Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Tuesday's class began at 8:00 a.m. We talked about Elements of a Story. The setting of your story includes the time and place that the story occurs even if it's an imaginary setting, because your characters grow out of the setting. The characters surroundings helps to define who they are, to a point.From there the characters begin to create their story, their conflicts, their weaknesses and strengths.
In a story there should be 3 to 6 major characters.
The Protagonist, Antagonist, Contagonist, Sidekick, Guardian,
There must be a flaw in every story. Maybe the heckler turns into the guardian or visa versa.
The Contagonist is usually the big fight at the gate (so to speak) and usually falls somewhere along the way.
The villain needs a background story - a growth cycle. He or she can be bright, comical, etc., yet somewhere along the way becomes the villain.
give the Protagonist a sidekick. Give the sidekick interesting storyline or monologue. But keep it small.
Tie the characters together. Go for multiple reaction by making them unpredictable yet believable. Let them change and grow throughout the novel. It isn't necessarily the character himself, or herself, who is interesting, but the process of change
Give your character a background. Interview them. Get to know them personally.
In closing, one more comment, and I quote from Mr. Farland. "For each of your characters, you would be wise to look at them and not worry so much about how many nose hairs they have or what the social security number is, but to consider what kind of growth that character might experience in you tales."
See you in two weeks and have a great day.
Posted by JoAnn Arnold at 7:41 AM
Monday, March 28, 2011
Saturday night, I tied up all the loose ends of my second novel, The Tyrant King, and put together my submissions package to send to my publisher. Okay, I admit it. I started Saturday MORNING and finished (barely) 1am Sunday.
But, I finished. :)
Tonight, my hubby, kids and I are going to pop open a couple of bottles of sparkling cider and toast the new book--with likely a little prayer that it will be accepted. I'm inviting all of you to join the celebration. Have a yummy dessert. Treat yourself to your favorite dinner. Have a piece of cake. But, overall, take a few minutes to put your feet up and enjoy the sensation of a job well done.
Because that's what I'm going to do!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
By Trina Boice
Some days the ideas and words flow quite easily, but then there are the days when you just can't think of anything original or worthwhile to say. Don't force it. The most important thing about blogging is to be authentic.
Sometimes you just need a little inspiration to get you started. I recently discovered a cool tool that does just that.
Brian Proctor, the son of Bob Proctor (The Secret) was interested in receiving inspirational quotes and stories that would set the tone for each day. He created a free auto-sending email service (before it was common to do so) with an inspirational quote Monday through Thursday and a story on Fridays.
When you sign up for his free emails you'll receive plenty of inspiring ideas that can quickly get your own creative juices flowing. Enjoy!
To start receiving great blog ideas, click on this little box:
Saturday, March 26, 2011
By Heather Justesen
So I've spent tons of time in the past couple of months reading books for the Whitney awards. I still have five left to finish off in the next three weeks--which probably seems like a lot, if you don't realize I've plowed through nineteen since the first of February. Five should be a breeze, right?
I just finished Mr. Monster by Dan Wells, whose first book, I am not a Serial Killer, won best book by a new author last year (okay, so it was a tie, but that's still awesome!). I've put off reading these books because I'm seriously not into horror, even though I bought IANASK for my husband almost two years ago. I don't like to be creeped out, and while suspense is fun, being scared--not so much for me. But to my surprise, instead of finding them totally creepy (only creepy in places, and rather gory here and there, but maybe it didn't bother me much because I've developed a warped sense of normal since I became an EMT), I found them darkly fascinating and very enjoyable.
You're probably wondering why I'm talking about Dan's genius when I've read almost thirty other finaling books already--all of them great. I admit, mostly it's because it's what I read last (about an hour ago). On the other hand, it's the perfect example for this post.
Ah, and now I get to the point. You see, as writers, we're told to read in our genre--everything we can pick up--so we can learn the rules and ins and outs of how things are done. On the other hand, reading outside your genre (and Mr. Monster was WAY outside my normal reading) helps you to become a better writer, gives you thoughts and ideas about what else is out there, different ways to attack your own writing, and may even be the inspiration to fix a plotting problem that's been giving you fits.
And reading for the Whitneys has exposed me to so many great books and new authors I've never read before. That by itself has made it all worthwhile.
Friday, March 25, 2011
This week I experienced the blue screen of death for the first time. My sons laughed and said it happens every once in a while, but they hadn't lost fifteen pages of brilliant work. (No, I hadn't saved for the last hour.) (Okay, so maybe it just felt brilliant but we'll never know because it's LOST forever.) Even after rebooting the computer I couldn't trust it so I forced my husband down to the electronics section of Costco to blow part of our tax return and got a new computer. (Yeah!)
Still, it got me thinking about how I save my work. I know some people use flash drives but they damage so easily. My husband has an external drive that he uses but if ever he was unavailable and I had to access anything on it, well, it wouldn't happen. Two USEFUL options that I've found help is if I mail my manuscript to myself intermittantly. This way it's saved in both my outlook files and on the MSN external server. My husband has also installed an application called "dropbox" and by dumping my manuscript in there, I'm able to access it from any computer.
It only takes once to turn a casual save button clicker into an avid backer-upper.
So how do you back up your files?
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
by Rebecca Talley
Larry Brooks is a successful novelist and a popular writing guru. His blog http://www.storyfix.com/ has a huge readership and has won awards for its outstanding advice and tips. Larry is a personable guy who's always willing to answer questions. I've read his ebook Story Structure and his newest book, available in Kindle and print formats, Story Engineering. Excellent resources. His advice and explanations are easy to understand and have enlightened and empowered me to, hopefully, improve my fiction.
Larry Brooks is also the keynote speaker for the LDStorymakers Conference May 5-7 at the Salt Lake Sheraton, http://www.ldstorymakers.com/, a conference you definitely don't want to miss if you're serious about writing. I am so excited to hear him speak because I've been reading his blog for some time now and his take on writing really makes sense to me. Be forewarned, though, that he is not LDS and his language can be colorful at times on his blog and in his books.
Larry has agreed to do an interview. Be prepared to learn a ton just from this interview.
Why is story structure so important?
Because structure is actually more than structure. Like a building, structure has a role: it bears weight, it provides safe access, it provides efficiency, it becomes the foundation for aesthetic beauty (think Effiel Tower on that one, yet the design is all engineering).
Structure is the machine that dictates pacing and dramatic tension. Without it, too much or too little is revealed too soon or too late. A cynic might ask, "who says?" The answer is proven by the marketplace -- publishers don't buy books and readers don't read books that don't have that solid pacing and dramatic tension.
Certain things need to happen in a certain order, and at certain places within a story that works. There is some wiggle room, but very little. This disappoints those who thought they were getting into some kind of "free-form no rules do-what-you-want" craft... but the contrary is true. At a professional level of writing and publishing, structure is the foundation of story.
How did you come up with the Six Core Competencies?
I was looking for a new, clearer and more accessible way to wrap my head around the craft of storytelling. I'd hear this grad-school rhetoric, like, "You hero's quest is dictated by the sub-text of his subliminal need as demonstrated by the backstory, and in context to the agenda of that antagonist who is merely a catalyst for the hero's exposition and the ultimate denouement of the dramatic arc."
All of that is true, by the way. But it's pretty much elitist mumbo-jumbo, too, leaving newer writers cold and frustrated. There had to be a better way.
The model of the Six Core Competencies was developed over many years of teaching fiction at writing conferences. It began as "the four pillars of story," which later became a sub-set of the 6CC when I added two "executional" (my word, spell check doesn't like it, either) core competencies to the list.
Virtually anything and everything you can come up with pertaining to the goal of writing a story falls into one of these competency "buckets," each of which has its own standards, criteria and techniques.
What are the Six Core Competencies?
Four are elemental, two are executional.
The four "elements" of story are: concept, character, theme, and structure (plot exposition).
The two "executional" core competencies are scene development and writing voice.
A weakness in any one of these will kill the story. You have to be solid in all six to get into the game.
Can you explain the difference between idea, concept, and theme?
A good challenge that, and an important one. Because when a writer doesn't know the difference they may head down the wrong road. It is made all the more challenging because an "idea" actually can be one of the other two.
An "idea" is the initial germ or spark that begins the search for story. It can be generic, such as: "I want to write a mystery that takes place in a military academy." Is that a concept? No, not yet, the criteria for concept asks more of us. Same with premise, there isn't enough to it.
Then again, an idea can be more specific. "Write a mystery that takes place in a military academy involving the son of a controversial senator." Better. The idea is heading toward conceptville. But it doesn't get there until...
... you add a "what if?" component. Something that asks a dramatic question that sets the stage for a story. Such as: "What if the son of a senator attending a snooty military academy is killed when it is revealed he's been dating the wife of the head master?" Juicy. And conceptual. There's a story there. There was no story at the "idea" level, but now there is.
As for premise, this becomes an expansion of the concept through the addition of character arc and agenda. Just as concept uses a "what if?" tool, premise uses this: "this is a story about..." and goes on to overview the dramatic landscape, with the inclusion of theme and character. In this example: "This is a story of a young man trying to live out from under the dark shadow of his disgraced senator father, who falls for a woman who needs his help to rescue her from her abusive husband, who happens to run the military academy he attends. The story is about the murder of the young man and the ensuing coverup, plumbing the depths of the lengths people will go to in order to avenge a broken heart and protect a false legacy at all costs."
You could say it's a matter of degree. But really, it's story planning at its highest level. If a writer begins writing with only that first idea, the story will have no focus, no pace and no arc. It's a recipe for a rewrite, because all that draft could ever be is a tool in the search for the story.
What are the five elements that each story must have? Can a story be successful without them?
A hero who must achieve something, with whom we can empathize and root for.
An antagonistic force that blocks the hero's quest, thus summoning the heroic core of the protagonist.
A hero who becomes just that, conquering inner demons and ultimately becoming the primary catalyst and instrument of the story's ending. The hero can never be rescued, they must achieve something, even if it isn't what he/she set out to accomplish.
A story must have a solid structure. Four sequential parts, each with a succinct narrative mission. Each separated by a prescribed (non-negotiable) narrative milestone (shift, twist or new information) that speeds things up, deepens stakes, empowers context and fuels the forward motion of the exposition.
A combination of vicarious reader experience (they must be taken for a ride), thematic weight (they feel it as they read it), character arc (the hero's rewarding journey) and a sweet writing voice that doesn't seek to become a distraction to the story it tells.
And no, a story cannot be successful without all of these thing in play.
You're not only a successful novelist and a popular presenter at writing conferences, but you also offer a manuscript critiquing service. What is the most common mistake you find in the manuscripts you critique?
A violation of all of the above princples is commonplace, and understandable. Writing a great story is really hard. REALLY hard. Most mistakes can be assigned to the writer not yet wrapping their head around what I call the six core competencies, they leave something unclear and unexecuted in that regard. The idea and the resultant concept isn't strong enough. The character/hero isn't three dimension. The story doesn't matter, it elicits a "who cares?" response. And most of all, the structure is off, usually by way of far too much expositional description, side-trips and lack of scene focus.
That last one is the stuff of professionals, and it's the best writing tip I know: each scene you write should have a clear, efficient and compelling mission to fulfill. A piece of narrative exposition to deliver. This isn't characterization -- that is incumbent upon every scene to delivery. Rather, each scene needs to propel the story forward. Not with a bunch of stuff, but with one compelling piece. We should build our scenes around what chunk of narrative information, whatever it is.
This is the art of it. Where do you start within a scene? How do you know when and how to cut to it? What makes a scene dramatic, keeps it from lagging? What details are important, what aren't?
Always the writer's call. Those who get it, who develop a sensiblity in this regard, go on to write successful stories and possibly have a career.
You get to that point by internalizing the six core competencies, which ultimate blend together and depend on each other, and, when done well, become a sum in excess of their parts.
Hope this stuff helps excite you and propel you toward even better storytelling! Thanks for having me.
Thanks, Larry for dropping by. Great information!
I told you this was AMAZING stuff. I LOVE it. Visit his blog http://www.storyfix.com/ for more info on writing. His book Story Engineering, is available at Amazon as well as bookstores.
If you want to see him in person and learn from a master, come to the LDStorymakers Conference. You won't regret it!
Monday, March 21, 2011
Posted by Don at 10:07 AM
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I’ve recently been thinking about favorites. What makes a book one of my favorites? Why do I like a particular movie better than all others and what makes a song something I need to hear over and over. As I’ve created lists of favorite movies, books and songs lately I’ve realized that in each case, the book, the movie or song speaks to me and touches my emotions. It tells me a story and makes me feel something. Maybe it reminds me of a pain I’ve felt or makes me laugh at something stupid I’ve done. But ultimately, if I’m going to reread, re-watch or re-listen, I want to feel good at the end. This doesn’t mean everything needs to end perfectly in a utopian world with kittens and unicorns, but after being reminded of the sting of life I want to feel hope that things can be better and that even the most challenging struggles can be overcome. Some people prefer tragedies but I prefer hope.
In lending we determine an individual’s credit worthiness based on the 3 C’s: Capacity (ability to repay), Collateral (security), and Character (the likelihood that someone will repay- i.e. credit history). Today I’d like to refer the 4 C’s of writing with emotion. Perhaps we can evaluate the emotional worthiness of our work to make sure we pack the emotional punch we intend in connecting with our readers.
How do we convey the emotion that we want our reader to experience? Answer: the 4 C’s.
Content- This is the stimulus, or substance of what is meant to elicit the emotion. Maybe it’s the tragic death of family, or a child, or the pain of unrequited love. Maybe it’s anger or the fear caused by physical danger or emotional distress. In Defensive Tactics, Jimmy faces each of these emotional situations as he overcomes the tragic loss of loved ones. He finds himself in physical danger when he is unwittingly drawn into the heat of an FBI investigation. Hopefully the reader can feel the emotion of these situations. The themes must be broad enough to appeal to a large audience but feel personal enough to help the reader empathize and relate.
Conflict- This is the turmoil and tension created by the emotional situation. This drives the story forward and grips the reader by the throat to let them know, “You’d better keep reading. You can’t stop now.” This prompts us to read on so we can find out what happens.
Context- The emotion must advance the story, not act as a distraction. The emotional situation has to fit into the action of the story and not serve only itself. It needs to mean something in the larger scheme of things. How does the fear of physical harm move the reader? How does the understanding of Jimmy’s tragic past make us care about his future? How do we allow a glimmer of hope to penetrate the gloom of Jimmy’s life?
Character- If we don’t care about the character, we don’t care about the story. If I don’t feel a connection or have an emotional investment in the individual, I won’t care about what happens to him. I won’t tear up when he sits alone in a chapel, staring comatose at an infant casket and I won’t cheer for him when he starts caring for others more than himself. I must be able to invest in the character enough that I will invest my emotion in his story.
These 4 C’s must weave together, binding the reader to the story. Hopefully at the end, the reader will think about the characters and maybe even apply a lesson or two to their own lives. Hopefully, we will leave the reader feeling an emotional connection to the story so that the next time someone asks them if they’ve read any good books lately, they’ll remember ours.
What books have you invested in emotionally?
Monday, March 14, 2011
by Rachael Renee Anderson
Probably the brightest thing I did this year was become involved in a critique group. Even though I live in Utah, where there are many other LDS writers, I wanted an online group for its flexibility. Turns out that online groups can be just as effective, if not more so, than meeting once a week with a regular group.
Over time, our group has adapted, tried new things, and now we have a model that works great for us:
1) We've decided to keep our group at 6 members or less. Any more, and it's too big.
2) We utilize each other for help with: plot outlines, writer's block (if we come to a standstill and need a push), and final review. Or any other questions/concerns we need help with.
3) When we've written and revised our ms, we give it to various friends or family (alpha readers) to look over, mainly for plot holes, incongruities, etc. One group member wrote a middle-grade fantasy and had several jr. high school students (his target audience) look it over for him. Then after we receive alpha comments back, we revise yet again before turning it over to our group, which operates as follows:
- We ask one member (whoever is available at the time) to begin reading it. Once they have 4-5 chapters done, they upload it to our group message board before continuing on. This gives the author the chance to revise the chapters before another member of our group looks it over. It's sort of a review, revise, review, revise process. That way, each version gets better and better, resulting in a ms that's ready to be submitted.
- We've decided that 2-3 thorough critiques are the perfect number to request from each other. Editing a full ms takes a lot of time, and with 6 members in our group, it gives us the chance to say "can't do it" if we are particularly busy or don't have the time. In other words, we don't need to critique every ms in our group.
Another note: As you critique, be sure to be completely honest. Most authors can handle criticism, and it won't do any good if you can't be honest (sometimes brutally so) with the manuscripts you read. But be sure to point out the good also. (This is a biggie!) It's easier to only write comments about the problems you encounter, but there's definitely something to the saying, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." After all, the main purpose of a critique group should be to lift, inspire, motivate, and make each other a better writer. That can't happen in a negative setting.
If anyone else participates in a critique group, I'm sure we'd all love to hear some of the things you've learned as well. What works/didn't work for you?
Sunday, March 13, 2011
By Trina Boice
Dettmer manipulates the pages and spines to form the shape of his sculptures. He also folds, bends, rolls, and stacks multiple books to create completely original sculptural forms.
"My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception," he says.
"The richness and depth of the book is universally respected yet often undiscovered as the monopoly of the form and relevance of the information fades over time. The book’s intended function has decreased and the form remains linear in a non-linear world. By altering physical forms of information and shifting preconceived functions, new and unexpected roles emerge."
Dettmer is originally from Chicago, where he studied at Columbia College. He currently lives and works in Atlanta, GA. To see more of his creative love for books, check out his solo art gallery show at http://packergallery.com/dettmer2/index.php I don't know about you, but it makes me want to write thicker books.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
By Christine Thackeray
This morning I opened my computer and this video was playing. One of my kids had watched it and left it running. So I'm cracking eggs and listening with half an ear to this woman talk about her art and then she says that for a while she thought that being a mother meant she couldn't do it, but then she realized, "Hey, this is what God gave me and wants me to be." So she is BOTH a mom and an artist.
At this point I'm nodding my head, thinking 'smart lady' and wondering why my children are listening to some random artist talk about herself. Then she ends with "I'm an artist and a Mormon." I had no idea this is where it was going. Wow, was I HAPPY!!!
For some women, their project in life is their house, decorating, scrapbooking and shopping. I DETEST all those things because to me they are temporary and BORING. I love to create, to study and learn something that's been hidden for years. I love to challenge my mind, and I love to write something that feels genuine. I so believe that my gifts are part of who I am, and I hope to teach my children that motherhood is an artform. We aren't stapled to one particular cookie cutter and part of me wonders with strong women like Emma and Eliza Snow at the beginnings of our church whoever thought we were.
Anyway, next time you're feeling guilty, weird or off center about writing or being who you are, listen to a few of these (there are at least eight or nine) and know it's great to be YOU.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Nine years ago, I wrote my fist novel. It is still sitting on my desk in manuscript form, collecting dust, because it was never published. There are many reasons it was rejected, and one of them was because the main character had a huge flaw. She was perfect.
She was perfectly beautiful, perfectly behaved, perfectly everything and it was rather boring and maybe even a little annoying.
So when I wrote my second novel, I gave my main character, Lexi, some imperfections, something to make her relatable and approachable. She came alive and seemed very real, experiencing embarrassment, fear, insecurity, bravery, anger, and other emotions that we all experience in our life journey. This, in my opinion--because I created her so of course I would feel this, made her seem loveable, relatable, and unique. And if there is one thing I have learned as an author, it's that you want your reader to relate with your main character on some level, because when they care about the character, they care about what happens to them throughout the rest of the story. (You can read all about Lexi in Deadly Treasure. A novel based on the real life mystery surrounding the Lost Rhoades Gold Mines.)
So why is it hard to look at our own imperfections and flaws and feel loveable, relatable, and unique? The song "Freckles", by Natasha Bedingfield, was awakening for me. Some of the lyrics are: "A face without freckles is like a sky without the stars, why waste a second not lovin' who you are." Now, "freckles" could easily be changed to "wrinkles" for the aging, or even "pimples" for the youth. In any case, "those little imperfections make you beautiful, loveable, valuable, they show your personality inside your heart, reflecting who you are."
Not only are we still loveable despite our little imperfections, but maybe we're more loveable and valuable because of them. (Unless, of course, it's stealing or something like that. But then that would be a major character flaw, not a little imperfection.)
So take a step back and picture yourself as the main character in your life novel. What quirky little imperfections do you posses? I bet most of them make you unique, relatable, and loveable.
Listen to Freckles on YouTube.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
After several signing engagements with The Rogue Shop, I've learned a thing or two about what what makes a successful appearance. There are several things you can do to prepare that will increase your chances of placing more copies of your book in loving homes. Then there are the things that are out of your control, but can have a big influence on the outcome.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Here are the new releases for March:
The Guardians of the Hidden Scepter by Frank L. Cole
The Crazy Daze of Motherhood by Jane Still
Eat Free: No Gluten, No Sugar, No Guilt by Rhiannon Lawrence
Conversations with a Moonflower by Christine Hall
10 Days Until Forever by David Peterson, illustrated by Tera Grasser
Life on the Narrow Path by Clark Burbidge
Portrait of a Mother by Michael Young
The Sweet, Still Waters of Home: Inspiration for Mothers from the 23rd Psalm by Carol Lynn Pearson
Einstein's Trunk by James Haberkorn
The Tomb Builder by E. James Harrison
Looks like a fantastic list!
Thursday, March 3, 2011
It started out like any ordinary day. Ate oatmeal with sliced almonds. Went for a run. Spent some time with my work in progress. Went to the mailbox to get the mail. Flipped through the latest issue of one of my favorite magazines.
And that’s when I saw it: The most wonderful, jaw-dropping, month-changing news. On March 29, 2011, a modern-day spin-off of Sweet Valley High called Sweet Valley Confidential will hit bookshelves.
I may have attempted a cheerleader-style celebratory jump. (Attempted being the operative word.)
But really, hearing the news was like reading that a long lost friend was coming back to town. Or that my favorite discontinued nail polish color was back by popular demand. I immediately marked the release date on my calendar, looked up the books on Amazon, and took a walk down memory lane that brought a smile to my face.
My relationship with Sweet Valley High started in fourth grade. A girl in love with books, I politely obliged when my teacher assigned Island of the Blue Dolphins, but ran to the library during recess and stuffed my backpack with as many installments of the Sweet Valley High series as the librarian would let me take. Elizabeth and Jessica were my friends—girls I looked forward to spending time with, girls I learned from.
They were some of the first influences on me as a reader, and in a lot of ways, some of the first influences on me as a writer. After all, I’m still the girl who politely reads Kafka and then fills her Amazon cart with stories described as “fun,” “frothy,” and “funny.”
I guess I’m not too far from that fourth grade girl. And I guess I kind of like it.
So tell me: What books filled your backpack way back when? I’d love to know.
Posted by Elodia Strain at 3:54 PM
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Okay,there is a lot to be learned from a few words. Read carefully.
Christy Mathewson: You can learn little from victory. You can learn everything from defeat.
Michael Jordon: I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.
Johnny Cash: You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistake, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
Tom Clancy: Nothing is as real as a dream. the world can change around you, but your dream will not. Responsibilities need not erase it. Duties need not obscure it. Because the dream is within you, no one can take it away.
Leonard Bernstein: To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan and not quite enough time.
Now, from the mouth of Yogi Berra
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Never answer an anonymous letter.
A nickel ain't worth a dime.
You can observe a lot by watching.
It ain't over til it's over.
Have you noticed that even Yogi's twists of logic carry wisdom?
Well, that's all for today. Thank you for stopping by and have a great day.
Posted by JoAnn Arnold at 1:39 AM