Exploring the Types of Fiction

When writing any type of fiction, there are no boundaries as to where you are allowed to go with your story. There are rules, but some of us don’t follow according to plan. For those who write fiction, we tend to follow an unwritten rule which makes us ask ourselves, “Can this really happen?” Sometimes it can and sometimes it can’t. Today, I want to touch on using what’s possible and what’s not possible (how to make this work) in the world of writing.

In most fiction stories, we use the genre “realistic fiction” which means we follow a template that includes guidelines for writing a coherent story. One key factor in this type of fiction is the element of chance. To break that down, I mean that if there is a realistic chance that something could happen, then you could definitely use it in your story. It just has to tie into your plot and storyline and make actual sense when read. If it can happen realistically, then you can write about it.

The other side of the story comes to light when we talk about fantasy or sci-fi. With sci-fi, maybe you could introduce a character and his weapon as something that has not yet been manufactured in real life. A friend of mine, who is a regular in my writing group, uses the fantasy genre to build new worlds for his characters. Futuristic technology is afoot in his tales of bringing down mechanical demons and other enemies from other worlds outside of the ones he is trying to create. He does a great job of drawing the reader into said worlds and keeping them on the edge of their seats when going in depth with his action sequences.

World building like his has no rules or boundaries. This type of writing lets us create from the deepest, most dormant regions of our psyche that we usually don’t put on display under normal circumstances. Meaning, we don’t spend our days talking about how we created a seven-headed dragon and then proceed to talk about how we killed it. This avenue lets us express our fantasies to the extent that we want to believe that maybe a giant scorpion does really exist on Earth. Maybe you could find it existing in a game of Dungeons & Dragons.

Either path you choose, using your keyboard to create these worlds or trying to stick to the element of chance, your thought process can manufacture anything your heart desires, whether it be real or unreal. Movies such as Commando or First Blood take realistic fiction to another level where you can actually conceive that Arnold really killed 100 men all by himself and Stallone really knows how to survive under the direst of situations. Let your muse take you where you want to go. There really are no boundaries as to what you can create. After all, these factors can tie into your passion to explore parts of your mind which you have yet to discover!

B. Lawrence

B. Lawrence began writing at his elementary school desk and finished his first short story during high school.  As an adult, B. improved his skill set and expanded his literary influences. Most satisfied creating worlds for his characters, B. followed up his first action novel in 2008 with a full-length spy novel. As a die-hard sports fan, it is not surprising that B.’s third novel features baseball players in peril with a playoff berth on the line. B.’s interest in sports goes beyond writing and extends to the playing field where he coaches youth basketball and football.  A music lover and a movie buff, B.’s fiction often showcases movie and music references.  As the Social Media Representative for Joe’s Writers Club and as an active member and contributor, B. recently completed and shared two short stories.

Twitter

Crazy Ralph

 

Today, I would like to talk about how certain elements in writing can contribute to enabling a reader to show emotion in reaction to what the author has put on the page.  Sometimes the author has the ability to make the reader laugh out loud due to a rather character’s sarcastic tone or simply a bit of slapstick .  Other times the reader can be trapped in a scene based on what’s happening to a particular character in the book. A reader will sense a feeling of fear as to what is happening in between pages, notably in the horror genre. That is the aspect I want to focus on today.

Fear can be displayed many ways, and affects the reader, the viewer, and can influence your muse when drawing inspiration from either a movie or a book.  Currently I am working on a second draft for our writing club of a type of horror-related drama involving a summer camp.  Putting the pieces together at first was pretty easy, but it was the second draft that really had an impact on my psyche.  The feedback I received regarding the first draft included the fact that there needed to be more of a fear element to make it look more daunting and ominous.

Originally, I had a really good scene involving a groundskeeper at the campsite warning the counselors, before the start of actual camp, that something was not right. He told them to beware of a certain something on campus. Does it sound somewhat familiar? If you are a horror movie buff then it should.  This circumstance is a template of a scene from the first two Friday the 13th movies.  Crazy Ralph is the old man who warns the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake not to work at the summer camp due to a murder spree that happened previously on or near the original camp site.

Romance blossoming at Camp Crystal Lake

My story falls into the genre of what my writing group likes to call “Corporate Gothic”, which is defined as a story that intertwines the concept of a workspace and an element of horror. The workspace in my story is the camp setting and the element of horror is the condition of the water on the campus. If someone doesn’t drink from the right source, they could die. That lets the reader know that the protagonist could be in trouble and leads to a sense of fear for both the characters in the story and quite possibly the readers themselves. 

Although the basis of my story might not sound too “horrific”, it can still teach us a lesson in basic fear and how to overcome the tragedy within the story.  Fear can also teach us a lesson in morality and how we handle relationships going forward. Usually, the end all to a story or a movie wraps up with some positive advice for both the reader or the viewer.  So, next time you’re out and about on a camping trip or want to explore that cabin in the woods, beware that silly old man telling tales and stay safe out there!

Do You Blog?

Today I want to talk about the very essence of why you’re reading this post. You might be interested in sports, politics, movies, or books. Whatever the topic of culture that has encapsulated your attention, there’s a blog about it. Yes, you’ll find most of what other people like to talk about, argue, and go back and forth with each other until they’re blue in the face. Blogging has so many purposes and I not only want to talk a little about these topics, but how they can relate to your muse and overall writing style. Also, I want to show you how I got to this point because all bloggers are writers and some writers are bloggers. Either way you slice it, writing is the core to why you are here, staring at your screen.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Blogging helps us understand things that we haven’t mastered yet. They can include the previously mentioned topics or numerous other subtopics that cover every facet of culture out there. I’ve also previously talked about how inspiration fueled my muse to create characters, situations, and other aspects of the writing process. Would you be surprised that almost all bloggers use these same techniques to create the perfect blog post? I assume not. Much thought can be put into a blogpost. Some of us will take hours, and maybe even days to try and perfect the quintessential post. Some of us can just figure out a topic in seconds, then turn it into a quality post within an hour. 

Yes, maybe if you were the latter, you would be a lot more productive in your quest for a successful blogging experience, but either way you could find success when using the proper tools. Some of those tools include a better-than-good recall of popular, and not-so-popular, cultural aspects which could include movies, sports, music, and politics. The more you know, the easier it becomes.

Like U2 once said “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”.  Whether you are new to blogging or just haven’t mastered all the concepts yet, someone knows more than you. I will speak from personal experience. In order to get my blogposts into fully functional mode, I used the help of someone who knows a thing or two about blogging. I know the writing part, including how to use prose and display my knowledge of those cultural aspects, but I needed to tweak it. I wanted it to look good. My friend helped me out with the basics and what you see here was a product of my writing and his expertise.

Lastly, as you can see, there are many aspects to become a halfway decent blogger. It can come from inspiration, skill of writing, patience, knowledge of how to make it look “full” and stronger, and most of all, your valuable time.  So, whether you spend days on end creating the “perfect” blog post or finish a draft within an hour’s time, the same elements are at work in producing the results that you want and ultimately what your reader wants to see. In closing, I hope you enjoyed reading this blogpost about blogging; I put a good hour into creating it.

Don’t Give Up On Your Work!

Everyone wants to be successful in life, especially aspiring writers. Writing is a tough gig no matter how you look at it. The process is long, draining, and ultimately complex.  I used to think that the toughest part of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel was completing that very first draft. Although it does take a toll on your free time and the resources dedicated to research on the internet, it is by far easier than fixing up your manuscript. Once you’ve completed the first draft, you have to find an editor and then go back and fix anything that he or she has pinpointed and hope your first edit survives the eye test. That’s just the beginning.

Don’t get discouraged. This is a long and grueling process for every writer no matter how long you’ve been in the biz or how many times you’ve been published. You can imagine that it gets easier. From personal experience, I’m not there yet, but there are people out there that can help you. The resources are realistically endless. There’s always someone who has a connection to someone or some company.

I want to talk about rejection. It’s arguably the most commonplace thing when it comes to manuscripts.  I’ve seen it so many times (as have you): people close to me being rejected left and right, and for the same manuscript no less.  Some could be receiving more rejection letters than regular mail on a weekly basis. It’s possible if you put yourself out there enough. It breaks my heart knowing that they are going through this and that I myself will have to endure this cumbersome process. The trick to surviving it all is the ability to push it aside and wait for the next great opportunity. Don’t take it personally and don’t show your frustration. It’s happening to everyone around you.

When it comes to being published or even signing a TV or movie deal, you’re going to need to find an agent. People say that finding an agent is like finding a needle in a haystack.  It’s mind blowing. I’ve seen situations where an agent would confirm that he would get back to a client and then disappear into thin air. It’s probably the most deflating and depressing feeling a writer can go through. 

Don’t get discouraged by the feedback you receive from an editor.  Don’t even take it personally from other writers that are close friends. If you take it personally, you’ll drive yourself into the ground. Being part of a writing group has its advantages, but do not reject the guidance of the people around you. They’re there to help you along your process, not watch you fail.

The First Harry Potter Book

To close, I just want to mention that countless famous authors have struggled including the likes of J.K. Rowling and James Patterson. Rowling has numerous quotes regarding failure in the writing industry and Patterson was rejected a dozen times before finding an agent in the newspaper.  We all fail. It’s just a matter of whether we want to get up and try again, over and over.

Poor Winston Churchill: Drawing From Experience to Influence Your Writing

Previously, I talked about how movies, TV shows, and other media influence our writing process. Today, I want to talk about how your own past can influence your muse. I want to touch on things that not only inspired me to write about, but briefly shed a light on how some of the best have drawn from their lives.  The written page can also transcend to the big screen when it comes to this.
My first example comes from the “king” of horror himself, Stephen King.  When reading one of his novels, I came across an excerpt regarding his thoughts on personal inspiration.  He disclosed that when he wrote Pet Sematary, he was inspired by events of his own life. He went into detail about the setting of the story and how it related to the very home that he and his family purchased a very long time ago.

A True Horror Classic

Some of the details that he disclosed involved the big rig trucks featured in both the book and the movie. So, you might have been sitting on your couch in front of the TV or resting on your bed after reading a few chapters when thinking, “Where does he come up with this stuff?” Indeed, some of the best don’t even have to tap into their imagination to come up with the material for their manuscript or screenplay. He got away with it, but was honest in the process, giving credit to his own past experiences. Now, I would like to share with you a couple of personal experiences that influenced me to write. One of these moments came from a dream I had as a young adult. I wrote a scene recently about a robot from the future. In the dream, he was slowly making his way in the direction of the story’s main protagonist. Even though this dream lasted just seconds, it inspired me to write about it more than 15 years later! It was the perfect fit. I was able to successfully draw upon the dream and make sense of the narrative at the same time. A second experience I had was based on an early childhood memory. My recall is not that bad as I was able to use an event from when I was about three years old. I was in the pool messing around with the other kids. I mixed it into the protagonist’s life story and it once again fit like a glove! A good memory can go a long way and help to inspire even the most minute experiences in your manuscript or screenplay. Whether you’re Stephen King or even a writer who has yet to be published, these examples will hopefully inspire you to tap into a part of yourself that has been dormant for quite some time. Also, maybe something tangible like a high school yearbook or a class photo can help your muse. Just remember the next time you write, keep that pen or cell phone handy. Even an idea within a fleeting moment might change the direction of your work.

The Strong Female Character

I think you would be amazed at the notion that if you create a character, in some capacity, you might begin to feel for that character.  The whole concept of character development is initially intended to make the reader want to root for them in one way or another.  But what if you had read 300 pages of a novel and all of a sudden you begin to feel for the character? It’s typical for a writer to become vested in said character, but to a reader it’s somewhat different.

If you can pull off good character development, then getting the reader to buy in might be easy, but it can be difficult.  Use of emotions and dialogue can press the issue when creating a character’s persona. You want your character to have layers. You want them to care about others and be cared for in the same notion.  Without these, it can be quite difficult to root for that particular character.  Build their persona with experiences in the novel. You can even do it with flashbacks. 

Laura Linney’s character on Netflix’s Ozark
is a great example of a strong female character.

Most importantly, you want the reader to care about what’s happening to all of your main characters. Without that care, they might as well not even read the book.  What’s the purpose? If we don’t care about the character, what is our purpose of reading it? That is the most important aspect of the book.  Any author can conjure up a good setting, action sequence, or tangible description of a character’s being.  Here are some pointers as far as what to look for in developing a character we want to root for.

First, build a foundation with a detailed description of not just what they look like physically, but also their personality specifically. For example, in a novel I’m working on now, we are introduced to Amanda Smith,one of the main protagonists, but the character development doesn’t focus on her. It focuses on her mother. We know Smith can be tough as nails and not take any flack from any opposition. Where does she get it? You guessed it. From her mother. Forming a relationship indirectly in that fashion gives us an idea of the family dynamic.

Next, we use dialogue to really get in the head of her mother.  She’s a cool customer when she needs to be. Her dialogue shows it. An excerpt from the novel shows us that she knows when to do what she has to do. “Get your ass in here now, Amanda Smith. You’ve got a lot of explaining to do!” or “Denise Smith slowly sipped her golden, brown tea.” This builds consistency throughout the novel.  It’s actually an inconsistent consistency, but it works. She can be a hard ass in one scene but, low key in the next. It’s all part of character. The behavior becomes a “consistent thing” as you go deeper into the novel.

Lastly, I want to share that I’m guilty as charged. I feel for her character and haven’t even finished the novel yet!  I want to know what she eats for breakfast and what she’s going to do when she finds out that Amanda has yet again skipped detention to go to the mall with her friends. I give a crap about what she wears around the house and what her favorite TV show is, whether it’s The Wire or Ozark.

Point made. This is what happens when the author grips you with good character development. I sure hope a good future awaits Denise Smith!

Using Templates in Writing

To pick up where I left off previously, I want to go into more detail regarding independent thought and inspiration.  I talked about being inspired by movies and TV shows, but let’s talk about what encompasses that particular thought.  I believe a single moment in a movie or a book can trigger your memory with the purpose of recreating that said moment.That trigger can be based on a memory and what encompasses that memory is a certain chain of events.  I like to call those moments “templates”.

To elaborate on my notion of a template, it simply means a certain formula or blueprint which in itself forms the memory. For example, in Die Hard 2: Die Harder, John McClane takes out the terrorists in the Annex Skywalk after they expire an entire SWAT team one by one. He does this with no help whatsoever. So, there’s your template. It’s simple; bad guys kill all of the good guys in just one scene, (except for Barnes!) without a single casualty, while the protagonist begrudgingly arrives late to the party, but just in time to knock off all of the bad guys with no help at all. It sets the stage in action scenes in movies and books as a recipe for success!

The Annex Skywalk is no more.

This next example is from Lethal Weapon 3 where Mel Gibson gets held up at the garage by some bad guys who try to bind him up once they’ve captured him. In comes Rene Russo to save the day as she kicks ass left and right, then frees her favorite guy from getting captured and the two of them from being exposed. You might say, “Well, I don’t recall the good guys getting killed!”

This is simply an example of another template.  Templates can be used in all situations throughout film and the pages of a book. The concept here is simple. Good guy is in trouble and then is rescued by another good guy, usually the protagonist. This train of thought is used in probably every action movie ever made.

It’s simple to follow and recreate and needs no in-depth explanation, but at the same time it’s essential, especially in writing action. You want to get the reader to find a reason to root for your protagonist, while at the same time feel empathy  if he or she is hurt. An act of heroism and guile usually captures the adoration of your protagonist by the reader or viewer. I mention this to help escalate your admiration for your characters, good or bad.

When you’re reading, writing, or watching, look out for these templates, for there are many more like these two examples out there. As it isn’t a textbook term, thinking of it in terms of the writing world will help you capture the moment the next time your protagonist gets caught in a bind!

What Inspires You?

Writing can mean a lot of different things to people. It can mean relieving stress by knocking out a couple of paragraphs about one thing or another, whether it is something real or just something made up in a world of fantasy. It could mean just simply passing time. To me, it’s a form of expression and the means to get my written word out there, to not only to some random strangers, but maybe a loved one or people that share my same obsessions and the same talent that I possess.

My favorite movie of all time

To me, it’s about sharing your passion in a fashion that only you could think of. For instance, maybe you’re an avid sports fan and you want to write a novel about baseball. You could very well be a fan of action movies, also. Perhaps you could meld the two together and create a great story about a first baseman who’s in legal trouble with the law or a shortstop who likes to dabble in drug dealing on the side. Either way, expression allows your pen to explore the depths of your psyche and reveal many different sides of who you are and what you intend to share with the general public.

If you combine expression with both passion and inspiration, your pen could be quite deadly. Inspiration could come directly from your passion for action movies. What if you watched Die Hard 2: Die Harder a hundred times and were obsessed with the snowmobile chase? What if that moment led you to think, “I think this snow would be a great obstacle for my protagonist?” Don’t stop there. What if the snow affected everybody in this debacle? What if it was the very thing that took down the enemy? Now, thinking that, you want to create a scene where the snow actually affects the plans of the antagonist

Before I go off onto much more detail with that subtopic, you can see where these elements can take you as a writer. The best part of it boils down to two basic thoughts:

  1. There is no boundary as to what you create with the mind and the pen.
  2. The fact that once you have something, you have the option to keep it, scrap it, and edit it however you’d like.

Sometimes, your long-term memory will play a part in your muse. You can be inspired by an independent thought alone. Even something not related to a theme will trigger an idea about a said theme. It really depends on how cultured you are or want to be. Maybe you wrote an action novel without being inspired by an action movie at all. After a first draft about some buddy cops upholding the law in their local town, you decided to pop in Lethal Weapon for the very first time (first time, really? Finally!). You have an epiphany and realize telling yourself the final draft is going to be ten times better. See? Sometimes, you don’t know what you’re missing!

So, expression can very well voice what you are passionate about or even trigger a passion in you that you thought you never had! If you possess the talent to write, use that book or movie that you last read or watched and see if it affects your muse. You never know what you can find, for your next idea might be right around the corner!