“The protagonist is the character whose fate matters most to the story.” Stephen Koch
Tag Archives: novel writing
Jack Heffron in The Writer’s Idea Book, suggests a way to revise by cutting out five details in a chapter or short story. Details could be objects, colors, dialogue, etc. Then add five different details. How has it changed? Are the new details, the right ones? How do details shape a story?
Thomas Wolfe debated with F. Scott Fitzgerald in an exchange of letters. Fitzgerald claimed that “highly selective writers were the real geniuses. Wolfe wrote:
‘You say that the great writer like Flaubert has consciously left out the stuff that Bill or Joe will come along presently and put in. Well, don’t forget, Scott, that a great writer is not only a leaver-outer but also a putter-inner, and that Shakespeare and Cervantes and Dostoevsky were great putter-inners, in fact, than taker-outers….’ ”
Are you a taker-outer or a putter-inner?
Foo dogs are a motif in my novel Norman in the Painting. Here is an excerpt from Chapter One. Jill meets Norman for the first time when he appears in the antique shop and asks Jill what she is holding. She answers foo dogs and he wants to more about them:
“They are believed to provide protection for you and your home, especially if you place one on each side of your doors.” She couldn’t shake the dizziness she felt since he spoke to her, but she visualized roots from her feet connecting with the center of the earth, which was her way of grounding.
“Those don’t look like dogs. Look more like lions.” The man leaned forward in his chair and then stood as if to see better.
Jill regained her equilibrium enough to move around Evelyn’s open-shelf divider. She stopped at the end of the desk and handed him one.
He turned the statue around in his hands. “Still looks like a lion to me.”
“Another name for them in Chinese is shi. It means lion, but here in the US they’re called foo dogs and have many different styles. Some look like dragons. Some are dog-like. Some even look like large cats with fluffy tails. These do look like lions.” Caution sent a fleeting thought not to be too comfortable talking to this man.
He handed the statue back to Jill and grinned. “Nice to learn something for a change. Are you a teacher?”
His grin sent a flip-flop flutter to her stomach, that same flutter she felt with Reggie when they were dating. What was wrong with her? She didn’t know this guy. “Not a teacher, I’m a CPA.” Jill took a step backwards and clasped the foo dog tighter. “Usually, there’s an older man sitting there. Are you related to him?”
Motifs are repeated through the novel. I like the power of three. The second time I refer to foo dogs is when Jill has a dream about them. She senses the dream predicts future danger. The third time, Jill takes a pair of foo dogs to her sister’s house to protect Vivian.
How do you use motif in your writing?
My protagonist, Jill, in my new multidimensional novel “Norman in the Painting” is a fan of Norman Rockwell. She falls in love with a man in a Rockwell style painting who appears from another dimension. As in most romance mysteries, obstacles block their way in being together.
An old friend of hers has to move to Idaho and offers Jill a Norman Rockwell poster. I chose the one I’ve added in this post. Like Jill, I admire Norman Rockwell paintings too and I enjoy the research to find the right pictures as I go along with the plot.
Do you have a favorite Norman Rockwell painting?
Have you experimented with Google free images to find what your characters look like or paintings that are in the story’s setting or an environment where the characters live? I find looking for images inspirational, maybe you will too.
Monica Wood offers us a writing tip:
“If your main character is eluding you, have her write a letter to the editor.” What is on her or his mind?
Want a new character in your book or story just for fun? Plan a trip to a store where there is only one cash register. Promise yourself that the first person in line when you walk in will be a character you will develop. What does he/she look like? What kinds of clothes? Hairstyle? Notice shoes, shopping bags, purse, and can you tell what he/she bought? Give him or her a name. Go back to your computer and plug him/her into the story.