Friday, January 27, 2017

Writing a Novel: At the Beginning

Beginning a story can be great fun or something akin to torture depending on how you approach it. Some people hold that there are rules for beginning a novel. Don't start with the main character asleep or dreaming. Begin with impact. Grab the reader with the first line or everything is lost. While it is true that you have to hook your audience so they'll keep reading, the stakes aren't quite so high as some would have you believe. But the notion that the first line is all powerful is quite prevalent among novice writers, and leads to some truly ridiculous starts. I've seen fledgling novels that have someone decapitated in the first sentence or works where the first paragraph is so convoluted that it makes very little sense. These are not great ways to start a novel, though they certainly have impact, avoid the dreaded sleeping curse, and they had something happen in the first sentence. But that matters very little in the grand scheme of things.

Instead of focusing on imaginary rules, focus instead on an effective way to tell your story. Perhaps it's not usually a good idea to start a story with the main character sleeping, but I'm doing it in my upcoming novel, Angels' Kiss. Why? Because I need to establish that my main character is a novice seer but doesn't know it, and I need to do this quickly. In the world I've created, this particular gift first manifests itself as prophetic dreams before expanding to full visions while the seer is awake. So the quickest and most effective way to convey this information is so start with her asleep and dreaming. It also allows me to foreshadow a great deal of what will happen later in the novel, and it means I can get to the meat of the book with impressive speed. While it may be frowned upon by some, this is best for the story, so the "rules" go out the window.

As for the dreaded impact, making an impression with that terrifying first sentence, well...there is some truth there. You do need to hook your audience fairly quickly. Maybe not in the first sentence, but definitely within the first page. But you don't need to kill anyone, make anything explode, or frighten the wits out of anyone to do it. You just need to start the story in a way that makes people want to keep reading. Ensure the first page makes readers question what's going on, offers some intrigue, or at least is well written enough to prompt most readers to keep reading.

But how do you do this? First, relax a little. The idea that you have to nail your first line is truly a myth. Readers always read past the first line before buying a book. They often read past the first page. Think about how you yourself buy books. You're not an idiot about it. You don't require death and blood and gore on the first page. Neither do your readers. Give them some credit and relax into the story before you start writing. Give the story its due and start in a manner that makes sense for the type of story you're writing.

Don't worry so much about starting with a bang, literally or figuratively. Instead, think about how the reader will orient themselves to the story. When a reader picks up a book for the first time, it's a little like being thrown into the ocean. You don't really know which way is up, and that's not a good feeling. Readers want to feel secure in where they are and what they're doing, so a completely mysterious beginning may make them uncomfortable. Though there are readers who like to be confused, most don't. If you want to appeal to your audience, use your first paragraph--or first page--to help your readers find their way. Answer a few questions. Who is the story about? Where is this person? What are they doing?

In the opening paragraphs of Angels' Kiss, I establish all these things. Sorcha is a young lady in bed, dreaming a fascinating dream. This, of course, poses several other questions, which is what the "hook" actually is. It's not the first words on the page. It's the promise offered by the first words on the page. The questions that arise are what prompt the reader to continue. When you run out of questions to answer, your story is over, so the beginning must absolutely ask and answer at least a few of these. How you do this is really up to you.

The point is this: your readers can be hooked in any number of ways. You don't need to get ridiculous about it, you don't need to be too clever, and you really don't need to stress too much over it. If the first page of your story answers a few questions, and poses a few more, your readers will keep reading. But if you try too hard to intrigue or shock, that alone will turn readers off. Let the story flow naturally, especially at first. If you need to tweak your beginning sequence a little later, you can always do that. It's paper (or a computer screen), not stone.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Practice Writing: Omniscient Point of View

The last writing exercise I posted focused on point of view. This one expands on that. So go back and either do the Point of View Exercise, or retrieve one of the scenes you may have created during that exercise. This is the starting point for the Omniscient Point of View Exercise. You should use one of the scenes that is in first person, or create an entirely new scene, still in first person, if you would prefer. You could even start with a passage written by someone else, as long as it's in first person.

Take your passage, which should already be in first person, and rewrite it so that it is now in third person limited. This won't change the passage all that much. You're not shifting much more than a few words, so this part is easy. First person has much in common with third person limited, after all.

Now convert the passage from the first person limited point of view to the omniscient point of view. This time the narration will change considerably because the narrator can see all events, even those the character has no knowledge of. The narrator also knows the thoughts of everyone in the story, which will, of necessity, alter the very nature of the scene.

Now go back to the original scene and rewrite it again. This time you will remain in first person, but you'll change the nature of the character to be someone who lies. Have the character lie effectively to the reader, and then reveal the lie.

Rewrite the scene with the lie in the third person limited. This time, because there is at least a little distance between narrator and character, the lie is not so easily revealed. In fact, it may not be revealed at all. It is here that a real difference between first person and third person limited can be discovered.

Finally, take the first person scene with the lie and rewrite it from the omniscient point of view. This time, purely because of the point of view, the lie is known from the start. The narrator, after all, knows everything. From this point of view, truly deceiving the reader is difficult, sometimes impossible. You can mislead, perhaps, but even so, you'll have to keep yourself far from the mind of the character who knows the truth of the lie. Such is the nature of the omniscient point of view.

Take a look at the variety of scenes you have produced. All are similar in that the same things are happening, but they are also quite different. It is through these scenes that you can get a real feel for the different points of view. This will help you better understand which point of view will best work for your story.

And you should always use what works best for the story you want to tell.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Writing a Novel: The Omniscient Point of View

There are many points of view you can use when writing a novel. You might choose first person, which is popular in literary fiction, or you might wish to use third person limited as many genre fiction writers do. You might even decide to play with second person, though this point of view rarely works for anyone.

But what if none of these are right for your story? What if you need something more expansive simply because you have dozens of characters in dozens of locations that you need your readers to follow. You probably even need them to sympathize with more than one of your characters. If this is the case, you might need more flexibility than even third person limited can provide.

If you find yourself needing to dip into the lives and even thoughts of multiple characters, you might consider the omniscient point of view. This point of view is, technically speaking, third person, but it is far from limiting. It is different than other forms of narration because it comes from above and is almost godlike in its usage. With this point of view, you can see all and go anywhere. You can dip into the thoughts of any character at any time, describe scenes witnessed by none of your principle characters (or even scenes witnessed by no one at all), or even go backward or forward in time to further expand your story. And why not?

It does sound infinitely attractive, doesn't it? There are no limits on a story written from the omniscient point of view, making it tempting to write all your stories just like this. But hold on a minute. Just because this method of narration is attractive doesn't mean you should automatically use it.

Am I saying you shouldn't use it? Of course not. I've used it many times, as have hundreds of other authors throughout the ages. It's handy and fun and can serve the story well, but that's the point right there. It can serve the story, but it doesn't always serve the story. So before you head off and jump into a novel written from the omniscient point of view, ask yourself single question.

Does this point of view serve the story? Consider this carefully. Just because a point of view is easier, or a little more fun, doesn't necessarily mean it is right for your story. If your story is centred around a single character, the omniscient point of view might be a little too cold, a little too distant. So think before jumping in.

You'll hear some people say that this particular point of view makes it hard to involve the reader in the story, that it can be difficult to keep the readers interest, or that readers will become confused when they don't have a single consistent character to relate to. You might even hear that it's harder to cast and sustain the spell writers try so hard to conjure. This is all the purest nonsense. If the point of view fits the story, then you're all set. Don't believe me? Look no further than the great classic War and Peace. It is written from the omniscient point of view, and I think no one can argue its quality, or dismiss the powerful spell it casts over the reader.

There is, however, one potential pitfall of this type of narrative. You have to be careful of head-hopping. This generally means sweeping from one character to another without warning and without telling the reader whose head they're in now. Thankfully, this is actually quite easy to avoid when you give readers just a little credit. Your readers are not stupid. They're perfectly capable of following along most of the time. If you are clear about whose head you are in each time you dip into a different character's thoughts, your readers will stick with you.

So how do you indicate whose head you're in? Anyway you like, really. Some writers like to use chapters, as in a different chapter for each point of view. Perhaps you'd prefer to divide up a chapter using headings or an asterisk, or something along those lines. Or maybe you just change paragraphs. All of these are fine provided you make sure the reader knows what's what. So get someone (preferably an editor) to read over your story just to make sure there's no unnecessary confusion.

Don't be afraid of the omniscient point of view. If it fits your story, and you can avoid confusing your readers, then the omniscient point of view might be exactly what you need.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Excerpt From "Initiation and Other Stories Based on the Novel Dragon's Tempest"

For readers looking for a greater understanding of the novel Dragon's Tempest, Initiation might be what you're looking for. A collection of ten new stories, each story gives new insight into the characters of the original novel. Whether it's filling in some details between Arianna's Tale and Dragon's Tempest or continuing the story immediately after the conclusion of the original novel, all the stories found within its pages help enhance the plot of the entire Imperial Series. Initiation is available as a trade paperback or as an ebook (in most formats, including Kindle, Kobo, and Nook).

Read on for "Rising Darkness", one of the ten stories included in Initiation:

A loud crash and the sound of tearing hide filled the air. When Orlean turned, he saw one of the younger dragons with a foot inside a tent, looking confused and out of place. The Sky Lord on its back flushed and mumbled an apology to the distraught tent owners.
Orlean sighed. These young dragons were sometimes more of a hazard than they were worth. They broke things, got in the way, and occasionally stepped on people. And their Sky Lords weren’t any better. Young Kin, hardly out of diapers, did not make the most effective Sky Lords, but they seemed to be the only ones connecting to any of the hatchlings. An older Sky Lord hadn’t been bound to a dragon in more than twenty years.

It was shame, at least in Orlean’s mind. He was of the firm opinion that the younger Sky Lords should train until their thirtieth year before bonding to a dragon. But it wasn’t his decision. Sky Lords bonded to the dragon that matched the tattoo emblazoned on their abdomens. Age had nothing to do with it. If the dragon never hatched, the Sky Lord was never chosen. And a great talent was wasted.

As a gust of wind warned him of the approach of his own bonded dragon, he considered sending the free Sky Lords up into the mountains. There were plenty of wild dragons up there. Perhaps wild dragons could bond to the free Sky Lords and fill the ranks of the Lords once more. This wasn’t the first time he’d has such a thought. But it was the first time he’d seriously considered it.

His dragon thudded to the ground and rumbled over to his side, knocking over a stack of supplies with a long and flexible tail. Orlean flinched but said nothing. It’s not like the dragon could understand him anyway. They were stupid beasts, entirely lacking in basic communication skills. Oh, they were loyal enough, but stupid. Yelling at the poor beast wouldn’t accomplish anything.

Orlean reached out and brushed a hand over grey scales. His dragon wasn’t the prettiest of the Tribes, but the large male was certainly the strongest. And the beast had served him well over the years. As First Sky Lord of the First Tribe, Orlean and his dragon were responsible for patrolling the boundaries of the Wastes and ensuring that their way of life remained pure and untouched. But this was a difficult thing to do as he and his dragon grew older. These young pups just didn’t have the experience to be of any real help.

With those thoughts foremost in his mind, Orlean climbed onto his dragon’s back and urged the beast into the air.


The morning flew by as Orlean soared on the back of his dragon. Powerful wings sliced through the air and muscles bunched and coiled beneath his body. Orlean shifted his weight with the thrusts of the dragon to minimize the strain on the beast’s wings. He wasn’t the only one getting older.

As the sun rose overhead, Orlean rotated his shoulders to relieve the tension building there. At just over sixty years old, he wasn’t as young as he used to be. He was just waiting for the day when one Sky Lord was qualified enough to do this job. Then he could retire and spend his days carving dragons out of old bones. A much more respectable thing for an elderly man to do.

They were about to turn back for the day when something caught his eye. There, on the eastern horizon, was a strange form that appeared dark and twisted. At first he thought it was nothing more than a wisp of cloud. But it was moving too fast, and against the wind. No, it wasn’t a cloud.

A shift of his legs and a low clicking sound told his dragon to move toward it. Some instinct told him to turn back, to seek help, but he couldn’t do that until he knew what this thing was. Never one to run from any threat, Orlean and his dragon moved ever forward, ever closer to the wisp of cloud that was no cloud.

They drew closer to the darkness and it grew colder. It never grew cold in the Wastes. With the sun beating down and the mountains to trap the heat, the Wastes were always warm enough to bake a man if he wasn’t careful. The heat could kill, but it was never cold, not here. Despite this well-known fact, Orlean shivered though his thin leather breeches and short tunic.

Closer still and the sun itself seemed to dim. Orlean glanced up, but there were no clouds to block the sun’s rays. It was simply darker than it had been. He’d never seen anything like it, and it filled his heart with a cold dread.

But he still didn’t have anything to report. So on he went, urging his dragon forward. The dragon balked as they continued into the darkness, but Orlean refused to turn back. He couldn’t return to his Tribe with the news that there was a dark cloud in the east. He needed something more concrete. He needed information.

And the only way to get that information was to keep moving forward. So when the dragon balked again, Orlean dug his heels into the soft flesh behind the forelegs of the beast. They were going, trepidation or no trepidation. There was no other option. Not yet.

The air grew thick and it became difficult to breathe. His dragon had to fight to stay airborne. The very air they both inhaled turned into a toxic fume and Sky Lord and dragon slowly drifted downward. Orlean might have tried to keep his dragon in the air, but his head felt heavy. He leaned forward until his forehead rested on the dragon’s powerful neck. His eyes drifted closed as the air turned to black smoke.


Molten flame tore up his nose and down his throat, pooling in his lungs. His chest burned for an instant before he coughed and the flames ripped back up his throat, scorching his mouth and nose. Pain consumed him, filled his every sense, until nothing else existed. He vomited and it was like coughing up liquid fire.

It was some time before he heard the sounds. Something scraping against bone. Tearing flesh. A tongue lapping at some unidentified liquid. A moment later he could detect the metallic scent of blood and something more putrid. Someone or something was leaking fluid from the intestines. Maybe the bowels. Orlean panicked, thinking that smell came from his own bowels.

He struggled to move, to search his body for wounds, but his arms were weighed down by something heavy. He pulled against the bonds that held him as his eyes flew open.

The first thing he saw was his dragon. The poor thing was lying on its side, wings twisted at what might have been a painful angle. Except that this dragon would never feel pain again. The dragon’s head was thrown back and Orlean could clearly see the large eyes, dull with death. Those eyes would never shine again.

Orlean tried to rise, tried to go to his dragon, but he was held back. He moved his head from side to side and his eyes widened. Thick chains were wrapped around his wrists. The chains were attached to spikes which had been driven into the hard earth. A quick glance down revealed his ankles similarly bound. He pulled on the chains, but he was well and truly caught.

A low growl came from the dragon and Orlean turned his head, hoping the dragon was alive but knowing it was not. He could sense the emptiness on his belly, knew instinctively that the tattoo had faded as it always did when a Sky Lord’s dragon was killed. The dragon was dead and could not have growled.

But the growl had come from somewhere. Orlean’s breath caught as something large and thin moved behind the dragon’s corpse. A pair of wings, thinner and finer than a dragon’s, rose up from behind the dragon and snapped through the air. A serpentine head appeared and Orlean jumped. It looked like a dragon, but not any dragon he’d ever seen. Its fangs were too long for a dragon and they dripped with what he assumed was poison. Dragons were not poisonous. As it moved around the dragon’s dead body, Orlean noted that its long and thin form, almost like a snake, was as long as a dragon but not half so wide. It had legs, but it moved across the dusty Wastes with powerful thrusts of its snake-like body. The legs ended in sharp claws, so Orlean could only assume they were used for ripping and tearing into enemies in battle.

The thing was covered in blood and gore. Its fangs dripped with it and Orlean realized it had been feasting on the dragon’s flesh. Orlean felt gorge rise in his throat as the thing slithered toward him.

“What do you think of my pet?” came a deep voice from somewhere behind him.

Orlean craned his neck back in an attempt to locate the voice. All he saw was a dark mist. Soon this mist became thick enough to be a cloud. And eventually this cloud became a man. The man was cloaked in black silk, his hair just as dark as the slippery fabric, but it was his eyes that held Orlean’s attention. Those eyes had no whites. They were simply darkness. Or the darkness that darkness fears.

Staring into those eyes, Orlean felt his chest grow tight. As the man moved forward, Orlean couldn’t resist the urge to flinch away. Something about the man with skin as pale as moonlight caused his body to tremble. Orlean closed his eyes and tried to summon some vestige of magick, something to defend himself, but all he felt was emptiness.

“Oh, it’s well and truly gone,” the dark figure said. “Your dragon is dead and with it your magicks. You’re mine now. Whether you live or join your dragon in death is up to me.”

Orlean heard the subtle growl of the creature as it slithered around the dragon’s corpse but he refused to open his eyes. “Who are you?” There might have been better questions but none came immediately to mind.

The hiss of fabric and the brush of silk against his cheek let Orlean know that the man was hunched down beside him. Or perhaps kneeling. “I am Darcet. But you will learn to address me as Master.”

Now Orlean did summon his courage and opened his eyes, gazing into the overwhelming darkness. His heart constricted, but he managed to keep his voice relatively steady. “I am Kin. We have no master.”

A disturbing smile crossed the man’s face. “You will learn.”


Orlean squeezed his eyes shut and was rewarded with a blinding pain across his abdomen. His eyes snapped open as the flame withdrew, leaving his body in peace. But his mind … nothing could leave his mind in peace.

He was lying naked on an altar of black stone in a tower of metal and obsidian. Or what appeared to be obsidian. The chains bit into his wrists and ankles, holding him in place. His torso was a mass of cuts, burns, and bruises. All a result of trying to hide, trying to close his eyes against the images he could not escape.

All around the altar were obsidian globes, and each globe glowed with a series of images. The pictures were so clear he might have been watching the events in person. He might as well have been, for the globes channeled both sight and sound.

The visions tore at his heart. He could see dragons and their Sky Lords tangling with what Darcet had called wyverns. The dragons were most assuredly losing. They might be larger and stronger, but they were also slower. And the wyverns had a sly intelligence that the dragons just couldn’t match. The dragons might have magick, magick that was channeled through their Sky Lords, but the wyverns seemed to repel every bit of magick thrown at them. The magic didn’t even touch the serpentine beasts. It was as if any magick was nulled when it came within just a few feet of the writhing wyverns.

Other globes showed images of shamans, those among the Kin who could wield magick without dragons, being slaughtered by the dozens. Their magicks were as ineffective as those the Sky Lords commanded. Orlean could see the tattoos of his own Tribe, the First Tribe, and knew his friends and family would not survive the attack. But it was more than that. The tattoos of other Tribes came to his eyes and he knew that all the Kin were a part of this. This man who controlled the wyverns was destroying all his people, not simply one Tribe.

“Why?” he finally gasped, desperate for an answer.

Darcet’s voice floated through the air. “Why? Why you? Or why them?”

Orlean craned his neck but could see only smoke and mist in the darkened chamber. “Why … us?” he asked the mist.

The darkness grew darker as Darcet took on his man-shape again. He strode forward with a hiss a silk and came to stand beside Orlean’s bound body. “You are Kin.” White hands stroked over Orlean’s sun-kissed flesh as Darcet licked his lips.

“But why?” He tried to ignore the hands that touched him and refused to look at Darcet’s face. The man was too beautiful to be evil, yet evil he certainly was. To look was to lose his mind, and Orlean knew it.

Darcet drew back his lips in a frightening snarl. “You ask that? You who are chosen by the Light, favored by my brilliant sister?”

A gloved hand rose in front of Orlean’s eyes. As that hand grew and twisted, Orlean let out his first real scream.


Collapsing back against the stone, Orlean tried to breathe through the pain. But his throat was a bloody mass and his chest was nothing more than a gaping hole. His still-beating heart lay on the cold stone altar somewhere near his feet. Orlean thought that he could still hear it throbbing and beating, echoing through his ears, but he knew it was nothing more than his own vivid imagination.

He hurt, but it was in a detached sort of way. It should hurt more. But then there were the waves of pleasure that tightened his body in ways a man his age rarely experienced. The pleasure distracted him from the pain, gave him something to focus on. Even something to look forward to. Before long he was just waiting for the pain, wishing for the pain, because he knew it would be closely followed by the intense pleasure that would wash over his body and give him sweet relief.

Darcet stood over him, and Orlean knew, he simply knew, that this man’s magick was the source of both the pleasure and the pain. And it was that same magick that kept him alive without a heart to sustain him. At first Orlean let his being fill with hatred, but this hatred faded to mere resentment. Candlemarks passed and even the resentment faded, leaving behind only the purest desire.

As Orlean writhed and gasped, Darcet spoke to him in a soft voice. The tone was as musical as it was soothing. Darcet spoke of the wyverns and how he himself had formed them from the dead bodies of both dragons and a sea serpent called a muradeen. He spoke of his sister, a woman named Crystal, a woman as good as he was evil. He spoke of the dragons that he hated for their brilliant perfection. He spoke of elves, distant ancestors of the Kin and how they could not be corrupted.

Through all these words, Orlean began to understand. Corruption. That’s what this was all about. Corruption and power. Darcet wanted to corrupt the servants of the Light, to turn them into his own minions. But his plans hadn’t seen much success. He’d wanted to corrupt the elves, turn them to his purposes, but the elves simply died. They could not be turned. So Darcet had decided to corrupt those most closely related to elves. The Kin. Part elf, part man, but evolved to their own species, they were as close to elves as you could get without resorting to half-breeds.

And then there were the dragons. For whatever reason, Darcet saw the dragons as a threat. So he’d given his wyverns orders to destroy the dragons at all costs. Those images still played in the dark crystals surrounding the altar, though the images were fewer than they had been. There were fewer and fewer dragons gliding over the Wastes and none survived once they were found by the wyverns. Orlean guessed that in less than two days’ time, all dragons would be gone.

Except perhaps for the wild dragons. They were larger and faster than the bound dragons. Whenever a wyvern came near one, the dragon managed to escape, fleeing into the great Southern Range. But not once did the wild dragons try to fight, try to come to the aid of their bound brethren. They simply fled the Wastes, winging to the north.

Stupid beasts, Orlean thought to himself. He supposed it was too much to expect that the wild dragons might do something to stop this … genocide, Orlean realized. The wyverns were exterminating any dragon they could find. It was genocide. There was no word that better described the extermination of the great beasts.

Another wave of pleasure had Orlean looking away from the globes and into Darcet’s dark eyes. Those eyes seemed to sparkle now, and Orlean shivered. Those unnatural eyes framed by the delicate features of Darcet’s face were terrifying. A hand came into view and danced with black flame. Placing that hand in the gaping hole of Orlean’s chest, Darcet smiled gently.

Black flame glittered and shone from Orlean’s chest and the bound man screamed. His flesh was torn asunder by claws as his bones turned to ash. Air could no longer reach his lungs and his vision was blurred by thick smoke. And though it all he could only wait for the pain to end and the pleasure to begin.

And so it did, but it was different this time. A gentle breeze brought air to his seared lungs as cool water soothed his flesh. He was whole, or as whole as he had been before the flame had danced through his body. Ice was plunged into his chest, but it was so much better than the black flame and its unending pain. He would worship anything that promised such sweet relief.

Darcet chuckled, but Orlean didn’t care. He cared for nothing but the cool peace he felt now. As his vision cleared, he looked down at his own body and could not recognize it. The flesh was charred and blackened, the limbs broken and twisted. The bonds had fallen away but he still did not move.

The hole in his chest was still there, but from it glittered a frightening black light. Orlean glanced at Darcet in confusion.

The man smiled and stroked a gentle hand around the ragged edges of the gaping hole. “Your heart is mine. Your body is mine. Your soul is mine.” Darcet leaned closer and laid a kiss on Orlean’s torn lips. “You will live as I bid. Defy me and …”

Pain ripped through Orlean’s body and a twisted cry came from his lips.

“But serve me well and …”

The pain disappeared, swallowed by the soothing pleasure that tightened Orlean’s body and left him gasping for more. Darcet awaited an answer, but still Orlean hesitated. Until another bolt of pain racked his aching body.

Orlean did the only thing he could. Putting his friends and family from his mind, Orlean rolled toward Darcet and allowed himself to fall from the altar. Once at Darcet’s feet, Orlean forced his twisted body into a kneeling position. His own clawed hands were awkward and gouged the stone beneath his feet. Finally, he bowed his head, putting himself willingly at Darcet’s mercy.

Darcet trailed a hand along Orlean’s jaw, raising the ruined face to better see it. “Will you serve?”

“I will.” Those words came uneasily to his lips, but they did come.

“Will you tame the shamans and Sky Lords?”

“I will.” The answers were coming with greater speed now.

“And will you rule the Wastes in my name?”

“I will.” His hesitation disappeared and with it, the last of what made him Orlean.

A truly happy smile lit Darcet’s face. “Then rise, my dear Rider. Rise and do to some of the others what I have done to you. Build my numbers. Increase my strength. Kill the dragons, convert or sacrifice the Sky Lords and shamans, and rule the Wastes as I would.”

The Rider stood with some difficulty, eventually finding his feet but still keeping his head bowed out of respect. “With pleasure.” And it was no lie.

Darcet laughed again and the sound of shattering glass filled the night air. His body became nothing but smoke and even this eventually drifted off, leaving only his laughter echoing through the dark tower. That and a dark wyvern that coiled and twisted, awaiting the Rider’s orders. The Rider ran a hand over the slick scales and smiled.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Writing a Novel: Sustaining the Spell

A good book should cast a spell over the reader. The reader should be drawn into the story, should be so engrossed in it that they're more seeing and hearing the events on the page than they are reading them. A good book should be experienced.

Maintaining this spell is the primary job of the author. When I'm writing, I'm thinking about this more than anything. Everything that hits the page, perfect or not, should serve this purpose.

And one of the most often-cited causes of breaking the literary spell is head-hopping, or a sudden change in point of view. You must establish your point of view early on and maintain consistency, even if that consistency means moving from one point of view to another. As long as it's done seamlessly, and as long as you continue to do it in the same manner, the spell remains intact.

But point of view isn't the only way to sustain or break the spell. Sudden changes in location, time, etc. are also jarring for the reader. Sometimes too jarring. Now, all stories need transitions. It's just the way of things. One scene ends while another begins. Characters move from one location to another. Maybe characters die. But these are okay because they are natural and intended transitions. They jar the reader, but only a little bit. And that's okay.

The problem is when these transitions are unnatural and perhaps even entirely accidental. Perhaps you're writing in one point of view one moment, then dip into another for just a paragraph. Perhaps this is the only spot in the book where you do so. If this is true, you are almost surely breaking the spell you've woven, and this will not serve you well. And it's not just about point of view (though some so-called 'experts' would have you think so).

One of the other ways to quickly break the literary spell is to have a character do something they'd never do. Readers like characters. They depend on them. And they need those characters to act...well, in character. If your hero always jumps into a situation to save the damsel in distress, then suddenly doesn't because you think it serves the plot, expect your readers to be jarred out of the story completely. Plot is secondary sometimes, and it's important to recognize when this might be the case.

So if you're writing a novel of any kind, remember that you're really doing more than that. You're casting a spell, or trying to. Your job, as a writer, is to keep the reader's attention for as long as is necessary to tell the story. Craft your words carefully to avoid breaking your spell unnecessarily.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Writing a Novel: The Reminiscent Point of View

Changing the point of view of your story is typically frowned upon. There is one type of story, however, we're changing your point of view--or at least the expression of your point of view-- is necessary for the story. Though this point of view doesn't necessarily have an official designation, I like to call it the reminiscent point of view. I call it that because the story is framed as a reminiscence. In most cases, the reminiscence starts with the character firmly in adulthood until something happens to trigger a past memory. Because everyone changes as they get older, the point of view immediately changes to match the old self of the character. In some cases the difference will be negligible, but if you're dealing with an adult reliving a childhood memory the point of view and entire writing style will, of necessity, undergo a metamorphosis.

With this type of story, you might opt to use the same point of view for both present and past, altering only the voice of the character. This might mean using a third person narrative for both parts of the story. Or perhaps you'd like to use first person. Either can work effectively.

But there's a third option, one which makes a reminiscence stand apart from most other narratives. You have the option to work in both first person and third person for the same character in the same body of work. The present might be written as third person well the past is written as first person. And you could also opt to reverse this. Most other types of stories don't allow quite so much versatility.

But a reminiscence requires more than simply shifting your point of view. There should also be a shift in the writing as thoughts and actions are betrayed by the past self. Syntax, vocabulary, idioms, and styles of speech may all be different. Sometimes dramatically so if your past and present characters are separated by a great many years. A grandparent doesn't speak or think the way a child might, after all. This can be a difficult thing to accomplish and usually takes much practice. Playing around with the reminiscent point of view can enhance your writing skills and further your understanding of the nuances of writing a novel. This is especially true if you explore the many variations a reminiscence allows.

Personally, I don't often write a reminiscence, though I will sometimes insert a small scene detailing a memory a character is had. But since these tend to be recent memories, they aren't quite a reminiscence. If you like to play around with different styles of writing, a reminiscence might be a good way to do so.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Writing a Novel: The Relationship Between First Person and Third Person Point of View

Most fictional stories (though certainly not all) are told through the eyes of a single character. Sometimes two characters. When this is done, the author typically has a choice to make. Do I tell the story in first person, or do I open up a little bit and use third person? Both have their benefits, and both have their own unique drawbacks. But the really interesting thing about these two points of view is how close they can actually be.

Consider this first person sentence:

I stepped out my door, felt the wind brush across my skin, and knew it would be a beautiful day.

Then consider this third person sentence:

He stepped out his door, felt the wind brush across his skin, and knew it would be a beautiful day.

There really is very little difference, at least in this single example. But the connection here is not simply in the way the words are arranged. It is that in both examples, the action is perceived through the point of view of a single character. Changing the I to a he didn't really alter the story. He still stepped outside, felt the wind, and drew a conclusion about how the day would unfold. The same conclusion. Both examples also deny the reader access to certain things, most noticeably the inner thoughts of other possible characters.

So first person and third person have a lot in common. But there is a key difference, and this difference involves the reader's distance from the point of view (POV) character. In first person, you're right in the mind of the POV character. You get the joy (or the agony, depending on the book) of having access to all the POV character's innermost thoughts. Because of the nature of first person narration, you get all the thoughts of that one character. All of them. It can be fun. Or very annoying, depending on how the author handles it all.

Third person, on the other hand, gives the author a few options. It can be very much like first person. If you replace the pronounces (and alter your grammar here and there), first person becomes third person. You can still access the innermost thoughts of the POV character and get to enjoy the same privileges you had in first person. But this is only one way to handle third person.

You can take a totally different approach to third person and lock yourself entirely out of the inner thoughts of the POV character. You may have no idea what he's thinking or why he's doing the things he does. You're simply following the action. This can be fun and a bit exciting, but it can also be irritating. Sometimes you simply have to know what the POV character is thinking because he's acting like a little idiot and all you see are the actions. The thoughts are hidden. In the hands of a master, this point of view works well. With a novice...not so much, but that can be said with most points of view.

Between these two extremes, there are a dozen other options for third person point of view, and most fictional stories fall somewhere in the middle. Close enough to satisfy but not close enough to irritate, as one of my creative writing professors once said. But remember that as you get further from the character, third person had less in common with third person.

So which is best? Neither, really. It depends on your story. But it should be noted that one of the greatest benefits of first person or close third person is allowing you to understand a character who isn't all that verbal. So if your main character doesn't like to talk? Break out the first person (or the close third person, if you like). Your narrative will be all the more special for it because--let's face it--everyone thinks.