Concise Characterisation by James Gault

Please enjoy this guest post by author, James Gault, and feel free to share your thoughts.

Ogg Paperback

Name of Books :
Hard Times, by Charles Dickens and Ogg by James Gault

The extracts:
The beginning of Dickens’ Hard Times, where we hear Mr Thomas Gradgrind’s speech to the pupils of the school.
‘NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’ 
from Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Ogg and Antonia have been transported in time and place to a shady night club in fifties USA.
A squat balding fifty year old tuxedo with a cigar stood before them. 
“You havin’ a good time?  I ain’t seen you ‘round here before.”
“We’re from out of town,” Ogg drawled, and Antonia choked on her sparkling water.
“Well, you sure picked the right place for good entertainment. I’m Harry. Harry Biaggi. This is my joint.  D’ya like it?”
“Well, yeah, Harry, I do. It’s a real nice place you got here.”
“We try to be classy. Howd’ya find us.” Harry snapped his fingers as he said this and a bow-tie appeared and slid a seat under him. He sat down.
from Ogg by James Gault

The explanation:
If we read the opening few pages of Jane Austin’s Emma we see a common way for authors to introduce characters. Emma’s family, biography and character are presented to us in intimate detail, and before we start her story we feel we know her like a good friend already, and we can sympathise with her successes and failures and feel the delights and angst which follow. For this particular novel, the detailed early establishment of the character is important because the author needs to arm us with the tools to judge Emma.
This kind of approach to characterisation is out of fashion now: it slows up the action and needs inspired writing to keep the reader’s attention, and is especially distracting for any but the very main characters.

Nowadays, we expect to discover our characters rather than be asked to judge them. We expect to get to know the characters slowly as we read their story. We form first impressions, then we develop these impressions and sometimes we misjudge and need to correct our assessments. The discovery of the characters is as important to us as the development of the plot.  The characterisation is drip fed to us, and the personality of each individual has to permeate each part of the story.
For protagonists that first impression is of prime importance, while for minor roles it is the only information we get. So we expect the author to imbue our first meetings with the characters with indications of what kind of people they are: by what they say, by what they do or by both.

The excerpt from Hard Times is only six short sentences of dialogue, but how much does it tell us about the speaker? He is self-opinionated, he at least claims to be rational, he expects to be listened to and obeyed. He speaks in short sharp sentences, in commands and assertions. No debate is permitted. We don’t know what he looks like, we don’t even know his name, but already we don’t expect we’re going to like him very much.

In the second extract, all the elements are employed to create an impression of Mr Biaggi: description, dialogue and actions.  All of this is condensed into a short dialogue. Biaggi is presented as middle aged and overweight but well dressed. He has the strong accent of a man from the gutter who has made it to the top – others jump to satisfy his every wish. But he also has an aura of feeling inferior: he is anxious to please and be liked and appreciated. In the novel his is a walk on part, we never meet him again, but he leaves an impression and sets the tone for what follows.

The point of both extracts is to note the denseness of the character information which is presented at the same time as the plot is developed. The reader has to work hard to catch all the points, but the ongoing development of the story never flags. This is what I am calling Concise Characterisation.

 

About the author:

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James Gault, born in Scotland, has recently retired to SW France after spending ten years in the Czech Republic. There he enjoys the sunshine, writes novels, short stories and English Language textbooks.

He also produces the on-line literary magazine Vox Lit with monthly notes by writers for writers and readers, news, features (short stories, poems and extracts from novels.)

He has written three novels, all available on Amazon as e-books and paperbacks:
Teaching Tania (Young Tania tries to put the world to rights with the help of her English teacher – a comic detective story)
Ogg (Supernatural being tries to teach teenage Antonia how to think rationally as they try to save the world from destruction – comic philosophical thriller)
The Redemption of Anna Petrovna (Young woman in ex-communist country tries to build a career in a totally corrupt society – political psychological thriller

He is currently working on a detective thriller set in Scotland, France and Spain.

As well as ELT books and his novels, he has written short stories published in various reviews and magazines. In 2007, he won the writing prize from the British Czech and Slovak Society for his short story ‘Old Honza’s Day Out’.

In his time James has been an IT specialist, a businessman and a teacher as well as a writer, and has traveled extensively throughout Europe. He has worked with and taught English to students of many nationalities. He has an international outlook on life and his writing reflects both this and his other interests.

Apart from writing, his passions are politics, philosophy, film making, computer system development and his grandchildren.

Books by James Gault:

OGG (Kindle Edition)

The Redemption of Anna Petrovna (Kindle Edition)

Teaching Tania (Kindle Edition)

Old Honza’s Day Out by James Gault

Please enjoy this guest post by author, James Gault.

ogg poster 7

I’m really amazed that this seventy-five year old brain still manages to think every day.   Well, not every day, exactly!   I found myself this morning wondering what the hell happened to yesterday.  I suppose I got up, I suppose I ate something, and then I suppose I sat in front of my half broken Russian TV watching fuzzy images without seeing.  But I can’t be sure. I read somewhere that half of my brain cells must have died by now, but that’s not why some days my mind doesn’t seem able to do anything.   I think it just says to itself, ‘Why bother?’   Hopelessness gets you like that.   You try to switch on but there’s just no power.  The thoughts just never get started.  A whole day goes by and nothing moves.

But today is better.   Somewhere I find the energy to get up and get out.   I can’t go far.  I walk slowly now, and there’s no spare money for tram tickets.   So my Prague has shrunk to the little area I can shuffle around in the couple of hours before my physical energy gives out.   Out of this old apartment block, across the tram lines, to the Golden Angel Shopping Centre and back again.

I totter to the glass doors of the Novy Smichov centre and they fly open with a deceptive gesture of welcome that reminds me of the promises of the five year plans of forty and fifty years ago.   Repeated promises that prosperity was on its way!    Am I witnessing its arrival now? I stumble around this packed, noisy bustle hoping no one will knock me over.  Preoccupied crowds too busy to see me!   I don’t belong to this purposeful hustle.  It’s not for me and my generation. This is my little bit of Prague, but they’ve taken it from me.  Again!

I can’t remember the golden age of the first Republic.   I was eight when the Nazis came. Since then, I seem to have always lived in a desolate present between a past that was better and a future full of empty promise.   Like I seem to have always lived in a place they told me was mine but where someone else was firmly in possession.   It seems that there’s always someone from outside who has to come and save me from something.  Nazis saving me from Jews, Russians saving me from capitalists, and now capitalists saving me from oppression!  So many well meaning people helping themselves by helping me!

There’s a bench up ahead that I’ll be able to sit on if I’m lucky.   We had benches under the communists and now we have them under the capitalists.   The only difference is that capitalist benches are busier, more productive.   Demand carefully researched and efficiently undersupplied.  If I manage to fend off low-flying attacks from shopping trolleys, and if none of those shouting, fighting school kids get there before me, there just might be some space for me on this bench.  And, even in the new market economy, bench sitting is still free of charge.  Without paying a heller, without even having to buy an overpriced cup of coffee, you can sit on this wooden bench in this opulent palace of plenty, with these excellent views of displays of merchandise you can never hope to afford.   Enjoy!

Damn! A fat lady has just sprawled herself and her two overflowing supermarket plastic bags over most of the space I had my eye on.  Not much chance she’ll think of moving one of those bags to make a little room for me. I wonder if I can squeeze into the narrow vacant strip at the end.

Made it!   The fat lady is looking at me as if I have stolen something from her.  I understand how you feel, my dear.   Sharing is no longer in fashion.  You got to the bench first, it’s yours!  I’ve no rights even to this little bit of it.  If I’m too weak to take part in the struggle, it’s my problem.  But this is one of my strong days.   I would smile at her defiantly, if I could just find enough spare breath.

I lean back to relax and the idea crosses my mind that while this bench is pretty, the old pre-revolution benches were more comfortable.   No, Honza!   No! No! No! No!  This is the new order.   No complaining!   Everything is better now!  I am enjoying myself. Everything is wonderful.   Get a grip on yourself, Honza!  This is the new Czech Republic, land of liberty and luxury. You’ve got fifty crowns to last you until the end of the month and the freedom to work out for yourself that you’re happy.

A grumpy boy of about ten comes up to the bench and complains to the fat lady that he’s tired.   ‘I’m sorry, Petr’ she tells him, ‘there’s no room on this bench,’ and, after a pause, she adds a pointed ‘Now!’  Both of them glare at me.  I’m an old, decrepit waste of space, using up resources without making a contribution.   Well, hard luck, you little monster!   I got here first and this little corner of this bench is MINE!   The new market economy, survival of the fittest!  And, for just this once, I’ve been the fittest!  Put your plastic bags on the floor and make room for your little whine, you fat hag!   Or give him a clip across the ear and tell him to behave himself!  I ignore them, and fix a defiant gaze on clothes I wouldn’t wear even if I had the money to buy them.   God, but I’m having a good day today!

Eventually, faced with my unreasonable determination not to move, the awful Petr changes tack and begins whinging about a new computer game.   The woman lifts her bags and struggles after her son, who is bouncing triumphantly towards the game shop.   That’s the new Czech Republic – the younger you are the more power you have.

I take the chance to spread myself out in case another overloaded shopper sees the empty space beside me.   Should I be really anti-social and sit right in the middle of the bench?  Stretch out my walking sticks on either side so nobody can get near?   Be like everyone else? After all these years, I should have learned by now to play the game, whatever the rules of the times might be.   But I don’t spread myself out; I don’t hog the whole bench.  I leave space for others.   For sharing, for solidarity!  I’m a dissident by nature, I suppose.

I’m so full of energy today I’m wondering if I might make an attempt at shopping.  Maybe I could spend twenty crowns on a couple of vegetables to feed me over the next two days.   Then it’s the weekend.   My son will come and take me to lunch on Saturday.   My daughter will turn up with a bag of groceries and cook for me on Sunday.  She’ll put the leftovers in the old fridge and I’ll be able to live off them for the rest of the week.  And then it’s pension day.  If it all works out I might just have the price of a bottle of beer to celebrate the end of the month.   I would get a job if I could only move just a little faster.  A lot of people of my age work.   Lucky bastards!

God but I’m having a really good day!   My thoughts all make more or less sense to me, and I can even feel myself getting a tiny bit angry.   I’m not dead yet.   I’m going to tackle the supermarket.   I know it’s dangerous.  The space is more restricted in there:  the crowds are faster and more determined.   All of them out to get me!   The slightest touch and I’ll be flat on my back all over the floor.   But I need to eat.   I can face the scorn of the other customers at the checkout.   ‘Look at the old ones, eating like they always ate’.   You think we choose a starvation diet?  Thin vegetable soup and meat twice a week if we’re lucky!   You think it’s because we just can’t adjust to the change?  ‘It’s what they’re used to. It’s what they want.’  Come on, give it a rest!   Stop playing at doublethink to salve your guilty consciences.   You’re living in comfort while we’re bloody broke.

I’m in the supermarket, hanging onto a trolley.   I know I’m only going to put a couple of things in it, but it helps me stay upright.   I feel something pushing into my back.  This is it, head over heels and I’ll be looking up at the fluorescent lights.   But by some miracle I manage to stay upright.  I even find the energy to turn around and face my assailant.   And even more power within me to glare!   A look to wither!   A harassed young girl pulls her trolley complete with toddler out of my back.   She looks embarrassed, almost to the point of apologising.   Another victory!

I hobble home, my plastic bag with its tiny cabbage and single carrot dangling precariously from one finger as I try to manage two walking sticks and my shopping with two feeble arthritic hands.   Always so slow, always this constant fear of falling!   But, all in all, it’s been a good day.   If I’m lucky, I’ll have another good day tomorrow.   One half as good would be O.K.

About the author:

avatar

James Gault, born in Scotland, has recently retired to SW France after spending ten years in the Czech Republic. There he enjoys the sunshine, writes novels, short stories and English Language textbooks.

He also produces the on-line literary magazine Vox Lit with monthly notes by writers for writers and readers, news, features (short stories, poems and extracts from novels.)

He has written three novels, all available on Amazon as e-books and paperbacks:
Teaching Tania (Young Tania tries to put the world to rights with the help of her English teacher – a comic detective story)
Ogg (Supernatural being tries to teach teenage Antonia how to think rationally as they try to save the world from destruction – comic philosophical thriller)
The Redemption of Anna Petrovna (Young woman in ex-communist country tries to build a career in a totally corrupt society – political psychological thriller

He is currently working on a detective thriller set in Scotland, France and Spain.

As well as ELT books and his novels, he has written short stories published in various reviews and magazines. In 2007, he won the writing prize from the British Czech and Slovak Society for his short story ‘Old Honza’s Day Out’.

In his time James has been an IT specialist, a businessman and a teacher as well as a writer, and has traveled extensively throughout Europe. He has worked with and taught English to students of many nationalities. He has an international outlook on life and his writing reflects both this and his other interests.

Apart from writing, his passions are politics, philosophy, film making, computer system development and his grandchildren.

Books by James Gault:

OGG (Kindle Edition)

The Redemption of Anna Petrovna (Kindle Edition)

Teaching Tania (Kindle Edition)

GUEST POST: RACHEL THOMPSON

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It is a delightful honor to present this guest post from author and activist, Rachel Thompson (pictured above). I got to know this phenomenal lady when we began following one another on Twitter. She was a guest on my radio show back in January, discussing the #nomoreshame project along with Bobbi Parish and Athena Moberg. Rachel  writes beautiful prose from the heart with refreshing honesty. Here, she discusses her latest book, Broken Places, and why someone who hasn’t had similar experiences, should read it.

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Book Summary:

Award-winning author Rachel Thompson courageously confronts the topics of sexual abuse and suicide, love and healing, in her second nonfiction book of prose: Broken Places. The sequel to Rachel’s first nonfiction book, Broken Pieces, Rachel bares her soul in essays, poems and prose, addressing life’s most difficult topics with honesty. As you follow one woman’s journey through the dark and into the light, you will find yourself forever changed. Rachel’s first book in this series, Broken Pieces, has been a #1 best seller on Amazon (eBooks) on Women’s Poetry and Abuse. Please note: this book discusses serious topics, and is intended for mature audiences only.

AWARDS

  • IndieReader Approved

Indie

 

 

 

PRAISE FOR BROKEN PLACES:

“BROKEN PLACES succeeds as the gritty memoir of a woman who was sexually assaulted when she was young and the author’s story of survival will surprise the reader because of its candidness and unexpected ending.”
~IndieReader

WHY SHOULD SOMEONE WHO HASN’T HAD SIMILAR EXPERIENCES READ THE BOOK?

by Rachel Thompson

Thank you for hosting me, Kyrian.

One of the reasons I wrote Broken Pieces, and the newly released Broken Places, is to give people an idea of the aftermath of living with childhood sexual abuse in an emotional, almost lyrical way. Poetic, really, as opposed to clinical. A personal view.

The books deal with my own experiences, but there are universal truths that many people, particularly women, are familiar with: depression, anxiety, PTSD, and how it all merges to affect my life now as a woman in all my many roles, in both positive and negative ways.

I’d like to say that it’s not something many people will experience, but sadly the statistics refute me, as one in three girls under the age of eighteen will be sexually abused, and of those, 90% will know their abuser; one in six boys will experience the same. And that’s just what is reported! (Source: RAINN.org)

The question many people ask me, if they haven’t been abused, is if writing about dealing with these tough subjects is cathartic, and the answer is: yes and no. Yes, because the response has been amazing – connecting with other survivors, starting the weekly Twitter #SexAbuseChat (Tuesdays at 6pm PST) with therapist/survivor Bobbi Parish is especially rewarding, as is co-creating the #NoMoreShame Project Anthology with Bobbi and survivor/life coach Athena Moberg (published later this year by Booktrope).

No, because it doesn’t change what happened. Despite having dealt with much of the feelings of shame involved (I was eleven when the abuse occurred), I still deal with nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety and depression. Writing about it doesn’t change the past, but what it does do is help others understand that survivors aren’t whining or using our experience as an excuse in life’s difficult moments.

Being a voice is crucial to me, so survivors and non-survivors alike will understand with compassion what so many women experience. Broken Pieces has won many awards and hit #1 on several Amazon lists. Broken Places has already hit #1 Women Authors and Poetry – I’m quite excited by the reception and the wonderful reviews. I hope your readers will be, too!

Thanks for having me, today.

*********

Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places and the award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. For affordable group sessions check outAuthor Social Media Boot Camp, monthly sessions to help all authors! Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington PostThe San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Broken Places:

Title: Broken Places

Genre/Keywords: Non-fiction
Length: 124 pages
Extras: Authorgraph
Publisher: ebook: Booktrope * print: Booktrope Editions
Release date: ebook: January 13, 2015 * print: January 12, 2015
ISBN-10: 162015689X
ISBN-13: 978-1620156896
ASIN: B00S7R7BWI
Purchase: Amazon

Author Contact Information:

Website: rachelintheoc.com
Twitter: @RachelintheOC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelThompson
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+RachelThompson/
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/rachelintheoc/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/rachel-thompson/24/784/b95
Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4619475.Rachel_Thompson
Author Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/j9oaH

It was a pleasure to host you on your book tour, Rachel. Best of luck to you in your new book journey!