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Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 13: Where are you?

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month thirteen:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 13: Where are you?

Magicians and novelists have something in common. They must learn “sleight of hand.”  You know, the old smoke-and-mirrors deal. Magicians pull rabbits out of hats. Novelists pull their readers into landscapes and time periods.

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If we’re out in the audience, we probably don’t have a clue how that rabbit got into the magician’s hat, and, in a really well-written book, we don’t quite understand how the author so successfully plants us into a time and a place. For magicians the secret is often roomy sleeves and quick hands. For novelists, the twin secrets are subtlety and visualization.

Let’s take a look into a novel that does a great job of transporting us into time and place. That novel is FALL OF GIANTS by Ken Follett. In the hardcover edition (page 31) Follett describes a gray house. He doesn’t come right out and say, “The house was gray.” That’s too easy, and more importantly it doesn’t touch a reader’s soul. Instead he tells us that the house is named “Ty Gwyn.” He says that Ty Gwyn is Welsh for White House (aha! we’re in Wales), but he then tells his readers that the name is ironic, because the house is covered with coal dust. It’s so dirty that it discolors the long skirts of women (time period hint) who brush too closely as they walk by.

Follett knows his readers well. They’re the folks who love big fat thick historical novels packed full of story and facts. In this paragraph, those readers receive a visual image of a dirty gray house, but they also see women in long, full skirts, they learn two words in Welsh, and they discover that this particular house is located in Welsh coal country. Now that’s the way to write setting.

So  we’ve seen the fantastic finished product, but I still haven’t addressed the how-to angle. Here’s a few ways that I help myself write settings.

1. I watch a video or a movie set in the area I’m writing about.

2. If possible, I visit the location.

3. I talk to/interview people who live there or who have visited the area.

4. I read travel books and magazine articles about that particular location.

5. I look up statistics on Wikipedia or in my handy old-fashioned set of Encyclopedia Britannica.

6. I purchase maps and study them ardently.

7. I pinpoint the location on a globe. My globe has raised areas where mountains and highlands are located. I love the tactile aspect of exploring my setting with my fingertips.

All of those ideas will help you, but here’s the best-kept secret about performing the magic trick of producing an effective setting — or any visual image — via words. Before you write it, see it in your mind. Close your eyes and imagine that place until you feel as if you were there. If you the writer have a fuzzy image in your head, then it will also appear “fuzzy” to your reader. I don’t know why it works that way, but it does. (I told you it was all about smoke-and-mirrors!)

Once you have succeeded in placing that image in your mind, then you are ready to write it for your readers.

How do you help yourself visualize settings for your stories or novels?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

(Photograph Copyright 2012, Krystal Harrison)

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back March 27, 2014, for part 14.

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Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twelve:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Here’s what I love about reading novels. They give me the opportunity to see the world through another person’s eyes. For a novelist to provide that great joy to his readers, he has to develop full and believable characters and then choose how to convey the thoughts and ideas of those characters on the written page. That choice is all about point of view (POV).

 

In determining POV, every writer has two main options, first person or third person. We’ll talk about variations, like second person,  in a later blog post, but today let’s keep it simple.

 

First Person POV: I went for a nice walk, and I saw a pretty flower.

 

Third Person POV: She went for a nice walk, and she saw a pretty flower.

 

I know, I know, the two sentences above deserve trashing for multiple reasons, but let’s not complicate matters. Two choices. That seems pretty straight forward. So how do you decide which is best for your novel? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you how I decide which POV is best for my novels.

 

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I consider these four things:

 

1. The usual POV in which my genre is presented.

 

2. My preference.

 

3. The strengths and weaknesses of each POV.

 

4. The unique characters in my novel.

 

So let’s talk about #1 – the usual POVs for some common genres. In my next “Writing the Third Dimension,” I’ll discuss numbers 2 through 4.

 

Historical fiction is usually presented in third person POV. That’s because historical fiction often paints on a wide canvas, and most authors prefer to open the minds of many characters to their readers. Multiple third person POVs are less awkward and, to most readers, more “believable” than multiple first person POVs.

 

Mysteries and Who-Done-Its boast a wide variety of sub-genres. Because of the differing requirements in each of these sub-genres, readers will find some novels presented in first person POV and others in third person. If the novelist wants the main character to be as stumped by the mystery as the reader, she will often choose first person POV. If the writer wants to present what happened from multiple viewpoints, he will often choose third person POV.

 

Romance novels are built on a foundation of strong emotions. They are often presented in first person POV, which is able to convey emotions at a very intense level.

 

Young Adult novels are often told from first person POV because of that same strong emotional bond the writer is trying to forge between a main character and the reader.

 

Action-Adventure is another genre that is split between both POVs, but if the novel has only one main character, authors often choose first person POV.

 

Children’s novels, those first chapter books, are also usually written in first person POV, and that is done to help young children bond more easily with the main character.

 

Feel free to add to our genre list. Do you have a reading preference for POV?

 

Enjoy the Journey!

 

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

 

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back February 27, 2014 for part 13.

NaNoWriMo is over. Did I win? You tell me

Wow! Here it is December 1 which means National Novel Writing Month has just ended for another year. After this month I believe myself – even more – to be a writer. Why?

The goal for the challenge is 50,000 words in the month of November. My personal goal was to finish my novel – the novel I have written only during NaNoWriMo. I started it in 2010, added to it in 2011, and planned to finish it this time. (You can check my progress, if you are interested, through each one of my pages called NaNoWriMo Updates 2010, 2011, 2012)

I have an accumulated word total of over 123,000 words through those three Novembers, every word written by hand. No editing has been done yet so there are whole sections which will be taken out or changed or added to in some way. Someday.

The cold truth is … I did not make the 50K mark. I tried hard to do it. My hand is so sore and was getting cramped by the time the clock reached 11:59 and I had to stop writing to post my final word count — of 41487 — before the stroke of midnight. (I managed to write 9750 words today.) Once midnight arrived the clock stopped in the NaNoWriMo stats chart. It now reads: Event Finished, where all through the month it had shown the number of words written that day, which day it was in the event, and how many writing days were remaining in the challenge.

polilla-lynn stats

Another thing is that my first goal was to finish my novel this time, second was to reach 50K. I did neither, although I wrote 82% of the 50K, and I am so close to the end of this story.

polilla-lynn,wc,pc,days

Am I disappointed? A little. I believe that if I had been able to ignore things, such as normal life stuff and responsibilities (although I tried to), I could have finished this novel.  ;)  Now maybe I can cook a decent meal for my dear husband, although I usually don’t have writing to blame for my not-so-great results in the kitchen. Oh, and my internet connection dropped today, so the repairman came by to fix that for me. It is working fine now, yay!, but that was another time stealer – although I am not complaining about that. I am truly grateful for my Internet service.

The worst culprit for stealing time is ME, though. The times I could have been writing, but other things took priority; the times I had nothing coming to me at all; the times I just didn’t feel like writing. So now I still have an unfinished novel. But you know, that is okay too, because I can work away at it at my own pace now without a clock. That might not work in my favour, but that is something I will have to find out.

As I said at the beginning, now I believe myself to be a writer even more than I did before. One big reason is because when I am writing in the NaNo challenge the story practically tells itself to me. Sometimes things I write I wonder about, but later it all ties together; it makes sense as I go along. I find it to be an amazing process. And I enjoy it!

Thank you for your interest in following along as I attempted the National Novel Writing Month challenge again. I appreciate your support.

NaNoWriMo is over. Did I win? You tell me.  :)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo – am I crazy to try it again?

It’s National Novel Writing Month again!  And the question is:

Am I crazy to try it again?

Let’s see …

reading reading reading, reviews,  interviews, Caregiving, two homes to keep up, other family concerns, blog posts, emails, more writing …

sounds like a year ago this time! Only it’s more stressful as time goes on.

NaNoWriMo should either keep me going forward or push me over the edge of sound mind. 

I do have this novel I want to finish. I started it in NaNo 2010, at 50265 words I put it away for a year; in 2011 I picked up where I left off, at 32150 words I put it away for another year. (You can see that info on my NaNo pages update here and here.) It would be exciting to write my way to a great ending this time. The characters haven’t revealed to me how that ending will transpire, but it was all starting to come together to the resolving of a few critical issues leading to it.

All year the story and characters have been playing on my mind – not enough to write more but enough to keep it alive in my memory. I think it is a story waiting to be told.

So, what do YOU think? Am I crazy to try it again?  (I’m nodding YES!)

Should I do it anyway?  (I’m nodding YES!)

Will I do it?  (I’m nodding YES!)

Will you join me? OR will you support me? I am going to keep track here on my blog again, the same as I did the previous two times. Hopefully, I will have something good to report each day. I have installed two fun NaNoWriMo widgets on the right side of this page so you can watch my progress (of lack of) through this month.

Wish me well?

(Now I’m excited! even with 0 words for day one. :) )

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)