RSS

Category Archives: Theme

Writing in Past Perfect Tense

Naturally occurring iron springs in Telluride, Colorado.

First off, look at the gorgeous picture. I took that a few weeks ago in Telluride, Colorado. It’s naturally occurring iron springs. Stunning.

Okay, now we get into the fun stuff.

Regardless if your book is written in present tense or past tense (also referred to as simple past), there are times in your story when you’ll probably refer to something that has already happened. Sometimes a flashback is necessary to the story. When going into a flashback, or describing something that has already happened in the past, you’ll want to use the past perfect tense.

Well, when/how do you use past perfect?

Believe it or not, there’s a formula for past perfect: (had + past participle = past perfect). I’m not sure about you, but I learn better when I have an example in front of me, so here we go. I’m going to start off in past tense, go into a past perfect to describe something that has already happened, and then transition back to simple past.

Sebastian meowed over and over, trying to get my attention. He either wanted food or love. (Notice this first sentence is in simple past. The reader knows it’s in past tense, all the events that are happening in the story are told in the past.) I’d just graduated from college when I’d made the decision to get my very own cat. I’d always wanted a pound kitty. (Going into a flashback, switch to past perfect. Make sure your reader knows you’re talking about something that has already happened.)

Sebastian picked me as much as I picked him. (Here’s where it gets fun. When you go into past perfect, once you establish that it’s in the past, you switch from past perfect to simple past tense, because the word “had” becomes quite cumbersome, even when used in a contraction. The thing to remember is, when we come out of the flashback, make sure the reader is aware by, and the transition to “now” is clear.) He was such an energetic kitten. He played with my roommate’s cat and loved sitting in my window seat. Now (I’m establishing that the flashback is over, making the transition from past perfect to simple past tense), he’s (notice this is in present tense. That’s because it’s an absolute. Sebastian is still alive and kicking, therefore we use the present tense. I’ll have to do another blog post on absolutes, if you’re interested) fat and lazy, but full of personality. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hopefully that wasn’t too painful, and yes, I do love my animals an absurd amount.

The key to using past perfect is transition. You have to clue your reader in on the timeline. Make sure it’s smooth. This will eliminate confusion, and it allows you to tell more aspects of your story by using things from a character’s past.

If you have any questions, ask away, and I’ll answer in the comments.

Useful links:

This is a great article about writing effective flashbacks.

Visit this page for more past perfect examples.

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , ,

Training Tools – Websites for Creativity

El grito de la gaviota – Seagull Scream by Dani_vr on Flickr

I’ve wanted to use that image since I first saw it. Not sure how it applies to today’s post, but hopefully it made you smile 🙂

I’m coming off my post-Olympic high. I miss coming home and watching elite athletes fulfill their dreams. I don’t know about you, but I found it inspiring. It gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling in my core. Those people worked hard, sacrificed, trained, and look where it got them. Writers aren’t that different. We have to go through a lot of the same things (but with more wine and chocolate and less laps and pushups).

Our minds are constantly being pushed, our imaginations stretched. We’re honing our craft. If you’re like me, you’ve pretty much given up sleep. Learning, we’re always learning. And what is this “free time” you speak of? Yet we do it because we love it. We have goals and dreams, and we won’t stop until we make it.

What does all this have to do with creativity? Well, as writers, creativity is kind of important to the whole process. I have a bookmarks folder titled, “Websites for Creativity,” and I thought I’d pass along some of my favorites. Think of them as training tools. (There, I totally tied this back to the Olympics 😉 Sneaky, right?)

Critters is a part of Critique.org but for horror (here’s looking at you, Brian), fantasy, and sci-fi writers. How awesome is that? It can be hard to find critique partners for genre fiction; thankfully critters helps writers connect.

Creativity Portal – If you want to read articles about creativity, and I do this sometimes to better understand the creativity process, then creativity portal is a good resource.

Easy Street Prompts – Like writing prompts? Check this one out.

Six Sentences – This website invites you to tell a story in six sentences. Kind of interesting.

Plot Scenario Generator – This is one of my new favorites. The whole website is really good.

Five Free College Level Writing & Lit Videos – Who says you have to pay to learn?

InkPageant – A collection of blog posts for writers.

80 Journal Writing Prompts – I’m a sucker for journaling and writing prompts. What more could I want?

That should be enough to keep you busy for a while. What about you? What are some of your go-to sites for creativity?

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Is my Novel Adult, Young Adult, New Adult….or?

First, I want to apologize for being somewhat absent. Life has been…interesting lately. I wish it were full of awesome and wonderful things, but unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Just know that I’m here, rooting for everyone, loving you all, and hoping for a better tomorrow.

Second, the picture I used for this post strikes me as funny. I don’t know why, but hopefully you’ll laugh, too.

Now that’s out of the way, I want to touch on genre and target audience. I say “touch” because this is a conversation that could go on and on.

A lot of writers don’t know what type of book they are actually writing. That’s okay! You’ve spent your time writing your book, polishing it (the important parts), and now you’re ready to send your baby out into the world. Well, how do you market it? Which agents/publishers do you target? Would you send an agent who clearly states they do not rep young adult your novel about a sixteen-year-old girl who is trying to swim through the ocean of adolescence? Probably not.

A good rule of thumb is to look at your main character’s age. Are they ten to fourteen? It’s probably middle grade. Are they fourteen to eighteen? Then you’re probably looking at a young adult audience. Let me go ahead and state that “young adult” isn’t actually a genre–it’s a marketing term. The target audience is fourteen to eighteen (although statistically, more women ages twenty to forty buy the majority of young adult books).

Well, you say, my main character is eighteen (or insert any age here), but the issues are clearly meant for an adult. This can all be a bit confusing. Look at George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones or Room by Emma Donoghue. George Martin has several main characters who fall into the young adult category, but the overall theme of the book is definitely meant for a mature audience, and it’s marketed as adult epic/high fantasy. Room is told from the point of view of a five-year-old. But it is marketed as a piece of literary fiction.

The rules aren’t crystal clear. You will have to do some research to figure out where your book best fits in the market and find which readers will best connect to your book. Knowing your genre is important, but it’s also important to write a good book. If you’ve written, workshopped, edited, rewritten, and polished until you think you can’t polish anymore–you’re going to have a good piece of fiction (or non-fiction) on your hands. People of all ages will want to buy your book because it’s a good book.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

The Story of Your Life

    

 

“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.”
~Oliver Wendall Holmes

 

 

              “What’s the theme of your book?”

     I choked the first time someone asked this of me. I did what I do best; I read. Blog posts, craft books, and within my genre. I write Young Adult. I found themes in this genre just as passionate as any other genre. Family, hope, love.

     As I read the rough draft of The Lonely Girl, I discovered not only its theme, but a few things about myself. Things I like.

     I rediscovered values I give little thought to in everyday life. But they are prevalent, the kind of morals I encourage in my children. Without intensive thought and deep in the throes of intensive NaNoWriMo sessions, the best and worst parts of my personal experience,history, and quirks were ever-present. I thank my muse for this.

     The heroine of my story, Evie, makes the worst decision a human being can make.  She gives up. I dangled her over the abyss, a place I am familiar with. But my belief in hope and redemption is strong. With this in mind, I can reconnoiter theme, clarify my voice, and layer muscle and flesh over characters. 

     My characters are, after all, compilations of my inner life and observations of real people I love, have met, or even those who’ve piqued my curiosity in grocery stores and coffee shops.

     I feel that my passions, opinions, and value systems should drive my stories, poetry, and articles. If I choose a moderate position, or withhold my own life experiences and insights, I fear mundanity. I don’t like the mundane. When I read a book, I want to know its author left a little blood on the page.

     How does a writer convey all of this energy without overwhelming the reader with hyperbole and someone else’s rigid belief system?

     It’s all about the characters.

     “The author of a breakout novel must make the choice to make her characters choose; must fire them, and then sustain them, with deeply held convictions.”  -Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel.

          As a new writer, I struggle with not writing within the acknowledged status quo. The temptation is strong and I cringe when I see others trip over the need to fill market trends. Readers are savvy and unique. They don’t want oatmeal every day of the week.

      I know my strengths, and believe a dark story can illuminate a reader’s life, long after the final page has been turned.

     But I’m only speaking from personal experience.

     Writers, when did you discover your story’s theme? What impact do you think theme has on a book and its readership? Do you find echoes of your personal life in the tales you create?

    

    

 
 

Tags: , , , ,