Thursday, December 27, 2012

And yet another record!

We've hit over 2000 visits this month, and that's an all-time high. Yippeee!

Just a reminder to use the tabs at the top to view the books available (click on any of the links to get the blurb and, in some instances, a sample of the first chapter). Ellora's Cave has updated their site, so be sure to update your links to those books.

Play safe!
Diana

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday shopping?

If you're looking for a perfect gift for a reader in your life, don't forget nearly all my titles come in print and all ebook formats. Whether you're looking for historical fiction, slice of life short stories, erotic romance or something a tad bit more naughty, there are titles for everyone!

Note that Ellora's Cave has had a site upgrade, so former links to my books there no longer work. Try this one to get to the EC titles (there are two pages of titles there!). Of course, you can still find my erotic romance self-published works here.

Remember, there is no writing workshop this Tuesday. Workshops will resume in the new year with a whole new slate of tips and ideas. You can see the complete listing of all the workshops given over the past fifteen months here (I cleaned up the spacing some on the page and subdivided into "chapter" headings. Yes, at some point - probably after I retire, now - I will get my act together and put these all into a book!).

Play safe - and buy books!

;)
Diana

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taking two weeks off

No special workshop today or next Tuesday. Every once in a while, you need to take time and enjoy the people in your life. Give them a hug if they'll let you, a kiss if you can get away with it. But laugh, relax, renew -- and we'll pick up the writing workshops again in the new year.

Till then,
Play safe!
Diana

PS. If you've found these workshops useful this year, please leave a tip in the jar. Tips encourage me to keep adding new material (and to revise the old).

Have a blessed two weeks!
:)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

On teaching and shooters


I am a teacher.

Most of you know that’s my day job.

I’ve been in the classroom as a teacher since 1979, taking only one year off after I got married to try other jobs.

But I came back to teaching. The reasons aren’t important anymore – haven’t been for a while. I see myself as a professional at getting kids excited about literature, helping them find their writer’s voice, and gettimg them to learn the skills they’ll need to express themselves no matter what life throws at them.

And then life throws a wicked curve ball.

Wicked. Evil. Deranged. There are a lot of adjectives being tossed about by people right now concerning the recent events in Connecticut. All true, all wrong. It’s horrible, it’s shocking, it’s inevitable.

It will be a while (if ever) before we understand the shooter’s motive. As the confusion over the timeline becomes clearer, as the victims are identified and the world grieves, one fact will become startlingly clear: this isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.

Is that cynical? Yes, I suppose so. No one place can accept all the blame people will want to assign it. Violent video games (before this happened I was preparing a post on the fact that I recently picked up Doom again and how I enjoyed it’s simple premise: shoot anything that moves. Think I’ll hold off on that for a while now...), loose gun control laws (which, admittedly, need to be tightened, but should not be the sole holder of blame), lack of mental health care (again, a component, not an end-run). All these and more will find themselves in defensive mode over the next few weeks.

Rightfully so. If you cannot defend your beliefs, you probably should change them. But to single out any one activity out and lay all the blame on that one doorstep is simplistic at best, harmful at worst. The issue is bigger than that.

You probably expect me to lay out the issue – but I can’t. Being in the classroom, I’ve seen the level of violence cycle from pacific to tsunami levels depending on the year. Even within the year there are cycles. Learning to recognize and head them off is part of our job as educators. We succeed a lot. You have no idea how many fights we diffuse, prevent or don’t even let get to that stage.

But sometimes there’s that one kid. Every teacher has had one, or two (or, if you’ve been at this as long as I have, several). It’s the kid in the class who makes you think, “That’s one to watch. That one is scary.” But then the kid grows up and go on to become a thoughtful, respectable, responsible member of the community. Sometimes still odd, but not violent. Believe me, it happens that way almost all the time.

Almost.

I am a teacher.

Tomorrow I’ll be in the classroom teaching my students survival skills. We have fire drills twelve times a year by state law. No kid, teacher or staff member has died as a result of a fire in decades. The alarm goes off and everyone goes into automatic mode, leaving the building in an orderly fashion, often glad for the interruption. We’ve got fires down.

Bullets? Not so much. In the Oregon mall shooting, police are crediting store personnel and customers alike in knowing what to do and doing it in order to get out of harm’s way and keep the body count low.

In schools, we’re teaching that. Along with grammar, literary terms and parts of speech, what to do if a shooter comes into the building is part of my curriculum. We talk about it on the first day of school, tomorrow we’ll drill it. I’ll make the kids get out of their seats and get to the place in the room where they can’t be seen.

In a week I’ll do it again. And in a month.

Does it take time from my teaching? Yes. Does it piss me off that I have to teach such a thing? More than you can imagine. Will I do it? Over and over again until they don’t have to think. Hearing the word “lockdown” will trigger the same automatic response the fire alarm does. It’s how I’ll keep them alive to teach them another day.

I’m a firm believer that, if a person wants to kill, they will kill. Nothing will stop him/her. No amount of locked doors or security drills will keep out a determined person.

But we can teach survival skills that will lessen the opportunities for the shooter.

And that’s my lesson for Monday.

Diana

My heart grieves for the parents and first responders of Newtown, Connecticut. If you would like to help, please consider giving.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why do you write?

Time for a little reflection today.

Some people write because the stories well up inside and have to be told. They can't imagine NOT writing. Others write because it's expedient. People make money telling stories, why shouldn't they? Luigi Pirandello wrote because the characters pestered him until he told their stories.

Why do you write?

Is it to sell books? Or to tell stories? If you never sold a single book, would you write anyway? SHOULD you write anyway? If a writer writes a story and nobody reads it, does it exist?

Existential questions keep our minds active and our dreams alive. Spend some time truly thinking about your answers. Be a reflective writer and write out your thoughts.

Just why do you write, anyway?

Diana, the kettle-stirrer :)




Tuesday, December 04, 2012

grammar and editors

Warned you! The workshop on grammar is here :)

Presenting as clean a copy as you can to an editor makes a good impression on your level of professionalism. Using the correct forms of the verbs, properly distinguishing between "to", "two", and "too" is important as is figuring out where to put the commas. Spelling, especially in this day of spell-checking software, shouldn't even be an issue.

That said, I remember the first time, many years ago, when I read the first-draft manuscript of a book that had just sold to a major publisher. I was appalled at the mechanical errors. When I (gently) pointed one out, the author flipped her hand at me and said, "That's what editors are for."

Since the mss had sold, I had to believe she was right. 

Yet my spirit rebelled. How could someone who took writing seriously as a profession not care about the tools we use?

I've since spoken with many editors and, while there are some who are focused more on story and are willing to ignore bad mechanics, many of them were far more willing to roll their eyes and complain about them. In fact, more than one told me poor spelling and bad grammar were automatic rejects, in their opinion. That, if an author couldn't bother to take the time to learn how to purposefully use the language, then he/she as an editor didn't want to take the time to read the manuscript.

The key in there is "purposely use the language". Yes, characters exist that don't use proper English (Huckleberry Finn, anyone?). But Mark Twain made choices about his word usage. He didn't write out of ignorance.

Today, we're going to take a look at your choices.

Activity

Open your current work in progress or a finished work that isn't yet published.

First step is to use the editor that's in your wordprocessor program. I'm a fan of Microsoft Word 2003 (sidenote: I HATE the ribbons that have "improved" the newer versions. Microsoft dropped the ball on this one. They took something that wasn't broke and tried to fix it!).

Okay, off soapbox. I like Word 2003 because I can put all my tools on the top of the page and I can set the style editor to check my grammar and style as I go (Tools - Options - you can set most everything in the menu box that pops up). While I've always been conscious of my grammar, I'm not a style maven, so I'm grateful for the little green and red lines it puts under my words as I write. 

When I'm ready for a break from the creative side of writing, I go back and made conscious determinations about each of those lines. Remember, everything you write should be purposeful. If something doesn't fit with  what Word wants, it's because I want it that way.

Second step: Word doesn't catch everything. It won't look for comma splices or dangled modifiers. You need a different program for that.

I use AutoCrit, an online program that's VERY thorough. This is a site I pay for although the free tools are pretty good, especially if you're just starting out. I like the extra tools I get with the subscription (and the longer length to the manuscript checked). It will help me find not only my overused words but will helpfully point out cliches, frequently used phrases -- all sorts of style problems. 

AutoCrit is good because it makes no changes. It simply points out and I make the decisions about what stays and what goes. Purposeful writing!

Wordle is wonderful for those of us who are visually stimulated. It takes our most-often used words and makes a collage out of them, presenting our manuscript as an artwork. 

This can help a writer quickly see the overused words (when "back" is the largest word on the page, you know you have a problem!). You can also right-click on words to remove them from the image. Since character names are usually my largest words, I remove those so I can see what's left.

Once I have my Wordle, I find a black & white, easily read version (use the "random" button at the bottom to change the image) and print it out. It goes on my wall next to me and I use Word's "find" function to highlight and edit my overused words.

*****
Grammar is important. It's one of your tools. Use Word. Use AutoCrit and Wordle and you'll find, after a while, you begin to learn grammar you never knew. 

Have fun and leave a tip in the jar :)
Diana
PS. Here's a guy who won't even look at hiring you if you have poor grammar. Good article!








Saturday, December 01, 2012

An homage to puttering

I have spent the whole day doing nothing.

Well, not nothing. I wrapped four Christmas presents before my family could find them, I cleaned the kitchen and scrubbed the stovetop. Four loads of laundry got done and I played two full levels of Doom. Talked to my mom on the phone, made myself breakfast and lunch (and ate them) and read through the last four days of the local newspaper. Oh! And I washed up the pans from last night's dinner.

In other words, I puttered.

I love days like this. Awakening with lots of energy to get "stuff" done but without a clear agenda in mind. Moving from job to job as the mood takes me. Not having an agenda to accomplish or expectations about what needed to be done.

Perhaps that's what the world needs...fewer agendas and more puttering.

Play safe!
Diana
PS. Yes, it's the old, original Doom. I bought it on the Steam sale and have been having fun blowing away the bad guys. No plot, just shoot at anything that moves. What a great way to relieve the last vestiges of stress!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sale ends at midnight!

Just a reminder, get your copies of Diana's books on sale now. This is the last sale of the year, so take advantage of the lower prices tonight!


Here are the titles on sale 

....by Diana Hunter:

Tied to Home – 25% off – use the code: HM77G

Shooting Star – 25% off – use the code: TB47U

A Night to Remember – 25% off – use the code: QC72K

Table for Four – 25% off – use the code: MS47J

Learning Curve – 25% off – use the code: WE64S

...by CF Duprey:

Hardship and Hardtack – 25% off – use the code: FD86P

...by Mystic Shade

Yours to Command – 25% off – use the code: RK73S

Don't forget to go to the website of your choice and write a quick review!

Play safe, 
Diana

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quick prompts

With so many sales going on (seven of my books are on sale this week for 25% off. Click here for details!), today's writing prompts center around retail. Choose one of the prompts below, throw some spaghetti and see what sticks!

Two people standing outside a big-box store of your choice. Its 2:00 in the morning and the store doesn't open until 6:00 AM, but when it does, it'll have fantastic deals on electronic devices. The line is already twenty people in line and your characters are first and second in the queue. Another person comes along and strikes up a conversation with your two characters, who slowly realize this person intends to cut in line.

Your protagonist is a cashier in a busy, locally-owned store. He/she has a long line of customers when the customer at hand complains about the price of an object. What happens when the person behind the complainer in line decides to take matters into his/her own hands?

Your protagonist is a salesclerk at an upscale department store who sees a man walk into the ladies fitting room. You finally get the courage up to go speak to him and toss him out when he emerges -- as a woman.

Have fun with these! Remember, prompts have a couple of different purposes, so play around and see what happens.

And I meant what I said above - I really do have seven titles on sale until Friday. Take a look.

Diana









Friday, November 23, 2012

Sale on Diana's books

Seven of Diana’s titles at 25% off, now through Saturday, December 1st!

Use the coupon codes below at Smashwords, where you can choose your format. Got a Kindle? No problem! A Nook, Nexus, Ipad? Easy!

Just click on the title, go to the site, enter the code and voila! The book is instantly downloadable.

(See why I don’t write copy for advertising agencies? I should leave the hyperbole to the pros. My copy uses too many !!!! And, I figured, why only a one-day sale when most of us have to work on Monday? It would be far more fun to have a whole week – and a day.)

Here are the titles on sale by Diana Hunter:

Tied to Home – 25% off – use the code: HM77G

Shooting Star – 25% off – use the code: TB47U

A Night to Remember – 25% off – use the code: QC72K

Table for Four – 25% off – use the code: MS47J

Learning Curve – 25% off – use the code: WE64S

...by CF Duprey:

Hardship and Hardtack – 25% off – use the code: FD86P

...by Mystic Shade

Yours to Command – 25% off – use the code: RK73S

Play safe!
Diana

PS. If any of you then want to go to a site of your choice and put up a review, that would be wonderful! Honest reviews only, please. :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

And, in honor of giving thanks to those who mean a lot to me, look for a sale on my books coming on Cyber Monday!

In the meantime, be safe, enjoy those around you, and thank you.

Diana

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We're starting right out with the activity today. Settle back and keep reading, because this is a mental exercise that will tax your brain.

First, look to the far left corner of the room. In that corner stands a nun with a basketball. She's wearing her full habit, holding the basketball in her hands.

Got it? Say it out loud. "There's a nun in the corner and she's holding a basketball in her hands." Picture it in your mind. Say it out loud again.

Next to her is a professional basketball player saying, "Come on, Sister, put me in. Let me take your place."

Repeat that. Repeat them both. Cement those images in your head. Once you have them, continue.

Directly in front of you (out the window if you have one there) is an herb. It's blowing in the wind and is surrounded by a chain link fence.

I know, you think I'm crazy. Trust me. Get the image in your head.

Herb. Blowing in the wind. Surrounded by a chain link fence.

What was in the corner? Who is standing next to her? What's directly in front of you? Repeat them until they're firm in your mind.

Moving on...

In the far right corner is a little boy in a red sweater and he's sneezing, "Achoo-too. Achoo-too."

Little boy, red sweater, sneezing, "Achoo-too. Achoo-too."

What was in front of you again? Who is standing beside the nun? What is he saying?

When you're ready, continue.

On the wall to your right is a big billboard. It's an advertisement for the herb. Got it? Go back to the herb. It's blowing in the wind and surrounded by what? Who is in the far left corner? Who is in the far right?

By now you think my elevator doesn't go all the way to the top floor. It does. I assure you, there is a purpose for this. Ready? Let's continue...

Okay, beside you on the right are two construction workers building a bridge. Make them hot construction workers. After all, this is your imagination! Male or female doesn't matter. Two construction workers building a bridge.

On your left is a little girl getting an injection and she says, "Ouch!"

What's on your right? What was on the wall? What does it advertise? Go backwards...who is in the corner and what is he sneezing? What's in front of you? Tell me about the pair in the left corner. Who is on your immediate left?

Last one and you can put him anywhere you want: a man in a three-piece suit making a presentation. He's holding a tin can with no top or bottom on it.

Recite them. Look around the room, not at the computer screen for a moment and go through all the images.

Now do them backward. Start with the man. Remember the tin can!

Got 'em all? Good!

You just learned the eight parts of speech. And their definitions.

Nope, I'm not kidding. You really did.

Start with the nun in the corner. She's a noun. She's a person, standing in a place, holding a thing and her habit represents an idea.

A noun is a person, place, thing or idea. :)

Take the pro basketball player next to her. He's a pronoun. Get it? Pro-noun? And what do pronouns do? They take the place of nouns (he's saying, "Put me in, Sister, let me take your place.")

By now you're groaning at the bad puns. Rest assured...they get worse.

In front of you is that herb. That's a verb. And there are two kinds of verbs: action ("blowing in the wind") and linking (that chain link fence!).

So far you have a noun, a pronoun and two kinds of verbs. Let's see what else we can find.

The little boy wearing the red sweater and sneezing. Let's change "Achoo-too" to "Adjective." He's a LITTLE boy wearing a RED sweater.

Adjectives describe nouns (and other adjectives, but let's keep it simple today, shall we?).

And then there's that advertisement on the wall for the herb. That's the ad-verb. The adverb! Get it?? :) Let's slap a sticker on that billboard that says "ly" since most of the adverbs have -ly endings.

To review:
We have a noun in the corner with a pronoun beside it. In front of us is a verb, both kinds (action and linking). In the other corner is a LITTLE boy and his RED sweater now sneezing, "Adjective" and on the wall, we're advertising the adverb with it's ly ending.

Okay, those 2 construction workers building a bridge? Those are conjunctions and what's their function? To build bridges between sentences, of course! Those are words like "and" "or" "for" "nor"...They serve some other purposes, too, but we're staying simple, remember? So conjunctions build bridges between sentences.

Two more to go!
Our poor little girl getting her injection is an interjection. Remember she says, "Ouch!" -- which is a word dropped into the sentence that isn't necessarily needed. "Wow!" and "Great!" are other examples. So is "Shit." :)

And our handsome man in his suit making is presentation is a preposition. Prepositions show location (pre-position -- see? It has the word "position" right in it!). The tin can helps here. You can be in it, you can be near it, you can be outside, around, go through, be on it or under it or over it. You can go toward it or walk with it, you can even move away from it. All prepositions!

Look over at that nun again. Run through the eight images, then run through them again as the parts of speech.

And you thought grammar was dull...

I do this with classes filled with bored high school students and by the end of the image-learning, they know every image and can't wait to shout them out. They physically turn toward that part of the room as they describe what they "see" there and when I drop the bombshell at the end and tell them what they just learned? They don't believe me.

Then I start "decoding" the images and they start laughing. They're taking notes and giggling and making jokes about the herb (which they nearly always want to make a marijuana plant) -- and learning grammar basics.

If you don't know your parts of speech (and if you're a writer, you should! They're the basic building blocks of your craft), go back through the images again, translating the image to the actual definition of that part of speech. Test yourself.

And do it often over the next week. Repetition is key here. We'll get past that and into usage in a future post. Right now, just have fun learning the eight parts of speech.

:)
Diana
PS. leave a tip in the jar if you enjoyed this. I think its working now!

Or maybe not... :(


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finding my voice


When I first started this blog back in 2003, I did it because it was expected of me as a new writer. Websites were de rigeueur, so of course, I had one, but blogs were the new kid on the block, the bandwagon everyone was jumping on.

So, I jumped, too.

And missed.

What the heck was I supposed to say? I wrote fiction, not conversations with strangers. I posted a few things every once in a while, but heck, I barely managed that other author necessity, the newsletter. How was I supposed to think of stuff to say every week? Or worse, every day?

The blog sputtered and nearly died several times. For a while it was pretty much a repeat of my newsletter. I had books to write and a family to raise as well as a full-time job. And readers didn't talk back to me, anyway. Might as well just chuck it.

(Sidenote: I pretty much felt the same way when Twitter came along. All the advice said, “Have a conversation with your readers, don’t just post when you have a new book.” But I’m terrible at starting conversations in real life, let alone cyberspace. I’m just not that interesting a person!)

Yes, I did the required reading and posting on other people’s blogs, but mostly I just read them and learned about publishing (and snark). Posting on them didn't seem to lead people back to my own blog and stating that I’d covered a similar topic myself in a post was (is) considered blatant self-promotion and frowned upon.

Then one year (2010), for my own edification, I decided to keep track of all the books I read. I figured the easiest way to do that was to make a post on the blog with a sentence or two about the book. Not a review, just a record.

To my surprise, the hits went from single to double digits each day. I pretty much doubled my readership and that surprised me because I really wasn't posting for the readers, I was posting for myself. I was my own audience and so had loosened up. Maybe I was on to something here?

And then I started the writing workshops in September, 2011. I took the idea from Dean Wesley Smith about putting each chapter out, then collecting those chapters and making a book available. I’d been teaching writing in both the real and virtual worlds (Second Life) for quite some time – making those workshops available on the web seemed the next logical step.

This time my numbers tripled. Each Tuesday I’d have between 40 and 50 people visiting, apparently just for the workshop. Some would email me with questions or comments, but mostly, the only indication I had that the site was getting more traffic was in the hit numbers, because still, few left comments.

(I double-checked the settings over a dozen times those first few months of starting the writing workshops, concerned that maybe I’d turned the comment feature off by accident. I hadn't.  My readers are just not talkers. In other words, they’re like me!)

But somewhere along the way, posting those writing workshops helped me to find my voice when it comes to posting on this blog. I threw off the artificial constraint I had put on myself (trying to figure out what people wanted to read) and instead posted what I wanted to write. Sometimes that’s my opinion about something, sometimes it’s a reflection about an event, sometimes it’s barely anything at all but me enjoying the flow of words and exploring a subject for fun.

But its me. It’s my voice.

Took me nearly nine years to find it, but find it, I did. And my hits nearly doubled again.

Thank you to those who have been here from the beginning, thank you to those who pop in occasionally just to see what’s going on. And thank you to those who read every post, every time. You may not say much, but I know you’re there and that’s what counts.

Beginning writers, want some advice? Learn faster than I did! :)

Play safe, everyone – I’m having fun and I hope you are, too!

Diana 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo anyone?

I know today's supposed to be a writing workshop, but I also know several of you are participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This great write-in, if you will, is held every November and every November I say I'm going to participate. Then grades are due and I get busy correcting senior papers and, well...let's just say November is not a good writing month for me.

But many of you ARE writing fast and furiously this month and let me offer some words of encouragement: keep writing! What are you doing here, reading this blog when you should be writing? At this point you should be almost halfway done - are you?

Okay, so that's not much encouragement. It IS however, the truth. During this month you really don't have time to spend honing your craft, you're too busy writing a novel. And that's okay. There comes a time in every writer's life when it's time to set all else aside and simply concentrate on writing a coherent story. Or incoherent story. This month, it doesn't really matter. You're just writing. Editing comes in December.

So get back to your manuscript and keep those words flowing! I may not be able to participate, but I can cheerlead with the best of 'em.

Love you all, glad you stopped by...now go write!

Diana
:)

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Hobbit

Okay, you all know I'm a Tolkien geek. Small "g" -- not a capital like Peter Jackson or Stephen Colbert, but a small-case "g" as in, I've read Lord of the Rings more times than I can count and The Hobbit about a dozen times.

I've been a member of The One Ring (formerly Tolkien Online) for years, although not active since I've been writing my own books. I still go and page through the forums, reading the conversations and lurking in the shadows like a benevolent Gollum, seeking tidbits and simply enjoying some time with like-minded people. I once was Wisteria there (Wiste to my friends).

And now, with The Hobbit about to make its film debut, the media frenzy has been up and running for over a month. Yes, I already have my tickets to see it in 48 frames per second on the first day of its release. Told you I was a Tolkien geek!

I've watched the trailers - lots - and I love the song the dwarves sing in Bilbo's house. "Far over the Misty Mountains call..." The tune is far more haunting than I ever created in my head as I read the book, but I have to say, I like it. A lot. That deep baritone of Richard Armitage sends chills down my spine and I look forward to hearing it coming from theatre speakers instead of my little headphones.

Jackson set up a pattern with the three Lord of the Rings movies: over the end credits, a singer sings a song based on the action of the film or on one of the characters. For Fellowship of the Ring, Enya wrote and sang "May it Be". At the end of The Two Towers, Emiliana Torrini sings "Gollum's Song" (haunting and a little bit scary!). And Annie Lennox wrote "Into the West" for Return of the King (a song I want played at my funeral.).

And now, for The Hobbit, he is doing the same. Neil Finn sings a wonderful piece that I've already played through several times in the past hour and will play several more times before I see the film. You can listen to it here.

Anyone else waiting for this film as I am? Am I alone in my Tolkien-geekiness?

Diana



Sunday, November 11, 2012

On grammar...

Because I knew I was going to be a writer at a young age (I was 9 or 10 when my teacher told me I should be one because of a short story I'd written about bears. I thought she'd just given me my career and agreed with her), I paid attention when English teachers gave lessons about grammar.

Didn't understand them, but I paid attention.

At the end of our junior year here in NY State, all students must take an exam in English. At that time there was a section that might - or might not - ask grammatical questions. I remember my girlfriend, Mary Ann, sitting me down and drilling me on the parts of speech and showing me how to diagram a sentence, getting frustrated with me when I'd shrug my shoulders and give her a blank look.

None of it stuck and thankfully, there were no questions of that sort on the test. Which I ended up not having to take. But that's a story for a different post. :)

In college we studied "transformational grammar" and for the first time ever, why we put certain words in certain places in sentences began to make sense. Finally I understood the difference between a gerund and a verb, even though both looked exactly the same. I recognized the differences between past, present and future participles. Heck! I even knew what a participle was!

The old adage says you never learn something so thoroughly as when you have to teach it. Teaching grammar to 7th and 8th graders probably did nothing for them but it did everything for me. Looking at language through the lens of its grammar opened new ways of forming sentences, new ways of structuring arguments, and most importantly, new ways of telling a story.

Recently I had occasion to teach seniors the four sentence types. I actually wanted to teach comma placement, but we had to go back a step. Then, when I asked, offhandedly, really just wanting to bring the piece of knowledge back to the front of their brains, how many types of verbs there are - and they couldn't answer me - I ended up going back and teaching the parts of speech all over again.

It isn't that they haven't had it. It isn't as if no one's ever taught them this before. Yet, like my younger self, they find no meaning in it and so haven't really bothered to learn it. One of the boys asked me why we were waiting until they were seniors to teach this stuff. He felt it should be much earlier in the curriculum!

In any case, going through the basic rules of English grammar once more made me appreciate the structure all over again. It also made me glad I'm a native speaker. I can't imagine how hard this language would be to learn if I learned another language first. I am so impressed with those who learn to speak English later in life. You do what I could not.

Because my teacher told me I was going to be a writer, I understood those grammatical rules were something I needed to master. It took me years, but master them I did. Still don't know all their fancy names (adverbial clauses give me headaches), but using the tools of the language is part of my job.

And it's a job I love doing.

Play safe!
Diana
PS. I thought about making this part of the writing workshops, but really it's more of a personal reminiscence and philosophy statement about grammar. Be forewarned, however! Grammar will probably make an appearance in a future workshop. Or two. :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Taking a breath

I feel like I've been running since the first week in September. Because my day job is teaching, classes started up and life moved into high gear.

Especially this year. I'm teaching five classes with five preps and my head is spinning by the end of the day. On the downside, I have a whole bunch of work before (and after) each class. On the upside, I don't have 121 versions of the same essay to grade. :)

That, above all, is what makes this particular teaching load manageable. Every course I teach has a major writing component to it, so there is a lot of student writing to look at. When I taught six sections of only one subject, I'd give an assignment and then have an entire stack of papers all on the same topic. By the end of the thirtieth paper, I was ready to find a convenient staircase and throw them down the stairs (that was a running joke in teacher-school: the papers that landed at the bottom got failing grades, those at the top, higher ones. No, NO ONE ACTUALLY DOES IT! It was just wishful thinking on the part of English teachers vs the work say, math teachers had in grading papers).

Having five preps isn't so bad on the grading side. I can look at a stack of twenty-five term papers and not feel overwhelmed. It's manageable. Especially since it takes between 15-20 minutes per paper. The students are always surprised by the fact that I spend that much time on his/her paper. My stock response is, "How long did it take you to write it? How many hours did you spend on this? Don't you think it deserves more than just a cursory glance?" They usually grin and nod.

And then there's my dad. He had a Crohn's flare-up at the beginning of October and it looked pretty bad for a while. I've learned I don't write well when death is standing too near one of my family members, so all the pieces I was working on got set aside as he recovered. Now he's in rehab and doing so well they stopped the physical therapy this past week 'cause he's walking just fine (doesn't even need a cane, let alone a walker) and pretty far along the road to normal.

Except the wound isn't healing as well as they'd like. As a result, he's still there and bored to tears. I try to spend as many evenings with him as I can, which, I'm afraid, are not nearly as many as I'd like. Another direction in which to be pulled.

So today, I'm taking a breath. The sun is shining (finally! I'm in the Finger Lakes and, while we were only brushed by Sandy here - another stress! - there has been precious little sunshine for the last two weeks). I have bananas that have gone black, tomatoes that are beginning to rot, layers of dust on my furniture and winter clothes I still haven't gotten down from the attic.

And that's my day today. I'm staying home, enjoying the sunshine and nesting. I'm going to bake banana bread, make spaghetti sauce and pull out my winter wardrobe. In addition, I'm going to vacuum the house, gather up the dust bunnies and rake leaves.

Just as soon as I have a cup of cocoa and watch the morning sun...

Play safe!
Diana

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Warning: Today's workshop starts with a rant.

Stepping up onto her soapbox, Diana clears her throat and begins as the crowd quiets. She holds up a blue paperback book and begins.

I just finished reading this book. Jude Deveraux's Forever. It's a quick read because it keeps you enthralled throughout. I'd begun it over the weekend and then came home from work on Monday, sat in front of the gas fireplace and read straight through to the end in one sitting. Skipped dinner because I wanted to know what was going to happen to these characters. She made me care and I needed to know they were going to make it.

And then she did it again.

I know better. Jude has disappointed me in the past. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but no. I let her sucker me along, interested, caring...feeling the tension build in me as we approached the climax and then...bam! The next chapter starts a year later and, instead of SEEING the action of the climax, the characters tell it to me after the fact. It's a simple summary of what happened during the most climactic scenes of the book.

I wanted to throw the book into my gas fire.

Fire in her eyes, Diana steps down from her soapbox, takes a deep breath, and continues with the workshop...

To a certain extent, this goes along with last week's workshop. We're still talking about seeing the scene vs. just summarizing it. The difference is, this week, we're also talking about author-reader trust.

When you write a story, no matter what the length, you enter into an unspoken contract with the reader. They expect that you will follow through on all your plot lines, that you will provide them with scenes they can "watch" inside their minds, that you will engage their emotions and take them on an emotional journey all the way through the book. They expect to care about your characters - to laugh with them, cry with them, get angry at the same things they do. This is what readers want when they pick up your book.

And when you don't deliver, they drop you like the proverbial hot potato and getting them back in a different story is often difficult, if not impossible. "Oh, yeah. I read one of hers a few years back. Didn't like it. What else do you have?"

It's okay if what you read wasn't your cup of tea. I don't much care for American Literature (with the capital letters) but I love fantasy, science fiction, romance and even the occasional western. You won't catch me reading a horror novel (the few times I did I ended up with nightmares for a week!). I'm not talking about tastes in reading here. I'm talking about the quality of the story.

The only activity I'm going to give you this week is to go through  your bookshelf and make two lists: the top ten books you loved and the top ten books you hated (actually, you probably don't have the books you hated on your shelf. That's okay. Make a list anyway!).

Focusing on story only, what was it that make you love (or hate) those books? No, "the teacher made me read it" doesn't count as a reason. And "I like this because it was interesting" or "I hated it because it was boring" don't go far enough. What made it interesting/boring? How did the author live up to the contract you expected?

One of the best ways to learn how to write is to read. Pick up your favorite of the lot and leaf through it, reading the best passages again, this time with an author's eye. What techniques did that author use? How did he/she make you care? And how did he/she live up to the contract between the two of you?

*****
In America, today is voting day. If you have not yet cast your vote, please do so! It is a right we should never take for granted.
*****
The residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy might not ever be able to go home. The New Jersey coastline has been rebuild by Mother Nature and they will need to find new places to live. Please consider a donation to the Red Cross to help out.
*****

Play safe, everyone!
Diana
 PS. Edited for a spelling error.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012

Cleaning up

I've just spent the last hour cleaning up the website. To wit:

  • There are now links on the Purchasing Info tab to excerpts to all the books I've self-published, including TIED TO HOME (which released yesterday. Go ahead...you know you want a copy!)
  • Diana Allandale's books have been removed from that page and all links are now complete on her tab.
  • Excerpt links added to all Diana Allandale and CF Duprey books.
  • Added TIED TO HOME to the sidebar with link to the purchasing page.
  • brought complete list of all books written up-to-date on the purchasing tab (scroll to bottom)

Still on the to-do list:

  • create a tab dedicated to my EC books with links to all those.
  • add covers to that page of all my EC books
  • write another novel!

Play safe, everyone!
Diana

Thursday, November 01, 2012

TIED TO HOME releases!



It's November 1st and my Sweet Spot book has released in all ebook formats

Yes, it's erotic romance. Yes, it features hot, down-and-dirty sex. Yes, there's lots of rope...lots and lots of rope...that needs tying -and untying!

What? You want a tease? A taste? An excerpt?

Oh...Okay! :) Read on!






TIED TO HOME
by Diana Hunter
All Rights Reserved

Blurb: Wiste hasn't ever had a problem with self-bondage - until today. When the key to the handcuffs breaks off and jams the lock, she has to accept help from a source she thought long-buried in the past -- Matt Carter.

As for Matt, he'd never seen this side of Wisteria Penny Lane in the past...and he likes what he sees now.

Excerpt:
Matt Carter sauntered in, taking a moment to look around. Wisteria Penny Lane. She’d taken a lot of heat for her name when they were kids. Hippie parents who didn’t have a clue the teasing they’d saddled onto their only child. He wondered if they still had that commune outside of town.
He’d seen the ropes, of course. And the marks around her breasts. She’d been tied up pretty well. Who knew when they lost their virginity together in the barn on her parent’s farm that the girl would grow up to have kinky tastes? Or that he’d grow up to have them as well?
Now she stood, defiant and proud, her wrists held out before her in challenge. She’d  thrown a book at his head the last time he’d seen her, as he recalled. If Brian had told him whose lock he was going to fix, he doubted he’d have come.
“Let me see what I can do. Have a seat.”
There was a small chest on the floor in front of the window and he gestured to it.
“I’d rather stand.”
“I’m sure you would. But I need steady hands and that’s easier to do when I’m kneeling.” He smirked. “And you always did want me down on one knee, as I recall.”
“You bastard. Get the fuck out of my house.”
He drew back in mock astonishment. “Wisteria Lane, such language!”
“I don’t want you here. Tell Brian he sent the wrong man.”
Matt studied her face. A war went on there. One moment she seemed fully in control, the next she was a breath away from breaking down into full-blown panic mode. Fascinated, he watched the control side take over again. When she spoke this time, her voice was more leveled.
“Go away, Carter. I meant what I said the last time I saw you.”
“Yeah, I remember. That you never wanted to see me again. Well, here I am. And you’re stuck and I can get you free.” He held up the small case of tools. “Picking locks is something I do.”
Wisteria sat down hard on the chest, her wrists still held out before her. “Turned to a life of crime?” She sounded bitter and Matt recognized she felt defeated.
“Worked with a security firm for a while,” he explained as he knelt down before her and opened the case. He pulled out a dark blue roll of felt and unfolded it as he spoke. “They had a master locksmith as part of their crew and he taught me a few things.”
“Security firms are supposed to keep people out, not get them in.”
He snorted. “You’d be surprised at how often people lock themselves out of their own systems. First thing they taught me was how to break into a car with a slimjim.” Carefully, he reached for her hands. “Now, let me see.”
She said nothing to him as he examined the problem. The first piece caught in the lock of the handcuffs came out easily enough with a small tweezers. The second proved more difficult and he had to twist around to work the lock from her side of it. That put him uncomfortably close and her perfume distracted him.
Pretending his shoulder didn’t touch hers was another distraction. And that string bikini wasn’t helping. He remembered those breasts, how soft they felt in his hands, how he could make her purr by licking her nipple…
The piece sprang free and with a twist, he opened the handcuffs, totally shocked by the feeling of disappointment that washed over him. What was he thinking? Wiste wanted no part of him. And, if he was honest with himself, admittedly not one of his strong points, he didn’t really want a complication in his life right now. He’d just left one in the desert of LasVegas, he didn’t need to pick up another one here in Connecticut.
“Yes!”
Her exaltation was immediate. He didn't say a word, only putting his tools away, re-rolling the felt and putting it back in its case. Wisteria jumped up and brushed past him as if he didn’t exist.
“Em, he did it. Emily? Em!”
But Matt knew Emily had left. He’d heard her sneak down the stairs before he’d even gotten his tools out. For reasons of her own, Emily Baker had left them alone.


The print edition will be available shortly (it's currently under review for formatting and typos). In the meantime, get your ebook copy today!

Play safe everyone :)
Diana

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Storytelling vs Writing a Story

Okay, I was in the middle of writing this workshop when we lost Internet last night. Here it is, updated and finished!

I had a student recently discover his inner writer. He's never done particularly well in English class and took Creative Writing only because he needed another English credit for graduation.

But then something clicked inside him when he started to write his character story (you can do the activity here). He got really into it and, on the day it was due, he came to me with a sheepish grin on his face and nothing in his hands. "I don't have it finished," he told me.

When I asked why not, he replied, "Well, you know how you said it had to be a thousand words? I'm at 1500 and I just finished the first chapter."

"Wow!" I told him, knowing that was short for a chapter, but actually thrilled that he was writing so much. "Turn in the chapter and I'll understand it's just a small piece of a much larger story."

He did, then went back to his netbook and continued writing (he's currently up to Chapter 3 and not done yet). I took his pages to my desk and found exactly what I expected: story telling instead of story showing.

In other words: a synopsis, not a written story.

What's the difference?

A synopsis tells the story quickly and without detail. It's often written in present tense and simply outlines the characters and action. For example:

Jerry and Lynn meet at the library when Jerry drops a stack of books on Lynn's toes. It's love at first sight and Lynn suggests Jerry can take her out for ice cream to make up for his klutziness. They have a good time and they end up back at Jerry's place for some hot sex.

See? Short, to-the-point, a simple telling of what happened.

As opposed to:

Jerry hefted the stack of books to be re-shelved  grumbling about the heavy work and little pay. 'Probably should've done this in two trips,' he thought to himself as the stack, the top book balanced against his nose, wobbled in his arms. But then, that would be double the work.

He took the corner too quickly and the pile started to teeter. Moving faster to counteract, he didn't notice the pretty girl sitting on the floor between the shelves until his foot connected with hers. The books toppled like a cascade of water, the pages fluttering like waterdrops around and on top of the head of the cute library patron.

And that only sets up the first sentence of the story telling version!

You see what I mean, then, about story telling versus story showing? When you write, give detail. Give dialogue and include metaphors and similes and all sorts of cool figurative language (which I'll deal with in a later workshop). Expand!

And what's cool about all this? Every one of you can take the three-sentence synopsis and write a different story from it.

I'm not kidding! My two-paragraph story-start is only one way Jerry could drop the stack of books on her toes...or head...or any part of her. There are lots of ways that could happen--and you're going to write your own version in this week's activity below.

Oh, and no, I didn't tell the kid his story was a storytelling rather than a full story. He's having too much fun discovering his new-found ability. The finessing can come later, when he's ready. Right now we're celebrating his inner-writer. :)

Activity

Using the synopsis above, write your own start to this story. Deal with just the first sentence (if the story clicks, feel free to continue into a full-length story. I claim no ownership over the idea!).

Feel free to post your starts in the comments section. Would be fun to see the differences. Just how many ways can we come up with for Jerry to drop those books?

As always, if you find these workshops helpful, please drop a coin in the box to the right or push the button below to make a donation.

Diana
edited to add: apparently the Donate button hasn't been working for a while. It is now! :)










Monday, October 29, 2012

Hip and a hurry

Am posting this quickly just to say there may or may not be a workshop posted tomorrow. As many of you know, I live in the Finger Lakes area of New York State and while I'm safe from the storm surges, we are experiencing very high winds and are expecting power outages. We've already lost Internet connection three  four times in the last half hour.

So rest assured we are fine here, but power may be an issue for a few days. Don't panic. The workshops will resume when the power does! :)

In the meantime, play safe!
Diana

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Character "answers"

Congratulations! You just created a character.

I'm not kidding. Those of you familiar with role-playing games (D&D anyone?) know what it means to "roll a character"...well, that's what you just did.

Below you'll find the "answers" to the letters you chose. On your paper, next to the letter you chose for each number, write down the characteristic your person has. Ready?

1. Gender
A. Male
B. Female

2. Skin color
A. Dark
B. Tan
C. Pale
D. Albino

3. Hair color
A. White
B. Brown
C. Black
D. Red-head

4. Hair Length
A. Waist-length
B. Crew cut
C. Shoulder length
D. Mid-back
E. Bald

5. Eye color
A. Brown
B. Blue
C. Green
D. Hazel
E. Black
F. Violet

6. Build
A. muscular
B. skinny
C. athletic
D. plump
E. pear-shaped

7. Personality
A. outgoing
B. aggressive
C. obnoxious
D. pleasant
E. shy

8. Height
A. below 4'
B. between 4'1" - 4'6"
C. between 4'7" - 5'
D. between 5'1" - 5'5"
E. between 5'6"-5'10"
F. between 5'11" - 6'
G. between 6'1 - 6'3"
H. between 6'4" - 6'6"
I. over 6'7"

9. Age
A. 13 years old
B. 18 years old
C. 35 years old
D. 45 years old
E. 55 years old
F. 65 years old
G. 25 years old
H. 30 years old
I. 40 years old
J. 50 years old
K. 60 years old
L. 70 years old
M. 80 years old
N. 90 years old
O. 100 years old

10. Dexterity
A. graceful
B. klutzy
C. can't walk and chew bubble gum at the same time
D. average

11. Health
A. alive
B. dead


I'm betting you've created something strange and unique! LOL This is one of my favorite activities to do with a group of writers who are stuck in a rut or who just need a reminder that writing is meant to be fun. And you know what's coming next, don't you?

You got it! Put this character in a situation. Give him/her a problem. Where is he/she? Is she alone? If with others...who? What is he/she doing?

Go for it! Write a scene using this character as your protagonist and remember...have fun!

Characterization Playtime

Today's activity actually takes up two blog posts. Do the test below first, then go to the next post to get your "answers."

No, I'm not going to tell you what you're doing yet. Just grab a piece of paper and something to write with. Then number your paper from 1 to 11 (no, you don't need to skip lines!).

For each of the numbers below, choose one of the letters that is listed after it and record your choice on your paper.

1. A or B

2. A or B or C or D

3. A or B or C or D

4. A or B or C or D or E

5. A or B or C or D or E or F

6. A or B or C or D or E

7. A or B or C or D or E

8. A or B or C or D or E or F or G or H or I

9. A or B or C or D or E or F or G or H or I or J or K or L or M or N or O

10. A or B or C or D

11. A or B

Got it? You picked one letter for each number? Great! Go on to the next blog post!

Diana (who's grinning and having a lot of fun on this side of the computer!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Point of view, in general

NOTE: This is a larger issue/technique than one post. Look for more on point of view in the weeks to come :)
The Problem:
The first story I wrote, when I started writing seriously, was told primarily from the point of view of the young protagonist in third person limited. As he found things out, we found things out. Simple, straightforward storytelling, right?

Not so much.

One of the hardest tasks of a writer is staying in one person's head. Only one person's. The characters we meet/create often have so much to say, so many comments to make on the action, they all want their chance at the microphone.

Yet, if you give each of them equal time, the story becomes muddied. Just whose story is this, anyway? Who am I supposed to care about more? Why him/her and not this other guy?

When you try to tell too many points of view, a phenomenon known as "head-hopping" occurs. This is where you bounce the reader's focus back and forth between two (or more!) characters without regard as to what's really important.

Take that first, and so far, unpublished, novel I wrote. The story's going along for nearly forty pages in the protagonist's point of view when, bam! There's a paragraph where you hear the inside thoughts and feelings of the person he's talking to and then, bam! Back to the protagonist's point of view for another three pages before, bam!

Classic early writer inabilility to turn to a character and say, "Stop it. Not your turn. Don't care what you think right now. Stop thinking so loudly."

Some solutions:
There are ways to give that other character the stage for a bit, but having them interrupt the main storyteller doesn't work.

Making a point of view shift at the chapter break is best. Consider alternating from one person to another as the story progresses. Romance novels do this all the time where you have two protagonists  one male, one female, and you need to hear from both sides in order for the reader to care about both of them. (edited to add: Didn't mean to be so stereotypical. That's what I get for writing early in the morning before my morning cup of hot cocoa! Of course the protagonists in a romance don't have to be one of each gender!)

Double spaces in the middle of a chapter also work to separate points of view, but be careful here. You can't double-space, write a paragraph from the other person's viewpoint and then double-space and bounce back. That's just head-hopping with spaces.

If you truly need to switch within a chapter, make the break clear and stick with it for a while. The stories I enjoy most are those who give equal pages to the separate points of view. Or close to equal. The hero has X number of pages, the villain has the same number of pages so we know him (or her!) just as well.

Activity

1. Go through your manuscript and look for the head-hopping. Create a secondary file for anyone other than your main storyteller and dump all those thoughts there. You might be surprised to discover you have a companion story developing.

(Anne McCaffery did that with her Pern series. The first three Dragonrider books are told from the point of view of the riders. The next three books, the Harper Hall of Pern books, retell many of the same events at the start, but from the harpers' points of view.)


Soon, writing this blog and telling stories will be my only job in life (yay!). Please consider donating if you find these workshops useful!

Diana

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

update

I thank everyone for your patience. It's been a trying week. My father was diagnosed years ago with Crohn's Disease. Last Friday he had a flare-up that required surgery to fix. After three days in Intensive Care, he's now in a regular room but still very weak and in a lot of pain.

It's hard to have to be the grown up for your parents.

Last Sunday I blogged over at the Scribes about keeping the home fires burning while Lynn, Ruby, Tara and Cait are representing us at Romanticon, except I haven't done a very good job of it. Still, I know they're having fun...I'm pretty sure I saw Ruby as a hot pink penguin? :)

Give your loved ones a hug and kiss tonight and tell them you love them. It's not always easy to say the words, but they're always appreciated.

Play safe,
Diana

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Sorry...

There is no workshop this week for regulars of the Writing Workshop series. My dad has been taken ill and is in the hospital and I'm afraid this blog has not even been in the top fifty things I have had to take care of.

The workshops will resume next week.

Thanks. In the meanwhile,

Play safe!
Diana

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

How many words?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch got me thinking about approaches to writing. Again. In her most recent post, she stated, almost as a throw-away, that she wrote a million words last year. A million. Words. In a year.

Which, of course, begs the question: How many did I write?

Compared to a professional writer (one who solely makes her living at the writing craft), how do I (one who has a day job that pays the bills and a writing career that, until I read that post, I classified as mid-list. Compared to her and Joe Konrath, however? I’m not even on the same roster) stack up?

I started tallying. For the sake of a full twelve months, I started with September 28, 2011 and counted this blog post (written on September 29, 2012) as my year. I included published stories, unpublished files that go with those stories (the “extra” scenes I cut out as well as my character descriptions), and blog posts, both here and at the Scribes’. I did NOT include anything that I wrote for my day job. The numbers that follow center only on my writing career.

Published stories                                 141,420
Un-pubbed “extras”                                2,459
Stories started but not yet finished         18, 362
Blog posts (here)                                   52,685
Blog posts (Scribes)                                3,655
                                                           218,581 words in a year’s time

Wow.

That number is SO much bigger than I expected. I knew I wasn’t near a million, but to discover I’m only a bit shy of a quarter of a million words?

Wow.

You know I’m a data junkie, yet this was one stat I never thought of keeping, so I don’t know how this past year lines up against previous ones. I suppose I could go figure it out, but the numbers would be approximate since I often start stories and then set them aside for months (sometimes years!) at a time. Besides which, it would take time away from writing, which is, after all, what I really should be doing.

I suspect there are others out there, part-time writers, who write even more words in a year’s time than me. I take my hat off to them. I’m not a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of gal and if I could accomplish this in a year, imagine what you could do if you really tried!

Activity

You guessed it! Go back and total up everything you’ve written since September 1, 2011. These workshops began that month, so anything you’ve written for them counts.

Published or not, you ARE a writer, and that’s worth celebrating. Post your totals in the comments. Come on, show me up!

Diana

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reading round-up

In going through old blog posts for another purpose (read the upcoming post for Tuesday's workshop), I realized I hadn't recorded what I've been reading since June. And I have been reading. Lots.

I read several romance novels, but, alas, did not record the titles anywhere. I know there was one Nora Roberts and two Jude Devereux though.

I've re-read The Hobbit, several times in the past two months as I'm teaching it. This was the first Tolkien book I read way back in high school. All my friends had read it and they kept telling me how good it was. I remember reading it in the car on the way to a speech tournament (I competed in Dramatic Interpretation). I also remember not liking it at all. I didn't see what the fuss was.

Several months later I read The Lord of the Rings and loved it. He wrote The Hobbit in a very different style than he used for LOTR and I found I liked the adult style much more than the children's story. Re-reading it now, I find I still hold that opinion.

But, as Bilbo would say, The Hobbit is "just a bit of fun." :)

Mostly I've been reading through L.E. Modesett's Recluce series. My husband bought me 15 out of the 16 books in the series, you may recall. I started reading them in the order in which they were written only to discover he didn't write them in chronological order. His official website says they should be read as he wrote them, but I found myself so confused by the jumping around, I've ignored that directive and am reading them in time order as the events occur in the world.

I'm so much happier.

It's pretty obvious why Modesett wanted people to read them as he wrote them, however. His style as a writer grew and got MUCH better as he went along. He stopped writing in present tense and the stories are tighter. Still a little too much repetition for me, but that's probably my own hang-up.

Reading them in chronological order means I skip back and forth in his style. But I'd rather that than be confused as to the story lines. Currently I've read all the books through Natural Ordermage, which puts me at book ten of the sixteen (I don't have Arms Commander which comes in the first ten, so I have only five more to go). Mage-Guard of Hamor is sitting beside me as I type and I might start it later today.

And that brings me up to speed!
Play safe,
Diana

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Point of view

How many points of view do you tell your stories in?

Okay, so the grammar police might want to get me on the construction of that question, so let me rephrase: when you write your stories, how many points of view do you use?

I was taught short stories could only reflect one person's point of view. That made sense to me. They're short. There isn't time enough in a story that short to have more than one point of view. As far as I'm concerned, that rule still stands.

But what about longer works? How many points of view are you allowed? Well, that depends. J.R.R. Tolkien has nearly 30 major characters in The Lord of the Rings and, at some point or another, almost all of them get a chance at telling at least a piece of the story. Romances are written from the points of view of both the male and female protagonists; modern murder-mysteries often have not only the detective's point of view, but the murder's as well.

The trick is balancing them all.

Some authors use the chapter break as a point of view shift. Some go so far as to put the character's name as the chapter heading and then further's the plot through only what that character sees at that particular moment. Still others will tell the same event twice, first from one point of view, then, in the next chapter, from the antagonist's side of the story.

Other authors will use spaces within a chapter to denote a change of point of view. I see this a lot in romances (and am guilty of the technique as well). The first half of the chapter will be presented through her eyes, the second half through his (or vice-versa). This works well only if you have two protagonists of equal strength. Favoring one over the other tends to lead to unbalanced storytelling.

What you want to avoid is the malady known as "head-hopping." This is where the point of view constantly changes between and among the characters in a scene. Worse than watching a ping-pong match* the continual back and forth, in and out of character's heads can be dizzying for readers trying to figure out what's going on.

The key with any point of view shift is to make is clear so the reader can follow. It should also move the plot forward, not simply rehash action the reader already knows (my personal pet peeve). Katherine Kurtz published an entire book of short stories culled from the "extras" in her Deryni series. Whenever she had to remove a section because it slowed down the plot, she saved it, then later wrote it as a companion piece to the main story. By the time she was finished with the series (some 12 books in all), she had enough of these cut scenes to make an entire book of short companion stories.

Write scenes from other's points of view, especially if it helps you figure out a plot point or character motivation. In fact, I encourage it. You can find out some really cool stuff about your stories, your style and your characters that way.

But don't become married to those scenes. They might, or might not, belong as part of the larger story you're telling. Be prepared to cut and slash if necessary.

But keep them. Off to the side. tucked in a folder. And later, after the big story is published, pull them out, dust them off and fix them up. Then release them as their own short stories, with links, of course, to the larger work. Companion pieces or enticements, they will not go to waste.

Activity

Keeping point of view as your focus, examine your current work in progress. What character's pov are you in? Are you consistently using that point of view throughout the story? Should you be? You decide then write a reflection in your journal justifying your choices (remember, taking time to reflect on what we do is a part of the craft of writing. It's how we get better!).

Choose one scene from that same work and write it from a different character's point of view. Could be a minor character or the antagonist. Again, your choice. Once you're done, what did you learn? Again, take time to reflect and record your observations.

Enjoy and leave a tip on the way out :)
Diana

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