Defining the Novella

Author Carol Browne is on my blog talking about my favorite kind of books to write – the novella.

by Carol Browne

As authors go, I consider myself to be fairly ignorant when it comes to the mechanics of my craft. I’m like someone who drives but hasn’t a clue how the engine works and can’t tell one make of car from another. I find myself perplexed at times by the multitude of genres and their crossovers. Similarly, the many structures and formats one is supposed to adhere to are tiresome. Perhaps I don’t like rules and regulations, or it could be I’m too lazy to learn them.

Recently, when I finished my latest work, a novella called Reality Check, I decided to address my ignorance of basic literary structures by finding out exactly what constitutes a novella.

The novella (Italian,‘new’) started to develop as a literary genre during the Renaissance (notably in 1348 with the The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio), and in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries the genre acquired various rules and structural requirements.
With a word count of between 17,500 and 40,000, the novella tends to be more complex than a short story but has far fewer conflicts than a novel. Frequently a novella is designed to be read at a single sitting.

Chapter divisions, subplots, different points of view, and changes in genre are not features commonly found in the novella. It turns its back on the wider world to focus instead on personal development. It’s like taking a short story then embellishing it with descriptive passages, expanding on the characterisation, and exploring the conflicts in greater depth.

You’d be surprised to know how many great literary works are novellas—Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey, to name but a few.

I’m surprised to find that Reality Check meets the requirements, albeit by accident! Out of interest I also note that German writers see the novella as a narrative of any length that focuses on one suspenseful situation or conflict, with a decisive turning point that leads to a reasonable but surprising conclusion. Reality Check has ticked all the boxes there too. All I need now is a publisher!

Carol Browne regards Crewe, Cheshire, as her home town and graduated from Nottingham University in 1976 with an honors degree in English Language and Literature. Carol writes speculative fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She is also a ghost blog writer, proofreader, copy editor, and copywriter. Along with a passion for gardening, Carol is an avid animal lover.

Carol lives in the Cambridgeshire countryside with her dog, Harry, and cockatiel, Sparky.Pagan and vegan, Carol believes it is time for a paradigm shift in our attitude to Mother Nature and hopes the days of speciesism are numbered.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Orlando Won’t Be the Last.

It was a week ago tonight that a gunman would enter a popular gay nightclub with a semi-automatic weapon and kill 49 people and injure an additional 53.  Some of those people are still in hospitals today, desperately clasping onto the life their injuries threaten to take away.

I pray they all make it.

Most of us by now have heard the names of the dead and have seen their faces. The majority of those lives taken were young people in their twenties. Though any life taken in such a brutal manner as this is tragic, seeing the pictures of those young faces, some posing in bars from a different time in their life, hit me hard.

I used to be one of those twenty-something year old faces, back in the the days when the weekend meant going to bars filled with people like me. Where I could dance, kiss, and hold hands with another girl without feeling strange. It was “normal” to be like me in places like those. And despite what people say about “defying the ordinary” and “normal is boring” it’s nice to not stand out sometimes, rather to fit in. Go unnoticed.

Gay bars offered a refuge, a safe haven, for gay people who might have spent Monday through Friday hiding while feeling self-conscious living and working in a heterosexual world. But the weekends we were free. We let loose. We were ourselves.

Because the gunman (I won’t call him by his name because he doesn’t deserve that kind of respect) called 911 before the attack and pledged his allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS, some people are calling this a terrorist attack, and only a terrorist attack.  All attacks are done to cause terror, but this assault was triggered by hatred toward a specific group of people. Gay people. And everyone needs to acknowledge that.

Every gay person across the country, maybe even the world, who’d ever been to a gay bar – felt safe in a gay bar – has watched this story unfold as each day brought new horrifying details, and thought, “That could have been me.”

Those are terrifying words when uttered in relation to a morbidly hatred act.

I learned of the shooting the morning after my niece’s wedding. I had just woken up in a hotel room, my mother beside me in my bed and my two young nephews sleeping in the other bed, and I turned on my phone. I read the headlines news of that morning and sat in stunned silence as my mind took in the unbelievable words I had just read. I listened to the steady breath of my loved ones, sleeping safely in the room with me, yet I still felt so afraid.

My mind turned to the night before, a joyous occasion, and I struggled to imagine that while I was dancing and laughing and drinking, there were people, half my age, thousands of miles away from me, who were only minutes away from taking their last breath while doing something I had done hundreds of times before – dancing, laughing, having fun at a gay bar.

A little while later, my 11 year old niece came into my hotel room from her own, and when she heard the news on the TV reporting that 50 people were killed, her eyes opened wide and she asked me why someone would do that.

One of the most difficult consequences of hate-filled murder is trying to explain the act to children. I couldn’t answer my niece’s question because I don’t know how a person hates so much to kill innocent people. All I could do was hug my young niece. Assure her she was safe.

The same niece, days later, would overhear me on the phone talking to a friend about going to a gay bar the following weekend (because gay people aren’t going to hide in fear) and she cried out for me not go. “Gay people are being killed Auntie! Don’t go!”

She had heard the reports of the man who was arrested while heading to the L.A. Pride Parade the Sunday following the shooting, with guns in his car, looking to do more harm to gay people.  I assured my niece I wouldn’t go to a gay bar this weekend, however my city’s Pride Parade is next weekend, and I’m planning on being there.

I don’t know what happens from here. If six-year old’s can be gunned down in their Kindergarten class, no one is safe. I don’t know when or where the next shooting is going to take place, or who the target will be this time, but I do know that another mass shooting will happen again.

That, I know for certain. That past assures me of this.

While we wait for our country’s leaders to finally do something about our much too-easy access to high-powered, high-killing guns, we cross our fingers that it’s not us, or our loved ones, caught in the next horrifying headline news that results in moments of silence and American flags ordered at half staff.

 

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Photo Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half a Year Gone. What Have you Done? ?

Today is June 1. The mark of half a year gone by. The time I usually reflect on the past six months in relation to the ambitious goals and optimistic attitude I had coming into the New Year.

I am sure I have the list of New Year intentions I resolved to accomplish written down somewhere, but have forgotten where I put it. (The list is probably in some convenient place I specifically chose so I wouldn’t forget where it is.)

Offhand, I remember the list being something like this:

Reading – Every new year begins with my resolution to read 52 books – one book per week – for an entire year. I have yet to accomplish this feat.  Last year I read 34 books. The halfway point of this year finds me at a measly 9 books. Although I am currently reading two books and plan to finish them this week, I am still way off target. Whenever I fail to reach the coveted 52 books, I settle for at least doing better than the previous year. To beat even last year’s number means I gotta kick it up – big time.

My struggle isn’t for lack of books. My kindle is filled with a plethora of authors I love, as well as authors I am just discovering, and my library card is always in my wallet for constant access. I have no valid reason for falling so behind. I love to read. I’m a writer. I have no choice but to love to read. If I didn’t, I’d have no business being a writer.

Sometimes I feel guilty when I’m reading because I tell myself I should be writing. But a writer learns while he/she reads, and will better at his/her craft the more they read, so I will no longer call it reading, rather research. 

The next time I spend a gorgeous afternoon under the sun engrossed in a great story, I will tell myself that what I am doing is the writer’s equivalent of a scientist conducting experiments in a lab wearing goggles and a lab coat. Research!

Blogging – I set a goal to write two blogs a week. This isn’t an overly ambitious goal. I did not set myself up to fail  because this is an easily attainable feat. Yet, if you keep up with my blog even just a little bit, you know that not only am I not writing two blogs a week, but sometimes I don’t even write one.

This failure isn’t for lack of having anything to say. There is plenty happening out there I have an opinion about. Hello, this is election year. There have been an abundance of headlines that caused me to seriously rethink the level of humanity and compassion in our country’s leaders. And this is sad.

But I hesitate to write here sometimes because I question why anyone would care what I think. Am I wasting my time with this blog?  I do this blogging thing because I was told authors needed it as one of their platforms. I know for certain my blog has been responsible for one book sale – one. But I don’t blog for the sales. I do it for that one person who may enjoy reading the words I write.

I easily forget at times that anyone, in any country with internet, has access to everything I write. A few of my friends read my blog and occasionally they’ll comment on something I’ve written, and I’ll stop whatever I’m doing, and think, “Oh yeah. I wrote that and you can read everything I write.”

Sometimes it’s a little awkward when I’m scrambling to remember if I revealed anything too personal. I will put some of my self-consciousness aside and just write about whatever I want – no matter how opinionated I may get.

Yoga and Meditation – I started doing yoga consistently about two years ago. I still practice, but I’m not where I thought I would be by this time. My dedication to the spiritual journey I set on a few years back has been interrupted. I used to practice yoga everyday, meditate nightly, and read spiritual passages.

I allowed myself to get distracted. It became too difficult to keep my mind at the steady pace and concentration meditation requires. The external noise around me got too loud, and I began to listen too intently. I let myself get upset about things I know aren’t important. I tried to control too much, forgetting the impermanence of life.

I can feel in my body and soul, in my self, where I lost the calming benefit, and clarity, daily yoga and meditation had once given me. I will get back to yoga with more consistency. I will slow my mind and remind myself that at this moment, all is well. I will read and retain passages that enhance my spiritual journey.

Writing – I am happy I have at least kept up with my writing. I have just completed an 80,000 word novel, the longest story I’ve ever written called A Penny on the Tracks.  This feat alone makes falling behind on most everything else somewhat bearable.

 

A writer writes.

Never forget that, writers.