Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Bookshelf Muse

Do you have trouble showing emotion for your characters? Do you sometimes wonder how to describe certain places or things? The Bookshelf Muse is a wonderful tool, and I have a link to it on my blog.

Here you will find an array of emotions and how to describe them. For example, suppose you want to show sarcasm. We've all used rolling the eyes, raising an eyebrow, smirking or perhaps waving a hand in the person's face to indicate dismissal of their words as unimportant. But have you thought of having your character raise her chin to create the idea of looking down on the other person, or uttering a belittling comment "under the breath" but still loud enough to be heard?
These a just a few examples of physical actions that will imply sarcasm or verbal disrespect which are found in the Bookshelf Muse.

If you aare looking for Settings, and how to describe them, there is a world of information about many common place settings at this web site. For each setting, there are the five senses listed, as well as helpful hints and examples. One setting that I used was a school office. Here are just a few of the ideas given for each sense: Sight: besides chairs, desks, carpet and secretarial paraphernalia, there are educational posters on walls, student artwork, sign-in books, visitor passes, trays for pens and pencils, lost and found jars full of cell phones, glasses, jewelry, and the ever-present kid waiting to see the principal. Sound: phones ringing, parents/students whispering, period bells ringing, etc. Smells: coffee left too long in the pot, arid scent of recently printed copies, fragrance of secretary's perfume, etc.

There are also items listed for taste and touch, such as the taste of an eraser or the feel of the hard metal chair that a kid is sitting in.

This is a very useful blog, with not only a Thesaurus of Emotions and Thesaurus of Settings, but it also has ideas for colors and shapes, and how to describe them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Characters and Emotions, Part three

We've talked about two different ways to show conflicting emotions in a character, so now let's discuss a third way. You can call it exposition or descriptive narration, but it is nothing more than telling instead of showing.

When we tell something, as writers we often have a tendancy to go overboard with flowery language or fancy phrases or overdone metaphors. We need to rein in those impulses and try to make that kind of narration only slightly more formal or figurative than the style that the rest of the story is told in.

Let's go back to the story of Jane and Kathy. We left them in the library, where Jane decided to become friends again with Kathy, even though she still had conflicting emotions of trust and doubt. Suppose we told that scene in a narrative style:

Kathy was visably upset when Jane found her in the library. After Kathy told Jane that Robert had cheated on her with another girl, Jane felt a small satisfaction. After all, she had known this all along, and had told Kathy, but Kathy had refused to believe her. Now Kathy wants to be friends again. Jane has missed Kathy and wants to pick up their friendship again, but there is that nagging little doubt: can Kathy be trusted not to dump Jane the next time a new boy comes into the picture? Kathy assures her that will not be the case, and eventually Jane comes around. They leave the library with their arms around each other, friends again. Yet, the seeds of doubt and distrust have been planted in Jane's mind, and no matter how much she likes Kathy, the course of their friendship has been changed forever.

It is difficult to show or to dramatize all of the above narrative in terms of action and dialogue. At the same time, no story should have more exposition than is absolutely necessary, especially for kids and teens. Even I don't like to read novels where there is more descriptive narration than there is dialogue and action from the adults.

These are three ways to depict conflicting emotions in your characters. I'm sure there are more. I hope these have been of help, however.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Characters and Emotions, part two

In the first example of showing conflicting emotions in a character, it was done in two or more scenes. Let's talk about how to do this in one scene. You've already set the stage for the relationship between Jane, Kathy and Robert. So now you have Jane angry at Robert for two-timing Kathy, and angry at Kathy because she won't believe what Jane says, and she dumps Jane as a friend. Some time later, Jane finds Kathy crying in the library. She feels sorry for her, goes over to ask what is wrong, and discovers that Kathy has finally realized Robert is two-timing her. Kathy now wants to make up with Jane and be friends again, but Jane is still hurt and angry that Kathy didn't believe her and dumped her. She wants to be friends again but she doesn't know if she can trust Kathy not to dump her again if a new boy comes along, and she still feels the hurt. What does she do? They talk, and finally Jane agrees to be friends again, even though she has the conflicting emotions of doubt and trust. They leave the library together. One scene, one problem, one resolution, two conflicting emotions.

Stay tuned for the third way to present your character and her conflicting emotions!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Characters and emotions

Do your characters show conflicting emotions? Sometimes mine do, and it's always a struggle to figure out how to show it rather than to tell it. For example, in my novel, The Year of The Scream, AJ, the MC, has conflicting emotions about Celine, the antagonist. Celine seems to hate AJ for no reason that AJ can think of, but while she dislikes what Celine is doing to her, she doesn't really hate her. Yet, when the time comes that she can get back at Celine by revealing some devastating news, AJ hesitates. She wants everyone to know who and what Celine really is, but on the other hand, she doesn't want to become the kind of person Celine is.

According to Nancy Kress's book, "Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint," you have to show in some way that the character is capable of a "change of heart." She says that you can show this in three different ways: by showing the conflicting emotions in different scenes; showing them in the same scene; or instead of showing, you can tell in an exposition which explains why the character has these confusing or conflicting emotions.

In the first way, we can use the example of two girls who like the same boy. Jane used to be friends with Kathy, but once Robert made it clear he liked Kathy, Kathy turned against Jane and started belittling her. Jane now dislikes Kathy as well as being jealous of her. Jane goes to a dance with another boy and sees Kathy there with Robert. She feels hurt and angry because she still likes Robert. Then she sees Robert kissing still another girl while Kathy is waiting for him inside the dance. Jane then realizes she is feeling both pity and protectiveness towards Kathy, and wishes that Kathy would see Robert for the two-timer he is.

Stay tuned for an explanation of the second way to show conflicting emotions in your characters!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Look for Blog

I have a new look for my blog, and as soon as I get my domain name, I will attempt to change it to a web site...sort of. My grandson is going to help me with that, I hope.

Three new books on writing: I found these by accident and think they are great. Here they are:
1.Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print, by Renni Brown and Dave King

2. The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, by Noah Lukeman

3. Characters, Emotion and ViewPoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints, by Nancy Kress

All three are great, but I really love the third one.