Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Content - The Mystery Revealed

Exactly what is content? Well, to start, it is the bulk of the story. Content. This is where you tie it all together: concept, character, climax and conclusion. Seems easy enough, doesn't it?

Well, Content can be broken down into segments - and so we shall do that.


The character. Whoa, you say. We just spent two sessions on character. That is true but now we are looking at more than names, physical descriptions, etc. How about a character's entrance?

The writer should be subtle but thorough in giving a character his or her entrance. Which is better?

The brown dog walked toward the fence, looked in and watched the white dog in the yard.


The light brown shepherd-mixed dog with the plumed tail pranced grandly down the cobblestone street toward the newly painted white picket fence that enclosed the towering two story Victorian house with its circular turrets at the corners. Fozz stuck his long nose through an open area of the fence and watched the attractive American Eskimo dog frolic in the freshly mowed grass and romp between the trellises loaded with blooming pink roses. On the porch Fozz noticed the two humans as they stood beside each other watching the white dog. He spied the fancy purple collar with rhinestones glittering in the sunlight that encircled Tasha's white neck. In fact, he saw the shiny metal tag that hung from her throat on Tasha's collar. She was owned; he was envious.

If you noticed, we used our dogs as described before but a new character was added. Did you recognize that one? This is what I tend to call the 'forgotten character' and is so casually overlooked by novice writers. The scene! The location!

A friend of mine once told me that reading my stories was like watching a rehearsal of a play with the actors strutting across a blank stage. The dialog was great but the background was bland. I tried to say that this allowed the reader to fill in with their imagination. He retorted that even for the imagination to work, there had to be some basics and my descriptions were rudimentary, at best.

By taking the advice of my friend, I was able to add word count to my tale without changing the storyline.

Which now begs us to ask - How much content?

A story's length (content) is decided by the story itself. To condense it too much is to cheat the reader of the glorious details. Yet, to expand it too far is to bloat and fluff the tale, making it a boring read.

You, the author, must decide if what you will create is a short story, a novella, or a full-blown novel. This is where you unfurl the mast rigging and allow the sail(s) to billow out whether it be a small sheet on a raft, a large sail on a yacht or multi-sailed on a ship.

This concludes CONTENT 1 - next time we will continue with CONTENT 2: Dialog and Voice.

Enjoy your writing and tell me how things are going. If you have a specific question, ask and I will attempt to answer.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Character - Part 2

Another week, another entry. I'm hoping somebody out there is reading this and learning.

So, back to our puppy dogs. Last week we spent a lot on getting them somewhat defined. This week we will attempt to describe the human aspects of the story.

Therefore we will start with Craig Smiles. He is young, we'll say around 30-ish, maybe late 20s. Craig is tall, slim, dapper and a writer - but of course. He has a hook nose, but not a nasty one but a nose that has a certain flair. His hair is fine, a light brown and parted just to the left since he is left-handed. And he loves his little Tasha girl.

Now Craig's counterpart is Jennifer Smiles and she is an artsy craft type person. She has short dark hair and lovely complection. In fact, she is a little daring and adds a blond streak to her hair from time to time -- just to mix things up. Jennifer loves to cook and is very content on being a happy housewife.

Yes, they live the perfect life; a lovely 2 story somewhat colonial home with a fireplace in the living room, leaded glass window and 2 stained glass windows in the dining room. And the yard, that is Jennifer's pride and joy including the rose beds and all the lovely flowers around the picket fence. The arched entry of the gate has a mixture of honeysuckle and morning glories.

Now, of course, we have the mother-in-law. But, let's make it an aunt. She will be Jennifer's mother's sister. Her name is Gertrude and she just isn't sure about Jennifer's carefree hair color and Craig's so-called writer's life. Still, she is impressed by Craig's ability to supply her most favorite niece in such comfortable surroundings.

And, lest we forget, Aunt Gertie ... uh, Gertrude, comes with 2 absolutely spoiled rotten Persian cats. I know they aren't human but they will be very important in some aspects of the tale so we need to define them. Their names are Deedles and Doodles. Deedles has gray brindled hair with a black streak near his left eye. Doodles is also gray brindled in color but has a black tip on his tail. They look identical except for the black differences. There is long hair everywhere and the cats know that everything visible is part of their domain and needs to be closely examined - even the antiques high on shelves. And, there will be some issues between them and Tasha.

Do you remember the first villain mentioned last week? That's right, we can't forget our dog catcher. He will be very important playing opposite our lead, Fozz. So he is a wee bit overweight, but not fat. Not the most graceful man but a very determined man who always gets his dog.

There is Leo, our butcher. Now this man is tall and lean but very personable. He has a sweet spot for Fozz and gives him scraps from the pricier cuts his customers order. A dog and a little steak can go a long ways.

As mentioned last week, Leo's brother, Mario, has the restaurant La Italia and it is right next door to the butcher. Both men vie for Fozz's attention. Italian food is every dog's dream come true.

And Maxine has a diner just two blocks away from Leo and Mario. Even the high class need to occasionally schmooze with the less-than-rich. Maxine is a strong-willed woman who has lived the hard life and struggled to get where she is. Nobody is going to get the best of her... except Fozz who is able to melt this woman's heart. Maxine might be skinny and mean looking but she really is a soft stick of butter. Of course, she does have a broom that she uses to shoo away the unwanted.

There will be other human characters but they will play small, insignificant parts in the story and we don't really need a lot of detail. Who are they? That would be the owners of the neighbor dogs, Remember? King and Antoinette. Depending on how you write your story, it could also be customers at Leo's butcher shop, Maxine's diner or even Mario's elegant restaurant. Or it could be a policeman, mailman, even paperboy. Life is filled with secondary characters; just look around.

There is one last character to include. I touched on it earlier. The house that the Smiles live in. So who is this character. In this particular case, it is the town, the setting, the period. Obviously if we attempted to set it in today's society we'd have difficulties with the dog catcher. So we'll make it somewhere in that ambiguous period of the 1920s where things were exciting, things were changing and women were starting to propel themselves into the mainstream. See? Jennifer's little quirk of hair coloring fits. If I had said she tinted it purple or hot pink, that would have made it more today and then how would you have a dog catcher running around with a net? So we'll have a quaintness - model-T's, gas lanterns, a quiet life devoid of today's hustle and bustle.

Strangely, even then was a crazy time... so I've been told.

That completes the character definitions for our story. Next week we'll deal with Content.