Japanese History and Research for a Historical Novel

Month: February 2015

Plotting Links


You would think the hardest part of a novel is coming up with a plot.  It isn’t.  Anyone can come up with a plot.  We have at least three or four in one novel and keep coming up with more.  The hard part is coming up with a comprehensible plot. To keep the action rising without wandering down side streets into nowhere.  The following are a couple of websites we have used to try to make sense of our plots.

The Plotting Matrix or Rubik’s Cube:

The method described in this post in an interesting one.  It used a box with nine squares to make you think about your plot points and how they are related. I find it very helpful in forcing some organization in the novel.

Beat Sheet for Novels

Take a look at the downloadable spreadsheet on this website. While this is based on how movies are plotted, I find it useful to give us some idea of what should be seen in a novel, but more important, how far in it should happen.  For example, in a hypothetical 80,000 word novel, the “catalyst” scene should occur at about 8,800 words in.  While I certainly don’t intend to consider these guidelines as hard and fast rules, it does give us some ideas of where the novel might be lagging.


Genji Monogatari – Book Review

Genji Monogatari by Murasaki Shikibu

Genji Monogatari or Tale of Genji is widely regarded as the world’s first novel (surprisingly enough, it is also the world’s first genre novel, belonging firmly to the same category of fiction as a Harlequin romance. I am not sure what that says about writers, literature, and popular taste, but there must be a moral in there somewhere). Written between 998 and 1021 by a Japanese noblewoman known to history as Murasaki Shikibu, it is the most influential work in Japanese literary history and is arguably one of the great pieces of world literature. One of the reasons that the book is so well-regarded is that it gives us a detailed view of life during this period. Even though Genji is a work of fiction, it affords us a better view of the day-to-day life of the Heian upper class than any other source. Continue reading

Before HEIKE and After: Hogen, Heiji, Jokyuki

Before HEIKE and After: HOGEN, HEIJI, JOKYUKI translated by Royall Tyler. This is a translation of three tales, the Hogen monogotari, Heike monogatari, and Jokyuki. These tales are traditional histories of events that happened between 1156 and 1221 covering the fall of the Japanese court and the rise of the Samurai. Our book, Dig Two Graves, occurs during the Hogen Rebellion and so we have relied on the Hogen monogotari as source material. Continue reading

Genesis of a fight scene

One of the most difficult parts of writing a book is making sure that everything is expressed well. There are all sorts of rules – avoid passive verbs, limit the number of adverbs, vary sentence length – but what they all boil down to is “make your writing clear, and help the reader understand what is happening.”

This is particularly difficult when dealing with fight scenes. There are a lot of people who will tell authors that they skip past the fight scenes and just jump to the end to see who survives. For some authors, the takeaway from that is that they can do a crappy job on their fight scenes.

Continue reading

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