Friday, 29 April 2016

Ian Irvine on writing

Had to share a wonderful couple of websites on writing with you all.
“A writer’s job is to give his readers pleasure …
through stress, strain and tension.” ~ Sol Stein
The essentials of successful storytelling – for popular fiction, are external conflict, inner conflict, compelling characters and sustained suspense. 

According to Maass, every hero should have “a torturous need, a consuming fear, an aching regret, a visible dream, a passionate longing, an inescapable ambition, an exquisite lust, an inner lack, a fatal weakness, an unavoidable obligation, an irresistible plan, a noble ideal, an undying hope, or whatever it is that drives him beyond the boundaries that confine us, and brings about fulfilling change.”

Relating to the characters is what makes a story real, but how does this work? Relating means making an emotional connection, and the emotions we’re feeling when we read a story are the emotions of the characters (enhanced by our own lives and experiences). What they feel, we feel. The better the story, the more we lose ourselves in the lives of the characters and the more we become them, through identification.
The Basics of Story Craft
In its purest form, a story consists of just three elements: conflict, action, and resolution (Cleaver). Someone is faced with a problem (conflict) that he must struggle to overcome (action), and he either wins or loses (resolution).

Conflict brings stories to life, though it isn’t important for what it is, but for what it does. What does it do? The answer to this question lies at the very heart of storytelling. Conflict forces characters to act in ways that reveal who they are – and nothing tells us more about characters than how they deal with their troubles.

When conflict exposes who a character really is, the reader is drawn in through identification. The more difficult the character’s choice, the more his true nature will be revealed. In great stories – Romeo and Juliet; Hamlet; Scarlett O’Hara; Frodo; Harry Potter – the heroes are forced to go all the way. The more pressure you put on your character, the more you make him reveal his true, inner self and the more powerfully your readers will identify with him.

To be forced to change, to act and reveal their innermost selves, characters need to be frustrated, desperate and at the end of their rope. The worse you make it for your characters the better it is for the reader. When the characters give all they’ve got, readers experience it deeply and powerfully.
Conflict is often misunderstood in fiction. A great story can’t be made from everyday conflict (bickering, abuse, arguments, fights etc). A great story requires dramatic conflict, that is, conflict related to the hero’s story goal – either furthering it or blocking it. A dramatic want and a dramatic obstacle are needed to create dramatic conflict.
A dramatic want arises when the character is desperate to make things change. She can’t stand this aspect of her life any longer, and has to act. If she can live with things the way they are, if she can turn away from what she wants and be no worse off, it’s a false want and will only create a false conflict.
A dramatic obstacle is one that is as determined to block or deny the want as the want is driven to deny the obstacle (Frodo is determined to take the ring to Mount Doom, Sauron is determined to stop him). If the character can ignore the obstacle and suffer no harm, it’s a false obstacle and there is no conflict, no drama, and no story.
General Ways to Create Conflict (adapted and expanded from Lukeman, The Plot Thickens).
Create inherently conflicting characters. Your characters should be sufficiently different so that, even if they’re friends or lovers, they will constantly strike sparks off each other (for instance, a deeply religious person and a gleefully atheistic sinner, a communist and a capitalist, a refined lady, and a boorish slob). When you put such characters together it creates reader anticipation about the coming conflict and its consequences. But make sure the conflict is dramatic conflict.
You can create conflicting characters in an infinite number of ways, via:
  1. Opposing character traits – eg, aggressive, argumentative, a meditator, a conflict avoider;
  2. Race or nationality (for instance, characters from countries or regions which traditionally hate one another);
  3. Political or religious or moral or ethical views;
  4. Money, social status, upbringing, education, etc
Work out the conflict potential for each of your characters (you could rate it on a scale 1-10), then tailor it to create the maximum potential for conflict with the other key characters.

Where two characters have a generally harmonious relationship, find ways to wedge them apart – for instance by giving them different goals, agendas or attitudes. You can heighten conflict in any scene by giving the people in the scene opposing goals. Raise the stakes, make the need for the goal more desperate, and the scene will come alive.
Find more HERE
A character is in inner conflict (i.e. torn in two directions at once) when he has two goals, needs, wants or desires that are mutually exclusive. He must choose between equally desirable (or undesirable) courses of action, each supported by its own inner voice (Frey, How to Write Damn Good Fiction, and Iglesias, Writing for Emotional Impact). If he chooses one, he can’t have the other (Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook). The conflicting forces don’t have to be world-shattering in themselves, but they do have to really matter to your hero.
Bring your readers to a state of total absorption by showing the storm raging inside the hero: the doubts, misgivings, second thoughts, apprehension, fear, guilt pangs, remorse, indecision, etc. Powerful conflict comes when the opposing emotions or courses of action are equally strong.

The reader now suffers the hero’s inner storm and takes sides in the painful decisions he is forced to make. It is this participation in the decision-making process, when the reader identifies with the hero’s conflicts and wants him to make one decision over another, that transports the reader – and makes the story memorable. The inner conflict creates powerful suspense because the stakes are high yet readers don’t know:
  1. What the hero will do in the crisis;
  2. Whether it will be a good choice or a disastrous one;
  3. Either way, what the consequences will be, for him and for others.
To make the story even stronger and more compelling, give your hero multiple inner conflicts, then weave them together with the inner and external conflicts of the other key characters.
Common Behaviours Exhibited by People Suffering Inner Conflict

People suffering strong inner conflicts may (
  1. Feel physical discomfort, stress or agitation, but suppress or deny it;
  2. Do what they ought to do rather than what they really want or need;
  3. Struggle to make decisions, and doubt the decisions they have made;
  4. Be uncertain about what they want from life;
  5. Be easily influenced by others;
  6. Feel guilt or shame about past behaviour or natural drives or urges;
  7. Attract or be attracted to dysfunctional relationships that are rife with conflict;
  8. Be unstable or volatile, especially facing some challenge;
  9. Constantly seek support from others due to a lack of self-conviction;
  10. Suffer sudden mood or personality changes;
  11. Seek distraction via entertainment, alcohol, drugs, sex or gambling, etc.
How to Write Love Scenes by Carolyn Campbell
A love scene can provide a satisfying ending or an enduring, effective hook that you can thread throughout the plot of a mainstream novel. Such a scene can serve as an action scene, a sequel following a scene, or it can build tension and suspense leading up to another scene. The relationship between the two characters in a love scene can add interest to the story, move the plot forward, or complicate and add tension to the story.
1. Create tension by rendering the lovers as opposing forces
2. Get involved in your love scenes
3. Keep the lovers in character
4. Raise sexual tension through conflict
5. Reveal sexual attraction through contrast
5. Build suspense, anticipation, and intensity
6. Heighten the characters' five senses
7. Reveal relationship status and character changes
8. Tantalize with temporary togetherness
9. Turn up the heat (and the speed) with touch
10. Make love a difficult choice to heighten the emotions
11. Captivate with close calls
12. Kiss your story good-bye
Another great section HERE
Polishing Your Prose: Tips on Grammar, Article & Story Structure, and Self-Editing
Writing Speculative Fiction: Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror HERE
Fiction Writing Tips: Characters, Viewpoint, & Names HERE
Romanticism (also the Romantic era or the Romantic period) 
was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement.
William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". His visual artistry led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced."

William Sharp (12 September 1855 – 12 December 1905) was a Scottish writer, of poetry and literary biography in particular, who from 1893 wrote also as Fiona Macleod, a pseudonym kept almost secret during his lifetime. He was also an editor of the poetry of Ossian, Walter Scott, Matthew Arnold, Algernon Charles Swinburne and Eugene Lee-Hamilton.
Foam of the Past is the ‘selected writings’ of Sharp’s channelled pseudonym, who became a darling of Victorian readers and one earnestly courted by the fin-de-siècle ‘Celtic Twilight’ movement. This collection, includes provocative dark tales, early church musings, mystical ecritures, reveries of nature, political polemics, and various delightful vignettes. A gleaming new jewel for Scottish literature and Gaelic culture.

love and light,

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