Cassandra Clare: ‘We need more gay relationships in young adult fiction’

Cassandra-Clare

(Photo by Rex/Moviestore)

Found this article very interesting, it raises a good point. Enjoy!


Cassandra Clare, the New York bestselling author of the Mortal Instruments series, has called for more representation of homosexual relationships in Young Adult fiction.

Clare told the teenage visitors to the Hay Festival that publishers turned her award-winning novels down because one of its main characters, Shadowhunter Alec Lightwood, was gay and embarked on a relationship with another young man, Magnus Bane.

“If publishers are throwing up roadblocks to wider representation of different parts of society, then we need to try harder to write books about them,” she said.

Answering a question from the audience, Clare explained that she knew it “would be a problem” to have a gay character in her novels, but that the character Alec developed his homosexuality as she wrote.

“Sometimes characters tell you things about themselves,” she said, “Alec was angry, and I realised he was in love with [his adopted brother] Jace”.

Clare’s books portray the ostracism some young homosexual people sometimes face. Alec is excluded by his people for being gay. After he made his relationship with Magnus public, he inspired other young Shadowhunters to open up about their sexuality.

Magnus and Alec’s relationship is popular with readers of The Mortal Instruments series. During her talk, Clare read from part of the forthcoming Bane Chronicles which detailed voicemail messages that had been left on Magnus’s phone after the end of his relationship with Alec.

Clare admitted that even she found it difficult to remember aspects of the unwieldy universe she had created for her novels, and that she had made a ‘Shadowhunter Codex’ full of “family trees and massive amounts of notes” that she now uses as a research tool.

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Via: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/Cassandra-Clare-we-need-more-gay-relationships-in-young-adult-fiction.html

How To Plan Your Novel Using The Three-Act Structure

Three-act-structure_1

Writing a novel is hard, especially if you’ve never done it before. You’ve spent hours researching, building your world and becoming an expert on your characters. Now you’re ready for the next step: planning (also known as plotting).

While some people like to write organically (letting the story take you in whatever direction feels right), having a detailed outline can help make the novel-writing process a lot less daunting and overwhelming. But how exactly do you plan a novel?

Essentially, there is no right or wrong way to outline your novel. Each story is different and needs to be told in a different way.

However, if you need a bit more guidance on how to plot out the next bestseller you know you have inside you, the three-act structure might be for you.

Defining The Three-Act Structure

The three-act structure is a popular screenwriting technique that revolves around constantly creating set-ups, conflicts and resolutions. With this structure, a novel is divided into three acts: a beginning, a middle and an end.

There are many versions of the three-act structure. In some, the middle is the same size as the beginning and end put together.

However, when you’re first starting out, it’s much easier to plan each act to be the same length. In this version of the three-act structure, each act is divided into nine chapters for 27 chapters in total. The nine chapters in each act are also split into three blocks of three chapters each.

This version creates a fast-paced novel that invites readers to keep turning your pages. If you’re still unconvinced, for an example Suzanne Collins’ bestselling young adult Hunger Games trilogy follows this structure almost perfectly.

Throughout this article, we’ll take a look at what each section of the three-act structure involves, using examples from The Hunger Games to demonstrate each element. (SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read or seen The Hunger Games and don’t want key plot points spoiled, read on at your own risk!)

Act One (set-up)

The first act is used to introduce the reader to the world your characters live in and to set up the coming conflict.

Block One – Introduce Hero in Ordinary World

  • Chapter 1: Introduction (set up)
  • Chapter 2: Inciting incident (conflict)
  • Chapter 3: Immediate reaction (resolution)

In the first chapter, you need to set up your hero in their ordinary world. Introduce us to your characters and the relationships and conflicts between them. In The Hunger Games, the first chapter introduces the dystopian world and the Reaping.

The inciting incident in Chapter Two is the event or decision that sets your hero along the path of your narrative. The inciting incident is really important – without it, your story would not occur. The inciting incident in The Hunger Games is Katniss volunteering herself for the Hunger Games to save her sister; if Katniss didn’t volunteer, the rest of the novel would not have happened.

In the third chapter, the hero reacts to the inciting incident. The immediate reaction in The Hunger Games is when Katniss’ family and friends come to say goodbye to her before she leaves for the Games.

Block Two – Problem Disrupts Hero’s Life

  • Chapter 4: Reaction (set-up)
  • Chapter 5: Action (conflict)
  • Chapter 6: Consequence (resolution)

Chapter Four is where the hero reacts to and reflects on the long-term impacts of the inciting incident. In Chapter Four, Katniss reflects on the impact her death would have on her community, especially her mother and sister. Katniss also starts to discuss strategy with Haymitch, her mentor.

As a result of their reflection, the hero decides to take action and do something to change their situation in Chapter Five. In The Hunger Games, Katniss takes her first step towards winning the Games in the parade of tributes. Her fiery dress and attitude win over the crowd.

Chapter Six details the immediate consequences of the action the hero took in Chapter Five. In The Hunger Games, Katniss discusses the success of the parade with Haymitch. She also reflects on her past and the difficulty of rebellion.

Block Three – Hero’s Life Changes Direction

  • Chapter 7: Pressure (set-up)
  • Chapter 8: Pinch (conflict)
  • Chapter 9: Push (resolution)

The hero’s life has changed as a result of the action they took in Chapter Five, and this creates a lot of pressure and stress in Chapter Seven. The pressure is obvious in Chapter Seven of The Hunger Games. Here, Katniss has her demonstration where she shows the Gamemakers her archery skills by shooting an arrow towards them in frustration.

In Chapter Eight, the first pinch – or plot twist – occurs. A good plot twist is something completely unexpected for the reader. The first pinch in The Hunger Games is Katniss receiving a score of 11, something completely unexpected.

As a result of the pinch, the hero is pushed into a new world in Chapter Nine. The majority of this chapter in The Hunger Games centres around the television interviews with Caesar, the last formality before the tributes are sent into the Games. Here, Peeta declares his love for Katniss.

Act Two (conflict)

The second act is full of conflict. Character development is crucial in the second act; the hero at the end of Act One does not yet have the tools (whether those tools be emotional, physical or literal items the hero must retrieve) to succeed in the third act, so Act Two is all about the journey.

Block Four – Hero Explores New World

  • Chapter 10: New world (set-up)
  • Chapter 11: Fun and games (event/conflict)
  • Chapter 12: Old world contrast (resolution)

Chapter 10 allows you to introduce the reader to the new world. What has changed, and how does the hero feel about it? In Chapter 10, Katniss finally enters the Hunger Games.

In Chapter 11, the hero can take a break and have a little fun. Maybe they have a date with their new lover, or maybe they do something they’ve never done before. Here, Katniss travels through the arena looking for water, and while she is still in an intense environment, she has a bit of a break.

Chapter 12 is time for the hero to compare their current world to how things were at the novel’s beginning. After realising Peeta has teamed up with her enemies, Katniss reflects on their relationship and compares this Peeta to the person she was friends with.

Block Five – Crisis of New World

  • Chapter 13: Build-up (set-up)
  • Chapter 14: Midpoint (conflict)
  • Chapter 15: Reversal (resolution)

The fifth block is all about the midpoint, or the main crisis or conflict of your novel.

Chapter 13 is the build-up to the midpoint and Chapter 14 is the midpoint itself. A good midpoint will dramatically change the hero or impact their life in a negative way. In The Hunger Games, Katniss is pushed towards the Career tributes in Chapter 13, and escapes from them after Peeta saves her in Chapter 14.

Chapter 15 is the immediate reaction or consequence of the midpoint. Here, Katniss makes an alliance with Rue and they formulate a plan to take down the Career tributes.

Block Six – Finding a Solution

  • Chapter 16: Reaction (set-up)
  • Chapter 17: Action (conflict)
  • Chapter 18: Dedication (resolution)

In Chapter 16, the hero reflects on the long-term impacts of the midpoint. In The Hunger Games, Katniss realises that to take down the Careers, they need to stop their food supply.

In Chapter 17, the hero decides to take action to resolve the problem created by the midpoint; however, they realise the enormity of their task when things don’t necessarily go to plan. In Chapter 17, Katniss blows up the Career’s food supply, but before she and Rue can celebrate, Rue is attacked by another tribute.

Despite the set-backs, in Chapter 18 the hero decides that they will succeed no matter what. Rue dies in Chapter 18, and Katniss promises to win for her.

Act Three (resolution)

The final act is all about resolutions. In the third act, the hero needs to find solutions to the conflict created by the midpoint, and you as the author need to make sure you tie up all the loose ends.

Block Seven – Victory Seems Impossible

  • Chapter 19: Trials (set-up)
  • Chapter 20: Pinch (event/conflict)
  • Chapter 21: Darkest moment (resolution)

In Chapter 19, the hero faces significant trials. These trials are extremely difficult for the hero and is something the hero has never experienced before. Here, Katniss races to find Peeta and struggles to help save his injured leg.

Chapter 20 is the second pinch, where the hero experiences something completely unexpected that makes everything even worse. In Chapter 20, Peeta’s injury leads to blood poisoning.

This plot twist leads to the darkest moment in Chapter 21 where the thought of success is incomprehensible. Here, Katniss risks everything to get medicine for Peeta, and the chapter ends with her passing out from her own injuries.

Block Eight – Hero Finds Power

  • Chapter 22: Power within (set-up)
  • Chapter 23: Action (conflict)
  • Chapter 24: Converge (resolution)

Having hit rock-bottom, the hero remembers their desire to succeed in Chapter 18 and finds the power within to continue on. In Chapter 22, Katniss and Peeta both start to recover from their injuries.

After deciding they can do it, the hero takes action in Chapter 23, and this action causes the plotlines to converge and come together in Chapter 24. In Chapter 23, Peeta and Katniss realise how close they are to winning, and in Chapter 24 all of the tributes are pushed towards the lake by the Gamemakers for the final battle.

Block Nine – Hero Fights and Wins

  • Chapter 25: Battle (set-up)
  • Chapter 26: Climax (conflict)
  • Chapter 27: Resolution (resolution)

Block nine is the finale. In Chapter 25, the character has one last battle. This doesn’t have to be a physical battle – it could be a fight between friends or lovers, or a mental battle your hero has with themselves. Here, Peeta and Katniss try to survive the freezing night and kill Cato.

Chapter 26 is the final climax. The decisions the hero makes here will impact the rest of their life; it is the point of no return. In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta pretend to eat the poisonous berries, which leads to President Snow stopping them by declaring them both winners. However, Katniss realises that despite winning the Games, she’s now in even more danger.

Chapter 27 is the resolution or the immediate reaction to the hero’s decision in the last chapter. Here, Katniss and Peeta finally get to go home.

The way you end your novel is up to you. You might choose to explain everything, or leave some things (or a lot of things) up to your reader’s imagination. It could be a happy heroic ending, or it could be a tragedy where everyone dies.

Either way, congratulations! You’ve planned a novel.

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One last thing to note: When you start to plan your novel using this structure it’s important to remember it’s just a guideline. You don’t have to change your story to suit the structure; you can change the structure to suit your story. If your plot twist would make more sense earlier or later, move it. These aren’t hard rules. Do what is right for your story.  So take a deep breath, set yourself up in your favourite place to write and start planning!

Via: https://writersedit.com/plan-novel-using-three-act-structure/

Should You Write In The First, Second Or Third Person?

Which-person-do-you-write-in

When writing your content, whether it’s a novel or an article, it can become confusing having to decide between the first, second and third person. Which you decide to use is completely up to you, but there is some method behind the madness. Let’s discuss all three options and see which would be the best for you.

The First Person

In a nutshell, first person is you and your views (or your character directly speaking and their views), and is expressed using the word ‘I’. What I like about this writing style is that you can easily express yourself and share your experiences the way it happened. It may be a bit more of a challenge when you are not writing about yourself, but still, the action is experienced in the moment as it is happening.

Many people believe that writing in the first person is the easiest way to write and perhaps they are right to a point. But beware that when you write in the first person as you can get very comfortable and sometimes overshare. If you find yourself doing this a text rewriter may come in very handy at this point.

The Second Person

Second person is where the narrator tells the story to another character using the word ‘you’. The story is being told in the voice of the onlooker, which can also be you, the reader. For instance, the text could read, “You went to school that morning. And whilst you were there you played with some play-dough.”

The second person point of view is rarely used in fiction because of its difficulty level. It is hard to develop a set of characters and a story in which the second person is appropriate. Saying that, however, you can find some fantastic stories that have been written this way if you go and look for them.

If you are writing non-fiction, you can use this style of writing when you are sharing information that does not pertain to your own experiences. For instance, this is handy when you are writing a ‘how to’ blog post or an instructional article of any kind.

If you are not familiar with this writing style, find a word rewriter and use any tools you might need until you get it right. It does take some getting used to, but it is a very effective writing style.

The Third Person

The third person point of view belongs to the person (or people) being talked about. The third person pronouns include he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs,and themselves.

You would usually associate this writing style with fiction and storytelling. It is also the preferred writing style for academic literature.

Plenty of stories and novels are written in the third person. In this type of story, a disembodied narrator describes what the characters do and what happens to them. You don’t see directly through a character’s eyes as you do in a first person narrative, but often the narrator describes the main character’s thoughts and feelings about what’s going on.

So in essence, you are a little more removed from the character in terms of direct thoughts and feelings, but you can be aware of more and inform the reader of things that your character could not do directly in first person unless they were actually experiencing them. This option gives you more choice and a greater possibility for knowledge during events, and about other characters.

The Best Choice

As you can see, there is a place for all three point of view writing styles, and one is not necessarily better than the other.

At the end of the day, we all have a different way of communicating, and you should find the style which suits you best. Think about what you have written thus far.Is there one particular style that you naturally gravitate towards?

Even though you might want to go for the easiest writing style, there is nothing wrong with stepping out of your comfort zone every now and then. It might take a little longer to write, but it will be worth the effort to get it right.

Conclusion

Writing is all about sending out good stories into the world, and this should be your principal focus.

If you are writing a novel, try writing a chapter in each different point of view and see what works best or your story. Each story you write may have a different point of view that works best for what you are trying to convey, so don’t assume that just because you usually write in one point of view that it will be the best one.

Read your work out loud, and see if it sounds right. If not, try changing the pronouns and see if it works better. Your story (and characters) will normally tell you how they want to communicate. So listen out for their voice and go with that.

If you are writing an article, write in the way that feels most natural to you. Then you can’t go wrong.

Ultimately, it does not matter if you write in first, second or third person, as long as you are writing authentically for yourself or your characters and connecting with your audience. Happy writing!

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Via: https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/should-you-write-in-the-first-second-or-third-person/ and https://www.grammarly.com/blog/first-second-and-third-person/

 

How To Write A Smashing First Chapter

ChapterOne

If you are looking for a few tips on how to write a cracking first chapter, you couldn’t do much better than this. Here is an opening chapter masterclass from Author Elizabeth Sims. Enjoy!

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When you decide to go to a restaurant for a special dinner, you enjoy the anticipation. You’ve committed to spending sufficient time and money, and now you’ve arrived, and the place looks good and smells good. You smile and order an appetizer. When it comes, you enjoy it as a foretaste of the larger, more complex courses that will follow, but you also savor it for what it is: a delicious dish, complete in itself. If it’s a truly great appetizer, you recognize it as an exquisite blend of flavor, texture and temperature. And you’re happy, because you know you’ll be in good hands for the entire evening.

Isn’t that what it’s like to begin reading a terrific book?

The first chapter is the appetizer – small, yet so tremendously important. And so full of potential.

As an aspiring author, the prospect of writing Chapter One should not intimidate, but excite the hell out of you. Why? Because no other part of your book can provide you with the disproportionate payoff that an excellent first chapter can. Far more than a great query letter, a great Chapter One can attract the attention of an agent. It can keep a harried editor from yawning and hitting “delete.” It can make a bookstore browser keep turning pages during the slow walk to the cash registers. And yes, it can even keep a bleary-eyed owner of one of those electronic thingamajigs touching the screen for more, more, more!

Fiction, like food, is an art and a craft. Here’s how to blend inspiration with technique and serve up an irresistible Chapter One.

#1: RESIST TERROR.
Let’s be honest: Agents and editors like to make you quiver and sweat as you approach Chapter One. All those warnings: “Grab me from the opening sentence! Don’t waste one word! If my attention flags, you’ve failed – you’re down the toilet! In fact, don’t even write Chapter One! Start your book at Chapter Four! Leave out all that David Copperfield crap!” From their perspective it’s an acid test. They know how important Chapter One is, and if you’re weak, they’ll scare you into giving up before you begin. (Hey, it makes their jobs easier: one less query in the queue.)

Here’s the truth: Agents and editors, all of them, are paper tigers. Every last one is a hungry kitten searching for something honest, original and brave to admire. Now is the time to gather your guts, smile and let it rip.

Your inner genius flees from tension, so first of all, relax. Notice that I did not say agents and editors are looking for perfect writing. Nor are they looking for careful writing. Honest, original and brave. That’s what they want, and that’s what you’ll produce if you open up room for mistakes and mediocrity. It’s true! Only by doing that will you be able to tap into your wild and free core. Let out the bad with the good now, and you’ll sort it out later.

Second, remember who you are and why you’re writing this book. What is your book about? What purpose(s) will it serve? Write your answers down and look at them from time to time as you write. (By the way, it’s OK to want to write a book simply to entertain people; the noblest art has sprung from just such a humble desire.)

And third, if you haven’t yet outlined, consider doing so. Even the roughest, most rustic framework will give you a sharper eye for your beginning and, again, will serve to unfetter your mind. Your outline could be a simple list of things-that-are-gonna-happen, or it could be a detailed chronological narrative of all your plot threads and how they relate. I find that knowing where I’m headed frees my mind from everything but the writing at hand. Being prepared makes you calm, and better equipped to tap into your unique voice – which is the most important ingredient in a good Chapter One.

#2: DECIDE ON TENSE AND POINT OF VIEW.
Most readers are totally unconscious of tense and POV; all they care about is the story. Is it worth reading? Fun to read? But you must consider your tense and POV carefully, and Chapter One is go time for these decisions. It used to be simple. You’d choose from:

a) First person: I chased the beer wagon.

b) Third-person limited: Tom chased the beer wagon.

or

c) Omniscient: Tom chased the beer wagon while the villagers watched and wondered, Would all the beer in the world be enough for this oaf?

… and you’d always use past tense.

But today, novels mix points of view and even tenses. In my Rita Farmer novels I shift viewpoints, but limit all POVs to the good guys. By contrast, John Grisham will shift out of the main character’s POV to the bad guy’s for a paragraph or two, then back again. (Some critics have labeled this practice innovative, while others have called it lazy; in the latter case, I’m sure Grisham is crying all the way to the bank.) It’s also worth noting that studies have shown that older readers tend to prefer past tense, while younger ones dig the present. (If that isn’t a statement with larger implications, I don’t know what is.)

Many writing gurus tell you to keep a first novel simple by going with first person, past tense. This approach has worked for thousands of first novels (including mine, 2002’s Holy Hell), but I say go for whatever feels right to you, simple or not. I do, however, recommend that you select present or past tense and stick with it. Similarly, I advise against flashbacks and flash-forwards for first novels. Not that they can’t work, but they seem to be off-putting to agents and editors, who will invariably ask, “Couldn’t this story be told without altering the time-space continuum?”

The point is, you want your readers to feel your writing is smooth; you don’t want them to see the rivets in the hull, so to speak. And the easiest way to do that is to create fewer seams.

If you’re still unsure of your tense or POV choices, try these techniques:

Go to your bookshelf and take a survey of some of your favorite novels. What POVs and tenses are selected, and why do you suppose the authors chose those approaches?

Rehearse. Write a scene using first person, then third-person limited, then omniscient. What feels right?

Don’t forget to consider the needs of your story. If you plan to have simultaneous action in Fresno, Vienna and Pitcairn, and you want to show it all in living color, you almost certainly need more than one POV.

And if you’re still in doubt, don’t freeze up – just pick an approach and start writing. Remember, you can always change it later if you need to.

#3: CHOOSE A NATURAL STARTING POINT.
When you read a good novel, it all seems to unfold so naturally, starting from the first sentence. But when you set out to write your own, you realize your choices are limitless, and this can be paralyzing. Yet your novel must flow from the first scene you select.

Let’s say you’ve got an idea for a historical novel that takes place in 1933. There’s this pair of teenagers who figure out what really happened the night the Lindbergh baby was abducted, but before they can communicate with the police, they themselves are kidnapped. Their captives take them to proto-Nazi Germany, and it turns out there’s some weird relationship between Col. Lindbergh and the chancellor – or is there? Is the guy with the haircut really Lindbergh? The teens desperately wonder: What do they want with us?

Sounds complicated. Where should you start? A recap of the Lindbergh case? The teenagers on a date where one of them stumbles onto a clue in the remote place they go to make out? A newspaper clipping about a German defense contract that should have raised eyebrows but didn’t?

Basically, write your way in.

Think about real life. Any significant episode in your own life did not spring whole from nothing; things happened beforehand that shaped it, and things happened afterward as a result of it. Think about your novel in this same way. The characters have pasts and futures (unless you plan to kill them); places, too, have pasts and futures. Therefore, every storyteller jumps into his story midstream. Knowing this can help you relax about picking a starting point. The Brothers Grimm did not begin by telling about the night Hansel and Gretel were conceived; they got going well into the lives of their little heroes, and they knew we wouldn’t care about anything but what they’re doing right now.

If you’re unsure where to begin, pick a scene you know you’re going to put in – you just don’t know where yet – and start writing it. You might discover your Chapter One right there. And even if you don’t, you’ll have fodder for that scene when the time comes.

Here are a few other strategies that can help you choose a starting point:

  • Write a character sketch or two. You need them anyway, and they’re great warm-ups for Chapter One. Ask yourself: What will this character be doing when we first meet him? Write it. Again, you might find yourself writing Chapter One.
  • Do a Chapter-One-only brainstorm and see what comes out.

The truth is, you probably can write a great story starting from any of several places. If you’ve narrowed it down to two or three beginnings and still can’t decide, flip a coin and get going. In my hypothetical Lindbergh thriller, I’d probably pick the date scene, with a shocking clue revealed. Why? Action!

It’s OK to be extremely loose with your first draft of your first chapter. In fact, I recommend it. The important thing at this point is to begin.

#4: PRESENT A STRONG CHARACTER RIGHT AWAY.
This step might seem obvious, but too many first-time novelists try to lure the reader into a story by holding back the main character. Having a couple of subsidiary characters talking about the protagonist can be a terrific technique for character or plot development at some point, but not at the beginning of your novel.

When designing your Chapter One, establish your characters’ situation(s). What do they know at the beginning? What will they learn going forward? What does their world mean to them?

Who is the strongest character in your story? Watch out; that’s a trick question. Consider Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The main character, Stevens, is a weak man, yet his presence is as strong as a hero. How? Ishiguro gave him a voice that is absolutely certain, yet absolutely vacant of self-knowledge. We know Stevens, and because we see his limitations, we know things will be difficult for him. Don’t be afraid to give all the depth you can to your main character early in your story. You’ll discover much more about him later, and can always revise if necessary.

#5: BE SPARING OF SETTING.
Another common error many aspiring novelists make is trying to set an opening scene in too much depth. You’ve got it all pictured in your head: the colors, sounds, flavors and feelings. You want everybody to be in the same place with the story you are. But you’re too close: A cursory – but poignant! – introduction is what’s needed. Readers will trust you to fill in all the necessary information later. They simply want to get a basic feel for the setting, whether it’s a lunar colony or a street in Kansas City.

Pack punch into a few details. Instead of giving the history of the place and how long the character has been there and what the weather’s like, consider something like this:

He lived in a seedy neighborhood in Kansas City. When the night freight passed, the windows rattled in their frames and the dog in the flat below barked like a maniac.

Later (if you want) you’ll tell all about the house, the street, the neighbors and maybe even the dog’s make and model, but for now a couple of sentences like that are all you need.

But, you object, what of great novels that opened with descriptions of place, like John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath or Edna Ferber’s Giant? Ah, in those books the locale has been crafted with the same care as a character, and effectively used as one. Even so, the environment is presented as the characters relate to it: in the former case, man’s mark on the land (by indiscriminate agriculture), and in the latter, man’s mark on the sky (the jet plumes of modern commerce).

Another way to introduce a setting is to show how a character feels about it. In Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov seethes with resentment at the opulence around him in St. Petersburg, and this immediately puts us on the alert about him. The setting serves the character; it does not stand on its own.

#6: USE CAREFULLY CHOSEN DETAIL TO CREATE IMMEDIACY.
Your Chapter One must move along smartly, but in being economical you cannot become vague. Difficult, you say? It’s all in the context.

The genius of books as diverse as Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Robin Cook’s Coma lies in the authors’ generosity with good, authentic detail. Cervantes knew that a suit of armor kept in a junk locker for years wouldn’t merely be dusty, it would be corroded to hell – and that would be a problem to overcome. Likewise, Cook, himself a doctor, knew that a patient prepped for surgery would typically be given a calming drug before the main anesthetic – and that some patients, somehow, do not find peace even under the medication, especially if they have reason not to.

If you’re an expert on something, go ahead and show that you know what you’re talking about. One of the reasons my novel Damn Straight, a story involving a professional golfer, won a Lambda Award is that I know golf, and let my years of (painful) experience inform the book. I felt I’d done a good job when reviewer after reviewer wrote, “I absolutely hate golf, but I love how Sims writes about it in this novel. …”

Let’s say your Chapter One begins with your main character getting a root canal. You could show the dentist nattering on and on as dentists tend to do, and that would be realistic, but it could kill your chapter, as in this example:

Dr. Payne’s running commentary included the history of fillings, a story about the first time he ever pulled a tooth, and a funny anecdote about how his college roommate got really drunk every weekend.

Bored yet? Me too. Does that mean there’s too much detail? No. It means there’s too much extraneous detail.

How about this:

Dr. Payne paused in his running commentary on dental history and put down his drill. “Did you know,” he remarked, “that the value of all the gold molars in a city this size, at this afternoon’s spot price of gold, would be something on the order of half a million dollars?” He picked up his drill again. “Open.”

If the detail serves the story, you can hardly have too much.

#7: GIVE IT A MINI PLOT.
It’s no accident that many great novels have first chapters that were excerpted in magazines, where they essentially stood as short stories. I remember being knocked to the floor by the gorgeous completeness of Ian McEwan’s first chapter of On Chesil Beach when it was excerpted in The New Yorker.

Every chapter should have its own plot, none more important than Chapter One. Use what you know about storytelling to:

Make trouble. I side with the writing gurus who advise you to put in a lot of conflict early. Pick your trouble and make it big. If it can’t be big at first, make it ominous.

Focus on action. Years ago I got a rejection that said, “Your characters are terrific and I love the setting, but not enough happens.” A simple and useful critique! Bring action forward in your story; get it going quick. This is why agents and editors tell you to start your story in the middle: They’ve seen too many Chapter Ones bogged down by backstory. Put your backstory in the back, not the front. Readers will stick with you if you give them something juicy right away. I make a point of opening each of my Rita Farmer novels with a violent scene, which is then revealed to be an audition, or a film shoot or a rehearsal. Right away, the reader gets complexity, layers and a surprise shift of frame of reference.

Be decisive. A good way to do that is to make a character take decisive action.

Don’t telegraph too much; let action develop through the chapter. It’s good to end Chapter One with some closure. Because it is Chapter One, your readers will trust that the closure will turn out to be deliciously false.

#8: BE BOLD.
The most important thing to do when writing Chapter One is put your best material out there. Do not humbly introduce your story – present it with a flourish. Don’t hold back! Set your tone and own it. You’re going to write a whole book using great material; have confidence that you can generate terrific ideas for action and emotion whenever you want.

If you do your job creating a fabulous appetizer in Chapter One and follow it up well, your readers will not only stay through the whole meal, they’ll order dessert, coffee and maybe even a nightcap – and they won’t want to leave until you have to throw them out at closing time.

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youve-got-a-book-in-you

This guest post is by bestselling author and writing authority Elizabeth SimsShe’s the author of seven popular novels in two series, including The Rita Farmer Mysteries and The Lillian Byrd Crime series. She’s also the author of the excellent resource for writers, You’ve Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams, published by Writer’s Digest Books.

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Via: http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/8-ways-to-write-a-5-star-chapter-one

Story: Character vs. Plot-Driven

Character-vs-Plot

Knowing how to approach your plot will help you work out many things in the rest of your work, from what to research, to chapter length and even the impact of your ending.

Most stories can be classified as plot-driven or character-driven (and sometimes a mash-up of the two). But what do these terms really mean? A lot of websites provide conflicting definitions and examples, but here’s what it boils down to:

Plot-Driven

It’s helpful to think about plot-driven stories as a complete journey where there is a clear end goal which has already been decided. The characters are there to help move the plot from A to B and if you replaced them with other people, the plot basically stays the same.

Plot-driven stories are commonly found in what’s known as ‘commercial fiction’ such as mystery, crime, romance, and fantasy genres, where we know that at the end the murder will be solved, the guy will get the girl, or the prince will inherit his kingdom.

On Indie Tips, Lewis McGregor says that in Lord of the Rings

Even if you remove Frodo, who is more or less the main protagonist and replace him with another Hobbit, the event, which is the battle for middle earth still takes place, the call to action still exists…”

Character-Driven

This is a more internal story, where we spend time reflecting with the characters and discover who they are as people. The nature of the characters and the decisions they make shape the plot and the final outcome of the story.

Character-driven plots are usually considered ‘literary fiction’ because their structures (especially their endings) are unpredictable and their characters are more in-depth. These books can seem more contemporary than plot-driven novels because they’re not following a tried-and-tested traditional story structure.

For example, Liesel Meminger in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, is a round character that is perfectly capable of making her own decisions and choosing her own path in the book’s plot. Her thoughts and actions are her own, and if you replaced her with another girl there may not have been so many stolen books or well-kept secrets.

Which are you?

Sometimes these dichotomies are not so clear. Many books stick to one or the other, but many also merge the two kinds of plot.

Here is a test that will help you to determine how emotionally developed your characters are, and whether you prefer to write action or character driven stories.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing your kind of plot. Different stories require different methods of telling, and whichever style best suits your concept is the one that you should use.

Happy writing!

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/character-plot-driven/

Does Being a Journalist Help When Writing a Book?

I thought this was an intriguing article and worth sharing. In it Fiona Mitchell considers whether being in the profession of writing journalism helps with writing fiction. Here is what she found…Enjoy! 🙂

 

Sometimes people nod their heads knowingly when I tell them I’m a journalist. ‘See that’s why you’ve managed to get your book published, you were a writer already.’ But there’s a world of difference between writing magazine features or newspaper stories and writing a book with 300-plus pages. And the differences have become even more apparent since my debut novel, The Maid’s Room, was published in November.

I’ve been interviewed several times over the past three weeks and I’m trying to get used to being the one answering questions instead of asking them. Over the years, as a journalist, I interviewed quite a few people who didn’t have all that much to say for themselves – yes or no answers, without elaboration. All while my blank notebook stared up at me, along with the creeping fear that I wouldn’t have anything to fill my 1,000-word feature with. When I’ve been interviewed, I have to admit I’ve given some monosyllabic answers myself. ‘Why did you write that scene the way you did? ‘Er, I’m not sure.’ ‘And what about the juxtaposition of light and shade in chapter 7?’ ‘Erm . . .’ I’ve also fallen into the other extreme of filling the awkward spaces with seemingly never-ending gibberish.

Yep, I may be a journalist, but I’m definitely a newbie now I’m on the other side.

Here, best-selling authors and debut novelists share their thoughts on the differences between journalism and writing a book.

 

Fiona Cummins: Author of Rattle, and The Collector which will be published on 22 February 2018.

‘I was surprised by how exposing it felt to be critiqued by readers. I was used to writing other people’s stories – the focus of attention was never on me – and, then, suddenly everyone had an opinion. It gave me some sense of what it must feel like to have a newspaper story written about you, whether you liked it or not. Ultimately, you have no control over what others may think.

‘It’s certainly been a steep learning curve. With my tabloid newspaper background, I was used to working at breakneck speed. Publishing moves much more slowly. I’ve also had to learn to pace myself. Writing a 90,000-word manuscript takes time – I can’t just dash it off in a day.’

Francesca Hornak Seven Days

Francesca Hornak: Author of Seven Days of Us

‘The thing I struggled with in fiction is making bad things happen . . . This isn’t true of all journalism, but in glossy magazines there’s a constant aim to create a kind of aspirational, fantasy world, where people cook recipes and buy £200 moisturisers and scented candles. In fiction, you need to make your characters miserable, otherwise there’s no story. At first I was a bit squeamish about that, but I’ve got the hang of it now.

‘Long deadlines can be hard too; there isn’t quite enough pressure in publishing.’

Cholie Mayer Boy Made of Snow

Chloe Mayer: Author of The Boy Made of Snow

‘I work in news rather than features, so the longest it usually takes for my copy to appear as a newspaper article is the next day. In contrast, the book industry moves at a glacial pace! My debut novel, The Boy Made of Snow, was released last month – more than a year and a half after I signed my publishing deal!

‘As a journalist I write stories all day long, but many articles are limited to just a few hundred words. It’s a completely different skill set to make up a story from scratch and tell it over 100,000 words – with an arc, sub-plots, and an entire cast of characters.

‘The first thing all news reporters are taught is that they must tell the whole story in the first sentence; the introduction must contain the crux of what’s happened and why. But with fiction, you must gradually build a world and let the story unfold over time.

‘Another difference is that in journalism you must explicitly lay out all of the facts and be as clear as possible. Whereas with fiction, you often have to hold back – and what isn’t said, or revealed, is often as important as what is. So learning how to write a novel as I went along was the steepest learning curve for me.’

Juliet West: Author of The Faithful and Before the Fall

‘As a journalist, and especially as a news reporter on a daily paper, there’s a pressure to get your story out very quickly. Ideally that story will be word-perfect straight from your notebook. So when I first began to write fiction I attempted the same modus operandi. I thought I could file my story straight onto the page and all would be effortless and wonderful. Of course, what came out was terrible, so I would re-work every sentence, trying to make it perfect before moving on. I think I wrote three paragraphs over a fortnight, and they were desperately worthy and self-conscious and forced.

‘I realised I needed to give myself more freedom to write a first draft, allowing the story and characters to take root before going back to add polish and finesse. So that’s my top tip. Give yourself a break. Your first draft is yours alone – it’s not going to turn up in the next day’s paper with your byline on it.

‘When I did get a publishing deal in 2013 I was delighted, but also daunted by the prospect of a publicity campaign. Somehow I’ve risen to the challenge, and I’m really proud that I’m able to stand up and give a talk, or chat to a presenter on live radio. But I don’t think I’ll ever shake the feeling that I should be the one asking the questions.’

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Via https://fionamitchell.org/2017/12/06/does-being-a-journalist-make-writing-a-book-any-easier/

How to Use Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales in Your Fiction

fairytales for fiction using-old-tales_6

From myths, legends and fairy tales to folklore: again and again, these old tales reappear in modern fiction. But how do you use them in your novel?

Why Reuse Tales?

Old tales aren’t copyrighted; what you can do with them is only bound by your own imagination. Not only are they a great source of inspiration, but they can add another layer of story for your reader to engage with.

Even their original form is still alive and well today. There is something fundamentally human in the sense of something dangerous about the woods, something magical and unexplainable just around the corner.

Myths are not just for dry, dusty old anthropology professors to muse over in their ivory towers – they’re living stories which we continually reinvent for the times we live in.” – Lucy Coats

What has been the impact of these time-defying stories? Holly Black believes the stories have become central to our being, residing in our subconscious and defining how we see the world.

Do we even stop to think about the ridiculousness of the ‘kiss of life’, prevalent nowadays even in action movies? Fairy tales will forever be a part of who we are.

For Sjón, myths remind him of how small humans are. Poseidon, for example, could wipe us out with a tsunami whenever he wants. The less ‘happily-ever-after’ stories remind us of our mortality to protect and prolong life.

Whether thousands of years ago or in the twenty-first century, death is the ultimate enemy of humans and life is to be protected.

Sjón’s homeland of Iceland has many fascinating old tales of its own. Stories that particularly fascinate him are those where metamorphosis occurs: people turn into flowers, rivers or animals. What is stunning is humanity’s obsession with the idea, leading us to the modern age of genetic experiments.

4 Simple Steps to Go From Tale to Novel

With a fairy tale or two in mind, plus a little King Arthur to spice it up, how far do you go from the original story? Some believe sticking as close as possible to the most original form creates a true, pure story untainted by ulterior motives.

But while seeking the original tale for inspiration can give a lot of insight into the core of the story, there’s a lot more to be done.

1. Know your audience

Are you writing for young children, teenagers or adults? Are you writing a literary piece, or a genre one? Identifying your audience leads you to what parts of the old tale are relevant and interesting to them.

Do they want a modernised retelling, or a whole new story with aspects spliced in from old tale(s)? Would anything in the tale be unacceptable or confusing when read in a modern setting?

All right I am corny, you know? But I think there are just about 140 million people in this country who are just as corny as I am, you know? I’m not a politician, I do it because I like it.” – Walt Disney

Kelly Link tries to imagine a world where Disney didn’t create the cartoons that changed fairy tales and how we view them. Would the original, written form be less or more popular than it is now?

While Disney altered several fairy tales, it was done to appeal to the audience and convey the desired message. This is no different from what any more recent rehashing of fairy tales does, and no different from the task in front of any writer picking up some old tales for their craft.

2. Fill in the gaps

Old tales aren’t a complete novel in themselves; some are only a few pages long. Have a look at what is missing in the old story that modern fiction requires.

In Holly Black’s experiences, fairy tales and other old stories typically have plain, simple characters. Developing characters with backstory and motive naturally sparks off a whole new side of the story.

Another common gap in old tales is setting. Some have a vague indication, such as a castle or ‘deep in the woods’, but little indication of the surrounding culture. Building the setting can feed directly into and off your character’s motives.

For example, you might examine the political system in detail; what if wolves were the oppressed minority?

3. Do your research

Some old tales have different versions across cultures and time. Searching for these can give great ideas of story elements you can move around and still be ‘true’ to some form of the original.

It’s also intriguing to discover which myths traverse countries, and how fairy tales adopt different nuances as they travel the globe.

I did a lot of research, then chose the elements which were most vivid and which worked best in my voice. So I hope I’ve retold a story which you will recognise, but which will also surprise you.” – Lari Don

It’s also good to have a look at what is currently popular with fiction using old tales. In recent years, many retellings show the other side of a familiar story.

Another trend is to look into the history of the story itself: how it came about, who created it and who recorded it. Kate Forsyth’s latest novel The Wild Girl was inspired by the forbidden love of one the Grimm brothers. There’s no end to the inspiration held by these old tales!

4. Select which elements to focus on

Are you using a single story, or a collection of myths? This question is particularly relevant if you’re focusing on a mythological being, such as a vampire.

Is it the plot of one or a few tales that really captivates you, or is it the concept as a whole, built by several related but unconnected myths and legends? This will affect which elements you take from the old tales.

You’ll want to handle old tales differently depending on how familiar they are to your audience.

If you’re using a familiar one, it’s good to use more creative license and encourage your readers to see the old tale in a new, exciting way. If you’re using a relatively unfamiliar old tale, its unknown has great potential to add richness to your novel if you stay close enough to the original.

Using the Familiar

Generally speaking, familiar tales fall under Western mythology and old tales. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, King Arthur, and Ancient Greek or Egyptian gods are just some of the stories you may play with in this way.

If you conduct a search for novels using familiar old tales, the first thing you’ll come across is modern retellings with a twist.

When people want simple nostalgia, they’ll likely read the original or sit down to a Disney movie. In picking up a novel, they’re looking for a little something more.

Even when you’re changing the old tale, its core woven through the story will resonate.

The fairy tale is a lie that expresses the deepest of human truths: those of the psyche through the imagination.” – Joslyn Robinson

While it’s good to put a new twist on a familiar tale, readers will notice every time you change something. To an extent, it’s good to keep up their expectations.

Holly Black recommends plot points from old tales as being the most rich and relevant to the original. Sticking to the original’s plot points – metaphorically or literally – will help keep the magic and hint of nostalgia.

Holly Black’s favourite old tale to use is the collection of myths surrounding fairies. While vampires and werewolves are also favourites of hers, they were once human and bring with them a personality that is just a little too familiar. There is also an endless list of fairies, from pixies to brownies and trolls.

Fairies are truly alien; they cry at weddings and laugh at funerals.” – Holly Black

Alternately, Kelly Link likes working with Greek gods and mythology because their characteristics are so human. The tales are full of family squabbles, misuse of power, jealousy, revenge – drama that’s much the same whether in the mortal or immortal world.

Using the Unfamiliar

Maybe a sense of the familiar isn’t what you want to go for. You may want to write a Snow White who lives with seven ghouls instead of dwarves, or something completely bizarre and unheard of. Typically this type of story comes from Eastern, Middle Eastern, African, South American and Slavic cultures.

Researching different versions of old tales from other cultures, or completely unheard of ones, can help inspire an element of the bizarre in your novel.

Another advantage of using these lesser-known old tales is that it’s less likely to be compared to other versions. You can change what you like and not get pulled up on it; you can do a straight retelling and still be seen as presenting a fresh story.

But when they read my retellings of the untrustworthy Korean tiger or the Witch of Lochlann or Inanna tricking the god of wisdom, they might never see that story anywhere else. My version will be the only version they know. And that’s a really heavy responsibility.” – Lari Don

You can use the whole story, or elements of it. But be careful that taking the old tale out of its original culture doesn’t create a story that can’t be understood. It’s important to research and understand the culture the story came from, but assume that your readers aren’t as familiar with that culture.

Kelly Link likes Japanese folklore, which she first came into contact with through Studio Ghibli films, directed by Hayao Miyazaki. My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Princess Monoko (1997), Spirited Away (2001) and Ponyo (2008) are just some of his films inspired by various aspects of Japanese culture and mythology, particularly their land gods and spirits or demons.

Sjón grew up with Icelandic mythology that, while familiar to him, is very unfamiliar to his Western audience. He shared a few bizarre Icelandic tales at the festival that are worth repeating.

Children are told tales of the Jólakötturinn – the Yule or Christmas Cat – that eats children who don’t receive a gift of clothing for Christmas. And there is the huldufólk – Hidden People or elves – whose existence has stopped several contraction plans to move or destroy the rocks they are believed to live in.

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Myths, legends, fairy tales and folklore are a rich part of our storytelling culture and heritage. Bringing them into your modern work of fiction connects you to the fundamental truths that have survived the ages.

Whether taking inspiration from a familiar or unfamiliar tale, you can add a spark of magic to your own work.

Happy writing!

Via: http://writersedit.com/how-to-use-myths-legends-and-fairy-tales-in-your-fiction/