My Fracture Workstation

I thought that since Fracture is hitting the Amazon store on June 4, I’d release this little tidbit. I like to create a collage for whatever novel I’m working on at the moment to keep me inspired and give me a visual representation of what’s happening in the story. Don’t look too hard if you want to keep all the suspense for the novel, but if you’d like a couple of clues, there are plenty of Easter eggs in this one image for the studious.

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How to Manage Scenes in a Novel—Structure Part 8

Owen Banner:

Kristen gives some very practical tips for creating an easily readable outline of your story’s rising and falling action. Check it out.

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

And….ACTION! And….ACTION!

As a fiction author, you will often feel like an acrobat spinning plates while standing on your head and juggling fiery chainsaws. There are so many components to keep track of, lest you end up down the Bunny Trail of No Return. Organization is key when it comes to being a successful novelist.

Before we continue, if you want better odds of winning my 20 page critique at the end of the month, I am running a separately drawn contest over on my Dojo Diva blog where I am talking about why everyone (but especially females) needs at least some basic self-defense training. Comments count for one entry. Comments with a hyperlink count for two. And you get to learn about beating up bad people.

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Moving on…

We have spent the past few weeks studying the fundamentals of what makes up a novel, and today we are going to discuss…

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Review: A Brief History of 7 Killings

A_Brief_History_of_Seven_Killings.JPGWhile certainly not brief, this book does contain its fair share of killings (more than 7). Chronicling the lives of various Jamaican ghetto dons from the late 60s all the way to the 90’s, it reads like The Godfather goes Caribbean. The language is rough, but it bounces with a jovial, yet often treacherous, Jamaican riddim. Fall on the wrong side of the beat, and you’re like to get a bullet in your belly.

I grew up in Jamaica during the 80’s, and the idyllic island life that plasters most people’s mental picture of the country was as far from the truth of my childhood as India is from the West Indies. Gangs ran amok. Thievery and murder were commonplace. When men began testing the bars on our windows at night looking for weak points in the house’s defense, my father asked a neighbor what he should do.

“Don’t bother calling the police, brethren,” our neighbor said. “When you call them, they tell you, ‘We’ll come by and pick up the bodies.’ No. Buy a machete, and wait by the window. When the first man comes through, chop de head off ‘im, and pull ‘im through. Then the next man. Chop ‘im head off too, and pull ‘im through. When they stop comin’, then the police show.”

This book–with fictional characters and factual events–lives, breathes, and speaks the Jamaican story: the best and the worst of it. It’s a book you get lost in. If the dialect is a little tricky to read, I suggest picking up the audiobook. It feels less like a reading and more like a stage play with some of the best voice acting I’ve heard on a book.

For the amazon link, click here.

To Write Better Characters, Invert the Binary

French linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure was studying Western languages when he discovered that everything we understand, we only understand because we can compare it to something opposite. In order to know evil, we must know good. To know freedom, we must know slavery. To know light, we must know dark. 

Jacques Derrida took this thought further and said that in all of those binary relationships, one of the values dominates the other. Light dominates dark. Good dominates evil. Freedom dominates slavery. Man dominates woman. You see where this is going. When you only have two values and you place them in opposition to each other, one of them is going to come out on top. In Western culture, many of these values have been cemented into our worldview. Thus, wealth dominates poverty. Capitalism dominates Communism. White dominates black. Those who are able are inherently better than those who are disabled.

Pieter Fourie claimed that deeper in each of these binary oppositions were secondary oppositions. White means wealthy, powerful, civilized, good, favored, intelligent. Black means poor, powerless, uncivilized, inherently bad, cursed, and unintelligent. Man means strong, virile, intelligent, capable of leadership, logical. Woman means weak, chaste, unintelligent, incapable of leadership, emotional. While most of these assumed binary positions have been criticized and proven false over the years, many of them still remain in our subconscious view of the world. 

As storytellers, it’s our responsibility to shape others’ view of the world. The easiest and most subversive way to do this is to get ahold of one of these binary oppositions and deconstruct it. We do this by inverting the binary order. Instead of a Black savage in Africa, why not explore the mind of a White savage in New York? Try making your hardened special forces operator a mother of three. Or make your benevolent, successful businessman a high-school-educated Ugandan immigrant.

Doing this creates interesting characters who leave a greater impression, because they challenge our preconceived notion of the way things are.

Finally, you can invert the binary on locations or objects as well. So many fictional murders are committed in dark alleyways that it has become a cliche. Why not place a violent encounter in a place we deem as safe and free from turmoil, like a sunny day in a flowery garden?

So, how do you do it? When you’re creating a character or a setting, choose one defining characteristic, say age. You’ve got a little girl, age 9. Now, ask what characteristics are associated with youth. Innocence, imagination, playfulness, beauty, naivety, a lack of knowledge, etc. Pick one and invert it. Let’s take “a lack of knowledge”. Instead, we’ll make this girl very well read. In fact, when we meet her, she’s reading a Dostoyevsky novel in an attic where she lives while using a knife to cut off a slice of apple. She lays it down on a stack of other Russian authors and pulls an Isaac Asimov off the top of a tower of science fiction books. Already, this girl is more interesting than a pretty little princess in pigtails playing with dolls. What’s going to be even more interesting is how all that reading affects her decisions. We want to know how she sees the world, what she thinks, why she locks herself into books.

Give it a go. Try as extreme a departure from the norm as you can imagine. If that doesn’t fit, rein it in a little bit more or pick another characteristic. I’m interested to hear what you come up with.

Thank you for downloading!

Sending out a huge thank you to the over 3,500 of you who downloaded your free copy of Hindsight this past week. High fives all around! Hope you enjoy the ride! When you’re done, let me know what you think, either in a private message, a comment, or (better yet!) a review. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!