Monday, October 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo This Way Comes

So: Blastoff approaches for my National Novel Writing Month project JIHAD COMIX. Best wishes to all who are writing this year! Next blog update: Thursday, Godwilling, when we are all on a mission.

I am officially done tweaking my much-obsessed-upon outline, which now runs to 102 (short) scenes, each the subject of a sticky note. The outline now looks like this. Peace out! May the Force be with you!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Edelstein's 23 Adult Personality Types, Toropov's Examples from Shakespeare

Linda Edelstein, an author and psychologist, offers 23 adult personality types in her book WRITER'S GUIDE TO CHARACTER TRAITS. These are extremely valuable to writers doing pre-draft character sketches for novels, short stories, and screenplays.

As I read her work, I wondered whether I could find Shakespearean character examples for each personality type, and lo and behold, I could. The resulting 23-point chapter summary, with examples from the Bard, is of potential use to those of us who happen to be Shakespeare freaks and also happen to be creating sketches of major and minor characters.

"Connecting the dots" here confirmed once again that Shakespeare presaged modern psychological findings ... and also confirmed for me the brilliance and necessity of Edelstein's book. The brief summaries I adapted from it here are only "loglines" reflecting the much deeper insights you will get from reading Chapter Two of Edelstein's superb book.

Everything not in (parentheses) below: source = A Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein. Great book. Buy it now!

Everything in (parentheses) below: source = me.

The Adventurer

May look and sound ordinary, but underlying most activities is the need to feel like a warrior, often unknowingly at the cost of others. This character is typically, but not always, male. (Think: Hotspur in Henry IV PART 1, or Kate in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.)

The Boss

Has to be in control, whether at home, work, or play. Having things go his/her own way matter a great deal to this character. (Think: King Lear in first two acts of KING LEAR.)

The Conventional

Lives by the rules and prefers the established ways; thinks the status quo is vastly preferable to the risk of change. (Think: Bianca in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.)

The Creator

Gets meaning from the ability to produce new ideas, products, approaches, and/or outcomes. (Think Prospero in THE TEMPEST. Or, if you don't dig wizard archetypes, Henry V in HENRY V.)

The Dependent

This character's whole world revolves around having his/her needs met by others; he/she simply does not do well without help. Making independent decisions may be difficult or impossible. This person's need for validation and support goes beyond what is normally expected for a particular stage of life, occurring as a central reality even in periods of youth or robust health. (Think Virgilia in the early acts of CORIOLANUS.)

The Eccentric

Zigs when others zag. Is genuinely different; typically appears "weird" to others. (Think: the Fool in KING LEAR or Touchstone in AS YOU LIKE IT.)

The Extrovert

Draws energy and inspiration from interactions with other people. Thrives in groups. Actually enjoys time spent with others. (Think: Benedick in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.)

The Fall Guy/Girl

Seems to make a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. (Think: Roderigo in OTHELLO.)

The Fearful

Inhibited; driven by a fear of rejection. These fears dominate this character's internal life and interactions with others. (This will sound strange, but think it through: the Shakespearean model here is the Othello from acts three and four of OTHELLO. To the extent that he fears and visualizes Desdemona's rejection and betrayal of him, Othello catastrophizes his situation and becomes increasingly isolated. This character is not defined by the absence of physical bravery, but by a terror of being rejected.)

The Flamboyant

May be male or female. This character is driven by love, sex, competition, and disloyalty, always with a lack of authenticity. Shows or expresses more than is really felt. Flamboyant women may lack close relationships with other women. (Think: Cleopatra in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.)

The Hyper

This character is active, but not always with direction. Motion without progress is common. (Think: Hamlet in the first three acts of HAMLET.)

The Loner

Drifts with little strong attachment to anyone. This withdrawal is not the temporary kind resulting from culture shock or trauma, but a way of life. (Think: Don John in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.)

The Manipulator

Seeks control through domination of others, much of it covert. Typically highly charismatic. (Think: Iago in OTHELLO.)

The Man’s Man

Macho, macho man. Only allows certain acceptably "masuculine" elements of self (e.g., competititiveness, harshness) to emerge. (Think: Coriolanus in CORIOLANUS.) For the female counterpart, see The Ultra-Feminine, below.

The Passive-Aggressive

This character lives under a dark cloud. He/she tries hard, but always feels misunderstood. (Think: the Dauphin in HENRY V.)

The Perfectionist

Strives not for excellence, but perfection. Standards for self and others absurdly high; failure to meet those standards can lead to intense internal stress. May believe he/she will be valued only if perfect. (Think: Angelo in MEASURE FOR MEASURE. Inspector Javert, too, but that's another writer.)

The Personable

Your best buddy. Supportive, loyal, good listener. Values friends and friendships. (Think: Horatio in HAMLET.)

The Problem Solver

Lives to help. The "fixer" who can help you work through just about any dilemma; may lack imagination, deeper insights. (Think: Theseus in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.)

The Resilient

Undergoes same challenges as everyone else, but has an amazing ability to recover from life’s setbacks. (Think: Gonzalo in THE TEMPEST.)

The Show-Off

Has to be center of attention, has to have an audience, has to stand out. (Think: Mercutio in ROMEO AND JULIET.)

The Ultra- Feminine

Is to the female sex what the Man’s Man is to is to the male sex. Identity relies heavily on "feminine" archetypes of passivity, innocence, etc. (Think: Desdemona in OTHELLO.)

The Victim

Lacks self-determination and control. Convinced that people or circumstances are more in command than of their lives than they are. (Think: Richard II in the play of the same name.)

Adapted from Chapter Two of Linda Edelstein's awesome book, WRITER'S GUIDE TO CHARACTER TRAITS, which you can and should buy here:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Synonyms for SAID ... Post This


added - to embellish or enhance an argument

continued - to further an earlier point

stated - to say, usually confined to quotes or paraphrases from documents, or to official statements

announced - to declare publicly or formally

asserted to state positively, with great confidence but no objective proof

commented - to make a remark to explain, interpret, or criticize

declared - to make known clearly and openly

observed - to mention casually

remarked- to make a brief, casual statement of opinion

reported - to give an account of; to carry message; to give a formal statement

acknowledged - implies reluctant disclosure of something that might have been a secret

admitted - implies reluctance to disclose, grant, or concede, and usually refers to facts rather than their implication

affirmed - implies deep conviction and unlikelihood of contradiction

alleged - to assert or declare, especially without proof

avowed - implies boldly declaring, often in the face of hostility

conceded - similar to acknowledge and admit

confessed - may apply to an admission of a weakness, failure, omission, or guilt

disclosed - to reveal something previously concealed

divulged - to reveal something that should have remained secret or private, which may imply a breach of confidence

revealed - to make something known that had been secret or hidden

begged - to ask pleadingly in a humble or earnest manner

demanded - to ask for boldly or urgently

implored - to ask with great fervor, implying desperation or great distress

insisted- to demand strongly, to declare firmly

pleaded - to answer a legal charge, to offer as an excuse or defense, to implore or beg

answered - to respond to a question

explained - to make an explanation

rejoined - to answer an objection

replied - to answer a question or comment

responded - to reply to a question or comment

retorted - to reply to a charge or criticism in a sharp, witty way

returned - to reply to a charge or criticism in a sharp, witty way; to answer an objection

contended - to argue or dispute
countered to dispute

emphasized - to stress

exclaimed - to speak suddenly or vehemently

maintained - to assert, to support by argument, to affirm

proclaimed - to announce officially
proposed to set forth a design or plan

hinted - implies slight or remote suggestion

implied - similar to suggest, but may indicate a more definite or logical relation of the unexpressed idea to the expressed

insinuated - refers to conveying a usually unpleasant idea in a sly, underhanded manner

intimated - stresses delicacy of suggestion

suggested - to propose as a possibility, to convey indirectly by putting an idea into the mind by association

barked - to speak or shout sharply

bellowed - to roar, to cry out loudly in anger or fear

cackled - to laugh cynically or sneer; implies sinister intent

cried - to call loudly for help, to shout, to sob, to weep

croaked - to make a sound like a frog or raven, to talk dismally

declaimed - to speak in a pompous way or deliver a tirade

drawled - to speak in a way that prolongs the vowels

joked - to make a joke

mumbled - to utter inarticulate or almost inaudible sounds

murmured - to speak in a low, indistinct voice

muttered - to speak angry or discontented words in a low, indistinct voice

roared - to utter a loud, deep sound

scolded - to find fault with angrily

shouted - to make a loud cry or call

shrieked - to make a loud, piercing cry or sound

wailed - to express grief or pain through long, loud cries

whispered - to speak softly, especially to avoid being overheard


"Read a scene from my NaNoWriMo novel JIHAD COMIX," Yusuf suggested, "at "

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jihad of the Nafs

The striving to be a better human being, to have more patience, to do the best of which you are capable ... and, yes, to swallow anger while calling out those who would introduce BIDAH, illegal innovation, into the laws of warfare promulgated by our Prophet (sallalahu aleihi wasallam) by shamefully targeting, or praising the targeting, of civilian noncombatants.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Best Quote to Post Prominently

Do you feel like you'll never generate the novel's first draft?

All I can say is this: I used to feel that way. I read a remarkable book that changed my paradigm. Now I don't feel that way anymore.

I am posting these memorable words from Alderson's awesome book THE PLOT WHISPERER where I can see it every day.

"The only way is forward. Appreciate that the right words do not always come out the first time. You cannot always convey what you imagine for your story the first, second, third, or even fourth try. Writing is a process. Get the words down. Later you can go back and be brilliant."

Martha's website is Check it out!

Friday, October 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo -- How Many Scenes?

Below, the outline for JIHAD COMIX that has taken over the northeast wall of my study. Each sticky note represents a scene. As each scene is completed, I will inshaAllah remove a sticky note from the wall. Right now, it's looking like the novel will eventually have something like 90 scenes, each with an average length of about 800 words. Goals for November 30: remove the last sticky note from the wall! And generate (gasp) 72,000 words!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pale Fire

I can't say much about this extraordinary novel that has not already been said, other than to point out that it has been beckoning me through its maze for close to thirty years now. (Its central poem is just getting the attention it deserves, as sn autonomous creation worthy of praise in its own right.) People sometimes ask me what PALE FIRE is about. For three decades, now, I stammered out something about it being the successor to LOLITA, and better than LOLITA in my humble opinion. Now, though, I have a better answer: It's about fan fiction.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The NaNoWriMo Outline that Ate My Wall

Above, the collection of sticky notes that has invaded the northeast corner of my study in preparation for this year's National Novel Writing Month

Each sticky note represents a scene from my novel JIHAD COMIX. The pink ones (three are visible here, two are obscured) reflect the END OF THE BEGINNING, the RECOMMITMENT MOMENT, the CRISIS, the CLIMAX, and the RESOLUTION, five high-energy plot markers that lie at the core of Martha Alderson's The Plot Whisperer, which is my favorite book on plotting.

It has become part of my daily routine now to add, subtract, and reorganize these sticky notes from my wall. (Truth be told, there are more on the wall now than there were when I took this photo, which means only that I have some crap to get rid of.) 

In the shot above, I have placed mostly yellow stickies that identify scenes driven by my protagonist. In recent days, I've added maroon stickies that reflect scenes driven by an antagonist.

So far, so good. I have mapped out, in very broad strokes, the book's first 21 scenes (my first act) and have begun the work of setting up the next 45-50 scenes (my second act). The visual and tactile elements of this kind of outlining make it much more likely that I will actually do something on it every day.

Counting down to November 1!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

ITERATIVE IMAGERY: Shakespeare Trick #3 I Will Be Stealing during NaNoWriMo

Iterative imagery is a fancy label that just means important imagery that appears throughout a piece of writing. 

I have been longing to steal this trick for years, ever since I read Caroline Spurgeon's book SHAKESPEARE'S IMAGERY. Once you realize what imagery Shakespeare has decided to repeat prominently through the course of a play, you get a better sense of what his thematic intentions are, how he is using imagery to link related events, and which stage actions he is using to drive the story forward. 

For instance, there are repeated references to blood and bleeding in MACBETH. It's no accident that the play includes as many direct and indirect references to blood as it does. Shakespeare's insistence that the audience picture blood, violence, and bleeding over and over again helps to intensify the atmosphere of tension, fear, and guilt. These references also prepare the audience for critical events, such as Macbeth's murder of Duncan, the king.

Before embarking on that crime, Macbeth has a waking hallucination about a dagger floating in midair, a dagger that unexpectedly spouts "gouts of blood" -- or does it? Macbeth decides there is no such dagger, that it is the "bloody business" he is considering that makes him think so.

The sin of regicide that he is preparing himself to commit in this speech is so horrific that it takes place out of our sight. Interestingly, there is a pause in the violent imagery as the actual violence takes place offstage. 

Once Duncan is murdered, the visual and auditory references to blood resume and intensify: both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth appear onstage with hands coated in his blood. Macbeth asks: "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?"

And after that sequence, there is a great silence ... broken, eventually, by the sound of someone knocking.

Notice that the whole terrifying assault follows the anticipation/conflict/aftermath fight-scene template discussed expertly by Melanie Rio ... with the intriguing change that the central act of violence occurs only in our minds! The murder is unseen, but it is also impossible not to picture.

Duncan's murder stops the world of the play, and when it is restarted with the sound of knocking, something amazing happens. The references to blood, wounding, and mutilation intensify, accumulate, and become much more frequent. It's almost as though the blood of the king (of which we saw and heard so much in Act II) had unleashed a rising stream of blood, a tide that drives the play itself forward ... toward Macbeth's beheading.

There are other such image patterns in Shakespeare (there are other such patterns in MACBETH!) -- vision and blindness in KING LEAR, disease and decay in HAMLET -- but this will give you an idea of the kind of pattern that I am trying to establish in JIHAD COMIX, my NaNoWriMo 2012 novel.

If you would like to subscribe to the page where I will be posting excerpts from the novel, and perhaps give feedback about the imagery I'm repeating, click here.