Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Technical Topics -- On Beyond Said

Elsewhere someone was wondering whether to use 'said'.
Or not.
 I keep talking about tagging, actually.
So I will do it some more.



Here are a couple of simple, basic guidelines in the tagging of dialog:

1) Make certain the reader knows who said every line of dialog. No confusion.

2) Don't forget there are lots of ways to tag dialog. Be adventurous.

3) You can almost always tag with 'he said' and you will be invisible

4) You can tag with the equivalent of 'he said' and you will be less invisible.
.....   'he muttered', 'he whispered', he 'remarked', 'he answered', 'he objected'.

5) In the choice between 'he said' and one of the saidisms,
you are about all the time better going with 'he said'

6) You can tag with an action
.....   'he began to put the fire out', 'he stabbed Guido', 'he activated the bomb', 'he put oil on the salad', 'he reconsidered'
Action tags are good.
Action that occurs close to the dialog tags it. The action has to be performed by the one speaking. It has to be in the same paragraph.

7) Tagging actions are separated from dialog by a period.
..... "Let him go." George cocked the pistol.
..... "You cut your hair." Maurice sneered. "It was a mistake."

8) Unless the action occurs inside the sentence.
..... "I'm a friend of rabbits," he said, eyes glittering, "generally."
..... "We have better things to do tonight" he murmured as he put down the gun, "than murder intruders."
(You can write this sort of sentence with em dashes instead of commas, but why would you want to?)

9) 'Said' and its brother saidisms are always separated from dialog by commas.
.....  "No one does it better," Anna whispered.
.....  "A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand," Maurice maintained.
.....  Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
If you do not know whether something is a 'saidism' or an action, go sit and think about it for a while. Over there.

10) Do not double-tag. If an action or other method tags the dialog, don't add 'he said'. You will eliminate many 'he saids' from the manuscript by following this simple rule. Over a lifetime you will eliminate a small mountain of them.
..... NOT "You watch the door," he said loading the second musket.
..... BUT "You watch the door." He loaded the second musket.

11) Do not mistake actions performed by the mouth, tongue, lips and throat for saidism. One does not grin, laugh, mime, simper, chortle, frown, or sneer words.
Go ahead. Smile me a couple words.
The  readers won't care about this but grammar purists all over the English-speaking world are grinding their teeth. Can't you hear them?
Can one 'grind out' words? Spit them out? Cough them out?
I'm still thinking about this.

Also, one does not hiss dialog containing no 's' or 'z'.
It's not, "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum," he hissed.

12) Many lines of dialog are tagged by responsion. We know who spoke because they are taking turns. (Middlemarch does this for pages.)
Tweedledee said, "Your fault!"
"Not," Tweedledum snapped.
"Is."
"Is not."
"You're the one who put Cicero in the pudding."
"Didn't." 

13) Many lines are tagged by 'voice'. The reader knows the speaker because no one else sounds like that.

14) Many lines are tagged by special knowledge, by location in the scene, by what the speaker perceives. 

15) You can tag with Internal Monologue. This assigns the dialog to the POV character.
.....  "Probably you want to point that gun at the lizard men."  You idiot.  

16) You can tag with Internals, which also assigns the dialog to the POV character.
.....  "Probably you want to point that gun at the lizard men." George had always been an idiot.. "Not so much at the choir."

In short, tagging dialog gives the writer a lotta freedom of choice. We only start out with 'said'.
We don't have to stay there. 
There's a whole big universe of clever things to do with words when we jump off and let go.

 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tobacco in the Regency


From the first importation of tobacco into Europe, to Spain, round about 1528, folks tried various ways to get the nicotine habit. By the Regency, folks had their choice of snuff, cigars, or pipes. 

Now, snuff is a whole extensive subject I am not going to go into except to say that it leads to a snuff boxes [pictures of snuff boxes] which are the delightful byproduct of a nasty habit. If I’d been living in the Georgian era I would have collected snuff boxes and carried them about full of little fruit pastilles. [pictures of fruit pastilles]

Were there cigarettes?
Well, no. Not really. Technically there was something fairly similar to cigarettes in Spain well before the Regency. They were called papelate and based on the South American custom of wrapping cut tobacco in rolled corn husks or bark or something other than a tobacco leaf. We have paintings of Spanish folks smoking this way, but no way to tell if papelate were routinely wrapped in paper.


To see the rest of this breathlessly fascinating post, (and have a chance to win a copy of one of my books,)  head over to Word Wenches here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Timeline confusions (SPOILERS)

WARNING:  HERE BE SPOILERS


I've had a couple people come away from the timeline of the books a little confused.  In fact, the sound of heads banging on desks is about deafening.

So let me provide a general comment on the timeline as a Guide for the Perplexed.  And then I'll probably do it again in a week or so, but with more specificity than I can scrape together right now. And I'll only do that if I'm not buried in work of some kind or another.


We have three confusing time periods. Like ... sometimes I have two books happening at once.

1794 -- And we are in Forbidden Rose. Hawker, Pax and Justine are all young. Hawker is 12 or 13. Justine, 13. Pax, about 16.
Galba is Head of the Service. Grey has not yet joined the Service. Annique is living with the gypsies at this point. Doyle is a senior Independent Agent. Hawker is merely a raw possible recruit, on probation.

In 1794, Hawker walks onto the stage in Forbidden Rose leading a pair of tough little donkeys. About a third of the way into Forbidden Rose Hawker will meet Pax when they change duty at the watching post on Maggie's house. A bit later Justine and Hawker meet for the first time on the street outside Doyle's prison.
Black Hawk also visits 1794. This is in the first fallback section from the frame story.  We open that segment with Justine and Hawk getting together in Paris in front of the now-inactive guillotine.  This is the day after Doyle is freed from prison in Forbidden Rose.  In this segment of Black Hawk, Pax, Hawker, and Justine go to the Coach House and rescue the last Caches-in-training. 

Forbidden Rose and the 1794 section of Black Hawk then come together and end with the same scene. That's the one where Justine gives Severine into Maggie's keeping.

1802 -- This is where things gets complicated, because now we got three books involved.

In 1802 Justine and Hawker are 19 or 20. Pax is 24 or so.
Galba is Head of Service. Grey is Head of the British Section. Hawker is a young Independent Agent.

We have an 1802 segment of Black Hawk full of our three young spies saving Napoleon from an assassin. At the end of that 1802 section of Black Hawk, we see Justine shoot Hawker. This is on page 228.


The action of Spymaster's Lady opens five or six days after that shooting scene. Offstage, Grey and Hawker got picked up when Hawker was getting himself out of the Louvre. There is Hawker in prison, dying from Justine's bullet.  Annique gets thrown into the cell and they're off!!  Hawker, Grey, Annique and Doyle run headlong across France.

Rogue Spy starts when we're in the middle of the Spymaster's Lady timeline.  The two stories go forward in parallel. Action of one story happens while stuff is going on in the other.

While Pax in that tavern working up the courage to go
to Meeks Street, Grey and Annique are walking across Devon to London.

When Hawker visits Daisy's house in Rogue Spy it's been maybe three weeks since he was shot. He's only now come to terms with his final breakup with Justine. Meanwhile, across town, in Spymaster's Lady, Grey is dealing with Annique as a prisoner at Meeks Street.

Rogue Spy wraps up with the death of the Merchant but Spymaster's Lady continues. So later events like  Meeks Street headquarters getting shot up and Annique escaping to Soulier's house take place after Cami and Pax have already been married and sailed for France.



1818:  1818 is the frame story of Black Hawk. It's 16 years since Justine shot Hawker. Sixteen years since Cami and Pax, Grey and Annique married.

Hawker is Head of Service. Galba has retired. We haven't visited their timelines, but we can assume Cami and Pax, Grey and Annique have had many adventures in the intervening years, done important work, and have settled into a happy life. Maybe they have kids even.
And in 1818, Hawker and Justine marry.



So that's the way all these events spread out.
And that's just as clear as mud, isn't it?

Go ahead. Ask me something. I'll try to clarify.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Christmast Tree Says Goodbye

Yesterday was Twelfth Night, the last of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. It's gone and taken with it the Twelve Drummers Creche 7Drumming, Eleven Pipers Piping and the rest of that leaping, dancing, twittering lot. If you went in for Twelfth Night festivities -- the way my Regency folks probably did -- you'd be sleeping off a surfeit the food and drink today

We've come to the feast of Epiphany.

In my house, this is the day we take all the Christmas stuff down.

Christmas tree 2014 4I had a small, small Christmas tree this year. Green branches in various places, but a small tree. Many beautiful presents from friends and family. Much love. But not so much decoration of the house.  (The Kid had all four wisdom teeth out two days before Christmas so I was mostly figuring out how to be festive with no solid foods.)

Today I took the little tree down and de-decorated it. I will go out in the next couple days and plant it in a specially wondrous spot at the edge of the woods. For me, here at the beginning of the year, this is re-creation and new committment and planting a tree goes with that.
3 kings
In other news, Epiphany is the day the Magi show up, bearing gifts.  Melchior, 118px-07._Camel_Profile,_near_Silverton,_NSW,_07.07.2007Caspar, and Balthazar bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Somehow I always think of camels on this date. They're bad-tempered, if you were wondering, and they bite.







I've posted this over on WordWenches here, if you want to see the comments.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Technical Topics -- On Modifiers

I was nattering on elsewhere about my stance on adjectives.
As I say, I'm not against modifiers. I'm just not in love with them.

Here's why, being general about it.
The strongest writing is powered by nouns and verbs. If we find ourselves needing lotsa modifiers, it may be because our nouns and verbs aren't doing their proper work.



At some stage of redraft, it's maybe useful to mentally pluck away all the modifiers -- the adverbs, adjectives, and modifying phrases -- and look at the writing without them.

Is this stripped-bare passage left without precision, color and exuberance? Can we perk up the nouns and verbs? Make them visual and specific?

Can we exchange 'the crisp, smooth-skinned, shiny-green eating apple' for 'the crisp Granny Smith'?

  
-- We're tempted by modifiers because they're easy to add. We can slather on three dozen adjectives in the time it takes to locate one good noun.


-- We're tempted by modifiers because most of the rare, impressive, Latinate words we know happen to be modifiers rather than nouns and verbs. (I think that's because our language base is Germanic. Latin is the fancy add-on.) 
And who doesn't want to sound erudite.


-- We're tempted by modifiers because we don't trust the strength of our own writing. So we concentrate on surface decoration rather than underlying sentence design. Then we end up with the dress way up above instead of the one here down below.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Technical Topic -- Starting With a Dream


Elsewhere, folks are discussing beginning the story with a dream sequence.

I have lots of stuff to say. 
Most of which I have already gifted to the world but am perfectly happy to say again.

So I go something like this:

Dear Dreamer,


When we approach a new story we ache to start with what happened to everybody in fifth grade and the history of the Seven Kingdoms and acting-out-stuff-we-could-tell-in-200-words. We are convinced the reader needs to know all this infodump and backstory to understand what's going on.

But this -- generally three chapters of -- backstory and infodump
doesn't belong in Chapter One.
Chapter One has lots of other stuff it needs to do,
and backstory gets in the way of doing that vital stuff.

A dream, even a recurrent dream that is important to the plot, sounds very much like backstory.

If you need the info contained in the dream, drop it in Chapter Eight:


Maurice looked up as she came in. "You look awful," he said.

"Another of those dreams."
 

He pulled over a new plate and put half his English muffin on it. Not the part he'd bitten into. The other half. "Tell me about it."
 

"I don't want to--"
 

"Tell me."
 

She dropped into the chair, propped her forehead in her hands and spoke, not looking at him. Not looking up. "It was ... 1943, I think. Or '44. I was a nurse, somewhere tropical. The South Pacific. They were bringing in sailors all mangled to bits. Some ship had been hit."
 

"And you were working on them. A bad enough dream." Maurice put milk in a cup of coffee. No sugar.
 

"I wasn't working. I was in ... a big browny-greeny tent. Hot. Sweaty inside. I was in my quarters in the tent, looking in a mirror. That was the worst, worse than what happened next. I looked in the mirror and it wasn't me."
 

"Like the other dreams."
 

"Like all the rest. I had a gun. I shot myself, looking in the mirror, seeing myself do it."
 

"Drink your coffee." Maurice set it down at her elbow.



That's 200 words. It conveys the information. It doesn't tangle the feet of Chapter One when Chapter One is busy doing other things.
It doesn't pull the reader out of the ongoing story to tell a little barely connected pocket story.
(If you absolutely must act out the info in the dream, this can become a flashback.)

And plopping the dream into the realtime of the story lets the protags immediately relate to the information of the dream.
That protag reaction gives the dream emotional meaning.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What the Animals Got for Christmas

Cat in chair smallI don't forget the animals at Christmas. They may not know what's going on, but they know it involves food.

If I left them out of the festivities, the dog would gaze at me sadly, wondering how she'd failed me. What she'd done wrong.
The cat would stomp over and bite my ankles. Mandy with toys 2

So they both got finely chopped chicken served to them in a lordly dish with much crooning and praise.

Up there's the cat in her accustomed cat-coma, sleeping off Christmas dinner, cat version.
I didn't buy her any toys. She turns her nose up at toys.

Christmas birdAnd to the right here is the dog, slightly more alert than the feline. Note the new squeaky toy. It's blue. It has eyes. And spots. And three (count 'em three!!) air bladders inside, each squeaking at a different note. The dog has a high old time playing tunes on it.

Outside is the accustomed tribute for the birds. Sunflower seeds. Only the best for my feathered friends.

The dog is grateful.
The cat, as usual, accepts my tribute.
Who knows what birds feel?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Winter Solstice

For some astronomical reason tonight is one of the longest nights earth has ever seen.

There's an article here that explains why, though I don't actually understand it, being one of those folks who looked on in puzzlement while people circled an orange around a lamp and explained summer and winter to me. I understood it for about five minutes, I think.


A friend in the Southern Hemisphere points out that for her this is one of the shortest nights ever. There is a certain strange balance in all things.

But locally there's sure as heck a long cold night acoming.

I light candles against all the kinds of darkness. Many good wishes for every one of you as the sun returns.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Winter. Snuggled in.

Snow. Ice pellets. Howling winds. Temps of 26 degrees.

But I bought milk, meat and apple juice yesterday. I bought roses.

I haz a wood stove. I haz kitty litter and satusmas. I haz egg custard and bread and a rough-draft chapter to whip into shape.

Life is good.
. . . so long as the electric holds out.

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Oldest White Horse on the Hill

The Oldest White Horse on the Hill

Joanna here, talking about a British hill figure, the White Horse of Uffington.
Uffington horse attrib davepriceThis is Nicola’s neighborhood, as you see here.  I will nonetheless forge on bravely into her bailiwick.
Okay. Let’s say you’re a Regency miss visiting friends in Oxfordshire in the parish of Uffington.  Even though the White Horse can be seen twenty miles away, your carriage arrived in the Vale of the White Horse at night. You had to pull yourself out of bed at dawn to creep out in the garden and finally see it.
A skimped, hurried breakfast and you’re off.  This is Midsummer’s Day. You drive through throngs in the morning to get to the White Horse. You’re not surprised there’s a fair and foodstalls, jugs of beer, and sports. Midsummer’s Day is always  a big event. You have a village fair back home in Yorkshire. But this is huge. Beyond Cerne_Abbas_Giant_Renovation_(10)_-_geograph.org.uk_-_970091anything. There must be thousands of people here.
You’re in time to see the festivities start. The young men gather in a troop, up spade, shovel, mattocks, and hoe, and head up hill for the “scouring of the White Horse.”  All the nearby towns, you’ll be told, claim a role in the scouring and restoration of the White Horse by ancient custom.
Now I will break into your Regency scene here and say that I have been to the White Horse of Uffington myself.  It’s impressive. There it is, carved into the endless green, 374 feet long, 227 feet high.  Designed to be in proportion when viewed from below. It’s . . . big.
The figure is on the side of that sloping hill, just a lazy walk from the road below. It was clear and quiet when I was there.  The figure feels very old. The artistic convention of it is sophisticated, but alien.  And it’s beautiful.
There’s a superstition that if you stand in the ‘eye’ of the horse and make a wish, it’ll come true.  So I did that. And it pretty much did.
Back to the Regency, where I spend much of my time. Your giggly friend twirls her umbrella and admires the manly form of the local squire’s son who’s joined the village lads scraping away at the encroaching vegetation.
The_head_of_the_White_Horse_of_Uffington
What it looks like near the eye
You climb the hill with the others to get a close look. The White Horse is made simply enough.  You can walk over and see how the shape of it is cut into the ground. This chalky ground underfoot has fascinated you from the first. The paths bordering the garden at your friend’s house are all perfectly, dazzlingly white. The stones in the fields are white. Under a layer of grass and dirt, you find chalk.  The White Horse was created when people scraped away the grass, set the edges, and filled in level with more chalk. But in every generation since then, these people have kept the figure alive. You’re lucky enough to see it happen when you arrive at the one-year-in-seven festival when the White Horse is ‘scoured’.
Come for the dancing, singing and drinking, stay for the legends.

Read the rest at Word Wenches.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Back again after a hiatus

Cat, for no reason
My blog has been in abeyance for a couple months. This is a 'New Book Coming Out and Desperately Doing Promo' sorta thing.

I will now try to keep on top of the blog again and post interesting things in a timely manner.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Regency Spices

DSCN1964
 I was fumbling through my spice shelf the other day, as one does, trying to decide whether I wanted to make some kind of fancy beet salad to go with my last burrata cheese ball — this turned out to be a non-problem because I left Catonporch5the cheese on the counter while I was thinking all this and the cat jumped up, seized the cheese ball in her little white teeth, and went running off to scarf it down in secret under the forsythias.
Anyway, I got to wondering which of my spices I got here in my house would be in the kitchen cabinet of your well-supplied Regency housewife or cook.
Up above there’s my spice cabinet, which I have over the sink because having it over the stove is harder on the spices, them getting heated up and damp from the steam and all. As you will see, there is a bit of a crowd of spices.
So what spices and herbs do I hold in common with my Regency housewife?
She would have had access to all the herbs that grew in hedgerows and kitchen gardens since the first modern people walked across a land bridge into the British Isles about 40,000 years ago … though they didn’t so much go in for DSCN1986kitchen garden at that time.
A Regency woman would have easily matched my pitiful little array of traditional herbs. See them pictured in a line: sage, rosemary, mint, thyme, and oregano. She would have called the oregano ‘wild marjoram’, just to make everybody’s life interesting.
Wiki HerbsThe Regency housewife would have had many more of these traditional herbs at hand — dried or fresh parsley, (thus the ‘parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme’ that are headed to Scarborough Fair,) ordinary marjoram, dill, sweet basil, coriander, (of which more below,) fennel, garlic, scallions, mustard, saffron, and caraway. And she’d use herbs we don’t necessarily associate with everyday cuisine any more, like marigolds, lavender, roses, and violets, tansy, and angelica.

And follow the rest of this posting at Word Wenches here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Regency Weather Lore

Wench weather caspar david friedrichJoanna here:  The other day, we had a bit of a storm -- buckets of rain, impenetrable clouds walking up the hill and past my window, trees lashing back and forth like mad things, a march of roiling black thunderheads over the valley.

This was our taste of Hurricane Arthur, and fairly mild it was when compared to other folks' experience.

It got me to thinking about weather in a historical sorta way. Before Arthur went strolling up the Wenches weather gustave callebottecoast,  I had a week of weathermen showing me charts and maps and making dire predictions.

If I'd had a herd of sheep I would have moved them to the lower meadow or the upper hill or whatever. I would have made sure the roof of the hen house was tapped down tight and in good repair. I could have gone out to the fields and brought the corn in. (We do Indian corn -- maize -- in this section of the world and it's getting ripe on the southern slopes.) I would have worried about the little baby peaches on the trees -- not that I could do much about them.

And read the rest at Word Wenches here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Win a FREE COPY of the Forbidden Rose audiobook

Dear All --

This is a wonderful opportunity to get a Free Copy of the most excellent Forbidden Rose audiobook.

The contest is over on Goodreads and will be open till tomorrow.  Pop over here and give it a go.  
Hurry.

Two ... no, three things to mention.  No, four.  Well, several things.

This is US only, and I am very sorry if the audiobook is not available where you live.  I feel just terrible about this.  All I can suggest is, check Book Depository for one possibility.  Ask at a local bookstore that may be able to order it.  Ask a US friend to buy it and mail it to you.
Geo restrictions frustrate me terribly.

The audiobook is about brand spanking new, so you are in the forefront of this reading delight.

Tantor is also going to put out Lord and Spymaster and Black Hawk over the next couple months.  I haven't heard these yet.  I am waiting impatiently.  Can I say I am on Tantor-hooks?

The Forbidden Rose audiobook and the others are narrated by the extraordinarily talented Kirsten Potter. (Who narrated Spymaster's Lady and did such a wonderful job.)  She is so good she should have groupies.

Teresa Medeiros has given me a cover quote on the audiobook.  Like, wow.

If you are at GoodReads anyway, wondering if you're going to enter this contest, remember you can check out the reviews of the book itself right at that site to decide whether it's worth the trouble. 

Jo (having done this huge gollop of prom, fans self in exhaustion.)

But, really.  I mean.  Free audiobook. How can you go wrong?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Technical Topic -- Do I need an agent?

Because advice is kinda like this

Giving advice here:

First, you finish the book.

I. If you're going for print publication with one of the Big Five New York Publishers you probably need an agent, because these publishers mostly don't look at unagented manuscripts.

Who are the Big Five? If you go to a book-and-mortar bookstore or the book aisle in the grocery and run your finger down a row of books, 90% of them are from the Big Five. Most of the folks who make good money writing publish with one of these imprints. We're talking Hatchette, McMillian, Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and all the subsidiaries thereof.

So that is one career path. If you take it, you need an agent.

Your agent at work
A good agent will not only get your foot in the door, she will (a) know the best place to sell your work, which makes the sale more likely, (b) get the best contract terms, and (c) keep the author from making contract mistakes.

There are exceptions to the rule that you need an agent to get in this particular door. Some folk meet an editor at a conference; they're already published; they have a following for their fanfic; they are successfully self-published; they know somebody who knows somebody ...


II. Some imprints from the Big Five (Tor, Avon,) and some large independent publishers (HQN, Baen, Kensington, Ellora's Cave, Sourcebooks, Grand Central, Carina) accept unagented manuscripts.

These books are distributed to brick-and-mortar stores and groceries. Writers can do very well indeed dealing with this set of publishers. A number of the folks making a living at writing sell to these companies.

Your agent helps them pick YOUR ms
If you plan to deal with them, you do not need an agent to get your work seen. But a good agent might still perform functions (a), (b), and (c) above.


III. E-publishers and almost all small presses accept unagented submissions.

Agents do not generally submit to these publishers because there's not enough advance money in it.





Many satisfying options don't need an agent



IV. Self publishing/indie publishing, of course, doesn't need an agent.




So, the short answer is --

Summarizing all this
-- You need an agent for some career paths and not for others.
-- There are many profitable career paths that don't require an agent.
-- Even where an agent is required, you may be able to sneak by without one, depending.
-- Agents earn their weight in gold at contract time.
-- If you plan to submit to the Big Five, get an agent before you start firing your ms out to random publishers.
-- Finish the book.



Monday, March 17, 2014

Technical Topic -- Just Leave Stuff Out

Elsewhere, somebody asked, (I'm paraphrasing,)

"Time passes between one chapter and the next.  Stuff happens.
Do I have to write out all those scenes of checking into a picturesque inn and selling the horse and leaving a message for the dwarf?

How do I show the reader what went on without dropping long, boring explanations at the start of the new chapter?"


This is part of the larger topic of
 Just Leave Stuff Out
where we don't tell the reader most of
what's going on in our timeline
because most of what people do is excruciatingly boring.

So you don't take the character Miles out of the library and show him walking along the
Not taking every separate step
hall and then downstairs with his hand on the bannister and then down another hall which you describe in detail and then to the kitchen door and then he opens the door and walks in . . .

It's more like,
"I'll just ask Doris about that." Miles stomped out of the library.
He didn't find Doris in the kitchen.  She was out back, in the kitchen garden, hanging up damp tea towels, looking frazzled. 

We have skipped right from brandy by the library fire to tea towels in the garden and skipped the dull long dull trek through Milton manor.

(We have, incidentally, changed scene without knocking the reader over the head with it.  Did you see that?  Zip.)
The reader is grateful.
Even Miles is grateful.

When we move from one chapter to another and change place and let time elapse, we take advantage of Just Leave Stuff Out.

Chaptering is a place where we have have lots to do.  It's a bit like the beginning of the whole story, in fact.  We re-involve the reader.  Just as we don't start our story with a collection of backstory factoids, we don't start a new chapter with a clunky summary of intervening action.    


The triumvirate. I leave you to decide who is which.

















Here's what we do when we start a new chapter in a radically new place.
Generally speaking, our goals are:

(1) establishment of POV, (if in 3rd limited,)
(2) establishment of setting, and
(3) action that is happening right now.

This is the triumvirate of
Whose head am I in?
Where the devil am I?
What's going on?  (We want something going on even if it's trivial.  We want a character in motion.)

Lookit here.

***
Chapter Six


Hork was as fond of rodents as the next man. His sister raised prize-winning ROUXs back home--fine eating and and a soft, spinnable
Action holding onto the story
wool in the fall. But he didn't like the wild pygmy variety that scattered underfoot as they walked into The Willing Wench.



-- And we got a character in motion, rather than a static scene.

He's walking into an inn.  We could even add more opening of doors or pushing aside of bystanders if we wanted to.
Motion.  Action.

-- We know where we are in space and time.  We are in the scene because the character has performed an action.


-- We have identified the POV character for the chapter because we see his internals and he is the first identified character.


In short, this first paragraph does the triumvirate of scene establishment.


I like to go pretty fast into dialog at the head of a chapter. Just my preference. I like this first dialog to hold emotion about the scene at hand and to hint at the next problem.

"Why don't we just eat in a sewer and skip the middleman?" He followed Jeremy to a table in the arse end of the tavern, careful where he put his feet.

"You wanted skanky? I give you skanky." Jeremy brushed at the history of former meals that encrusted the table. Gave up. Sat on the bench. "Brytog will like this place."

"And we have to please Brytog."

"God help us, we do."


Not mentioning the obvious
Okay. We are fifty or a hundred words into the scene.  All of the words have been in the scene's realtime.  We've added more stage business to show time passing and to solidify the fictive place.  This is about the earliest point that we bring up anything that happened elsewhen and elsewhere.

We mention only what is not obvious.

And our readers are very very smart, so lots of stuff will be obvious to them.

If our characters are warm and dry in the new chapter and last chapter they fell in a river, the reader will figure out they have changed clothing. If it is night and last chapter was noon, they know time has passed. If our folks walk off to their room at the inn, we don't need to say or to show one of them renting a room.  We Leave Stuff Out.

We add stuff that is
(1) not bloody obvious,
(2) important, and

(3) related to the problem the characters are going to deal with.

Insofar as possible, we wrap up the backstory factoids in ribbons of what-will-happen-next.

Ok.  Let's add that backstory ...

Jeremy tapped the purse he wore at his belt. "I got three and six for the nag and eight for the tack. It won't be traced back to us. I dropped some of it on replacement arrows, which you can complain about later when we're back at the inn.  The innkeep and the fletcher both say there's no werewolves in town. The Lythrops are hiding or run off in disorder. Or dead."

"Maybe they ate here." Himself, he wasn't going to touch anything that came out of that kitchen, including the tavern wench headed their way.


***

This is same old, same old problem of how to add backstory invisibly.

So let's say, for some arcane reason it's important the pack horse be accounted for.  Let's also say it's important to show somebody rented a room at the inn.
(Though basically these both sound dull as dirt.)
But let's say they're important and we gotta add them.

We want to convey these past factoids without dragging the reader's mind away from the present scene and back into the past.  
So we don't talk about them in a way that calls up the past.

We talk about them now-ish-ly.

The sale of the horse six hours ago greets us in the story present time because it's all about 'we won't get caught'. That's a 'now' worry.  A current worry.  We aren't dragged back to the morning and a scene with the unimportant guy who bought the horse.

The sale of the horse segues to arrows -- arrows with a 'now' location and intended action in the future when they will be examined.  'Why do they need arrows?' the reader asks herself.  This drags her to the future instead of the past.

Also -- 'nother technical point here -- we've given both character a plausible reason to talk about that sale.  We've avoided As You Know Bob where one guy describes dull intervening events to the other.

And if for some reason we want to tell the reader there's an inn chamber rented?
An inn, but probably less exciting than the Willing Wench
We don't go back into the past to show the innkeeper haggling over storing their luggage.  We firmly place that inn-rental factoid in the present by surrounding it with werewolves which are a current and future problem.
(This is like putting medicine into the ball of hamburger and trying to trick the dog into swallowing it, which is to say, not easy.)

So it's less a backstory dump of,"I rented a room. Then I sold the horse. Then I ..."
It's not so much, "This is what I did four hours ago and that is what I did next."

It's more, "When I bought oranges in the market there was no rumor of the princess coming through town,"
which brings the past action of orange purchasing into a relationship with the next problem in the story.