With my burning desire to be a published author going up and down like a roller coaster, I am always alert to anything and any books that are interesting and will help me to better hone my craft. In past blogs I have mentioned these books. One of these days I will shell out the money and attend a writing workshop in the City and hopefully develop even better skills.
I currently have the very meager beginnings and character bios and outlines to a historical mystery that's swirling around in mind, but it's not even been drafted yet. I'm still gathering ideas for the plot...it could very well turn into one of those paperback 'gaslight' mystery series. I'm hoping on a series.
The writing task for a mystery is much more complicated because of the big five 'W's. You have red-herrings, the plotting-How do you begin? At the scene of the crime? During the crime being committed? Flashback? Do you know exactly what the culprit did and how...only to go on the journey with the detective and observe how he/she figures it all out? All that and other plot twists and turns. It's definitely my favorite genre, along with the Historical fiction genre. Research, research, research, is your biggest challenge to getting the historical settings as accurate as possible.
Sometimes it's okay to be a just a little skimpy, because it's still a world of your imagination…
You can take a few liberties, that's a writer's prerogative. Sword & sorcery and the majority of those bodice ripping romance novels always do. Just don't give your characters togas when they should be in a high-waist pants and button down vests.
And here's a tip of my own, that I've learned through trial and error. I've kind of had it up to HERE with the plucky heroine/hero who totally differs from the norm, like they're so unique and out of their element. We have names for them in the world of fan-fiction. They are Mary Sue's and Gary Stu's...but that usually involves making the character totally like you and just changing the name and a few features. I think any one who's ever written a story had to overcome using this dreaded character. Here is a nice web definition –
A Mary Sue is a character in a work of fiction who exists primarily for the purpose of wish-fulfillment on the part of the author. She plays a prominent role in the work, but she is notably devoid of flaws or a complex personality, and she usually represents the pinnacle of idealized perfection. All of the other characters love Mary Sue, because she is extraordinarily helpful, talented, beautiful, or unusual, and she often drives readers absolutely crazy because she is one-dimensional and too idealized to be realistic. The male equivalent of a Mary Sue is a Gary Stu.
AYYYY...Fonzie could be a Gary Stu..but...he's just too cool for that. He's not one-dimensional. I can dig it.
Oftentimes in a Historical novel, it's a lazy way of making your character modern, because you don't want to take time and research the social mores, culture and etiquette of the society in which he/she lived. Racial, ethnic, and social prejudices were rampant in the past, and your characters will have them if they lived in a certain era. They may not voice them, but their actions might show it. A person 'of color' may still be the slave beneath the heroine/hero, even if they are good and loyal friends. In most cases, that's just the way things were. It was what it was. Even if it's wrong by our standards.
I have a free email subscription to the writer's digest and every few days I get a new email with some good advice for writing. All you budding writers out there should check it out too-
I wanted to share their tips on a facet of writing that is of major importance. Character development.
How to Develop Your Characters
August 27, 2010
Here are 4 quick exercises to make sure your characters speak to readers (and agents).
1. Make a character study for each of your characters, defining the five traits discussed here: name, age, appearance, relationships and personality.
2. With a clean copy of your manuscript, get out a different colored highlighter for each character. Go through the manuscript one character at a time. Highlight whenever that character speaks and/or acts. If you try to do too many characters at the same time, shifting from one color to the other, I guarantee you will make a mistake at least once.
3. Now read only the dialogue and actions of one of those colors. Does everything your character says sound true to her? What about her actions? If not, rewrite the passages that seem forced.
4. Did you notice one character, or maybe several, who appear in the beginning but not in the end, or vice versa? If so, they probably aren’t necessary to your story. Try deleting them or perhaps combining them with another character.
So, if you're writer, or a reader for that matter, what aspects of a well-developed story appeal to you? Characterization? Setting, authenticity? Description. Description is a biggie for me. I want my imagination and even my senses to be stimulated and I expect to be transported. I cringe when I read books or stories where, 'The man did this' and 'The woman did that' for a pages upon pages and you have no idea who's who, what they're wearing, how they speak, look, etc.
That is not a matter of personal style, I find it a matter of not letting your brain really get to work and conjure up an image. I like to scour the internet for images (mostly actors and actresses) so that I can at least give my characters a face. It's hard to give personalities to non-descript people. There is something in everyone, no matter how deep you have to look, that makes a person's features and mannerisms, unique. It could be a slightly crooked eye, a snaggle tooth, or just a jutting lower lip. If it's in your brain...
PUT IT IN YOUR STORY! You crazy writer you!