#41 Plot & Character Driven Novels – The Possibilities

Informatiion & Inspiration for WordSmiths

Informatiion & Inspiration for WordSmiths

Every day when you wake up, ask yourself, “What do I really, really, really want?”  You have to say, “Really, really, really.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

Rather than my own take on things, Pablo Casals offers a great thought for the new year.

You Are A Marvel

Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again … And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France.

When will we also teach them what they are?

We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move.

You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?

You must work – we must all work – to make the world worthy of its children.

Pablo Casals

Sandra Gould Ford

Guy de Maupassant

As with movies, some novels are vivid, full of action, explosions and
tension.  Others are quiet studies of characters whose situations appear normal, commonplace and unexciting.  In this excerpt from Guy de Maupassant’s longer essay, the author explains the value and significance of the quiet, the character-driven or literary novel.

Plot and Character Driven Novels

Their Difference and Possibilities

Part One of Two

Understanding The Plot-Driven or Dramatic Novel

The novelist who transforms the constant, brutal, and disagreeable truth, in order to draw from it an exceptional and seducing adventure, ought, without exaggerated care for verisimilitude, to manipulate the events according to his taste, to prepare and arrange them to please the reader, to move him, or to touch his sympathy.  The plan of his novel is only a series of ingenious combinations leading skillfully to the climax.  The incidents are disposed and graduated toward the point of culmination and the final effect, which is a capital and decisive event, satisfying all the curiosity aroused at the beginning, putting up a barrier to interest, and terminating so completely the story told that one does not longer care to know what will happen to-morrow to the most interest of the characters.

Understanding The Character-Driven or Literary Novel

The novelist, however, who professes to give us an exact image of life ought to avoid carefully all linking of events that seem exceptional.  His aim is not to tell a story, to amuse us, to touch us, but to force us to think, to understand the deep and hidden significance of events.  Through his having seen and meditated, he sees the universe, things, facts, and men in a fashion that is peculiarly his own and that results from the total of his pondered observations.  It is this personal vision of the world that he seeks to communicate to us by reproducing it in his book.  In order to move us as he himself has been moved by the spectacle of life, he must reproduce it before our eyes with scrupulous similitude.  He must, then, compose his work in a manner so skillful, so artful, and in appearance so simple, that it is impossible to perceive or to point out the plan, to discover his intentions.

Instead of devising an adventure and unfolding it in a manner suited to render it interesting to the end, he will take his character or characters at a certain period of their existence and conduct them, by natural transitions, to the period following.

So, why read or write such a novel?   See Part 2 of 2.

Worth A Look

In each issue, BriteLitesBiz presents a video specially selected to inspire, motivate, enlighten and prompt WordSmithing.  Click this link to view a 9-minute video of fantastic chefs battlng to make amazing, and tasty Yule logs.


Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
by Elizabeth Gilbert by Penguin Books
Kindle Edition ~ Release Date: 2007-01-30

List Price: $14.00

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BriteLites can also be supported with a $20 gift.  Thank you.

#39a Def Poetry & Novel Writing Month Finale


Sunflower 2188

Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Congratulations to all who participated in National Novel Writing Month 2012. I’d love to hear your stories.

A huge thanks to those who launched this amazing project and who’ve kept this opportunity for WordSmiths going and growing. In 1999 21 participated and 6 won. In 2000 140 participated and 29 won. Last year, 256,618 participated and 36,843 won

This year, the total collective word count was: 3,288,976,325. At 6:30pm ET on November 30, my 50,701-word contribution was validated.

Along the way, I learned that pre-planning a novel cannot completely prepare. I’d spent October developing character profiles, plot possibilities and settings. By mid November, I’d spent more days trying to figure out what was happening than writing. Eventually, I realized that the key to progress was to, “begin it.” Each day, start new. Each day, do something.

Sandra Gould Ford

Worth A Look

In each issue, BriteLitesBiz presents a video specially selected to inspire, motivate, enlighten and prompt WordSmithing.

Def Poetry, George Watsky  3:56   (Adult language)

Poetry always inspires and helps me overcome writers block.   “V Is For Virgin” might also make you smile.

Visit SoulSongz

Sky & Earth (27) v1Poster J smallBe sure to visit my SoulSongz blog– Art for Healing and High Achievement — with the autumn theme, “The Sky’s The Limit.”

Visit my blog


 Each week, BriteLitesBiz delivers information and inspiration for WordSmiths.

 Support by shopping in my galleries where the art can be purchased, either as prints for less than  $20 or custom framed. Note the Weekly Specials.

BriteLites can also be supported with a $20 gift.  Thank you.

Prep for NaNo Month – Step 4 & Goal Setting

Prep for National Novel Writing Month – 4th Steps

Thirty days and nights of literary abandon. About 100 novels have been published from NanoWriMo efforts. See the list.

Okay, NaNoWriMo starts Thursday!  If you’d like to try drafting a 50,000-word novel in November, register here.


The night was dank and dreary (hmmmm). Frankenstein-green light drenched the tired and quiet bus riders. Across from me, a woman clutched a book so closely that I thought she’d either eat it or squeeze inside. When I asked what she was reading, she replied, “Half Blood Prince,” the sixth Harry Potter novel.
Because I knew that one important character died, I asked, “Was it Hagrid?” To my surprise, everyone on the bus perked up and eavesdropped. Conversations about Potter erupted. And I wondered, How did Rowling do it?
Paying careful attention to the last book, Deathly Hallows, I realized that J. K. Rowling enraptured readers with her mastery of The Scene, which is:
  • A Setting (either implicit or explicit), with
  • Two or more characters
  • Interacting in ways that propel the story toward the next scene

Scenes are different from exposition: explanations, observations and introspective passages. Consider concentrating on scenes during NaNoWriMo. Keep asking: What happens? What happens next?


A log or process for recalling what has been written and where it is will prove most helpful (and reduce hair pulling), especially after about 50 pages of “literary abandon.” Mine is available for $15. 

Buy Now

Worth A Look  

In each issue, BriteLitesBiz presents a video specially selected to inspire, motivate, enlighten and prompt WordSmithing.  This issue’s 5-minute video presents a seven-step sequence for achieving goals.

Nominate a video for “Worth A Look.”  When selected, receive art featured in Sandra’s gallery.

Support BriteLitesBiz

TSTL 5 Each week, BriteLitesBiz delivers information and inspiration for WordSmiths.

Support by clicking on the image and shopping in my galleries where the art can be purchased, either as prints for less than  $20 or custom framed. Note the Weekly Specials.
BriteLites can also be supported with a $20 gift.  Thank you
Also visit SoulSongz, my blog that presents art for healing and high achievement.  This Issue:  #35 – Boo!  Possibilities.  “You Deserve.”
Thanks for visiting!

#36 Critiquing Critics – de Maupassant Pt 1


Guy de Maupassant

Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLitesBiz invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths. The intro stated,

Although Henry James one time observed that “in dissertation M. de Maupassant does not write with his best pen,” this discussion of the novel is one of the few really lucid essays on the subject.

Thank goodness!   And — symbolically — deMaupassant lambasts more than those who publish opinions about books.


From de Maupassant’s introduction to Pierre et Jean.

In the midst of eulogistic sentences I find regularly this one, by the same pen:  “The greatest fault in this work is that it is not a novel, properly speaking.”

One could reply by the same argument:  “The greatest fault in the writer who does me the honor to judge my work is that he is not a critic.”

What are, in truth, the essential characteristics of the critic?

Without prejudice, without preconceived opinions, without the ideas of a school, without affiliations with any special group of artists, he must understand, distinguish, and explain all tendencies the most opposite, temperaments the most contrary, and acknowledge artistic innovations of the most diverse character.

Now the critic who after Manon Lescaut, Paul et Virginie, Don Quixote, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Werther … Madame Bovary, Adolphe, M. de Camors, L’Assommoir, Sapho, etc., dares still to write “This is a novel and that is not,” seems to me to be endowed with a perspicacity which strongly resembles incompetence.

Ordinarily the critic understands by “novel” an adventure more or less probable, arranged in the fashion of a drama in three acts, of which the first contains the exposition, the second the action, and the third the denouement.

This manner of composing is absolutely admissible on condition that one accept equally all the others.

Do rules exist for writing a novel, outside of which a written narrative ought to bear some other name?

To be continued

Mid Week, Watch for:

4th Step in Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

Setting Achievable Goals (a Zig video)

Be sure to visit my SoulSongz blog with the autumn theme, “The Sky’s The Limit.”

Support BriteLites with a $20 gift.  Thank you.

#34 Write True & Alice McDermott video


Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child;
it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.
Robert Louis Stevenson

See also his collected poetry

I still contend that, in the humblest sort of literary work,
we have it in our power either to do great harm or great good.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

These words are from a portion of Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay that are not in BriteLites’ serialization but will be part of the whole that is offered shortly.  While Stevenson was denouncing the sensational and mediocre, mundane and dishonest journalism of his time, his words are reminders to all who write, whether non fiction, fantasy or poetry.

Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLitesBiz invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths.  Following is the fifth excerpt from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Morality of The Profession of Letters.”

The Two Duties of All Writers

There are two duties incumbent upon any man who enters on the business of writing: truth to the fact and a good spirit in the treatment.

In every department of literature, though so low as hardly to deserve the name, truth to the fact is of importance to the education and comfort of mankind, and so hard to preserve, that the faithful trying to do so will lend some dignity to the man who tries it.  Our judgments are based upon two things: first, upon the original preferences of our soul; but, second, upon the mass testimony to the nature of God, man, and the universe which reaches us, in divers manners, from without.

For the most part these diverse manners are reducible to one, all that we learn of past times and much that we learn of our own reaching us through the medium of books or papers, and even he who cannot read learning from the same source at second-hand and by the report of him who can.  Thus the sum of the contemporary knowledge or ignorance of good and evil is, in large measure, the handiwork of those who write.  Those who write have to see that each man’s knowledge is, as near aas they can make it, answerable to the facts of life; that he shall not suppose himself an angel or a monster; nor take this world for a hell; nor be suffered to image that all rights are concentred in his own caste or country, or all veracities in his own parochial creed.

Each man should learn what is within him, that he may strive to men; he must be taught what is without him, that he may be kind to others.  It can never be wrong to tell him the truth; for, in his disputable state, weaving as he goes his theory of life, steering himself, cheering or reproving others, all facts are of the first importance to his conduct; and even if a fact shall discourage or corrupt him, it is still best that he should know it; for it is in this world as it is, and not in a world made easy by educational suppressions, that he must win his way to shame or glory. In one word, it must always be foul to tell what is false; and it can never be safe to suppress what is true.

Watch for mid-week posting
NANOWriMo Prep, 2nd Step

National Book Award winner Alice McDermott discusses her process with Charlie Rose
10 minutes

On Choice of Profession


Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Dear WordSmith,

Did you, as a child, love to draw and write stories as soon as you could handle pencils and crayons?  Did you follow adult counsel about getting a good education to earn a living wage, dream of writing while doing anything but and live a practical life that appreciated art by others while neglecting your own?

Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLites invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths.

On The Choice of Profession

And perhaps there is no subject on which a man should speak so gravely as that industry, whatever it may be, which is the occupation or delight of his life; which is his tool to earn or serve with; and which, if it be unworthy, stamps himself as a mere incubus of dumb and greedy bowels on the shoulders of laboring humanity.

On that subject alone even to force the note might lean to virtue’s side.  It is to be hoped that a numerous and enterprising generation of writers will follow and surpass the present one; but it would be better if the stream were stayed, and the roll of our old, honest English books were closed, than that esurient book-makers should continue and debase a brave tradition and lower, in their own eyes, a famous race. Better that our serene temples were deserted than filled with trafficking and juggling priests.

There are two just reasons for the choice of any way of life: the first is inbred taste in the chooser; the second some high utility in the industry selected.  Literature, like any other art, is singularly interesting to the artist; and, in a degree peculiar to itself among the arts, it is useful to mankind.  These are sufficient justifications for any young man or woman who adopts it as the business of his life.  I shall not say much about the wages.  A writer can live by his writing.  If not so luxuriously as by other trades, then less luxuriously.  The nature of the work he does all day will more affect his happiness than the quality of his dinner at night.

Comments Invited.

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Art for Healing & High Achievement

Writing Valued


We must accept life for what it actually is – a challenge to our quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.
Robert Louis Stevenson

I am both surprised by Robert Louis Stevenson’s discussion of and strong opinions about compensation and its relevance to what a writer creates. Although written over twelve decades ago, I am refreshed by his insistence that a love of the craft come first.

Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLites invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths.

Excerpt 2 from Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay, “The Morality of The Profession of Letters,” first published in the Fortnightly Review, in 1881

Part Two

The Morality of The Profession of Letters

The other day an author was complimented on a piece of work, good in itself and exceptionally good for him, and replied, in terms of unworthy of a commercial traveler, that as the book was not briskly selling he did not give a copper farthing for its merit.
It must not be supposed that the person to whom this answer was addressed received it as a profession of faith; he knew, on the other hand, that it was only a whiff of irritation; just as we know, when a respectable writer talks of literature as a way of life, like shoemaking, but not so useful, that he is only debating one aspect of a question, and is still clearly conscious of a dozen others more important in themselves and more central to the matter in hand.
But while those who treat literature in this penny-wise and virtue-foolish spirit are themselves truly in possession of a better light, it does not follow that the treatment is decent or improving, whether for themselves or others.
To treat all subjects in the highest, the most honorable, and the pluckiest spirit, consistent with the fact, is the first duty of a writer. If he be well paid, as I am glad to hear he is, this duty becomes the more urgent, the neglect of it the more disgraceful.

COMMENTS WELCOMED on $$ as first reason for writing.

Next week – R. L. Stevenson Part Three: Attitude is everything. As Stevenson wrote, It is to be hoped that a numerous and enterprising generation of writers will follow and surpass the present one.

Worth A Look:  1920 Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde