Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

the arc

 image purchased from CanStock and on the background for the cover of 'Bound for the Hills'

The first sentence in Bound for the Hills was typed January 4th. "Wilhelmina Agatha Tremaine Butler listened with pretend concern to the driver of the wagon carrying her and her possessions to the cabin she had rented for three months." Willy was on a journey, which would change pretty much everything in her life.  110,000 words later, her story and the rough draft came to its conclusion on February 9th.  

Writing a book, for me, goes best if I stay with it, which means it is sometimes a grind. There are reasons to stay with it, even when my back is screaming-- quit that. One reason is how easy it is to forget what was written even two days earlier-- let alone if it's longer. I never start a book without having thought quite a bit about who the characters are, where they are heading and where they will end up. I learn more as I write. I like to stay with the flow, leaving time between scenes to think what is going to add to this event, make it more real. There are days I enjoy writing and days I have to make myself.

Almost universally, when I finish a rough draft, I think the story is a classic, the best thing I have ever written. A week or two later, when I give it its first edit, I think it's horrible, how could I have ever thought it was good? Multiple edits later I will be back to thinking it's good. I don't put out anything I don't feel positive about.

With the rough draft done, comes the week to write the blurb, which will be sent with it to Amazon, CreateSpace, and D2D (which sends them to B&N, Kobo, etc). I have just spent many words telling a story and then must reduce it down to say a hundred to let a reader know what to expect. Even though I dislike writing blurbs, they do let me see if my story has an arc that will not only be believable but also exciting to readers.

Since I began publishing my books, I've been on an arc of my own for learning. Arc is a word I only recently heard in connection with writing, in an article on The Notebook where Nicholas Sparks, its author, said he believed that the reason it was hard to find a star for the film was the actors complained there wasn't an arc for the hero. The hero began where he was and more or less stayed there with the heroine the one making changes. He defended why that was true, and I think what he said made sense. A character does not need to change if they are already where they need to be.

In my case, I think I generally write arcs. My characters do go through changes. I have, however, thought of it as Joseph Campbell's-- [The Hero's Journey], which I believe is not just true of mythic tales, but also of a life insightfully lived. We enter something new through a gatekeeper experience of some sort. It is not always something we'd have chosen of our own accord; but once in it, we go through steps that have the potential to change us, deepen our understanding of life, teach us skills, and strengthen our knowledge of ourselves. The hero's journey then returns home but with us changed by the experiences. The journey could be schooling, an illness, relationships, a task, moving, loss, so many things, but it is found in life as well as mythologies. 

In my books, the hero and heroine both have a journey, and yes, an arc. They come into the journey through something that takes them out of their world into a new one. Through what they experience, they change and there is, in the end, a satisfying sense that they have grown through it. This is the nature of romances, not so much novels. Novels don't need to be positive in the end. I write romances because I see enough negativity in the world without choosing it for my writing. I have to live with these characters and their experiences for months at the least. I want to feel good for that time.

This week I began choosing images and words for the book's trailer. Book trailers are to share the physical reality and beauty, as I see them, in my stories-- like a little movie of sorts.  Some of my readers say they enjoy them. I think they are especially good after the reader finishes the book when all the images will mean more. I've never felt they sell books, but they are what I enjoy doing for mine.

Other than that, I've had a little more time at the social media sites and not sure what I think about that-- so for now not saying. Same with the primaries. Sometimes I just plain get angry that we end up with so few candidates that I can feel good about. With the world in as big a mess as it is, I wish it was otherwise. This is a good time to be buried in creative work as it is certainly not a good time to pay much attention to what's going on in the world...


Tabor said...

The graphic is very moody and a good book cover. I heard arc years ago when 'they' were talking about writing TV stories. TV stories used to be very good with arcs. Good luck with this arc!

joared said...

Having not been into writing other than prolific letter writing with friends through the years, then when I started blogging, I enjoyed reading your discussion about a story and character's arc. Guess I've been aware of such in stories I've read, also especially in my life, but not with that particular descriptive term.

The idea that the female character has to be the one to change but the male character does not as a standard story approach would cease to keep me interested in reading too many sequential books/film, or whatever. I enjoyed Nicholas Sparks first book, then the movie, but I disappointingly experienced the next to be a repeat formulaic approach not holding my interest and haven't read him since. The same experience I had with James Patterson. That's not to say they're not well-written good stories and obviously appeal to many readers.

If I was writing commercially, for pleasure and/or to earn a living, enjoyed and was good at writing those stories which a whole lot of people wanted to read -- I'd write them, probably. I've never tried to analyze how they're written or why the stories by the same author and in the same genre I do read appeal to me versus those that don't but suppose there is some technical writing aspect which would explain it.

For example, I know why I've enjoyed Tony Hillerman's stories -- I like the Four Corner area settings, his respectful presentation of American Indian belief systems dovetailed with modern science though in many ways his books are formulaic. I've enjoyed Jeffrey Archer's books as they seem most like John LeCarre's but they seem somehow to be intricate enough in some way as to not seem formulaic to me, but maybe they are, too.

Well, as you can see, you've set me thinking. I'm sure those much more knowledgeable about literature than I am have easy explanations for writing analyses than I do. My reading tastes seem to vary through the years mixing fiction, non-fiction.

Meanwhile, glad you keep writing for your readers to enjoy -- intriguing that you bring so many authentic facts and other facets into your story telling. The advent of Internet must have made research easier with ready access to so many libraries.

Rain Trueax said...

Thank you. I had some second thoughts about writing about the writing process but it's so much of what I am doing that to leave it out does not leave much to write about.

I was an early Hillerman fan but his last books were disappointing. I also like Craig Johnson's Longmire books but again liked the first ones best. I got into the Iron Druid series for the same reasons you mentioned. They were often set in Arizona which I love and I liked the mysticism of druids, etc. Generally I try not to get addicted to anybody's books unless they are economical to buy ;) which means mostly indie writers now which keeps them below $5.

Researching still requires books to buy sometimes but so much easier to find them with the Internet. A lot of times what is online is pretty simplistic in terms of details but I learn of books I'd never have known existed otherwise. One fun one for the book that comes out next was 'The 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book'-- the first Fannie Farmer cookbook and talk about different types of food to eat. My heroine, the first author I've ever had for a heroine, was into learning to cook as part of her process. It helped me to understand what foods would be out there at that time and some of it was surprising. It was the first cookbook with measuring utensils to allow a cook today to use the recipes-- if they wanted to cook say a calf's head ;).

The historicals do have that advantage of lots of research into history which I love.

joared said...

Interesting about cooking measurements. Don't recall ever cooking calf's head but 'spose waste not in pioneer and early days.