Dear BGs, I am getting crunched with conference preparation, so this post will be shorter than usual. First—saying again for all of you attending the ACFW conference: We’ll be having a BG hangout/shindig/whatever-you-wanna-call-it on Thursday night during the late night chats. If you want to attend one of the chats that first night—guess what—they’re being TAPED. You can buy a CD of a chat, but you sure cain’t buy a CD of our BG hangout, so hey, I don’t see a decision-making problem here. :) Don’t know where we’ll be hanging out. I will make the announcement during Thursday dinner, once I scope out the hotel. We shall have to do our best to behave. We don't want to be thrown out upon the streets of Nashville that very first night.
Second conference attendee reminder: When you first see me at the conference, flash me those spider-skitter/hand-typing fingers. I’ll flash one right back atcha.
Grady, yesterday you were truly a conjugation conflagration sensation. Waytago, man. Ya made us proud.
A couple of other topic ideas from Friday centered around creating character emotion. Creating emotion is a huge topic. And a never-ending pursuit for novelists. However, we did cover some techniques for showing emotion in our AS (action scene). Please look back through the archives in June and July for those posts.
Lynette posted a question about keeping the gender of the bad guy a secret, even while we’re in his third person POV. Here was the excerpt she posted:
"What do you mean she's gone?" Anger coiled, sharp and biting until it permeated the room. The hand that gripped the phone squeezed tighter as though to resist reaching through the line to curl around the neck of the man who had the audacity to announce the escape of Cassidy McKnight.
"Find her. And make sure she's dead. Don't call back until you've succeeded."
The glove encased hand set the phone down with precise movements. Anger boiled and raged on the inside, but anyone looking at the carefully composed façade would never know of the seething cauldron buried deep within.
A secure future stood within grasping distance. Wealth and power loomed on the horizon. And Cassidy McKnight stood between it all. If the idiot on the phone couldn't take care of the situation in a timely manner, a trip to Brazil might be the only way to get rid of the problem.
Lynette, I think you’ve done a good job in hiding the POV in third person. It’s a difficult task. But the inevitable outcome of doing your job well will be a rather stilted form of writing, as you have here. And it has a distant, almost omniscient feel to it. We’re not really in the character’s head. We’re a camera sitting outside the person, watching the hand gripping the phone, etc. Sandwiched between other scenes of regular third person POV, these scenes will stand out as very different. And here’s the rub--their very difference might serve as a giveaway as to what you’re trying to hide, because it’s obvious you’re going to such lengths not to use a pronoun. You’ll really need to build the reader’s assumption that it’s the other gender very high. High enough that the reader won’t notice the vast difference in feel of writing. Also, I'd make the bad guy sound stilted even when he talks. Right now he’s talking rather normally, but thinking/describing in a very different narrative voice. If you have him sounding stilted all the time, that will come across more as his character than as a necessary writing technique.
We had a couple other commenters give their opinions about how to handle this challenge. I salute you, Lynette, for taking on something so difficult.
Another question from Friday: According to the Hero's Journey, the protag is supposed to start out in his/her natural world. Shouldn't I then open my story with a few paragraphs about the natural world before jumping right into the inciting incident?
Yes, we need to show the protagonist in his real world. But this can take very few words. In fact, you can be showing the character’s real world through little bits of info woven right into immediate action. An example from my own work would be the opening to Brink of Death. The action/threat is immediate, yet you get a picture of the twelve-year-old in her real world. If I opened the book by telling the reader two or three paragraphs of backstory featuring the real world of Erin and her happy home, it would be boring. Notice the little bits of information about Erin’s world as a younger child, and now as a preadolescent, woven into the opening lines of the story:
The noises, faint, fleeting, whispered into her consciousness like wraiths in the night.
Twelve-year-old Erin Willit opened her eyes to darkness lit only by the green night-light near her closet door, and the faint glow of a streetlamp through her bedroom window. She felt her forehead wrinkle, the fingers of one hand curl, as she tried to discern what had awakened her.
Something was not right.
An oak tree lifted gnarled branches between the street-lamp and her window, its leaves casting eerie spider-shadows across the far wall. When she was younger, Erin had asked that a small lamp on the desk by that wall be left on at night. Anything to dispel the jerking dance of those leaves. Lately she'd watched the dark tremble across the posters of pop stars on her wall with no fear at all.
But not tonight. On this night the shadows writhed and twitched.
Another thing to note. It’s a little different showing the protagonist’s real world in a screenplay than in a novel. People are more willing for a movie to start a little bit slower. They’ve gone to the theater (or rented the movie at Blockbuster), paid their money, and are now seated to watch it. After all that trouble, they’re not going to walk out of the theater after two minutes. Not so with a browser in a store, picking up a book and reading the opening paragraphs to decide whether she’s gonna buy it. Write with that fickle-minded browser in mind.
All right, BGs. See ya tomorrow, then it’s off to Nashville. I will be posting from there, but it’ll be stuff about the conference. All the best gossip and shenanigans I can find.