And if you’re still in the mood for more bad taste, visit “25 Insanely Sexist Vintage Valentines” at courtesy of BuzzFeed. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Fabulous fiction writing (you know, like the kind I do), just doesn’t magically appear on the page. It’s built around a frame of six major elements, each one essential to the over all narrative. Want to know what they are? I thought you’s never ask!
The Six Major Elements of Fiction
- Character — A figure in a literary work (personality, gender, age, etc). E. M. Forester makes a distinction between flat and round characters. Flat characters are types or caricatures defined by a single idea of quality, whereas round characters have the three-dimensional complexity of real people..
- Plot – the major events that move the action in a narrative. It is the sequence of major events in a story, usually in a cause-effect relation.
Conflict – Plot usually involves one or more conflicts, which are problems that need to be solved. The “movement” towards a solution is what drives the narrative forward, and is what occupies most of the protagonist’s time. The more rewarding plots are often built around mental, emotional and moral conflicts. Plots involving physical conflict, war, exploration, escapes often contain the most excitement and suspense. Here are the major types of conflict:
- Man’s struggle against nature
- Man against man
- Man against society
- Man against himself (i.e. a portrayal of an inner struggle)
The first three types are said to be external conflicts, while the last one is internal.
- Point of View — the vantage point from which a narrative is told. A narrative is typically told from a first-person or third-person point of view. In a narrative told from a first-person perspective, the author tells the story through a character who refers to himself or herself as “I.” Third –person narratives come in two types: omniscient and limited. An author taking an omniscient point of view assumes the vantage point of an all-knowing narrator able not only to recount the action thoroughly and reliably but also to enter the mind of any character in the work or any time in order to reveal his or her thoughts, feelings, and beliefs directly to the reader. An author using the limited point of view recounts the story through the eyes of a single character (or occasionally more than one, but not all or the narrator would be an omniscient narrator).
- Setting –- That combination of place, historical time, and social milieu that provides the general background for the characters and plot of a literary work. The general setting of a work may differ from the specific setting of an individual scene or event.
- Style — The author’s type of diction (choice of words), syntax (arrangement of words), and other linguistic features of a work.
- Theme(s) — The central and dominating idea (or ideas) in a literary work. The term also indicates a message or moral implicit in any work of art.
Got it? Now get writing!
Being a member of Liberty State Fiction Writers affords me the opportunity to go to a great writers conference each year (ours), and to also meet up with editors and agents. Although I’m fortunate to already have a literary agent, there’s always the chance to meet up with editors and other industry professionals, and this affords a lot of opportunities. Like finding out who is buying what, current market trends, new authors and hot titles, and too many perks to mention here. I must say that going to a writers conference that offers chances to sit down with editors or agents, gives you an edge in scoring one if you already don’t have one, or even if you do, and are looking for alternate routes to sell. This year’s LSFW conference on March 24-25 has a great line-up of industry professionals, affording writers a chance to pitch in person. And take it from someone who sold a series of books this way: nothing is better than meeting up in person, so an editor or agent can connect a face to a project. Here’s the line up so far coming to this year’s Liberty States Conference:
- Elle Keck – Assistant Editor, Avon Romance
- Yelena Casale – Executive Editor, City Owl Press
- Tina Moss – Executive Editor, City Owl Press
- Jennie Conway – Editorial Assistant, St. Martin’s Press
- Tiffany Shelton- Swerve/St. Martin
- Alexandra Hess – Assistant Editor, Skyhorse Publishing
- Marisa Corvisiero – Corvisiero Literary Agency
- Michelle Grajkowski- 3 Seas Literary Agency
- Lauren Galit – LKG Agency
- Caitlen Rubino-Bradway – LKG Agency
- Stephanie Hansen- Metamorphasis Agency
- Annie Bomke, Annie Bomke Literary Agency
- Eva Scalzo, Speilburg Literary
Appointments will take place on Saturday, March 24, 2018. You must be registered for the conference writers track to be eligible for an appointment. They are assigned on a first come first serve basis, so be sure to register early. Don’t miss your chance to pitch your book to one of our exciting collection of industry professionals. See Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference page for more info.
Just a few snaps from the “First Line, First Para, First Page” writers’ workshop Linda J. Parisi and I gave at Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe in Greenwood Lake, NY, this past Sunday, January 21. Great turnout and great press, with a radio spot on WTBQ, Orange County Radio on Thursday, January 18, and in their local Times Herald-Record, a great local newspaper, a paper that’s the way local newspapers used to and should be still. Anyway, it was fun, the attendees packed the shop, and they want us to come back in the spring. They’re just asking for it, I suppose. Many thanks to store manager Maria Stasolla for hosting us!
WHO: Gwen Jones and Linda Parisi
WHAT: “First Line, First Para, First Page” Writers’ Workshop.
WHEN: Sunday, 21 January, 2018, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM.
WHERE: Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe, Greenwood Lake, NY
WHY: Learn how to create a catchy opening page to capture attention of editors and agents. Bring first page of work-in-progress. Please RSVP, space is limited.
HOW: By showing up. What are you, some kinda smart guy?
Book signing and author mingle to follow. Accolades shamelessly accepted. Click here for more information.
It was sunny and clear this afternoon in New Jersey, and unlike the photo to the left, snow-free. (Though that’s to change soon as a blizzard is barrelling up the coast) The wind was relatively calm, and from my window I could see all kinds of birds pecking at the feeder and except for the barren vegetation, it could have been almost be anytime of the year. But it isn’t, and I don’t need to step outside into the low-twenties chill to feel the hollowness of the season in my bones. After the choreographed optimism of the New Year fades into the mundane, what are we actually left with? Only the anti-climatic yawn of the Dead of Winter and the ennui that follows.
Maybe it’s just a sugar crash after all those Christmas cookies, but last fall’s good intentions and best laid plans now seem as sensible as earmuffs in August, and you’re left staring at a whole lot of letdowns. What happened to that get-up-and-go, those ideas that seemed so workable, those plans set to be implemented as soon as the everything got back to normal, post-holiday? Instead, you’re quickly finding out that things don’t really change, that everything goes comfortably back to the way it was, or more often than not, gets just a little bit worse. You’re finding yourself just a little more broke, a touch fatter, a tad less cheerful and a whole lot lazier. A stretch on the sofa feels more natural that an extended stretch at laptop, and when you do find yourself in front of a screen, it’s more likely for Netflix than for fixing that severely flawed manuscript.
Not that you haven’t tried. To fix that manuscript, I mean. But everything you seem to write is crap. As it was the last time you looked at it just before Christmas. When you told yourself you’d make it better next month. When you had more time. When everything calmed down. After the New Year. When all that holiday hoo-hah is behind you and you can finally think again. In January. Because in January the Universe presses the big RESET button and all wrongs get righted, everything gone down goes up, all promises are kept. When the Muse of Inspiration suddenly infuses us with glorious plot threads, miraculous turns-of-phrase and endings so sock-blowing that ever-elusive editor you queried back in the fall suddenly jumps from your proposal and screeches “MY GOD! THIS IS GONNA MAKE US MILLIONS!”
As if. So what to do?
Beats me. I’m depressed, remember? Deads of Winter tend to breed brain-deadness. Or at least that’s how it feels from here. All I can offer is this isn’t my first Dead of Winter, that I’ve made it through several, and there’s just something about January that breeds contempt. And invariably, things do pick up by February. Maybe it is all that holiday crap we ingested and like a six-year-old on Halloween night, we just need to sleep it off.
Here’s hoping. Back to work….
Yeah, it’s been a sucky year. But in the immortal words of Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, “Never give up! Never Surrender!” For now, raise one for all of use, because we’re going to need it in the new year. But when has anything worth having ever been easy? Here’s hoping all that strife has been worth it!
Happy holidays to all!
Movies are my favorite form of escapism, and when I first posted this list a while ago, the only diversion I needed was one from the over-commercialism of the season. How quaint that seems now. Without going into the reasons why, let’s just take these little gems for what they’re worth, a short vacation out of a reality that’s become too grim of late. So get cozy, grab the popcorn and lose yourself in these trifles of holiday storytelling.
1. The Shop Around the Corner ( 1940) – Must be my Eastern European blood calling to me, but I just love this sparkling Ernst Lubitsch romance set in a prewar Budapest gift shop. Starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan as two battling sales clerks who don’t know they’re falling in love via the post, as each other’s anonymous pen pal. Stellar secondary characters, including a priceless William Tracy as the cheeky delivery boy, Pepi. The Christmas Eve menu at the end had me salivating.
2. The Man Who Came to Dinner ( 1942) – After dining at a Ohio local’s home during a lecture tour, notoriously acerbic radio personality Sheridan Whiteside slips on his hosts’ icy steps, and takes over not only their house but their lives. Starring Monty Woolley as The Man and Bette Davis as his aide-de-camp, the snark and sarcasm are so sharp and quick you’ll come away nicked but you’ll be laughing too hard to care. Still fresh over seventy years later, The Man is based on Algonquin Roundtable-er, Alexander Woolcott, his cronies thin veneers of Noel Coward, Harpo Marx, Gertrude Lawrence and all who were definitely in-crowd.
3. Holiday Affair (1949) – No one did heavy-lidded better than The Mitch, and the very fact that he actually made a holiday film piqued my curiosity enough to watch it. Just by the look of this poster you could see the only thing that remotely indicated that it had anything to do with Christmas was war-widow’s Janet Leigh’s sheer wrapping definitely promised presents for someone. Oh, somewhere among the movie’s a plot involving a department store clerk and a retail spy, a sassy kid, a train set, a jilted–oh who cares! Mitch smolders and Janet’s a brush fire waiting to happen.
4. A Christmas Story ((1983) – All nine-year-old Ralphie wants for Christmas is a genuine Red Ryder BB gun, and he’ll do darn near anything to get it. Based on the recollections of storyteller Jean Shepherd’s In God We Trust – All Others Pay Cash, Peter Billingsley had the part of a lifetime that until this day loops every Christmas on cable channel TBS. Darren McGavin ought to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for one priceless part as Ralphie’s dad who spouts the immortal words, “It’s a major award!”
5. The Holiday (2006) – Don’t ask me why I like this story of American movie trailer maker Cameron Diaz, and English wedding column writer Kate Winslet who swap their respective Hollywood and Surrey homes for the Christmas holidays. Maybe it’s got something to do with Jude Law being tossed into the mix, I don’t know, but the whole thing sure sounds like a good idea to me.
Okay, I’m a big fan of Outlander. Not only the series on Starz, but of the books, as I’ve been reading them since a few years after the first book (named Outlander, oddly enough) came out. I had met series author Diana Gabaldon years ago at a cocktail party at a New Jersey Romance Writers’ conference, where she was so kind to explain to me just how she wrote one of her more grisly scenes (the memory of it and how my stomach lurched, will be better left unwritten at this juncture thankyouverymuch). She was very charming and personable, and years later I had the chance to encounter her again in New York, this time at a Random House Author Breakfast. It was there she disclosed for the first time that just the night before, she had finalized the contract for the Starz Outlander series, to excited gasps from her rabid fan base sitting in the audience, thrilled that Jamie and Claire would finally come to life. But I wonder ever since that day how many of her readers have been disappointed? Because how much is really lost when characters–and storylines–jump from the page to the screen?
I read a romance once where the author stated in her forward that she based her two lead characters, a pirate and a spoiled and screeching noblewoman, on George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. Really? The debonair Clooney as a peg-legged arrrrgh -ing privateer? The elegant Aussie as a continual pain-in-the-ass? Didn’t help that all they did in the book was fight. Just didn’t wash for me, especially since I saw Clooney and Kidman as having zero chemistry. But that was beside the point. I resented the fact I was being directed to imagine a character in a certain way, rather than to let their deeds and actions unfold in my own mind as to what they really were about. When I read a book, it’s should be my interpretation of the writing, not that author’s. That’s why there are book discussion groups, as every reader has a different impression of the author’s vision. And in when a book jumps to a screen small or large, that vision is then ceded by the author to the screenwriters and ultimately, the director.
Every Monday morning I read the Outlander recap in The New York Times and invariably, there’s someone bitching about how much the show is missing/has changed/has been altered from book to series. There’s some changes I’ve liked, there’s some that I’ve questioned, there’s some that I outright hate. Comments say the book is so much better, and some, who’ve never read the books, suggest avenues the characters can take. Those who are like me, enjoy it for what it is. I can live with both because I’ve experienced both, and I see each for what they are. As a writer, I know when I put my work out there, my characters are bound to be altered by each person who reads my story, as each approach it with different life experiences and expectations.
But that’s the chance we take when we become writers, as it’s nearly impossible for our vision to be transferred unaltered into another person’s brain. The best we can hope for is it’s intact enough to remain enjoyable and worthy enough to read. And that enough people end up reading it to end up transferring it from a Kindle into a more widely-distributed screen. Or so we hope.