Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Talking Magick with Ciara Gold

 A Wee bit of Magick
Before I begin, I’d like to thank Dawn for this wonderful opportunity to post on her blog.
Yesterday, I spent all day critiquing/judging four entries for an on-line chapter contest. I love being able to help new writers, because I remember so well being in their shoes.  In the beginning I had a great story, but my mechanics were horrid with that first attempt, and I was very lucky to find a group of writers willing to help me learn.
What I found with these four pieces of work was rather interesting. All four had the story and a decent plot. All four generally had good mechanics. Only one had any magick or spark. So I started looking at why the other three fell flat. Some problems were little, some not so little. Here were the top three issues each of these examples needed work on. 
 ·         Most of us that have been writing for a while know about passive vs active. We know the to-be words should be used sparingly.  But here are some that aren’t as obvious to the new writer; realized, watched, saw, heard.  These words take the reader out of deep POV.  If we’re in the character’s head it’s assumed she did the realizing, the watching, etc. So – Melony heard the sound of running elephants becomes the thundering footfalls of elephants caught Melony’s attention.
·         Characterization plays a big role in a winning piece of work. Characterization is supported by more than internal thoughts of that character. Supporting characters give insight into that character as well as dialogue. Here’s where “show don’t tell” is important. Don’t tell me the character is heroic. Show me. Don’t tell me they have a phobia of pink, lacy hats. Show me.
·         Dialogue is the biggest problem for most beginning writers. One character asks a question and another answers.  A writer must get into the heads of each character because each will have their own voice, their own quirky way of responding. I think 50% of the magick in a manuscript is the dialogue. Dialogue goes hand in hand with characterization in helping the reader “see” beyond the description of the character.
That said, I’d like to post an unedited excerpt from the book of my heart, to be published this coming December.  I didn’t misspell magick without good reason as this Victorian fantasy hosts a wizard with all sorts of magickal powers.  I love this story because it has opened up a wealth of possibilities for connected stories and I have in fact already started working on others in the series. Title? I haven’t really settled on one yet. For some reason, the title eludes me. I’ve gone from Magick Moon to Celestial Moon, but as my editor hasn’t yet read it, I imagine she and I will come up with a title to outshine my other titles. This excerpt shows the hero, Vin or Lord Lockenworth, exchanging words with the protagonist, Lord Thurmon. Kirin, by the way, is a unicorn and Vin is a wizard of extraordinary abilities.
            The men walked to the stables in strained silence, each taking the other’s measure. It wasn’t until they’d reached Kirin’s stall that Thurmon opened the conversation. “I know you, Lockenworth. Or at least, I know your type.”
            Vin breathed in the fresh scent of hay and stroked Kirin’s nose. She’d become agitated by Thurmon’s presence. “And what type would that be?”
            The alcohol he’d consumed after dinner loosened his tongue. “Rake, rogue. You and I are of a similar nature. I, too, consider myself a lady’s man, yet I’ve managed to avoid marriage. Now I find myself on the other end, as protector of the innocent.”
            “And you don’t want to see your sister hurt by any actions on my part?”
            “Well said.”
            “Your sister is lovely. I would be a fool not to be tempted by her beauty, but she’s far too young for my tastes.” He paused, enjoying the subtle nuances of this discussion. “Why drink a young wine when you can enjoy the full bodied richness of an aged vintage?”
            Thurmon narrowed his eyes and fisted his hands. “Then my warnings should veer in another direction.”
            “Ah - now we are beginning to understand one another.”
            Thurmon slapped his gloves against his thighs. “You wish a liaison with the governess.” The flat statement caused Vin to grin. Humans were indeed very transparent.
            “As do you, if I’m not mistaken,” Vin said.
            “I could never pass up a challenge.” Thurmon swayed.
            “And Miss Willshire has spurned your advances which makes her more desirable in your eyes. You enjoy the hunt. An affair with the governess would not be frowned upon nearly as harshly as ruining the reputation of a peer’s daughter?”
            “You’re very astute, Lockenworth. What about you? What makes you intrigued by the woman?”
            “If you have to ask, then perhaps we don’t understand each other after all.”
So – what do you think adds magick to a manuscript? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.


susan said...

I love this article and it is interesting to me. I read a big selection of book genres as it opens your mind and this one caught mine. susan L.

Ciara Gold said...

THanks big time Susan. I love mixing genres and this upcoming book mixes historical with fantasy. I'm like you, I love discoving new authors.

Linda LaRoque said...

Hmmm, what adds magick to a manuscript? I'll have to say - well-developed characters with flaws that I can relate to, and a voice that sets them apart from their co-stars.

Great post, Ciara.

Anonymous said...

Loved the post Ciara. I don't read a lot of Historical Fantasy but loved this excerpt. Can't wait to check it out.


Ciara Gold said...

Thanks Linda and Dawn. Linda, you bring up a good point about voice and that's really hard to define for newbie writer. It's like having an artistic style. Sometimes it takes years to develop a style that's uniquely your own.

Marie Higgins said...

Ciara, I'm a big fan of yours! I totally love your fantasies! Keep writing them! I can't wait for this story to come out, either.


Melissa Blue said...

This is a great blog, Ciara, and it's interesting that you wrote this now because a couple weeks ago I helped out a beginning writer friend and found the exact opposite problem... Her short story had that Magick spark--truly relatable interesting characters and a killer plot, but atrocious mechanics!


Ginger Simpson said...

You add magick to the manuscript with your clean writing, great descriptions, and tags showing action instead of "he said, she said." I know because I've read your work, and you're always on my fav list. Good to see you again, Ciara. I miss our critiquing days.

Ciara Gold said...

Marie! Thanks for stopping by. Can't wait for your new one to come out either. Melissa, isn't it funny the things we see in others'' work, but you know, I think I'd rather the ms have taht spark and atrocious mechanics than the other way around. It's easier to take an artist and teach them the computer skills than it is to take a computer geek and teach them art skills. I'd think the same applies with writers to a certain extent.

Ciara Gold said...

Hi Ginger! Waving madly. We must have been posting at the same time. Too fun. And you and Marie were some of my best teachers. I miss our critiquing days too. Just not enough time.

But - that brings me to more great advice for newbies. Find awesome critique partners that you trust. They're invaluable.

Allison Knight said...

A great blog Ciara. POV seems to be a big problem for a lot of newbies. I know it was one of the things I struggled with when I began. And I agree that a great critique partner can be of great value. Another opinion from someone who will tell you honestly what's good or bad can be a terrific help.

Ciara Gold said...

Well said Allison. Writers can't be married to their work. They must be willing to bend for the sake of the whole story. Those that do enter contests have to do so objectively and with the right intentions. Of course we all want to win, but the real reason to enter is to get honest feedback.

Ashley Barnard said...

Great post, and I too appreciated your action tags instead of dialogue tags (especially ones with adverbs). That's what I see the most of, i.e., "she snapped viciously."

I'm looking forward to your new book; I love Victorian fiction and am excited to see a little magick thrown in.

Ciara Gold said...

Thanks so much, Ashley. I have a brand new editor for this one and I haven't seen edits yet, but I want this to the best one yet for me. We'll see.

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