Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Editing Process


Welcome back!



        Over the past few months, I have been doing the majority of my research on writing and storytelling techniques. My own style has evolved greatly during the process, as I absorbed a lot of helpful information. Today, we will take a look at other important parts of the creative writing process, which are Reviewing and Editing.


Knowing when to cut and when to keep!


Contrary to what some authors may believe, our work does not end once the writing is done. The truth is, editors are not the only ones responsible for the correction of a narrative work, that charge also falls on the shoulders of the writer. Reviewing and Editing one's work is a continuous progress, which should begin at the time of the stories creation. This method insures overall coherence of the story, because reviewing your work as you go, as opposed to coming back to it days/weeks/months later, helps minimize mistakes by keeping the overall vision fresh in your mind.


Sadly, the process of Reviewing and Editing your work is often more time consuming than the writing process itself. Before we look deeper into the process, let us take a look at both terms separately:


  1. -Reviewing: During the Reviewing phase, the writer or editor will be vigilant, examining the narrative and searching for necessary changes to the story at the content level (also known as “looking at the big picture”). By the end of the Reviewing pass, the writer may need to do some changes to the story, such as corrections of inaccurate facts, condense certain sections, better organize the order in which information is presented, removal of unnecessary or redundant details and other similar modifications.
  2. -Editing: The purpose of the Editing process is to catch and filter out mistakes in your work at the writing level (hence why Reviewing comes before Editing, no point in correcting a phrase if the entire chapter will get removed later.). The editor and/or writer will need to go through the narrative line by line, keeping an eye out for errors such as vocabulary, grammar or verb tense. The goal of the Editing pass is to make sure each paragraph, sentence and word are as strong as possible.


        While researching Reviewing and Editing, I discovered how each process are very thorough, require a lot of patience and an eye for detail. A piece of narrative work will need several task-specific passes in order to weed out any possible mistakes. The goal of these revisions are to look for needed corrections and enhancing the story. The following are a list of steps taken by certain writers when reviewing their work.


  1. The First Pass: For the first pass, try viewing the narrative as the reader, not as the writer. Read the entire story without making any changes (it is ok to take notes regarding important corrections). This is more difficult as it sounds, and it is recommended the writer take a few days/weeks away from their work before attempting this.
  2. Adding Content: This pass focuses on increasing the impact of the story by expanding on existing content or filling in any possible holes. By adding information, we insure the audience better understands the content. By adding details, we enhance the reactions from the audience. (Reviewing)
  3. Removing Content: Sometimes, cutting a paragraph, page or chapter has no impact on the overall story. If this is the case, then it may need to be removed. In this stage, it is important to be able to tell the difference between Vital and Superfluous information. If it leads the audience further into the story, keep it. If it drag them away from the plot, cut it.
  4. Rearranging Content: Even when a storyline is planned out, we find that certain events would flow better or have more impact, if they happened at a different time in the story. During this part of the reviewing process, we verify if sections need reorganizing in order to improve the way the story unfolds. (Reviewing)
  5. Replacing Content: This is the appropriate time to make modifications to the content of the narrative by changing some basic elements. Things such as names, locations, events or characters may be swapped with better fitting alternatives. This serves to enhance the story or strengthen the plotline. (Reviewing)
  6. Tone Check: Tone is reflected in the choice of words we use (for more information, see my previous posts “show and tell” and “word economy). This pass allows us to focus on the strength the narrative. Avoid repeating words by looking for elegant variations, or make the action more vivid by using descriptive verbs. (Editing)
  7. Consistency Check: In this editorial pass, we check the narrative for inconsistencies in tense or point of view. It is fairly straightforward, and simply requires to change any variables to the same tense or perspective adopted throughout. The tricky part is spotting PoV mistakes. For more information, check out my post on Points of View. (Editing)
  8. Error Check: This is the first pass which pays attention to the writing, rather than the content. Here we look for errors relating to spelling, punctuation, typos and grammatical mistakes. A thesaurus or dictionary are particularly helpful during this pass, and don’t trust your spell-checker, cause it won’t pick up every mistake. (Editing)
  9. Clarity Check: The text needs to be clear in order for the audience to comprehend the story. If sentences seem overly complicated, they most likely need to be rewritten. To check for clarity, it is recommended to read the text aloud. Vocalizing helps identify any laboriously long or awkward sentences. (Editing)
  10. The Final Pass: After having completed both the Reviewing and Editing process, revise the completed manuscript one last time, looking for any errors or last minute changes. A number of published writers recommend to print out a hard copy of the document, as it makes spotting mistakes easier.


At this point, the writer should be fairly confident of their work, and is now be ready to be reviewed by an outside source. Having your work inspected by others can be stressful, but is an invaluable part of the editing process, since no one will be more open to criticize your work than a professional or a stranger. If this proves to be too hard, you can start with friends and family, to later work your way up. As an artist, it is important to always be ready to accept feedback and remain open to criticism.


        That is all I have for now. Be sure to come back if you are interested about the editing process, as I will be taking a deeper look into it in the near future. More specifically, I will be making posts about Fact Checking and taking care of Plot Holes.


Until next time!


Cheers,

Patrick Osborne

Monday, June 22, 2015

BOOT CAMP LESSON 3: Personality




Hello Again!



Welcome back to the third installment of BOOTCAMP! In today’s writing game, we will focus on how to make your Characters Personality stand out from one another. The purpose of this exercise is to practice accentuating contrast between character personalities.


Lesson 3: Personality


When writing, it is important to make your character's stand out from each other. If all the characters were the same, stories would become bland and they would hold little interest for the reader. For example, imagine a Police Drama, where all the officers were "good cops", then the story would get old quick. And if all the actors were "bad cops", then not much work would be done. Thus it is important to have variety, as too much of the same thing will simply be lost and perceived as background noise.


Another point to remember, is that there are benefits in having different personalities play off of each other. One actor who is seen as witty and straightforward, can play very well if paired with someone more serious and traditional (see the Lethal Weapon series for a good example). Another good example would be Batman and the Joker; this classic relationship is based off of how polar opposites react to each other.


But again, it is also important to remember not to always go in the same direction! If all Batman villains were like the Joker, then the series would have lost interest a long time ago. Variety is good, and there is a time and a place for any type of characters (but keep in mind the previous lesson on Integration in order to be sure it fits the setting).


So for today's game, your job will be to describe a morning show hosted by : YOU! The goal is to interview four people of various background... all at the same time! You will ask them three questions regarding a specific subject and have them answer in a way that clearly shows their different personalities.


So, here are today's guidelines!


Rules


  1. Below are Five "Topics", generic subjects to cover with your guests. Select ONE of the Five topics to work with.
  2. Below the topics, are Five different, stylized personality backgrounds based off of the alignment system. Feel free to create your own guests, but they must be of the following backgrounds. (You must offer a 1 phrase introduction to each guest, and each guest may reply with one phrase before starting the interview).
  3. Ask Three short questions to the guests you created.
  4. All Five guests must reply to each question at the same time.
  5. Within each reply, characters may choose to interact with each other, or simply reply to the questions, whichever fits their personality the most.


Topics


  1. Law enforcement: What is considered too far?
  2. Modern Education: Is the next Generation ready?
  3. Weapon Registration: Is it necessary?
  4. Pollution: What steps should be taken?
  5. Retirement: When is enough, enough?


Backgrounds:


  1. Lawful Good: These characters typically act with compassion, honor and a sense of duty. A Lawful Good nation would consist of a well-organized government that works for the benefit of its citizens.
  2. Neutral Good: These characters believe so strongly in concepts such as honor, order, rules, and tradition, that they go before their own needs. A Neutral Good society would enforce strict laws to maintain social order and place a high value on historical precedent.
  3. True Neutral: These characters tend not to feel strongly towards any alignment. People acting out of personal interest, who lack the capacity for moral judgment, or who play all sides to suit themselves are considered True Neutral.
  4. Lawful Evil: These characters show a combination of desirable and undesirable traits. While they usually obey their superiors and keep their word, they care nothing for the rights and freedoms of other individuals.
  5. Chaotic Evil: These characters tends to have no respect for rules, other people's lives, or anything but its own desires. They set a high value on personal freedom, but do not have any regard for the lives or freedom of other people.


For those who aren’t afraid to share their entries, feel free to submit your backstories as a reply to this post. Remember, this is a game, so no posting bad comments about other people's entries.


Hope you have fun giving this exercise a try. Until next time!


Cheers,


Patrick Osborne

Friday, June 19, 2015

Literary Motifs




Welcome back!

Today, I will be taking a closer look at what is Motif in a literary setting, and what its purpose. This term came up on several occasions while I was doing further research for my novels Theme, so I decided to see what it was about.


A recurring symbol.

         The literary device known as Motif refers to a recurring object or idea, which takes on a figurative meaning. A narrative Motifs’ presence becomes noticeable through their constant repetition and placement, taking on an important role in the nature of a story. It can be created with the use of imagery, spoken or written phrases, structural or stylistic devices, and other narrative elements.

The purpose of Motifs is to contribute to the story by establishing a certain mood, portray a symbolic meaning or draw attention to a specific concept. They can be images, objects, people or events that help explain the central idea of a story. This helps the audience to better comprehend the author's underlying messages, by reinforcing the literary works thematic statement.


The terms Theme and Motif are linked in their purpose, but while they may appear similar, their applications are different. To help distinguish between the two, a general rule to remember is that a Theme is abstract and a Motif is concrete. A Theme can be better defined as a central idea, statement or message which will be hinted at or alluded to during a story. Whereas a Motif is something from the physical world, like an object, person or image, which is in plain sight, taking center stage on several occasions throughout the story. Here are a few simple examples.


            Theme: Death                   Theme: Peace                        Theme: Pride
            Motif: Crow                      Motif: Dove                             Motif: Rooster

The concept of Motif is typically pretty clear in a narrative, as we are trained to understand them from a young age. A good example of this would be through the use of fairy tales, where the writer wants you to recognize the Motifs they are using. We have all seen the use of symbolic images such as the “handsome prince”, the “big bad wolf”, the “damsel in distress”, the “wicked witch” or the “fairy godmother”. Narratives may include multiple Motifs of varying types, establishing a pattern and all pointing towards the same conceptual idea.

Popular Examples of Motif in Literature:

Example 1:

Snow White and the seven dwarves.

A major part of the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves revolves around physical appearance, or more specifically, not to judge someone by their appearance. The Dwarves Motif help support this theory by being ugly little men, but despite their strange appearance, were the ones to truly helped Snow White. Whereas the Queen, who was beautiful on the outside, was ugly on the inside, as her heart was filled with envy and hatred.

Example 2:

Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz has many themes, one of which is that of personal and/or emotional growth; or in simpler terms, a journey. This Theme is supported by various Motifs throughout the story, such as four main characters traveling together to to reach a common goal, Dorothy constantly repeating her desired destination (there’s no place like home!), or the most obvious visual cue, a yellow brick road.

Example 3:

The Tortoise and the Hare

         “Slow and steady wins the race”. This story is about arrogance, teaching it’s audience to be mindful of their talents and not to underestimate your opponents. The theme is underlined by the choice of characters for this story: the Hare, who represents incredible speed, which in turn makes him careless and arrogant. The Tortoise, though he may represent slow speed, in turn is methodical and has unwavering determination (or some could say, he has a hard shell to show he has a hard head).

         This lesson has taught me the value of having a Motif present in ones story. I will definitely be considering adding one to my own novel as I keep working on the details. Once I have nailed down a theme, this will come in handy for helping me accentuate it.

I hope this lesson was useful to you. Until next time!

Cheers,

Patrick Osborne


**edited August 10th, 2016**

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

By the Book: The Elf Queen of Shannara





Welcome to my latest book review!


In my latest installment of By the Book, I will be reviewing “The Elf Queen of Shannara”, written by Epic Fantasy writer, Terry Brooks. Having found it in my pile of old books prompted me to give it another read.


I originally purchased this novel when came out in the early 90’s as part of my “English as a Second Language” class in high school. Being a fan of fantasy type stories, I was often looking for my next purchase in the Fantasy Fiction section of my local book store. The beautifully drawn cover art is what initially attracted me to this book, which is why I didn’t realise until I had started that this was part of a series and not a stand-alone novel (more on that later). Regardless, I had completely forgotten what happened in this book, which meant I got to enjoy it as if I was reading it for the first time.


This book is part of the “Heritage of Shananara” trilogy, which tells the tale of Wren Ohmsford, a Rover (a.k.a ranger) of elven descent, who is charged by the ghost of a powerful Druid named Allanon to find the Elven race and return them to the Four Lands. The Elves had been missing from the Four Lands for more than a hundred years, and no one in the Westlands seemed to know of them. With the help of her friend and mentor Garth, they follow clues which eventually lead them to the island of Morrowindl, a place populated by nightmarish creatures and under the constant threat of Killeshan; an active volcano. Braving the perilous landscape, the duo make it to the center of the island, where they find Arborlon, the lost city of elves. Wren convinces the queen (who turns out they are related) to magically take the city back to the mainland. Making friends along the way, Wren manages to save the elven race, and become their new queen in the process. The long and arduous journey makes for a riveting story.





Book Cover


Different Edition Cover



Back of the book:
"Find the Elves and return them to the world of Men!" the shade of the Druid Allanon had ordered Wren.
It was clearly an impossible task. The Elves had been gone from the Westland for more than a hundred years. There was not even a trace of their former city of Arborlon left to mark their passing. No one in the Westland knew of them -- except, finally, the Addershag.
The blind old woman had given instructions to find a place on the coast of the Blue Divide, build a fire, and keep it burning for three days. "One will come for you."
Tiger Ty, the Wing Rider, had come on his giant Roc to carry Wren and her friend Garth to the only clear landing site on the island of Morrowindl, where, he said, the Elves might still exist, somewhere in the demon-haunted jungle.
Now she stood within that jungle, remembering the warning of the Addershag: "Beward, Elf-girl. I see danger ahead for you . . . and evil beyond imagining." It had proved all too true.
Wren stood with her single weapon of magic, listening as demons evil beyond all imagining gathered for attack. How long could she resist?
And if, by some miracle, she reached the Elves and could convince them to return, how could they possibly retrace her perilous path to reach the one safe place on the coast?”




What I learned from this book:
  • Starting from the middle: As I mentioned above, The Elf Queen of Shannara is part of a trilogy, one that I did not read the beginning to. This had the unfortunate consequence of making certain aspects of the story difficult for me to understand, as I was not privy to certain information found in the other books. This was especially apparent when this story broke from the narrative following Wren, to go on and follow other characters from the other books. Luckily this does not happen too often, so it does not prevent the reader from enjoying the book.
  • Use of style: Brooks uses a variety of writing elements which are easily identifiable and help support his story. He puts particular focus on the setting, which at times becomes highly detailed. This slows the story pace considerably, in turn successfully increasing the tension. By having the story move slower, the audience also gets a feeling of just how long and tiring this trek truly is. Furthermore, by telling the story from Wren’s point of view, this allows vital information to be kept secret from the audience as well as the protagonist, which helps keep the mystery going until the very end of the story.
  • Looming Presence: There are many dangers constantly following our protagonists, but one that truly makes their presence known is Killeshan, the volcano. The threat of Killeshan erupting is a constant while on the island, reminding Wren and her friends that they must hurry in order to escape. even when not rumbling in the distance, Killenshaw makes his presence felt by affecting the setting, covering everything in ash and vog.
  • Dealing with Prophecies: One of the main points of this story is the Prophecy from the eleven seer Eowen and the Druid of Allanon. Wren spends the majority of the story trying to uncover her past, her lineage, the truth regarding the elves and her destiny. Most of this information is known by other members of her party, who refuse to tell her in the fear it would change her way of doing things, thus affecting the prophecy. I found this of particular interest, since my story will cover something similar.


Terry Brooks is one of the biggest-selling fantasy writers of the modern day. With over 21 million copies of his books in print, he has written 23 New York Times bestsellers during his writing career, most of which were about the fictional realm of Shannara. For those interested in reading more books from Terry Brooks, please check out his wiki description, containing all of his information (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Brooks) or his website (http://terrybrooks.net/).


For those interested in learning more about the “Shannara” universe, you can check out this user mader wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shannara. There you will find details about other books, games and so on.

 
        For those who are interested, here is the cover art of the book by artist Keith Parkinson, without the headlines.
.



In closing, I would like to thank everyone for the encouragement and for following my blog. And thank you to my wife Linda for the support.


Until next time!


Cheers,

Patrick Osborne