Thursday, February 22, 2018

Creating Internal Conflict

Greetings from the Hermit WRiter.

The writer can’t just tell ... must dramaticize values, choices, attitudes via ....

  • Actions
  • Thoughts
  • Dialogue
  • Backstory
  • Exposition – explain after you have SHOWN the impact; only to show new perspective
    • May appear detached, slow the pace
    • Must punch, to elevate from surrounding story (formal, figurative) – do not break tone
  • Emotion

Avoid character contradictions (that stretch credibility).

 Gems from Nancy Kress in Write Great Fiction.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

CMoS Summary - Comma Rules

Greetings from the Hermit WRiter.

Everyone is an expert in commas. Every reader senses where a pause is required, or effective. It's subjective. Many commas are optional (fall under 6.18, below). If the writer doesn't want to pause in order to build tension, rip out those commas. But leave out one required, such as in dialog addresses, and you look like an amateur. 

There are about seven major sources of expertise in grammar. (Take note, the experts disagree.) Here is a summary of what one says on the matter, from The Chicago Manual of Style:

  • To separate clauses joined by and or but.
  • To separate a series of things or actions.
  • Before and after the names of people you’re talking to.
  • Before or after a quotation.
  • After an introductory phrase if a pause is intended.
  • Around an aside.
  • Around which clauses, but not that clauses.

 And a little of the specifics:

6.18 A comma indicates a pause, involves judgment with ease of reading the goal
6.19 Use comma in a series: John, Jack, and Rick ran
6.20 Leave out comma in series where each separated by conjunction 
6.21 Use semicolon with complex lists, or those containing punctuation
6.22 Surround “etc.” and clauses like “and so forth”: X, y, z, and so forth, were…
6.23 “Et al” does not require a comma
6.24 No comma with use of Ampersand in names
6.25 Use with introductory clauses when a pause is intended
6.26 No comma if introductory clause immediately followed by verb it modifies
6.27 Commas follow “oh” or “ah” when a pause is intended
6.28 Commas always follow direct address: Joe, do you…
6.29 Commas follow words like “yes,” “no,”
6.30 Commas set off parenthetical elements
6.31 Restrictive clauses, those essential to the meaning of the noun it belongs to, should NOT be set off by commas: The woman wearing the red coat…; Nonrestrictive clauses should be separated: My sister, wearing the red coat,…
6.32 Commas usually precede conjunction, except when clauses are short or closely connected
6.33 Include comma before conjunction in a series of independent clauses making up a list connected by conjunctions: Noun verb, noun verb, noun and noun verb 
6.34 Compound predicate: one subject, multiple actions—comma is optional; depends upon readability 
6.35 Preceding dependent clause requires comma: If you accept, we shall…
6.36 Trailing dependent clause, comma depends upon readability, if writer wishes a pause: We agree if you accept…
6.37 And if, but if, that if—Conjunctions side-by-side should NOT be separated by comma unless pause needed for readability
6.38 See 6.31—Clauses essential to the meaning of a sentence are not separated by commas; dependent clauses are separated: The report the committee submitted was… BUT: the report, which was well documented, was…
6.39 Adjective series should be separated by comma unless adjective closest to subject are conceived as a unit (political science)
6.40 Repeated adjectives are separated by a comma: Bad, bad dog
6.41 “Not,” “Not only”-like interjecting clauses require commas if pauses are intended; if separated, both ends of clause must be covered with commas
6.42 Longer comparative phrases should be separated by commas, but may be left off shorter: The more the merrier; The sooner the better
6.43 See 6.31, 6.38—Nonessential phrases, which include supplementary information, should be separated by commas: Committee chair, Gloria Ruffolo, called…
6.44 “That is” type of expressions are usually separated (comma, em dash, semicolon, parens): The compass stand, or binnacle, must be…
6.45 Separate homonyms, except “that that,” by commas: Whatever is, is good
6.46 Dates—Separate year in MDY format; not required in D-M-Y format or M-Y or free-standing year, such as: Thanksgiving Day 1999
6.47 Addresses—Separate individual elements (city, street & number, state), but not abbreviations
6.48 See 6.31, 6.38, 6.43—Personal names & place names: Separate only when nonessential: The Kennedys of Orange County
6.49 Commas do not separate “Jr.” “Sr.” or enumerations (II, III)
6.50 Commas do not separate “Inc.” “Ltd.” and the like

6.51 – 6.56 are irregular usage and thus left out of this summary

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Nancy Kress on Characters

Gems from Nancy Kress on characters in Write Great Fiction. (Buy a copy; study it; sleep with it under your pillow.)

  • Changers – characters who alter in significant ways as a result of the action
    • Learn or grow
    • Their evolution is the stories emotional arc (logical sequence of alterations)
  • Stayers
    • Come to grief because of their blindness
    • Locked into destructive patterns (personal/societal)
  • Strength of character
    • Enough variety in individual characters – Sufficiently diverse
    • Plausible
    • Interesting?
    • Have plausible scope of players?
    • Logical for setting?
  • Elements of the character
    • Name (to suggest family background, ethnicity, age, class, play against reader expectation
    • Nicknames
    • Appearance
    • Overall impression
    • Stereotypes -- to provide strong visual image – impression; imply personality, background; provoke future action – reader interest
      • Worldly, aloof
      • Gritty, dangerous
      • Appealing, unsophisticated
      • Smart, dumb
      • Thin, lank hair (nondescript personality)
      • Fat, sweaty hands (grasping person)
      • Short (Napoleonic)
  • Class
    • Money
    • Education
    • Prestigious job
    • Socioeconomic group
    • Dress
    • Vacations
    • Sports
    • Pets
    • Liquor
    • Brand names – can date, stereotype, mislead

  • Make characterization count
  • Use dress to convey
    • taste
    • social status
    • personality

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Building Your Character

Greetings from the Hermit WRiter.

When we first start writing we are locked into a mindset that the story has to be told, that the elements come together from describing.

I think I had to move to my tenth or eleventh novel before it started to sink in. Telling jumps off the page at me now.

Browne and King in Self-Editing For Fiction Writers categorize four methods of building character.

  • From another character’s statements
  • From dialog
  • From beats (physical action)
  • From character’s viewpoint

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Character Detail

Greetings from the Hermit WRiter.

Balancing the level of detail that fleshes out a story is the hardest thing to do, in my opinion. Overdo it and you create purple prose. Underdo it and your character is flat. Depending upon the genre and scene, you keep taking out unnecessary description and backstory until you have the right balance. From my critiquing experience, I realize you can't make everyone happy. You must create your own style. 

Characterization tools

  • First a brief refresher on Characterization
    • Personality traits, tics, emotions, fears—especially flaws
    • Point of view
    • Senses—touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight (thoughts)
    • Struggle
    • (Avoid stereotypes)
  • Action
  • Internal voice
  • Reflection

  • Sensory cues
  • Body language

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Beginning

Greetings from the Hermit WRiter.

Why is the beginning SOOOO important?

• Sets the tone and mood
• Avoid the circular file
• You only have 15 secs to hook the prospective reader
• Identify who the protagonist is
• Sets up the scene


• Inciting incident
• Cut the flab
• Immediate action
• Early introduction of protagonist

Six things the opening should accomplish:

1. Get the reader hooked
2. Establish a bond between reader and lead character
3. Set the scene
4. Get the conflict going
5. Describe the protagonist
6. Surprise the reader

"Start like you’re jumping on a moving train." – Alan Rinzler

Monday, February 5, 2018

The SPACe Model

Greetings from the Hermit WRiter.

Each of us have a different voice, as each of our readers have a preferred narrative style. What floats one reader's kayak might not another's, even if they like the same genre. 

My narrative personality is Character-driven, with a heavy emphasis on Action. (I like blowing things up, characters who carry knives and know how to use them.)

Consider my suggested alignment as a starting point for discussion.

The dial for voice, tone, and mood is fluid.