Author Archives: specficchic

Busy Bees

Over the past few months, our little group has been busy. We’ve all been moving forward with various projects. We’ve had a book published, short stories entered into competitions and submitted to anthologies. All the while we’ve been continuing with detailed critiquing and working at improving our words.

We’ve work-shopped sentences, scenes and chapters and examined the story arc. We’ve also studied point of view (POV) and how it effects storyline.

We’ve also learned new avenues for research – both online and books.

Currently members are working on a fantasy novel, a steampunk adventure novel, a science fiction story and a steampunk-inspired novella.

Yes, we’ve been busy indeed.

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Winter is Here

This month we had a bonus meeting (5th Friday of the month). But you may have missed us at the library today. It was a chilly morning and buses were running late so we took a detour, holed up at my house, wrapped up in blankies, drank cups of tea and had a hot lunch. With out brains thawed, we spent our bonus meeting day on critiquing, discussing upcoming writing courses and events. Next week is back to our normal schedule.

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Changes

In recent months there has been changes in our group. Sadly, one of our members has moved on. We will miss her input and critiques.

We now are returning to our scheduled toolbox meetings and to members sharing new insights gleaned from upcoming writing courses and workshops. (There is always more to learn.)

Currently members are working on their own projects and short stories for our anthology. We look forward to sharing our progress with you.

Our next critique is this Friday.

 

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September Critiques

Things are happening. Three short stories, destined for our upcoming anthology, were critiqued this month. Prepare yourselves for dragons, gadgets and a dalliance with the Fae.

We discussed description, show/not tell, the origins of words and symbolism. Altering one word can change the meaning of a paragraph, or clarify the intent of a scene.

The quote for the day:
Other languages borrow words. English lures people down a dark alley, knocks them on the head and goes through their pockets looking for loose grammar.” (unknown meme).

 

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Toolbox – Point of View and Characters

This week we discussed point of view and characters. We did a little fact finding, then discussed how we could use this to improve the characters in our current works-in-progress.

Characters:

You need to know what makes your character tick if you are going to write from their perspective.  There are things like eye colour, height, foibles and background. But these alone do not a character make. What are their likes, their GOALS, their MOTIVES? How do they react to other characters? How do they handle conflict? How does the character change by the end of the story (character arc)? Goals push a story forward, through the conflicts and must become needs or the character may quit before the end.

There are many worksheets, found on the internet, to help nut out the details for your characters. Just remember the more characters, the more work you are making for yourself. You can write pages on the character or start with what is needed for the story, and fill in the blanks as you go along.

What is POV?

Point of View is the perspective through which a story is told – how a writer lets a reader see, hear and experience a story. The POV chosen can influence the reader, making them more distant or involved in the story and the characters.
So choose wisely.

How to choose a POV.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many POVs do I need to tell the story?
  • Do I want the reader to remain distant or becoming more emotionally involved with the characters?
  • Do I want the story in a character’s POV or the author’s POV?

Here’s some information that may help you decide.

Types of POV.

First Person: This is currently popular in YA fiction. The story is told from the main character’s POV, using I/me/my, bringing the reader closer to the main character – in his or her headspace.

Second Person: This is less commonly used. The story speaks directly to the you, the reader, using you/your. It is more personal and places the reader into the story. However if the ‘you’ does something the reader is uncomfortable with, they may stop reading.

Third Person: The story is told from the POV of multiple characters and is the most popular form of POV. There are several types of third person POV:

  • Omniscient – The story is told from an all-knowing point of view. We know what all the characters know, feel or think. This POV was popular in 19th century literature. It creates distance but can be confusing if not done well due to the feeling of  head hopping, and is cautioned against in modern writing. An example of omniscient writing is Pride and Prejudice or War and Peace.
  • Third Person Limited – The story is told from the perspective of one character only. We do not get any insight into what other characters are actually thinking or feeling. This is popular in modern writing and creates distance.
  • Deep POV: This is becoming more popular. The story is told in one character’s POV (usually the hero). We see deep into the character’s thought, feel what they feel and experience the story through their voice. There is no ‘she thought’  but instead we read direct thoughts. This provides more intimacy for the reader.
  • Third Person Multiple –  This provides more options for the writer and the reader. The story is told through more than one charater’s POV. Generally a scene will be from one POV, ie. one POV per scene. However in modern writing a change of POV can be signalled by skipping a few lines (blank) before continuing with a new POV. This is the preferred POV in modern literature.
    Multiple POV can be done via third limited POV, deep POV or first person POV.

But wait, there’s more!

There are also out of character points of view.

  • Camera angle – This is one of my favourites. Imagine being a movie camera, recording the story. You can describe it – what is seen, heard or smelt – but you can’t provide any judgements. No emotions or thoughts. No internalisation. It is best used like an establishing shot, setting the scene or can be used – in short bursts – to create distance. You can see the oranges  of a sunset melting into the sea but you can’t call it beautiful.
  • External narrator – The story is told by a narrator, as if they were retelling the story. The narrator is often a quirky character unto itself. This POV was popular in 17th, 18th and 19th century literature though modern writers, like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Addams, excel at this POV.
  • Shadow or Hand-cuff – Think Agatha Christie. You follow the characters through the story but never really get into their heads. There is no internalisation. Or the game would be given away!

So now ask those questions again:

  • How many POVs do I need to tell the story?
  • Do I want the reader to remain distant or becoming more emotionally involved with the characters?
  • Do I want the story in a character’s POV or the author’s POV?

Did you get the same answers?

Some recommended reading by members:

  1. Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, by Jill Elizabeth Nelson.
  2. Writing 101: Choosing the best POV for your Story.

-Karen J Carlisle

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August Meetup

The discussion this month was Spec Fic Chic’s upcoming anthology. Things are happening.  We now have a name, a design for the cover and a growing list of stories to showcase our members’ work, including science fiction, fantasy, steampunk and suspense.

This month’s critique featured a delightful time-slipping fantasy short story, for possible inclusion in our upcoming anthology. Discussions centred on description, symbolism and word choices.

August meet-up was not at the library, due to my convalescence and no-drive status for a few more weeks. We should be returning to the library by the end of September.

 

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Toolbox – Setting and Description

I’m a Dungeon & Dragons player from way back. The best part about Dungeon Mastering was world building. I love world building! I love doing the research, drawing up maps, populating the world and figuring out what makes it tick.  So onto July’s toolbox – setting and description.

What is a setting?

The story’s setting is the surroundings in which a scene or story is set. Setting consists of:

  • environment
  • time
  • place

Setting can be used to show atmosphere or even be a source of conflict for the protagonist.

The trick is avoid info-dumping. You can’t just roll out the gaming map, plop it on the table and slam the reader with everything at once. It needs to be hinted at, an atmosphere created using descriptions, the character’s actions and point of view (which leads into next month’s toolbox). You need to show, not tell. Show the smell of the gum trees, the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind, the feel of the tip of the blade.

Descriptions are shown through a point of view, whether a character, camera or omniscient. If a character is a painter, setting descriptions may revolve around colours, hues, balance, line – things a painter is familiar with. If a scientist, descriptions may be more technical. Make the description active, part of the story. Use all of the senses – smell, touch, hearing, taste and not just sight.

The level of description will vary in different genres. Rule of thumb: the more exotic or foreign the setting, the more description will be required – such in in fantasy or historical genres. Action stories use less description due the the fast pace – the character doesn’t have time to stop and smell the roses! Description can be used to increase tension or build unease in paranormal or horror stories.

I was reminded to be careful of name dropping. Check on trademark, copyright and avoid disparaging known names. (Most writers can’t afford law suits.)

Finally (and this is a hard one for me), try not to let description hold you up on your first draft. Now I’m off to work out the rules of magic for a new story… And draw another map.

-Karen J Carlisle

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