I’m thrilled to announce that today’s stop on my Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour is an interview on the website Quid Pro Quills. Here’s a link to the interview – http://quidproquills.com/2015/05/20/author-interview-with-neal-abbott/. I am thankful for their help to my friend Robin Patchen for arranging this. Be sure and visit her site and pick up a copy of Bloodhound soon.
The Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour began yesterday to a rousing success. It continues today with a stop at Beth Hammond’s website. She posted an article of mine entitled “Rewriting The Classics.” Here is a link to the article https://bethhammond.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/rewriting-the-classics-guest-post-by-neal-abbott/. My thanks to Beth for helping me promote Bloodhound.
The first stop on the Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour is on Michele Mathews’s website. The article is entitled “Putting The ‘Creative’ Back In Creative Writing.” Here’s a link to the article – https://michelemathewsauthor.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/putting-the-creative-back-into-creative-writing/. I want to thank Michele for hosting my post and supporting the Bloodhound Tour!
I am thrilled to announce the launch of my ninth book and fifth novel, Bloodhound. You can find it now on Amazon and Kindle. Click this link to buy your own copy – http://www.amazon.com/Bloodhound-neal-abbott/dp/150608964X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430933263&sr=1-1
Bloodhound is the pathos of a Depression-era Oklahoma lawman, Oscar Morgan. He labors to keep himself and his reputation pure in a world of crime, even when others in the position of law and order are not themselves beyond reproach. While surrounded by meanness and cruelty, Oscar strives to remain a kind man, and in the end works toward his own redemption.
Please share this announcement with everyone.
Often the term “hero” and “main character” or “protagonist” are used interchangeably. But in truth there is very little heroic about the main characters in stories. They may be decent people who do good things, but being heroic is quite different. There needs to be a sacrifice for the greater good to be a genuine hero. Jay Gatsby isn’t a hero, and neither is Holden Caulfield. Even Leopold Bloom, who is quite explicitly based on Ulysses, is not much of a hero. So here are my favorite Top Ten list of real heroes from literature. I intentionally left out anything from the Classical Greek or Roman tales because they would obviously dominate the list.
10 Figaro from The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, and The Guilty Mother by Pierre Beaumarchais – I may be playing favorites by including this one, but Figaro may be the best character is all of literature. He tells the nobles what they need to hear and he uses his wits to get over on them.
9 Don Carlos from Don Carlos by Friedrich Schiller – The Roman Catholic King Philip II of Spain went to war against all Protestant countries since they were heretics. In the Schiller play, Philip’s son Carlos stands up to him and defends the people of Holland whom he would oppress, even though it would cost the prince his life.
8 Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – Sydney becomes a selfless hero who sacrifices himself for love as well as for the cause of revolution. You would think much of him when you see him at the beginning of the novel where he’s a selfish drunken barrister.
7 Robert Jordan from For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – We already know that Robert Jordan is heroic in his devotion to his politics and his voluntary work as a demolitionist in the Spanish Civil War working for the loyalists. But he learn to love his new family rebels and lays his life down for them to save theirs.
6 Abraham van Helsing from Dracula by Bram Stoker – You may not know that Bram is the diminutive for Abraham. Bram Stroker wrote Abraham van Helsing seeing himself as the brave hero who fights evil monsters.
5 Wilhelm Tell from Wilhelm Tell by Friedrich Schiller – The legend of Wilhelm Tell long predates the play by Schiller, but it is the stagework that stapled him down as a hero for the world to admire and not just the Swiss.
4 Hamlet from Hamlet by William Shakespeare – Hamlet never sought out to be a hero, and he clearly struggled with his responsibilities. Some think him unheroic because of his wishy-washiness, but he is the thoughtful and deliberate hero who doesn’t rush in blindly without thinking. Most other people in his place couldn’t be a Hamlet, but a maybe a J. Alfred Proofrock.
3 Beowulf from Beowulf (anon.) – This epic of unknown authorship is about a Scandinavian hero, and yet this is considered a towering work of English literature. Go figure. But no one can deny his heroism, fighting monsters and dragons, and living well by the ancient desire to seek fame.
2 Jean Valjean from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – This is the quiet hero who’s great works are unseen and unknown. His love was obvious to his adopted daughter, but his sacrifice her and her husband and for so many others is unknown until he dies
1 Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Maybe the nicest guy in all of literature. Just thinking of his greatness makes me cry. He stands against racism and other forms of showing respect of persons regardless to the cost for him.
So what do you think of the list? What would you have done differently? Who would you have included, and who would you have left out? Let me know in the Comment section below. If you want to make your own top ten list of heroes, let me know about it. Post your list in the Comments, or if your post yours online, give me the link in the Comments so that others can see your list, too. And please hare this others who love good stories and great heroes.
The Ancients believed that everything was made of four basic elements: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. These Elements were symbolic of the whole of human life and everything in society. With that in mind, Creative Writers have a template of character forms they could use to create four fully developed characters, who themselves compose a quartet of a perfect slice of humanity.
These same Ancients also believed in a fifth element that was a combination of all of the other four known as the Quintessence. So if you wish to use the four symbolic Elements in forming four characters, a good addition would be to add a fifth character – the Quintessential character.
Qualities Of The Elements
There are plenty of places to research the Four Elementals, but allow me to provide a quick rundown of what these Elements represent.
- Air – thought, reason, the higher functions of the brain.
- Earth – intuition, gut feelings, emotional responses to other things.
- Water – sentiment, nature, interconnectivity.
- Fire – impulse, pleasure, chaos.
There is certainly more that could be said, but this will suffice to get the basic points across. Like I said, there is more available to study if you so wish. But even this scant amount is sufficient for the Creative Writer who wishes to use this to form characters.
I have used this form before in more than one novel, but one work in particular structures the five main couples on this pattern. This comes from my novella, Firmament. The five main couples are Jonathan and Florida Gameret, Juan and Mariposa Tierra, Ian and Lilly Dotian, Johnny and Bryony Rivers, and Ivan and Iolanta Nyebov.
Rivers clearly refers to water, and Tierra has to do with the earth. Dotian is an old Celtic word for fire and Nyebov is from the Russian word for sky. This would imply that the Gamerets are the Quintessential couple. There surname has a different meaning (taken from Parzival). All of the men’s names are forms of the Quintessential male’s name, Jonathan. And as Florida refers to flowers, Mariposa, Lilly, Bryony, and Iolanta are all names of flowers. It also implies fertility, which is only made possible in the Quintessential couple.
The novella Firmament deals with love and strife as the two creative elements in life. This story is how all of these couple fall in love, but eventually deal with death. How one or both died again harkens back to their Elemental nature. The Tierras crash over a blown bridge on a train to the gorge floor below. Ian Dotian is blown up by a grenade. Bryony Rivers drowns in a car the goes over a bridge into a river. And Ivan Nyebov’s Russian bomber is blown out of they sky by a German fighter plane.
And of course, these characters share the qualities associated with their Element. Juan Tierra is very emotional, even to a fault. Ian Dotian was given to a chaotic life, and his wife Lilly is definitely impulsive, if not impatient. Johnny Rivers was quite sentimental about his mother. And Ivan Nyebov demonstrates great logical skills and his tendency toward deep thinking, particularly discussing politics with the tail gunner while they are on their first bombing raid.
There are a lot of forms available for developing characters in groups. I depends on how many you wish to put together and what the story demands. All good Creative Writers should appreciate the skills that go in to proper character development and take any opportunity to add to their folio anything they can. These can help us become the Quintessential Creative Writer.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you did, please hit the Like button. And if you of other authors who could use this material, please share this post with them.
Today’s we feature a guest post by Robin Patchen. She is a writer and blogger and has a new book out, Finding Amanda. You are invited to enjoy her article and explore all of her links given below.
How do most of us (note—I’m one of the us) show emotions in our stories? Often, we use physical responses. Here are a few:
- Sad—eyes filling with tears
- Angry—fists clenching or slamming stuff
- Worried—gut twisting
- Happy—smiling, grinning, laughing, chuckling, giggling
It works, it’s easy, and it makes the point. It’s perfect.
It has been said that the purpose of fiction is to evoke an emotional reaction. So let me ask you, when you read the words, “Her eyes filled with tears,” do yours? Because mine don’t. And I don’t even know what a twisting gut feels like. Those phrases may show us how your character feels, but they don’t evoke any emotions. So how do we make our readers feel along with our characters?
I don’t have a step-by-step plan. However, I have recently had an epiphany. Counselors tell us that thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions lead to actions. So what happens if you show us your characters’ thoughts and actions? Seems to me their feelings will be obvious, and you won’t need to tell us about their rumbling guts and teary eyes. And if you do it right, you can make the reader feel what your characters do. An example:
John hefted his bag and limped down the metal stairs, forcing himself not to rub that sore spot. Plenty of guys had worse injuries than his. He stared across the tarmac. A band played on the left. An array of dignitaries stood in his way. He scanned the crowd. They held signs that read Welcome home and God bless our heroes.
It was time to be a different kind of hero.
She stood beyond the suited politicians. His wife had curled her hair that day, just like he liked it. A year had passed since he’d seen her last. A year of dust and death, of protecting the innocent and chasing the guilty. A year he’d never get back.
He circled the official greeters, ignoring the protest from his colonel, and approached her. He stopped a few feet away and peered at the bundle she held in her arms. His wife shifted so he could look. Three months old. Blue eyes that looked so much like his own. Curly brown hair. The baby smiled and turned away. John returned his gaze to his wife. “He’s perfect.”
“He looks like you.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t—”
She stepped into his arms and fell against him. “You’re here now. Home and safe. That’s all that matters.”
In that scene, we read the man’s thoughts, and we see his actions. His gut didn’t twist at the sight of those dignitaries. His heart didn’t speed up as he scanned the crowd for his wife. His eyes didn’t fill with tears when he saw his child for the first time. But he did feel something. Did you?
So how did it work? A few observations:
1-Start with a character your readers care about. I took the easy road and created a wounded hero, but I only had 200 words to work with. With an entire novel and some skill, you can make your readers care about almost anyone.
2-Let the character’s thoughts reflect his feelings. He thinks about his time overseas—“A year of dust and death…” and follows it up with, “A year he’d never get back.” Do you hear regret?
3-Give us a glimpse of the character’s desire. In this case, I added that one remark—“It was time to be a different kind of hero.” Life as he knew it was not enough for John. He wanted something more.
4-Use compelling dialog. He could have said, “Hello.” She could have responded with, “How are you?” But while those ordinary expressions are realistic, they don’t mean anything. Instead, dump all the banal stuff and make your dialog reflect your characters emotions.
5-Use feelings and snapshots to set your scene. Show the scene through the eyes of your character, so his description reflects his feelings. The dignitaries weren’t just in front of him, they “stood in his way.” He immediately looked past them to scan the crowd. And if you can think of a snapshot that resonates with readers, use it. In this case, I used a welcome home reception for soldiers. I think that touches a lot of us.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to charge your scenes with emotion, but it’s a start. I challenge you to go through your manuscript and find every place you’re showing emotions through physical reactions. See where you can use description, thoughts, actions, and dialog (another form of action) to evoke that emotion instead. You probably won’t be able to rid your manuscript of every tear, but maybe if your characters cry less, your readers will cry more.
Finding Amanda links
My website: http://robinpatchen.com/
Robin’s Red Pen: https://robinsredpen.wordpress.com/
Thank you, Robin, for an excellent article. If you are also grateful for Robin and her work, please share this article with other writers who could get good use from it. And be sure to Comment in the section below for anything you wish to add. Again, congratulations to Robin on her release of Finding Amanda and we wish her the best of success with it.
This is a subject I wrote on in the past, but I want to revisit this topic because my next novel is going to be my limited effort to recreate this type of character. My novels are typically about a person who struggles between what he wants to do and what he ought to do. My next project will be about someone who fails to make the right decision and chooses what he wants to do.
Russian literature of the mid-1800s was typified by a character type known as the Superfluous Man. Russian culture and politics were then such that this Superfluous Man was an ideal form in describing the shortcomings of Russian society. And it was these realities that he exemplifies against which the soon to be coming Revolution would occur. It is possible that the Superfluous Man fed into this general dissatisfaction of the early 20th century Bolsheviks.
The Superfluous Man was based upon the Byronic hero, like Childe Harold or Don Juan. The Superfluous Man is just a general type, and while there is variety between literary characters labeled as such, just as there is variety between the code heroes of Hemingway, like Robert Jordan, Henry Morgan, or Nick Adams, there are some consistent generalities.
- He is usually a talented person born into wealth, sometimes royalty.
- He does not fit into society and who disregards social norms.
- He exhibits cynicism and existential angst.
- He indulges in vices, such as romantic affairs, gambling, and dueling.
The term came from a novella by Ivan Turgenev, The Diary Of A Superfluous Man. In it a wasteful man chronicles his last few days. One of the more prominent examples is Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, from which Tchaikovsky composed his greatest opera. Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero Of Our Time is series of five short fiction pieces, and is another popular work in this idiom. Later examples include Alexander Herzen’s Beltov and Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov.
The Superfluous Man is more than just the idle rich. He often ruins the lives of people around him just as he ruins his own. The Superfluous Man is really a good, old-fashioned morality tale. We, as both writers and readers, and better served in knowing these aspects of literature. I am challenging myself, and you fellow writers as well, to try to create a short piece of fiction with an American main character who would be called a Superfluous Man. You may compose a masterpiece, or you may stumble across an interesting exercise. Either way, such efforts would not be – dare I say – superfluous.
Let’s face it, there is a marked difference between someone telling you personally that they did not care for something you wrote and finding a negative book review in print for everyone to see. It can be quite rattling. But like it or not, life goes on. As Creative Writers we need to know the appropriate means of dealing with negative reviews.
It’s Not Just Business, It Is Personal
You may recall the scene from The Godfather, when Tom tells Sonny that the failed hit put out on their father was business and it wasn’t personal. Yet when a Book Reviewer assassinates one of our novels, they may not mean anything personal about it, but as authors we take it as personal. There’s a simple reason for that – it is personal.
I’m not saying that any Book Critic has it out for any author by posting a negative book review. But as Creative Writers who are passionate about our craft, when anyone so publicly criticizes our art, something we have poured our heart and passion into, we will take it personally. It’s like when a parent hears something bad about one of their children, it hurts badly.
There’s Something To Learn
Even though a negative Book Review may sting, remember that no one has it out for you. It’s not personal, it’s just business, as much as it may not seem that way. As authors we may love what we write, but we are always learning. No one is perfect and we can always improve. In this Book Reviews can help us, both the positive as well as the negative ones. In fact, we may learn more from negative Book Reviews than positive because our flaws are exposed.
If someone criticizes the flow of your story or the arrangement of your plot, maybe that is something you need to improve upon. Possibly someone doesn’t like how you lay out dialogue or your choices for characters’s voices. Maybe you didn’t know of these flaws, but now you do because of a negative Book Review. There’s always something to learn.
How To Console
If the get a bad review, the worst advice is “just get over it,” “move on,” or, “that’s just one person’s opinion.” You don’t deal with a negative Book Review by ignoring it. You read the criticism as one eager to learn and improve. And as hard as it may be, try to keep yourself distant from the critique. It is so easy to get mad and take it personally. Just don’t do it.
Give the Book Reviewer the benefit of the doubt that they have everyone’s best interest at heart, both the readers but also you as an author. You may in the end disagree with someone’s assessment and evaluation, but first you need to fairly read what they have to say. You just may learn something and come out on the other end of things a better Creative Writer. Be thankful for negative Book Reviews.
Novelists dare a danger few could stomach. They put themselves out there with no protection in the middle of a field with sharp rocks. And sometimes a person will pick up one of those rocks and throw it. And it hurts.
We are dependent upon good word-of-mouth to create a buzz for our books. But the same thing that can help us can hurt us: bad word-of-mouth. And yet, we as writers are out of control about what people say and write about our work.
One of the sharp rocks that can do the most damage is a poor book review. And more than to our hoped for ground swell, it can do great harm to our fragile psyche as an author. And recovery from such can be arduous.
It’s Not Just One Person’s Opinion
Maybe the worst advice you can give someone who has been given a poor review of his novel is “Don’t worry about it because it’s just one person’s opinion.” Authors know how false this is. A person who reviews books is not like some nobody from nowhere who scribbles a two sentence review on Amazon or Goodreads. As writers we love these, but they do not carry the heft of someone who puts themselves out there as a Book Reviewer.
The Book Critic comes to conclusions, but it’s more than just an opinion worth no more or less than anyone else’s. Book Reviewers apply a certain criteria for judging a book. They do more than apply a surface reading. And even though their review may be subjective, it is much heavier than just one person’s opinion.
Author’s need to keep this in mind. Anyone Creative Writer who dismisses a poor review just because it’s one person’s opinion will accomplish no more than sweeping the problem under the rug. Writers cannot afford to have their heads in the sand when it comes to their writings and what readers think, especially Book Critics. Dismissing them and their review fails to address what needs to be addressed.
One Becomes Many
Book Critics are credible, like it or not. One review from a Book Critic can have as much impact as a dozen reviews on Amazon from casual book readers. The review of a Book Critic can never be dismissed as one person’s opinion because their one opinion will like become the opinions of several of not many.
The best thing we can do is write and keep on writing and always do the best we can and continually improve. We need to give our readers the best product we can string up, but we also need to do our best knowing Book Critics may get their hands on it, as well.
Criticism & Literary Preferences
There are several genres and many styles of writing and a multitude of preferences. Sometimes a Book Critic may read a very well written novel, but it’s simply not in their wheelhouse. Nothing can be done about that because, well, to put it politely, there’s no accounting for taste.
I write Literary Fiction. If there is a Book Reviewer who does not read Literary Fiction, there’s a very good chance they may not give anything of mine a good review. For example, my Literary fiction would never include any shiny vampires, teenaged wizards, or hunky and brooding werewolves. And if I were a Book Critic, I would probably not give a good review to anything written with these, even though they are all quite popular now.
Keep in mind that all of the greats have been panned at one time or another. The Great Gatsby was dismissed by many in its day. Led Zeppelin never had a critically acclaimed album and only one top ten single hit. Even Shakespeare had those who hated his plays. Maybe the Book Reviewer who gave a poor review to your book just doesn’t get you or your writing. If someone pans your novel in a Book Review, it just may be that what you write is not their personal preference for reading.
I’ll have more to say on this in my next post. This is hardly all that could be said on the matter of dealing with negative book reviews. I hope this is a start.