Happy Holidays & U Got the Look Meme


Neve_em_folhas_de_Chamaecyparis_pisifera_01Winter break is here just in time for the first snow! My kids woke up bright and early, and were out sledding at 7 a.m. The wind made it colder, so we didn’t stay out long, but we had a blast.

I’m taking a break from social media and will return with a regular post on January 10, 2013.

For today, I’m participating in Elise Fallson’s “U Got The Look” meme in which Melissa Maygrove inadvertently tagged me.

The rules are simple: Track down the word “look” in your current Work-In-Progress (WIP) and post the surrounding paragraphs, and then tag 5 other people with the meme.

WIP titleBlink
Genre: Paranormal
Category: Young Adult
Orientation:  This is the point where Lexi’s world begins to spin out of control. One minute, she’s at a client’s house preparing to walk their dogs; the next, she wakes up in the hospital and something’s different.
###

“I’ve been here for two days?” There went Lexi’s perfect attendance record. Worse, two days were plenty of time for rumors to ruin what little social status she had. “How did I end up here?”

Mom tightened her hold on Lexi’s hand. “Mrs. Anderson said soon after she answered the door you blanched. Before she had a chance to offer you a seat, you passed out. Peanut cushioned your fall.”

“She okay?” If Lexi had hurt the Great Dane, she’d never forgive herself.

“She’s fine, it’s you we’re concerned about.” When Dad gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze, his fingertips curled around to her back.

The touch stung, like a fresh sunburn. She shifted away and the heat subsided. As Dad studied her, his lips twitched to the side the way they did whenever something bothered him, and he was strategizing the best way to broach the topic.

Oh, no. What if she was sick? “Is it skin cancer? A tumor?”

“Carolyn, will you get Lexi a cup of ice?” he asked Mom.

Must be something terminal. Her eyes blurred again.

“Sure. I’ll find the doctor, too.” Mom squeezed her hand before she left.

“What do you remember?” Dad whispered in an urgent tone.

“Peanut and Blue meeting me at the front door.” She balanced the lavender towel on the bedrail.

“What else?” The bed dipped where he sat.

“Why are you whispering?”

“Just answer the question.”

“I had this stabbing pain in my temples.” She touched the left one. “Made me nauseous and dizzy. After a blinding white light, everything turned cold. Freezing cold. Then, I woke up here.” Struggling to recall more brought a rush of pressure to her eyes and made them feel like they were about to pop out of her head. Her heart monitor beeped a fast pace, until Dad clicked mute again. “Am I sick?”

He shook his head. “This can’t be right.”

“What’s going on?”

“I hope I’m wrong. For your sake.”

“You’re freaking me out!”

He glanced at the open door where footsteps clacked up and down the hall. “Let me see your right shoulder.”

The IV catheter pulled when she reached out. She winced and tugged the gown to the side. Dad leaned forward. She knew the exact moment he spotted what he was looking for. His eyes bulged and his face paled.

“What is it?” She angled her head, struggling to see. Her fingertips probed at her shoulder. She jerked her hand back when she brushed an area where it felt like someone had snuffed a cigarette. “What the hell?”

“Oh God, Lexi. This isn’t supposed to happen to you.”

“What’s not supposed to happen to me?”

Footsteps in the hall grew closer.

“Don’t let Mom see.” He straightened the material and stood before he whispered, “I’ll explain everything later.”

“Why can’t you just explain now?”

###

As for the tagging of five people, I’m feeling generous. If you took the time to stop by my blog and want to participate in this meme, please considered yourself tagged!

Are you planning to join the party? Please let me know in the comments below so I can stop by and read a sample of your WiP.

Thanks, once again, for visiting. I wish you all happy holidays!

Earn The Story


The other day, I was watching a movie, and all I could think was the story didn’t earn emotions on the screen. It felt forced. I saw them setting up the blocks, predicted what would happen next, and felt rather disappointed when it did. Every genre has a general formula that if follows. You can’t have a mystery without a red herring or a contemporary romance without a hero/heroine. Regardless, readers and viewers expect some deviation. Writers can’t rely solely on tropes to set the mood throughout a story.

Emotional levels vary. When a character shoots straight from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, skipping all the steps in between, it may feel forced. For example, a character is cheerful one moment and the next instant angered. There are a number of phases in between. Until readers get to know a character’s personality, motivation, goals, etc. this sudden shift may feel jarring and fake.

There are a number of ways to move from one emotion to the other:

cheerful + overwhelmed + isolated + frustrated = angered

cheerful + embarrassed + confused = angered

cheerful + surprised + discouraged + inferior = angered

Once the reader is firmly grounded in the story and character, they’ll understand which emotional change a character is undergoing and it will feel logical and earned.

How about you? What tips do you have for earning a story? Do you have any examples of a story/movie that earns the story?

Thanks for stopping by. This blog wouldn’t be the same without your support.

 

Do I Have To Let Her Fall?


My Sweet Daughter
(I know I should let her fall, but I can’t)

When it comes to fictional characters, it’s tempting to catch them when they fall, or at least ease them to the ground. Say, the main character gets in to a fight and manages to escape relatively unscathed. Or perhaps, there’s a car/airplane/train accident and the protagonist walks away with only a concussion. Unless the main character (MC) possesses supernatural abilities, the scene may not be living up to its full potential.

Not only do writers have to let the protagonist fall, they have to push the MC down and step on their fingers. If readers don’t believe the character is in real danger, it diminishes the tension. Conflict stems from characters facing a worthy adversary, someone or something which could potentially conquer the MC.

Every character has a weakness. It’s the writer’s job to figure out what it is and push their darlings to the edge. Keep in mind, conflict stems from a variety of sources, not just physical pain. Think of Will Smith’s character in the Pursuit of Happiness. The movie starts when things are going okay for him, but then his life undergoes dramatic changes, most of them to his detriment and just when you think things can’t get worse they do.

Do you let your characters fall? Are you guilty of catching them? What book/movie do you feel exemplifies letting a character “fall”?

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Eavesdrop and Take Notes


Photo Credit: Frank Selmo (frankselmo on Flickr)

I’m always looking for inspiration for my next short story, novel, blog post, characters, setting, etc. While my dreams provide the foundation for many stories, some of them are a little too out there to mold into anything useful. I’ll be the first to admit my muse and I don’t always get along. There are times when we don’t talk, but if I’m going to take this writing thing seriously, which I do, I can’t go around making excuses.

“We value results, not excuses.”

So, what can you do when you’re fresh out of ideas and your muse is on vacation? Eavesdrop and take notes. I know as kids we’re taught listening in on other people’s conversation is rude, but I’m not convinced it applies to writers. After all, are we not tasked with observing the world around us and capturing it with words?

And while you’re noting story ideas, plot twist, dialect, key phrases, or potential conflict, go ahead and note how people interact. What are their hands doing while they speak/listen? How do facial expressions change? How are they sitting (leaning close/away or a combo)? How much eye contact is going on? Are people standing? If so, how are their bodies positioned? Straight? Angled? Weight shifted to one leg?

Observe and take notes. Just don’t let them catch you doing it. 🙂

Where do you find inspiration for your work? Have you ever eavesdropped? Do you take notes? Anything from your ‘field study’ you’d like to share?

Real Or Fake?


Where story settings are concerned writers have options: real, fake, or both. I’ve used them all. My short story ZOMBIE KIBOSH CREW is strategically based in St. Louis, MO. I used Google Maps to help me get a satellite view and when I zoomed in close enough, it gave a virtual point of view. It’s awesome. Give it a try. My WiP BLINK is based on Golden, CO with a major fictional spin to it. The setting in my debut novel EDGE OF TRUTH is set in 2248. I used a real calendar (cause I’m a geek like that), but created the setting through world building.

Of the three, I find faking it a.k.a. world building the most difficult, yet fun and rewarding.

How about you? Please take my poll and/or leave a comment to let me know what kind of settings you like to use and why.

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How to Write A Book


Focus.

That’s all it takes.

Focus on writing everyday, no excuses because even five minutes of active writing will increase the word count of a book. This may require rising before the sun, or burning the midnight oil, but if that’s what it takes to get hands on the keyboard or pencil/pen to paper, then commit to it. If it’s too difficult to get in touch with the muse early in the morning or late at night, sketch out the scene (or tell) what’s supposed to happen and use it as a guideline to flesh it out (or show) as much as possible during a lunch break, during the train/taxi ride home, or whenever time is available. If it’s a too busy family life that interrupts writing time, create a writing schedule, bargain if necessary so that each partner gets equal free time, even if it’s only half an hour.

Photo by Frank Selmo (frankselmo on Flickr)

When that free time is available, whether or not the muse is talking, make sure each scene has focus. These are the things I aim to include into each scene:

  • Conflict. Gotta have it, otherwise why are people reading the book. The main character (MC) has to have a goal from the very first page. Something is bound to stand in the way. I invite Murphy’s Law to stomp all over my characters life. I love when I’m reading a book and the MC gets backed into a corner from which I can see no way out, yet I know they get out cause there’s still 72 more pages left. In each scene, I focus on making my MC work toward her goal, ensuring the things she need don’t happen to fall into her lap, and amping up the conflict.
  • Character. In order for readers to care about said MC getting out the corner, they need to care about said character(s). I try to fall into my characters. Instead of observing the scene unfold as if watching it on the big screen, I imagine myself in the scene and employ all the senses to make the characters’ reaction to the setting real. I focus on staying in the MC’s POV throughout the scene, and if the POV changes, I add an extra space and stay in the other character’s POV for the remainder of the chapter. Continuous head hopping can be disconcerting.
  • Setting. Have a clear understanding of when and where the story takes place, but don’t try to include everything. Focus on a few select things which breathe life into the setting. There’s always time to build in more elements of the environment in the next scene.

Focus on the endgame. Figure out the common word expectations for the genre/target audience because it’ll be hard to sell a low word count sci-fi novel or a high word count realistic middle grade novel.

Last, focus on having fun and enjoying your characters and the world you’ve built for them.

What do you focus on when writing? What elements do you try to work into your scenes? How do you find time to write?

For a humorous take on How Not To Write A Novel, check out my crit partner’s post here.

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Taking The Sting Out Of Query Rejection


Believe it or not, writing the novel is the easy part. Once it’s finished and polished, it’s time to send it out in the world in search of an agent, editor, or publisher. The writer now has to undergo the often daunting task of condensing their entire novel down to two paragraphs. For tips on writing query letters, see the links below.

I’m here today to talk about taking the sting out of rejection, or at least a technique that has worked for me. It has taken the fear out of hitting the “SEND” button because either way, it’s a win win situation.

For every rejection (or 3) I get a book.

It can be checked out from the library, borrowed from the Kindle Lending Library, a free download e-book, new book, or a not-even-out-yet book like Gena Showalter’s new book Alice in Zombieland.

Don’t be tempted to cheat with this technique. It only applies to query letters written to the best of your abilities. Since I started this, I’ve earned a few nibbles from interested agents. Awesome! I’ve also received a few rejections. Only now, instead of thinking my work isn’t good enough, when the truth is my project isn’t right for that particular agent, I think NEW BOOK!

How do you take the sting out of rejection?

Related Post

Why You Should Only Query 6-8 Agents At A Time
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How To Write A Query Letter