Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Join me in my study! I know you're here is a look inside the world of my reading and writing; a world that I created to provide solitude and inspiration, a place where I can contemplate story, arc, pacing, and characterization. This is a place where my careers as a public school educator and writer come together--my accomplishments in the classroom, reminders of where I've been and where I'm headed, memorabilia, and examples from my service to students and parents.
Books, reading, and writing remain a cornerstone of who I am. I am always in high admiration of the collective effort and talent required to produce the volumes that line my shelves. I feel I am a better writer because I surround myself with great writing. Also, I'll be answering the questions: Who are my favorite authors, and what titles? From Melville to Morrison, the work is here. So, come on in and share a few moments in my space.
I think you'll enjoy it!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The following discussion strand is currently running at:'Are All Prologues Bad?'  I definitely started something with my input concerning 'fictional forewords/afterwords.' The immediate result? 88 hits at this blog site! I'd love to hear (view) your comments as well. I hope you enjoy the post!

Robert HuntonI have a foreword/afterword in my latest middle grade/YA novel, 'Secrets of the Medicine Pouch.' Looking through my editors comments made about a year ago (the book came out at the end of March), I'm noting that he liked how the foreword helped him transition from Book One in the series (2010) into the second story mentioned above. And although he has often expressed to me the (his) need to see each installment as 'stand alone,' he indicated that in this case it worked both ways--strengthening the plot and advancing the trilogy storyline.
I believe prologues/forewords can be useful, but I would add this caveat: If you write for young readers, such an intro must be short (say, a single scene-a page or two) and powerful, real with strong hook. You can stretch these parameters a bit, but not a lot.
As the prologue concludes, you want a 13 year-old's eyes to be literally jumping ahead into the opening lines of Chapter One. If they've already read the first book in a series, then what you established there will likely aid you. If they haven't, you are left with the strength of this device and the story at hand. Your insurance lies with 'Kapow!' 

Robert Hunton • ----------, I talked briefly about length in my previous comment. When it involves young readers, this (length) is of particular concern.
My thanks to --------------, who among others (Arthur C. Clarke, Hugo Award winner, Norman Spinrad), uses a fictional foreword in '-------------.' My response to 'definitions' would be to avoid letting such conventions get in the way of a good book. There are any number of things that might need explaining at the forefront of a novel, and there isn't a literary form out there that someone hasn't used as a fictional device. I'd say, where it's fiction, anything goes.                   

 Robert HuntonI couldn't agree more with ------------ about 'not making the reader start the story twice.' The foreword, or whatever you want to call it, must be integral to the story. Such that, you ARE reading the story when you read it. Take a look at Katherine Paterson's 'Jacob Have I Loved,' and you will discover wonderful use of this device. Also, S.E. Hinton's 'Hawkes Harbor' comes to mind. 

------------- • Robert, A fictional foreword. Now that's a cool idea. I think that's been used in novels that are supposed to be true--where the hero has wandered off to another time or dimension. I'm glad you mentioned that. 

Robert Hunton • ----------, yes, a fictional foreword as a structural device. You mentioned the need for 'time lapse' to consolidate events, providing a neater picture (history/backstory) in the mind of the reader. It can be accomplished in this way.
Most often, a flashback, for example, predictably feeds the plot and explains a character's actions by exposing a critical event from the past--it is the 'here and now' interrupted by a quick visit to 'back then.' I'm sometimes turned off by flashbacks, even though I used one in the opening chapter of 'Gift of the Desert Dog,' because they don't transition well or are distractingly long. But what about writers who have successfully reversed this order to create a flashforeword, keeping it short and effective, and positioning it (obviously) at the opening of the novel?
I think you are right; it (the fictional foreword/afterword) is typically thought of as an intro/conclusion in stories that are supposed to be true. And yet, why not add realism to any piece of fiction (I mentioned him before), as Arthur C. Clarke often did in sci-fi, particularly using afterwords? What makes his fictional predictions, conclusions so chilling? They seem so real...when reality is more about his clever use of devices. 

 Robert Hunton • ---------,----------,-------,-------, others, I agree..fantastic discussion. Of particular benefit to me has been secondary input around definitional boundaries, i.e. prologue and/or foreword, flashback use, structural devices, etc.
I made the statement earlier that anything (use of devices) goes in fiction, and I firmly believe that. A fictional story works (and sells) when it appears real to the reader. Any strategy that an author uses to get there is good stuff--entertains an audience, pushes the boundaries of definition, and challenges the writer to reconsider his/her overall strategy.
It's also about word choice. Mark Twain often expounded upon the importance of every single word used in a fictional piece. He called an 'acceptable' word the 'light from a firefly,' while the 'right' word was 'fireworks on the 4th of July.' And although his comparison is an obvious exaggeration, he was right to emphasize it for writers in such a way. And that's because his comments speak to boundaries, as well. Prologue. In context: How does it read, sound, play to the reader? Foreword? Preface? Prelude? Afterlude? Is the writer free to use any word in their work? Of course. Make up a word? Yeah, that too.
Is it possible that 'prologue' doesn't work in a particular story? That the word itself bores the reader? I like Katherine Paterson's choice of words to open 'Jacob Have I Loved' - 'Rass Island.' I also like that, throughout his novels, Edgar Rice Burroughs used the classic device of a fictional 'foreword' (yes, he used the word) to suggest in some way that the contents of the story to follow reflected true events. The device worked especially well in 'Gods of Mars,' part of his famed 'Martian Series.'
Let's keep this strand going. I think we all benefit from diverse views.