Saturday, September 21, 2019

Developing Plot Lines

This month's topic is about plots and how they are developed: from personal experience, imagination, or research? For me, as I believe it is for most authors, it is a combination of all three with maybe more stress on one than the others during particular scenes.

In my case, the plot for a story develops from imagination, but this is often based on research supporting different aspects of the setting—especially with science fiction and fantasy features of most of my stories. I do use
personal experiences, although a lot of them come from interactions with others and I use my knowledge of their tribulations or achievements to add drama to a story.

Most often I hope my plot is tightly bonded to the setting, as setting often influences the story's progression. I base my science fiction on imaginative settings developed from some knowledge of science combined with some fanciful ideas about where known science and society might take humans. For one of my science fiction novels, I had to research the possibility of bio-forming a planet, how it could possibly be done and how long it might take. Because of scientific speculation, many have the idea that humanity will eventually move to distant off-world places. This was also the case with developing super soldiers for two stories. It turned out these soldiers were too dangerous to keep but too valuable to destroy, so they ended in cryogenic containers as property rather than people.

On the other hand, the often dual part of the scifi/fantasy genre, fantasy, is often based on a historical settings, which also takes research.

I’ve written contemporary stories, and some might think them easier to write, but contemporary society is fast-moving and under constant change. Remember how Jane Austin wrote a contemporary romance that evolved into historical romance? While the purpose behind the plot may be easier to develop, realism comes from investigating locations, weather, travel, housing, and fashion. Plus police departments operate differently from location to location. In the United States, every county of every state has its own local laws. These cannot contravene state or national laws, but they can affect a plot.

The important part of the plot is the story's purpose, the difficulties in reaching it, and the ultimate outcome. Reactions between characters produce the drama and
impulsion contained within the plot, which is where personal experiences often become important.

A plot with a strong purpose, an accurate or at least believable setting, and realistic characters all work together to create a good story and are all dependent on my willingness to research, and then use my imagination and experience.

Please visit the following authors to read their take on the subject:
Margaret Fieland
Victoria Chatham
Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Diane Bator
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

What Makes Reading Hard?

Easy Reading is damn hard writing.
Nathanial Hawthorne
I love reading, love both fictional and non-fictional stories, love finding information, but along the way I've found some reading excruciating to understand. If you've ever tried to read the 'read this' agreement on all types of Internet usages, you know what I mean. Mix legalese terminologies into any text and you have loads of readers who just won't.

Terminology and how it is used is one of the biggest problems in text readability. With thousands of words, some remain unknown to most readers. Do you know what the words thole, opusculum, moiety, or fantod mean? They have all been Merriam Webster Word of the Day words. I must admit I was not familiar with these words' meanings. Unfamiliar words make reading hard. If it slows my reading, it might make me close the book. 

Like law, every business has terminology associated with the business. If you are in the business, you have no trouble reading articles or magazines devoted to that business. Those unfamiliar will have to thole through the reading.

Have I used unusual terminology in my stories? Yes. Usually, I follow with a short phrase of definition, but in science fiction, I've occasionally made-up words. In those instances, I try to make it clear what the word means by how it is used. 

How sentences and paragraphs are organized is also important to easy reading. Paragraphs lasting a page or more or very long sentences can diminish a reader's interest in reading.

The time frame of the author and when they wrote their story or essay also affects readability. Writings from long ago put sentences together differently, slowing down and confusing the modern reader. Constant use of passive sentences and old-fashioned phraseology makes reading difficult and often bore readers (a major sin for an author).

Okay, so poor grammar and mechanics makes reading difficult, too. Misused homonyms, misplaced modifiers, and overuse of particular words affect readers, but this is why repeated editing is so important.