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Revisiting Barbara Kyle

Barbara Kyle guest posted for me in 2010 with this excellent piece about our main characters making an entrance. While the books she has published have grown as has her reach into the reading and writing world, the point of this excellent post is as valid today as it was three years ago. Visit Barbara’s website (newly updated) to see just where she is with the Thornleigh Saga.

Barbara’s reach has also extended to doing more and more talks at conferences and other places readers throng to hear writers speak. This past summer I heard her at Stratford’s Shakespearean Festival. As usual she wowed her audience.

Barbara Kyle

MAKING AN ENTRANCE

 by Barbara Kyle

First impressions are crucial. Your initial response when you meet a person gets imprinted on your mind and is hard to alter. This is equally true of a reader’s first impression of a character in fiction. Their response to your story’s protagonist, in particular, is supremely important. Yet new writers often waste this opportunity by introducing their protagonist in idleness or passivity. Be smart – put the visceral impact of the first impression to work for you.

Lights, Camera, Action

Think of your story as a movie, and your protagonist as the star, and give him or her a dynamic and meaningful entrance. Focus on two steps:

1. Determine the character’s defining quality

2. Show that quality through action

Action is the key. Description of a character tells the reader mere facts – it has little visceral effect. Showing the character’s defining quality through action produces an emotional response in the reader, leaving a deep and lasting effect.

Star Roles

Screenwriters do this very consciously. Watch any film that you like and notice how the scene in which the hero/heroine first comes on screen demonstrates their defining quality. In other words, it shows the character’s essence.

When actors first read a script this “essence in action” is the very thing they look for. (I know – I made my living as an actor for twenty years.) As a writer of fiction, you can use this screenwriting technique to good effect. Strive to write an entrance scene for your protagonist which, if your story were made into a film, would attract an A-list actor to the role – a star.

How It’s Done

Here are some examples of the kind of dynamic entrance I mean:

1. Meredith Stephure’s splendid and moving historical novel CIVIL BLOOD opens with Thomas de Chastelain, lawyer and loyalist, about to ride off to war, yet he takes a few minutes to deal with a small family crisis: his two bold young sons have trespassed on the neighbor’s property. We see Thomas take action, being strict but fair, and full of affection for his children. This is the essence of his character.

2. Ian McEwan’s brilliant novel ATONEMENT opens with Briony Tallis, as a precocious child, obsessing about the play she has written, and orchestrating her cousins to take the roles in her fictional world. Her need to control people, and her obsession with storytelling, are the essence of her character.

3. Lee Gowan’s novel CONFESSION shows Dwight Froese, a young janitor at an elementary school, breaking up a schoolyard fight between two boys by lifting up the bully by his shirt and calmly threatening him. Dwight’s action shows us a man who cares about justice but also has an aura of latent brutality.

4. My novel THE QUEEN’S LADY, set in Tudor England, opens with seven-year-old Honor Larke risking her life to try to find her servant-friend amid a May Day riot. When she sees the mob viciously attack a foreigner, Honor’s curiosity and pity drive her to help the dying stranger. This is her essence, shown in action.

Timing the Entrance

The examples above are all of opening scenes, but your opening doesn’t have to feature the protagonist. You may want to kick-start the story with some other event – for example, one featuring the antagonist. What’s important is that when you do bring your protagonist on stage, give them an entrance in which the action they take resonates on a meaningful, emotional level with your reader.

Whether your hero/heroine is a rogue, a lost soul, a killer, or a saint, their entrance is your chance to make them a star.

♦Barbara Kyle is the author of the Tudor-era novels The Queen’s Lady and The King’s Daughter, the latter praised by Publishers Weekly for its “complex and fast-paced plot, mixing history with vibrant characters.” Barbara won acclaim for her contemporary novels written under pen name ‘Stephen Kyle’, including Beyond Recall (a Literary Guild Selection), After Shock and The Experiment. Her historical novel, The Queen’s Captive, will be published in September 2010.

Barbara teaches creative writing courses for the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and has presented workshops for many writers organizations. Before becoming an author she enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S.

Visit www.BarbaraKyle.com

The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler

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Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Authors, General, Writing Tips

 

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Life as a Published Author

Today I am giving a little peek into my very own brave new world with apologies to Aldous Huxley.

Have you ever dreamed of achieving a seemingly unreachable goal? Of course you have! Hundreds of them. You learned to smile, to walk, to wink, to sing, to bike, and to reach for the distant stars in so many ways.

But was it easy? Not always. And neither has my trip to publishing been easy.

From the time I sat reading in my summer porch with tears slipping down my sunburned cheeks just aching to write a novel and write well, I’ve had this dream. And last month, I realized it when The Loyalist’s Wife was published. Since then my pace has quickened with sales and signings, posts and planning. And for a people person, it’s so much fun!

Today I am on Marta Merajver’s blog answering some probing interview questions and tomorrow I’ll be at Carole-Ann Vance’s blog with a post on Whispers in Historical Fiction.

And just to ice the cake a bit, today I’m going to the Stratford Festival Theatre to hear Barbara Kyle speak. You know I’ll be buying a book and getting it signed!

Please check out Marta’s site today and Carole-Ann’s tomorrow.

The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler is Here!

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Does Being a Writer Change Your Reading?

photo (9)-25_editedThree Ways My Reading Has Changed

  1. What I read has changed. I don’t have as much time to read historical fiction as I used to have. All my life I’ve kept journals of the books I’ve read and I would compare years to see what my yearly count was.I still read for about 20 minutes before I turn out the light at night and I read during the day as time permits. Okay, that last part is just funny. Time permits? Not so much. These days, what I read might be edits from my editor, how-to-write books by writers who have gone before, writing magazines–I love The Writer and the Historical Novels Review!, or books in other genres by writers I’ve met in person or online.
  2. How I read has changed.Plot. I was such a reader for plot I would forget the characters’ names and have to go back and check them out. Paragraphs of description were annoying and I became a great skimmer for the ‘good stuff.’ I preferred books that got to the details and wove in character, setting, themes, as needed and certainly not obtrusively. I still love to see how it will all turn out but I find myself looking at the writing differently. Rather than rushing through the story I am noticing just how the author wedged in that essential bit of backstory or just why he or she chose third person or first person. I see the plan behind the story like the framework of a house. I notice whether the framework is steel or wood timbers. And I learn for my own writing.
  3. How I record what I’ve read has changed. As mentioned earlier, I was a great keeper of my reading record. Now I consider whether the author might be someone I’ll interview on this blog. Shall I do a review on Goodreads? I ask myself. Or will I just let the book and my reading of it quietly die? And I love this change as I’ve discovered amazing people through interviews, reviews, and contacting the author to tell them I had written about them. Just this past weekend I finished Barbara Kyle’s 4th book, The Queen’s Gamble, a great read. And now she has the 5th in The Thornleigh Series out so I’ll put it on my list as well. How did I meet Kyle? I found her writing course online a few years ago, took it, signed up for a couple of her workshops, and now I am a Kyle convert. Just this morning I found that she is speaking at Stratford’s Shakespearean Festival this summer and I’ve marked the date on my calendar.

How have your reading habits changed over the years? What has affected them, having children, working full time, change of jobs, change of circumstance or taste? Consider leaving a comment below.

 

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The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Authors, General, Readers' Wants

 

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