In Advanced Literature at Southern New Hampshire University, I’ve studied and created a Writer’s Toolkit using the craft elements of description, dialog, characterization, setting and theme to improve my writing. Through this research, I’ve discovered that description is a craft element that I will more greatly use in the future to create vivid graphic scenes. Dialog is a craft element that I will also incorporate to communicate between characters and to include a backstory. Through dialog I can easily establish characterization, theme and plot. Characterization is a craft element that can determine who is my protagonist and antagonist in my stories. Utilizing setting as a craft element can set the scene and create a mood. Theme as well serves as a craft element that I will use to establish the plot and conflicts.
Not only have I studied these craft elements to build my own writer’s toolkit, but I have also incorporated these five craft elements in my paired novels, Margaret Fortune’s Nova and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In both Nova and Frankenstein, description, dialog, characterization, setting and theme are prevalent. Nova provides excellent examples of these craft elements throughout the novel. For description, Fortune clearly uses excellent concrete imagery. “A loud whooshing sound catches me off guard, and I yank my hand back from the viewport in alarm before realizing it’s just one of the ship’s thrusters guiding us toward the gap between the rings” (Fortune 2). Her use of description often involves our five senses such as touch, taste, hear, see and smell. In this example, the sound “Whoosh” repeats the sound heard.
Dialog is also one of Fortune’s fine skills as a writer. “It is you, Michael says softly. When I saw your name on the list, I didn’t really think it would be” (Fortune 15). These are Michael’s first words to protagonist Lia Johansen. Just a few words and the reader is drawn into their relationship because questions appear. Here dialog moves the plot from the first chapter. The reader wonders if Lia is a bomb and genetically engineered. How does this Michael know her and why does he seem to care so much if she isn’t human?”
Characterization also is established through Fortune’s writings through striking use of dialog and description, especially inner dialog. For example the line of inner dialog which repeats throughout the entire book. “My name is Lia Johansen, and I was a prisoner of…until today” (Fortune 1). Lia is Fortune’s main character whom the reader feels sympathy for. She is an orphan and forced onto New Sol Space Station. By the end of the first chapter, we still are discovering why she is so closed off, alone, and scared of making friends: Lia is a bomb.
Setting in Nova is pure science fiction. “The New Sol Space Station is even bigger than I imagined with two concentric rings connected by spokes to an inner hub shaped like a top. The station spins like a top, too, its lights flashing by like strings of holiday lights in blue, yellow and red. It’s magnificent. Magnificent and frightening” (Fortune 1). Fortune’s settings throughout Nova are something NASA might use to describe outer space. It is relatable because of its beautiful darkness mixed with lights such as space itself.
There are several themes for Nova but the ones that dominate are family, love and survival. “I remember the voice I heard on the lift, of someone calling me, and realize it was Kaeti’s. She must have escaped her guardians and followed me here. I want too much to keep her on this SlipStream, but I can’t. She’s one of the refugees; one of the infected” (Fortune 212). Who will survive or be infested by aliens? Perhaps this science fiction theme also ties into the eternal conflict of good vs. evil.
Frankenstein is, in my opinion, one of the best gothic novels ever written. Authored by Mary Shelley, she is considered one of the first famous female writers and well respected around the globe. Shelley also masters the craft elements of description, dialog, characterization, setting and theme. Description is done well in this novel using both concrete and imaginary images. “Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. The mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as the wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but with those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became such as even Dante could not have conceived” (Shelley 38).
Dialog in Frankenstein is emotionally charged. “Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of human kind whom these eyes will ever behold. I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames” (Shelley 177). Such a dramatic and tragic ending suited a monster who defied the laws of nature and of God.
Characterization for Frankenstein is tragic. We see a man who fears what he has created. He blames himself because he refuses to create a female companion for the monster. Frankenstein turns desperate for a solution while he is constantly in a state of fear and remorse. He blames himself for all the tragedies throughout the novel and for a time his only joy is Elizabeth. “I fear, my beloved girl little happiness remains for us on earth, yet all that I may one day enjoy is centered around you” (Shelley 150). After Elizabeth is murdered, the reader knows Frankenstein must rid the world of his monstrous creation.
Themes in Frankenstein revolves around love, family, friendship, and loss. Its conflict is similar to that of Nova, good vs. evil. Frankenstein represents the wanderer character in a gothic novel so its many settings create a magical journey for the reader.
Both of these novels use the craft elements of description, dialog, characterization, setting and theme masterfully. Shelley and Fortune create worlds in the science fiction realm that captivate the reader and develop heart-breaking endings. These novels incorporate memorable examples of the five elements that I’ve chosen for my writer’s toolkit. For me, I learned not to murder off all the main characters as in Frankenstein. To murder Elizabeth such a wonderful character seemed especially wrong to me. Although I do want to create more dynamic inner dialog as in Frankenstein and slow down the characterization as in Nova. The characterization builds in Nova because the audience knows little about Lia in the beginning with hardly any backstory or firsthand knowledge by this protagonist. I learned by reading these two books not to tell too much right away, to slow down the characterization, and to use emotions and description. I will now be able to use all five elements in my own future written works with more intelligent skill.
Craft elements identified in both classic and contemporary fiction are essential to creating the best written works professionally. I’ve learned so much in the class about fine tuning description, dialog, characterization setting and theme. I’ve read two fantastic books, Nova and Frankenstein, which master speculative fiction and showcase these five elements, transforming the page into what seemed a living, breathing reality of new places or worlds. Without these five elements in my written works, my writings will fall short of what I can truly accomplish as a writer and possibly turn off any new readers. What I have found helpful is close reading of my classmates work and evaluating. By identifying these elements in others’ works, I recognized ways to improve my own. Each classmate tended to handle elements in his/her own way and by realizing which elements are working for them and which needs improvement, I can also recognize them in my own works.
My target audience depends on what book I am writing because I enjoy writing different genres. Is that a realistic goal? Probably not. Do I want to reach everyone who reads that genre? Plus, the truth is most target audiences are combinations of fan bases for one genre and another. I’ve written short stories, Science Fiction, Thrillers, Romance and a Children’s book. My target audience was demographically different for each book and determining my audience was imperative determining how to market. Another factor is where my book will be placed on library shelves or in book stores. How my works will be marketed can also decide the target audience. In the past, my publisher had the biggest say in identifying my target audience. For example, eBooks will be marketed differently than a paperback. Whether my book comes out in eBook, paperback or hard cover will depend on what the publishers’ specialties are and how they market. Which type of book they market may be as important as the genre in deciding the target audience. For example: Audio books should be sold on places like Audible and if it is a Young Adult, the target audience would be 12-25 years of age.
The world is ever changing and crossover books have really taken the world by storm. Take for instance Harry Potter. That is a young adult book right? Yet people of all ages seem to continue to buy the series.
How will my craft elements appeal to my target audience? For my writings, I will take each book or project and research the target audience and the target publishers. This will help me reach my goal of another best-seller. For each book, all five elements must be crafted well and fine-tuned. Which craft element plays a major roles will be determined by what kind of book it is and how exactly I am trying to reach my target audience for that work.
For Children’s books, I really believe theme plays the biggest role. Theme is very important when a parent is trying to pick out a children’s books. My book, Music at the Watering Hole, is about inspiring children to want to play an instrument and to work together well in a band or orchestra. If parents are interested in the theme of music or friendship, they would want to learn more about Music at the Watering Hole. The book also used a lot of dialog to establish friendships and to convey the message. In Keeper of the Shroud, I worked hard to create a setting of a medieval world. Bigfoot, Monster of the Ice, the description of Bigfoot was done to create a fear factor. What good is it if the monster, Bigfoot, appears harmless when it is a thriller for young adults? Clearly for Bigfoot, Monster of the Ice, description played a major role.
These are just a few examples of how craft elements in the past have been selected. That being said, I have improved my skills especially regarding all five of these craft elements at SNHU. I believe incorporating vivid description, realistic dialog, detailed setting, and universal themes are keys to my continued success as a professional writer.