Are you obsessed, too?


(Source)

The other day while driving down the highway, I spotted a book lying on the side of the road. The pages flapped in the wind, taunting me with the secrets they held. The front cover remained elusive no matter how hard I squinted, and the need to pull over and snatch it up almost overwhelmed me. What kind of person is tempted to pull over on the highway to rescue a book? An obsessed one. I have so so many books at my house waiting for me to spend a moment of time with them, yet the lure of that strange, hitchhiking book still called out to me.

I love reading. I love writing. I love that every time I read a book, especially in my genre, I’m honing my craft and becoming a stronger writer.

Are you obsessed, too?

Agent Judged First Page Contest at Shelley Watters’ Blog


Author Shelley Watters is hosting an agent judged first page contest. Participants post the first 250 words of their YA, Middle Grade, memoir, pop-culture non-fiction, and women’s commercial fiction novel today, June 25, visit other blogs for critique on the 25th and 26th, and post the “final version” on her blog on the 27th.

The winner gets a full manuscript request from Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency!

Click over to Shelley Watters for specifics and to sign up for this contest. If my manuscript was agent ready right now, I’d be all over this one, but I need a little more time with it.

Either way, I wish you luck!

Repost: Weak Words


(Originally posted 10.12.10)

Writing sounds simple. How hard can it be to make stuff up, right? That’s the easy part. Keeping readers engaged is a whole other story. How can you make your writing stronger? Eliminate weak words and phrases. Almost every writer is guilty of using them, at least in first drafts which is precisely where they should stay.

Examples:
Lexi stood and walked kind of slow to the window. (weak)
Lexi crept to the window. (stronger)

When Tyler turned around to face Lexi, it suddenly made her blush. (weak)
Lexi blushed at Tyler’s attention. (stronger)

I’ve listed some overused words below. If any of them pop up in your manuscript, vanquishing them whenever possible. Rework the sentence until it’s a strong as you can make it. Then move on to the next one.

What words do you tend to overuse?

a bit                        get                     maybe                 talk
a little                   go                       -ness                     that
about                    gone                  quite                     then
actually               got                      rather                  thing
almost                  had                     run                        took
already                have                   seem(s)               turn
been                     -ing                      so                          very
before                  just                      somehow           walk
being                   kind of                 sort of                 was
face                      like                       stand                    watch
feel                       look                     still                        went
felt                       -ly                         suddenly             yet
gave                   made                    take

 

Repost: The Villain Test


Last week, fellow blogger Susan Kaye Quinn, author of Life, Liberty and Pursuit, cranked up her Way-Back Machine when she needed to take a break from the blogosphere.

With Spring Break here, I’m gonna have to scale back my time in the blogosphere so progress on my writing won’t suffer. Since I have so many great new followers, I’d like to hear your thoughts on previous post. Thanks!

The Villain Test (Original post 9/27/10)

A strong villain creates a wake of tension and conflict for the hero. They lie, steal, cheat, kidnap, backstab, hijack, blow up things…the list is endless. So, what makes a memorable villain?

Here’s a quick test.

1).  Does the villain have a believable, clear goal?
In the movie Unbreakable –love Bruce Willis & Samuel L. Jackson– the villain wants to find his exact opposite. The villain gives what he thinks is a reasonable explanation to justify the extreme measures he employs to find the hero. The goal is lofty and difficult to achieve. Marked, by P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast has a villan with a lofty goal, as well. Even though the reader doesn’t know who the villain is right away, the antagonist’s goal is revealed in a way that sounds reachable and difficult to prevent.

2.) Does the villain’s goal stand in direct contrast with hero’s goal?
Tension stems from the interaction between the hero and villain. If they stand on opposite sides, it heightens conflict. Maria V. Snyder’s Inside Out has powerful villain who is determined to accomplish a goal and makes it extremely difficult for the hero to reach hers. The goal of the villain(s) in the movie AVP is clear: feed on hero. The goal of the hero: survive.

3.) Does the villain have redeeming quality?
No one is perfect. The same thing applies to villains whose role is to antagonize the hero. By definition villains are evil, but they shouldn’t be perfectly evil. Think of Dr. Evil from the movie Austin Powers who has a soft spot for Mini Me, Mr. Bigglesworth and sometimes Scott. It’s important to have a dynamic villain who serves as a real threat to the hero’s goal, otherwise what’s the point.

4.) Is the villain as powerful or more powerful than hero?
In L.A. Bank’s Minion, the villain is by far more powerful than the heroine, or so it seems. The heroine is young and struggles against an older, more experienced adversary. At times, it feels like there is no way she can win. I loved it, couldn’t put the book down. A powerful villain has that effect. They keep readers engaged.

If you answered “yes” to all of the questions, congratulations! Sounds like you have a solid foundation for your villain. If you answer “no” to any of them, your villan may need more work.  Are there any other qualities you consider when crafting a villain? Any books or movies you think demonstrate certain aspects of a villain well?

Do you have any additional tips? Does your villain pass the test?


Influences on Voice In Fiction


If you’ve been following the posts on Voice In Fiction, you probably noticed each author approached the interview questions in different ways. Some used humor, some used inspiration, some gave succinct answers, while others gave more complex responses. You get a feel for their voice in the way they answer questions. Characters are the same way. Take this simple event for example,

The cat fell off the fence.

You:  What happened to the cat?
Colt:  Darn thing, must’ve tried to jump and didn’t make it.  Shouldn’t of been up there scratching my fence to begin with.

versus

You:  What happened to the cat?
Lexi:  Poor little sweetie.  Her tail started twitching, then a bird flew into that tree. The calico chased it, but lost her footing. She okay?

versus

You:  What happened to the cat?
Zach:  What cat? You have something to eat around here?

Many things influenced the way these characters answered: education, gender, age, demographics, geographic location, and most importantly, in my opinion, mood + individual perceptions of the events. Isn’t that what novels are based on, how individual(s) respond to a major event? The book Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding wouldn’t be effective if Bridget were an eternal pessimist. And can you imagine Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger with an optimistic Holden Caulfield? Wouldn’t work.

The one common response the authors interviewed for Voice in Fiction gave is to know your characters. Know how your characters interact with one another, how they handle emotions, their history, their goals… Still not sure where to start? Here’s a link to interview questions. This link is for character development. Here’s a link to the article Finding Your Voice in Writing.

The characters in the examples above are from my YA Paranormal BLINK. How might  your characters respond to this simple event?

Do you have an online source to help others find their writing voice and/or get to know their characters?