Thursday, August 25, 2011

SAMPLE IT: 15 ways to reveal flirtation

1. Jack stared at her until he was sure he'd caught her eye, then he looked away, glancing back a few short seconds later.
2. Jane leaned forward in her chair, her legs crossed with her hands clasped on her knees so that her arms squeezed her bosom a little.
3. He grinned and raised his eyebrows at her, raising his drink in the same movement.
4. Her lips parted slightly as she slowly returned the smile.
5. That was as good an invitation as any. Jack sauntered over, sitting down on a nearby chair and leaning forward a little in his chair (mimicking). "Hello."
6. Jane tossed her head back, running her fingers through her dark blonde hair (preening) as she rose to her feet. "Hi there."
7. Jack rose as well. "Going somewhere?" Her hooked in his thumbs in his pant pockets, fingers splayed. (A cocky framing device for his, um...)
8. She flicked her gaze from his shoes on upward. "Maybe. Depends."
9. His grin broadened and he cocked his head to one side, waiting. The silence stretched on, so he asked, "On what?"
10. She bit her lip lightly, holding it there for a moment. "You."
11. He chuckled and glanced away from a moment, then turned his attention back on her. Boy, she was making him nervous. "Oh?" His throat was a little dry, so he cleared it, and tried again. "Oh yeah?"
12. "Yeah. Maybe." She shrugged and flicked her hair back over one shoulder.
13. He took a short step closer to partially close the gap. Now they were in touching range and he sure wanted to touch her. Still, this girl wasn't exactly subtle but that didn't mean he was home free yet. (proximity helps)
14. She held his gaze for a few additional minutes then dropped her gaze, almost coyly, to the floor, moistening her lips as she did so.
15. He resisted the urge to touch her, to gently lift that chin and lean forward to kiss her. Instead, he scratched at his chin. "So, uh, can I buy you a drink?"

Okay, this isn't the subtlest of flirtations but I tried to show a range from the arsenal. Remember, though, that flirtation is very particular to the character. Some may flirt simply by talking to you. Others might draw on a wide range of coy behaviors.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SAMPLE IT: 15 ways to show sadness / melancholy

This is a tricky one as melancholy often involves a sort of visible weariness that manifests in limited, often jerky, gestures and short, stilted speech. Still, I'm nothing if not keen on a challenge.

Of course, since I'll be throwing out examples of sadness, let's get the obvious one out of the way:

1. Jane cried / wailed / keened over her tiara.

Now onto the less obvious methods of showing sadness.

2. Jane slouched into the room and headed into the living room.
3. She slumped into the couch.
4. "Sure. Sounds great." Her flat tone and drooping shoulders showed she thought it would be anything but.
5. Her eyes welled up in tears as she stared down at her feet.
6. She didn't bother to look at him. What was the point?
7. She plastered on a tight smile. "No, really, I feel better now," she said a little too loudly. "You can stop, really."
8. Her lower lip trembled as she struggled to blink back the tears before they dripped down her cheeks.
9. She lowered her head into her hands, shoulders shaking as she fought back the grief.
10. Jane leaned her head against the window glass, staring outside but seeing nothing.
11. She tried to clear her throat, but the twisted lump remained, drawing her voice tight over every syllable.
12. She clenched her fists, quickly drawing in breath, hoping the feeling would pass.
13. She rubbed at her chest, trying to ease the ache in her heart, and gulped for air. It was so hard to breathe.
14. "Where were you?" Her voice broke over the last syllable.
15. Her breath caught in her throat. "Simon?"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SAMPLE IT: 15 ways to show confidence / pride / arrogance

Pride and arrogance aren't the same thing but, for simplicity's sake, I'm combining them both here.

1. Jane jutted out her chin (suggesting obstinance)
2. She tilted her head back and stared down her nose at him.
3. She hooked her thumbs into her armpits, splaying her fingers.
4. Jane rocked back on her heels, staring down at him.
5. She leaned back in her chair and folded her hands behind her head.
6. "Do you really think that?" Jane asked, closing her eyes and arching her eyebrows at her friend.
7. Jane blew on her fingernails, then polished them on her lapel. "Chalk another one up to me!"
8. Jane stared at the teacher, clicking her fingers in the air to get her attention. "Excuse me? Excuse me!"
9. "Who? Her?" Jane indicated the girl with a dismissive flap of one hand. "Well I suppose you could talk to her."
10. Jane smirked. "What a good idea..."
11. She puffed out her chest and put her hands on her hips as her commanding officer heaped praise on her.
12. Gestures that involve taking up space show confidence (sometimes arrogance depending on the situation) such as: Jane flopped on her friend's couch and threw her legs over the arm rest.
13. Jane kept glancing past her date, looking for someone else to talk to.
14. Jane strutted into the store.
15. Jane swaggered out of the store.

If you want some more details on how you showcase arrogance, take a look here:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SAMPLE IT: 15 ways to show Jane's anxiety

1. As the political advisor told them all to prepare for the stage, Jane leaned forward in her chair, gripping the chair seat with both hands (literally holding herself back from leaving the chair). She just wanted to leave.
2. Jane rubbed her ear lobe, desperately wishing she could tell the political advisor to stop lecturing her (an adult variation of the child clapping their hands over their ears so they don't have to hear it).
3. Instead, she scrunched up the edge of her skirt, staring at the ground, as the political advisor ranted (apprehension leads to fiddly fingers).
4. The bright lights and sudden silence made Jane tug at her collar. Did he want her to say something? What had he been accusing her of this time? She'd stopped listening. (Anxiety, especially after an accusation, can cause people to feel hot under the collar or cause sweat to make fabric cling).
5. Jane's eyebrows knitted together as she struggled to remember. "Umm?" (acute anxiety).
6. Jane stared at the ground, open-mouthed, as the political advisor began his rant again.
7. Jane bit her lip, hard, to distract herself from her fear. He'd stop ranting soon.
8. Jane folded her arms across her chest as she hurried over to wait beside the stage (forming a barrier between her and other people).
9. Jane paced back and forth beside the stage.
10. Jane fiddled with her shirt cuff as she stepped up onto the stage (apprehension leads to fiddly fingers).
11. Jane rubbed her cold, clammy hands against her skirt before holding it out for the Mayor to shake.
12. Beads of sweat ran down Jane's face as she tried to remember her prepared speech.
13. Her mouth ran dry at the thought of going up on that stage. She licked her lips nervously, then went to pour herself a glass of water, sipping at it slowly.
14. The glass rattled slightly in her hand as she brought it up to sip.
15. Giving up on the speech entirely, Jane moved jerkily off the stage, desperate to sit down before her legs gave out beneath her.

Of course, if Jane has given her speech it would probably have been full of speech errors, voice tremors, and with a tone that varied its pitch. Poor Jane!

What other ways could we have shown Jane's anxiety?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SAMPLE IT: 15 ways to greet someone

It's interesting. Take a look at these real world examples of cultural greeting and see what the first ten have in common

1. Shaking hands.
2. Raising a hand as you approach.
3. Kowtow - kneel down and lower your forehead to the ground.
4. Prostrate yourself - lie down on the floor before your superior.
5. Grasping each other's forearms.
6. Bowing to each other - whether low or high, or with a flourish.
7. Saluting your superior.
8. Removing, or simply doffing, your hat.
9. Cursey.
10. Kneeling before your superior on either one knee or both.
11. Cheek kiss.
12. Cheek pinch.
13. Beating one fish against your chest.
14. Punching your fist in the air.
15. A smile, verbal greeting, and maintained eye contact.

Many of these greetings have one or more of these aspects in common.

1) They involve lowering yourself so that your height is beneath that of your superiors.
2) They involve showing that you're unarmed.
3) They involve putting yourself in a vulnerable position - particularly the kowtow and prostrating oneself.

Each one of these different greeting gestures has their own meanings. A society that prostrates itself before the magistrates will be very different to one that simply doffs its cap or even thumps a fist against its chest. Prostrating oneself is about as humbling a greeting gesture as one can comfortably get whereas doffing your cap (simply tipping the cap back and then settling it back down) is fairly casual and friendly as its a quick and easy gesture. Thumping your fist against your chest is an aggressive act but since it's a greeting and not an insulting gesture it may indicate a remembrance of the power of the law or an indicator of a previous oath sworn to defend the law.

So if you're looking at which sort of greeting your protagonists should use, particularly if they come from an invented society, take a look at that list and see which one they would likely use and why.

If you know of any other greetings that don't fit any of those categories, let me know.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

SAMPLE IT: 15 ways to write Angry Dave

I've been reading up on body language as I often get tired of using the same old social cues to let the readers know how the character is feeling. So I can use pronouns as well as nouns, I called him Dave. Why? I like the name. So I figured I'd list a bundle of ways to clue the reader into the fact that Dave is angry. Some of them are cliches, some are (hopefully) unique. All should hopefully be worthwhile. I'll throw in a bit of dialogue to make it more interesting.

1. "Oh yeah?" He pounded his fist into the palm of his hand.
2. Dave smacked the table. "You!"
3. Dave ground his teeth together. "Come here."
4. "Sir!" He gritted his teeth and squared off his shoulders.
5. He glared at her. "What do you want?"
6. He grabbed her chin and squeezed.
7. "Thanks for that!" he spat.
8. He flicked a thumbnail against his teeth. "Screw you!"
9. He flipped her the middle finger.
10. He jerked a thumb against his throat with a grin. "See you later..."
11. His nostrils flared with each breath. "You..."
12. Dave's hands balled into fists.
13. "How dare you!" His forefinger stabbed out in time with the words.
14. Dave stomped his foot. "Not fair!"
15. Dave's face turned brick red as he stood trembling with rage before her.

Yeah, I know, No. 7 could count as a saidism. I think it's okay if you quite literally mean that there was a spray of spittle.

Does anyone else know any behavioral cues to add to the list? Or any particularly well-worded line you've read anywhere? Let's add to the list.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

DIAGNOSTIC: To Glory We Steer by Alexander Kent

Well, those who have been following me for awhile would know by now that I do love a nautical novel. The mixture of daring, history, and well-drawn characters that typify this group of books never ceases to satisfy and Alexander Kent is a prime example of this.

Alexander Kent is an interesting author because he certainly writes his novels with a mixture of brutality and compassion that makes it more similar to World War novels than other Napoleanic War novels. People die. They die gruesomely. They die slowly. They die glad they didn't go to the surgeon. They die under the surgeon's knife. They die when we expect that they might just be important enough to life. And they die suddenly. And Kent manages to make this really work for him. He never cuts down a character before we've gained enough satisfaction from the arc, but he certainly doesn't let them linger just because they were important beforehand.

What this means is that the reader can never pooh-pooh his threats. Each battlefield holds risk. Each threat holds a promise of pain to come. There are no guarantees. I was just lucky this time that my favourite characters (Allday, Ferguson, and, of course, Captain Richard Bolitho) all survived. Since they're being dragged along into the next book, I'll be sitting with bated breath, flicking pages, hope they make it through again this time.

And that's the beauty of it. If he didn't let the canonballs fall where they may, if he didn't let people drop like flies then his beautifully described scenes of utter devastation would become mere scenery. The Jeopardy (anticipated pain or loss) would cease to be effective. Now this doesn't mean that other genres need to treat all characters as expendable to be effective but in this sort of War Story, it certainly helps to build the stakes.

Hmm, what novel shoul I pull apart next? Or what technique should I examine?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Apologies and a New Plan

Well, I've gone and done it again. I've disappeared off the radar. However, this time I have a purpose. I've been looking into social media and trying to figure out what I can do with this blog to make it more generally useful and, dare I say it, interesting.

I'll be signposting each blog post so that if you've subscribed and are scrolling through your list of recent articles, you can instantly tell if it's something you might be interested in. I'll still be going with a general Tuesday and Thursday spread.

The list of signposts I've thought up thus far are:

Diagnostic: For articles involving analysing what makes a particular book good or bad in terms of a particular story technique. Sometimes I will examine videogames, movies, and other forms of media.

Psychology: For articles that focus on analysing a particular character, set of characters, or articles on actual psychology.

Worthy Links: Short collections of really good web-site links that are worth visiting.

Snapshot People: When I do a write up on actual strangers glimpsed and the wacky plots they could spawn.

World Builder: Articles on questions to ask, theories to ponder, and other such details in world construction.

Fantasise it: turning elements of the real world into my fantasy world's version.

Myth Maker: Taking real myths and turning them on their heads to make new myths.

Tips: Any advice, ideas, techniques, and other such details.

Rant: Pretty self-explanatory.

Daily Life: Historical details, research, and the like about how people lived their lives.

Research: Any other general research I do a write up on.

(Novel Name): Used to signify when an post talks about one of my novels.

Sample It: Generally used for lists, for example, lists of place descriptions, people descriptions, body language descriptions, and other sort of bite-sized pieces that might be useful.

I'll also be re-tagging all of my old blog posts along those lines.

Feel free to suggest some of your own categories!