Show, don’t tell! — part two!

5 Aug

Part Two — Characters

If you have people in your story, they really should have a reason for being there — even if that reason is only to hold up a wall that might fall over if left to itself.

Of course, that is a tad far-fetched, but still, if a character is in there, he or she might as well be useful, rather than merely be ornamental.  For sure,  you’ll have at least two characters – one might be referred to as the hero, and one as the heroine, if they’re a mixed couple. Or maybe they’re the same gender, but there is still one who is the leader and one who primarily follows. The most important thing is that they be more than cardboard.

Physical details are important: height, weight, age, sex, emotions, character, education, occupation, and so forth. Family background and relatives may be useful, too. If you create such a biography for each character, be sure to keep these pages handy. There may come a time you’ll need to verify eye color or some similar detail, and having your reference material ready at hand will be a great time-saver!

Don’t expect your characters to tell you what they’re doing – at least not right at the beginning. I’ve had a couple of books in which the characters deviated so much from the synopsis I’d written to explain their existence, you might have thought they’d just come in from another planet or something. They bore NO resemblance whatever to the characters I thought they were. But it turned out to be a good thing that they didn’t listen to me.  They knew themselves better than I ever could – and the books turned out much better.

Sometimes it’s difficult to create a reasonable background for your character. Depending on the period in history in which this character lives, you might begin by filling out an application for employment for him or her. Or maybe sign them up for a dating service! Oy. That’ll be a test of your creativity, for sure. Just remember not to try and make major changes in the characters in mid-book! It probably won’t work.

One of my very favorite helps in this regard, is to read a detailed, overall summary of the various signs of the zodiac. For example, I am an Aries. Totally. If you read every description ever written of the Aries personality, you’ll have me on that paper in front of you.  It also worked out that way for my kids – my son is a Virgo, while my daughter was Scorpio.  Their Dad was a Leo, and believe me, sparks flew all over the place from that combination!

It’s absolutely essential that the characters are true to the period of history in which they live. If you’re working on a historical novel, try to read some books set in that same time frame and country, so you can get a feel for the language used. It is also important for the characters to act as though they’re at home in the setting in which they find themselves.

Please come back in a couple of week for Part Three of getting started – the all-important plot!

If you have questions about this, or anything on these pages, please do write and ask!   Thank you – Kelly

Bookmechanic@gmail.com

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Show, don’t tell! — part one

21 Jun

It’s entirely natural for a new author to want to tell the story. Except that it needs to be shown, not told. The more popular expression is “Show, don’t tell!”  Easy to say, not so easy to explain or demonstrate.

If you can imagine the scene, then you should be able to describe it – at least somewhat! No? For instance, walking into an apartment for the first time. Wow! The possibilities that conjures up to a writer. Is it a high-rise, all chrome and glass with window walls allowing the visitor (or resident) to gaze out over a lake or other body of water? Maybe a forest? A golf course?

Or is it a basement apartment, perhaps, carved out of the underground space in a huge older house? Have you ever been in one? Let me tell you, it’s not a very welcoming place. It’s perpetually dark, No matter how many high-powered light bulbs you may utilize, it’s still perpetually dark, usually with a low-ceiling, and thin walls through which anything else in the basement will easily make its presence known! The windows will be narrow maybe a foot or even less tall, but perhaps two or even three feet wide You won’t see much as they’ll be at head height for an adult. A child may see the sky or the roof of the building next door, but not much else.

There may be cupboards in the kitchen area, but seldom in the bedrooms, so one has very large pieces of furniture – a portable wardrobe/closet and chest of drawers. Maybe even two of that latter. If the basement is part of a two- or three-story home, there will constantly be sounds of water, going in or out. And maybe occasionally loud thumps as something (or someone?) tumbles down the stairs. (Yes I did spend time as a child in one of these arrangements, and I was NOT impressed! Thank goodness, I was only visiting. Yuck.) But they are usually relatively inexpensive, which, at times, can make them very popular.

Can you see how, from these two descriptions, living quarters might well influence the people who live in them?

That’s just one element of how to ‘show’ the reader where the action is taking place. Of course, if the story is a historical one, you’ll need to find spaces that could, logically,  be home to those characters. Every location is unique, just as your characters should be, as well. Not for nothing is the famous real estate slogan “Location, location, location” quoted when determining the selling price for a given property. Some years back, a so-named ‘urban pioneer’ bought an empty lot alongside a very busy city street here in Cleveland, and proceeded to have almost a ‘McMansion’ type house built there.

Everyone who saw it during the construction period had an opinion about this new, obviously expensive home being built mere blocks from what might have been termed a ghetto, although the area hadn’t disintegrated quite that much!  But guess what happened? Within a year or so, more of these larger homes were being built in that very area, and a new neighborhood appeared. The area isn’t quite out of the woods, yet, but inching steadily closer. It takes a very self-confident sort of person to even hatch such a notion, much less follow through with it. The owners won a well-deserved award for their forward-thinking!

Put some thought into the location of your story, and be sure to describe it well enough for the reader to be able to ‘see’ it  in their own minds. Then start on your characters. How will these two elements affect the third major constant – plot?  We’ll discuss these other two things during the next month, or so.

Please do come back. If you have questions, please do feel free to ask.  Bookmechanic@gmail.com   Quibbles and Comments are also welcome!  If you have questions about anything concerning writing, that’s the address for all things books!   Thank you, and I’ll hope to see you back here again in two weeks!

 

To Title or not to Title, or What is a Title, anyway?”

4 Jun

How many times have I been asked, “Do I have to have/know the title of my book before I start to write it?”

Too many. But the notion of writing a book is almost a universal desire, although frequently accompanied by a total lack of comprehension as to what’s involved in the process. I love the old saying ‘Everyone wants to have written a book, but almost no one wants to actually write one.’

It’s a lot of work – writing a book. It requires a lot of effort in various directions, subject to change, depending on the nature of the book. Fiction is vastly different from non-fiction – not to mention that even within those two major categories there are multiple differences. But, of course, regardless of  what you want to write, the first thing is to plunk your rump in the chair in front of a typewriter or computer, or whatever means by which you intend to produce your book.

Nothing happens until somebody writes something. Unless you’re James Patterson, you will never be able to sell an un-written book.  Until the book is completed, you won’t need an agent or a publisher, either. You might, however, benefit from a group of like-minded people who are also interested in writing a book. Or maybe one of them has already finished a book. Or maybe, even has seen one published. That sort of camaraderie can be very helpful to a newbie, provided of course, the newbie doesn’t proceed to tell those who’ve already done it how to do it!

So, how important is the title to your project? That depends on the type of book. Non-fiction titles generally say something about the contents. A book about auto repair or maintenance will be a good bit different from a cook book, even though there are some similarities: how to begin, assembling your ingredients (parts), installing/mixing them all together, and hopefully all will be well when it’s time for a test-ride. Er, bite. Whichever.

If it’s fiction, each genre tends to like different kinds of titles. For the last few years, cozy mysteries have delighted in having a pun in the title. If the subsequently produced groan is too loud, however, I sometimes find myself totally turned off.  Not every time, of course, but more than once even after beginning to read the book. It’s as though the author is so proud of his/her cleverness that the story itself just lies there – flatter than a pancake!

If you’re a just-beginning author, try not to get too attached to your title, because unless you self-publish it, it’s very likely to be replaced by the publisher’s marketing department. The new title may make very little sense, and actually have nothing to do with your book, but – too bad! Marketing departments are the 800-pound gorilla in the TITLES room. It’s truly not advisable to engage in dialogue with them. It’s impossible! Entirely too big to move them around, much less out!

The ideal title will have at least a small connection to the subject matter, and will be fairly short – 3 to 5 words is a good length. Ignore that nudge that reminds you of perhaps the longest title ever: “Oh, Dad, poor Dad, Mama’s hung you in the closet, and I’m feeling so sad.” For real. It was a play and a movie in the late 1960s.

A character’s name or occupation is a good starting point for a fiction book, but would likely be of little help for a how-to manual. Of course, the exception to this rule is “How to Marry a Millionaire” which was indeed fiction!

Don’t let the desire for a title hang you up to the point that you put off the writing! NO!!! That is a must NOT do item, truly!  Just call it ‘Project X’ or “Baskets of Words” or something similar. THEN, plunk your rump in that chair and start writing. You’ll be happy that you did! If you really have a clue about your book idea, at some point during the writing, the title might just jump out and say “here I am!” That’s happened to me several times, especially with my plays.

if you have questions about anything concerning writing, please write to me at bookmechanic@gmail.com That’s the address for all things books!  (Should you wish an autographed copy of any of my books, that’s the address for that as well.) Thank you, and I’ll hope to be back here in two weeks with a ‘how to get started’ article for those who really, seriously, want to write a book!   Happy Writing!

New beginnings – again!!

18 May

Of course, a beginning is always new, isn’t it?  But the first beginning of this BookMechanic blog was April 27, 2010. Eegads!

The reason that I started it dates back to the summer of 1993, when my first novel was published. For some strange reason, that action bestowed an additional accolade on me – I seemed to become an instant expert on ‘how to write a book’. Personally, I don’t quite understand why having one’s first book published at the age of 59 translates that way. But, seldom able to resist a challenge, and thanks to my eidetic memory, I discovered that I did know a fair bit about the topic. Still I was 51 when I wrote that first book, so it seemed to me that what I most demonstrated was patience. But that wasn’t quite right, either. I’m not exactly known for my supply of patience!

I was all too easily distracted. Still am, for that matter. But I really did take to the notion of ‘how to write a book’, and couldn’t find any that really told me much of the nuts and bolts of the process. And that’s how I came to start this blog back then. To my dismay, however, I quickly discovered that it’s a long, drawn-out, complicated process – that of writing a book. It is NOT an easy thing to do. It isn’t just the time spent actually writing. No – it’s the thought and the plotting and the research necessary to produce something readable that is the real time-consuming portion. And then, once it’s done, the author immediately thinks of several dozen other things that should have been included, and thus there is a sequel. Or two. Or three. Or maybe even a prequel!

That original blog topic quickly got away from me, and of course, to the delight of any author, there were questions from readers that provides even more food for thought! It is not an easy thing to undertake – writing a book. There is always something just out of reach that baffles the writer. And sometimes the reader, as well. But at times it really works, and the author becomes an extremely happy person. Even if the book doesn’t do a darned thing, once it’s out there, it’s still OUT there, and produces joyful memories. And the author is then allowed to say those two fabulous words, sometimes to the extreme annoyance of anyone in the area – ‘my book’. Those words are all too easy to insert into almost any sentence. Not only do they guarantee a certain cachet to the author, but sometimes they even generate small amounts of money!

I remember very vividly being told this story by my then-daughter-in-law, when that first book was published and available in K-mart stores everywhere. My adult (married) son saw a copy in the store and yelled (without amplification) “Hey! Mom’s book is here!” Believe me, it never gets old, either. I now have five books in print under my own name, and four, from my Regency alter ego, Hetty St. James. Plus there are four novellas, as e-books. Of course, this is due to the previously wonderful CreateSpace entity of Amazon.com. I’m not yet convinced of the wonders of KDP, sorry, but the two most recent books gave me more head- and heartache than the previous seven titles all put together! I nearly gave up.

However, these last two books are those about which no  one seems to know as yet. But yet they’ve both garnered fabulous reviews, so I’m hopeful. First was Brief Interludes, a collection of eighteen short stories, ranging from 423 to 6694 words, on a variety of topics.

BI- smallC front cover - 9-22-28

 

But the most recent book is the one closest to my heart – it’s my life story, set around the framework of my eightieth year, beginning on that big #80 birthday.

Eighty! frt cover - mini

Reasonably enough, it’s title is simply Eighty! and it, too, is now available on Amazon.Com and all its international sites as well. Print editions are available in regular and large print. Plus there is a Kindle version of each. I hope you will at least investigate them, and consider reading one or both, or all nine, for that matter!  (Should you wish an autographed copy, please write to me for details. (bookmechanic@gmail.com) Or if you have questions about anything concerning writing, that’s the address for all things books!   Thank you, and I’ll hope to be back here in two weeks!

 

Zowie – I’m famous! – Part Two.

9 Dec

In October, 2016, I sort of stumbled into a fabulous part-time job. Considering my age, this was nothing short of miraculous, in my opinion, but it was the work itself that was so intriguing! To this day, I think it’s the best possible job to utilize my very idiosyncratic skill-set.

To be sure, I’ve been busily (and happily) writing since grade school, and even flirted briefly with many other careers since then. The 1990s were my big writing years, as my first two books were published, and I was busily writing more. Eventually, all five of my books were published by traditional publishers. (I’ve since self-published all of them when the original rights reverted to me. )

From 2002 until 2012,  I did a LOT of writing: mostly about classical music and opera, plus women’s sports. So there were two of the three big things in my life. I’d done a piece or two about the third thing — cars and or racing, but not much.

So, here I was interviewing at a  local manufacturer of automotive aftermarket gauges and such – a perfect match for my goofy background! Of course, these were gorgeous digital LED instruments – a far cry from the plain old-fashioned needle type gauges that were in the vehicles I raced or drove or sold or whatever. The company is Intellitronix and is based in Eastlake, Ohio.

They wanted me to write the installation instructions for their various products, which suited me to a T! During the interview, the owner asked if I’d be willing to appear in videos for their products. Well, of course! Why not?  I’ve had a lot of audio experience, including radio and taping books, so microphones held no fear for me.

As far as I knew, there was no reason to fear a camera, either. (I’ve never scared a horse, after all!) As long as they didn’t intend for me to be silly or goofy in any way.  No worry on that score, the owner thought that ‘Grandma’s Garage’ might be just the thing! So we did it. This one is not for a gauge, but for an Ignition Box. Mind you, I’m not sure exactly what it does, but I don’t really need to know, either. It was great fun, and I’m hopeful of doing more of them!  So, as they say – without further ado – here it is!

Grandma’s Garage — Opus One!   Grandma's Garage-ok

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1FFaUkDDLR5QktGcHRXOVp0SWM

(click on the above link)

Happy Holidays to all of you! Wherever you are. I wish you Peace and Joy!

 

Put your words where you want them — In a book!

24 Nov

pages wo title

bookmechanic@gmail.com 

 

The ‘Howevermany’ Commandments for Writers

1 Sep

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a first-time published author will automatically become a source of magical information to all his/her writer wannabe friends – so that they, too,  may become published ASAP!  With all due respect to Jane Austen who wrote a similar opening sentence to one of the BEST books ever published  – Pride and Prejudice  –  for the revised version above, which I first put on paper in February, 1996. Yep. 1996. My first book had been published some 2½ years previously, and for some reason that seemed to gain me ‘instant oracle’ status in my writing circles.

So, my first thought then (as it still is today) was ‘I could write a book about that.’  I did start one, too, and have been playing with the notion since then.  One thing that’s not changed in all the intervening years is the title for this gem: The “How to Write a Book” Book.

I was then, and still am for that matter, totally amazed by how many people approach me to say they want to write a book, but don’t know how to get started. It always seemed easy to me, even if I didn’t do it myself all that often. You plunk yourself down in front of a (then) typewriter or (today) computer, and have at it!  Sure beats writing with a feather, as the Sainted Jane did two hundred years ago!

My original thought was along the lines of ‘The Ten Commandments for Writers.’ That didn’t last very long, as my list almost immediately expanded to Fifteen Commandments.  Finally, I settled on ‘howevermany’ as the best description. And I’m going to stick with that!  I’m still working on this book, but of course, the almost twenty years since I started it have seen a revolution in not only writing instruments and methods, but also the publishing world.

However, no matter how you slice it, there are still many very basic and important things that have not changed one little bit.  (By the way, I’m still working on this book, and it will see daylight in 2016, or else!)  Actually, when I started this blog in April, 2010, it was with the intention of using some of the blog posts for the book.  Following is the list I comprised in 1996.  What do you think?

First Preliminary Outline for Contents of: The “How to Write a Book” Book     2-4-1996

The 15 (or howevermany) commandments for writers. Or, how to produce a salable manuscript, assuming, of course, that you really can write.

(Not necessarily in this order, either.)

1  Learn to write in English. If you live and write in this country, or intend your work for an English-speaking country:            grammar, spelling, punctuation, plurals / possessives, to use or not to use?  The dangers of dialects!

2.  Figure out what you want to write, then read, read, read, and read, some more. Read all varieties of things, but especially in your chosen area.

  1. Show, don’t tell. Keep the reader as an active participant.
  1. Viewpoint. Who’s telling this story, anyway? (Viewpoint has nothing to do with tense, or voice.)
  1. Homonyms. One of two or more words that have the same sound, and often the same spelling, but differ in meaning.
  1. Styles. This can be a rather tricky one, but many writers wouldn’t think of putting a word on a page without a manual of style readily at hand.  Each publisher has its own style regarding punctuation, grammar and continuity.  So, if you gear your work toward one publisher and end up going with another, you may have to make lots of fixes, depending. Sometimes the difference is in words: toward  and towards being a common glitch. Fiction and non-fiction may also differ, but not usually within the same house. Some of the more common manuals of style are:  Chicago Manual of Style, New York Times Manual, AP Manual and The Elements of Style by William Strunk.
  1. Reference material, research, resources. How and where to find what; how to use what you’ve found, and how much to use.
  1. Basic presentation – putting it on the page. Plus – what’s the difference between a synopsis and an outline, and which do you use when?
  1. Using real people in your fictional world.
  1. Writer’s groups. Finding the right one for you, and just how helpful can they be, anyway?
  1. Sense(s) and sensibilities:  touch, taste, sight, sound, smell.  Mixing genres. Details, details and more details.
  1. Editor turn-offs and pet-peeves.
  1. Do you really need an agent? How do you find one?
  1. Suspension of disbelief. Yours, ours, theirs.
  1. Other markets and types of publishers.

Non-fiction

Poetry

Script-writing

Commercial publishers

Subsidy/vanity publishers

Self-publishing

Epilogue – a Reminder –

What’s past is prologue,  now it’s up to you!

That last has NOT changed.

Questions?  Additions?  Comments?  Write to me at: bookmechanicATgmail.com   Thanks