CAN YOUR FICTION CHANGE THE WORLD?

What is the point of fiction?  Should it just be for pleasure or escape?   There are novels that can, and do, change lives.  They use the narrative  power of drama to enlighten, to encourage  to warn and to console.

Our ancestors told stories and fables to make sense of the world. The fable of the tortoise and the hare reminds us that the fastest is not always the greatest.

One of the novelist’s duties is to alert us to injustices in society.  Charles Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby exposed the horrors of the Yorkshire Schools – boarding schools where illegitimate or damaged children were beaten and starved by men posing as teachers.  In The Water Babies, Kingsley described the plight of juvenile chimney sweepers. Bryce Courtney’s “The Power of One” condemns the evils of apartheid, and found the inner strength to change his own life and those of people around him.

We must show, not just tell. Self-help manuals inform and instruct us.  but novelists can show us how to do it, encouraging us to identify with characters who make the emotional journeys that we might wish to make ourself.  Victoria Hislop’s famous book “The Island” was a sympathetic depiction of the life of lepers in the early 20th century until the end of World War II when medication became available. It aroused awareness  to charities seeking to eradicate leprosy in the Third World.

Fiction can also help us understand situations in our own lives. Novelists assure us we are not alone.  Technology moves on but human nature stays the same.

An author sometimes has the power he or she might not have in real life. We can paint pictures of heart-felt despair, and can offer the reader solutions. We can show that it’s possible to move on and make better lives for ourselves.  We can inspire a reader in the same situation.

A writer of fiction has the duty to show how we can move on.  Some governments are afraid of writers because they tell their readers that a situation can be changed for the better. When you write fiction, you can use your story to plumb the hidden depths in human nature. You can make the reader care about your characters.  They can take control and eventually win through.

Stories help us to see what is possible. People with life-changing experiences sometimes choose to write a novel instead of an autobiography, using the novel format to work through traumas they have suffered, or to make sense of their own childhoods. You are not on oath to tell the whole truth – you can rework your real life experience in order to make an interesting story, and this kind of liberty can set you free.

 

There will always be a need for storytellers to explain us to ourselves, and as a novelist, you have the power.

I’ll be glad to hear your comments, and to help you with your own writing problems. My latest novel is “Searching for Susan” – available on Amazon or contact me direct at dwaysman@gmail.com    Happy writing!

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WRITER OR AUTHOR – THE DIFFERENCE

The difference is: When you’re a writer, people ask: “What have you written lately?”  An author has no such time pressure.  Having been published once, even a decade ago, is enough – this is a durable credential.

However, being a published author is not all garden parties and massive doses of self-esteem.   Don’t expect the William Morris Agency to be making frantic calls to woo you.  Maybe you should go to bookstores  and rearrange their stock so that your book faces cover out instead of spine out, which no one looks at.    Forge ahead with your book talks even if the only people who show up are the co-ordinator and your mother.     Joking apart, I sold the largest quantity of my books after giving a talk or a reading at different venues, such as bookstores,  local organizations, charity events, even after fashion parades.  Once people have met you, the author, and heard a snippet of your writing, they almost feel obliged to come away with a copy of your book.

If your first book has been a major success, by which I mean it has garnered good reviews and impressive sales in the thousands, it is a temptation to make your second book a sequel, thinking that if people  really enjoyed the first one, they are going to want to know what happened to these characters later.  One example is Jojo Moyes “Me Before You” and its sequel |”After You.”  I loved both of them.  But my experience was different.

My first book (I’ve written 14) has  been amazing. “The Pomegranate Pendant” had wonderful reviews, is still selling regularly after 20 years, has been made into a movie (“The Golden Pomegranate) and musicals in both USA and Australia, and won a major literary prize and still brings e-mails stating “This is my favourite book of all time”, yet when I wrote a sequel”Seeds of the Pomegranate” it has  languished miserably for many years now.

Your second book will probably be even harder to sell than your first.  Try for a different story, even a different genre.  After that, your name will be recognisable as an author, and your friends’ query will be:  “Are you working on a new novel?  What is it about?”

 

(My latest novella “Searching for Sarah” is available by contacting me at dwaysman@gmail.com.  I am always happy to hear your comments or help you with any writing queries.)

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MARKETING YOUR ARTICLE

Sorry not to have written my Blog for awhile. My husband had a pacemaker installed, so looking after him took up a lot of time.

Now I want to talk about getting into print.  In a sense you have been a producer.  Now you must be a salesman.  First, study markets to discover the needs of possible buyers.  Then you offer your wares where there is the best chance of their being accepted, by your customer – the magazine editor.

Editors deal in articles, and as the middle-man, he links the writer with the ultimate reader.  He/she naturally chooses articles to help sell as many copies of the magazine as possible. Articles are first read by a reader, who rejects and returns unsuitable material if a stamp-addressed envelope has been enclosed; or just deletes it if it comes in by e-mail.

Manuscripts which survive this elimination process go to the editor. His is the final responsibility… what he accepts must be paid for and published. He is always searching for ms. to delight his readers, and will accept them instantly and gratefully.  He works to a fixed schedule, planning in advance, and has most accepted material in place far ahead of time.  He tries to plan a variety – not more than one or two stories of a similar type in any one issue. These considerations govern his choice. Articles are not always rejected because they don’t measure up – often it’s just because he has already accepted something along similar lines, or else is stocked up for months.He selects the best content for the space he has at his disposal.

The usual reason for rejection, apart from poor quality, is that the material is not adapted to the particular needs of the publication. You can eliminate this by constantly studying each publication.  Buy copies of a great variety of journals, or read them on-line.

Their pet aversions are long, flowery introductions; an overlong article padded with hackneyed phrases; unrelated material written with no idea of the policy of the journal; old ideas that are just a re-hash of someone else’s work;  too  much personal touch or the writer’s life history. If an editor wants to see more of your work, even if he rejects one article, he will tell you so and leave the door open for the future.

Although publications need big name authors to sell them, they also need first-rate articles from unknown writers.  You may get lower rates of payment at first, but you will be encouraged if you show promise.  Big names are always in print because they supply what is demanded.

Often the best time to sell an article is before it even gets written. Many are written only after preliminary negotiations between editor and writer.  Once you have an idea, you  can write to several editors sounding them out to see if it interests them. It does not commit them to buy your story, but if the idea is acceptable, the length is right, the style is suitable, you have a 90% chance.  Your suggestion should crisply outline the feature and indicate the authoritativeness of the material and any special qualifications you may have in that area.

 

Good luck and happy writing!

If you are interested in my latest novel “Searching for Sarah”, you can contact  me at dwaysman@gmail.com

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IS FICTION YOUR FORTE?

If you have decided fiction is your medium, this takes just as much hard work as a well-researched article, because fiction, to be successful, must be believable.  You don’t just get an idea for a story or novel and then rush to start writing. First, make notes about your characters. Transfer their looks, thoughts and conversations on to paper. Decide on their backgrounds. Write about the setting – but choose a place you have lived in or really know intimately.

Start with one giant character – the hero or heroine – then build your satellite characters. Some authors first decide on a subject, then they invent a story, or plot, as the framework.  The main impetus of any short story or novel is the drama, moving from crisis to crisis.

Most novels contain or or more of these dramatic elements:

MAN AGAINST NATURE: (Robinson Crusoe; mountaineering books of J.R. Ullman etc.) Don’t make the story too grim, put the hero through unbelievable paces or treat nature solely as an enemy.

MAN AGAINST MAN: The chief danger here is to make your hero all good and his opponent all bad – every human is a little bit saint and also a bit sinner.

MAN AGAINST SOCIETY:  This was the classical theme of writers like Victor Hugo, Emil Zola and James Baldwin.

MAN AGAINST HIMSELF: This theme is exploited by Bernard Malamud and many contemporary writers. Don’t overburden your story with psychologizing, and can avoid this by dramatizing your story elements.

The plot refers to what happens – the arrangement of the events in the story. It is the plan or design and should be planned so that events at the beginning prepare the reader for the future.  These are the questions you should ask in devising your plot:

What conflict is there?  What is the basis for the conflict? What does the hero want? Does he get it?

Next you should ask: How does the story create suspense? When is your curiosity aroused about what is going to happen?  When is it satisfied?

Plot shows the cause and effect relationship between character and event. e.g. If you hear that a woman jumps from the fifth storey of a luxury apartment building, the incident is not meaningful until it is placed in a plot, in which you perceive how her character  and previous events in her life led her to suicide.

In a good story, every detail contributes to the plot, but you must omit details which do not further this purpose. Choose those which best produce the effect you want. You must also choose scenes which show most effectively the relationship between character and events.

The climax is the when the outcome of the conflict is decided, and who (or what) will win the struggle. Involve the reader emotionally. Conflict, suspense and incidents in a well-constructed story build up to this final climax.

 

Happy writing.   My new novella “Searching for Sarah” is now available on Amazon, or direct from me (dwaysman@gmail.com ); as well as some of my earlier books e.g. “The Pomegranate Pendant”; “Seeds of the Pomegranate” ; “In A Good Pasture”;  my memoir “My Long Journey Home”  etc.  I am always happy to hear your comments and to help with any of your writing problems.

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TRAVEL WRITING

There is a growing market for these features.  All airlines today have their own magazines for passengers, detailing where to go and what to see in their particular destinations, and most are written by freelancers.  If you have a particular place in mind that you’d like to write about, send the editor of the appropriate magazine , an outline of what you have in mind. Give any qualifications you have for writing it,  any specialised knowledge or experience.   Do your research carefully, if they show interest.  This is one travel feature I had published a few years ago, about Ein Gedi – a beautiful place in Israel which is  where I live.  El Al Magazine featured it for several issues:

FIND  MAGIC  IN   EIN GEDI

If you are familiar with the most beautiful love poem ever written, the Biblical “Song of Songs”, then you’ll know that Ein Gedi is the oasis King Solomon described:

 

“My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna flowers in the

vineyards of Ein Gedi.”

 

The name means “Spring of the Kid”, the animal we know as the ibex which can be seen roaming in the valley.   It is a world in itself, and easily accessible today, being only an hour’s drive south of Jerusalem.  It is in the Judean Desert on a plateau, overlooking the Dead Sea which is the lowest place on earth (420 metres below sea level).  It has been described as “a slice of heaven” where the air is pollution free and dry; there are 330 sunny days a year, the temperature soaring in summer but never colder than 10 degrees in winter.

This summer fires destroyed much of the beauty of the Nature Reserve, but the plentiful water supply is slowly bringing it back to life.  The water bounces from rocks to riverbeds, fills the crevices to become clear, blue pools. This wealth of water comes from the rainfall on the Hebron mountains to the west of Ein Gedi.  Water from the springs flows the entire length of the reserve.  Towering above are brown-red cliffs, bare like the landscape of the moon.This tropical oasis is home to trees such as Jericho balsam, moringa and acadia, as well as shrubs and unusual bushes and grass.  The Dead Sea Apple, or Apple of Sodom grows here too, named for the city God destroyed together with Gomorrah which were located nearby.

 

Nowhere else in Israel is there such a wide range of wildlife. It is  paradise  for bird-watchers … the bulbul, the blackstart (shahor-zanav in Hebrew); sand partridges, Tristam’s grackle and the raven can all be found here.

You can also see ibex and coneys and the occasional leopard and wolf.  The coneys are small  animals with short ears and legs and no tail.  The male ibex has long horns that are bent back and rounded at the ends. The female’s horns are shorter.  The ibex is the official symbol of the Nature Reserves Authority.

 

Kibbutz Ein Gedi is distinct from, and situated on the edge of the Reserve.  Before the founding of the kibbutz by a group of young army recruits in 1956, Ein Gedi had not been inhabited for 500 years.  The first dwellers lived there in the Stone Age 5,000 years ago.  The kibbutzniks  made vegetable gardens and date plantations and raised turkeys.  They soon learned that they also had natural treasures in the black mud, hot sulphur springs, the Dead Sea and water that promoted feelings of tranquillity, health and peace.

 

So they founded Ein Gedi’s Country Hotel.  Today you can enjoy the Spa, restaurants, Botanical Gardens and hire 4 x 4 desert terrain vehicles, as well as buy arts and crafts in the many souvenir shops.  For archaeology buffs, there is Massada to the south, the Qumran Caves to the north which housed the Dead Sea Scrolls, and there is a Byzantine Synagogue with a wonderful mosaic floor.

 

In the Ein Gedi Botanical Gardens there are 800 unique species of trees and flowers and such exotic Biblical plants as Myrrh and Frankincense, tropical plants from the rain forests, date palms and unusual cacti.  You can have a guided tour (free for guests of the Country Hotel). Included in the modest entry price is a film about the settlement and information on the flora of the Gardens.

 

The Country Hotel focuses on the natural, healthy life.  There are both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and all the rooms are located on ground level in the fabulous gardens.  You can even rent their “Romantic Room” which has a private Jaccuzi.  All guests have free entry to the Ein Gedi Spa. Available also are many holistic treatments to balance mind and body through the use of therapeutic plants, minerals, nutrition, meditation etc. There are facials and massage and, at the Spa, Peeling, Mud Wraps and Reflexology.

 

Ein Gedi also offers a choice of restaurants …. Pandak Ein Gedi on the public beach; the Botanical Gardens’ Restaurant which is buffet-style and kosher; nd “At Haya’s” also in the Botanical Gardens.  This is a private home that accepts only 8 guests and must be booked in advance.

 

The Jewish village of Ein Gedi was inhabited in Biblical times, destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.  It is where King David hid  in the caves from King Saul  who pursued him with an army of 3,000 men.

 

Today it is a feast for the eyes and the senses, a place to be rejuvenated and feel peaceful and tranquil in the pure air of the Judean Desert.

__________________________

Some things to keep in mind. Assume the reader is new to your destination and wants to see the best attractions in a limited time. Detail the best area in which to stay, the best time of year to arrive, and any special local events.  If you can supply photos, you increase your chances of acceptance.

My new novella “Searching for Sarah” is now available on Amazon; or from the publisher Chaim Mazo (Chaim.Mazo@gmail.com) or direct from me at dwaysman@g.mail.com  Be in touch for details.  I always enjoy your comments, and am available to help with your writing problems.  Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

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DIALOGUE IN YOUR STORY

The first rule in writing your story:  Don’t ask yourself “Do I have something to say?”  Ask instead: “Do my characters have something to say?”

In Hemingway’s ‘Hills like white elephants” (about a man persuading his girlfriend to have an abortion she doesn’t want) – he could have made grandiose statements about morality, maturity, selfishness, sexual responsibility etc. Instead, he sticks to the tiny sounds, signals and pauses which people in intimate situations send to each other. e.g. “I’ll go with you and stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s perfectly natural.”

“Then what will we do afterwards?”

“We’ll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before.”

“What makes you think so?”

“That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.”

The story takes place between the lines, in the silences between the characters. Action can be speech. Action can also be silence – the silence that punctuates speech.

If you have created characters you want to use, and have decided on the setting and the period, but are stuck for the plot, one idea is to take familiar trends, ideas and situations and simply reverse them. “Visit to a Small Planet” by Gore Vidal reverses feeling that people from other planets are inferior, showing “visitor” far  more intellectually advanced.  “Paths of Glory” reverses admiration for military efficiency.  “Bad Seed” reverses romantic concept of children as innocent darlings.

“Teahouse of the August Moon” (Vern Sneider) – civilised, sophisticated Americans occupying primitive Okinawa, learn more from natives than they teach them.  In Sloan Wilson’s “A Summer PLace” , the adults are the delinquents, while the teenagers are stable, moral and mature.

There are no real rules in writing your story, none that is, that cannot be disregarded when the circumstances demand it.  But here are some do’s and don’ts that may prove helpful:

Study stories published in recent issues of your favorite magazine.

Sketch main characters that come to life.

“Hook” the reader with attention-snatching opening.

Introduce action immediately – physical or psychological.  Maintain suspense so that the reader cannot guess the exact ending.

Stay in one viewpoint throughout. The protagonist must solve his own problem through characterization that is clear to the reader from the outset.

Now for some Don’ts.  Don’t be condescending or write down to the reader.  Don’t be too intellectual or philosophical in theme, style or content.  Don’t narrate when you can dramatize in-action scenes with dialogue or emotion.  Don’t write frustrating or inconclusive endings.

Here’s an exercise to practise writing dialogue: “They sat in the hotel room, perspiring in its airlessness, staring at his packed suitcase which lay on the bed.”  Force your two characters to talk to each other. Try not to use adverbs such as “he said sadly; she replied angrily”. Their actual words should convey the emotions they are feeling.

Read your words out loud to see if they sound the way people actually talk.

Happy writing!  Remember you can buy my new novella “Searching for Sarah” through Amazon, from the publisher  chaim.mazo@gmail.com or direct from me at dwaysman@gmail.com   I’m always happy to hear your comments or help if you have a query.

 

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CORRECTION

I do apologise. Made a silly error in my Blog yesterday.  The title of my new novella is, of course, “|Searching for Sarah” – not as written.  when you get to my age, you start to lose some of your marbles!  It is available on Amazon, direct from the publisher –

Chaim.Mazo @gmail.com or from me: dwaysman@gmail.com

Thank you to Dorothy O’Brien in Australia, who noticed the mistake and was kind enough to e-mail me.

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