Category Archives: Method
First off, please don’t run away. I promise that this will be a serious post on the effectiveness of grief in stories. The other night I was reading a fanfic story that my friend had sent me about One Direction (she’s obsessed). She had promised me that I would be overwhelmed by the depth and emotion that this story contained. To say the least, I was skeptical. Regardless, being the good friend that I am, I read the story. Less than 24 hours later, I was sobbing in bed as I finished the story. Now a bit of backstory, as I mentioned before, my friend is obsessed with One Direction. I am not. In fact, I sort of despised them at first. As, ahem, a classically trained musician, I look down upon most pop music, and One Direction was never exempt from this judgement.
Regardless, being the good friend that I am, I decided to give it a try. As a former fanfic writer (a dark point in my life, I assure you) and a fanfic reader (let’s not talk about that particular guilty pleasure), I knew that fanfics are prone to grammatical mistakes galore and contrived plot lines. With that in mind I began the story. As I mentioned above, by the end of the story, I was sobbing. I wasn’t sobbing becauthe of the death of a character, I was crying because I could empathize with the grief that the survivors felt.
Empathy is one of those emotions that everyone can feel (I so hope that none of you are sociopaths) and as such, it is a particularly effective storytelling device. Because it is so subtle, the walls that many have erected around their hearts are shattered by the overwhelming sensation of empathy that then morphs into grief. Despite one’s best intentions, grief worms itself past that barrier and opens you up to so many other emotions. It may seem counter intuitive, but it all gets easier from there.
A good short story must contain an element of suspense that leaves the readers on the brink of their seats.
In all of the stories we read, the element of suspense prevails across the board. Suspense drives a short story, allowing the story not to fall flat. In the case where a story does not contain suspense, many readers find that the story has no point and the story quickly looses the readers’ interest.
In the case of “Desiree’s Baby,” the suspense lies in the fate of Desiree and the reception of the race issue by her husband and society at large. Not only that, but the suspense of the fire at the end builds to the point that the reader seems astounded, more emotionally vulnerable and feels as if he or she has been left shocked when the author reveals the true origin of the baby’s race.
Concerning “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the niggling sense that something does not fit allows for suspense throughout the narrative. Because the reader knows that the protagonist should have died, the reader feels blindsided by the narration that follows of the protagonist’s journey towards escape. Because the reader feels unsettled by the fact that something seems off, the reader finds him or herself eagerly awaiting the resolution that surely follows such a wacky climax.
In all of the stories that we read, the punch line, if you will, came very close to the end of the story. This allows for doubts to percolate as we read and for each reader to try and predict what will soon come to pass, only to find that their predictions have no basis in fact and appear to refute any actual events in the narration. Because short stories, as the title implies, have a much more condensed plot, they need to have some sort of driving to keep readers engaged.
Now that you’ve heard my perspective, what do you think is the most effective element?
I travel a LOT, which I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve been floating around on my blog for a bit. I use it as a way to discover alternate lifestyles, something very helpful for a fantasy writer.
As I prepare for the various trips that await me this year, I wonder what new and exciting things I’ll discover and consequently what new and exciting things will be making an appearance in RotP.
How many of you consider your experiences as a traveller an integral part of your identity as a writer? Also, do you have any travel horror stories to share?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been of the opinion that characters carry some facet of the author’s personality within them. Often, authors refer to their characters as a part of them and they refer to their novels as a window into their souls. I’ve always been fine with this, and in pre-NaNo days, I simply accepted it to be true.
Now, however, I have a problem. After finishing NaNoWriMo ’11, I was of the opinion that a completely unedited (and incomplete) RotP would make a fantastic Christmas present. I sent it to my parents and my two best friends and waited for the praise to come flooding in (I was a bit naive back then).
Once he had completed RotP, my absolutely wonderful father sat me down for a little chat. He looked at me with a very concerned expression across his face and asked, “Why are all the fathers bad?”
Now, I ask all of you, my lovely readers, does the fact that almost all of the fathers in RotP are bad/evil mean something about my own views of my parents? Or am I simply reading too much into this? Also, have any of you had a moment of realization when became quite clear that your novel revealed something personal that wasn’t quite ready to be revealed?
Also, Daddy (yes, I still call him Daddy, stop snickering), if you’re reading this, please know that you have been and always will be a fantastic father. The actions of all the evil guys in RotP have no effect on, and are, by no means, a reflection of my view of you, no matter what the commenters say :)
I need your help… I’ve been trying to help my FMC express her frustrations at being overworked… As I read over what I wrote, I feel like Juliana’s just repeating herself. She also seems like a REALLY whiney teenager. I’m gonna post the excerpt below, and I’d love any advice that you can offer. As always, all material is Copyright 2012 Evangeline Warren.
Following a leisurely and rather relaxing meal, which James did manage to wake up for, the three friends congregated in Cyrus’ room. Although they were able to communicate with each other at a moment’s notice with their bond, the three friends still valued time that was spent in each other’s company, not in each other’s minds. With Cyrus sprawled across his bed, little room was left for his friends. Julian chose an upright position leaning against the headboard and James decided that handstands would be an appropriate use of his time.
“So how are your lessons going?” Cyrus asked Juliana, well aware of her frustrated outlook on life.
“Eh, they’re going…” She sighed, slouching a bit. “I can’t say much else. I know that I’m the Phoenix and all that, but sometimes I wish that I could just sit back and relax.”
“I know what you mean.” Cyrus angled his head towards his friend’s melancholy face. “Sometimes I feel like being Prince just isn’t worth it. Everything I do is scrutinized down to the tiniest detail. I know that no one would enjoy the fact that I’ve chosen a girl in disguise as one of my closest friends.”
Juliana placed her hand over Cyrus’ and gently squeezed his, a tacit sign of support. Interrupting the moment, James collapsed from his upside-down position. “I can’t say that I’ve had to deal with the issues that you two have, but I do know that living in an environment with ridiculously high expectations can be tough. We all know what my ‘father’ is like.” With that, he took a flying leap and landed on the sliver of space between Juliana’s left leg and Cyrus’ stomach, landing on his friends in the process.
“Why is it that adults always expect us to be perfect? Why must we somehow be able to achieve everything that they task us to do?” Juliana asked her friends. “We are never allowed to fail. I know that if any of us fail at anything, no matter how trivial, there would be drastic consequences. It’s not fair!”
“Come on, Julesie, I think you need rest.” Cyrus inched up towards an upright position. “You’re getting a bit whiney.”
“Anytime.” Cyrus’ soft smile wormed its way into Juliana’s heart and she sent one in return.
“I have to interrupt the goo-goo eyes going on over here—” James started.
“Nothing’s going on!” Cyrus insisted. Juliana just looked a bit confused, not to mention amused.
“Sure, sure, what ever you say, Your Royal Highness.” James flashed a quick grin in Cyrus’ direction. “Anyways, I’m sure that Master Theodore has developed new tortures for me, so I must get my beauty’s rest before that great meeting of sword blades that I call my fencing lessons. I’m off to bed now.” He rose and headed towards the door.
“Whatever you say, James.” Juliana laughed before rising to her feet and joining James at the doorway to Cyrus’ room.
“Good night, Cyrus!” James shouted over one shoulder as he exited the room.
“‘Night!” Came the reply.
“Goodnight, Cy.” Juliana told him.
“Goodnight Julesie.” For the first time in a long time, all three fell asleep that night not to the mental goodnights of tradition, but the oft-ignored sweetness of a verbal goodbye.
The next few weeks passed uneventfully. Juliana grew more stressed and exhausted, Cyrus took out his frustrations on the fencing dummies, thereby becoming a better fencer, and James was merely a bit less chipper and not quite as quick to joke as before. When all was said and done, the trio was a more subdued version of the normal group and everyone was beginning to notice.
One evening, after their nightly lesson, Jonathan sat Juliana down for a chat. He conjured up two plush armchairs and made it clear that he was settling in for a long conversation. “How are you, my dear Juliana?” He asked her as he placed some cookies in front of her.
“I’m fine.” She replied with indifferent tone and a lackluster smile.
“Just fine?” When she shrugged, he tried a different tactic. “This will seem a little strange to you, and I know that you wont follow most of this instruction, but I’m going to try anyway. I want you to disconnect all of your mental connections. Let them know that you’re with me, or even just leave a thin little tether so that they know that you’re okay. Let go of them all. I want you to just be Juliana right now. Got it?” As she nodded, and carried out his instruction, he noticed that her shoulders drooped a bit and her smile slid off her face. “Now, I’ll ask you again, how are you?”
Juliana sighed, relieved to be able to tell someone about her frustrations without worrying that her friends would be concerned. “I’m stressed and frustrated.”
“Why don’t you explain the first to me?” Jonathan gently prodded her to release some of her tension.
“I know I’m the Phoenix, and I’m okay with that, at least I think I am, but I’ve had all of this extra work piled on, and I feel like I’m loosing Juliana in my transformation into the Phoenix. Not only am I taking my current classes, which are a year more advanced than I should be in, I’m also doing remedial work with you in the evenings and extra sword work with Master Theodore whenever we can fit it in. I’m also absorbing the same material that my two best friends are learning in their lessons. Oh, and did I mention that whenever you or Master Theo learns something new, I absorb it too? It’s a lot of information! And it’s a lot of work!”
“I guess that leads us to our next point, does it not?” Jonathan asked his pupil.
“I guess it does. I’m frustrated that Juliana is being ignored. Everything is about the Phoenix and what needs to be done to transform me into her. Sometimes it seems like I no longer matter… People, well those who know about the Phoenix stuff, only care about the fact that I’m the Phoenix…”
- An Interview with RotP’s Juliana (evangelinewarren.wordpress.com)
- RotP Excerpt: Meeting Cyrus (evangelinewarren.wordpress.com)
- RotP Excerpt: Return to School (evangelinewarren.wordpress.com)
- Six Sentence Sunday: Another RotP Excerpt (evangelinewarren.wordpress.com)
- Y is for Youth (evangelinewarren.wordpress.com)
- RotP Excerpt: Meditation (evangelinewarren.wordpress.com)
- Friendship (evangelinewarren.wordpress.com)
- RotP Excerpt: With a little help from my friends (evangelinewarren.wordpress.com)
Well, for me, it depends on the chapter. Okay, I see you shaking your head wondering what on earth I’m talking about. Let me explain. I discovered this site earlier entitled Writer’s Diet and decided to give its special tool a whirl.
The tool analyses a section of your writing to spit back a handy-dandy chart listing your writing level. The levels range from lean (the best option) to heart attack territory (the worst). The work submitted is split into the categories of verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs, and a category encompassing it, this, that, and there. There’s also a score portraying the average rating for your entire piece.
For my introduction, I got heart attack territory (YIKES!) so that will be sent back to the editing block. My first chapter, however, got a lean rating… So I guess I’m not consistently one or the other… What sorts of scores are you getting?
(For those interested, this post got a “Needs Toning” Ooops!)
Eva: Hey everyone! I’ve got a friend of mine here today to answer a couple of questions. So, Juliana, tell us a little something about yourself.
Juliana: Well, I hope I don’t have to tell you much, you should know everything about me already! You wrote me, after all. Laughs.
E: Very true. My followers, however, were not part of that process and I think that they’d like to get to know you a bit better.
J: You make a logical point. Very well. I’m 15, in training to be a Master Mage at the Laydian Academy and I’m an orphan. I’m from the province of Cerroria and my two best friends are Prince Cyrus and James Dasigna.
E: Okay then, thanks for that Juliana. What are somethings you enjoy doing in your spare time?
J: Stifles a laugh. Spare time? What a novel idea! I’m actually spending most of my time working with my teacher, Master Jonathan, on techniques to get me ahead of my class. I’m also working with James and Master Theodore on my sword fighting (which needs all the help it can get). When I’m not doing anything school related, I hang out with James and Cyrus. We have a number of silly things we do, but often we just hang out, do homework, tell jokes, whatever.
E: Sounds nice! So, you’re in school, and it seems like that’s keeping you rather busy. What do you do to relax?
J: Well, James and Cyrus are great. They totally understand the pressure and they’re there for me whenever I need them. We spend our summers together at the palace with Cyrus’ father, King James. Often our time is spent exploring. Cyrus loves the kitchens, so every excursion requires a snack break. In all honesty, my life has changed drastically since I arrived at the Academy, but it has changed for the better. I have two fantastic friends, wonderful teachers and amazing people who have become my family.
E: I’m glad to hear that. With that, I think I’ll stop you, Juliana. I know that Cyrus and James will have things to add when they have their interviews, so I think it best that we leave something new for them to mention. It was wonderful seeing you outside of Scrivener.
J: Thank you so much, Eva. It was my pleasure!
E: Thanks again. To my wonderful readers, you can look forward to interviews sometime in the future with the other characters mentioned today. I know James has been dying to share his version of events. Have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Camp NaNoWriMo!
So… I discovered 9GAG… My life no longer exists… Now, in light of the fact that you all know about my Harry Potter obsession, I thought that I should share this wonderfully epic picture, starring your favorite memes, with you…
No offense is intended to the other houses (I am a Gryffindor on Pottermore). I thought it prudent to add that disclaimer…
In other news, I am a highly random person. I’m sure that you’ve discovered by now how eclectic my posts can be…
This A-to-Z challenge has stretched my writing capacity in a number of ways… I’m sure that my English teacher is now quite happy with my analytical writing… Or at least, happier… (I got an A+ on my C is for Conscience post… SCORE!)
As it winds down, I want to thank all of you. It’s extremely exciting to know that there are actually people out there (25 to be exact) who are reading this. Thank you so much!
I’m off now… I’ll get S up and then be all caught up!
- Q is for Quidditch (evangelinewarren.wordpress.com)
Religion has always been, and always will be, a difficult topic. There are always outliers to any mainstream religion and always nutcases no matter the deity. On the night before Easter, I invariable reflect on the teachings of Christianity and the wide spectrum of ways to interpret them.
When creating a new universe, something that is part of any story-writing process, a writer always runs into the issue of religion. What is the dominant religion? What is the religious allegiance of the MC? Does religion play a role at all?
For me, these questions are often the most difficult part of world building. Generally, I just avoid them… In fact, in RotP, I came up with quite the convenient excuse:
The custom of godparents was one that Juliana was familiar with. Although there was no longer a set or prominent religion in Alinzar, power and money was now held in high regard, this custom, along with those surrounding birth, marriage and death, still carried vestiges of their original form.
Do you ever have this issue? How do you solve it?