Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bow-wow and Me-oww in Stories

Since Lassie Come Home and Black Beauty animals have been characters in fiction, but this topic is about using them in stories from the human viewpoint, not the animal's viewpoint. Can animals be characters or are they just part of the plot or setting?

I love animals of all ilk, even spiders...when they're outdoors with other nefarious insects, not in the house, please. That goes for mice, rats, snakes, and other pests considered vermin indoors. But I'm not talking about those types of animals, and yes, they have their place and purpose and may appear in stories for similar reasons. Nothing is worse than being hunted in the dark by an animal with night vision, enhanced hearing and scent detection that has lost its fear of humankind. And remember, it was a flood of rats covered with fleas that wiped out a third of the human population with bubonic plague in the Middle Ages. So an animal's presence in a story isn't always a warm, cuddly, or fun feature, but I love encountering them in stories.

Characters carry out the plotline in stories. That's stating the obvious, I know. Named characters are important ones, unnamed ones are usually part of the setting or placeholders referred to by their profession, sex, or species: policeman, nurse, doctor, saleswoman, doorman, woman, man, dog or Siamese cat. Even in English grammar it explains if an animal is named, its pronoun becomes he or she (a character), if unnamed, it is called it (a placeholder).

B&W BB is watching you, and she is as fast as her name.
A human character owning many pets shows something about that that character, but not about the pets. A character's treatment of an animal or pet tells the reader many significant things about that person's good or evil tendencies. A trained police dog or service animal with their human partner, on the other hand, takes on the aspect of a character—they have personality and a definite function within the story.

Often pets in family situation stories become part of the family, so become characters, and often perform important functions in the story. Characters who have become isolated for one reason or another, might have animals as companions that become more important to them than any human, which happens in my story Acceptance. The protagonists, Kissre, is estranged from her human family. As a mercenary in a Renaissance type setting, her horse and her dog are her family. Both animals have important functions within the plot, too.

I use animals as characters because if you own pets, you know they already are characters. Each one’s personality is slightly different from the other. Pets can be great secondary characters, both for good and evil purposes. Dogs and cats, even horses, can make a person laugh, sigh in comfort, feel compassion, or fear for personal safety. They are entertaining, encouraging, loyal and non-judgmental. They usually are not inherently evil unless misused by humans, a situation that can cause intense tension in a story, so pets are good at showing the best and sometimes the worst in their human counterparts.

In reality, dogs and cats are often used for their mental healing capabilities, reaching people sunk into their own minds because of trauma or age, people tuned out on worldly matters. A pet animal can sometimes return these lost souls to themselves even if only temporarily. Maybe physically, too. Recent investigative studies shows that the resonate waves of a cat’s purr can heal bones and muscles—as reported in Scientific American. Wouldn’t that make an interesting character in a science fiction or fantasy story?

This article is just an animal lover's opinion on animals in fiction, but science is proving animals are not the purely unthinking instinct driven disposable-if-humans-so-desire creatures. Studies are showing they are more intelligent than many people want to believe. Besides, instinct still drives humans as no condescending name calling about stupid animals, hear?

The following authors are also covering this topic on their blogs. Please check out what each author has to say.
Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Victoria Chatham
Connie Vines
Margaret Fieland
Rachael Kosinski
Kay Sisk
Judith Copek
Marci Baun
Diane Bator
Anne Stenhouse

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

All Things Thirteen

Do you think thirteen a  lucky or unlucky number? It goes both ways. Many people get hung up on thirteen—fear it, avoid it—we still have buildings without a floor labeled thirteen as if jumping from twelve to fourteen changes the reality. The Roman calender had one day each month called the Ides (Beware the Ides!) which in most months fell on the thirteenth — so maybe this wariness about the number goes way back in time. Yet, the U.S. was founded on thirteen colonies and our national seal is full of 13 representations, so shouldn't this be a lucky number?

Words for Thirteen 
Cardinal: Thirteen
Hindu-Arabic: 13
Roman: XIII
13 has no divisors

Roman: tredecim (thirteen), tertius decimus (thirteenth)
Greek:  dekatria and as a prefix triskaideca-

Time and Holiday Associations:
Friday 13 – a day of bad luck sometimes tied to the Last Supper where thirteen individuals were present which lead to the Crucifixion on the following Sunday, and sometimes said to have started when King Philip IV of France in an apparent wealth grab had the Templar Grand Master and many of his high ranking Templars arrested on October 13, 1307. This lead to the torture and burning of those arrested and the ultimate end of the Templars. Friday the 13th is an unlucky day to most in the Western world. Some even have a a fear of the number thirteen, triskaidekaphobia (tris-kay-dek-ah-fobia). Who thinks these words up? That's just as scary. It's made up of Greek numbers 3 and 10. And to mix thirteen with Friday? Read this article.

However, not everyone considers Friday the 13th unlucky. Triskaidekaphils also exist.This might include everyone at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, whose 13 founders started the institution in 1819.

Science, Technology, Measurement:
  • Baker’s dozen, long dozen, devil’s dozen
  • Aluminum (Al) thirteen element in periodic table 
  • Thirteen-hundred hours (1 PM)
  • Title 13 of U.S. Code outlines purposes of US Census Bureau
Social, Family and Religious References:
  • Teenage years begin at thirteen
  • In Japan, Friday the 13 is considered an exceptionally lucky day
  • Egyptians held 13 as a lucky number. It represents the final steps of the stages of earthly existence.
  • British sailors refuse to put to sea on the 13th of any month.
  • There are thirteen Buddhas in the Indian Pantheon
  • Twelve Disciples plus Jesus at Last Supper equals 13 participants
  • 13 mystical discs surmount Chinese and Indian pagodas
  • The hilt of the sacred sword in the Temple of Atsusa in Japan is formed of thirteen objects of mystery
  • Thirteen is the sacred number of the Mexican snake gods.
  • Friday, October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress voted in Philadelphia to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and manned by crews of eighty, and to send them out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America. The Continental Navy grew out of this legislation and as such, it constitutes the birth certificate of the navy. 
Tarot Divination: Card thirteen is the Death card representing transformation, change, or destruction followed by renewal. So, okay, death is to be avoid as much as the number thirteen, but in this instance death isn't always dying, but change.

More Thirteen Associations:
  • 13 original American colonies
  • 13 stripes on U.S. flag (original flag also held 13 stars)
  • US National Seal: 13 levels on the pyramid on seal's backside; 13 stars on emblem over the eagle which holds olive branches with 13 leaves, and 13 olives and in the other claw, 13 arrows; eagle covered by shield with 13 strips and the mottos "e pluribus unum" and "annuit cœptis" each have 13 letters. Well, there were 13 colonies!
  • Thirteen is widely used in the occult and is a fatalistic number of great power.
  • With the spread of the early Christian Church, it became widely known that thirteen people dined at the last supper. By implication, it would be unlucky for thirteen to eat together as one of their numbers might die before the year was out.
  • Thirteen represents transcendence from body existence to spiritual existence.
  • It is the number associated with necromancy.
  • Thirteen is the number of immortality (Christ plus 12 disciples) 
  • Apollo 13, on journey to moon, is famous for "Huston, we have a problem." 
Games, sports:
  • In card decks the King is the thirteen card  
  • Friday the Thirteenth—movies
  • Ocean's Thirteen—movie
  • Thirteen, 13—title of many books and movies
  • Apollo 13—movie

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Characters: Too good? Too Evil?

There is a precipice each character stands on. One side is too good to be true, the other side too evil to exist. What makes a character too good to believe? How evil can any character, main or secondary, become before they are irredeemable?

Characters are meant to entertain readers, often educating them through their experiences as well. While I have read stories with ‘perfect’ characters, either good or evil, they fail to engage me as a reader. Perhaps because a perfect person does not exist. Everyone makes mistakes, some intentional, some not. And even if a person has perfect morals, is highly intelligent and wise, and is perfectly considerate at all times, others aren’t, and they can get the ‘perfect character’ into shit-loads of trouble. The world also frequently delivers unexpected comeuppance to both the deserving and the undeserving. Besides, what’s entertaining or educational about a portrayal starting off and continuing with perfection?

A theoretical paradox that exists, however, for the perfect ‘good’ character is bound to win, and the ‘perfect’ evil character cannot lose.The good must have flaws to overcome to make their win worth while, while the perfect evil character has no flaw that can lead to defeat. Even ancient gods and goddesses in mythology were never perfect. They were very powerful and often morally impaired.

If, as the cliché states, we learn from our mistakes, then characters should prove the platitude. Most good stories contain the basically good character who struggles against his or her evil inclinations and works to accept or improve their imperfections. Readers identify and empathize with the imperfection of both main and secondary characters. This lets the character become entrenched in the reader’s mind.

Readers like characters who display various degrees of hypocrisy, disobedience, laziness, impulsiveness, deceptiveness, and even meanness. These characters are more interesting. Less than perfect characters bring questions to the reader’s mind. Does this person remain the same or change? Do they help or hinder the story’s outcome? Do they receive their just deserts?

Heroic characters can be irresolute, obstinate, dissolute, possessive, rash, vulgar, blustering, discourteous, self-absorbed, or ridiculous. It is when they face their shortfalls and imperfections and seek to do better that they often turn the story’s direction. These are characters who will fall into situations where they have to face themselves to dig their way out of the holes they have created.

Extraordinarily evil characters do exist in literature and create gripping tension in the storyline. This is the uber-intelligent serial killer like Hannibal of real world stories, or Voldemort of the Harry Potter series, and Sauron of the Lord of Rings of fantasy stories. With all of these horribly irredeemable characters, an unsuspected Achilles's heel exists.

In many stories there is a point where ordinary characters also traverse into the irredeemable. There is recent tendency to paint evil characters as sociopaths or psychotics. Since between 1% and 4% of U.S. population are sociopaths, but only 20% of prison inmates, it shows how prejudice and uneducated the public is about such a diagnosis. Most of those diagnosed with these conditions are not sadistic killers, and cannot be recognizable in ordinary encounters.

For me, evil occurs when anyone goes after a personal goal with no-holds-barred, no care of who they injure or destroy, game-the-system tenacity. That desired goal is often some form of wealth, power, religious fervor, or revenge. Eventually the character loses his or her soul, and that’s when, for me, they become truly evil, irredeemable characters.

So who are your favorite heroic or diabolical characters?

Follow this topic at these authors blogs:

Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Judith Copek
Marci Baun
Connie Vines
Rachael Kosinski
Helena Fairfax
Fiona McGier

Monday, June 22, 2015

Word with a History: Mile

Mile has a few definitions, the most well-known being the measure of a certain distance. In 1592 during the the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Parliament established a mile as 1,760 yards (5,280 feet). The reason for this is also an interesting tidbit of history as it deals with Anglo-Saxon divisions of land, but a different story from where the word mile is derived. In this instance it is a noun, but we also use it as an adverb indicating a great distance or far such as: her math skills are miles ahead of her peers.

The Middle English word mile came from the Old English, mīl, which came from Latin’s milia, which came from milia passuum, or literally, thousands of paces. Milia was plural of mille meaning thousand. This makes it sound metric, but it was not. Mile begins
with the Roman Legions, the Roman Army, and logistics, although the Romans didn’t know the word logistics, which is a French word first used in 1861 and is basically the art of calculation. Logistics deals with all the stuff soldiers need like weapons, food, uniforms, lodging, etc., and how to obtain, distribute and store it. In other words – organization.

During their era, no one planned or organized better than the Romans Legions. They had to! 

Two thousand plus years ago they governed an empire stretching from England to the Middle East and from the Germany to Northern Africa depended on its Legions. Their armies conquered most of that territory. The army’s logistic problem was how to get legions from one location to another and how to determine how long it would take.
From Wikipedia Commons -- Roman Legion marching
Along with being warriors, Roman soldiers were skilled craftsmen and builders of roads, bridges, walls, fortresses and aqueducts. They built roads and marked out the distance of a mile with a mile marker along the side of every road.

So what was the distance for the mile measurement?

One thousand double paces, which was one step with each foot or five feet, of a Roman Legion or about 5,000 feet.

If you know how many miles a desired location is from the current point where your army is located, and the average time it takes the legion to cover a measured distance, you know how much time is needed to get your troops from here to there in the empire.

And the word military? It comes from Middle English (first know use 15th century), derived from the Latin word militaris, from nominative milites (plural) and miles
(singular) meaning soldier.

We also have vast miles of roads now called interstates and expressways mapped out in miles (in U.S.). Will they last as long as Roman roads and mile markers?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

All Things Twelve

Plato chose twelve for establishing weights and measures, and coinage. In his ideal state it represented the enveloping universe. Twelve may have lost out with coinage and weights, but with it so intimately bound to our measurement of time it certainly continues to represent the enveloping universe.

Words for 12
Cardinal: TWELVE
Hindu-Arabic: 12
Ordinate: Twelveth
Roman: XII
Basic Math: 2x6, 3x4
Roman word duodecim, duodecimus
Greek words of Twelve: dodecca
From Anglo-Saxon: 'Twelf', meaning two left over

Time and Holiday Associations:
  • December is 12th month
  • Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Jan 5th (or 6th) is Twelfth Night
Time, Science, Technological, & measurement:
    • 12 months to a year
    • Two twelve hour rotations to each day. 
    • 12 inches in a foot
    • Magnesium Mg 12, periodic table
    • Dozen=12, 12 inches = 1 foot, Two fathoms = 12 feet
    • First abundant number (divisors  sum is greater than the number) the sum of 12's factors is 16 (1+2+3+4+6), which is also a square number (4).
    • 12 cranial nerves
    • 12 pairs of ribs
    • 12 notes in chromatic scale
    • 12 banks in the Federal Reserve system
    Religious Associations:
    • Twelve Disciples (Apostles) of Christ: "The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst." Rev. 21:12
    • Twelve tribes of Israel
    • Twelve Angels of Paradise
    Twelve Associations:
    • 12 Apostles
    • 12 Days of Christmas
    • 12 signs of zodiac
    • 12 Virtues (love, wisdom, truth, justice, peace, equilibrium, humility, strength, faith, joy and victory)
    • 12 princes of Ishmael
    • 12 apostles of Osiris
    • 12 sons of Jacob
    • 12 Gods of Olympus
    • 12 labors of Hercules
    • 12 members on a jury
    Games, sports:
    • Queen card in deck of cards
    • 2 dice have 12 sides – highest sum in dice
    • Dice boxcars = 12, 2 dice both showing 6 up.
    • Checkers has 12 pieces on a side.
    Prophetic references: Twelve is the number of fruition in the manifested universe and a ending to established order leading to reincarnation.

    Astrological Association: · House of Pisces. Persons born from February 19 to March 20.

    Tarot Divination: The hanged man is card twelve and an upright card means wisdom and prophetic power in spiritual matters, or a pause in one's life where decisions are temporarily suspended. It is good to remember self surrender leads to the transformation of the personality where material temptations conquered. A reversed card indicates arrogance, paying more attention to the physical appearance while ignoring spiritual matters, possibly a false prophecy and a general waste of effort.

    Literature, Folklore & art:
    • Twelfth Night - play by William Shakespeare
    • Twelve Days of Christmas (song)
    • Twelve Dancing Princesses (folktale)
    • Twelve Foundations of Aristotle
    • Cheaper By the Dozen, book by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, made into 2 movies.
    • Many novels and music named either 12 or Twelve
    • Dirty Dozen - movie
    • Twelve Years a Slave - movie
    • 12 Monkeys - movie
    Common usage:
    • Cheaper by the dozen
    • Twelve Pack

    Saturday, May 23, 2015

    Has Romance Changed?

    This month's round robin topic is about romance novels and how we as readers perceive the changes happening, which, for me, is a lot. During the last decade or more, romance novels have changed, perhaps longer, really, or since the turn of the century. Before then, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance titles had been around for a long time, but they had well-defined plot and character requirements and publishers didn't accept new works that broke those rules.

    I'd like to say women's empowerment made the difference in romance novels, but that has been happening since the 70s and through the 80s and 90s contemporary romantic female protagonists, unless widows, were largely virgins, and their occupations were traditional: secretaries, teachers, or nurses. Today's woman protagonist can be leading scientists, CEOs, doctors, pilots, military officers, private investigators or police investigators, truck drivers, madams; you name it.

    I think one of the biggest influences was the emergence of e-books, although romance elements have always been present in other genre. One well-known male author I read back in the 90s said all novels contain a hint of romance since most stories involve at least two characters of the opposite sex. Now, it's even with the same sex. Still, the romance genre held that the romantic relationship was the predominant element. It seems many print publishers failed to notice changing reader interests, which for several years made e-books the only growing market in publishing. Cross-genre plot lines (take the genres of romance, erotica, historical, mystery, horror, western, suspense, fantasy, and science fiction, and mix two or three together in one story and you have a another genre) stories that would not be accepted by the print publishers found homes with on-line publishers, and then found audiences.

    During the last decade sex scenes as well as women's occupations have changed in romance novels. In today's novels, even those not labeled erotic, most contain very explicit sex. Women, the majority of romance readers, are people who enjoy sex; although, they still seems to search for the one-and-only man, which considering divorce and breakup rates might be a mythical concept. The HEA (happy ever after) plot is also changing to include happy for now.

    One new event is the emergence of the 'new adult' genre, supposedly for the out of high school to early twenties reading audience, although some male protagonists have been in the early thirty's. These stories usually contain very explicit sex scenes. I do have a problem with the 'new adult' moniker being so close to young adult, which is for preteen and early teen readers. I think uninformed purchasers could easily buy new adult for the younger crowd, which could create problems.

    I'm also interested in how new sex orientations will affect future romances. We already have gay romances. Will we also have asexual, demisexual, and transgender novels? I think so. Everything changes and to stay interesting, traditional plot and genres need to reflect changes in society.

    Check out more opinions on this topic. Visit the following pages:
    Beverley Bateman
    Fiona McGier
    Connie Vines
    Skye Taylor 
    Margaret Fieland
    Helena Fairfax 
    Anne Stenhouse 
    Marci Baun 
    Diane Bator
    Rachael Kosinski

    Saturday, May 16, 2015

    All Things Eleven

    Eleven As a Symbol
    Cardinal: ELEVEN
    Hindu-Arabic: 11
    Ordinate: Eleventh
    Roman: XI
    basic math: 1 + 10, no divisors Roman words of eleven: undecim,undecimus
    Greek words of eleven: endecea
    Anglo-Saxon word for eleven: 'Endleofen', or one left over after 10 fingers
    Time and holiday references:
    • November
    • eleventh month
    • 11:00
    Science, Technology References:
    • Sodium (Na)
    • Eleven year cycle of sun
    Games, sports references:

    • Football team, only 11 men on field during play
    • Jack (cards)
    Prophetic references:

    • Eleven is the number of revelation
    • transcendental enlightenment and martyrdom
    • It represents the combination of God (1) plus the World (10)
    Astrological Association: House of Aquarius
    Tarot divination: justice: justice will be done; balance is required, well balanced mind.

    Common Usage, slang references:
    • eleventh hour
    • elevenses (mid-morning snack)

    Saturday, April 18, 2015

    What Hooks a Reader on a Story?

    If there were a definitive way to hook every reader into buying a book, I’m sure it would have been discovered before now. Purchasing a book can be a big surprise, sometimes way beyond excellent, sometimes very awful (see this blog post). That’s because all readers are individuals who share some similarities, but most often have distinctive ‘wants’ in reading entertainment.

    When I choose a print book, I always read the first few pages. Electronic books don’t usually allow this selling tactic, but excerpts can often be found online, just not always the first few pages. Those pages often determine if I’ll spend the time reading the book. Let’s face it, the cliché is true: time is precious, and I don't want to waste three or more hours on an unsatisfactory story. This lack of prevue might be what is driving potential readers to other entertainment venues. So what draws me into a story?

    I like when 1) I receive either obvious or subliminal hints about the lead-in character (first chapter not prologue) and his or her predicament that I can identify with in some manner; or 2) the situation is fascinating. It’s that simple. If the character shares an emotion response to an interesting situation, past or pending, I’ll continue reading. Does it guarantee I’ll finish? No, it’s only the start, but if the story continues with the introduction’s promise of suspense, emotional or physical turmoil faced in a realistic manner, or dealing with some life-changing decision, I’m in, no matter what the genre. I do enjoy stories of contemporary, historical, or future eras, and I’m willing to engage in believable fantasy (there are many that are not believable). I do like to receive some type of insight into the human condition before the end, no matter what. That’s also how I attempt to engage readers in my own novels.

    Follow the links to discover other author's viewpoints on how story openings hook them:

    Beverley Bateman
    Diane Bator
    Ginger Simpson
    Skye Taylor
    Marci Baun
    Margaret Fieland 
    Helena Fairfax
    Anne Stenhouse
    Fiona McGier
    Connie Vines
    Rachael Kosnski 
    Victoria Chatham
    Lynn Crain

    Tuesday, April 14, 2015

    All Things Ten!

    Ten As a Symbol
    Cardinal: TEN
    Hindu-Arabic: 10
    Ordinate: Tenth
    Roman: X

    Pythagorean number: the decade
    1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5; 2x5

    Roman Words of Ten: decem, decimus decimeter: December (Roman 10th month) decimal. deni: ten each

    The Greeks used the word deka for ten, which appears in our words like decameter, decathalon, decade, decapod (lobster). Mmmm. Love those decapods.

    Ten Associations:
    • ten fingers
    • ten toes
    • Tenth month: October
    • 10:00
    • December is tenth month in the Roman calendar
    • decade
    Science, Technology References:
    • Neon's, Ne, periodic number is ten
    • Metric system
    • Combination of 1 and 0 creates the binary system
    • Powers of ten
    • Monetary: Sawbuck, ten dollar bill, dime
    • The FBI has the Ten Most Wanted list.
    • The Ten Commandments is a guideline for good Christians as expressed in the 10th Commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbours'. 
    • There were also the ten plagues brought on the Egyptians in Exodus
    • Ten classes of angels
    • Ten names of God: Ehyeh, Yh, Jehovah, El the Mighty One, Eloah, Elohim, Sabaoth, Elohim Sabaoth, El Hayy, The Mighty Living One, Adonay the Lord.
    • Judiasm has the Ten Sephiroth (emanations) of the Qabalah (Kabbalak).
    • They also have the ten lost tribes, exiled from Israel by conquerors.
    In games, and sports bowling has ten pins, and dice has the big ten.

    • Tarot: The tenth sign in astrology is the House of Capricorn, ruled by the planet Saturn, and symbolized by the goat. It is indicative of a driven, hard working, and committed person born under this auspicious sign.
    • Astrology: Capricorn is the Tenth House and is ruled by the planet Saturn. It deals with a person's place in the world and their legacy.

    Literary, folk lore, art:

    In prophesy, ten represents the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. One combined with 0 indicates a complete cycle through the basic integers. One and zero are also the basis of binary code which operates computers which technology changed our world.This is a basic yes - no operation showing a basic polarity (existing - nonexistent) between the digits. This relates to prophesy, when one, the first number which represents God, has a zero, representing infinity, added, the result is a statement that 'there is only one God without end who knows no bounds.' It is therefore considered a particularly fortunate number and holds the promise of victory in difficult situations. Ten is also seen as a 'holy' number, and it is surrounded in mystic beliefs stemming from antiquity. The Godhead 'Io' was believed to be both masculine and feminine. The 'I' represented the male phallus and the 'O' the female womb through which all creation was projected.

    Ten is the greatest of all numbers because it is the Tetraktys and comprehends all harmonic and arithmetic proportions, and Pythagoras viewed ten as the nature of number.

    Ten also has some 'key' words of prophesy tied to it: age, power, faith, necessity, memory, and tirelessness. The number is also associated with Urania, Zuse and Mnemosynes' daughter. She was considered the muse of the stars and heaven, therefore of astrology; Phanes, the One God and Atlas.

    As all numbers, there are negative connotations.

    In Tarot, the tenth card is the Wheel of Fortune which shows perpetual motion of time, and can be translated into creative evolution within the laws of chance or just the ups and downs of life.

    In common language usage and slang we have the gallon hat, ten bucks, the top ten, hang ten in surfing, take ten,· ten percenter, and the· perfect ten.

    Saturday, March 21, 2015

    Research: Getting the Details Right

    Every fiction reader must suspend their sense of disbelief to enter and buy into a story, even one built on an implausible premise. One aspect of this requires me, as the author, to create a believable world where the details of setting and character agree with the reader's knowledge. If this happens, then stretching their imaginations and the limits of their belief becomes easier. This means getting the details right, and this often requires research. The thing to remember is all fiction is fantasy, and every fantasy needs a solid footing based on the perceptions of human reality.

    All fiction genres take research for establishing details in the setting, even in contemporary settings where the reader might think that since the author lives in today’s reality, the writing of the setting is self-evident. Well, yes, it is, but it is also very changeable. If an author doesn’t have actual experience in a chosen place, they may not know local history, customs, and idiosyncrasies of that particular setting. On the other hand, if a reader does have familiarity with this place, anything that screams ‘untrue,’ makes them leave the story. Things as simple as how police departments operate can differ subtly or dramatically by location, just as laws can vary by community.

    Historical settings make take gobs of research. I’ve been working on a story set in the Carolingian age where it seems on every page I find something else needs research. Other periods, like the English Regency era, are so popular books have been written on the peculiarities of the time for author’s using that particular setting. This might be a pet peeve. Having studied and read history, I pick out inconsistencies in fiction right away and incorrect details of a particular historical setting will throw me right out of a story. I’ve noticed, however, characters presented as more modern in attitude and behavior don’t.

    Which leads to this: suspension of disbelief involves more than just setting. Today’s Regencies often contain wild per-marital sex, which was a big taboo for upper-class women of the time, but seems to work in today’s stories. Perhaps making a character’s behavior more modern makes them more believable or maybe relatable. ??? Yet unbelievable behaviors and traits in characters can turn off the reader.  For instance, how characters act and speak often differs by age, and nothing drives me crazy like a three-year-old character using the vocabulary of an eleven-year-old child. I’ve noticed children are often miscast by dialogue in this manner no matter what their ‘age’ in the story.

    Of course, I write science fiction. For me, science or scientific theory must create the foundation of science fiction; otherwise, it is future fantasy in the truest sense of the fantasy genre. For my novels, I’ve had to research everything from psychology to if bio-formation of a block of rock planet can work and turn it into a life-bearing planet. Another research aspect was how faster-than-light travel might be possible without falling back on Star Trek themes. My hope is that as long as I can get the reader to believe the possibility, they will suspend their disbelief to enjoy (and believe) the story.

    AS ALWAYS with the Round Robin, more authors give their viewpoint on research. Please hop to the following sites and enjoy the posts.
    Margaret Fieland
    Beverley Bateman
    Skye Taylor 
    Rachael Kosnski  
    Heidi M. Thomas 
    Marci Baun 
    Anne Stenhouse 
    Helena Fairfax 
    Connie Vines
    Kay Sisk
    Fiona McGier
    A.J. Maguire
    Judith Copek
    Lynn Crain