Category: Character Development

Subtext and the Biological Code

Subtext in a Scene—Biology and the Three Goods  ©2013 by Robert J Ray             Subtext is one key to a good story. Subtext is that unseen turmoil boiling under the surface of your tale. To create subtext, you can use the ritual of sexual selection, your character’s choice of a date or a mate. To create drama in the selection ritual, we focus on two characters, one female and one male. To get drama, we deploy the three goods: good genes, good resources, and good behavior. Three Examples of the Three Goods             The guests are 30-something, educated, attractive, a mixture of singles, marrieds, and divorced persons. The male is Claude, the female is named Eileen. Claude is handsome. He’s sporting a Rolex and driving a Mercedes. Eileen is attractive. She has no car; she came to the party with a friend. Claude is witty. He tells a good story. Eileen is reserved, formal. She’s attracted to Claude. Her secret in this scene is her borrowed wardrobe. She loves good clothes. Two days before the party, Eileen was laid off. One week before the party, she broke off a relationship. She is polite, well-mannered, a lady. What’s going on in the subtext? To find out, we decode the details. Handsome is code for good genes. Mercedes and Rolex code for good resources. Claude has two goods out of a...

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The Language of Fiction is Word-pictures

The language of fiction is word-pictures © 2013 by Robert J. Ray Word-pictures, whether they stand still like photographs, or whether they roar like the wind, come from concrete nouns: “In the late summer of that year, we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.” This famous word-picture opens A Farewell to Arms (1929), a war-novel by Ernest Hemingway. There are two abstract nouns in this opening sentence – summer and year – and five concrete nouns: house, village, river, plain, mountains. There is one object – the house – anchoring  four generic landmarks: village, river, plain, and mountains. The ratio of concrete nouns to abstract is 5:2, enough concrete nouns to paint a picture that locks down the opening of the novel. The view is panoramic, like a photograph or a landscape painting. The narrator is First Person. The pronoun “we” links the narrator – a volunteer ambulance driver from the American midwest in search of love and adventure in the Great War of 1914-1918 – to  his ambulance driver buddies. The word-picture in this opening line puts an implied distance between the narrator in the village and the fighting in the mountains, where the Italians battle their Austrian neighbors. The distance comes from the active verb of perception (looked) and the adverb of distance (across) and...

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Flashbacks and Point of View

Flashbacks and Point of View ©2013 by Robert J. Ray Flashbacks  and POV in The English Patient The English Patient has a zigzag structure that slides between past and present, between desert and Villa, between the Thirties in Africa and 1944 in Italy. Unlike All the King’s Men, which is told by a single narrator, The English Patient has four points of view, one for each of Ondaatje’s four protagonists: Nurse, Patient, Thief, and Sapper. The book  opens in the Nurse’s point of view. The year is 1944. The place is Italy. As the Nurse climbs steep steps to tend the Patient, the writer uses the image of a bird drifting down to set up his flashback structure: “There are stories the man recites quietly into the room which slip from level to level like a hawk.” The image of the hawk informs the reader about the zigzag structure of time-slippage that defines this book. On the third page of the novel, the point of view shifts to the Patient – “I fell burning into the desert.” – and the trap door opens, dropping us into the African desert in wartime, when the Allies fought the Axis over oil. This time-dance between past and present, between Patient and Nurse, continues throughout Chapter One. In Chapter Two, the Thief takes over the point-of-view, then alternates with the Nurse and the...

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Tips on Line-editing Your Fiction–Part Two

This is part two of a three part series on editing, rewriting, scene performance Tips on Line-Editing Your Fiction by © 2013 by Robert J. Ray The language of fiction is word-pictures. Word-pictures, whether they stand still like photographs, or whether they roar like the wind, come from concrete nouns: “In the late summer of that year, we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.” This famous word-picture opens A Farewell to Arms (1929), a war-novel by Ernest Hemingway. There are two abstract nouns in this opening sentence – summer and year – and five concrete nouns: house, village, river, plain, mountains. There is one object – the house – anchoring  four generic landmarks: village, river, plain, and mountains. The ratio of concrete nouns to abstract is 5:2, enough concrete nouns to paint a picture that locks down the opening of the novel. The view is panoramic, like a photograph or a landscape painting. The narrator is First Person. The pronoun “we” links the narrator – a volunteer ambulance driver from the American midwest in search of love and adventure in the Great War of 1914-1918 – to  his ambulance driver buddies. The word-picture in this opening line puts an implied distance between the narrator in the village and the fighting in the mountains, where the Italians battle...

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The Life of Objects in Gabriela and The Widow

This essay first appeared on Andrea Buginsky’s andisrealm as part of the blog tour organized by Virginia Grenier of World of Ink to promote Gabriela and The Widow. The link to the original posting is this url: Objects and Sentiment in Gabriela and The Widow  Objects in Gabriela and The Widow To write Gabriela and The Widow I started with the idea that one character, Gabriela, was thin, while the other, The Widow, was thick. What I would like to lay out is a study of the way I use “objects” in this novel to build both emotional attachments between characters and to push the story line along to its conclusion.  This is a preliminary working of the topic which developed more in the course of writing the novel. By focusing on the objects in a story and their relationship to character, you can go deeper into the emotional reality associated with objects. In this, fictional characters share an aspect of the sentimental life of people and that helps to make them whole. Step One: Emotional Attachment to objects. The main object in Gabriela and The Widow is the List that Gabriela has to keep for La Viuda. Boxes: carved, painted, decorated, engraved, different kinds of wood, metal. Each box comes and goes in the story: some days, La Viuda wants to examine the painted box with photos, other...

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©2010-2017 Jack Remick, Robert J. Ray. All rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including text and images, without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Short excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jack Remick and Robert J. Ray and "Bob and Jacks Writing Blog" with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.