"Writers aren't exactly people...they're a whole bunch of people trying to be one person." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hello everyone!! God willing, Nicholas will be published within the next two months and I'm very excited. The semester is drawing to a close, plans are forming, and I'm at a very exciting crossroads in my life. This November's Round Robin is as follows:
How does wording choice develop a story's character? How do you use and select your words?
When I was very young, a friend commented on my story that everyone sounded the same. This simply isn't true in real life. People can sound similar because of where they grew up, but everyone has their idiosyncrasies. For Nicholas, a novella about a London master thief who helps a crown princes survive until her coronation, I aimed for a fairy-tale vibe. I tweaked the historical timeline a bit and made the vocabulary simple to understand. I myself am not British. My ancestors journeyed from Ireland, Scotland, and England in the days of yore, but whatever slang they possessed was not passed down to me. I wondered if I should attempt to incorporate British slang--but it would have to be slang from the hazy eighteenth century. Because I was shooting for less hardcore historical accuracy and more fairy-tale haziness, I simply had upper class characters speak with a larger vocabulary, and everyone spoke a bit more formally than we do nowadays.
Shubiao's Girls, a paranormal novel to be published in the coming year (!!!), I dealt with Massachusetts college students, an ancient Chinese mouse spirit, a Fallen angel, and a demon who's existed since before the Bible was written. Obviously, they could NOT all talk the same. Or--I guess they could've--but that wouldn't have been a very bright thing for me to choose. Cara, the protagonist, is a third-year business major. Her wording is much more concise and brief than, say, her best friend Hosey. Hosey is an English major and is much more fanciful and long-winded in his speech patterns. That, or at the very least he's more dramatic.
For the novel as a whole, I had a lot more fun with the basic speech pattern. The third person narrator (moi) is a lot more flippant and silly with similes and things than I was with Monet Evanesce, the next novel I'm going to talk about. I wrote this book for pure fun, and to explore mythologies, so examples of a few chapter titles are:
In Monet Evanesce, the soon-to-be-published novel about Polish art forgers and the biggest con ever attempted, two of the main characters are Apollo and Timo Roszak. They're twins, but very different. Apollo is much more reserved and soft spoken while his brother Timo is much more an extrovert. Timo plays the fence to Apollo's forger. The novel's language itself is a bit on the formal side while the characters are often on the snarkier side.
Lastly, Serpents and Flame is the oldest manuscript of my novels queued to be published by MuseItUp. At the same time, the characters are the youngest of any of my stories. The main protagonists range from seventeen to about twenty-two. Therefore, their speech tends to be a lot more casual and exclamatory; they tend to react more emotionally than my older characters, and use a lot more slang.
I really enjoyed writing this post (maybe you can tell by the length), and if you did too and want to know more, follow along the list of authors who're ready to spill the beans on their literary linguistic lyricisms :)
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-OB
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
(TWIP: This Week In Progress)
Forty-nine weeks ago (according to Instagram, because my moleskine from that time period is about a hundred miles away at my house), I had just plunked down in Nottingham, England. Since then, it seems I’ve been in a state of tumult. Not bad tumult, but tumult nonetheless; like I'm being hurtled through a bunch of fascinating things and I can't quite focus on a single one.
In Nottingham, I was overloaded with adventure and culture saturation. I climbed towards ancient Scottish priories in the rain, dyed my hair purple, and succumbed to drinking tea when, for literally months prior, you’d catch me making leaf-water/Boston Tea Party/Revolutionary War jokes. Then I returned home and got slammed with junior year work, acclimating back to more stoic professors and the intense American school system. Summer appeared in a blazing rush and I got hired at a wonderful, semi-elite bookstore while also working as a paid (!) research assistant. And now here I sit on a carmine-colored couch in a very white apartment usually filled with some really great girls. My eyes ache (I had to switch out my contacts after Ancient Greek Civilizations), I’m itchy with sweat because my apartment exists on the third floor, and I’ve drunk alcohol on two different occasions already.
It’s only Wednesday.
Yesterday, I was headed to the library to get some Spanish packets highlighted while thinking, "I can grab Costa after this. I can't wait. I love Costa coffee!" Only, Costa exists at Nottingham, not here at my college, and Nottingham is some 3,000+ miles away. I paused for a minute, just a little confused as to where I was.
It probably didn't help that my bookstore job wasn't too taxing on my brain and now I'm operating at maximum usage.
What I’m trying to say is, a lot can change in a year. And my life only seems to be going faster. So I just needed to write it all down somewhere. Expulse my thoughts between trying to not lose my temper at John Locke’s long-windedness and planning my senior thesis and
accepting another research assistant job. Gotta pad that résumé.
Also, I just drank a mug of coffee, finished it, and an oddly Gollum-like thought of MORE slunk through my mind. This is gonna be quite the semester.
A new story idea scratched at the inside of my skull a few hours ago and I’m trying really hard not to scare it away. I bought plane tickets for New York City this coming January to visit my friends just as I promised freshman year; I’m applying for graduate schools next year (London and Edinburgh are looking especially dashing).
On the very plus side, Nicholas is being released this winter (you can read the first chapter here) and possibly even my first published novel, Shubiao’s Girls. Nicholas started off, as my other novella, The Christmas Lights, did, as a Christmas present for my mom. I feel no shame whatsoever of buying into the cliché of a charming London thief. I feel like everyone should write about London thieves at least once. Or any thief, actually.
Nicholas was adapted from a loose plot of a book I wanted to write called Jamie’s Mercy (still really proud of that title). Jamie was a teenage pirate with a one-man sailing ship and a penchant for wandering rooftops. Mercy was a headstrong bishop’s daughter who discovered a treasure map on a document in her father’s church, which brought her to the attention of loads of loathsome ruffians. However, for whatever reason I couldn’t create more than that (and even now it raises questions such as, ‘Aren’t bishops celibate? Should she be a nun or novice-nun, then?’)
And so, I nipped up Jamie and switched his name, dropping him in Westminster, London, into the vague eighteenth century, and let him loose. He quickly stole stories from the top of a palace tower and discovered the very strong Crown Princess—the teller of the stories—was soon to fall into a plot almost as dark as her tales. Nicholas is much more “fairy-tale” than my other books: hence the princess, and a villain who is only referred to as “the duke.” I didn’t feel the need to let the read in on his name. He was too despicable; too hateful of his title—for why would a king’s twin brother be merely referred to as a duke? Some love lost there, I assume.
I’m eagerly awaiting cover art and the Final Galley for Nicholas and cannot wait for people to learn about him and HRH Alexandrina.
I’m just realizing now that this is a bit long, and think I’ll gush about Shubiao’s Girls a bit later, perhaps in a week or two.
Hope everyone's weeks are manageable!
Topic: Confrontation creates powerful drama. This month, use one scene you've written (published or not) that shows confrontation between characters with a brief explanation.
Alllllriiiiggghttt. I'm actually really stoked for this Round Robin, if you couldn't tell by my enthusiastic overuse of letter repetition. I love conflict in books. It's the reason we write books. If everything was hunky dory, plot wouldn't happen. Even when things are slow (like, say, the group of heroes is sitting in a library trying to learn about where to find Cronus's scythe is), there's a threat of confrontation. They're racing against time. The heroes have made other heroes explosively angry, simply based on the face they they've been chosen to find a sacred, beyond powerful relic and the older heroes have been pushed by the wayside (which may or may not be a plot point in my Serpents and Flame books, hehe). And, besides reading it...confrontation is incredibly fun to write.
Below is a scene from Nicholas, because that novella is all geared up to come out this winter (*insert joyful scream here*) and because it's the most cut-and-dry scene I could find out of my novels queued to be published. Nicholas, the title character, is a very skilled Westminster thief who tries to help the Crown Princess escape an assassination attempt. In this scene, he had been pretending to be a German ambassador but two would-be assassins tracked him down before he can join Alexandrina, the princess, at a pre-coronation dinner.
“Have a nice sleep?”
The voice rose from behind him the same time Nicholas realized he hadn’t needed to unlock the door when he left. He spun, glaring at the shadow as it unhinged itself from the darkness. It was the taller one.
Nicholas scrubbed at his hair. “Why yes, thank you.” He didn’t bother with an accent.
“You were on the roof. Same way you got in.” The shorter of the Rickets came shuffling down the hall, unable to hide a trace of admiration.
“It’s referred to as stealth. That’s how respectable thieves work.” Nicholas rolled his shoulders. “It’s more civilized than murdering people in their sleep.” He paused, making sure his back was to the wall, and adjusted his white gloves. “It would’ve been easier to ambush me, you realize? Or weren’t you sure I was on the roof?”
“The duke warned us about this room, though nothing was moved. But we couldn’t find you anywhere else so we thought maybe—” the taller man started, but the other silenced him with a harsh noise.
Nicholas raised an eyebrow. A tremble kicked up in his shins but he ignored it. He forced his breathing to regulate; deep breaths soaking into him so he wouldn’t let the nerves envelop his thoughts. Nicholas pretended it was all a game. He was messing around with Hugh or some of their acquaintances, nothing more. “I suppose you want some revenge before taking me to the duke. Your plan was to rough me up a bit, for making you look stupid.”
The shorter grinned, holding two fingers close together. “A bit. Just to give you a taste.”
“Pleasant.” Nicholas unbuttoned his coat and slid off his gloves.
Nicholas was not a large person. Hugh could easily flatten him within a few seconds…but Hugh wasn’t usually threatening Nicholas’s life and the life of the future monarch.
Shirking his jacket off in one fluid motion, Nicholas flung it into the taller man’s face so hard he thought the brass buttons might leave bruises. A heavy body leapfrogged onto his back. Nicholas’s face connected with the wall but he turned, using the momentum of the short brother to aim his fall at the taller, who had just gotten the jacket off his head and scrubbed at one closed eye. All three bodies tumbled to the ground with Nicholas on top. As he fell, Nicholas used both elbows and the back of his head to add impact.
A nasty crack—like an egg under a heel—made the Ricket under him expel a muffled moan and fling Nicholas upward; he scrambled to his feet and was promptly thrown off them when a hand grabbed ahold of his boot. But he had them headed where he wanted them; the narrowest of service stairwells waited in the gloom as Nicholas rolled onto his back and shielded his face from the blood spurting out of the shorter brother’s shattered nose. The taller man grabbed for Nicholas’s other boot but instead had one connected with his face; Nicholas needed them on their feet, more or less, and danced upward, using a sconce for support. When it snapped off under his weight, he raised it like a baton and gestured at the men as they got their bearings.
Nicholas only froze a moment when they both charged. Then he stepped into the doorway of the maintenance stair, seized the metal railing, and let himself be bowled over.
When he could genuinely see the murder written in their eyes, Nicholas flattened himself against the wall with the railing and saw the murder turn to horror. Their momentum sent the brothers soaring past into open air. A hand tried to clamp onto Nicholas’s shoulder but faltered; both men flung headlong down the stairs and settled into a jumble down below.
Nicholas peered down at the unmoving bodies until one twitched; then he paced out into the hall and brushed off his jacket. A moan from the stairwell quickened his step; he schooled his face into one of polite blankness before running down the stairs.
See? Interesting. Originally I had bypassed this scene, jumping from Nicholas being confronted by the two goons and then skipping to where he meets up with Drina. It was sort of a well-use-your-imagination thing, like you could make up what you wanted but my editor was like, "Excuse me...no-no-no. You write that scene right now. I need to know what happened!" So I did. Nicholas is much more about stealth and disguise; he isn't the beefiest guy in Westminster and realizes he isn't. So this scene kind of showed a different side to him: one that was a bit more rough, more coldly calculating.
Confrontation doesn't always have to be this physical smackdown, either. I browsed through Shubiao's Girls while writing this post and found a lot of confrontations that were spoken conversations. No one laid a hand on each other, but tensions crackled nonetheless. I didn't put them here because setting the scene would take too much time or give away the whole plot. :)
So, what do you think of confrontation in books? Do you prefer fight scenes? Spoken showdowns? I find that writing scenes where people are testing their dominance just by speaking to another person can be really fun to write. Oftentimes those can be more powerful than two characters just going MMA on one another. Thoughts?
If you so choose, follow the thread and see how other swell authors deal with (fictional) confrontations!
Dr. Bob Rich
I have just sent off my first round of edits for Nicholas, which is beyond exciting. Since December 2014 or early 2015 maybe when I sent my publisher a handful of manuscripts for novels, a series, and a novella (Nicholas is the latter), I've been kind of languishing from the wait. I received contracts August of last year, performed a happy dance, and then the waiting game began.
Well, more or less. I wrote a whole new novel about art forgers in Paris, NYC and Poland and sent that to them as well, but then since college started up again in January I've kind of been hanging out to dry. The superhero story doesn't want to write itself, and college has been pretty stressful. Then--this past Sunday, I got edits!
I hadn't written anything in months, and diving back in was kind of overwhelming. I was at school in my apartment, and started on a day when my Intro to Hispanic Lit class was canceled: I edited half the novella in one day and had no idea where the three hours had gone off to. I also realized how much I loved editing.
Nicholas takes place in early 1700s England, on an alternate timeline where the Palace of Westminster never burned down in the 1500s and turned into Parliament. I hadn't touched the Word doc in over a year, and had to regain the feel of my characters. It was like getting in touch with old friends. It was a little fuzzy as to whose character traits were whose, and I actually found shadows of future characters buried in the text.
Editing is like getting your characters ready for a job interview. The editor takes a look and maybe your main character has a couple traits that don't sync with his backstory or need further explanation (like Nicholas is a thief, and my editor asked me point blank why he had a moral compass; I explained that he'd been forced to attend a Christian boarding school when he was very young and, even though he ran off, the values stuck with him). The editor sweeps through your writing and point out things you never noticed, because you've run through the manuscript 12,000 times and it all blurs together, things like:
a.) oh, God, you wrote the word "as" or "but" five times in the same paragraph
b.) you really enjoy explaining where people are looking/gazing/peering/squinting and you really should mix it up with the body language
or, the ever pleasing
c.) yo, hon, you have a really weak scene where the villain finds out who's helping the princess. I mean, he could tell who it was based on some eyes he saw peeping through a portrait? Skilled man, that evil duke!
But I love it. I thrive off it, and usually my editor tells me to expand on a scene as often as she tells me to drop others, so the story always emerges for the better.
Editing is like brushing stray hairs off your character's jacket, smoothing their shoes, adjusting a tie. They go from begin a rabid little though in your HP laptop to--bless--a grand stage. They get cover art, and blurbs, and page numbers and--the best of all--you get to introduce them to people. Recently, a man in Cairo, Egypt, read The Christmas Lights and rated it on Goodreads. It blew my mind that someone thousands and thousands of miles away met my characters and now knew their story.
Lately I've been doing lots of little snippets and mood boards/character studies on my Tumblr. Everything on Tumblr about my writing can be found here. It's my main outlet for my more silly, creative side with my stories.
No word on a set release date, or cover art, yet, but once I get word, it'll be all over my social media. :3