Friday, 25 May 2012

Zipping it, and Listening - working out Character traits

Using Listening Skills in order to Write in Unique Characters

Some people talk a lot. Others listen a lot. Most people are mainly one or the other. Both traits have their attraction. Usually opposites attract - as always, but as always - not for long. They can get bored of each other, and quickly go their separate ways.

But if you are looking for a way to learn about real life characters. Read on.

In communication, we need both in more-or-less, equal measures. Some say you have one mouth and two ears, and therefore we should use them in the correct proportions. There is some value in that advice, though hard for the natural talker. Because that would require more listening than talking ...which is near impossible.

I'm a talker on balance. But one of the benefits of age combined with intelligence, is that we learn as we mature. And I have learnt the value of listening more than talking. Although it is no easy feat, as talking comes naturally for me. Listening is hard work ....and could become a tad boring.

But for some years now, I have had some breakthrough, allbeit gradual. And I am pleased to have made any  improvement in any area of life.

However, I have another motive for listening.  

It has to do with writing.

Looking for character traits, in order to write in unique characters.

When you talk without listening, you don't usually learn anything new. I like to learn new things. Learning from books, other written material, films are all ways. But they are secondary ways. Not first hand.

Listening in conversation is not just another way of learning, it is primary and first hand. 

Learning directly from conversation is most valuable. It is holistic. And organic, in that we sift and add naturally while processing the information. In conversation, we are learning directly from another person, who is not a tutor. Not an academic. Not a professional.

The information in conversation is fresh. It is new. It is first hand. It is naturally monitored by our own brain processing the information. That makes it full of our own natural input, because we may knowingly or unknowingly, sift out what we don't like.

Ok, it has bias. And that can be a flaw in this method of gaining information.

But wait! There is purpose to this.

What is the difference between our own bias and that of some academic? There will always be some bias in information we get...from whoever. The thing is, in crafting a novel, we are the creator of that work, and the creator of our characters.

Therefore our own bias is allowed. Why should we have the bias and prejudice of any other? 

To this end, bias in conversation can be positive and beneficial.

If we give good feedback to the person we are listening to, and positive body language, we gain so much from the talker. Just by our listening in this way, the talker talks. They tell you more. And you form a rounded view of this character.

I am not saying that we should make a habit of treating everyone we meet in this way. Not at all. But how else can writers create interesting characters if not based on a combination of characters we come across in life?

We want our characters to be rounded. Three dimensional and human. Mind, body and spirit. Even paranormal, supernormal characters are based on very human characteristics, although exaggerated.

Which is why, listening is so important. We pick up not just information and chatter, but character traits, which help us to form our rounded, three dimensional characters. And they are not that easy to form in a whole novel. Beware - half formed characters can be most annoying to the reader. I run a reading group, and I know the annoyance.

For this end, when we listen, we should listen actively. The talker needs it in order to progress a  conversation of value. We need to respond actively and positively. Both are important.

Any form of body language - legs crossed towards the talker, smiles, nods, eye contact,
as well as small verbal interjections and hums of agreement - are all positive and active.

When we do this, we get the best from the talker, the informer, the person from whom we are learning about character. If we don't, we thwart our own learning process about unique characters. Because there is nothing more soul destroying to an intelligent talker, than a passive listener. Bored listeners are a no-go anyhow! The conversation withers.

The talker wants some response from them to know that their streams of words are not falling on dumb, or deaf ears.

If you have read this post, let me know what you think! Leave me a comment. 

Are you a talker or a listener? 

Are you one of the flexible few who are able to do both as the situation arises?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

PAINS OF EDITING - Fixing the Story

Tightening the Structure 

My Distraction -
So far, I am not doing that well with the editing of The Jeweller's Daughter! I'm getting distracted with personal matters, family matters, domestic chores, and other "important" things...

My lovely son just got married - still on honeymoon, and I'm just about returning to a normal state of a balanced mind and body. It was a fantastic day though!

So! To date, I have done pretty poorly - got up to pg 48 out of 396.

But I must have edited the first few pages a dozen times ...Can't seem to leave it alone.

My Resolve and Focus for Draft 2 -
I have decided that in this draft, I will concentrate on the STORY. 

Fixing the story is crucial, before doing anything else, like sorting out character development, improving dialogue, working on language, even imagery, and historical content.

Here is my focus for the duration of this draft :-

1. Fill in the Plot Holes. 

As I already have subplots, I will not be looking to write in any more of them. Besides, I am already too close to the maximum words (now 114,758), so I don't want to add many more.

What I will be concentrating on, is reading and looking out for anything that seems incoherent, unbelievable, unexplainable, too good to be true, impossible, too bad to have happened, sudden goings on that need prior introduction - and fixing those.

Because The Jeweller's Daughter is set before memory of most alive today, 1918 Trinidad, a country and culture that most of my readership will not be familiar with, I will focus on enlightening them without teaching them. I will check that I am drip feeding information and facts, or showing it through one of my characters in their thoughts or dialogue. But I will not ignore the narrator's voice. My narrator will be doing some telling too, to provide some relief from continuous dialogue. After all, my narrator is the oracle - she has the last word where necessary. I have decided on that. And my personal preference as a reader, is a good narrator, one that fills in the blanks, fleshes out the backdrop, and puts things in context.

2. Pruning.

This has to be the hardest for me. I am a hoarder by nature. I don't give away my creations that easily, and I certainly don't like to discard it might be useful one day!

But, I will be strict with myself, and be on a permanent lookout for any piece of script that diverts the attention from what is important, what is useful, meaningful, and what is getting carried away or just going off on a tangent.... We are not playing psychological word association!

So there will be much cutting and pruning, and maybe burning of dead wood. (I might keep a few bits that seem genuinely useful for later in the plot).

My main focus here is to make sure that the plot deepens.

3. Lengthening and Shortening.

This is paradoxical, as I have already said that I will not be looking to lengthen the script. But some bits inevitably will have to be expanded on, whilst I prune away the weeds ...(and non flowering, non productive plants).

So as I edit, I will be on the lookout for any extra twists that are needed, and improving those that are not working well enough. I will also be looking at any description of scenes, background, and characters, that would develop, deepen, and sharpen the story.

I will let you know how I'm doing!

Thanks for stopping by.

Please leave me a comment. Would love to know what you think as a writer, or a reader.

Question to readers - What annoys you most when you read?