Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Obstinate Author

In writing just as in any other professional field there is a sense of business etiquette.

While the digital revolution has made it easier for authors to find their work in publication I can't help but wonder if that long battle to publication is what instills a sense of writing maturity. Is it the mountains of rejection letters? The months of revisions? The cold editors that shred your work? Or is it the critique partners that help you understand you're not perfect and help you move forward?

In the drive for publication writers fight a constant uphill battle to see their work in print and ultimately fight for it to succeed. If a writer is ever to succeed they need to have a dogged determination and obstinate nature. When the world is raining down problems and roadblocks at every turn, it's that nature that allows them to persevere. Unfortunately, that determination may also compromise their ability for their works to succeed if they do not know how to separate their nature from their work.

What has spurred this deviation from the writing analysis was actually a post I discovered from Smart Bitches. An author that used smashwords to reach publication did not find a kind review from BigAl's Books and Pals. While many authors hope for the best when placing the work before a reviewer every writer knows there will be praise and there will be pain. There's no getting around it. Not everyone in the universe has the same taste. The best a writer can hope for is that the praise outweighs the bad reviews. Unfortunately this author could not separate herself from the review. This is an excerpt from her comment on the review:

The book is out there doing well without your comments. My first book is great! and I intend to promote now without your ball. Face it AL, you did a booboo, and you can't correct it!

I know its you AL talking, stop hiding and stand up and be a man!

I want this review removed or its just considered abuse.

Hmm never did get involved in your forum for reasons, now I know why.

Writers are invested in their all of their creations. After spending countless hours translating thoughts into words, virtually living in the world of their dreams it can be jarring to have others criticize that world. If you've had a long battle then you've already experienced the criticisms. Essentially you've hardened yourself against such things.

Once a writer has assumed their platform they have to accept that all of their actions will be visible to both the publishing community and to their readers. A few callous words can easily render a hard-built platform to rubble.

The digital revolution may be re-shaping the publishing world but it is also letting the world make the decisions about the quality of both of writing and of authors. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sustaining Curiosity

First words, sentences and chapters.

In crafting a narrative there is an extensive amount of emphasis that is placed on the opening of the piece. Perfecting the hook of a narrative is one of the most important components of a piece but when the hook is set what comes next?

Whether it's the theme, conflict or the gestalt of the piece that piques the interest of an audience the piece doesn't end after the hook. The creator must continue to evolve their piece but also match the design of the hook. In many instances a vast amount of effort will go into refining the first chapter or hook so that an audience will be engrossed.  Unfortunately the same effort is neglected for the proceeding chapters.

To sustain the curiosity of the audience it is necessary to orchestrate the premise in such a way as to nudge the reader to follow a character through a series of events. This is no different than taking the first hook and replicating it across pages where every page leads to the next.

The standard methods of creating narrative flow ensure cohesion between components however, the most notable methods to maintain interest in the piece is to never duplicate a situation or event. Every chapter should open with a new situation and not re-visit the events that brought the character to that point.

A supporting method to continue the cohesive flow of the narrative is to end each chapter with the hook, a 'cliffhanger.' If an audience is continually asking 'what is next' then it is possible to sustain their curiosity.

Every narrative is it's own mystery carefully crafted to sustain the curiosity of the reader. Like a guide casting breadcrumbs to lead their party to an unknown destination, the creator keeps the plot hidden to give them a chance to speculate. When the final pinnacle is reached it will ever the more breath-taking.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Drawing the Spectacle

Conflict, carnivals, spectacles...

At the core of any narrative is the conflict whether that is conflict between characters, external factors or even within a solitary character. The conflicts are the attractions for an audience, they're the rides that either draw or turn away participants.

Like a carnival, the core attractions will have a cohesive tone to attract the primary audience and convince them to participate. The core attraction in the narrative is often one of primary narrative themes; good versus evil, man versus nature etc. The premise conflict is the primary spectacle to draw the attention of an audience.

The creator of the work is no different than the ring master or the carnival manager. Every attraction has it's purpose, if it under-performs than it shall be cut. To the writer these are the revisions.

Once the audience can identify the major attractions they begin to explore the carnival. Not every attraction will suit every participant but every attraction should be able to obtain its' own crowd. These smaller attractions are designed to hold the attention of attendees until the they can experience the major spectacles. These attractions are often conceptualized character conflicts that examine both external and internal contention. Relationships, feuding friends moral dilemmas all orchestrated to maintain the attention of the masses.

As the attractions are selected and assembled the arrangement becomes key. If there are too many attractions the participants will grow tired before experiencing the full extent of the project. If there are too few attractions they will lose interest quickly. Spacing the attractions out at regular intervals will keep the interest of participants and maintain the tone.

When the architect begins crafting their piece, they must ask is this a sufficient spectacle to draw the crowd? Are the attractions enough to entertain? Is the main attraction a ride that others want to take?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Defining the Scope

Much like a painter who uses both broad and elegant brush-strokes to draft their work, a writer chooses subtle and overt elements to craft their narrative. As the narrative is created often the author can unintentionally define the scope of their work.

Through overt references, a writer produces long, broad brush-strokes to give frame to the entire piece. Elements such as genre and even antagonists can define the scope of a narrative. The broad brush-strokes can determine the appeal of piece for an audience. Is it the right tone? Genre? Any number of larger strokes can be used to draw in an audience or turn one away but the details can ultimately determine the success of the narrative.

After the large sweeping brush-strokes frame the piece the finer work comes into focus. The first detail that comes into focus is the main character. Their gender, attitude and especially their voice can determine the gestalt. Are they male or Female? Are they a hard-boiled detective or a devoted wife? The minute strokes used in detailing a character will ultimately determine the relatability of the audience to the piece.

While the audience inspects the piece they begin to identify the details surrounding the subject. The very backdrop,setting, will assist the audience in seeing the subject in greater detail. Is it a rural landscape or a city?

To bring out contrast in the work complimentary colors are chosen to support and define details. In a narrative the colors of the piece are tone and conflict. Respectively as the colors are selected and added to the piece, the piece brings out appeal and contrast. While tone must remain intact for piece, conflict can be spread throughout to add points of interest and keep the attention of the audience. Misuse of color can result in the failure of a piece, the narrowing of  scope either subtly or drastically. Is the antagonist aiming for global destruction or Hell bent on destroying the lives of a few? Are the conflicts well constructed so that they are part of the piece or almost random?

As the audience takes a step back to observe the piece as a whole, they look at it with their own perspective to bring their own interpretation of the work. When perspective is applied, the piece either comes to life as the creator intended or fails due to the inconsistencies in the gestalt.

Through broad strokes to frame the piece and details to define the subject of the piece a narrative's reach is determined. Its breadth and scope both for the narrative itself and for the potential audience.

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