Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Narrative Mode ~ #14 Arthurian Legend

Okay, so I thought I was finished with the narrative frameworks, but it turns out I am not.  A few more have come to mind.  Arthurian Legend is a great one to consider as the mythology is quite fluid with a variety of shifts that change who is related to whom and the motivations behind their actions.  T. S. White did a lovely extrapolation of the story behind Arthur with The Once and Future King. But limiting yourself to just Arthur in the height of his kingship leaves plenty to work with, though the early days before he became king are also chock full of opportunity for creating a story about a young boy unaware of his parentage being cared for by a foster father and annoyed by his foster brother as he learns the rules of engagement, be it knighthood, business or modern politics.  However, I am going to focus on the adult Arthur as a framework.
  • A man strong in power and human understanding wants to bring peace to the hierarchy he leads.  
  • He has a beautiful wife and many trustworthy friends who will lay their life down to protect and support him.  They believe that he can shape their world into a place where they all can prosper.
  • But there are undercurrents, past deeds and associations which are at work to pull his kingdom (company, position of authority) down or at least replace him.  The child he had with another woman wants to be recognized as the true heir.  The child's aunt would do anything to undermine Arthur, place the now grown illegitimate son in control and gain power herself through manipulation.
  • Then there is the faithful, most trusted among his supporters who is in love with Arthur's wife.  Does she return the sense of connection or control her desire?  Does it get to be too much for them both?  Do they actually remain true to Arthur despite what others believe and their own strong feelings?
  • When Arthur is forced to face the fact that his wife and his best knight have a long term relationship (you define its actual limitation), he must respond as the others close to him expect and in the action also deal with the insurrection brought on by his son and his half sister.
There is plenty of room in this framework to write in most any genre.  In science fiction, Arthur can be the captain of a ship, the leader of a colony, a business mogul.   A romance novel could just as easily work.  The shift could be made to highlight the wife and the lieutenant as they work through their feelings and their loyalty to Arthur.   A contemporary novel could fly with it as well in the business world or on a ranch.

Key point to remember in the Arthurian Legend is the fact that he is a good man with a difficult job who honestly cares about the people he leads, and what makes him great is also what makes him vulnerable.  He would rather take the bullet than have someone else suffer.  It is his flaw as much as his finest quality.

 The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.
                                                                                • Then there are the other men who pride themselves on their

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No further Tuesday prompts

For the past two years, and then some, I have been supplying a Tuesday writing prompt.  I was once told I was wasting my time having a prompt each week, but I knew how much my students needed those little boosts to get them started, I felt that translated well here.  However, over the time that I have been doing this and visiting Twitter and other sites, it has been made very clear that for those searching for inspiration, there are plenty of prompts out there.  This is not the go-to place.  Perhaps if I had provided a daily prompt, I would be looking at this differently, but that is not the case.  So no more prompts as of yesterday. 

On the other hand, I do still want to focus on the variety of writing, writing tools and aspects of writing.  So with that in mind, let's talk about flash (or instant) fiction, the short, short.

I love this style of writing because it is so immediate and so open to providing a single deep impression.  So what is basic to the flash fiction model?  Knowing where to cut the plot line is crucial. You only get 250 to about 700 words to work with, so you must cut to the meat of your story.
  • Leave off the exposition, the initiating action and even the complication.  Start in the trouble, the crucial decision moment. 
  • End at or just before the conclusion with no wrapping it up.  Let your conclusion be inferred -- without being obvious.  Let the reader think it through, the implications developing as the story is reviewed or reread. 
  • Once the story starts in the action just prior to the climax, bring up the pitch in the question being asked or the tipping moment of shifting gears. 
  • Then tumble the reader off the cliff or up the mountain. 
It is very simple and ridiculously complex.   

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wrapping up Narrative Modes

For the last thirteen weeks, I have been presenting the various modes one can design a story or novel around.
Using strong foundation stock.
Some are common traditional modes, such as the Heroic Journey, Faustian Legend, Cain & Abel, the Christ Figure, Coming of Age, the Dream Vision and the Frame Narrative.  There are others which are more directly related to authors' well-known works: Hemingway's Code Hero, Heinlein's Three-stage Character and Shakespeare's Hamlet.  Fairy tales had a few to offer, and several more than I mentioned:  Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast the most common.  The prose essay format is a new form, most notably first used by Virginia Wolf.

The purpose in bringing them up and outlining them as I have, is to remind any writer that our readers often enjoy a tale as much for the author's unique style and the genre as they do for the return to a format we love to read again and again in its traditional form or a modified version that surprises us with a new twist.  These narrative modes make great bones for our imagination to flesh out and clothe in fresh linen.

And mixing them up is not such a bad idea.  Throw together a Heroic Journey with Cinderella or write a Coming of Age novel in the form of a prose essay.  Those too are out there (take a close look at Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), and those mixes add increased complexity to the story and still maintain familiarity for the reader.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday prompt: #20 2013

Flipping the image.
Think about your best friend and then make a list of all his or her qualities, good and bad.  Make it a nice long list, say twenty items.  Make a second list with the opposite qualities.  Now write about this person who would probably not make the best friend for you, but he or she would be someone's, so give this character a friend in this writing practice.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Narrative Mode: #13 Beauty and the Beast

I cannot say I saved the best for last, but I can say this is one of the most familiar of the narrative modes.  Everyone knows this story, but we love the ones we're familiar with, so it is not one to ignore.  Beauty and the beast: a simple story of redemption, forgiveness and true love.  As familiar as it is, one cannot claim it is simple.  Look at the requirements.
  • A young beauty who gives without reserve and is appreciated by her parent but mistreated by others close to her.
  • A father who cannot fulfill the exterior needs of his children though he does supply that which none can live without: love
  • Difficulties which make the young beauty and her father falter and fear they may not survive economically, spiritually or physically if things go on.
  • Opportunity to gain what is needed either through outside pressure to agree to an unsatisfactory contract, one that involves the daughter as servant or companion to a person or creature recognized as dangerous, unrelenting, unforgiving and cruel or through being driven by need to apply for a position with those same characteristics.
  • Refusal and then acceptance when there is no other solution.  The young beauty must sacrifice her happiness to save her father.
  • She gets to know the monster who holds the power over her and her father's chances for  survival.  And he gains understanding, even appreciation for her kindness, constant forgiveness and obvious personal strength.
  • He risks her denial of him as a worthwhile individual, while struggling for his own self-acceptance.  She guides him out of his imposed purgatory (self-projected or a judgement placed on him by another force).  He reveals the person he has been desiring to be: good, kind, worthy of love.
  • The other shoe drops: he is running out of time and she needs to return to a much greater obligation than being his companion.  
  • Another sacrifice: only this time it is his.  He must give up his chance for redemption to prove his love for her (unselfishly, and outside of her awareness) by releasing her from the agreement seemingly temporarily though he is aware that it is permanent if she leaves.
  • She leaves and realizes, perhaps too late, that he needs her for his own survival.
  • Acceptance, redemption, happiness.
 The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuesday prompt: #19 2013

What is under the surface of the water?
Write about what is under the surface of things.  Below ground, below the skin, below normal, below zero, below the murky film of a puddle, below the big toe of your right foot or his right foot, beneath her eyes, under the tongue, below the top level of meaning in the words "I'm sorry," under the surface of sadness, loneliness, madness, crassness, below the surface of the sound of a cockroach clutching at the silky sheen of bedsheets.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

News: In Times Passed is back at Smashwords

Back in September I took my first novel in the Students of Jump series out of publication to make some additions to the text and finish some small cleanup. Life was very busy: teaching always keeps my personal life on hold from September to May each year. But I still managed to complete the draft on the second book in the series, No-time Like the Present and worked on In Times Passed to get it back into circulation.

Which brings me to now.  I uploaded the updated version last week and have waited until now to announce it because I wished to wait till the book was reviewed and placed in the Premium Catalog which will make it available at other e-book sellers.

Summer is coming; I feel it flutter behind my heart, which means I will be writing again.  I can now prepare the second book for upload which should occur by July 2013 and begin the redraft of book 3, Time on my Hands.

L. Darby Gibbs's Smashwords Author Profile:
See my book page to sample or purchase In Times Passed:

Or see my book page to sample or purchase my anthology Gardens in the Cracks & Other Stories:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Narrative Mode: #12 Personal prose narrative

When using this narrative style, it is important to understand the prose essay form first.  Once you have that clear, shifting it to a fiction story is fairly easy.  It is the first persona viewpoint taken to a new level. 

So first let's examine the prose essay.
  • In this essay type, you write about several related topics and how they intersect in a highly internal and personal way.  So for example, you might write about your first car, focusing on facts, qualities and use of this vehicle.  
  • But wound among those facts and features will also be islands of personal experience and connection to what it means to have a first car. You would include both the moments that gave you great personal satisfaction as well as those moments that may have been frightening, the results of less than perfect driving or the imperfect reliability of a used vehicle.
  • These islands would draw the reader in to such a point that he or she might forget entirely what the original focus was, but that is the magic of the personal prose essay, for ultimately you must bring the reader back to the original line of examination: the carburetor or those new bucket seat covers.  And you must slide her out again into another personal moment.
  • In the end, the entire work should create an understanding, a journey of epiphany that the reader has taken with the writer. 
So how does this style work in fiction?  This is not a plot directed story, for it is bound up in the personal process of growth in the character.   The narrative voice must be strong, it must be willing or ultimately able to share its greatest fears and triumphs in the course of the life events the character reveals, and it must feel authentic.  Examples:  Heinlein did it with Podkayne of Mars, and Kathryn Stockett did it with The Help.

The personal prose narrative is more than first person.  It is a close writing that pulls the reader into a sort of Siamese twin connection with the speaker.  The reader doesn't argue about how she would do things differently.  The reader understands every feature of it, the choices the character made, and sympathizes and laughs with her.  It is a very private way of writing where plot is less important than the scope of the experience shared.

 The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.