Tag Archives: Consistency

Novel Girls: Comfort Zone and Fantasy

3 Jul

My Novel Girl friends probably thought I forgot about this post. Nope! I just ran out of time to write it so it’s only now going up. We met waaaay back on June 5th. Yes, we’ve met since then. I’ll get to that later.

I shared the first half of a piece I wrote back in February that I’ve shared with one person but really not touched since. My main character is a man named Mitchell who sees a girl he used to know from school and plucks up the courage to go talk to her. He’s a shy guy and remembers her as a quiet girl, but it still makes him nervous to go see her. However, he seems to find his balls really quickly and asks her out on a date. This took Nicole and Katherine aback because it seemed like a really sudden change and it wasn’t well motivated. I’ll have to look at either giving him more balls early on or making him more nervous throughout.

Katherine brought us a piece that will begin a longer story to get our initial reactions. From the portion we read, it was hard to tell if the book was fantasy or not because it had several elements grounded in this world. We talked about ways she could introduce fantastical elements to the story up front. She could show some supernatural powers, describe the setting’s place in the fantastical world, etc. Depending on how outlandish a fantastical world is, there are tons of different ways to do this. The problem is conveying what you have in your head to your readers. It can be hard to get the image on paper the way you want it to look. Which makes me think; maybe it’s okay if you don’t. Part of the magic of reading is being able to create by yourself what the world will look like in detail. There’s a line between enough and not enough. What are some books you thought gave too much detail and what are some that gave too much? Do fantasy books lend themselves to more detail than contemporary books to convey the setting?

Nicole‘s piece was a little different from other things we’ve read from her. We talked a lot about how it can be refreshing to get out of your comfort zone and write something that’s a stretch. Sometimes really good things can come from it. We did an exercise at a writing group once where we all had to name our least favorite genre or the one we didn’t like to read, and then write our first prompt in that style. I think really good pieces like Nicole’s can grow out of exercises like that.

By the time you read this, we’ll have already had another Novel Girls meeting, so be ready for another one of these posts… eventually!

Until next time, write on.

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Novel Girls: Consistency, Emotions, and Showing

3 Apr

Even though we’re missing Sonia more than we can take, the Novel Girls are venturing onward. We met last Thursday after almost a month apart and it was so good to see these girls again. We met at Nicole‘s new apartment for a change of scenery and to meet her cutie cat, even though he didn’t seem to like me very much.

The three things we decided to talk about are all running together in my mind, so I’ll try to separate them as best I can. We read the last section of my novel (yay!) and there was one thing that really bothered Katherine. My female protagonist is a pretty head strong character and an independent thinker but in the last two pages, someone says something about her that makes her seem very weak. I hadn’t noticed it until Katherine pointed it out and I’ll need to rework a few things to fix it. We talked about when there are one or two lines in a story that can completely change someone’s opinion of the character and how strong/weak they are. I made a similar comment about Nicole’s scene, in which her intelligent and sophisticated character was attacked and didn’t do much to defend herself. Nicole explained why this happened to us, but we needed to see it in the text because not everyone eats pizza with the author.

This is the joy of beta readers. They can see the lines (like in mine) that change their opinion of a character and they can find points (like in Nicole’s) where a character’s motivation needs to be clarified. Many times, motivations can be explained through the emotions a character is feeling. If a character is scared, he or she is more likely to act defensively instead of aggressively. When the author is able to show the emotion of a character, it’s less likely that their motivations will need to be explained and the reader will be able to sympathize more no matter what because they are inside the character’s head. I’ll tend to recommend this if there are long passages of dialogue that don’t have much as far as tags or time to delve emotionally into the character.

Our last point is almost opposite to this advice and it’s getting out of a character’s head a little bit. In a first person point of view, it’s tempting for the narrator to remain slightly anonymous and undefined. Unless the character is looking in a mirror, why would they describe themselves physically? This can be frustrating for the reader, who wants to be able to picture the person whose head he’s inside. Katherine’s narrator went through a strange change to her physical appearance and it was hard at times for us to picture what she looked like as the story progressed. Sometimes it is good to get out of the head of the narrator so the reader can get a whole picture.

This is a little shorter than some of my other Novel Girls posts, but I think we discussed some really important points. I’m curious how my next re-write will go now that I have all of the things we’ve talked about in my mind. I hope to come out with a better product because of it.

Until next time, write on.

Book Review: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (4/5)

19 Dec

This book is for my edge book club so look forward to a post about our meeting in early January. I think it will be an interesting discussion.

Cover image from Goodreads.com

Cover image from Goodreads.com

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I’ve never been much of one for science fiction, but our facilitator said she’d have me read a science fiction book by the time she was through with me and she succeeded. Well, I listened to it, but I think that counts still. Or, I hope it does.

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories that Bradbury wrote focusing on the human colonization of Mars. The book starts off with the four successive exploratory missions of human spacemen to Mars to see if the planet is fit to inhabit. Subsequent stories talk about human adjustment to life on the new planet from how they change it to be more like Earth, the relationship with those back on Earth, and interactions with the native Martians. In the end, another World War starts on Earth and everyone goes home, leaving a stranded few on Mars for the forseeable future as rocket technology is wiped out on Earth.

I ended up liking this book a lot more than I thought I would from the description. To me, Martians and aliens had a very 1970s feel and wasn’t something I was interested in. It goes to show how cutting edge Bradbury’s book is because it was published in 1950. (For the record, I’ve typed 1920 when trying to put a year every time. Can you tell what my favorite decade is?) This says to me that Bradbury inspired all the Twilight Zone reruns I watched as a child. Kudos to him.

I liked that the main character was the setting, Mars. It was the one thing that strung the stories together because characters changed in each one with only a few repeated. The long list of characters didn’t bother me because I approached the piece as a collection and not as a novel. This kind of answers a question I posted before about the difference between the two: It’s all about reader’s expectations for a level of consistency. I just finished another short story collection where the characters were consistent, but the setting and time were not. That didn’t bother me because I expected the setting to change.

There are a ton of popular cultures references in the stories that help make them relatable despite the futuristic setting. My favorite was the story “Usher II” which described a house built in the style of the House of Usher from Poe’s story “The Fall of the House of Usher.” There were tons of Poe references in the story and I’m a fan of his work so I was laughing the whole time.

One of the themes that rang oh-so-true today was conservation of the Earth. The people of Earth were coming to Mars to get away from nuclear war and the over-population there. 60 years after it’s publication, humans are still looking for ways to avoid these problems. If, like Bradbury suggests, the atmosphere on Mars was breathable for humans, I think it’s likely we would start to colonize the planet. The ending idea is that humans hold the power to destroy our own civilization and that our advancements in technology also have the ability to cripple our technology and send it backwards in development. Wow. Bradbury was very far ahead of his time.

When he was writing this, the world was going through/recovering from World War II and the threat of nuclear annihiliation. I think Bradbury’s ending depicts the fears that people at the time had of a nuclear war. These fears continued through the Cold War era and I think are still relatable today with the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea.

Writer’s Takeaway: I love when authors are able to drive home a political point without hitting you over the head with it. Bradbury does a wonderful job. Many people write with a political agenda, but the most affective pieces are ones where the reader finds out slowly.

Enjoyable read even for someone who’s not in to science fiction. 4 out of 5 stars.

Until next time, write on.

Related Post: Review The Martian Chronicles by Bibliophibian Inc.