View Full Version : Week 2: Inside The Novel

Amber Grosjean
March 8th, 2010, 12:24 AM
Now that we're beginning week two, we can discuss the actual novel.

Because the average novel consists of 60,000 words there are a lot of things that will be going into it. That means there's a lot to cover this week so let me know if I go too fast. Remember, all the threads will remain here so you can go back to it as often as you want. Please enjoy and comment (or ask questions) whenever you'd like, even if it was from last week's lessons.

To begin, let's go further with the characters.....

Tags help you define characters with using the telling part and makes showing so much easier for you and the readers. For instance, your character is a smoker. Tags for this character will include......the act of buying cigarettes, lighting up, buying a lighter, asking someone for a cigarette or light, the act of complaining when a place doesn't allow smoking, emptying an ashtray several times, having fingers that are turning yellow slightly on the skin, having clothes with the scent of smoke, and more. Just mentioning that he or she smokes will not work, show the reader in the act of being a smoker and it will be more real for the reader.

Another person whose nervous will have different tags showing this type of character. This includes.....looking at the time whether its a watch or a clock several times, twiddling fingers or twirling hair, chewing their nails, smoking could be a sign of being nervous if he or she doesn't normally smoke, moving around a lot, sweating, and more.

When using conversations, keep them short and flowing. When you spied on people, did you notice how their conversations were simple? They didn't tell each other their whole backgrounds so why should you? Find another way to introduce their backgrounds. And you don't have to paint the whole picture, allow the reader to use his or her imagination by giving them enough clues to see their own picture. And show, don't tell works really well on that.

Here's a lesson for you to try out. Spend the day paying attention to your own actions. What "tags" would you use to show your personality? Let's share your list here. We're going to have a few assignments this week since there's so much to cover and if you're participating, I'd love to see what you're coming up with. You're all welcome to post your finished assignments in the threads so we all can learn more. Some learn by seeing, some learn by doing like I do. Let's help both types of people here.

Thank you. See you soon!


Amber Grosjean
March 8th, 2010, 08:15 AM
Every story has to have a climax. Sometimes you can make more than one to keep the story flow.

A climax is when your hero and villian are face-to-face, in battle so to speak. These two people or characters don't even have to be 2 seperate people either. Your character can be battling within his/her own mind.

The top of the climax should be the greatest where your reader's heartbeat is truly beating fast with your characters. The challange should be great but not too much where the character can't handle it. He or she may think they can't handle it though just like in real life. We are all faced in obstacles--nothing is handed to us and its the same in a novel.

If its too easy for your character to achieve the goals in the story, the reader will close the book and then tell their friends not to read--no one wants that. So build tension in the story, where your two character face each other often. Never keep the tension the same though because you don't want to become predictable. The climax is part of the plot so make sure it flows together and keeps a good pace remembering real time does work in stories. So if two scenes are occurring at the same time, make sure they work together properly.

The plot is the actual story line. Without this, there is no story. How ever you tell your story, it must move it forward. Everything you put into the story like the characters, scenes, etc must move the plot (or story) forward as well. There needs to be at least one main plot but you can have more than one going on at the same time if you'd like.

The plot and climax must work with the genre and background for the story as well. Remember to be realistic in the story. Even when the story is fantasy with alien worlds that don't exist, it should make sense. That means, you would build a world by developing characters, scenes, plots, and more. If your character is a hero by nature, he's not going to run away from a burglar, he's going to stay and fight back--that makes sense and is realistic. But if this same hero knows he's unable to win realistically, he may have an alternative idea plotting away in his mind.

If that's the case, you need to work out a way for it to make sense to the reader like showing him setting up a trap like in "Home Alone". Yes, Kevin would be the hero in that story. The climax in the story would be each time the bandits try to break into the house and getting beat up by a child. Each climax is a little stronger as it builds to the end of the story keeping people on the edge of their seats. That's what you need to do with your story.

Now try to imagine how the same exact story (Home Alone) would play out if it were on a farm. It wouldn't make sense now would it? That's why its important to keep the scenes, characters, and plot all in sink of each other.

All right, here's the assignment for this part of the week's lesson. You could either choose your own life as practice or try to start your novel for this. Create a plan. You already know your character and how to show his/her personality from last week's lesson. Now put your character in a scene that makes sense and build the tension between that character and another. Make sure this tension fits the story question that you'd like to use. This is the obstacle that's in the way of your character from achieving his or her goal. Be realistic. Don't force the character, let it be natural. Add tags, and remember show, don't tell. It can be a small or big climax, your decision.

See you soon with your work!


March 9th, 2010, 01:40 AM
Just a quick hello - I've been following along - this is a nice refresher course for me. Keep up the great work!

Amber Grosjean
March 9th, 2010, 12:00 PM
Thank you. I'm glad you're following. Here's the next phase for week 2. Scenes.......

When building a scene, remember to keep it real and keep it with the flow of the story. There are many ways to create a scene. There's a "fly by" which means you're only mentioning a few things because the character is moving, literally. When you're in a car, driving or riding, what do you notice? You're not going to see everything as you go by. You're not going to pay attention to the clouds, birds, a small bunch of beautiful flowers, etc. You might notice the trees, a sign at the side of the road, etc.

Another way to get the scene is through conversation. Keep it real though. Keeping with the car scene lol, you may have your character mention that its a nice day. Well now your reader knows the sun is shining, the season is in its peak, etc.

And then there's the scene that you control which is usually the one that gets used the most. But don't over do it. Every once in a while throw in something different or change how you describe this type of scene. Once you become predictable its over.

The scene should match the era you're in first of all. If you're in mid-century where there's dragons and young maidens, your scene is probably going to be a meadow, courtyard, pit, dungeon, etc. If you're in New York City, you're not going find those things so choose your words carefully. Do some research on the area you plan on using for your story. Use some real places if you want to. It does help put your reader in the story if they have been to that place and they will read the story with more passion.

Don't ever use repetition for anything. If you already mentioned someone is wearing red gloves that fit tightly, you don't have to say it again. You can just say, she rubbed off her gloves before eating dinner. Using rubbed in the sentence may say how tight they are. But back to the scene. If she's having dinner, where is she? Is she outside or inside? What's outside the window she's sitting beside. Does she even notice the window? Her back might be against the window. There may be a fiddle being played. What does it sound like? Remember to use all the senses. Find a unique way to describe things. You don't have to use words for their traditional meanings but make sure it makes sense to be used like that. Drive doesn't have to be with a car. She drove the steak into his heart meaning she did it hard.

There's always going to be a scene. That's where the character is at all times. Whether its in the shower, the car, a room, a store of some kind, outside somewhere, outer space, or where ever. Use your imagination. And then use your imagination in describing it. And that depends on the how you're telling the story.

Keep in the voice you're using for telling the story. Are you telling the story through your main character? Ok, pretend you're that character. How do you see your world. The attitude of that person will define what he/she sees. If he or she is short, there may be things he or she can't see so keep that in mind while describing things. Remember show don't tell. If you're in the clouds, reveal pretty much everything when its merited. Meaning, only when you need to. If it fits the mood, use it.

It also depends on the speed of the story at that point how you reveal the scene. If you have already been in that room and went through what it looked like, don't repeat it again. The reader will know when you say Donna walked into the library. You already mention what this room looked like and that the old book scent filled the air. So Donna walks into the air and takes a deep breath taking in the scent. This will tell your readers she likes that smell.

If you're in a fight scene, use the fly by scene because the characters are moving fast. Not everything is going to be important.

Now here's an assignment. Sit down and look around you, where ever you're at. What is in the room with you. How would you describe this room to a blind person. Being who you are, what is the first thing that draws your eye. Now share it with us.


Amber Grosjean
March 10th, 2010, 05:03 PM
The difference between the two: Dialogue is spoken in one way or another. Monologue is thoughts and are in italics.

When two people are talking to each other, keep sentences short, adding some longer sentences are fine. While characters are speaking to each other, add actions as well. Remember, when I asked you to eavesdrop? Use what you learned for this. Were they sitting down? While they were sitting down or standing, dancing, etc; were they touching each other, drinking, eating, etc. Were they looking at each other or at something else?

Remember to use the senses. How was the tone in their voices as they spoke. Body language. Did they look like they wanted to be there, talking to each other?

Now create your own conversation for the story using that idea. Of course, make it work for your story though. If your character has an accent, or stutters, you can mention it instead of trying to show it, esp if it is stuttering. Something like that may be annoying for a reader, trying to figure out what you're saying. Something are meant to be told and not shown. As a writer, you need to know when the right time is. And each story will be different. If it makes sense to you, follow your gut. The more you write, the more you will learn to see the signs. Also join writing groups where you can read others' works. Seeing how they write may help you as well.

When you do monologue, you are inside the character's head. This is something that the other characters cannot hear so remember this. Keep this realistic as well. An opinion may be something your character thinks. And it is okay to have your character talking to himself/herself. It is natural for people to talk to ourselves. Keep it realistic as well.

Your own life determines how realistic things are so use your own judgment on things. Your experience in life guides your writing--the choices you make for words, characters, etc. I can't tell you how to make those choices. Only you can do that because my choices would be different than yours.

He said, she said..... I have mentioned this before. You don't have to say this all the time. When two people are speaking and there's no one else in the room, you may already know who's talking and when. Using suggestive terms like Maddy caught the ball will help show who's speaking when someone says, "You're throwing too hard. Slow down." When you use action with the dialogue, use it in the same paragraph. Which ever part is being responded to, use it last in the paragraph.


Sarah held her book up for Cathy to see. "This is what I'm reading now."

"I've never read that book before. What is it about? Can I see it?"

Sarah hands over the book. "Its a good story. I think you'd like it."

Notice how Sarah didn't tell her what the book was about? As a writer, you can still have her tell her about the book. If that's the way you'd like to go, "What is it about?" would be the last part being spoken.

When there's more people in the conversation, you will be using their names a little more plus actions to keep the confusion down. Don't do one thing too often though. Keep it balanced.

Ok, assignment time. Come up with a two person conversation and try adding a third person somewhere in the middle. Don't forget about the scene. It can be part of the conversation or be blended in between conversation parts. Try a little monologue in there as well.

Then come in a share it with the group.


Gwyn Lacy
March 10th, 2010, 10:18 PM
Hi Amber,
Wow! What great information! I'm having to start writing my novel from today. The past week has passed (sparing you the details) and I have to begin where I am at. I've read all your posts and have done most of the work. How do you want us to share with the group? Post excerpts? Or just post how we are doing with word count and dialogue and monologue and tags? By the way, thanks for this seminar!

Amber Grosjean
March 10th, 2010, 11:16 PM
You're welcome and thank you, Gwyn.

Excerpts would be good. It gives everyone a chance to learn by seeing. Start a new thread using the title of the story you're working on and the genre.

Everyone has their own voice and tone but reading other people's stories is one good way to learn how to put your own voice into action. We're going to learn about editing next week so this will be something good for the others.

Also, sharing the "assignments" would be something worth adding as a different thread. Anyone is welcome to share what they've done with their own stories and practice.


March 11th, 2010, 12:48 AM
Hey Amber.

This is really great info.

Where do you want us to share our little assignment conversations? In this thread or are going to create a new one for them?

Amber Grosjean
March 11th, 2010, 01:10 PM
I can make a new thread for them. Be sure to include what the assignment was so people can follow it. Thank you!!


Amber Grosjean
March 11th, 2010, 02:37 PM
Ok, I've mentioned repetition before. It's very important that you don't repeat yourself. This includes using the same words constantly. If you have already started writing your novel, great. Congrats! Now go through it before you write another word and see how many times you use any specific word.

Words like the, and, he, she, they will be used a lot so don't worry about those for now. Sometimes combining a sentence will eliminate the purpose of some words being used too many times. If it makes sense to do that, go ahead. He and she can also be eliminated that way if you'd like.

Publishers don't like repetition just so you know ahead of time. Of course, sometimes you want it there to show importance. In those cases, be sure to use it sparingly.

That's why its important to have a dictionary and thesaurus handy in your work area. You will use it often. When I say often, I mean all the time lol. If you can use another word that means the same thing, use it instead of repeating one word or another.

While you have your story open, write down all those words that you use a lot of and share it with us on the sharing thread. We can then discuss which of those words are ok or which words can be used instead of them. That's your assignment for today.

Good luck and have fun. Don't get discouraged though. I even have trouble with repetition. I've been writing since I was 11 and I'm still learning. If I can learn, so can you. That is why you're here, right?


March 11th, 2010, 08:26 PM
I gave the assignment my best shot. Hope it's OK!

Amber Grosjean
March 11th, 2010, 09:14 PM
And I think you did a good job. There were a few things that I commented on so you may check it out.


March 11th, 2010, 09:17 PM
I saw the comments. This week's assignment really helped.

March 11th, 2010, 09:18 PM
Can't wait till next week. But what I do want to know is what was week 1's assignment? And where can I find it?

Amber Grosjean
March 11th, 2010, 10:33 PM
Ok, week one was eavesdropping which you will find on Week One: Getting Started thread, second page. You will also find a thread called How to Eavesdrop without getting spotted, or something like that. The threads are closed now but you can still read them and then use the assignment sharing thread to put in your assignment post.

Its something that helps you to nail down your character. To me, its the most important thing in the novel because without them, you don't have a story lol.

And I'm glad this week's thread helped you, CharmedGirl.