Alice’s Restaurant

December 13, 2006

The Hero’s Journey and FanLit Forever

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 10:47 pm

Ok, I suspect some of you have been waiting to see if I would blog about it – maybe in the hopes I would make more sense here than on the board.  I’m going to make one last run at it, then let it drop.

 Check in here tomorrow for my last explanation.

Alice

Themes – Making a Point

Filed under: Writing Technique — aliceaudrey @ 2:41 am

One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen in amateur writing has been the failure to make a point.  I can only guess how often editors must suffer through pointless fiction.

Most of the time the authors who are doing it doesn’t even realize their story has to make a point.  They seem to think simply placing two characters on the page is all that is needed to create moving scenes.

Hah!

If you do not have a central theme around which the book revolves, you will have serious problems with your conflict, episodic and/or chaotic scenes, and a tendency for the writing to drift.  In contrast, having something to say can supercharge not only the scenes in the book focused on your point, but the writing experience itself.

Consider the story of Dick and Jane (as standard characters, not the movie) in the hands of a writer with a point.  Dick is an agent in a covert ops organization sent to retrieve Jane from an Irish pub where she is being held hostage by the IRA.  The theme of the story is overcoming the Stockholm syndrome.

Dick goes into the bar and suggests she leave with him.  She refuses.  He explains he’s an agent sent to rescue her.  She calls the IRA members over and has him trapped.  Now he must convince her to free him as well as leaving with him.  From here we could easily go into Dick facing his own daemons as the IRA works their Stockholm syndrome magic on him as well as her.

Consider Dick and Jane in the hands of a writer without a point.  Once again Dick is an agent sent to retrieve Jane from the pub where she is held hostage.  Dick comes into the pub to convince Jane she has to leave.  For the sake of conflict, she refuses.  At this point a lot of readers are going to ask why not.  Maybe Jane doesn’t trust him.  Maybe she thinks he is simply an IRA member trying to trick her.  Maybe she refuses because she’s trying to get the goods on the IRA members.  Which one?  All of them?  How do you chose?

If you chose all of them you are likely to end up merely confusing the reader.  And what happens in the next scene?  If you chose the option she is trying to get the goods on the IRA members, then you may find yourself accidentally using an old spy thriller set up, which may be more cliche than you intended.  Choose the she doesn’t trust him and you’ve given yourself the theme of trust.  Unless you try to change her motivation later on.  Then you get episodic.

You don’t have to necessarily know your theme before or while you are writing.  It’s quit possible for the subconscious to supply you with a point without your knowing it.  Then later, during revision, you can be surprised and delighted with what your muse handed you.

If not, if you are having problems with episodic writing or having no idea where to go, then you had better stop and figure out what the story is really about. 

Don’t try to grab a theme out of the air and overlay it.  Your point has to come from within the story itself or your characters, dialogue, and much of your narration will seem unreasonable.  You may get comments like “cliche”, “does not suspend disbelief” or “the characters seem shallow” on your contest results.

Your point has to be something you believe on a very basic level or what you tell the reader about your characters, and what you show them will not match up.  At least not without a lot of polishing.

Afraid having a point will make you preachy?  It’s a legitimate concern, particularly if you tried to overlay your theme onto your work rather than drawing it up from within.  Themes that are overlaid tend to come from what the author *thinks* should be true, rather than what an author truly believes.  It shows.

I could go on about what happens when you switch themes in the middle of a book, or what I mean by drawing something up from within, but this blog has gone on long enough, and I think I’ve made my point.

Alice
 

December 10, 2006

Critiquing Rant

Filed under: Writing Craft, Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 8:09 pm

If there’s one thing I’ve done a lot of over the years, it’s critiquing.  I have come to the conclusion that most of the time when someone does a poor job of it, they simply don’t know how to go about it.

In my experience, the most valuable thing a critiquer can do is simply write down how they react to the story as they are going along.  Something confusing comes up?  Say so.  Don’t like the hero?  Tell the author.  If you can also say why, that’s great.  But the absolute best thing a critiquer can do is simply allow the author to watch them read.

There have been many times I would dig in my heels and not fix something when a critiquer went to a lot of effort of telling me what to write in place of what I wrote.  The same thing in the hands of a critiquer who simply says “I don’t like this part.  The hero looks like a dweeb”  will get an immediate revision.

Probably the most annoying of critiques is when the critiquer goes through meticulously converting your voice into hers.  I don’t want every word altered to suit the critiquer’s taste.  Tell me when a phrase doesn’t work at all, or simply leave it alone.  This tends to be done more by novice writers than those with more experience.

As to those who viciously tear into someone’s work for the thrill of being able to hurt someone, I tend to blow them off.  Their power trip is blinding them so much I seriously doubt they can actually see what I wrote.  Why should I care what they think?  Besides, those people don’t generally last very long.  No one wants to hear what they say, let alone bother reading their precious work.  In a small group, they simply aren’t invited back.  In a big one they are either reviled, or ignored.

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Alice

December 9, 2006

Rum Christmas Cake – giggle

Filed under: From the Mail Bag — aliceaudrey @ 6:26 pm

This is not a recipe I have tried, but it reminds me of the Galloping Gourmet.   Read all the way to the bottom before you try it.

 1 cup of water

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp salt

1 cup of brown sugar

Lemon juice

4 large eggs

Nuts

1 bottle rum

2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the rum to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the rum again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and

drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it’s best to make sure the rum is still OK.

Try another cup… just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Check the rum. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the rum to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the rum. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don’t forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the rum and wipe the counter with the cat.

And my first thought on reading it was “where’s the flour”?  Sad.

Alice

December 8, 2006

Bloging Fiction

Filed under: Uncategorized — aliceaudrey @ 2:32 pm

I’m toying with the idea of posting an ongoing story here, like maybe each Friday put in an episode.  What I have in mind isn’t likely to be warmly received by editors with an eye to publication anyway, so I’m not concerned about using up my First North American Serial Rights on a blog or anything.

What I’m afraid is that I’m not good enough to pull it off.

Oh sure, I could write it easily enough.  But could I write it so well that you wouldn’t run screaming?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The question is, would you be interested in the lives of the denizens of a boarding house?  They duel on the staircase, attend political ralleys, and have a pet pig.

Alice

December 7, 2006

Naughty Joke. Don’t Read This.

Filed under: Day to Day Life, From the Mail Bag — aliceaudrey @ 3:57 pm

I get all kinds of things in my email.  Now and then I’m bound to share some of it with you.  Forgive me.

 Fred and Mary got married but can’t afford a honeymoon, so they go back to Fred’s Mom and Dad’s for their first night together.

In the morning, Johnny, Fred’s little brother, gets up and has his breakfast. As he is going out of the door to go to school, he asks his mom if Fred and Mary are up yet. She replies, “No”.

Johnny asks, “Do you know what I think?”

His mom replies, “I don’t want to hear what you think! Just go to school.”

Johnny comes home for lunch and asks his mom, “Are Fred and Mary up yet?”

She replies, “No.” 

Johnny says, “Do you know what I think?”

His mom replies, “Never mind what you think! Eat your lunch and go back to school.”

After school, Johnny comes home and asks again, “Are Fred and Mary up yet?”

His mom says, “No.” He asks, “Do you know what I think?”

His mom replies, “Ok, now tell me what you think?”

He says: “Last night Fred came to my room for the Vaseline and I think I gave him my airplane glue.”

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The things people email me.  *grin*

.

Alice

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Avon FanLit

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 5:56 am

Apparently Avon liked one of my entries after all.  Scalawag! won “The Thrill Ride” award as “Best Action Sequence” in their Bottom 503 Awards.

I am honored and thrilled, but…  it wasn’t even my best entry.

Oh well.

Alice

Avon FanLit

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 5:56 am

Apparently Avon liked one of my entries after all.  Scalawag! got an honorable mention type award as “Best Action Sequence” in their Bottom 503 Awards.

I am honored and thrilled, but…  it wasn’t even my best entry.

Oh well.

Alice

Challenge 2 for FanLit

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 12:16 am

It is indeed going to be a Holiday story.  Any Holiday.  I’ve already put my dibs in on the 4th of July.  Maximum of 15,000 CHARACTERS including spaces, and no more than 3 submissions.  For details, click on FanLit Forever

Alice

December 6, 2006

Challenge 2 Tonight

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 9:47 pm

FanLitters, I will be closing the poll and announcing the rules for Challenge 2 tonight both here and on FanLit Forever.  Get out your pens.  It looks like it’s going to be a Holly Jolly St. Patrick’s Day.

Alice

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