NaNoWriMo Eve: Are You Ready?

November is National Novel Writing Month, where you write 50,000 words (The technical word count of a complete novel, albeit a short one.) by December 1st. I’m going about NaNoWriMo differently this year. I’m already 30k words into my rough draft of Eastside Faerie, so I’m going to write 50k and update my progress here.

I’ll post where I am in my plot as well as word count. I encourage writers who are participating to engage in the comments. The more the merrier.

If you don’t think you can write that fast in uncertain times like these, that’s okay. I still wish you luck and happy writing!



Halloween 2020

Normally, I love Halloween. I decorate the front yard to look like a graveyard and dress up every single year. This year, I put out the Halloween hand towels in the kitchen and the graveyard supplies made it to the front porch, but not past there.

I’m going to buy some candy today, make some gift bags with my youngest and go around the neighborhood dressed up as a witch, leaving candy instead of trick-or-treating. It won’t be the same, but it will be something.

I hope you all have a Happy Halloween!

Best,
Tammy

Point of View (POV): An Important Choice in Story Craft



Ever read something where you’re not sure who’s telling the story? Unless you’re an English professor or have been to a writing workshop with new writers, probably not. Experienced writers know that choosing a POV is an important part of writing a story. But what is “point of view,” besides who is telling the story?

The POV is how close or how distant the author wants the reader to know the character’s mind.  It’s all about where the figurative camera is shooting the scenes. Perspective.

Choosing your POV for your story is about making the decision whether you want all the character’s thoughts and feelings upfront and why you do or don’t want that. Also, POV can be used as a tool to insert the readers in that character’s shoes, by going through the growing pains of the character arc with them closely.

Here’s a breakdown of point of view or perspective choices:

First Person: This is when the story is narrated by the main character. You’ll easily identify first person perspective by the predominant pronoun “I”. This POV gives the reader an in-depth view of the main character’s head, but a limited view of the world around the MC. The story is being shot from the perspective of the MC’s eyes. 

Experienced authors play with this, especially if they want to surprise the reader with an unreliable narrator. Since the writer entrenches the reader in the MC’s worldview with first person perspective, that worldview could be wrong. An unreliable narrator allows the reader to be astonished along with the MC when they discover their view is wrong.   

I love first person POV and used it with Eastside Hedge Witch and Eastside Faerie because I wanted Miriam to be the lens of her world and bias the reader to her perspective. I wanted to play with people remembering the past one way and then discover it’s not exactly what they thought.

Second Person: Second person is told with the pronoun “you”. 

An example of second person perspective:

A dead body lays on the ground in the alley. Blood is on your hands. You don’t remember doing it. Sirens blare. You cast your gaze about. Breath comes in short bursts, a metallic scent filling your nostrils with each inhale. Should you run or should you stay?

I hate reading and writing this perspective. Second person takes me out of the story because it feels like the narrator is breaking the fourth wall. I don’t know who ‘you’ is. The second person makes me feel like Robert Dinero in Taxi Driver. I want to ask the writer, “You talkin’ to me?”

On the first read, I put down The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin because my brain couldn’t adjust to reading the second person. However, I’d read Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy. In the first book of that series, A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Jemisin used first person to represent the juxtaposition of two joined minds/souls. It made for a lovely twist in towards the end.

Her established reputation as an author who plays with perspective made me pick up The Fifth Season again despite my personal dislike for the second person. In the novel, the second person, third person, and first are interwoven and again used for storycraft reasons. The second person perspective made for a delightful twist when the reader finds out who is using ‘you’ and why.
 

Third Person Close/Limited: This perspective is told with the pronouns “he”, “she”, or “they”.

Third person limited is almost like first person, because the focus of the lens is narrower. The reader gets a lot of the MC’s thoughts, too. Many of today’s books are written in third person limited. I used third person limited to tell Tom’s tale in Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling. I wanted to get close to Tom, but not too close. He’s a bittersweet hero, and I didn’t want the readers to love him too much.  

Third person limited allows some glimpses into the MC’s mind thus helps the reader relate, but isn’t so close that you know all their thoughts and feelings. Third person limited works well when the writer wants to tell stories from more than one narrator’s perspective. Using ‘I’ would only create confusion about who is telling the story.  Whereas using “she,” “he”, or “they” interchangeable with the MC’s name would delineate clearly who is speaking. 

Third Person Omniscient: This perspective is also told with the pronouns “he” or “she”. However, the difference is you’re getting into more than one head. 

Unfortunately, the omniscient perspective flirts with “head hopping”. Head hopping is confusing because the reader doesn’t know who is telling the story and doesn’t have a character to latch on to. 

Outside of her stories featuring Detective Poirot, Agatha Christie didn’t want her readers attaching to one character because she wanted the reader to suspect everyone and not get too attached to a singular character, who might get offed in the next chapter. 

Go ahead. Play with perspective. Look up books that teach you how to use point of view as a story craft device. Your writing will improve as you learn, and you’ll find the perfect fit for your story. 

©T.J. Deschamps

T.J. Deschamps is the author of Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling and the upcoming novel Eastside Hedge Witch. She lives in the pacific northwest with her three children and spouse. 

Reviews are Coming in for Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling


I checked my author page for my novella this morning and found that I had three five star reviews on Amazon!
What reviews they were too:


Find out why readers are falling in love with Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HX91MYD

How Do I Write a Novel?


You’re a reader and you’ve got a creative spark. An idea has been brewing in your head. You’ve decided to write a novel. You sit down at your keyboard, or open a notebook and uncap your pen, and then you stare at the page. Why? You’ve read hundreds of books over the span of your life, but no one has taught you how to write one.

Should you go back to school and get a degree in creative writing? Sure, if you have the time and the money. If you don’t, the good news is, it’s not necessary. There are plenty of best selling and even obscure writers out there who write really well, but have degrees in other fields.

One thing you can do, is take online classes or go to a community college and learn the basics. A good writing class can be a solid foundation. Many universities are offering courses in non-credit creative writing for free, often providing a certificate upon completion.

Another thing you can do is borrow or buy books on writing. I have my own personal favorites:

Wired for Story, by Lisa Cron
Story Genius, by Lisa Cron
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni and Dave King
The Ten Percent Solution by Ken Rand

I went to Twitter and got this list from authors and editors in the publishing industry:

“On Writing by Stephen King is entertaining and full of great advice. I also like Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott. I re-read these each time I start a new writing project.” –Vicki Olsen-Author

“Brody’s *Save The Cat Writes a Novel* is still my favorite, and Snyder’s screenplay one before that. I refer back to the genres regularly in Brody when I am doing a new story. I use her more detailed beats for Act 3, so 20 beats instead of just the 15.” –Cornelius Q. Kelvin


“Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg & Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico” –Kate Evans Writer

“Cliche, perhaps, but I really liked Stephen King’s On Writing.”–Sarah Strix

“The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne improved my writing SO much.”–Christie Kenwyn

“The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. A very short how-to book on writing, but I consider it an essential guide on how to make one’s writing go from mediocre (over-written, confusing, pacing issues) to great. It’s specifically focused on making your writing publication-ready.” –Allison McBain

“Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King” –Sadira Stone

“If we’re talking craft and you’re a plotter and/or like exercises: K.M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel, and James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure for starters.” — Jaime Mayer

“Just Write by James Scott Bell.” –Dianne McCartney

“Writing the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.” –Lacy

“Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. The chapter on Shitty First Drafts is worth the price of the whole book.” -Trish MacEnulty

“I recommend Rachel Aaron’s book ‘2,000 to 10,000′”–JJVors


Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash


Should I Describe My Characters in Detail?

When it comes to character descriptions, every author has a different approach. Some paint in broad strokes. Some describe their characters in great detail. Either way, descriptions should serve a purpose beyond painting a picture of Abs Mcgee and Dangerous Curves. The way a writer describes a character should evoke a feeling you want the reader to have about them. People are quick to judge by looks and authors should use that to their advantage.

Play with stereotypes: Describe a cliche or trope within your genre for characters whose personality and actions are nothing like what the reader would expect. Patricia Briggs described the trope of a hardened cowboy, who one would expect rode the range alone. He was actually a werewolf, who’d faced a lot of prejudice within the pack for being gay. He was also in a stable relationship with a high powered lawyer with a sharp mind. She could have gone a completely different direction, but I like what Briggs did with that.

Note only important details: If you’re going to describe a scar, let there be a good backstory to that scar. Make it plot related, and character building. That scar isn’t there for an aesthetic. It’s there to say something about that character.

Skip the blue eyes and washboard abs: Unless you’re writing a romance novel, the eye color isn’t important. Honestly, the color of someone’s eyes and hair only matters if it’s something your character would notice and there should be a story reason behind it. Readers will fill in those details themselves anyway.


©T.J.Deschamps

Photo unknown source

Does My Story Need a Villain?




Someone posted on social media “Does a story needs a villain?” If you mean someone twirling their mustache and plotting evil deeds, no. However, your story does need an opposing force. Why? Without conflict there is no lesson learned and without a lesson learned, there is no plot. A series of events does not a novel make–at least not a good one.

A villain, or antagonist, doesn’t have to be a person. It’s all about what you want to say thematically. An oppressive system could be the villain. A city with heavy traffic, crowded streets, and indifferent attitudes could be the villain. Nature could be the villain. A good snow storm and a lost traveler are definitely not friends. The villain could be the protagonist’s own mind or hamartia (a tragic flaw).


Some examples:


In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, there isn’t one antagonist or villain, but four. The protagonist comes across four men that embody ideologies. Three of these, the main character adopts, but all four, he ultimately rejects.

In the Terminator movies, the Matrix trilogy, I, Robot, and Blade Runner, the antagonists are machines (but actually man not thinking about the consequences of their actions, but that’s a layer I won’t get into). Which brings me to Jurassic Park. It’s humans versus nature, but again, humans against the tech they’ve made.

Castaway is an excellent example of nature playing the villain. A game is the villain in Jumanji. Anything that forces the protagonist to learn and adapt makes a good antagonist or villain, but yes. You need one.



©T.J. Deschamps
Image courtesy of Unsplash.com









Why I Allow Myself to Cheat on My Projects

When you have a creative mind, you’re always bursting with ideas. Some are inspired by your environment, entertainment, art, and some come from dreams.

Have trouble writing about your dreams? Dreams are nonsense and have no plot, but your brain is free for the fantastical and is using a dream to work out a problem. They’re fuel for stories, but not stories. Plots can come from the nonsense, if you use a dream as a spark, not the outline. But, I digress.

No matter what the source, I allow myself to ask the first “what ifs” to start shaping the story. Every writer has a different method, but I start asking questions important to the character. I free write a scene to work out the character’s dilemma or I start looking for more inspiration on Pinterest and make a board for the story. I’m a visual thinker and have a bit of synesthesia regarding words, so this helps me get the world firmer in my mind.

I allow myself to do this because if I don’t, I’ll get bored with my WIP. It no longer has the Shiny element of a new story. Since I allow myself to cheat on whatever I’m working on, my mind gets a break. When I come back to my original WIP, I will have fresh ideas to incorporate, concepts I’d like to explore, improving the project overall.

©Tammy Deschamps

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 

Preptober: Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo is in seventeen days. Whether you’re a plotter, pantser, or plantser, you should be doing some sort of prep during October for the story you’re going to write in November. Why?

You don’t want to spend a month writing a collection of scenes with no plot, no character arc, and no theme. You don’t want to get stuck with writer’s block because you have no idea where your story is going. Fantasy writers don’t want to hand wave a magic system. Science fiction writers don’t want to have characters cross a galaxy and have no idea how long it would take even with an engine capable of warp speed. Mystery writers don’t want to start without knowing that the butler did it in the dining room with the wrench.

Here are some things you can do for preptober even if you’re a pantser:

1. Character profiles: Stories, at least mine, always start with a character who has a dilemma. Figure out who they’re going to need to solve this dilemma and who’s going to get in their way and why.

If you’re a visual person, scouring sites like Unsplash.com and pixabay.com for pictures of your characters is a fun way to get a picture of them in your head.

2. World building: Getting started on where your story takes place is important. The setting sets the mood of your story, provides challenges for your characters, and makes your world feel real. Even if it is the real world, don’t stick a pin on the map and call it a day.

Research weather, find pictures of what the place looks like at street level, etc. What is the government like? How does local law enforcement handle things? Are people religious? Is it a gossipy small town? Where do people work? What is the economy of the area? All of this is important stuff to think about ahead of time.

Is there magic in your fantasy world? Start figuring out what the source of that magic is. What are the costs of using this magic and how will it effect your characters.

3. Plot: Pantsers! Don’t stop reading. You don’t have to do a detailed outline or make scene index cards. If you already have your mc’s dilemma, you have step one of plotting down. Try visualizing the very last scene. The outcome of your story is important. Now come up with four major events and what your character must learn in order for your character to get to that scene you’ve imagined. There. You’re a plantser. You’re welcome. Your zero draft will look much better for it.

Even first time plotters feeling overwhelmed don’t need to do a lot. Jot down in a notebook, index card, or type up in Scrivener a key event for each chapter.

Good luck everyone!

©T.J. Deschamps




Book Review: An Excessively Practical Guide to Tarot Card Interpretations (Applied Divination) by Emily Paper


You walk into a dimly lit room. Seated at a small round table covered with velvet astrological signs is a woman in bohemian garb. She asks if you want to know your future, you say yes, because that’s what you’re supposed to say to a diviner, but what you really want is to know where you put your reading glasses. You go home knowing all about your Fate, but still can’t read that best seller you’d been looking forward to diving into. 
This book will not tell you how to divine your destiny, but you’ll know where you put the mailbox key or help you decide which room to clean.

Where to get it?
https://emilypaper.com/index.html

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