Posted in Craft of writing, Description, Details in Writing, Editing & Revision, Pacing, Travel Writing

Description, Detail, and Pacing

Research that Serves the Story

In my last post, I illustrated three places in my recent novel, Song of Herself, where research served the story well. Without it, there would not have been sufficient particulars to give credibility to the characters.

As writers, we must search for and offer just enough details to render the character believable, but not so much that it bogs down the pace of the story. That’s a fine line.

Four friends have commented on that fine line and how my story achieved that for them as readers.  Here are their words.

Rhonda has taken years to craft this story and the work shows. One of the best books that I’ve read. The image of “monkeys swinging from thought…” sticks with me the most. (George H.)

You captured me with including wonderful information about things outside my world. The vocabulary of the ship and the special “horse words” are a bonus, but not ones that get in the way. (Jane W.)

Calcutta, I was there fifty years ago. You nailed it. The story flowed—made it easy to read. (Bruce B.)

The horses, you got it just right, but not too much. (Lenell D. )

Tips for Writers

  1. As writers, we must remember that readers want a fast-paced story with specifics that tell the story without slowing it down. Two to three targeted details usually get the job done.
  2. Presenting them in the context of an appropriate environment helps, as well. To find how much time is spent in a scene and then match it to how the reader experiences the story is critical. This is called pacing.
  3. Writers develop the skill of pacing over time from experience and feedback by beta-readers or writing group members helps.

If you haven’t already ordered my book, Song of Herself, see below

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

If you read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon, what you liked, what you found intriguing, or what you discovered about yourself in reading the book. Thanks, so much!!!

Posted in adventure, Craft of writing, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horses, Research for Fiction Writers, Women's Fiction

Research Enhances the Story

Do you ever wonder if research is done before the writing starts? Or if it’s done as the author is writing? And how does the research change or enhance the story?

For me, I found I needed to conduct more research than first realized. I discovered along the way, how many details were required to satisfy my reading audience. So I had to stop and dig for info, dates, and details. In the process, I learned that history was often on the side of the story.

The First Example: British Indian Military’s use of Polo for Cavalry Training

As I researched the game of polo, I came to know that the British Indian military utilized the game of polo to train and prepare their cavalrymen. The agility of horse and rider working in tandem and moves atop a horse were just the right skills for warfare. In addition, building a strong relationship between horse and rider was equally important.

The Second Example: The Garment, Salwar Kameez, Worn by both Men and Women

The combined garment consists of the trousers as the “salwar” and the overshirt as the “kameez.” I thought it was worn only by men, but research illustrated the outfit as fitting both men and women. This made it an androgynous attire that fit Fiona’s work life and her preference for comfortable clothes.

In addition, a salwar kameez is made of cotton or linen fabric that both shades and therefore cools one, while simultaneously allowing the breeze through the open weave of the fabric. It serves as a symbol of a paradox, a “both/and” of allowing air in while keeping the sun out. (Yes, today, we know better, but in 1906 they did not.)

Third Example: The 1905 partition of West Bengal

As I did a history dive, the 1905 partition of West Bengal reared its head. The fallout that continued into 1906, the date in which my story happened, created much unrest and many factions that each wanted to respond differently.

In the midst of this civil unrest I anticipated that the Society of Religious Friends or Quakers would be involved. In this accompanying research I learned that indeed Quakers were split on the issue of how much they should get involved.

Fun Writing & Fun Reading

With those three examples of research that served my story, I let my imagination loose to fill in some unknown details. All the more fun in writing fiction.

I hope you will find Song of Herself as much fun to read as I had writing it.

If you haven’t read the book, please choose your reading preference and order the book in one of two ways.

Order Here

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

If you read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon, what you liked, what you found intriguing, or what you discovered about yourself in reading the book. Thanks, so much!!!

 

Posted in Adventure Fiction, Book Club Discussion Guide, Coming-of-Agency Fiction, fiction, Historical Fiction, India, Women's Fiction

Book Club Discussion Guide for Song of Herself

Book clubs abound in every rural town, city and suburb. They are a great way to look at books through the eyes of others, a way to share your enjoyment of reading, and build friendships.

If you are in a book club and would like to visit with me, as author and the mind behind the story, I’d be happy to zoom or attend in person, depending on the proximity to your club.

Take a look at the book club discussion guide below. Are there other questions you would like to frame for your group? I’d like to hear them.

  1. Though this fiction story is set in 1906, current research (https://ifstudies.org/blog/how-dads-affect-their-daughters-into-adulthood) tells us that the role of a dad in a girl’s life helps her develop her confidence and resilience. How do you see this play out in Fiona’s case? What does she accomplish as a result of the presence of a strong father and supportive uncle? How have you seen this play out (or not) in your family or extended family? 
  2. India is a country of paradoxes. If you have been to India, what contradictions did you experience? What incongruities did you see in the India that Fiona experienced in 1906? What’s the importance of examining two sides of a coin—in other words, two sides of an idea, a belief system, or cultural norm?
  3. Can you imagine being alone on a ship with a bunch of men? Would you have found the same kind of comfort and support from Jacob as Fiona did? Could you have survived the forced confinement for weeks? To be held back from the very thing Fiona wanted, an adventure to learn from every things she could not in Iowa, was a great loss. What things that happened in the story showed that loss to you?
  4. What kind of traveler are you? Armchair traveler, who wants to see the world through a character’s eyes like Fiona? The kind who will spin the globe and take off? Or the kind who will choose and plan a trip with great detail? The kind of person who enjoys luxury or budget travel? What do you gain from travel, regardless what kind of traveler you are?
  5. Religions around the world all differ and all have some elements in common. What do you see in Jacob’s Native American heritage that is common or different to your religious traditions and beliefs? In David’s Quakerism or Religious Society of Friends? In Ameera’s Hinduism? How does she explain being Hindu and Christian Quaker simultaneously? Can you accept this dichotomy? Why or why not?
  6. Relationships between men and women are fraught with romance, conflict, and the pleasures of companionship. How did you see Fiona navigating her relationship with David and with Jacob? What does she gain and what does she lose in the final confrontation with each man?
  7. If you were to rewrite the book, how would you want it to end? The same or differently? What would have to change earlier in the story, to create a different ending?

Please share your question about the book you would like to discuss with your group or club. I may add them to the discussion guide. Thanks for sharing.

If you haven’t gotten the book, take a look.

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

If you read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon, what you liked, what you found intriguing, or what you discovered about yourself in reading the book. Thanks, so much!!!

Posted in adventure, Adventure Fiction, Coming-of-Agency Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

DEMYSTIFYING THE CREATION OF A NOVEL

IDEA CREATION

Idea creation is often mysterious and vague. But I can recount the two specific events that led to the creation of my protagonist, Fiona Weston, Song of Herself.

The first. I took a walk in Spirit Lake, Iowa, after conducting a workshop in the early 1990s. I meandered down a lane of houses built on the lake. One house had a large letter, F, encircled on the side of the garage—like you see on ranches in Texas.

My imagination leapt to the attic of that garage with an old trunk and a woman named, Fiona, who was going through the trunk with a young girl at her side. They were reliving Fiona’s life.

The second. Several weeks later, I woke up from a dream in which my fantasy Iowa woman, Fiona, stood dressed in an outfit that looked like it was from India. I didn’t know what it was until weeks later when I described it to a Pakistani friend, who said it was a salwar kameez.

The morning I awoke from that dream, it continued to unfold in my mind during the next several waking hours. The skeleton of a story. It clung to me as a baby monkey clings to its mother.

A NOVEL IN THE MAKING

In the coming weeks, I wrote a three-page story for my writing group. They informed me that it was definitely a novel. There was too much there for a short story.

I balked and brought them an expanded ten pages and later twenty-five pages to show them I could tell the tale in short form. They insisted it was a novel and Fiona was begging me to tell her story.

In coming years, I took a novel writing class at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Wayne Johnson’s class. During my one-on-one with him, he informed me I didn’t have a 300-word novel, but a saga, one that could yield 600 pages. I won’t print my reply.

THE CURRENT BOOK, SONG OF HERSELF

In the end, the book turned into a 480-page book. If you have the book and are reading it, you may be interested to know the story took new twists and turns in the writing process. New characters and events beyond the skeleton grew out of the writing process.

My dream life set Fiona on a journey of a lifetime.

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM NOVELS?

Journeys of this importance create chances to open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts. They show us what we can become.

We can build confidence (self-assurance and the ability to make decisions for ourselves), resilience (adaptability and flexibility, the ability to the bend and sway as life throws obstacles), and agency (the ability to organize our lives around what is best for us, choose who and what we take with us, and take action to make these things happen).

These are things all individual need to learn for themselves as they mature. But it is especially critical for women (in our culture, which makes them second guess themselves too often) to take the reins of their lives to give the world the best they have to offer.

Fiona’s journey opened her eyes to different ways to live, seized her mind to realize she could think with an open mind, and captured her heart to know she could be who she is and to live openly and unafraid.

HERE’S HOW TO ORDER, SONG OF HERSELF

The novel’s protagonist, Fiona Weston, an Iowa horsewoman in work boots and trousers, sails to India in 1906 from San Francisco to discover her journey is not the quest for which she had yearned, nor the escape from those at home who ridiculed her unconventional ways. Fiona’s journey is fraught with obstacles that create a sturdy sense of self.

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

If you read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon, what you liked, what you found intriguing, or what you discovered about yourself in reading the book. Thanks, so much!!!