Body Dialogue

Some say our bodies speak more clearly and honestly than our mouths do. I don’t know about that, but I think it will help your fiction if you show your characters using appropriate body language from time to time.

Body DialogueWhy? For one thing, body language helps break up long strings of dialogue quotes to keep the text more readable and interesting. Body language allows you to show internal conflict within a non-Point-of-View character by contrasting that character’s words with some clashing body language. Also, body language can emphasize the emotions of a character by going beyond mere spoken words.

Body language, or kinesics, includes such things as facial expressions, body posture, gestures, and tone of voice. Subdivisions of kinesics include Oculesics (body language of the eyes), Haptics (body language through touching), and Proxemics (body language using distance).

Author Amanda Patterson, founder of Writers Write, has provided a convenient online table that provides the typical body language expressions for many emotions.

There are a few ways you could use this resource:

  • As-is. Just find your character’s current emotion, and have the character display some or all of the body language manifestations. This may contrast a bit with what the character is saying, and that shows either internal conflict or deception.
  • Characteristic body language. For one of your main characters, establish a pattern where that character displays a particular body language much of the time, thus establishing a character trait and linking it to a predominate personality trait. Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo often crossed his arms, denoting aloofness, distance, and defensiveness.
  • Given that the table provides typical body language, consider showing one or more of your main characters exhibiting slight variations on those common traits. Those variations may say something about your characters’ personalities.

It’s not clear if body language is common across all countries, all cultures, or all time periods, so be careful and do some research before assuming a character would exhibit the body language you do.

Lastly, don’t overdo it. Just like long strings of dialogue get boring, so does too-frequent use of body language.

Jumping up and down while pumping my fists in the air, I’m—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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November 29, 2015Permalink

Author Interview—N.O.A. Rawle

The fun continues today as I interview another author with a story appearing in the anthology Hides the Dark Tower. To obtain this interview, I had to travel all the way to Greece…well, virtually.

NaomiRawleN.A.O. Rawle is a British writer, teacher and translator living and working in mythical Thessalian Plain in Greece. She graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy. After many years of procrastinating, she took the plunge and has started publishing short sci-fi/horror/fantasy stories. She’s had over a dozen short stories and poems published. She’s been published in the anthology Once Bitten, and The Girl at the End of the World, Book II  and the anthology Denizens of Steam.

Here’s the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

N.A.O. Rawle: First, thank you for having me on your blog, it’s great to talk to you. I grew up with books as my dad was a librarian. He had a study stuffed floor to ceiling with books, mostly about fly fishing and theology, but that’s where I got the bug. The actual writing started with fan fiction when I was in Secondary school and progressed into photocopied comic books in my late teens. Published work came a lot later.

P.S.: What other authors influenced your writing? What are a few of your favorite books?

N.R.: Harder to answer than I imagined. I can’t say who has influenced my writing style as I don’t think I’ve really found my own. (At the moment I’m going through a phase of stories in rhyming prose and that comes straight from Dr Seuss and ‘The Night Before Christmas’!) Once I had finished James Herbert’s The Magic Cottage, I remember thinking “I should like to do that.” I love Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Iain M. Banks, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Bret Easton Ellis, Harlan Ellison and Bruce Sterling…

P.S.: In your blog, you’ve mentioned having thirty writing projects going at once, in various stages. Have you accepted that as a normal state of affairs for you, or would you prefer to be more focused?

N.R.: That’s normal. I live by flitting from one thing to the other and half finished projects everywhere, and I don’t mean just writing. I can focus and do occasionally, to the point of obsessive! That’s when work gets done fast.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

N.R.: Being asked to do edits is the hardest. Not because I’m too proud and don’t want to change what I’ve written but because I find incorporating another’s perspective bewildering. Will it look right to the reader? Have I clarified and tidied up the waffle? The easiest is writing. I can sit and type for hours and hours.

P.S.: Your bio mentions your British nationality, your current work location in Greece, your teaching and translation work, and your education in creative writing and philosophy. In ‘Core Craving’ and ‘Those Who Can, Do,’ you touch on two of those aspects. In what other ways do your varied background and education inspire your stories?

N.R.: I’ve done (counts on fingers and gives up) many jobs since the age of fifteen so there’s always a bit of those experiences in my writing but it’s not necessarily what I know about them. In ‘Those Who Can, Do’ I was more interested in the fact that so many teachers appear to have forgotten the purpose of their jobs and get into some sort of power place ‘us’ and ‘them’. I also had some hideous teachers at school who really didn’t understand that the colour of my shirt was not a factor in the learning process. Greece crops up in my work frequently, I’ve spent almost half my life here now and it would be weird for it not to feature. A character might come from someone I’ve met or the atmosphere of a place might inspire a scene, I’m always trying to paint a picture so that my reader can see what I do.

P.S.: It appears you’re participating in NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) for the first time this year. How is that going?

N.R.: It’s going…I did it in the hope that I could complete one of those projects I’ve been composting for about a decade as there is outside interest in it after a short story grew from some of the remnants that I had cut from the original work. (‘Synchronysi’ due to be published in the New Year). If I can get the plot down then I know I’ll get it sorted.

P.S.: Lately, you’ve been writing some steampunk stories. Why does that genre appeal to you?

N.R.: It’s what Goths do when they discover brown, or so a friend of mine tells me. No, I like that I can mix up fancy frocks with feminism and mechanical monsters! Oh and rhyming prose, ‘A Walk in the Park’ is the first story I’ve self-published that is Steampunk in Denizens of Steam, an anthology that I helped ‘curate’ to promote the Scribbler’s Den writing forum on the Steampunk Empire.

P.S.: You’ve guest-blogged for Rie Sheridan Rose about your story ‘Core Craving’ in Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]Hides the Dark Tower and mentioned the research you did on the castle. Had that story idea been kicking around in your mind before the anthology’s call for submissions, or did it all click together afterward?

N.R.: The story was fully formed but had not found a home. Vonnie and Kelly [editors Vonnie Winslow Crist and Kelly A. Harmon] made it welcome in Hides the Dark Tower, an anthology, which is a real treat to read and an honour to be included in! ‘Core Craving’ is such a small story but one that took a long time to build and the first one published which is set in my home town (I have several others) so I’m pleased it’s found its niche amongst so many respected authors.

P.S.: Among your many current Works in Progress (or, as you have quipped, Works in Procrastination), would you mind telling us a little about one of them?

N.R.: I have a story called ‘Touched’ which has been simmering for a long time (read years). It’s a fantasy/horror mishmash involving fae folk who live in the beautiful Greek mountain forests. (I am told, in all seriousness, that fairies do reside there.) I have so much written but on an ancient word processor whose disks I have been unable to print up anywhere since the WP died on me. I’ve been trying to remember the story but there are big gaps in the plot and I am so sad. I’m patching it up but it’s beginning to resemble Frankenstein’s monster not the glorious creation I envisaged. In my heart I know I can make it good but I need determination.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

N.O.A. Rawle: Jim Morrison wrote “Words dissemble, words be quick, words resemble walking sticks, plant them and they will grow…”

Sow the seeds of stories and see what becomes of them. Some will become roses and others prickly thistles that you’ll need to weed out. Like plants, some tales are therapeutic and others poisonous. Some will charm you with their beauty and there will be down-right ugly ones; they will all teach you something about writing but only if you keep tending them.

 

Thanks, Naomi! I know readers of my blog will want to find out more about you, and, luckily, I have that information handy. You have a blog and you’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. You also appear on Google+, Pinterest, and Amazon as N.O.A. Rawle, and on Steampunk Empire as Lady Naomi.

Poseidon’s Scribe

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November 15, 2015Permalink

Author Interview—Jeremy M. Gottwig

When you’re on a roll, go with it. I’ve been landing the most fascinating interviews with the authors of the wonderful stories in the Hides the Dark Tower anthology, and today I present another one.

Jeremy GottwigI interviewed Jeremy M. Gottwig. According to his website, he lives in Baltimore City, and is a trained librarian and programmer. Writing is his hobby, but his favorite job is being a parent.

Here’s the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How long have you been writing?

Jeremy M. Gottwig: I read Watership Down in junior high and caught the bug. Most of my early stories involve talking animals. I am now in my mid-30s. A few weeks ago, my parents sold the house. My mom told me that she found boxes and boxes of notebooks filled with my stories and partial novels. I’m tempted to go through them and see if I discover any gems, but I’m also a little nervous about what I might find. I was a strange teenager.

P.S.: On your Twitter page, you state that you write space opera. How do you define that term, and why do you write in that genre?

J.M.G.: For me, space opera is about exploration, discovery, and relationships. I expect space opera to be epic. Perhaps it takes place over vast distances or over the course of many years. I hope to see substantial character growth throughout the course of the story.

It is my preferred genre, because it was my dad’s preferred genre. I grew up on Star Trek and classic Battlestar Galactica. I am a librarian and programmer, and my first job after graduate school was at NASA. My interest in languages, technology, and information stemmed in part from my early exposure to space opera. I hope to pass a love of science and space onto my son, and I hope that my stories can be part of this effort.

P.S.: I’m sure your son will appreciate it. In what way is your fiction different from that of other authors of space opera?

J.M.G.: I love reading about space battles, galactic conflicts, and seismic shifts, but I tend to avoid these themes in my own work. My space opera tends to be smaller, personal, and somewhat light-hearted. I like to drop ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances and observe their growth across space and time. My stories are more likely to contain marital disagreements than military engagements.

P.S.: Your website includes much of the latest news from NASA. Do current NASA developments give you ideas for stories?

J.M.G.: I use scientific discoveries to help with adding details to stories. I often mine Kepler’s exoplanet data to describe planets. Only on rare occasions do scientific discoveries inspire the stories themselves.

P.S.: Your website states that many of your stories take place in the same “universe.” Do you have a name for this story world, and what are your plans for it (short stories, novels, collections)?

J.M.G.: All of my current stories take place in and around Xevilious, which is an alliance of worlds bound together by an engineered virus. Earth became a member of this alliance in 1988 following a First Contact event. I’ve rewritten much of Earth’s history after that point. (For example, Dukakis won the presidential election rather than H.W. Bush.) I use this world to give me consistent rules when writing. For the most part, I write flash and short stories, but I do have a number of longer pieces. My largest project in this universe is Employee of the Year: a series of novellas (six and counting), which takes place in the years following First Contact. I have two additional collections planned, one in the distant past and another in the distant future. All of these stories feed into one of several overarching threads, and I use short stories and flash to highlight tertiary issues and minor characters.

P.S.: How do you keep track of all the facts about your story universe, to keep from having the stories conflict?

J.M.G.: I keep long and detailed Google Docs that contain planets, races, star systems, and so on. I plan to transition some of this data over to my website and make it publicly available. I also keep all of my stories in Google Docs, and I use the search feature if I ever need to verify a detail.

P.S.: How do you describe your writing style?

J.M.G.: I sacrifice poetry for simplicity.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]P.S.: Well said. You wrote “Who Abandon Themselves,” which appears in Hides the Dark Tower. Please tell us about the story.

J.M.G.: Shy Aubolis struggles with the day-to-day operations of running a monastery, while maintaining a sinful correspondence with a former lover. This story takes within a black hole’s planetary system. I have written more about the characters (and their historical inspiration) on Vonnie Winslow Crist’s blog.

P.S.: You have a book coming out called Employee of the Year. Please tell us about it.

J.M.G.: The story is about teenager and fast food employee, Chet Eubanks. After First Contact, Chet obsesses over strategies to get into space. He is selected for an illegal corporate project to determine how much traction the company’s fast food products might get with alien lifeforms. Chet welcomes the opportunity, but he should have thought things through a bit more carefully.

And there you have the first three chapters in a nutshell. What follows is a multi-year epic that carries Chet from south town South Dakota and into the depths of space.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

J.M.G.: Employee of the Year is a series of novellas and novelettes rather than an individual novel. It is broken up into “seasons.” I have completed the first season and am hard at work on the second. Whenever I need a break, I write a short story or a piece of flash.

I am releasing the first Employee of the Year novelette in December. I plan to release the other episodes throughout the first half of 2016.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Jeremy M. Gottwig: Set a realistic writing schedule. You are busy, and writing is hard work. I tend to caution against setting word goals and prefer to focus on keeping the schedule. If you have writer’s block, edit something you have already written.

Thanks, Jeremy! I invite readers of my blog to find out more about Jeremy M. Gottwig at his website, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Pinterest.

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November 7, 2015Permalink

Author Interview—Anatoly Belilovsky

You’ll enjoy reading my interview of Anatoly Belilovsky, another author whose story appears in the anthology Hides the Dark Tower.

Anatoly BelilovskyAnatoly Belilovsky is a Russian-American author and translator of speculative fiction. His work has appeared in the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology, Ideomancer, Nature Futures, Stupefying Stories, Immersion Book of Steampunk, Daily SF, Kasma, Kazka, and has been podcast by Cast of Wonders, Tales of Old, and Toasted Cake. He blogs about writing here, pediatrics here, and his medical practice web site is here. He was born in what is now Ukraine, learned English from Star Trek reruns, worked his way through a US college by teaching Russian while majoring in chemistry, and has, for the past 25 years, been a paediatrician in New York, in a practice where English is the fourth most commonly spoken language.

Here’s the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: When and why did you begin writing fiction?

Anatoly Belilovsky: I vaguely remember writing fanfic as a child, at least in my mind: a prequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a sequel to the original Lost World of Arthur Conan Doyle, apocrypha of Strugatsky’s Inhabited Island. Nothing I’d ever want to show anyone.

I did publish a couple of stories in my college’s annual magazine, one of them acquired by Gordon van Gelder [editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction] back when he himself was an undergraduate. Nothing I’d want to show anyone these days, either.

P.S.:    What genres have you written in?

A.B.: Alternate history is probably my favorite. When I write SF and fantasy, they tend to skirt very close to mainstream/literary. In humor, I prefer character-driven comedy to situational comedy — a mathematician who can only think of mathematics in terms of Russian swear words seems to have had the greatest impact so far, though an epidemic of otaku based on Russian cartoon characters, and Wagner leading a musical invasion of France in 1870, both got a few chuckles here and there.

P.S.:    In what way is your fiction different from that of other authors in your genre?

A.B.: I doubt I am the only one who acknowledges a debt to Gogol, Chekhov, Nabokov, and Poe as their major influences. It isn’t as common as Delany and Le Guin, but certainly not unique. There are several excellent bilingual writers, several physician writers I am proud to call twice-colleagues, several of anything I can ever be labeled as. I guess this is a question best asked of my fans. Shouldn’t take too long to interview both of them.

P.S.:    What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

A.B.: Characterization is easiest: I seem to have a good handle on subtext which is what characterization is all about.

Plotting is the hardest. If I do my characterization right, the characters will pick proper fights with each other, the Universe, and the absurdity of existence. If not, they go through the motions, listlessly.

P.S.:    You’ve had many short stories published. Have you written any novels or do you intend to?

A.B.: I have not so far been chosen by a novel to be the instrument of its creation. Also, plotting: novels seem to depend on it more than short stories do.

P.S.:    In describing yourself, you cite your Russian childhood, Star Trek, chemistry, and pediatrics. How do you weave each of those threads of your life into your stories?

A.B.: Well, I learned English from Star Trek, so that’s huge. The chemical principles of self-assembly and tertiary structure — if you think about it, that’s how the best stories work, the characters and their worlds interacting organically, friendships and conflicts never feeling forced or synthetic. Pediatrics — after 30 years, subtext is second nature, you get to read whatever is left unsaid, tease out the meaning behind the exact phraseology used. And growing up speaking a highly inflected language I think gave me a heightened understanding of structure and mechanics of English.

Also, seriously, when everything you say can be used by Big Brother against you, subtext becomes a way of life. I was beta reading a story once that had this exchange:

A: “We hunt dragons.”

B: “There are no dragons.”

A: “That’s because we killed them all!”

My suggestion was to change it to:

A: “We hunt dragons.”

B: “Dragons are extinct.”

A: “You are welcome!”

Same idea, but I think communicating it through subtext made the speaker more matter-of-fact and therefore more believable.

P.S.:    Your stories often contain literary references, some perhaps unfamiliar to American readers. Are your tales intended to be enjoyed on several levels by the casual reader, the well-read bibliophile, and the researching puzzle-solver?

A.B.: Yes. In fact, this is exactly what several reviewers and a number of beta readers said. “Because of your story I googled [X] and wow [X] is now my new favorite thing and likely the name of my firstborn and my next band” — this is what writers live for!

Examples: I wrote a story about Night Witches, a women’s night bomber unit in the Soviet Army in WWII. Got an email from a reader who happily discovered the unit actually existed! Another reader now peppers conversations with Russian swear words. Mea maxima culpa! And Chrestomathy, the patchwork alternate literature story, got a whole bunch of conversations going about Pushkin and Gogol and the nature of ethics.

P.S.:    Your Twitter stream abounds in puns. What is it about that form of humor that intrigues you?

A.B.: I immigrated to US with my parents in 1976, and by end of high school and start of college in ’78 my English was fully functional, but no more. It was on a winter day in 1979 that I felt an almost audible *click* as English became *my* language, and the first manifestation of that was that I started making puns. I scribbled in the margins of my notebooks, Q and A jokes, knock knock jokes, shaggy dog stories ending in a terrible pun —

Also, I always liked math. And math teaches us that the shortest distance between two puns is a straight line.

One of my multilingual idols, Vladimir Nabokov, excelled at puns. Pale Fire has to be one of my favorite books of all time.

P.S.:    Your story in Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]Hides the Dark Tower is “Deep Into That Darkness Peering.” Can you tell us what inspired that homage to Poe (with a nod to Chekhov)?

A.B.: Well, Poe is… Poe! I mean, who else can write such purple prose and get away with it? “Deep Into That Darkness Peering” is actually one of three Poe’s purple prose pastiches I perpetrated, the other two published in Stupefying Stories Showcase. Melodrama, bathos, run-on sentences from hell (in my son’s estimation) — and I’m getting paid for it! MWAHAHA! [clears throat] Umm, where was I?

I also admire Poe for what has to be the biggest Deus Ex ending ever. Remember how “The Pit and the Pendulum” ends? The French enter the city and save the protagonist! Agency? Who needs agency when you have the French army! Now I don’t have to feel guilty for how I ended “Deep Into That Darkness Peering.”

Chekhov, by the way, is the author of the best bit of subtext ever written. In “The Lady with the Dog,” a man approaches the lady and the dog. The dog bristles. Quote follows:

“He does not bite,” she said and blushed.

Think about it.

P.S.:    What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

A.B.: An alternate history in which Tsar Nicholas II caught the bullet meant for Prime Minister Stolypin in 1911. No WWI, no Revolution. Murder mystery involving several characters born before the point of departure and famous in our timeline for — blimey, I better go and write this, what?

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Anatoly Belilovsky: Don’t only take writing advice from writers who wrote stuff you wish you’d written. Even people whose writing you don’t find appealing can help you develop your own voice. And if then you develop taste for their work — well, growth happens.

 

Readers aching to find out more about Anatoly Belilovsky (you know you’re one of them) can visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

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November 4, 2015Permalink

Remembrances of Hallowread 2015

Several authors whose stories appear in Hides the Dark Tower, participated in Hallowread this year.

Here’s yours truly, Hallowread 1Poseidon’s Scribe himself, signing a book for an adoring fan. Either that, or I’m defacing somebody’s copy of the book.

 

 

 

 

Fellow author Hallowread 4M. J. Ritchie spooks the attendees with a section of her story “Soul for Sale.”

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Hallowread 3Gudgel reads from his story “The Long Road Home,” with Poe’s raven gauging the audience’s reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s beret-topped JHallowread 5eremy M. Gottwig reading his tale “Who Abandon Themselves.”

 

 

 

 

 

Co-editor VHallowread 2onnie Winslow Crist, behind a row of some of her books, entices the audience with a short blurb about every story in Hides the Dark Tower. I don’t have a pic of co-editor Kelly A. Harmon, since she wielded the camera.

 

 

 

 

In the end, it turned out everyone really came for tHallowread 6his:

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s the tastiest book I ever ate,” proclaimed—

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November 1, 2015Permalink