Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Creole Belle by James Lee Burke

Today I read Creole Belle by James Lee Burke.

It's a Dave Robicheaux story with a lot of preaching.  Not my favorite dish.  I understand the post-Katrina anger.  I have lived it.  Between Ivan and Katrina, I was knocked out of my house for eighteen months.

It carries a practical lesson for my work in progress which is set at the time of the BP oil spill and the anger overflowing at that time.  A little bit of anger goes a long way.  The reader of my novel is coming to find escape and pleasure.  Not an angry diatribe.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

Today I finished The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson.

Walt Longmire, sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka County, knows he's got trouble when Cody Pritchard is found dead. Two years earlier, Cody and three accomplices had been given suspended sentences for raping a Northern Cheyenne girl. Is someone seeking vengeance? Longmire faces one of the more volatile and challenging cases in his twenty-four years as sheriff and means to see that revenge, a dish that is best served cold, is never served at all. ~ Goodreads

A delightful story.  I'll be reading more Longmire.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Today I finished reading Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

I read Ender's Game because it had been used as an example of How-To write a novel in several books I've read.

I got so wrapped up in the storytelling that I probably missed what I was supposed to see.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Art and Craft of Story by Victoria Mixon

Today I finished reading Art and Craft of Story by Victoria Mixon.

This is a great book with a lot of good stuff I wish I knew by heart.

I rate the book 4 stars.  Its really, really good.

She lays out the three act structure as:

Act I: Hook containing HOOK and CONFLICT #1
Act II: Development containing  CONFLICT #2 and CONFLICT #3
Act III: Climax containing  FAUX RESOLUTION and CLIMAX

The new thing she brought to the table for me was breaking down each of these six PARTS so that each part has its own Hook, Conflict (1-3), Faux Resolution and Climax.  This is an over simplification of what she's teaching.  I see it as a very useful and powerful tool in developing structure.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Scenes vs. Sequels - The Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

I am trying to get my head wrapped around a writing technique that employs two kinds of scenes.  One is based on action with scenes have three parts: 1) a goal; 2) conflict; and 3) disaster.  The second kind is based on reaction.  Its three parts are: 1) emotional reaction; 2) dilemma; and 3) decision. 

The action scene with goal, conflict and a disaster seems to be taught widely by almost all of the books I've read on how to write a novel.  The idea of following the action scene with a scene that deals with the emotional reaction to the previous action, a period of review, logic and reason which leads to a choice of how to proceed, is not widely taught.

In 2010, I began following Randy Ingermanson’s blog Advanced Fiction Writing.  One of the unique writing techniques he described was the concept that there are two kinds of Scenes (with a capital “S”).  The first is a Scene where action is responsible for movement through the Scene.  The second is a Scene where reaction is responsible for movement through the scene.  In his blog he called these MRUs motivation-reaction units. 

Ingermanson gives credit to Dwight Swain credit for ‘inventing’ MRUs.  The concept is discussed at length in Techniques of a Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain, 1965.  I read the book and thought it was interesting but I didn’t have a clue how to implement the technique.

In 2012,  I began following the blog, Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors, by   K.M Weiland.  Ms. Weiland has recently been writing an excellent series of blog posts on this concept of action vs. reaction Scenes which she refers to as scenes (with a small c) and sequels.  It is an excellent series and I recommend it to all interested in learning more about the use of action scenes and reaction sequels. 

In one of her posts she mentioned the author, Jim Butcher, in connection with scenes and sequel.  I've gone back to try to find where she led me to Butcher, but I couldn't retrace my discovery.  She perked my interest in Jim Butcher, who was then unknown to me.  

I did some Googling and found that he was a New York Times Best Seller List author of fantasy novels.  I also discovered that back in 2006 he posted to a blog, Jims Livejournal useful instruction on scenes and sequels.  He really makes the technique seem simple and easy to do.  He said that that is the way he has written every novel he has written.  A scene followed by a sequel.

Butcher writes in Jims Livejournal:
Sequels are what happens as an aftermath to a scene. They do several specific things:

1) Allow a character to react emotionally to a scene's outcome.
2) Allow a character to review facts and work through the logical options of his situation.
3) They allow a character to ponder probable outcomes to various choices.
4) They allow a character to make a CHOICE--IE, to set themselves a new GOAL for the next SCENE.

Do you see how neat that is? Do you see how simply that works out? 

1) Scene--Denied!
2) Sequel--Damn it! Think about it! That's so crazy it just might work!--New Goal!
3) Next Scene!

Repeat until end of book.

See what I mean? Simple. And you can write a book EXACTLY that way. Scene-sequel-scene-sequel-scene-sequel all the way to your story climax. In fact, if you are a newbie, I RECOMMEND you write your book that way. You can always chop and cut the extra scenes (or sequels) out later, and you will have a solid bedrock structure for getting your book done.” 

Today, I finished reading Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher.  It is wonderful fantasy novel.  I thought if I read this book and study it I’ll be able to see how it is when you write a scene followed by a sequel.
The book is about 500 pages in length.  It’s a good story and I hated to put it down.  Maybe that’s why I couldn't see the lines of demarcation between scene and sequel.  In those 500 pages there was only one sequence that I could point to and say this is the scene and this is the sequel.  It was seamless and it was wonderful.

Now, I’m torn between putting my analytical hat on and tearing each chapter apart to find how he buried the sequels so naturally.  Or, buying the next book in the series and really enjoying myself. 

If you like fantasy, add Jim Butcher to your list of must read authors.