The genre is characterized by a number of formal, topical, and thematic features. The term coming-of-age novel is sometimes used interchangeably with Bildungsroman, but its use is usually wider and less technical. It’s meaning encompasses “education”, and “roman”, meaning “novel”; “novel of formation, education, culture”; It is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood in which character change is extremely important.
The term was coined in 1819 by Karl Morgenstern, a philologist in his university lectures and later reprised by Wilhelm Dilthey, who legitimized it in 1870 and popularized it in 1905.
The Bildungsroman genre or term is normally dated to the publication of Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship by Johann Wolfgang Goethe in 1795–96, or to Christoph Martin Wieland’s Geschichte des Agathon of 1767.
Although the Bildungsroman genre arose in Germany, it’s extensive influence spread through Europe and then throughout the world. After Goethe’s novel was translated into English in 1824 , many British authors wrote novels inspired by it. Spreading in the 20th century to Germany, Britain, France, and other countries around the globe.
Examples include: Great Expectations, To Kill a Mocking Bird and David Copperfield to name a few.
As writers we all know the struggle of editing and revision once the first draft is completed. I am continuing to ‘polish’ my western romance, Willow Tree Tears. Today’s excerpt centers around my protagonist, Madison. She is thrilled about seeing the delicious Italian again but also discovers something is wrong with her father. I would welcome comments regarding how this excerpt relates her relationships and if it gives you an idea of her personality.
Madison’s excitement kept her awake. Today, Lucio would be revisiting. She admonished herself, trying to sleep. You will look absolutely awful tomorrow with great big bags under my eyes and sallow skin. Fall asleep, damn it. Eventually, she gave in and took half a sleeping tablet fearing a whole one would have her sleep in. The crash of a pan downstairs frightened her awake at seven o’clock. Was that Pops? She hurriedly grabbed her rope and ran down the stairs into the kitchen. She found her father scooping scrambled eggs off the mat and swearing under his breath.
“Frightened me half to death, Pops. What happened?”
“Damn thing slipped right out of my hand. Darndest thing.”
“Sit down, I’ll clean up the rest, Pops, if there’s anything to clear up Bandit seems to have managed most of it. Are you sure you are okay?”
“No need to fuss, girl. It just slipped.”
Madison bent down to mop up the grease off the tiles. From the corner of her eye she could see her father rub his left arm and then smack it as if it were numb. He’s keeping something from me. Maybe Doc wasn’t out this way for someone else the day I passed him on the road.
With the floor clean, Madison made a new batch of scrambled eggs while her father began to make a pot of coffee. Bandit slumped down under the kitchen table satisfied with his early morning treat but kept one eye on Madison just in case there was another spill.
“Pops, how about using only two scoops this morning?”
“It’ll have no taste, girl.”
“It certainly will, Pops, and my heart won’t be racing afterwards and neither will yours.”
Her father didn’t argue. There is something wrong. He would have fought for the usual four scoops any other time. I’m going to talk to Doc the first chance I get, patient confidentially or not. I need to know what’s going on. Breakfast was served and eaten almost in silence apart from the scraping of cutlery on plates, as father and daughter were lost in their own thoughts. Madison carefully watched her father ascend the stairs. He’s leaning to his left and favoring his right arm, I hadn’t noticed until now.
On her way to her room, Madison peered into her father’s room. He was sitting on the bed rubbing his arm again. Does it hurt? Should I say something? I’ll talk to Doc first then I’ll know what I need to do. In the meantime I need to take more notice of what he’s doing.
Copyright 2015 – Mandy Eve-Barnett – Willow Tree Tears.
One of the more enjoyable parts of creating a story is the creation of the characters that populate it. Apart from the main protagonist and antagonist, there is a wealth of supporting ‘actors’, who bring the story alive. Character traits are great instruments to build these bit players into the minds of our readers. Two well known ‘gloomy’ persona’s are from the Harry Potter novels and movies.
Alan Rickman played Severus Snape. He is the ultimate flawed, tragic or anti-hero character. The Snape persona has considerable complexity. We can all remember his coldly sarcastic and controlled exterior, making him disagreeable to say the least. However, during the story’s progression, clues to Snape’s real nature are glimpsed. He conceals deep emotions and anguish. His back story only disclosed at the end of Harry’s journey. (Image: Harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki)
Emma Thompson played Sybill Trelawney. A delightfully shabby, slight woman resembling some sort of insect, with huge thick glasses, which magnified her eyes. She was always draped in a large spangled shawl and wore gaudy bangles and rings. Her misty voice and sudden loud declarations of doom were predictions of the future – some of which came true. (Image: Harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki)
Who is your favorite ‘gloomy persona?
A favorite of mine is Wednesday Addams. A pale, dark-haired, grim-looking little girl, who is fascinated with death and the macabre. Seldom smiling and raising spiders as a hobby she is also a ballerina, of all things! Her favorite toy is a Marie Antoinette doll, which her brother insists on guillotining. Wednesday also paints pictures; one of which was a tree with human heads hanging in it and writes poetry, dedicating one to her favorite pet spider, Homer. She is totally unfazed with people around her and quite happy to deliberately scare and freak them out – this is trait is the one I love best. She is secure in who she is, even if that’s strange.
Nadir – definition: 1) the lowest point; 2) the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the zenith and directly under the observer.
Aurora Borealis observed in Norway on 2006-10-28. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I could relate star gazing experiences or the fantastic moments I have witnessed the aurora borealis here in Alberta but my mind went to the characters and parts of a story we can overlook. When we are engaged in writing about our main characters and their story they are our primary focus. We can neglect what is literally under our noses. The interaction with secondary characters can be an artful way of enhancing our main character. Their reaction to someone else will illustrate their personality more effectively than using endless descriptions. Of course secondary characters can also be important in their own right not only implementing momentum in the story arc but also as individual characters with their own ‘lives’ that are affected by the circumstances they and our main character find themselves in.
Even the smallest detail can eject your reader from a scene. Would a historically set story really have burgers on the menu? Would a character wear a wristwatch? This is where research is vital for accuracy and to ensure your reader totally believes in the world your characters inhabit. The choice of weapons, clothing and social conventions build your world making it all the more believable. A Victorian lady would not go on a girls night out but entertain a few friends in the parlour during the day. A space commander would probably not spend his evenings knitting. Pirates use a cutlass, an alien a laser.
No matter your genre, your world building must have rules, structure and conventions that your hero is fighting to maintain or struggling against. Their methods and actions must reflect what is available to them and most importantly it must be believable.
English: Quagmire Quagmire and forest The Snicks near to Shouldham Norfolk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There seems to be a continuation of great descriptive words on my desk diary lately, I hope you are keeping notes. As you can see from the definition of quagmire the second explanation is a difficult situation to escape from and it is where my idea for this post came from.
To engage our readers and keep their interest we create situations for our characters that they have to overcome by fair means or foul. The classic story arc sets out critical points that carry our characters through these. Let’s look at them.
We give our readers an insight into our characters ‘normal’ life whether it is modern day, historical or fantastical in nature. This gives our readers a sense of our main character(s).
This can be a multitude of things, as many as your mind can come up with. A situation, occurrence or event that is beyond your protagonist’s control.
With the elicit introduced the next ‘step’ is the mission . This may be a struggle to return life to normal or even a new’ better’ normal. The hero may overcome eventually but at what cost? A villain can have the upper hand for some time, forcing our protagonist to try harder.
Not only should we surprise our readers with the unexpected but also create conflict, obstacles and complications for our protagonist. This step is the middle of the story and needs to be compelling for our readers carrying them along with our character and their struggles.
With obstacles to overcome our protagonist’s real personality is revealed as the tension rises. There comes a point when a critical decision has to be made and our character has to choose his path. It can be a hard or easy but both will have consequences.
These choices have to result in a peak of tension or climax in the story.
There should be a change in the status of your main character. They may lose something as a consequence or their personality changes as well as their personality. These setbacks should be believable to your reader and develop naturally.
To end your story there should be a resolution for your character. Their personality or values will have changed and they would have learnt from their journey.
Do you have any tips for keeping the tension in your story arc?