S is for so many things…
Sin #18: Lots of things beginning with S
Ok, S is an excellent letter…not only does Steven start with an S – but so do fun words such as sun, sea, sex, and most words uttered by a Yorkshire man such as myself:
S’funny, s’unfair, s’over there, s’ten past five.
So on and so on.
So in order to prevent myself from having to pick from the myriad of literary based words beginning with S, I present to you – the biggest effin’ blog post I have ever done! S’huge!
Setting is the place and time in which your story is set. This may be as simple as the present day in the city you live in (pretty easy to research), or it may be set on a distant planet and ten thousand years in the past (a bit of a bugger to research). Did you spot the common link?
That’s right – research. Regardless of the setting you use, it is pretty much a given that you will have to perform some sort of research. While you might not have to get every single detail right, it is nice to be as accurate as possible. Although I suppose that’s one of the benefits of writing fiction – the power to bend reality to our will.
Now I know there will be certain people out there right now, holding your hands up and trying to dismiss my idea of research entirely. Yes, you there – with the face.
JEFF: “My novel is set in a completely fictional location, so I don’t need to do any research.”
Yes, you do snotface.
JEFF: “What did you…”
Shutty. It doesn’t matter if the setting you use is a figment of your imagination or not, unless you’re some kind of supercomputer then you WILL need to do some research. In fact if you’re starting from scratch you’re pretty much going to be world building…and that’s not a fancy expression – it really means building an entire world! Geography, politics, sociology, science, history all need to be conjured from thin air. Sure you can borrow from the real world but if you do that too much then what’s the point in having your own world? How do people live in your world? How do they act? Do they work? Does everyone speak the same language the planet over? Just think how complicated even a small portion of our world is…now times that by infinity and that’s the workload you’ve just created for yourself…fictional setting boy.
JEFF: “Bum clouds.”
Short stories are exactly what they sound like. Stories that are short(er than novellas and even shorter than novels). A short story is typically considered to be anywhere between 1,000 and 20,000 words. Anything shorter is known as flash fiction.
Now I know there are people out there that avoid writing short stories. They consider them a bit pointless when they have an important novel to write. To those people I say…actually I better not say those kinds of things online, at least not in the way I want to…allow me to paraphrase:
“Are you mad? Since when is writing of any kind a waste of time?”
We’re all writers (or aspiring writers if you prefer the term) and as such we should be – well, writing! It’s the same principal as running (yeah, I’m a real fitness freak…pffft), while it might seem a good idea to run a marathon every month – it would certainly keep you fit – think of all the ‘fun’ you could be having going on a short jog every morning! It tones different muscles, it gets you used to running in different environments, and it sets you off on a nice regular routine.
The same goes with writing! Penning a short story can really help a writer learn rules and form, and the same bloody stuff you expect to learn whilst writing the next great novel. Writing a short story is no easier than writing a ninety-thousand word novel. Sure, it might be nine times smaller – but you still have to have a beginning, middle and an end. It still has to make sense, contain conflict, follow the basic rules of story writing – but with the added pain in the arse of having to do this with fewer words!
Writing short stories is an excellent way of honing your craft, and can be very rewarding. The pleasure you get from polishing a final draft of a story is the same regardless of length. It’s not the size that counts, it’s the way you use the words. Or so I’m told.
So pick up that pen, put away your novel for a while and try a short story on for size!
Subplot involves minor storylines which run parallel to the main plot of your story. These storylines will likely mirror, or reinforce, the main conflict which is present in a novel. They may complicate things for the MC, or distract them from their original goals. Whatever the reason, they will be smaller, possibly independent plot lines, which may or may not converge with the main plot. They should however have some relevance to your story.
A novel may begin with a main plot and develop subplots, or it may begin with several subplots which converge to form the main plot. There is no right way, it’s dependant on the author. One such author who is excellent at bringing various subplots together is Dean Koontz (my favourite writer). The way in which he can keep you interested in so many stories at once only to bring them together in an incredibly satisfying way is…breathtaking.
Your subplots should be woven into the fabric of your novel so that they become part of the overall structure, whether they help, hinder or inform subplots are an excellent literary device and one I shall be exploring in later posts.
Sequels are continuations of an existing story, which follow on from the original plot. These may be planned, and part of a series of books, or they may be (as most are nowadays) a ridiculous way to cash in on past success.
Don’t get me wrong, I love sequels…generally. Out of all the books I look forward to reading sequels hold the most promise for me. Don’t ask me why – you think after all the times I had been disappointed with them I would have given up by now!
Whether you like them or not, sequels are big business and it is an unfortunate truth nowadays that publishers will typically push for a sequel to any book – whether it should have one or not. This is just my opinion, so if any publishers (or others) care to disagree, I won’t stand in your way.
I believe the best sequels are the ones that are planned in advance. When a writer knows they will continue the story into a second book before they’ve even finished the first. This is pretty logical – if a writer knows they are writing a sequel they can mould the first book to suit. They can adapt the storyline so it can be segmented over numerous books without losing anything when the novels are read as standalone books.
Suspension of disbelief is the reader’s willingness to set aside preconceptions and truths in order to accept something an author tells them. For instance a reader may accept that certain supernatural creatures exist or that the MC has invented a time machine. All fair enough, especially if you like reading that kind of thing.
Writers should be careful however, not to push a reader too far.
FRED: “With my time machine complete I can go back and save my dead goldfish!”
(reader: “fair enough, I do like a bit of time travel”)
JEFF: “Well if my arch-nemesis is going back in time then I too shall invent a time machine, just to piss him off”
(reader: “Hang on, what? Oh, ok I suppose it makes the story interesting”
DEAD GOLDFISH: “Well if those two are jumping around in time and space, I’m going to ask FishGod for my own time machine”
(reader: “Oh, sod this!” *flings book into a wormhole*)
S’enough for now, my brain is frazzled from all this thinking! Until tomorrow, people!