Wordslinger first began in December 2011 as a monthly series of writers’ essays for the Bookish Temptations website. In this column, Morgan explores the many elements of fiction and offers tips on how to get the most out of the proverbial pen. After three years, Morgan wrote his final Wordslinger post in 2014, but we’ve decided to take a walk down Memory Lane and re-post the column here. The pop culture references may now appear dated, but the writing advice is timeless. Enjoy!
Originally posted on the Bookish Temptations website, January 2012:
This is my second post to Bookish Temptations and my first as a monthly contributor. I am very excited to begin and my goal with these continued submissions is to explore the things that matter to us as readers and writers. To that end I have chosen as my first topic of the new year:
1st person vs. 3rd person
Some writers like to tell stories from a more personal point of view, while others like to introduce details and insights that a single person might not notice or record in their narrative.
Readers likewise have habits and desires concerning how stories are told to them. For some the narrative style is mandatory, for others it is barely noticed. I will therefore referee three rounds between the two most commonly used styles.
Before I begin I would like to share my methodology with you; I regularly write in both 1st and 3rd person and although I studied literature at Portland State University, I will mostly be using research and interviews I’ve done for this project alone. (I wanted to make sure that current trends were accurately represented and PSU was a looooong time ago).
Round One: Definition
Even if you already know the definition of the three types of literary narrative styles, please indulge me as I frame it up.
1st Person storytelling speaks from the “I” point of view, as in, “I grabbed the monkey bars and wondered if my small hands would hold me, let alone carry me across the imaginary lava pit I had installed just that morning.”
3rd person storytelling speaks from the “he/she” point of view, (omniscient if you will) as in, “She held his face to the gravel with her unlaced boot. His smirk was now painted on the rocks in a bloody tribute to her rebellion.”
There is of course a 2nd person storytelling style and that is speaking directly to “you”, as in, “If you want to get the best tasting watermelons, choose ones with a yellow bellies; This insures that you have chosen melons that have not been disturbed as they ripened.” As you can see this
style of writing is seldom useful outside of toy assembly instructions and the hokey pokey. Interestingly enough, these “Wordslingers” submissions tend to lapse into the 2nd person style from time to time. (Reread the first sentence under Round One header, it starts with 2nd person and ends with 1st person yet it is a completely acceptable sentence structure).
By definition alone, 3rd person storytelling allows the writer more avenues to explore and therefore puts the them in the best position creativity. This is merely a matter of access to information that can be shared with the reader. So, while the fight is not over, round one goes to 3rd person.
Round Two: Application
Using a personal method of telling a story like 1st person gives the writer more access to the kind of intimacy that makes characters seem completely real. And while the same level of depth can be achieved in a 3rd person narrative, the confined emotions of one person will always jump off the page with greater charge.
1st person has a way of drawing the reader in and putting them at ease because they can usually assume that the storyteller will make it through okay. (Ironically, that’s only sometimes true).
Writers want to create a world for the reader to get lost in and telling a story in 1st person is the equivalent of having an arm around the readers shoulder as you share an eye witness account.
It also lends credibility to the story when it is coming from a witness, even though the witness is also fiction.
Therefore, round two goes to 1st person.
Round 3: Communication
Writers not only need to convey depth of character but they need to tell a story and that must remain key. If you lose your story you lose your story.
Characters in 1st person stories are all to often forced to “find out” things the writer needs the reader to know and this can become very transparent and hurt your story more than it helps. Sometimes the best thing to do is to find a way around it altogether or turn it into a moment of discovery for reader and character alike.
While 3rd person may not be able to delve into the sorrows of one single character as efficiently, it can communicate story points far easier and readers do not appreciate being confused. 3rd person also has the authority to jump in and out of characters and paint a more vivid emotional picture.
3rd person is certainly more difficult to master. A writer can get themselves tangled in all the information that is available to share. I myself am like a goldfish in that way and find 3rd person writing sometimes overwhelming. It also and promotes writer’s block more than the 1st person style does.
Still, round three goes to 3rd person because in the end we need to communicate as effectively as possible.
It’s not a knockout and some of you may still maintain that there was never even a reason to debate the issue but 3rd person is the winner of the match.
More importantly, 3rd person is what is most commonly used in the big leagues. 90 percent of all novels are written that way and must be mastered if one is going to write professionally.
Stephenie Meyer is a recent example of how there are always exceptions and it shows that in the end this is all just personal preference. Like our taste in music or pie it should remain un-judged and accepted.
I prefer writing in third person but seek out 1st person opportunities because of the challenges they offer. As I mentioned in last month’s post, I have even written a story told from the perspective of a cat because I enjoy telling stories from interesting perspectives. (I heard that the movie War Horse is told from the horse’s perspective but I’m not certain if it’s true). 3rd person appeals to me more often because I like giving the reader information that my characters don’t have. It can create a very interesting relationship between the reader and the people they are following through the story.
As long as you choose to celebrate fiction you are making the wise decision as far as I’m concerned and just because more people do something one way doesn’t make it right for you. Read what makes you feel good, write what you makes you feel good and you will be get more out As long as you choose to celebrate fiction you are making the wise of your fiction in the end.
Also, that was not a bunch of crap about choosing good watermelons. I know it’s not the season yet but you’ll thank me next summer when you are eating juicy yellow bellied melons.
This month’s Random Fan is fellow Omnific author, Rumer Haven. Rumer recently published a fantastic novel entitled “Seven For A Secret” and we were thrilled to have the chance to chat with her about it. You can purchase the ebook or the paperback here.
Morgan and Jennifer: Seven For A Secret is a paranormal romance, but that’s labeling it pretty simply. What else would you like readers to know about the novel?
Rumer Haven: Great question, as this story isn’t easily placed into any one bucket. While it does have a paranormal element, the ghost’s main function is to join the present with the past, connecting two stories that are more human than supernatural. My publicist has described it as “Great Gatsby meets Bridget Jones,” as it’s half historical fiction and half contemporary, and whereas the historical half is full of drama, the contemporary half is romantic comedy. It’s filled with contrasts like this, I guess, from swept-off-one’s-feet romance to self-deprecating reality. And while young twenty-something and teenage characters drive the story, it’s arguably the old folks who save the day. These opposing elements all interrelate, though, balancing the story out to provide a little bit of everything for everyone. So you don’t have to be a fan of any one particular aspect to still (hopefully) enjoy the overall book.
Rumer Haven: Exposure is such a richly rendered story of stardom and scandal, “exposing” the human element behind the Hollywood facade and paying nice homage to cinematography. Is the industry of special interest to you? What inspired this context for your story?
Morgan and Jennifer: Like most people, we’ve always been interested in pop culture. Movies, television, books and music are all things we enjoy, but we would never say we’ve been obsessed with the celebrity culture. Morgan has spent much of his life actively involved in live theatre and was able to take those human experiences and transfer them to our fictional movie set, but the entire novel generated from just one image in Jennifer’s mind. Specifically, it was the moment when Shaunna Noble quits her job as Kyle Petersen’s publicist, storms out of his movie trailer and tosses all of his clothing to the fans gathered nearby.
Jennifer didn’t really understand who Shaunna was or why she was so angry at the movie star, but it was obvious that the blow up was taking place on a movie set. The rest of the novel was developed around that one moment – finding out what events led up to the outburst, trying to understand how someone could be driven to such rash action and wondering about what would happen to Shaunna in the aftermath of such an explosion.
Morgan and Jennifer: Your novel jumps between the 1920’s and the 2000’s. Do you have a particular fondness for the Roaring 20’s? Why did you choose that era specifically?
Rumer Haven: The Great Gatsby has always been one of my favorite novels, so while I couldn’t aspire to Fitzgerald’s talent, I wanted to attempt a similar atmosphere. I’m also fascinated by the New Woman who emerged during that decade. There’s the iconic flapper, of course, who really pushed the envelope by shortening her hair and hemline and partying like a rock star. But women at large had also just earned the right to vote and were generally shedding the corset of Victorian mores to make more choices for themselves regarding work, education, and sexual freedom. And let’s face it, the fashion was exquisite! As was the architecture—I knew I wanted this story to be my homage to sweet home Chicago, and there are so many structures that were in their heyday back then that are still standing now. They provide an ideal bridge between past and present, and Capone’s Chicago is a classic backdrop for decadence and dodginess.
Rumer Haven: Your novel is perhaps the first I’ve read that was a collaboration of two authors–and a husband and wife, no less. You two clearly make a brilliant team in writing something so uniform and seamless, so I can’t help but ask how you approach this process! What role do each of you play in crafting the content and composition?
Morgan and Jennifer: Those who know us often describe us as a case of Opposites Attract. Morgan is extroverted, while Jennifer is introverted. But despite the extremes in our personalities, we have a lot in common. Writing fiction is something we both feel deeply connected to, and as such we’ve discovered that we work well together.
As a team, we’ve always outlined stories together through the process of collaborative brainstorming. When it comes to composition, Morgan tends to be focused on providing the unexpected, yet essential details within scenes, while Jennifer tends to be fixated on the bigger picture, making sure all the elemental plot points are addressed. Beyond this, Morgan lends more of his humor to the writing process, while Jennifer enjoys drawing emotion out of both the characters and the reader. Overall, it seems to make for a good balance.
Jennifer: As someone who works in a non-profit visitor facility, I recognized much of the behind the scenes action at the Planetarium in your story. I’m curious to know if those sections of the story are based on real life experience?
Rumer Haven: Yes! I used to volunteer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. For the record, the volunteer coordinator was not a ho-bag like Vicki but a very lovely, respected member of staff. 🙂 But I did assist the education department with the sorts of activities and events that Kate manages and loved the experience and institution (and Atwood Sphere!) so much. I was actually a finance professional at the time, but working with the public at Adler inspired me to become a teacher. So in homage to the memories and meaning that place holds for me, I wove it into the book.
Morgan: What is your favorite celestial body in the universe?
Rumer Haven: Just…stars. The whole lot of ’em. Like us, they pass through a cycle of life, yet even when they die, they shine on through time and space. They give us something to wish on, to create pictures and stories out of, and they can guide our way home. Our closest star gives us life and keeps us warm in the daytime, and at night, all the distant stars bedazzling the sky make me feel at once infinitesimal yet integral to something greater than I can comprehend. We’re all made of stardust, lest we forget. 🙂
Rumer Haven: Given my great fondness for Exposure and you lovely folks, I cannot wait for your next book. Anything new in the pipeline?
Jennifer: Speaking of stardust and planetariums … I’m writing a story I’ve entitled Constellation. It’s a May to December contemporary romance set in Central Oregon. The story begins with the two main characters, Jack and Kathleen, having just given in to the temptation of mutual attraction. The rest of the novel explores how this one spontaneous event will alter how Kathleen perceives her universe. When I initially began the story I thought Jack would be a man of mystery, but the deeper I get into the story the more I realize that Kathleen is the one with all the secrets. I’m halfway done writing the book and realizing I actually have a series in the making. I can easily envision two more books and that has me very excited right now. I’m hoping to publish the first book later this year.
Morgan: I am currently editing a book that I wrote for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2013. It’s a ghost story called Connection and it takes place mostly on the N train in New York City. I establish new rules for ghosts while reinforcing some of my old favorites and, believe it or not, the whole thing is a tender romance.
Wordslinger first began in December of 2011 as a monthly series of writers’ essays for the Bookish Temptations website. In this column, Morgan explores the many elements of fiction and offers tips on how to get the most out of the proverbial pen. After three years, Morgan wrote his final Wordslinger post last month, but we’ve decided to take a walk down Memory Lane and re-post the column here. The pop culture references may now appear dated, but the writing advice is timeless. Enjoy!
Originally posted on the Bookish Temptations website, December 17, 2011:
**Introduction by Jennifer Locklear**
During the closing months of 2009 as my husband was beginning work on his first original story, I discovered the world of Twilight FanFiction. It was the first time I had read stories online, and as my time in front of the computer screen began to increase (significantly), he took notice.
When I explained how I was spending all my free time, he took an interest in the fact that not only were people posting stories online but they were also able to receive immediate feedback from readers. I introduced him to several of the stories I was reading, and within a few days our lives took an interesting turn as he began to consider posting a story of his own.
One evening after I arrived home from work, my husband announced he had begun writing his own FF. He asked me to read what he had written that afternoon and to let him know if I thought it was worthy of posting.
What I read blew me away and I immediately signed on to be his beta. I had to see where his story would take me.
Morgan Locklear quietly posted the first chapter of his epic turn of the century tale on Valentines Day 2010. To our delight, Bella Voce quickly earned readers because his profile page acknowledged that he was writing with an extra pen in his pocket and many females in the Fandom wanted to see how a man wrote our beloved Edward and Bella.
Although I knew he had a talent for music and songwriting, his skills as a storyteller took me by surprise. Not only did Bella Voce include ornate imagery, depth of character and an interweaving of history, Morgan continually amazed me by writing several thousand words each and every week for the better part of two years.
Now that Bella Voce and its sequel, Brutte Parole, have been completed, Morgan is looking forward to returning to that original story he started a couple of years ago. But thankfully for those of us who are fans of his work, he won’t be leaving the Fandom anytime soon.
Putting the Y in Twilight
with Morgan Locklear
The experiences I have had as a man in the female dominated Twilight Fandom all started because I’m a reader. I think that if a man does not read for pleasure he stands little chance of understanding the Fandom. But even as a reader, Twilight was nowhere near my radar despite the fact that I had already enjoyed the Mortal Instruments series.
The Twilight Saga (I hate that it’s called a saga by the way) is a decidedly female oriented story, as evidenced by the first person narrative from Bella. Therefore, it is seen by most men as another romance novel and rightfully so.
I saw the first film and still had no desire to pick up the book (although I did like the casting and the music and Billy Burke was a riot). Also, I knew that Robert Pattinson was a star right away. At the time, I did not remember him from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (and when my wife told me it blew my freaking mind), but I could tell that the kid was the kind of actor who, like another beautiful Robert, could end up directing one day.
I am referring to Robert Redford. He was a gifted and popular young actor who looked too good to be respected until he proved himself with a career rich with wise choices and an unfaltering self-identity.
Pattinson will be up there with the likes of Tom Hanks in everyone’s eyes by the time he’s forty. I will even risk a few words about the very polarizing Kristen Stewart. Even though she is not my type, she is beautiful. But before I jump off the wooden actress bandwagon I would like to point out that she was cast, like Robert, because they shared many social traits of the characters they played.
So, was she stiff or too good? DON’T ANSWER YET!!! I can tell that I haven’t convinced many of you who are determined to hate her and that’s cool, but please listen to one other argument:
Keanu Reeves was a Shakespearean stage actor in Canada who was regarded as the best of his age. (Not kidding). After a small role in a movie (filmed in part in my sister’s car on the Oregon coast) he was cast as Ted “Theodore” Logan in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
He played his part so convincingly that he found himself only being cast in similar roles. Has he had some bad movies? Of course. Has he proven that he is way better than we all thought? Yes. Don’t believe me? Watch The Devil’s Advocate opposite Al Pacino.
I think Kristen has some things to learn, but that’s why we are called human BEINGS. It’s because we are never done “becoming” who we are. Don’t believe me? I’ll tell you what, I’ll put all my eggs in her new Snow White movie. I can tell she is trying to prove something just like Rob did in Remember Me. And, like Rob, she will turn in a stunning performance.
Okay, back to the Fandom…
The only reason I even considered reading Twilight was because I had decided to start writing a small book. Because mine was also written in first person, my wife innocently suggested that I might find the Stephenie Meyer books helpful. I often take advice from my wife – she is smart and witty and has good taste in both books and movies (and men), so I read it.
I gobbled up all four books in a few weeks. As a man, I found the pacing good and the characters effortlessly drawn. There was tension but not too much gooey angst and that was good. My favorite book was Breaking Dawn for one simple reason – it was the first book that Bella stopped constantly bitching about being turned into a vampire.
What can I say, the books lingered in my mind. I became distracted from the book I was writing (a zombie story) and suddenly switched to writing a story about a beautiful young vampire named Bella. She was living in Paris during the 1890’s but had been turned several hundred years before when she was a nineteen year old nun. I wrote a prologue that introduced a human named Edward, who fell in love with her when he attended one of her concerts at the theatre she owned. Bella spied him in the audience and intended to feed on him, only to end up falling in love with Edward as soon as they were introduced backstage.
I showed the prologue to my wife and she suggested that if I write the story as fan fiction I would get feedback and perhaps become a better storyteller.
What a great idea.
When I decided to challenge myself with the task of posting the first chapters even though I only had the vaguest idea of how the story would end, I upped the ante and put myself on a weekly posting deadline. It was the single biggest challenge in my life. (And this is coming from the legally blind father of two children).
During the past two years, I stopped reading other books almost altogether so I could devote my time to writing and now I am anxious to complete reading a few Fandom stories as well as finishing a few hardcovers that are still sitting on my shelf with movie stubs as bookmarks.
Two years later, Bella Voce and it’s sequel, Brutte Parole, are complete. Somehow I also found the time to record an original soundtrack to go along with the stories and I have made literally thousands of friends online.
I can honestly say that it was being a man that probably brought most of my readers at first but like I told my wife, the writing has to keep people coming back for more because the novelty of having a Y chromosome will wear off long before my story is done being told.
I dragged my shy lurker wife into the spotlight with me as she was my very skilled beta and she has since written a short story of her own. We are now working on a story together that I am very excited about. It will begin posting on her FanFiction page (RandomCran) in early 2012.
She came up with this cool idea that takes place partly on a movie set and has some great twists and asked me to write it with her. We have had a good time and I get to write a really bad guy (which I love). It’s called Exposure and it’s one of three things I have planned for 2012 to stay active in the Fandom despite my biggest project being put to bed.
Top Ten things I’ve learned since I’ve been in the Fandom.
1. Women are way more horny than I ever knew about.
2. Strangers are way more generous than I ever thought possible.
3. There are hundreds of unpublished writers on fanfiction.net who could go pro today.
4. Sam Beam (A.K.A. Iron & Wine) is a genius!
5. I’m not the only man in the Fandom (and I’m talking straight guys too!)
6. My wife is a better writer than I am.
7. Seriously, women are waaaaay more horny than I thought.
8. Everyone just wants to be listened to sometimes.
9. T/J means Tweet Jack.
I would like to address negativity as well because not to would be ignoring a factor that has had a lasting influence on me. One other thing I learned is that some people hate for the sake of hating and fighting back will only make things worse, especially when your opponent is anonymous and ignorant.
I was targeted by a hate group last year because I defended another author they were bullying and so they turned their limited sights on me. My thread posts were reposted out of context to make me look arrogant (well, more arrogant anyway) and when I went to their blog to annoy them and play the part of bad guy, I offended other people reading and not just the perpetrators. I thought my tactics were obvious but it backfired and some people wrote me off that day without ever getting to know the truth.
We all know the truth now, that so called group was another fic author and a few followers. But it made a lot of people paranoid and ruined a lot of good fun, so I guess she got what she wanted, (except that book deal).
Yes, it still bothers me that people were willing to bash so many others just because a self-proclaimed hater told them to, but I like to think the Fandom will chase off the next one off together.
Regardless, this Fandom has brought my wife and I closer together than ever before and that alone was worth the trip. But there is so much more that we have gained during our time here. We have friends for a lifetime now, many we have met in person, and we are making more every day.
We have also been a part of many different worthwhile fundraisers and continue to be overwhelmed by the generosity by the people who call Twilight their obsession.
We are currently involved with the Fandom Against Juvenile Diabetes fundraiser and I have just completed a very original story that is told from the point of view of a house cat named Edward (an ECPOV, if you will). It’s called House Rules. Please visit the blog: firstname.lastname@example.org and donate what you can to read many, many wonderful stories from some of the best authors in the Fandom.
Our fifteen year old son has Type One diabetes, and believe me the medical field is close to finding a cure. With your help, it will happen within his lifetime.
I hope this has been an entertaining look at my somewhat foggy view as someone who could have stayed an outsider if not for all the hugs that have pulled me in. From my wife and I, thank you for that. If you do not know us, please find us on twitter and say hello (@MJLocklear and @RandomCran). We are chatty, especially with each other.
And now back to my tawdry little pirate sex romp coming soon: “Arg Isle: Search for the Treasure Trail.”
Over the weekend, we stopped by Agents of Romance and spoke more personally about living with one another as writers. You can read the full post here:
With the exception of a short story called Pirate’s Booty that I posted on this site in 2012, I have stuck to topics that revolve around the writing and editing process. I seldom referred to my own work by name; however, last Tuesday my wife and I had our first novel published and I would like to write about our experience.
Exposure was my wife’s idea. She wanted the story to be sexy but funny, and she wanted a villain you’d love to hate. She approached me with the outline and asked if I wanted to put my zombie book on hold (again) and co-author the story with her. I liked that it took place in and around a movie set and jumped at the chance to work with someone who had already proven herself as a keen writer and a ruthless editor. (I used to call her Darth Beta).
Once we were accepted by Omnific, (our first choice of publisher, and not just because they initially published Gabriel’s Inferno), we were contacted by the managing editor who immediately asked us to find fifteen thousand words to cut. Challenge accepted…we cut twenty-two. Once we got the hang of it, it was easy to see what was unnecessary versus what was supporting the story.
After our big “cutting” edit, we were assigned an editor who worked with us for the next four months to prepare the story for publication. He had us re-think almost every aspect and pushed us hard to explore all avenues, but always treated us with respect and an open mind. As a result, we are much happier with the final result than we had been when we first submitted the manuscript.
The most amazing thing about the whole process to me is the realization that only six weeks ago we added a small scene to the middle of the book. This was done to better examine a character’s response to something. The fact that some passages are two years old, while others are less than two months old, is mind boggling to me. It reads seamlessly, of course, but I’ll always know and it’s just a bizarre feeling.
Now that the book is out we are in full PR mode, but have spoken to each other about the importance of not letting our Facebook and Twitter pages become one endless plea to buy our novel. We have all had that author in our timelines who does nothing more than program “gremlins” to give themselves a shout out every thirty seconds, and it’s not an account you usually wish to continue following. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t use their social media to remind fans and friends of their projects, but it’s possible to do so without drowning them in links to Amazon.
Writing professionally is like playing poker – it’s not a single pot that keeps you in the game; it’s consistent winning. We are both already working on solo novels for publication and hope that one day we will be able to devote ourselves to the profession full-time. If not this book, then maybe the next. But, if nothing else, we are growing closer as a couple by working together, and we’re growing as writers by listening to the good advice given to us over the years.
I hope that Wordslinger has been dispensing such advice, and now I am in the position of putting my money where my mouth is. Exposure is the result of two years of work by a dedicated married couple who just wanted to produce a fun and funky read with super steamy bits and more pop culture references than an episode of Robot Chicken.
If you’ve read this column and always wondered if I follow my own advice, or if any of it will work, I urge you to let Exposure speak to the success of discipline and dedication. (As well as having a wife that writes half the book).
In closing, I’d like to share an excerpt from our novel…
We wish to begin by thanking Becca, Elli and Sue, all of whom volunteered their valuable time and talents. They read this story and provided feedback at nearly every stage in the writing process. From the beginning, their commitment and enthusiasm for this novel has been nothing less than amazing. They invested as many months into this story as we did, and did so from behind the scenes. This is why Exposure has been dedicated in their names.
Thank you to Nina for her guidance and support. She has been instrumental in the publication of this story and we extend our heartfelt appreciation. Thanks also to Mina Vaughn for generously providing advice early in the submission process. She steered us in the right direction, and we are grateful for her assistance. We also thank Carmen and Chris for their friendship and help during a critical time.
We have enjoyed our collaboration with Omnific and especially wish to thank Nina, Lisa, Elizabeth, Colleen and Kimberly for their hard work. Special thanks go to our editor, Sean, for taking us on and showing us the ropes. We consider ourselves fortunate. We’ve enjoyed working with him and everyone at Omnific and look forward to doing so again in the future.
Writing has brought us closer together as husband and wife, but also required much of our time and attention. Our friends and family deserve more thanks than we can adequately provide. Over the past four years, there were moments when those closest to us raised an eyebrow or two, but no one ever discouraged us from the journey. For that, we will be forever grateful.
Finally, we wish to thank E.L. James and Sylvain Reynard. Their stories sparked our own creativity while their friendship and support have enriched our lives. Many thanks for all they have done for us.
And of course, no list of thank you’s would be complete without thanking those of you who choose to give our book your time and attention as readers. We’re excited to finally share Exposure with you and we hope you’ll enjoy the story.
Curious to see how Exposure begins?
Our friends at Bookish Temptations have posted an excerpt from the first chapter. You can read it here: http://t.co/RUz0KXZ5xV
Also, don’t forget about our giveaway. Send your friends over to give our Facebook page a Like and enter your name into the drawing.
When we reach 1,000 Likes one lucky winner will receive a signed paperback of Exposure.
This month’s Random Fan is Terry the Nurse. We met Terry online a while ago and we were lucky enough to meet Terry in person in September 2013. If you follow the Argyle Empire blog, you will no doubt recognize Terry as author of some wonderful articles highlighting literature, music and art featured in the Gabriel Series by Sylvain Reynard. You can read one of those articles here: http://www.argyleempire.com/2013/06/why-did-gabriel-select-puccinis-madame.html
Many thanks to Terry for signing on for this experiment with us.
Terry: I’m fascinated that you two actually write together. I have a hard enough time writing on my own. Can you give us some idea how you do it?
Morgan and Jennifer: So far there’s no one formula that works best. Each project we’ve worked on has been constructed differently. Sometimes one of us writes, while the other edits.
Jennifer: In the case of our novel, Exposure, it was a true collaboration. The story idea was mine and I mentioned it to Morgan one night. He liked the premise immediately and encouraged me to pursue it, but I was hesitant to tackle it on my own for several reasons. So I asked Morgan if he would write it with me, and he eagerly agreed.
Morgan: We outlined chapters together, and then one of us would take a crack at writing the first draft. When that was done, the chapter was passed on to the other writer for additions and amendments. We also asked several trusted friends to beta read the chapters for feedback. Since there were two of us writing the story, it was critical to have some neutral sets of eyes to look over the manuscript. It helped us to know if we were hitting all the right marks in our storytelling.
Morgan and Jennifer: We know you’ve written some fabulous articles for Argyle Empire, so we’re curious to know more about your background with writing.
Terry: Thank you for the compliment. I’ve been doing expository writing for many years – mostly for magazines and/or journals that deal with nursing practice or other academic work. I am always admiring those of you who can write fiction – I have no talent in that area! My writing experience is almost entirely non-fiction, essay, or expository, which probably comes from my love for the arts and sciences. I’m a voracious non-fiction reader, too; most expository writers love to explore what they’ve learned through their reading and share it with others.
The Argyle Empire posts were particularly special to me. Not only did I want to share the multifaceted beauty of SR’s books and writing with a larger audience on line, but I also wanted to introduce some of the more artistic works (found in the books) to those who may not have an exposure to the Arts. I love pop culture, but you can see that there is something about the classics that survive time, circumstances, and cultural transformation. They are truly timeless, and I loved uncovering some of those gems in the Gabriel Series for the AE website. I hope I was able to tickle a budding interest in opera and literature for some of SR’s readers.
Terry: SR says write every day, and I know you guys do. I also know that you work, raise 2 active kids, have housekeeping duties, and have to do the cursed food shopping. I’ve always been curious how you both developed the discipline to not just say, “I’m tired. I’ll write tomorrow.” How? What inspires you to not procrastinate?
Morgan: There are months when I write every day, but then there are months when I don’t. I have discipline in bursts. It depends on whether I’m writing brand new material or editing an existing project. The new stuff comes in spurts. The seasoned stuff simmers for a while.
Jennifer: I write quite a bit for my real life job, so that helps me stay focused on the activity of it. But since my fiction writing has to take place in my off hours, I have to budget time for it. Some days this can be frustrating because I’ll be anxious to work on a scene or a chapter and there simply isn’t time. But most of the time it works well for me because I like to think about scenes quite a bit before I sit down to the computer to create them.
Morgan and Jennifer: If you could go back in time and witness any event in history, what would it be? And…would you intervene to influence its course?
Terry: I am so old that I actually did witness (as a child) the event that I believe changed the course of the latter half of the 20th century, and still reverberates today. The event is the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November, 1963. I love American history, but this one event I think changed the course of history and caused a sea change in what happened afterward. Witnessing a presidential assassination is traumatic in itself, but I believe things would have been very different had JFK not gone to Dallas that day. It is likely that we would not have had a Viet Nam war (at least not its escalation) which would have prevented the protest movements of the 1960s, our massive distrust in government, Nixon and Watergate….the list is endless. At the same time, I don’t think I would have intervened if I could. Without the antiwar movement, we wouldn’t have had the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, or many of the other social movements that came out of the 60s and that permanently changed American life. It’s an interesting way to think about the legacy of the JFK assassination.
Morgan and Jennifer: What song best describes you? Why?
Terry: I think the song that best describes me is Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger.” Ever since I was diagnosed with uterine cancer in early 2013, I’ve had to be a warrior. It’s true: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I have wonderful friends and family helping me fight the battle, but in the end, it’s all about your attitude in adversity. You just can’t let the small stuff (or the big stuff) get you down. I strongly believe that a positive attitude has a lot to do with healing from a catastrophic illness. I try to be a good example of that.
Terry: Who killed off Joffrey???? My vote is Grandmom. (Diana Rigg)
Morgan and Jennifer: We know who didn’t kill Joffrey, and that’s Tyrion. #FreeTyrion
Terry: You both have a fabulous sense of humor. Do you find that you bring that to your writing? Does it make it easier/harder?
Morgan: I can’t help it. I have always had a desire to find the levity in any situation and have always been rewarded with laughter. Jennifer’s original vision for Exposure had always included a despicable villain and a fun relatable group of main characters. People laughing together is about as relatable as it gets for me. Most of my great party observations are just me repeating something Jennifer whispered to me. She has always made me laugh, and is goodly enough to laugh in turn at my humorous antics.
Jennifer: I adore reading stories that include brilliant bits of humor. Someday I’d like to write one, but I’ll have to work up to it. Morgan’s sense of humor is one his defining characteristics and something that caught my attention almost immediately the night we met. He is extroverted and often fearless; whereas I’m more snarky and observational. Either way, we both love to laugh and I can’t imagine working on a project together and being able to completely withhold that from a narrative.
I have a much harder time editing my books than writing them. Mostly, I think it’s because I have to move paragraphs around and shuffle things around. This stresses me out to no end.
I happen to be a very linear writer. I begin at the beginning and write until the story is completed. My wife often times writes scenes out-of-order and builds the story around them. I can relate to this as a musician because many of my songs have a completed chorus before I begin working on the verses. I don’t mind working backwards with a piece of music, but fiction just has so many damn WORDS.
As much as possible it’s important to always work on the same document, but just like train yards have run off track, sometimes you’ll need a blank page to just store your unassigned segments. I believe that as long as you feel like you’re not forgetting or losing anything, you’ll have the peace of mind to work without too much tummy angst. It works for me.
Sometimes, I just want to be lazy and avoid any cut and paste scenarios, but if I work slow and use a run off track, I can make my changes and keep my sanity.
I am fascinated with authors who can write the endings of their books first. Part of me admires the skill and part of me worries that they aren’t benefitting from all the character and plot developments that become so important.
Still, I bet it was nice for J.K. Rowling to know ahead of time that she had her shit together, and I gotta respect that.
Making an outline is a fantastic way to keep you from getting too dizzy when you’re writing or editing your manuscript, and it will greatly assist you when you are putting a summary together (which you will eventually have to do if you publish).
That summary will be a lifeline when you’re story is ripped open like a toy poodle in a tiger cage and you’re wondering if you are ever going to get Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Not every story needs to be re-worked in this way, but having the ability and the fearlessness to go that deep to assist your novel will strengthen the work and present the story in the best possible way.
I keep thinking of all the ways Quentin Tarantino could have cut Pulp Fiction together. Beginning half way through and then catching us up worked great, but many movies begin at the very ending and tell the story in a series of flashbacks. Many more cut things seemingly randomly until things start to make sense.
Books are the same way, they can be manipulated to tell the story in a particular order, or from a certain point of view until you want additional information to be introduced.
Again, I like things a bit more simple, but don’t want to deny any of my books the chance to get better. So I take a deep breath and start picking apart those scenes that need extra TLC.
Fortunately for me, I have a talented and patient writing partner who can perform these acts of insanity and come out smelling like a cinnamon bun. You may also have these attributes, but you won’t know until you try.
Also, you should learn how to make cinnamon buns.
This month’s Random Fan is Tosha, who has her own online radio show called La Literati. It is a show about poetry, books and creative, inspiring people of all kinds. Morgan and I were honored when Tosha asked us to appear on the show. You can listen to our interview live on April 27 at 6:00 pm Eastern time. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about La Literati, be sure to visit at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laliteraticarpelibrum.
Many thanks to Tosha for signing on for this experiment with us.
Morgan and Jennifer: How did the La Literati online radio show come about? What do you enjoy most about the show?
Tosha: I’ve always had a passion for reading and writing. Authors and poets are truly my heroes. I wanted a way to pay tribute to the creative mind. La Literati was born out of that idea. I asked my dear friend and fellow bibliophile, James Dennard, to come along for the journey. He graciously agreed, and the rest is history.
The best part about doing the show is connecting with writers. It’s always exciting to hear their creative process. We want La Literati to not only be a platform for established authors, but also for up and coming ones.
Tosha: It’s an honor to be your fan of the month, but why not fan of the year? Can you tell me a bit about your upcoming book?
Morgan and Jennifer: Sure, thanks for asking. This summer, we will be publishing our first novel with Omnific Publishing. The book is called Exposure and is a contemporary romance set in present day Hollywood. We decided to write it together after Jennifer shared the story idea with Morgan over a date night dinner. We’d say it leans more toward the comedic than the dramatic, but there is a dastardly villain to elevate the tension and there are also some pretty steamy love scenes.
Morgan and Jennifer: Was there a particular book or a series of books that inspired your love of reading and books? Where did it all begin?
Tosha: It all started from C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia. As a child, I used to spend endless hours trying to travel through my wardrobe. 🙂 I also loved Dr. Seuss and The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner.
Jennifer: Your answer takes me back, Tosha. When I was growing up, the boy who lived next door to me was considerably older but whenever his parents babysat me, he would read to me from the Narnia books. When he graduated high school and went off to college, he gifted me with a set of my own. And my third grade teacher read The Boxcar Children to my class. Those were some of my favorite moments in childhood.
Tosha: What do you feel is the difference between male and female points of view?
Jennifer: One of the reasons I asked Morgan to co-write Exposure with me was because I had a very specific male villain in mind and I was determined to write him correctly. I knew Morgan would be more likely to tap into that male energy and help bring the character fully to life. Not to say that he strictly wrote the male characters or that I stuck to the female characters, but his input on certain reactions for the male characters in our novel was instrumental.
Morgan: Jennifer’s passes on the manuscript brought out more and more emotion and tone. The characters were well-drawn, but not yet colored and she filled them in. Once we both saw what the other was adding to the process, we both gained the ability to find places to boost the necessary aspects important to a particular scene.
Jennifer: When I’m asked a question like this, I always rely on my experience as a parent. I have a son and a daughter, and I would say there is only one major difference I’ve noticed between the two. My son tends to be frustrated or annoyed by situations. As his mother, I realized early on that if I could successfully distract him from the situation that was upsetting him, he’d quickly forget about it and move on with his day. Not so with my daughter. My daughter always becomes irritated or angry at the person(s) she feels is responsible for causing a disagreeable situation. Her reactions are always more personal than situational, and as such she usually needs to find her resolutions by discussing her feelings with the people she’s been upset by.
Tosha: You discover a beautiful island upon which you may build your own utopia. What are the first three rules you put into place?
Morgan: Everyone gets a vote. Everyone gets a chance. Everyone gets a chalupa.
Morgan and Jennifer: What author would you love to interview on your show that you haven’t had the chance to yet? Why?
Tosha: This is a tough question. There are so many!! I’m going go with Morgan and Jenn Locklear. I’m told there will be candy if I do. 🙂
Morgan: Would you settle for a chalupa?
Have you ever been reading a book and the author says the exact same thing two sentences in a row? Sure, they change some words around, maybe reverse the observational order, embellish it a little, but essentially repeat themselves. It’s just a natural instinct to be understood completely and there’s scarcely an author living or dead who hasn’t been trapped by literature’s version of the double-take.
I don’t know why this is such a subconscious temptation and even though they’re far easier to spot than typos, we let them slip by time and time again. No author wants to be pedantic, but writers are somehow blind to their existence even after the editing process. Even readers allow a certain amount of repetition, (did you notice that the first two sentences of this paragraph basically said the same exact thing)?
Reminding readers of certain facts throughout a novel is necessary, but what I’m talking about here is those horrific instances that occur right next door to each other, (or at least in the same neighborhood). Some of my absolute favorite authors fall victim to this more frequently than I would prefer, but I don’t really mind and I certainly don’t blame them. But I want to make sure I keep it under wraps in my own writing and I have a plan in place to succeed.
I have said many times in these Wordslinger posts (ironic in this moment, I know), that authors can get too close to their work and miss things. Getting other people involved to review your work, especially if they have different focus goals, is the best way to clean and clear your fiction.
Film directors and producers have long known that movies exist in three forms: the written version, the shot version, and the edited version. They recognize that these processes build on each other like Legos (SPACESHIP!) They have their individual merits, but the combined efforts and talents of people over time make the finished product.
Not surprisingly, many directors have learned to love the editing process because it allows them to change everything from tone to pacing without sacrificing the material. The same can be true for a novel. First you write it, then you re-read and re-work the entire piece, (what I call a squeegee), and finally you turn it over to social or professional editors who will begin rounds of magnification that will really start to bring out the essential soul of the book and polish the pivotal moments.
Have I ever mentioned that my wife and I read our stories out loud to each other? I hope I have because I can’t say enough how different things sound to my ears than they look to my eyes.
Even if you have betas, and editors, it is shockingly easy to miss instances of double dipping so you need to assign yourself or someone else, to look for this specifically. I’d encourage you to just spot and eliminate them as you are writing, but again I have to acknowledge the hypnotic power they have to go unseen at the time of conception.
At least when you do find them, you get to pick your favorite to keep.