The Lure of Words by Tara Fox Hall

Tara Fox Hall Guest Blogging at aecurzon.wordpress.com

I am very happy to introduce once more, the delightful Tara Fox Hall, with her thoughts on the possible pitfalls of writing a series. Welcome back Tara and lots of luck with your new book – Taken in the Night.

We authors usually began writing because we love stories. What can compare to losing yourself for a few hours—-or longer!—in a superb novel that makes everyday hassles fade into dust? Readers love to discover new worlds. We writers feel compelled to create them, to make our own alternate reality of good and evil, conflict and compromise, passion and betrayal. Yet there is also a pitfall here lying in wait for authors that readers never have to learn to avoid: the lure of words.

When creating a rough draft of a manuscript, authors usually do their own thing. For me, it’s jotting down all kind of ideas on where the plot should go (or might go), as well as the key events or period of time I want to cover in the book. As I write, I check my notes for ideas on what comes next. This usually results in several ideas not being used in the final draft, as they—for whatever reason—have nothing to do with the central plot of the given work in progress. This is not to say that the ideas aren’t good, only that they aren’t relevant to the ideas the book presents (or don’t work to move events along in a series work). These “N/A ideas” get put aside. Taken for His Own - Book CoverAfter the final draft is complete, I again read through the book several times for content, answering questions left hanging (ex: how did character X get home for the next scene, where did character Y get the gun he’s got in Chapter 4, etc.). This is done to make sure that everything flows evenly and the action moves right long. But there is also a final step I do, which is read through to make sure that every word I’ve used is necessary. As I read, if I begin to skip sections out of boredom, I take a hard look to make sure those sections need to be there. Anything that is superfluous is deleted, like a sentence whose subject is restated from the one previous. Passages of merit that don’t belong are cut out and saved for a possible later use in a future book.

This drive to be concise as possible might seem extreme to some, especially as there is no tight word count on novels as a rule. Writers could also argue that most readers want the books they love to be long, to draw out their reading enjoyment as long as possible. While that’s true, most any reader at some point in their lives read a tome that was verbose and overly long. I see this most often in fantasy, but lately in other works as well, especially series books. There are sections—and sometimes chapters—that could be summarized by a page, a paragraph, or sometimes even be left out…and the book itself still remains whole and complete. Writers who do this have fallen victim to the lure of words. 

Succumbing to the lure of words is a gradual process. The first stories a writer pens usually are short, or at least direct. Few words are wasted in the telling of the tale, and there is likely little elaboration or false clues (in mystery writing circles, this used to be known as a red herring: an informal fallacy that leads the reader to a false conclusion, making the story more exciting than a straightforward plot). But the more books a novelist produces, the harder it becomes to rein in a work, especially in a series. More and more characters come on the scene, each with their own histories. Landscapes evolve (ex: a world which before comprised of two cities and the land between them now adds on a sea, several other cities across the sea, and five most cities inland from the initial two). Some of this happens because the longer a story is, by necessity the more complex it must become to sustain the ongoing action. There is also possibly an unconscious desire by the author not to end the series, especially if it’s popular. So early books which held lots of action and suspense give way to sequels where not much happens, even as the books themselves get longer. This complication of the story along with “plot drag” tends to upset the reader and leave them unsatisfied. In this, a writer must always remember that they are telling a story not only for themselves, but also for their audience.

Resist the lure of words, series writers. Your readers will thank you for it!

Taken in the Night Book CoverBlurb for Taken in the Night: When Theo disappears, Sar is left bereft, the uncertain guardian of Theo’s newly born werecougar daughter, Elle. As months pass, clues emerge about Theo’s disappearance, yet the twisting trail ends repeatedly without answer. In her grief, Sar turns to Danial and hesitantly begins to build a life with him and Elle.

Excerpt: Lying on my pillow was a small box of Godiva Chocolate. I picked up the card beside it.

“To my Love, on our third Christmas, Danial.”

I put the chocolates beside my bed, resisting the urge to eat one. The next thing I knew, it was Christmas afternoon.

Danial was gone when I awoke, the rumpled bed the only testament that he’d come to bed. Worried he was up, I wrapped a robe around me, and went looking for him. Opening the bedroom door, I stepped into flowers.

There were vases everywhere, with roses of all colors: red, white, yellow, blue, pink, and multi-colored. The sweet fresh scent of roses wakened my senses. I took a deep breath.

“Here’s another one,” Terian said with a grin, handing me a bucket filled with water and more roses. “We’ve run out of vases.”

I took it from him, taking a deep breath in the silky petals. “How many did he order?”

“One for each day we have spent together,” said Danial from above me.

I looked up to the loft, meeting Danial’s eyes. “Danial, that is over five hundred flowers!” I said, shocked.

“Five hundred, thirty-three,” he replied with a loving smile. “I’ve been listening for you to get up for hours, hoping you’d delay long enough to get them in position. There are four hundred and eighty here so far, so it was pretty close.”

“I can’t believe you did this,” I said slowly, looking around me in wonder.

“This Christmas called for more than a box of chocolate,” he said, leaning over the railing, his dark hair falling forward. “And I know you like flowers.”

“I love them,” I said, burying my face again in soft fresh petals.

“Here’s another,” Elle said, carrying in an armful. “There are no more containers.”

“I’ll get another bucket,” Terian said, rolling his eyes, and we all broke into laughter.

Buy links for Taken in the Night

amazon.us

amazon.co.uk

Smashwords

Lulu – (Print copies)

Melange Books – (HTML and PDF)

Author Links

Website                                  

tarafoxhallATgmailDOTcom (email)

Tara’s Blog

Tara’s Facebook Page

Twitter

Other Books by Tara Fox Hall 

Promise Me Book Cover

Broken Promise Book Cover

Advertisements

Guest Post: Portraying My Characters as Real Human Beings by Dianne Lynn Gardner

Author Dianne Lynn Gardner

I am very happy to introduce my guest for the week, Dianne Gardner, who asks if teenagers can turn their awareness of their parent’s inadequacies into respect for them, as Ian, the main protagonist in her book does, and grasp what a large part the power of love plays. Welcome Dianne and thank you for being here.

As much as Ian wants him to be, Alex Wilson isn’t a perfect father.

I’ve heard a little buzz about my book Deception Peak concerning that very subject. Alex Wilson, a grown man, a father, doesn’t make excellent choices, he’s a little selfish actually and  the reader wonders if they can trust him. But really, as they say, there’s a method behind the madness! It wasn’t an accident.

I wanted to write a book that teen-age boys can relate to. I don’t come from a perfectIan Wilson from the book Deception Peak by Dianne Gardner family, and my kids certainly weren’t raised in one. I see many, many children being raised in single parent homes. Often the parents aren’t much more mature than the kids. Not their fault. Perhaps they had emotional issues that set them back. In Alex’s case, he’s still surviving the death of his spouse, and coming to grips with being a single parent.  No one taught him how and he certainly didn’t expect things to turn out like they did.

A broken family means imperfection.

How could I put a perfect dad in a book meant for teens living in an imperfect world?

They’d know I was lying to them.

Alex Wilson - A character in Deception Peak by Dianne Lynn GardnerAnd you know, there isn’t anything in the Book of Life that says just because we reach a certain age (adulthood— when’s that by the way?) we’re going to make perfect choices… like there’s some software programmed into our brains that clicks on at age such-and-such.

If I were writing that message in my stories, than woe to the kids who’d be waiting around for the reboot!

It just doesn’t happen. And it isn’t fair to kids to try and convince them otherwise.

We are in the middle of a journey. Child, young adult, adult, senior, whatever stage we’re at, we’re learning and growing. Hopefully we get some sense  as we grow older, but there are events in life that can set us back too.

What’s important, and something that I wanted to make sure the reader gets from the series, is that no matter how many faults Ian finally realizes his father has-he still loves him.

No matter how many personal problems parents have today; problems like Dad not paying child support, or not coming around to see their children enough, or Mom drinking too much, or Mom and Dad fighting, or even Mom and Dad not understanding what the kids are going through…the real issue Deception Peak addresses is, how can I love my parent despite his or her inadequacies?

For Ian, he doesn’t even see it as a choice. He loves his dad. Period. But he wrestles with passing judgment on him none the less. It isn’t until his eyes are opened to how others view the world, that he realizes his critical eye.

Indeed, the need for family becomes evident in the midst of tragedy, and Ian is exposed to tragedy.

One of the most crucial eye openers Ian gets is when he meets Vilfred for the first time. A cripple, unable to move but for his friendly smile and wise advice, Ian learns the story of Vilfred’s sacrifice to save an undeserving people from their own idol worship. It humbles Ian. Vilfred is a man who was much like his own father once. A hunter, strong, caring. With Vilfred as his mentor, Ian begins to appreciate his father, and to respect him.

As a side note, compared to some of the situations kids find themselves in these days I’d say Alex Wilson is a pretty cool dad – regardless of taking the plunge with his son into a dangerous and mysterious realm.

“Deception Peak”, published by Hydra Publications, is available from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle  formats.

Hydra Publications

Official book blog

Book video trailer

Deception Peak by Dianne Lynn Gardner- Book cover

Thoughts on Writing Flash Fiction by Jason Sullivan

 A huge welcome to my Guest Blogger for the week, the wonderful Jason Sullivan, talking about the challenges and advantages of writing flash fiction. “I think we will be seeing much more flash fiction in the years to come”, he offers.  Perhaps you disagree!

My first flash fiction piece was actually a short story that I made even shorter. It was a “short” short story at a little under two thousand words, but I still had some cutting to do. When I pared it down under one thousand words, I was worried I would not have enough story. What I found, however, was that I very much enjoyed the sharpened focus of the flash.Guest Blogger author Jason Sullivan on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Curzon" I posted the story and received a lot of helpful feedback from other Friday Flash participants, so from then on I was hooked on flash fiction.

I have always enjoyed reading short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Conrad Aiken, Franz Kafka and many others.  When I started to write it was often in the form of a page or two of fiction, or non-fiction, usually for a homework assignment. Maybe these were my very first flash fictions—of course, I did not know it at the time! As I got older, I dabbled a bit in short stories, partially because I liked the form and perhaps because I figured I could never get all the way through writing a novel. Well, now I have written a novel, three to be exact, although one is yet to come out—look for it sometime this summer!

After I wrote my first flash, it was around Halloween and everyone was writing a flash with a spooky Halloween theme. I thought why not give that a try. This is one of the nice things about flash fiction; almost anything can act as an inspiration for a story. Holidays and seasons are often a good source for ideas. Well, my Halloween flash, about a writer with spider problems, went very well. I plotted it like a mini-short story. The first and last paragraphs needed to be tight and focused. Of course, the first and last sentences of a flash fiction are perhaps the most important of all. They are like the opening and closing punch.

CloudsI also realized that flashes bring a clarifying perspective to dialogue. Perhaps one or two exchanges are all you get. This is a challenge, but I never shrink from a literary challenge (LOL), and again there is the opportunity to hit home with a quote or two that not only lets readers hear the character, but also tells them something about him or her. Much of the world building and descriptive content is similar. There are no words to waste. One must get right to the point. Of course, this is the same for pacing and structure, not a lot of verbose eddies in which to linger.

I went on to write quite a few more flash fiction stories, I actually put together an eBook with ten of my favorites. It is entitled, Foresight and Other Rescue Plans. Another wonderful aspect for writers is the opportunity flash fiction provides for experimentation with different genres. A writer can try new things without pouring a lot of time and energy into a novel only to discover, after much effort, that it is not going to work.

Perhaps the best part of flash fiction, however, is what it provides for the reader. Often people are very busy online and do not have time to read a full-length short story. Flash fiction allows readers to sample many different authors. This, I think, certainly gets readers interested in a writer’s longer works. For writers, too, flash fiction is good for their novels because it teaches the importance of thoughtful word selection, well-chosen actions, character development within the dynamics of the story, and world building as a process. It is true that in a novel, authors have the luxury of building scene upon scene and chapter upon chapter into a wonderful universe for the reader to enjoy. Even in the middle of great tomes, however, readers have little patience for sloppiness, poor focus or haphazard wandering. In this respect, flash fiction is an excellent practice tool for removing redundancy and honing the art of writing prose.

I hope you have enjoyed some of my thoughts on writing flash fiction. Although short in length, it is a large topic. I think we will be seeing much more flash fiction in the years to come. Please leave your thoughts on the medium or share one of your experiences with writing flash in the comments below.

Thank you, Amelia, for this opportunity to guest blog at your wonderful website. I want to encourage everyone to read Mungai and the Goa Constrictor. I read it and totally loved it! It is a superb tale filled with memorable characters. It is a great read and contains a very important message for the times in which we live.

My blog: http://differentoutcomes.wordpress.com/
My flash fiction collection: http://www.amazon.com/Foresight-Other-Rescue-Plans-ebook/dp/B007BPA228/
My Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Sullivan/e/B00488V1XK/
A recent flash fiction of mine on the #amwriting website: http://amwriting.org/archives/11539
Friday Flash collector: http://fridayflash.org/press/the-collector/

Jason Sullivan lives in Lawrence, KS. In graduate school he studied religion and philosophy with a focus on epistemology. For many years he lived in Maryland in a circa 1850s farmhouse that he helped to renovate.