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Plot

Plot

I was listening to the radio a while ago and heard a writer talking about plotting a novel, a crime novel. He stressed the fact that he wrote out scene details on pieces of paper, different colours for different sub plots, and stuck them up all over the walls of the room he wrote in. He spent some time rearranging them periodically to see how the parts balanced and to discover what the order should be. He said, as well, that many writers use the technique. All of this was news to me.  I don’t plot anything, and I don’t use …

Narrative

Narrative

Narrative is simply the flow of time in a novel or short story. Sounds simple, but it’s not, really. Writers can shrink time, stretch it out, make it bigger (more significant), make it smaller (less significant), fracture it, bend it, turn it upon itself, and so on. Writers can do whatever they want with time in the interests of story. The one thing time isn’t is linear and progressive.  Well, it is but it isn’t. It’s progressive in the sense that cause and effect can’t function if it isn’t linear. If any act carries consequences, then those consequences must be laid …

Which Person?

Posted on 2 min read 292 views

Which person, first or third, works best? I suppose it depends on the writer and what’s being written, but for mystery writers person poses a problem. Here’s where I run into just that kind of situation. Let’s say I’m about to write a section that involves two people equally; that is, both have the same weight in the scene. The rule for point of view is that only one of them can be dominant; that is, the scene should be seen though the dominant person’s eyes only. If the writer is using  first-person narration there isn’t a problem. Every scene is …

Exposition

Exposition

I’ve been thinking about exposition, prehistory, that part of the story that comes before the story actually opens and how writers handle it. If you read stuff that has to do with story structure, you find that most writers who describe exposition have it coming at the beginning of the story, a kind of pre-chapter if you will. But mystery writers don’t usually do that, and here’s why: mysteries open, usually, with some extreme event, a murder, an accident, something to catch a reader’s interest. At least that’s what I’ve been told by people who should know, like Penguin editors. Maybe …

To Be or Not To Be

To Be or Not To Be

We use the verb “to be” a lot mostly because it’s easier than looking around for a verb that’s more accurate. But “to be” is a passive verb; it doesn’t do anything but join parts of a sentence together. Take this sentence: “The road was wet and shiny.” It provides information, sure, but it’s a bit bland. If we use an active verb rather than “was”, we get something more satisfying. “The wet road glistened in the pools of light thrown down by the occasional street light.” I added a bit of detail and using “glistened” rather than “was” seems to …

Write What You Know

Posted on 5 min read 336 views

I’ve heard this idea expressed by numerous people, critics and writers especially, and it makes sense. However, to understand what it means to “write what you know,” I have to look at my experiences and then examine what I write to see what the connection really is. And that brings up some interesting insights and viewpoints on writing. What strikes me immediately when I look at my fiction and the places I’ve been that get into my stories is the way the places get transformed. They’re not used literally at all; that is, they’re not used as they are. The sense …

Indifference: Does Life Have Meaning?

Indifference: Does Life Have Meaning?

An existential philosopher once wrote about the benign indifference of the universe, i.e. the meaning in life, and the dread that idea caused in most people, the existentialist excepted, of course.  Richard Dawkins has taken that one step further suggesting that if the universe is not only indifferent but also has no purpose, then human life must be equally meaningless and without purpose. That doesn’t preclude, I don’t think, the obvious drive in life to become, to realize potential. We see that every spring in renewal. We see it in the drive in everything to reach full potential. Perhaps that isn’t …