Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Fiction Workshop 12 Working with Gustav Freytag's Triangle




Freytag's triangle can be extremely useful. It is a two dimensional model and show us that the story develops in more than one way. Last time, we concentrated on getting you to understand exactly what your story is about and giving it a very rough outline.
This time we're looking a little more at emphasis.
This diagram is probably self-explanatory.  
How can you stress and downplay cause and effects? Then see how the action rises and becomes more complex – desis.
Find the crisis point. Dénouement comes from the French and literally means unknotting. During the "unknotting" both reader and protagonist will get some enlightenment. The action "falls" as we hurtle towards the resolution.

Creative writing exercise

Take the story outline that you developed last time and plot onto a triangle the same shape as this one what are the causes and effects.
Make sure you say a few words about each of these terms as well:
Incentive moment
Rising action
Complication
Crisis
Reversal
Falling action
Dénouement
Resolution
Are you now getting some more meat on to the bones?  
You may also find it useful to analyse a story you have read and see how well it fits this model. Even if you are a "punster", you may find it useful to see how well your finished story fits this model. Possibly, if something is not working, it may be because this scheme is too skewed.      

  

           

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Fiction Workshop 11 Getting the story right



As an editor who both selects texts and works on them with writers to improve them I find a frequent problem is that there is no story. The writing can be technically perfect and perhaps also aesthetically pleasing but what actually happens?
The trick is to be able to tell anyone who needs to know what your story is about. This video explains it all beautifully.See it here.
You should be able to tell your story in two lines or a couple of sentences. Even if you're a "panster", someone who never plans their work in detail, it can be quite useful to know how your story ends.
If you're a planner, the brief outline may be useful:
Inciting incident
·         Complexity 1
·         Complexity 2
·         Complexity 3
Crisis point (the point of no return)
           Climax (Filling the gap between the crisis and the resolution
Resolution
However, this will not be useful at all if you are not absolutely clear on what your story is about.  Not only is this important when you are shaping your story it is also crucial when you come to pitch your perfectly formed story later. As well as being able to write a story that is convincing you must be able to persuade others that it has merit.
Editors can fix poor writing. They can't always help you to fix your story.
More on story shape next time.  
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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Fiction Workshop 10 Tagging Dialogue



         Use said, whispered, shouted and asked only and then mainly “said”.
         You don’t need to tag much if only two people are speaking.
         You do need to tag if more than two are speaking, if it goes on for more than half a page, and for reluctant readers.
         Try tagging with actions where possible.      

Study the following examples

1.      Byrony Pearce: Angel’s Fury

“Well.” The Doctor stroked the edge of the table[G1] .  “It seems we’ve found your talent.”
I shook my head[G2] . “No.”
She nodded towards the gun, needing to add nothing more.
“Part of you has, and you’re beginning to access that knowledge[G3] .”
I thought of Zillah and a sob hiccupped from my closed lips[G4] .
“What’s the matter?”
“Seth gets to sculpt, Kyle’s a musician, Panda draws and what’s my special talent?  The words exploded like water from a dam. “Putting together murder weapons[G5] .”
The doctor fondled the rifle[G6] . “I imagine there’s more to it than that. Your talent will extend a long way beyond just assembling a gun, so I’d better have a range built on the grounds.
My hands tingled and I rubbed them on my thighs[G7] . “You want me to shoot?” (161)

2.      Judy Waite: Game Girls

Fern seems to manage to relax[G8] . “You didn’t finish telling me about the bloke with the shoes.”  
“Oh – right. We went up to the Love Nest – still with all those Shoe Express bags – and he wanted me to get out of my skirt and top.  So I did that – and then he opened the first box and produced some red patent stilettos. He asked me to put them on. It was all very polite, though. He was a real gentleman.”
“He wanted you to do it wearing shoes?”
“No, that’s just it. He didn’t want to “do it”.”
“He paid for you to sit there wearing his shoes?”
“It was a bit more than that. I had to walk about in them, while he watched. And then he opened another box – and another – and another[G9] 

Exercise:

All of the tags have been removed from this piece of dialogue from Sara Grant's Dark Parties. Below is the actual version from the book. This is not the only "correct answer" of course.
 “Ok.”  
“Open with care.”
“Grand reopening.”
“Open and closed.”
 “Don’t we need to make sure people understand we’re talking about the Protectosphere?”  
“Yeah, right. I think it’s about done.”      
“But we don’t know what we’re going to write!”  
“We better figure it out. Once this stuff sets, we can’t use it.”
“No Protect Us Fear.”

Here is Sara's version. Why do you think she's tagged it the way she has?
I almost believe it’s possible. “Ok,” I say. Think slogan.
“Open with care.”
“Grand reopening.”
“Open and closed.”
I’m not sure that makes sense. “Don’t we need to make sure people understand we’re talking about the Protectosphere?” I ask.
“Yeah, right.” She mashes and bangs a little more. She dips her finger in the bucket. Her hand is red and looks like it’s dripping congealed blood. Congealed blood with bits in it. She rubs the red between her fingers. “I think it’s about done.”      
“But we don’t know what we’re going to write!” I smooth a curl behind my ear and think of my grandma.
“We better figure it out. Once this stuff sets, we can’t use it.” She drops the bat in the tub. A spray splatters the yellowing tiles. She grunts as she hefts the bucket out of the tub. She closes the shower curtain and turns on the water.
“No Protect Us Fear,” I say as the slogan pops up in our head. 

 Try tagging your own dialogue using these methods.  

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 [G1]An action is used as a tag.
 [G2]An action is used as a tag here.
 [G3]No tag is needed here as only two people are speaking.
 [G4]A little bit of interior monologue breaks up the text a little.  
 [G5]These two exchanges aren't tagged as it's clear who is speaking.
 [G6]An action is used as a tag.
 [G7]An action is used as a tag.
 [G8]An action is used as a tag.
 [G9]No tags are used in the rest as only two people are talking.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Fiction Workshop 9 Setting out dialogue



Study this piece of dialogue. You can use this as a template when you are writing dialogue. The notes are listed at the end of the passage. It's also a good idea to have a good book open.
“Do you know what? I get really stuck on setting out dialogue[GJ1] ,” said the Creative Writing student.
“It’s not really all that difficult,” replied[GJ2]  the teacher. “Do remember to start a new paragraph when a new person speaks[GJ3] .”
“Oh, is that when you start a new paragraph in the middle of a conversation?” The[GJ4]  student looked as if a light bulb had gone off in her head. “And what are the rules about where the speech marks go?”
“They always go around the speech[GJ5] , with the normal punctuation marks inside it[GJ6] ,” said the teacher[GJ7] , “although you use a comma instead of a full stop at the end, if you are assigning the speech. And if you put the assignation in the middle of the sentence, you don’t start the second bit with a capital letter and you put another comma in front of it.”
Pardon[GJ8] ?”
“Look. Like this.” The[GJ9]  teacher showed the student this document. 
“It’s actually a good idea to have this in front of you when you’re working on a dialogue in a piece of fiction.”  Now it was the teacher’s turn to grow a light bulb[GJ10] . “Or, even, have a well written book open as you work. You can see the pattern. It’s easier than trying to remember[GJ11] .”
“How often should you put “said”?”
“As little as possible. But actually you must use it if otherwise the reader wouldn’t know who was saying what – for example if the conversation goes on for a long time or more than two people are speaking[GJ12] .”
“Okay. But doesn’t it get a bit boring for the reader?”
“Actually they tend not to notice[GJ13] .”
“What about other words – like expostulated, screamed and so on?”
The teacher shook her head. “Best not to. They draw attention to themselves. “Whisper”, “shout” and sometimes “reply” are all right.”
“Okay. Thank you for your help.”
“My pleasure. That’s what we’re here for.”              
    


 [GJ1]Note: normal punctuation within the speech marks EXCEPT comma instead of full stop. 
 [GJ2]“replied” is just about all right for assigning speech.
 [GJ3]And of course, there is no new paragraph here because the teacher is still talking.
 [GJ4]We have used no word to assign.  We have reconfirmed that this is the student speaking by telling you something else about her.
 [GJ5]See, a normal punctuation mark.
 [GJ6]But a comma here and note that it is inside the speech marks.
 [GJ7]The teacher has not finished her sentence so we have a comma here and no capital letter at the beginning of the remaining speech.  
 [GJ8]We don’t need “said” here because it’s clear it is the student speaking.  
 [GJ9]We know it is the teacher speaking because we see her do something else.
 [GJ10]And here we know that it is the teacher.
 [GJ11]This really works.  Try it.
 [GJ12]This is all true.
 [GJ13]Indeed. 

 

Now try setting out this piece of dialogue

The correct version is set out below. Don’t cheat!
How are you, little one? asked the tall blond one in Dutch. She could not muster any words together in this language which was still so new for her. I, er , I'm English she stuttered. The drunken biker wobbled forward. Sorry,.... sorry, holding up his hands. Where were you then? asked the tall blond biker. You seemed a long way away. No, stammered Christina. She’d just been dazzled by the lights, hadn’t she? You’re all right? he said. What was he saying? She hadn’t had a fit? Perhaps it had just been a petit mal this time. You look pale. Do you want me to call someone for you? No! I’m fine, cried Christina. She really felt fine now. And this man was really very interesting. He was gorgeous. She just felt too ill to appreciate him properly. She started to shake.  Oh, dear. You’re shivering. You will catch cold. You must get home. Do you live far? The slight Dutch accent was cheerful and friendly and his eyes twinkled.

 

Correct version

‘How are you, little one?’ asked the tall blond one in Dutch. She could not muster any words together in this language which was still so new for her.
              ‘I, er , I'm English,’ she stuttered.
              The drunken biker wobbled forward. ‘Sorry,.... sorry,’ holding up his hands.
             ‘Where were you then?’ asked the tall blond biker. ‘You seemed a long way away.’
             ‘No,’ stammered Christina. She’d just been dazzled by the lights, hadn’t she?
             ‘You’re all right?’ he said.  
              What was he saying? She hadn’t had a fit? Perhaps it had just been a petit mal this time.  
            ‘You look pale. Do you want me to call someone for you?’
            ‘No! I’m fine,’ cried Christina. She really felt fine now. And this man was really very interesting. He was gorgeous. She just felt too ill to appreciate him properly. She started to shake.  
         ‘Oh, dear. You’re shivering. You will catch cold. You must get home. Do you live far?’ The slight Dutch accent was cheerful and friendly and his eyes twinkled.