The Nuts and Bolts of Writing
Keeping Track of Time Tags: creative writing timelines writing tools

Keeping track of time in any genre of writing can be a little like blowing on a dandelion or licking your finger to see which way the wind is blowing. I've struggled to keep tabs in my historical novels, often spending hours and hours sifting through my manuscripts with bits of paper and dates hoping that I'm making some sort of sense with the timeline. There are several systems or tools to help with this particular issue and here are three that I've used.

  • Good Old Fashioned Paper Calendar

I'm a paper and ink girl first and foremost and this was a method I used for some time in the beginning. Creating a calendar for events that happened in the past isn't difficult with word processing tools or even if you have to draw the lines yourself. It can become a bit messy if hand made, unless you write in pencil then events are difficult to change. But it's a tool nevertheless. I've used Time and Date calendar which also allows you to select a country and therefore highlights any critical events that may also help.

  • Excel Spreadsheet

I progressed from a paper timeline purely because it didn't really cut the mustard especially with long timelines that existed over several years, or even months. Understanding what time of year it is in your story line can be quite critical especially if you are using the weather, for example, to deepen the subtext. There are plenty of templates around, this one is nice and simple. Even so, I'm not a great Excel user, my brain isn't mathematical enough to even begin to understand it and it still didn't give me the detail I wanted.

  • Aeon Timeline Software

This is my new toy! I've secretly yearned to own this piece of software which has transformed my battle with timelines into an experience that is pleasurable (and possible yet another excuse for procrastination...) When I came across a deal a couple of weeks ago offering this at half price I couldn't stop myself. It's so intuitive and easy to use. You can create characters, events and story arcs within a timeline in the past, present or future. Over a long period of time or just within days. If you write in fantasy, you can create your own calendars with different days, months, years, adjust the length of any measurement of time and allow yourself to create a whole new world. And, if you use Scrivener, it syncs your work, so that any changes you make in either will be reflected in the other.  What's not to like?

So how do you track time in your writing?

Wear your heart on your sleeve Tags: Writers Abroad writing ex-pat writers writing emotion

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by [Ackerman, Angela, Puglisi,Becca]

Portraying emotion is one of the most difficult things in writing. I certainly have to work hard at it, although I have improved since I first joined Writers Abroad many moons ago. My local writing group has spent a number of sessions trying to pin down what constitutes a good portrayal of emotion.

We have each brought examples of writing from published authors. I chose the opening passages of Hannah Kent’s The Good People, which illustrate grief. We have done a number of writing exercises (you might like to try these). One involved writing about a farmer who is grieving for his dead son, but we couldn’t mention the son or his death or any words that signal emotion. Instead, we had to describe the farmer’s barn and convey in the details his sense of loss. In another exercise, we had to write about someone standing on a beach looking at the sea, but we could choose the emotion. I found both exercises difficult.

After doing a lot of work on this, we have drawn several conclusions.

  • Make readers feel with the characters and evoke a reaction. They have to feel the joy or the fear or the anger. They have to care about what happens to your characters, even if they are not sympathetic personalities.
  • This means showing what characters are feeling and not reporting it to your readers. So “thought” words like thinks, knows, understands, realises, believes, wants, remembers, imagines, desires, etc. are out. Loves and hates are also no-nos. This is bad news for me.
  • Show characters’ emotions through their interactions with other people and their environment, and their actions and gestures. This means avoiding long soliloquies, which hold up the action and drag you back into using those “thought” words. Again, bad news for me.
  • Vary the intensity of the emotions. Even in a thriller, the main character can’t be scared or apprehensive all the time. It’s as exhausting for the reader as it is for the character.

There’s a lot more to it, of course. Whole books have been written about showing and not telling. Also, if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you know all this, so I’m not telling you anything new. However, if you’re like me, you find it maddeningly difficult to do it well.

Help is at hand, though. Someone recommended to me The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This book lists 75 emotions and suggests ways of expressing them, including body language. Want to convey anger, envy or joy? Turn to the relevant page and you have a range of helpful suggestions.

The book is a helpful starting point, but it’s always a good idea to think up your own metaphors and turns of phrase to describe emotions. If you rely too much on a primer, your creative muscle goes flabby.

Now I’m off to expunge all those “thought” words from my WiP…

 

    

Inside Lingo Tags: writing

                                 

Has this ever happened to you? You’re typing away, describing a scene, and something like this comes out.

“As the lane beside him ended, the car behind him sped up to pass him in the ever-diminishing space beside him.”

Okay, that just toppled the flow of the go.

How about, “If Victoria had not made sure everyone was stopped in the intersection before going through it, everyone in the car would have died.”

Wait, what?  That’s just way too many words.

It probably happens most when your characters are adventuring in an arena you don’t typically write about.  All of a sudden, that inside language every trade, profession, hobby and lifestyle has is knowledge you need RIGHT NOW!

Today I thought I’d blog about words and phrases commonly used in driving.  As a driving instructor, I use them every day.  So might you, as a driver yourself.  But I bet there’s a few you’d not thought of.

So here’s a bit of inside lingo you might use in your stories.

Instead of the first example how about  “As the lane beside him ended, the car behind him sped up to shoot the gap.

And for the second example let’s try “If she’d not secured her intersection before proceeding through, everyone would have died.

Here’s some more:

The poorly distributed load teetered dangerously to one side.

He was boxed in, with no out on either side of him.

He was good at scanning for both actual and potential hazards.

He rolled past the two fighting dogs, cautiously covering his brake and giving them extra room.

She signaled her intention to move over a lane to give him time to follow.

He created space for the merging truck, allowing him to pull in front of him.

She considered the road and traffic conditions before setting out.

“He has excellent hazard awareness, I’d be surprised if it was his fault.”

A good driver is a predictable driver, one who matches the flow of traffic, facilitates merging and lane changing, maintains space cushions and always signals their intentions.

Grimly, she determined the closing rate of the oncoming vehicle would not allow her time to pull back.

It was his superior slow speed maneuvers, reversing, positioning in narrow spots and turning in tight spaces that won him the Waste Remover Award of 2018.

The child stepped into Logan’s path of travel forcing him to make an evasive maneuver onto the gravel shoulder.

Her eye-lead time was severely restricted, leaving her little time to determine her options.

Without space to maneuver she was destined to collide with the object.

It was a matter of managing space and time, and she knew she was up to the task.

As the car spun out of control, Mr. Webb’s words from driving 101 came to her, clear as the rain on her windshield. “When hydroplaning, avoid using the pedals or the steering. Wait for the vehicle to re-establish traction before applying either one.”

The winding roads and hills severely restricted her sightline. The dense shrubbery and trees on either side of the road created continuous blind spots for her. 

For drivers who hyper-focus or have tunnel vision, it is our job to teach them how to expand their scope of awareness.

Understanding sequential priority of focus is essential for new drivers. Without this, they will be looking at the wrong things at the wrong time.

She drove past him in idle speed, insuring he saw her in the 1967 Mustang.

He proceeded through his turn as if that was what he’d intended all along.

She sped through the semi’s no-zones, paranoid he would move over without seeing her.

It helped alleviate her anxiety to repeat, pace the space” over and over when merging onto the freeway. 

And a few straight-up definitions:

Pinch points: Areas where traffic condenses, such as where lanes end, intersections, and on/off ramps.

Point of No Return: The PONR is that point beyond which we can no longer safely stop for the light.

Traction patch – the amount of tire touching the ground, about the length of a hand.

Space cushion: The distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Also called “following distance.

Spatial reasoning: The ability to judge distances and the amount of space around your vehicle.

Staying staggered: Maintaining an empty space on either side in traffic

 

RSS

Who's Online
This Month on Writers Abroad
Thursday, April 05, 2018
April 2018 News
Writers Abroad

Promote your Page too
Our Book Shelf

Writers Abroad's Bookshelf

The House at Zaronza
tagged: writers, abroad, vanessa, couchman, historical, and fiction
Love is All You Need: Ten tales of love from The Sophie King Prize
tagged: writers, abroad, sophie, king, prize, alyson, and hillbourne
Out of Control
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, croft, members, and publications
The Duke's Shadow
tagged: the, duke-s, shadow, louise, charles, debut, and novel
Foreign & Far Away
tagged: writers, abroad, amanda, hodkinson, books, charity, anthology, 2013...
Losing Control
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft
Enchantment
tagged: nina, croft, writes, and abroad
Conversations with S. Teri O'Type
tagged: writers, abroad, christopher, and allen
Break Out
tagged: writers, abroad, ninca, and croft
Deadly Pursuit
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft
The Calling
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft
Big Book of New Short Horror
tagged: featuring, wa, member, alyson, and hillbourne
Tiger of Talmare
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft

goodreads.com
Networked Blogs