Thursday, March 21, 2019

Taking Fiction Seriously

I asked my husband, a retired English teacher, for a subject for today's post, and he complained that people today, generally, read a lot of non-fiction, but don't take fiction seriously.

Fiction, he said, can offer a distilled truth that non-fiction can't.

I find that insightful and possibly the highest strength of good fiction.

He mentioned, in particular, Dickens writing about the plight of the poor in Victorian England. The facts were available, but Dickens took his readers into the lives of the poor. When we read about Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, or even Fagin, we experience their suffering; we see the prejudices and systemic abuses from their sides.

We can read histories of times and places and know the facts, but a rich fiction can put us there inside a participant.

As he also pointed out, fiction can also harden stereotypes and perpetuate mythologies, but I maintain that only poor fiction does that. Good fiction doesn't deal in stereotypes, but in individuals, who do things that may look stereotypical for true, personal reasons; if they don't, it isn't good fiction.

What do you think?

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Reading Your Work Aloud #amediting

The company I'm third-part owner of, Per Bastet Publications, received a submission we were eager to see. When I looked it over, I sent it back. We're still eager for it, and the author is willing to do what I asked before we accept the submission for realz, but the contract would already be signed if the excellent author had done one thing before submitting the manuscript.

Peeps, read your work aloud.

If you don't have a critique group or a critique buddy, read to the dog or the cat or to yourself, but read it aloud.

Buy my book.
Dialog should sound like people talking. Ideally, dialog should sound like different people talking. It's all too easy to write formally instead of conversationally. Hearing it aloud will make you go, "Whoa, I never actually heard anybody talk like that." And, yes, some people do or could speak formally, using no contractions, but not everybody all the time.

As I say, it's easy--so, so easy--to perfect-English your dialog to death. Reading aloud will go a long way toward teaching yourself to avoid that, if you read what you've written and not what you think you've written.

To my mind, the best way to edit a story is to have at least one run-through where you read aloud and somebody else reads along silently from a copy of the manuscript. If you left a word out of the manuscript but say it when you read aloud because your brain fills it in, your co-reader will catch that. If you meant "read" but typed "red", spell-checker won't catch that, but your co-reader probably will. If you say and meant "less" but you typed "more", your co-reader will fix that for you.

That's my two-cents'-worth on the subject. What do you think?

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, January 21, 2019

On Birthdays #amwriting #characterization

Pretty much every character was born. I leave a little wiggle room in deference to spec fic; you know how that goes.

ANYWAY, if a character was born, there are anniversaries of that event. And celebrations of events--of lack of celebrations of that event--contribute to your character's background and personality. Does your character's culture even mark birthdates? Does the culture use birthdates to group people or measure advancements through the culture?

Does your character's particular family celebrate birthdays? If so, how? Special foods or activities?

As an adult, how (if at all) does your character mark the birth anniversaries of family and friends? How (if at all) does your character mark their own birthday?

Are there special stories, gifts, or events associated with birthdays in general or a specific birthday?

If you're writing a book or story and get stuck, sometimes exploring a side/background issue like this can unstick you, whether you use the exploration in the story or book or not.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes