14 July 2013

Controlling Characters in a Novel

Creative Control of Literary Characters

Creating characters, settings and plot and the main building blocks for novels. With these three elements in place, you will be on your way to writing your novel. However, many writers find a curious thing occurs after they have begun. Their characters take over. What does that mean? It means the writer has a plot in mind but the characters seem to take a life of their own and diverge from the writer’s intended course.

When Characters Take on Lives of Their Own

When your characters take on a life of their own, you have a decision to make. Do you give them free range to do what they like or do you put them under control. The answer is that it depends. It depends on where your characters are going. Have they taken your novel off track? Will the direction the characters are going lead to the intended resolution of the plot? Good novel writing begins with an outline, which describes your plot. Check the new direction your characters have taken against your outline, then decide if they can exist side by side.

Taking Control of Your Novel Writing

Your characters don’t control your novel, you do. If you like the new developments your characters have created “on their own,” find a way to merge them with your plot. If you cannot merge them with your intended story line, then you need to make tough decisions. Do you change your plot or do you delete the part of the story in which your characters diverged?

Deciding on the Plot for Your Novel

It is not advisable to let your characters run the show. Make the needed decisions to get your novel writing back under your control. The good news is, that no writing is wasted. If you decide to cut out sections of writing to get your story back on track, don’t actually delete them. Cut them and paste them onto separate documents. Save the new document for later use. Be sure to give the saved document a good label. You might wind up with a folder full of these set-aside ideas. That’s O.K. You are a writer. Writers write. Novel writers write a lot.

05 June 2012

Let Readers Mispronounce Your Words

Professional Viewpoint Toward Readers

Be willing to let your readers mispronounce your words. A professional viewpoint toward your writing includes a level of detachment. If your work is successful in the public arena, many thousands of people will read it. Once your work is published, you will probably not be able to control what the public does with it. If you have invented new names and new words, you should sever your emotional attachment to those words. Unless you have written them to comply with the easier rules of pronunciation, you stand a chance that your readers will pronounce them differently than you intended.

How to Get Readers to Pronounce Your Invented Words Properly

Three solutions to troublesome pronunciation are:
  1. Create words and names that use standard pronunciation rules
  2. Create a pronunciation guide
  3. Sever your emotional attachment to invented words and names
Be aware that no matter how hard you do number one, some readers will still mispronounce your words. For number two, realize not all readers will use the guide and not all readers like them. If you truly need a pronunciation guide, you might want to revisit number one. For number three, remember that once you hand your work over to the public, it belongs to them.

Make Fictional Words Easy to Pronounce

If you desire complex-looking words, just be aware that your effect will be visual, rather than auditory. Readers might not like hard-to-pronounce words. Try to make readers happy with your invented words by making them easy, and when they mess them up anyway, just let it go.

27 May 2012

What Is Sword and Planet?

Who Created the Sword and Planet Genre?

The creation of the Sword and Planet genre is credited to Edgar Rice Burroughs. This has become a relevant subject of conversation thanks to the movie John Carter or John Carter of Mars. In the book series, the character, John Carter, is whisked away to Mars and finds adventure and romance with a Martian princess. The first book in the series is called A Princess of Mars and the last or one of the last is called John Carter of Mars. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote other stories about men engaging in high adventure on other planets, such as Venus, and another that told of adventures inside the moon. The characters used basic weaponry, often swords, thus giving the genre its name.

Noteworthy Sword and Planet

Edgar Rice Burroughs has received credit for inventing Sword and Planet, but other writers have found success with the genre as well. Leigh Bracket created a very entertaining series about the planet Skaith with a main character named Eric John Stark who had an unusual and very rugged upbringing on a hostile planet. The three-book series included The Ginger Star, The Hounds of Skaith and The Reavers of Skaith. Bracket successfully mixed telepathy, witchcraft, swords and sun worship with space ships and space travel.

A Future for Sword and Planet Movies?

Whether or not the movie John Carter brings back the popularity of the genre for readers and fiction writers is yet to be seen. However, it does complete a journey that fans of the sword and planet genre have anticipated for many long years. With movie technology at a point where sword and planet fiction can be successfully translated into film, we may see more of the age-old classics of the pulp fiction era reintroduced to younger generations.

17 May 2012

What Is Pulp Fiction?

Two Definitions for Pulp Fiction

If you ask the average person on the street what pulp fiction is, you will collect three answers rather than two. Unfortunately, the most common response is, “I don’t know.” This answer will come, most often, from those born after the era of pulp fiction. From those of the older generations, or those of the younger generation who have looked up the word, you will receive the other two answers. The first definition describes pulp fiction as novels or short stories printed on cheap paper that contain sexually explicit content. This version describes pulp fiction as cheaply written stories that used sex as part of their allure. The second definition alludes to the same inexpensive paper but relates the content as “escapism.” In this second description, the stories contain wild adventures in exotic settings that allowed the readers to escape their ordinary lives.

What Is the Definition of Pulp Fiction?

Pulp fiction stories were written on cheap, pulpy paper with ragged edges, but which usually had an exiting full-color cover. Some of the stories did contain sexually explicit content and, often, the covers showed scantily clad women in distress. Though such content was part of pulp fiction, it does not truly define it. Pulp fiction included a vast array of genres, such as western, romance, science fiction and crime. Therefore it is more appropriate to describe pulp fiction as exciting and exotic fiction written on inexpensive paper.

Where Did Pulp Fiction Go?

Pulp fiction was a very popular medium for the average person in the decades leading up to World War II. Though various articles cite different reasons for the decline of pulp fiction books, most agree that war related paper shortages created a rise in paper costs. Despite the decline of the medium, pulp fiction left a lasting mark on culture in the United States and worldwide. Some suggest that pulp fiction created the idea of the rough and tumble American hero. Pulp fiction characters include Conan the Barbarian, The Shadow, Buck Rogers and Tarzan. Though the era has passed, present day writers still build from the foundation that the heyday of pulp fiction created. 

Links to sites that describe the history of pulp fiction:

15 May 2012

Express Fictional Character Education through Speech

Your Fictional Character Has an Education

Your fictional character has an education you might not have taken into consideration. This is true whether your character is a farm girl from the 1700s or a swordsman in a fictional realm. Life includes education. That farm girl learned to cook from her mother and her parents’ education shaped her knowledge. The swordsman in a fictional land had to learn his craft somewhere. Can he read? Is he a simple peasant who became a soldier or is he a nobleman? You should make a decision about your characters’ education. Once you have this idea down, you can then craft they way your character speaks with much more finesse.

Education Shapes Fictional Character Vocabularies

When creating characters, it is important that you make them sound different from one another. If they all have the same voice, readers might get bored. Readers could also wind up confusing the characters. Each character should have a unique voice. One way to achieve that goal is to limit their vocabulary. You can craft their voice by carefully monitoring their choice of words. If you want to show that one character is smarter than another, don’t let the character of lesser intelligence use bigger words. You might allow only the smartest of your fictional characters to make use of your full vocabulary. Your reader will probably not recognize this technique on the surface, but the flavor of the characters’ intelligence will translate through their choice of words.

Fictional Character Vocabularies Tell A Lot

Let a snide character use words that tell of an imagined intellectual superiority. Have simple characters use words that speak of humility. Your choice of your character words will give them a depth they will lack if you let them speak without vocabulary limits. Try crafting their speech with their education and attitudes in mind and you might find they take on more realism than even you anticipated.

08 May 2012

Create Invented Words with the Reader in Mind

Invented Words in Fiction

If you are writing a fictional story or novel, you will probably need to invent some words. The further away from reality you get, the more new words you will need.

Fictional Characters and Places

You will need fictional names of characters and of places. You might invent a new location, a species or a new technology. Regardless of what you are creating from scratch, be sure to label those new things with your reader in mind.

Create Fictional Words Wisely

My Pet; Aul'thlakt-Tau'nu'nu
Three apostrophes in a name might seem foreign or alien, but it doesn’t help your reader get past the word quickly. If people stumble on the word each time they come to it, they might get annoyed. Readers should be able to read your invented words with relative ease.

Test Invented Words

Because many people sound out their words, invented terms should be possible to pronounce. Some writers will create new words without testing the sound out loud. If you find you stumble on your own creation while reading aloud, your reader won’t stand a chance. Be kind to your audience. Make your names as weird, unique or alien as you like, but make them pronounceable, for the sake of your readers.

05 May 2012

Fictional Foreign Languages

Foreign Languages Add Realism to Fictional Characters

Giving one of your characters a foreign language can help immensely when crafting unique characters, even if the language isn't real. Language gives you a level of control that few other traits supply. Further, because we run into this phenomenon in real life, it makes fictional characters and settings seem more real.

Invented Foreign Languages

Be careful when crafting a language that doesn’t actually exist. The first problem is you might wind up using words from a real language. Do an Internet search with your made up words to be sure you are not saying something you did not intend. Secondly, don’t overuse them. Too much text written in a non-existent language may detract rather than add to your story. If you are actually going to write fictional foreign sentences, keep them short. You might also want to limit your use of hyphens and apostrophes. It might make the language seem foreign but if you look at actual foreign languages, they don’t look like that. Hyphens and apostrophes might make the reader pronounce it the way you’d like but it won’t look as real to the eye. What’s more, many readers won’t take the time to pronounce it once they realize it is a fictional language.

Fictional Foreign Language Techniques

A sentence spoken in a foreign language will identify the speaker as foreign. A handful of such sentences are all that you will need. You might create the effect you want with just one sentence. Another technique is to give the character a single word or phrase, which they repeat throughout the story. The reader only has to learn the phrase once and thereafter identifies the character as a foreign language speaker no matter how much ordinary dialogue the character uses. Foreign language can also add mystique and mystery. An ancient text written in a dead language can be a lot of fun.

The uses for foreign language in fiction are as wide as your imagination. Use them well and your characters will take on greater depth.