll be writing a proper review when I finish listening, but at the moment I can say, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a beautifully written story which connected directly to my heart.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an outstanding novel, for adults. Another outstanding novel, I read some time ago and is more suitable for younger readers, is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by [Boyne, John]

Happy World Book Day!

Tell us, which is the most outstanding novel you’ve recently read?

 

#MondayBlogs ‘Write from the heart’ #WritingTips @BathFlashAward #FlashFiction

I was recently browsing the Bath Flash Awards website when I came across an interview with this edition’s (March-June 2019) Flash Fiction Award Judge, Christopher Allen. You can read the whole interview here.

It was the final question and answer that has mesmerised me all weekend. I quote the question and answer here:

  • Any final suggestions for writers entering our award?

Yes. Write from the heart. Edit it and edit it and edit it. Have other people read it. Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something? Write something you think the world needs.

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So much advice in so few words, a true ‘flash answer’ to a complex question.

My thoughts on this priceless and concise advice:

‘Write from the heart’

Inspiration is entwined with emotion. Whatever we write should spring from passionate feelings about an issue. That’s an easy one to fulfill. Most of us write stories about people, places and events that are meaningful to us.

‘Edit it and edit it and edit it’

First drafts are necessary, but also messy and too long. Most of us need to ramble to ourselves to get to know our characters and understand their thoughts and actions, and yet those ramblings need to be carefully edited, more than once, thus the repetition, before they can be shared with readers.

‘Have other people read it’

We all know and appreciate the invaluable task of alpha and beta readers, friends, agents, editors, proof readers, and an array of generous and professional people who are usually acknowledged by authors in their books.

Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something?

Words need to go beyond an aesthetic use of language in order to make an impact on the reader. It’s not only about organisation, expression, wording, pace, and grammar, but about the inspiration and feelings conveyed in the writing.

Write something you think the world needs.

Finally, the most important attribute which distinguishes good writing from outstanding writing, the content or message of the text.

Is there an intention beyond entertaining readers? And secondly, is the idea worth writing about? Do readers need to know or think about the characters or issues in your flash/novel?

Christopher’s answer is great advice for writing, a haiku, a birthday card, a flash, a letter, a short story, a novella, a novel and everything else.

If it’s worth writing, it’s worth doing it from the heart.

My twenty-word flash conclusion:

Write with passion about a meaningful issue, edit, aim for emotional impact, edit, share and test, edit, publish. Start again.

And now, let’s finish that flash/novel and start the next one…

 

 

 

#IWSG Avoiding Pitfalls @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe,Sandra Hoover, Lee Lowery, and Susan Gourley!

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey? 

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The single best piece of advice I’d give an author, especially an author who is aiming to self-publish, is to find a good editor.

It seems obvious. I mean, everyone knows that, don’t they?

It also seems easy. I mean, there are plenty of editors out there, aren’t there?

Yes, to both, but authors can still make mistakes. I did.

When I finished my first novel, I found an editor via Goodreads. She was recommended by another editor an author I knew had hired, and she was reasonably priced.

I thought I’d got it right, until another editor, who saw my book, which had been accepted for review on Rosie’s Book Review Team, read my novel and pointed out some / too many errors in the first few chapters.

Most were punctuation, but not all. I’m useless at commas. I actually have nightmares with them, so I was relieved that an editor/proof reader had gone through my manuscript, but it hadn’t been done thoroughly.

I’ll forever be grateful to Alison Williams for pointing out these errors in my novel and for her patience and advice while editing the following two novels.

An author knows and expects that not every reader will enjoy their novel, for numerous reasons, style, characters, plot, etc. and that’s acceptable and to be expected, but what is unacceptable is to have editing errors.

All novels whether self-published or traditionally published should be professionally edited.

There are many editors available, and I’m really not an expert on finding the right one, I was just lucky I found her, or rather she was kind enough to find me, just a few a months after I published All Hallows at Eyre Hall, in May 2014.

I cringe when I think of those few months when my novel wasn’t in perfect condition. The good news is that amazon makes it really quick and easy to update your new version for both kindle and print.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to like and/or leave a comment 🙂

What about you, what pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid before publication?

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#MondayBlogs ‘New Uncluttered Blog. Less is More’ #Bloggers # #MondayMotivation

Change is due. Less is more.

I’d had my previous blog template since I started blogging, almost four years ago.

It was pretty, with a Dante Gabriel Rossetti print of Lilith on the header and some of my favourite books from my bookshelf in the background, but it appeared cluttered.

I had been thinking of changing my blog’s appearance for some time, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted or if the change would bring technical problems. I’m delighted that it hasn’t.

I wanted a cleaner, simpler, uncluttered, style, because I’m more convinced each day, that less is more and simple is more effective than complex, in life, love and work.

Writing Flash Fiction has been a great help in uncluttering my writing style (more about that in a previous past, here) and so has following Kurt Vonnegut’s suggestions regarding not wasting the reader’s time (Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted) and making sure all information is relevant (Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action). 

Then there’s all the advice, especially Stephen King’s, on using less adverbs and stronger verbs, not to mention the impact of showing not telling. So I’m aiming for a crisper writing style, cutting out rambling and overexplaining, use of passive voice, repetition, and trying my best to make readers ‘feel’ they’re inside the novel, not ‘see’ it from the outside.

Of course Mark Twain had said it all before: “Employ a simple and straightforward style.”  No wonder he found it hard to appreciate Jane Austen, who died only seventeen years before he was born. Don’t get me wrong. I like and respect Miss Austen’s work, but she’s a prime example of telling not showing, for example in Persuasion, her last, and one of my favourite novels. More about that in an earlier post, here.

After previewing different templates, I settled for one called Wilson, because it looked clear and clean. I love the use of black and white. simple and clear. I also prefer these colours in my wardrobe. Many busy and successful people like Obama and Bill Gates also stick to few colours when they dress, find out why here.

By the way, there’s a fabulous Ted Talk by Graham Hill called ‘Less Stuff, More Happiness,” which you might like to check out here.

Who needs a rainbow of colours when two are enough? Especially when so many people use Tablets and Smartphones to check blog content.

I’m still thinking of ways to unclutter my menu, but for now I’m leaving it as it is, with six main menus:

Home.

Blog.

About Luccia Gray.

Jane Ere and Victorian Literature.

Fiction Challenges.

Book Reviews and Spotlights.

I’ve kept their respective subheadings for the moment, but I’m thinking of eliminating them altogether.

Hope you like my new blog, and all suggestions and opinions for improvement are welcome.

Are you uncluttering your life and your blog? Tell me how!

 

 

 

 

#IWSG Surprising Writing #amwriting #WWWBlogs

The IWSG is a fabulous site for authors to share and encourage ech other by expressing doubts and concerns and looking for advice and guidance in our writing life. It’s a safe haven and meeting place for insecure writers of all kinds!
The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day when we post our thoughts on our own blogs. Check it out and join in here! 
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
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I’m taking part by answering this week’s optional Question: 
Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?)

I surprise myself every time I pick up my pen, because I (almost) always jot down my ideas on paper before I sit down to the ‘real’ work of giving shape to my untidy notes on my laptop.

I always carry a pen and notebook, ready to capture the idea on the spur of the moment, before it escapes forever… Many of those ideas are never transformed into complete stories, although they may become part of a story. I use the same notebook until all the pages have been used up, which usually takes about a month, and I keep them at hand, just in case, for years.

This was sitting on a plane, but my favourite place to write is in the car, when I’m not driving!

I’ve written three historical novels and have started a fourth, but my heart isn’t in this fourth novel, at least not yet, so it’s resting on my shelf for the time being, because I wanted to write something different, but I haven’t known what for a long time.

I felt lost, not knowing what kind of novel I wanted to write. I kept filling notebooks full of  ideas which never came to fruition. It wasn’t writer’s block, because I had plenty of random creative ideas, but I felt I lacked purpose. I needed to find a project that would absorb all my creative thoughts and energy. I was getting worried. Although there were many ideas, not one pulled me obsessively, which is what I need to immerse myself in a novel completely.

It has taken me about a year to feel overwhelmed by a new project, but it has finally happened, when I least expected it, on a long car journey, as co-pilot, the seed of an idea dropped and flourished. When I arrived, I had a rough outline, main characters, setting, and a sense that ‘this was it at last’.

Throughout the following month of August, at a holiday flat by the sea, the plot grew and the characters came to life. It’s not a historical novel and it’s not a family saga. It’s a type of novel I never thought I’d write. A contemporary, romantic thriller simmered for 30 days, in a whole notebook of ideas. I’m back home now, and the proper, chapter by chapter outline is almost complete.

I’m a plotter, mostly, although I enjoy improvising, too. I love it when a character I hadn’t planned surprises me by popping into my mind and taking over, or when a plot twist happens unexpectedly as my characters are thinking or speaking. I can deal with these surprising characters and events and rework my original plan. On the other hand, I find it impossible to write without a destination, and that’s where plotting helps me focus.

I welcome surprises as a writer. I never know when or how a creative idea will take root in my mind, and I love the challenge of continued surprises as the novel unfolds.

Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939), drawing by Leandro Oroz Lacalle (1883 – 1933)

A famous Spanish poet, Antonio Machado (1975-1939), wrote, “Traveler, there is no road; you make your path as you walk.” I agree with Machado’s idea, but I also like to know where my destination lies.

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Do you like surprises as a writer?

Have you ever surprised yourself?

Writing Dialogue in Fiction #writingtips #amwriting #writerslife

I love writing dialogue and I include plenty of dialogue in my novels, but I also find it’s one of the hardest parts to get just right.

dialogue-is-easy

Writing the dialogue itself isn’t so demanding, it’s padding it with all the necessary contextual information within a novel that causes the problems.

Here are some notes I’ve made for myself to remind me of what I need to think about and do to make my dialogues relevant, vivid, authentic and natural.

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Dialogue is a great way to show (not tell) the reader about character and plot.

Think about the purpose of the exchange, and remember that every scene in the novel should:

1) Show character Or  2) Reveal plot

 1- Show character

This can be done subtly or specifically, depending on the importance of the character or the aspect you want to disclose.

What does the character say? And how does this show how he thinks or feels about what he’s done or is going to do, or about other characters… Are the characters lying? Purposefully? Inadvertently?

2- Develop plot:

It’s also a great way to reveal plot or add a plot twist (or red herring!).

  • Is there something new you want the reader to know? Is it part of the plot? A plot twist? A lie to confuse the characters and/or reader?
  • Is it a past event you to remind the reader about (in a series) or something the reader has not been told before?
  • Is it foreshadowing or giving clues to an event which may soon be taking place?

What to add/think about when writing your dialogue.

If you were writing a play, you wouldn’t have to think much about this. You could add some stage directions, but mainly the director and/or the actors would add the speaker’s actions, clothes, setting, props etc. to the dialogue. In a novel, the writer has to think of ways of transmitting this information.

Characters aren’t still or in a vacuum when they talk. They’re doing things and thinking about things. Their senses are aware, so they can hear, see, smell, taste and feel. They’re in a specific place which can bring memories or give them specific vibrations. They’re with people who can make them feel differently, too.

Although the actual conversation is our aim, and it’s probably what we write first, at least I usually do, later on we need to make it real. Create the context for the reader to understand and feel what the characters feel, which is not necessarily the information they give when they’re actually speaking.

dialogue-is-not-just-quotation

Some specific questions to ask yourself:  

  • Where are the characters? In general (e.g. a hotel) and specifically (e.g. on the terrace in their room)
  • Why that place in particular and not another?
  • What are they seeing? Near (e.g. on the floor) and far (e.g. on the horizon).
  • What are they thinking about? Present conversation? Past events? The place?  The person they’re talking to?
  • What are they hearing? What does it remind them of? How does it make them feel?
  • What can they smell? What reaction does this have on them?
  • Are they sitting, standing, moving? Are they doing something while they talk?
  • What kind of atmosphere do you want to create? Tense? Romantic? Mysterious? Relaxed?
  • What are their facial expressions, movements and gestures like?
  • Are they interested or pleased to be having the conversation? If not, where would they like to be? Or what would they like to be doing?
  • What are they wearing? What does it tell us about them? The place? The situation? The time of year?
  • What’s their relationship? Does the reader already know? Does he need to know anything else? What do they think of each other?
  • What’s their motivation for the conversation? Was it prepared, unexpected, on one side or both?
  • What day is it? Time of year? What’s the weather like?
  • What have they been doing before?
  • What are they going to do next?
  • What’s on their mind?
  • What’s happening around them?
  • Who’s entering and leaving the place or the conversation?
  • Are the speakers alone? If not think about other people there, what are they doing? listening, watching, oblivious…

Remember:

Identify the aim of the conversation regarding character and plot.

Don’t ramble or tell the reader things they already know.

Reduce tags and tags with adverbs to a minimum.

You can make characters unique by the things they say, expressions, or gestures they often make, the clothes they wear, etc.

Read it out loud: think about length, repetition, authenticity, flow, does your main point (plot/character) come across? You’ll probably need to tweak it a few times, at least I certainly do!

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I have these questions pinned to my notice board. I refer to them once I’ve written the first draft of the conversation. It helps me give more depth to my dialogues.

I’d love to hear from you:

How do you approach your dialogues?

Do you write them straight off or do they go through various stages?

Any more tips / ideas for writing dialogue?