Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Monday, April 29, 2013
Now, in my kindle glare induced headache, as I try to walk through the chaos that is my house after three hours of kids unattended, and try to wake up to the nonfictional life I actually live in, I'm grateful for books. As much as I love to share my stories, there's something amazing about sharing someone else's stories.
I love reading. I love how inspired it makes me. I love how free I am when I read, and how I get to go somewhere without leaving my responsibilities or children behind. I love finding authors and characters who think the same way I do, or find characters who do or say things I never would, or who say things I've felt, but have never been able to express in words.
I've missed books. Somehow in publishing, marketing, blogging, living, writing, and...not slushing, I've lost reading. I put it on the not as important section of my 'to do' list. My most recent writing has suffered because of that. I couldn't figure out why I felt so stalled when I opened up Word to write something new. But then I came across this...
|found here writerscircle on facebook.|
And so, as I end this too busy month, I'm giving you a promise. This next month, I'm taking a break, and I'm reading. I'll keep you posted as I go, I'll tell you what I read, and where to find it. But for the next month I'm going to look at the world not as a YA writer, but as a YA reader.
I think my writing will be better for it.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Did you know that in the world of Xanth, there are currently 38 published novels? Or that Mr. Anthony is currently working his way through book 39? Or--get this one--a published and highly respected author of many years is opting to self publish book 39? To me, this is a game changer. Published authors are choosing self publication over more traditional routes, and that's an exciting shift.
I'm keeping today's post short. Really, really short. (I'm on vacation!) But in the event that Xanth, or Piers Anthony, has somehow escaped your notice, go check 'em out. Or you can go with his series, Incarnations of Immortality, which is my personal favorite. I'd start with On a Pale Horse.
And since this is my last post for the A-Z challenge, congrats with a fantastic month everyone. Stay tuned for Y and Z from Sheena and MaryAnn next week.
Friday, April 26, 2013
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative...act.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
In anime, the evil of any villain is easily determined by the size of his or her shoulder pads
Pretty much every author I talk to is aware of this issue. One solution that many of us choose is to give the villain a twist of good, a redeeming feature to make them seem less of a caricature and more human. More often than not, this ends up being a love for cats.Though villains’ cats are always sleek and well behaved, and don’t shred the Shroud of Evil into tiny pieces, or bat the Orb of Pain around the kitchen floor, or interrupt multiple times as the villain is trying to just get her friggin' blog post finished.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
But, alas, this is not to be a Victoria's Secret post - not even, well, a Victorian secret post.
What this will be is a quick summary of something my favorite author said. Very, very loosely paraphrasing:
As an author, there are all sorts of wonderful tidbits we know about our book: characteristics of people, history, bits of conversation, poetry/song/dance(?) - hence things that are under the radar of the main plot - Under Things.
The second part of the loosely, loosely paraphrased advice is: Don't tell the reader. Unless, Unless the thing moves the story forward in some way. Otherwise these things are, and should be considered, Unmentionable.
As a (maybe extreme) example of failing to do this, I recently listened to a book on tape which shall remain unnamed. It was a nice story, interesting, somewhat compelling.
I could tell that these details delighted the author and were meaningful to her.
Compared to the above example, actually minding your Under Things and Unmentionables and Not Adding Every Single Detail can have several delightful benefits:
- The readers have to work. When readers have to connect the dots themselves, they become vested in the story.
One of the reasons Harry Potter was so appealing was that we had to work toward discovering things right along with Harry.
- Not telling everything gives a sense of depth to the story. Mentioning things without going into detail is like having the reader walk in on a group of friends sharing a joke - they want in on the joke, too. They just know there's something awesome behind it.
Just ask any of MWT's fans about Ornon's lost sheep-
What do we really know about the incident? Absolutely nothing except that sometime in the past, Eugenides did something to Ornon's sheep. Why do fans love it then? Because they know the result. Eugenides can rile up Ornon to no end by simply quietly baahing when he's around - and it sends everyone into gales of laughter. Now it's the fan's joke, too - even though we have no idea what originally happened.
- It makes readers wonder. Wonder is one of the great tools of a writer. If a reader is left pondering a story after they close the back cover, then something lasting has happened. Loose ends are not always bad. Loose ends lead to conjecture, surmises, discussions, fanfic(?) - and that's when a story won't be forgotten.
So, all you writers, gird up your Under Things, don't get your Unmentionables in a wad, but whatever you do, don't let your readers see them! (unless it's absolutely necessary)
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
When I was about twenty-three, I had to have it extracted, and I wore a flipper (tooth hanging off of a retainer) while waiting for a more permanent solution. I really wanted to get an implant (fake tooth imbedded in the bone) but I didn’t have the bone density in that region to support the implant, so I had a bone graft.
My initial reaction was to hide away at home until I could wear my flipper again, but I couldn’t take two weeks off from work. I had to go on with my life toothless.
But strangers treated me very different.
It’s almost funny now, but at the time it was pretty hurtful that she found me so revolting, because of something that was beyond my control.
Not everyone's reaction was that tactless, but every stranger would at least flinch when they realized I was missing a tooth. It was hard to get used to.
I made my husband order for me at restaurants which he hated, and the fact that I wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone made the waitresses look at my very sweet husband like he was some sort of wife beater who had me cowering in fear. I felt bad about making my husband feel that way, but I just didn’t want to talk to anyone and see their reaction. I didn’t want to feel like I was repulsive.
All of those experiences that make us who we are gives our stories an authenticity. No one has lived exactly what you have lived, and no one will write the stories that you will write.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Trend One, Book 2 Means Love Triangle.
You've spent all of book 1 falling in love with a couple being together, so then for book 2, Character A and B needs be separated ... for... like... a reason. (insert here) and then some other hot/powerful "friend" gets in the way of A and B's happy ever after.
Why this works:
Angst! Drama! Heartbreak! Also, often times the beginning of a love story is the fun part, so add a love lambda, and you get to do the fun part all over again. MaryAnn wrote a bril post about love triangles, which I suggest you consult before attempting one of your own, but there are a lot of reasons to go there. The main one, in Sheena Speak, is you get to scatter the ducks. If Character A and B are in love heading for a happy ever after, then the story is over, and if the story is over, then there is NO room for a sequel. Scatter the ducks!
Why this is Lame:
One, it's a cliche because it's SO easy to do everybody does it. Sometimes well, sometimes...not. Two, it weakens the power of the love story in book 1. And Three, that second guy has an uphill battle as far as the reader is concerned. He may always seem lame, no matter how chiseled his abs are.
Also, what are we teaching our readers, if we tell them that the only good part about falling in love is the beginning? Happy characters in love can still save the world.
How to make it work:
|Photo from movies.mmgm.com|
Don't make the secondary love interest this guy----->
Secondary love interests should be indispensable to the plot. If you could take the character out, and not change the story, then you're doing it wrong.
Switch it up! Make it be the girl who goes away, and then make a love triangle between likable guy and two great girls. Try making the secondary love interest the villain. Don't make the secondary love interest stupid. Try to do the love triangle in a NEW way.
There's always an audience for angst.
Trend Two, Fight a Brand NEW Enemy.
Why it works:
When you have a new enemy every book, then a reader can come to any book in the series, and feel a complete story. Good guys beats bad guy, day is saved.*
*Wow, that felt like a complete story.
Characters can grow, with the over-arching villain battle still to come. Good times had by all.
How this can get stupid quickly:
How many bad guys are there? It can quickly become a comic book if your constantly finding new bad guys lurking around every corner. Yes, I'm talking to you, REVOLUTION.
This can make the sequel feel episodic, or unnecessary.
How to make this work:
|photo from movies.mmgm.com|
Heath Ledger's Joker was phenomenal. Look at the pain and the crazy in that character's eyes. Beautiful.
It works, because Batman, (do I need to say the hero) was changed forever in dealing with him.
Every story should CHANGE the hero, and nothing changes a hero quicker, than an awesome bad guy.
Let your crazy out, and make someone so evil they have to be stopped. Explore something new that the Book 1 didn't. Make Book 2 count!
Trend Three, Embrace What Made Book 1 Awesome, and Forget About Writing a New Story.
Why this works:
People want sequels for a couple of reasons. First, to tie up loose ends, and second, to live in the world of the story again. If all ends are tied, but you want to go back and live in your own personal Narnia for a little while, then I advise you go through book 1, and clearly remember what makes your world so darn interesting, and put all that good stuff in the sequel.
Why this can be lame:
For example, did they really need a Taken 2? How dumb are these terrorists?
How to make it work:
Mario indeed saves the princess, no matter what galaxy, castle, or paper he lives in. Bowser will never be killed, and he will never get the point.
Still a fun game.
Now, personally preference, I like a character to change and grow. But there are some characters that are SO awesome, that to change them should be a felony.
Die Hard, for example will always have the same plot. James Bond will always be driving an awesome car beating another INSERT HERE villain.
Make it slightly different, or don't. Just make it AWESOME!
Trend Four, Empire Strikes Back It.
Why this works:
Why this can be lame:
How to make it not suck:
Empire Strikes Back it.
Yes, the main plot of Empire strikes back is the...um... Empire striking back, but that is not the entirety of the story. There's also a love triangle ( It's okay character A, Character B is actually your sister, and also you're on Hoth the whole time anyway), new information, and exciting battles. .
But most importantly, even as the villain is strengthened, the hero is trained. Use book 2 to make the hero kick-butt-awesomer. Don't lose HOPE!
Strengthen the bad dude, and you strengthen the power of your over-arching story.
Also, then you get to write a trilogy*!
* rolling in pretend money.*
* Buy my book, Funny-Tragic-Crazy-Magic, and together we can make this pretend money I'm rolling in .35 cents. :)
Saturday, April 20, 2013
|Amazon's listing for The Name of the Wind|
Patrick Rothfuss, ladies and gentlemen, is another one of those writers that makes me feel like this writing thing might turn out okay. You know...eventually. I'm closing in on a decade since I finished my first gigantic fantasy novel, which exists as a very old file on my external hard drive, and a single printed copy I haven't touched in three years. So okay, maybe I'm letting that story slide, because I just don't see much value in fixing it, but I can't help looking at writers like Patrick Rothfuss and thinking, holy cow, sometimes hard work and dedication pay off, even if it takes a decade (or more.)
I want to tell you how fantastic The Name of the Wind is, but in the interest of full disclosure, I'll let you know I'm only half way through. It's long, for those of you who have never picked it up in the book store. I'm talking Wheel of Time long. And it's fantasy, so if that's not your thing, you probably won't make it through the 700+ pages, which is too bad because even from where I stand, teetering in the middle, I can tell it's worth it.
So for all you fantasy fans out there, if you haven't checked this book out, do it! And for anyone who has been working on a story for a decade, take heart: not only are you not alone, you're not doomed to a life of failure, either. I'm not saying you are going to be the next Patrick Rothfuss, but hey, you never know if you give up now.
Friday, April 19, 2013
...The Queen's Thief is very easy to spoil. These are actually character-centred rather than plot-centred novels, but they're also the kind of novels where learning certain things about the characters reconfigures the story you thought you were reading, and revisiting it once you have that knowledge will always be very different from reading it for the first time. Ana@littlethingsmeanalot
"In the midst of an adventure that turns into political intrigue, which gets wrapped around questions of faith and loyalty, this series contains a love story, and a story of redemption and forgiveness. I can think of no other values and struggles more important for younger readers to start wrestling with, and none in which I need more instruction and illumination myself. It’s all a little humbling, is what I’m trying to say."
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Any reading of literature or watching of films involves a little suspension of disbelief. Even though you see who the author is (and the author is rarely the narrator) and that the book is fiction, you imagine or pretend, as you’re reading, that the book is “true” and that the narrator is, in fact, recounting events that happened. This literary contract I can live with… as long as the narrative recounts events as having happened in the past tense.
Whereas it’s reasonable to think that a narrator may be telling you about something they experienced before (as is the case with novels written in past tense), the idea that the narrator is actually standing right there in front of you narrating exactly what they’re doing right now is a hurdle that readers must get over in order to enjoy the story. Obviously no one (sane) goes around announcing to some invisible audience everything that they’re doing as they do it.
From what I can tell from a quick survey of Internet articles, readers notice when stories are told using the present tense. I’m not saying, nor are those readers, that there’s anything wrong with the use of present tense. We are saying that its use is noticeable.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Now, we all know there's a downside to this, too. There can be a lot of flotsam and jetsam to sift through to find something of quality. But one area of this revolution where I think authors and readers are already benefiting (and will do so even more in the future) is out of print books.
I got it in my head a while ago to start a collection of the books I loved as a child so I could share them with my own children.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
My eight year-old is obsessed with this game called Minecraft, for those of you noobs, it's basically Legos you can't step on.
It's the ability to create worlds. Don't believe me? Then check out these 21 amazing minecraft creations over at geekosystems.com.
Now, maybe I'm weird, but I've never been very good at world building. Things get complicated, and confusing, and while I was looking into this game to see if it was appropriate for my eight year old to play with, ( meh, he's good), I started wondering if this creative type game might be a good way to have a concrete world of my story in which to visit for like reference and stuff.
Wouldn't that be fun. And also a good way to avoid that plot hole that's staring at me.
And that's how they get you.
While I resist, I present to you all, What Minecraft Teaches Me About Writing.
1. Start simply. Use what tools you have to make the best world you can.
2. Mine. Do your research. The more you know, the more tools and materials you have, the cooler your world will be.
3. Don't dig too deep. In Minecraft, if you dig too deep you die, and that's pretty good advice. I think there's definitely a time to stop mining and start crafting. Do your research, but only so much as is helpful.
4. Stay in create mode for as long as you can. Yes, it's lonely. Yes, it's just you there. But the longer you develop your skills before you make yourself available to creepers, the better you can stave them off.
5. Survival mode IS fun. I'm really enjoying having my book out there, but it really feels like I'm in survival mode, and that badly pixelated zombies or creepers are going to pop out of a corner any second and cream me with a bad review. But...that's okay. In fact, that makes it more fun. Because no matter what happens...
6. Game Over isn't the end. I can always start over with a new story, ( and possibly a new pen-name) and start playing all over again.
Peace out peeps. Watch out for zombies. And creepers. And don't dig too deep.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Back then, there were dystopian novels, like Huxley's Brave New World, or Orwell's 1984. There were also young adult novels for every genre from fantasy to horror. (Remember Goosbumps?) It wasn't until The Giver, published in 1993, that the young adult dystopian was born.
Since then, dozens, even hundreds of authors have run with the idea to the point where many dystopian fans have grown tired of the formula. Which is why it's so refreshing to read The Giver quartet, a series based on human connection rather than action and looming death.
But like all the authors on my top 10 list, Lois Lowry is more than a skilled story teller. She is an inspiration to writers, particularly writers in her field. When asked in an interview with the Huffington Post whether she'd ever considered writing a book specifically aimed at adults, she gave one of the best reasons to write for children I've ever come across:
"Early on I came to realize something, and it came from the mail from the kids. That is, kids at that pivotal age, 12, 13 or 14, they're still deeply affected by what they read, some are changed by what they read, books can change the way they feel about the world in general. I don't think that's true of adults as much. I'm an adult, I read, I'm no longer going to be changed by it. I think writing for kids is profoundly important."
I just wish there were more writers out there like her, writing for an audience that can still be shaped and influenced, and using that platform to promote love and compassion.
Lois Lowry, you're my writing hero.