Archive for half-known world

Book Review – “The Half-Known World on Writing Fiction” by Robert Boswell

Posted in Writing with tags , on October 15, 2011 by Dawn Ross

The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction

While reading “The Half-Known World on Writing Fiction” by Robert Boswell, I came to the realization that I am not a real writer. While I think my story is good, it is just that – a story. It is not an artistic piece of work. A real writer is more interested in writing for the sake of writing while a story-teller is more interested in the story. The depth that my work lacks is due to my inadequacy on the intricacies of writing.

The inadequacies of my story are apparent in the first chapter of “The Half-Known World“. The first chapter discusses how important it is to discover your character as you write. If you tell all about your character right off, you dampen the mystery. Your character is predictable and boring, and quite possibly perfectly fits into a stereotype. This same step can be obvious in the story itself. Leave some aspects of the story half-known. This way when the full story is discovered, your reader is fulfilled. No one enjoys reading a story with a predictable end. By keeping the reader guessing, you are creating interest.

The second chapter of “The Half-Known World” explains how characters should react within a paradigm. Robert Boswell’s example is of a society in the 1930s. People behaved a certain way towards African Americans in that time. To write a story in that setting and ignore this fact would make the story difficult to believe. If a character is to act outside of the paradigm, then the story should show why? Notice I said ‘show’, not tell.

Chapter three of “The Half-Known World” goes into the use of what the writer calls narrative spandrels. A spandrel is an architectural feature but Robert Boswell applies it to writing. In writing, a spandrel is an element in the story that is part of the story but more of an accidental coincidence rather than a feature of the story itself. For example, a spandrel could be an insignificant item described in the story that somehow keeps presenting itself in the story. It somehow indirectly becomes the key or the glue to the story itself. But spandrels shouldn’t be obvious. By the end of the story, it should be a surprise.

I found chapter four of “The Half-Known World” of good use. It explains how if you’re telling a story from a narrator point of view, you need to be careful about ‘knowing it all’. Is the narrator a part of the story or just an observer? Either way, the reader should only know what the narrator knows. The reader should only be confined to what the narrator sees, hears, and feels. If such a narrator were to know how another character feels or why another character behaved the way they did, then it gives the story an unrealistic feeling. A narrator can certainly express his opinion, but it should be clear that it is such.

Other topics covered by “The Half-Known World” include how the imbalances between male and female characters creates tension, how stories can be in danger of sounding too much like an urban legend, using writing techniques to give a setting an unearthly or mysterious feeling, using writing to express a political or controversial opinion, and finally the importance of writing a mystery so that your character comes to the same conclusions as the reader at the same time.

Of all the topics covered in “The Half-Known World” by Robert Boswell, the ‘half-known’ was the most interesting and the one which I know I need to work on the most. Thinking about this issue, I realize that I have my main character almost fully known right at the beginning of the story. We already know he is the hero, we know his full character, so we almost know how the story is going to go. There is no conflict of character and therefore no conflict of story. The good guy is good and the bad guy is bad.

Does this mean I am going to go back to the drawing board? Probably, but not right away. For now, my book will stay published as it is. But to strive for a better story, I will read more books like “The Half-Known World” and practice more at writing short stories.

Before you write a story or book, start with reading “The Half-Known World on Writing Fiction” by Robert Boswell and hone your writing techniques. They key to becoming a good writer is to go beyond just telling a story – be a creative writer and intrigue your audience.

Miscellaneous Chatter from Dawn Ross

Posted in About the Author, Miscellaneous with tags , , on October 1, 2011 by Dawn Ross

Busy Busy Busy!
I have been awfully busy lately so I haven’t had time to do much writing. Although I quit my full time job at the end of July this year, they called me back a couple weeks ago and asked if I would be willing to work for them again if they let me do it from home and for part time only. Since we are in need of additional money for IVF treatment, I said yes. We have also have a few car repairs to make before winter. And I have spent time cleaning house and promoting my new website,

Where Does the Time Go?
I did manage to finally get my book, “The Third Dragon” published as an e-book on Amazon (see previous post). I should be working on getting that promoted but I think I will wait until the review is complete. Perhaps I should work on getting the website done in the meantime, but where will I find the time!?

A Dance with Dragons
In the evenings, I have been reading George R. R. Martin’s latest book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” Series, titled “A Dance with Dragons”. I just finished the book last week and although I enjoyed it immensely, I hate the fact that the sequel will not be available for some time. The story is complex and there is too much to remember in between books, so I took a lot of notes. I hate the fact that it seems like Jon died for I really don’t like it when the good guys lose. But it seems like he may live in some form, perhaps in his direwolf, Ghost. Will Jaime be back even though it seems like he is walking into a trap with Brienne? Cersei is getting her comeuppance and I hope it stays that way. And where the heck is Arya going with all this? She deserves retribution too but it seems like she is going the wrong way to get there.

The Half-Known World
Now that I am done reading “A Dance with Dragons” I am reading a non-fiction book titled, “The Half-Known World” by Robert Boswell. I am only in the first chapter, but it is very helpful so far. He says that rather than knowing your characters, you want to start out with just the basic ‘stereotype’ and evolve from there. Don’t start out with your character already figured out as it may ruin the mystery. As I go further along in the book, I believe he will expand on the “half-known” truths in regards to the storyline itself. By only telling part of the story, you are keeping the reader engaged and wanting to read more. Makes sense, right? Since I have trouble generating mystery and intrigue in my book’s story and characters, I think this will help.

Learning Chinese
Rather than reading in the evenings, I should be spending time learning Chinese. My husband is Chinese so I have learned a little bit. But if I get pregnant and my husband’s parents come to help me when the baby is born, then I really need to get a grip on the language. Boy, is it tough! I have the Rosetta Stone program and it is very good and very helpful, but I have been procrastinating on using it. (I do know how to say that my dog is not wearing any pants in Chinese.)

Well, nothing else at the moment. Hopefully I will have a better blog post next Saturday.  :0)