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Yeah, the guy behind Achmed is Jeff Dunham. The ventriloquist.
Watching Jeff argue and joke and chatter with himself for two hours, I found myself thinking… Writing is a lot like this…
Firstly, a ventriloquist is probably looking in a mirror one day and suddenly, starts to joke with his razor. Before he knows it, he has a new act with Pepe, the Blade. (Well, I imagine it’s like that!)
A writer? Well, our mirror is a computer monitor/screen and we probably don’t begin with a joke. (Though…) We come up with these people who have a story to tell instead of a joke. (Maybe…or you write with a joke, to each his own!)
Secondly, a ventriloquist is standing on a stage one day, with Pepe on a stool by his side, or on his lap, praying people will ‘get it’ when they start blathering to each other. A writer? Oh, yeah, exactly the same!
Okay, probably not on a lap.
Thirdly, and most importantly, at some point in the act, the ventriloquist must look at his creation and wonder, “Who is in charge here?”
Oh, so been there, done that! Whether it’s the muse I conjured up who is blathering at me or a character suddenly takes off and is running away with the scene… I’m often left looking at something I wrote and wondering who actually came up with that? Was it me? Or was it…the people on the page? Was I channeling an actual event from some other universe? (Okay, that one is probably only me, but the idea is still the same!)
Jeff would occasionally look at the doll next to him and I swear, he blinked as if things had gone totally out of control… (Let me state up front, that in a live show, as compared to a program on Comedy Central, there is a lot of stuff that is totally over the wall and out to sea in the live event! Out of control doesn’t go far enough!)
(And it’s really sweet how he is convinced he is so funny that sometimes he can’t stop laughing at his own jokes. That could be my fourth point, I’m often dazzled by my own prose…)
What about you? Are you the dummy or the figure behind the dummy? Both? At the same time?
We've got a lot to celebrate here on the Revenge today!
First of all, a huge, gigantic, Captain-Jack-style congratulations to our very own Bo'sun, Terri Osburn, for being a finalist in the Contemporary Single Title category of the Golden Heart contest!
In honor of Terri's amazing book, I've posted a pic of beautiful Ocracoke Island, the setting of the book. Though, what I'd really love to get my hands on is a pic of her hero, Joe. Yum. Instead, I'll have to settle for his island.
And second, big huzzah to our own Leslie Langtry, who released her latest book, THE ADULTERER'S UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO FAMILY VACATIONS. Here's Amazon too.
So, we're having a party. I think it should be a beach-themed, vacation-style party, since both of these books are about being by the ocean. Tell me, what would you bring to Ter's and Leslie's beach-themed celebration party? For my part, I'm bringing sunscreen, SPF 3000. Okay, I know it only works to 30. But, I'm a cautious girl. I'll just apply it enough to get to 3000.
Let's have some fun today!!
When I first heard about this book, I said, "I'm not reading it. It's barbaric." Who could possibly want to read about children killing each other for the entertainment of others? That's SICK. Of course, everyone who had actually read the books said they were really good, addictive. (So's cocaine. Still not a good idea, people.) I abstained.
Then the trailer of the movie came out and then I was like, "You know, I think I want to read this book." And I went and found the first book. As I explained, I read it in about two days, barely taking time to eat or bathe...or work, and if anyone asked me about anything: my health, where a memo was, the weather, I would talk about this book. It wasn't long before I too was in love with the boy with the bread. Katniss might have been torn between Peeta and Gale, but I wasn't. It was always the boy with the bread.
Katniss is the hero of this book definitely, but the book also contains lots of great secondary characters who are great to get to know. Cinna is a particular favorite of mine; I was never a fan of Haymitch, but I know he has his base. There's Prim and Finnick and Joanna and Rue and Boggs. And many more. The novels are gritty and hard; and it's an anti-war theme in every corner of its pages. War solves nothing, but only introduces more people who are also corrupted for their own gain.
My favorite part of the books is the author's 'easy' ability to drop "bombs" at the end of chapters. Excellent pacing, but it's more than that. It's jawdropping sorts of bombs where you think, "I didn't see that coming." The twists make sense; they're definitely the worst things that could happen--so they are the things that need to happen, but in the end, you wonder, how can any Happily Ever After ever come from this? Maybe that was the author's point--that war changes everything and everyone, and Happily Ever Afters are hard-won and fought for every day.
I know YA novels are not everyone's thing, but this is more than the typical YA "girl's" novel where she has to pick between two boys. It's less about a love triangle than a fight for survival. She is a hero in every sense of the word. I understand why these books would be included for reading lists to discuss in a classroom. They would promote lots of discussion.
I laughed when I finally got sucked into the book. This was Harry Potter all over again. I refused to read the books because I didn't want to read books about a kid--a BOY--and about magic. How stupid. And then I went on that awful date and agreed to the movie. Instantly I was enchanted and had to read the books, and once I read the books, I was lost completely. Hooked for life. Harry Potter was worth every bit of its hype; and so was this trilogy (for me.)
What book have you avoided reading because it was uber-hyped? Did you ever read it? Was it worth reading or were your fears right all along?
Okay, I have been suffering from problems with being blocked. I’ve been pushing through it, slow and steady and am just happy to be putting out words again. One thing that seems to be helping me?
Writing out of order.
Now, I’m a pantser and do a bare minimum of plotting, timelines, etc. So writing out of order seems, strange. I usually just light that fuse and take off, writing pretty straight, beginning to end. Looks like that is changing.
And it’s working.
What I found is that even when I’m not writing, when the actual sitting-ass-in-chair-and-typing isn’t happening…the story is still winding through my head. If I can’t find the right step to take with the next scene…I will daydream myself to scenes ahead.
So why not write them?
great ideas for later scenes, great dialogue, turning points and I wasn’t making notes or writing them down and…I’d forget what I’d come up with.
This sorta goes against the ‘deal with the trouble spots first’ method… But that is more the medivac idea. This is more the sightseeing method. Less stressful, more pretend this is a vacation and not a battle field.
I didn’t think it would work for me. I had this vision of trying to splice all these scenes together and groaned. Then…I had a scene and some dialogue pop into my head while driving around the curve of Monterey Bay and said to myself. “Self, this is stupid. It’s gonna take 10-15k before you hit that place and the stuff between it and now is…going to be hard to make interesting. Just write it!”
So I did. And I like it and it’s moving forward. I may end up skimming the 10-15k write and turning it into a 3-5k. I mean, if I was sorta ‘bored’ at the idea of writing it, what would a reader think? I can go back and fill in the interesting sections…deal with the secondary character story, which is actually more active than what is going on with the main characters…
Yeah, I can make this work…
(If you find yourself dealing with writer’s block and procrastination, I can’t recommend this class more. Hillary Rettig’s 7 Secrets of the Prolific. I love the book and for me to say that…the writer who hates self-help writing books…you know it must be easy to read.)
It's that time again! You probably don't remember last year when I decided that I was going to dedicate the whole month of April to a writing frenzy similar to NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month). That's okay 'cause I'm here to remind you.
In November us ambitious writers tackle the challenge of writing 50k in one month- 30 days of writing until your fingers feel like they may melt away from the bone. Your keyboard is so hot it's smoking and setting off your fire alarms. Your rear-end feels like its permanently one with your desk chair. You live off candy and soda and caffeine. And you forget what it's like to sleep. Or what outside looks like. But that's November. The euphoria you feel when you've accomplished the 50k goal in November is unlike any high you've ever had before.
April Writing Month is simple. You, the writer, set your goal. The fun of April is it's realistic. You can have a life. We all have lives outside of our computer. And what keeps people from competing in November is that daunting 50k goal. Setting a realistic April goal will get your fingers moving and creative juices flowing. This goal is not to berate you if you don't accomplish the “number or pages” you set out to do by the end of April. This goal is to get you in the groove of writing again.
I've been writing non-stop since I came back from my trip in late January. A change in scenery always does my creative brain good but this time was different. I felt like I had the chance to renew my passion for writing. I've missed feeling like I have something to contribute as a creative writer. And I want to inspire everyone else to do the same. Let's participate in Apriwrimo together! Let's start something, finish something, revise something, build something- I know you can do it. Set a goal and get ready to write in April. (Or read! Hey, readers, how about setting a goal for books to read in April and maybe you could share them with us writers in May?)
My goal for Apriwrimo?
Finish my prequel of my urban fantasy world- 25K by April 30 at 11:59pm.
I'm 25k into it right now. I'm constructing the world to break it down. I'm building the background and the characters so I know how to introduce the alternate world to my heroine for the first time. I'm in the process of teaching myself how to write in third person. After much debate with my inner self, the story is much better suited for third person. My voice, however, is not well suited for third person. So the prequel is an opportunity for me to stretch and warm up before the main event.
How about you? What's your goal for April?
Character again. I promise to talk about the East but character IS so important to me as a writer, and sometimes even when I go back to the basics of GMC (goals-motivation-conflict), there is still something off in writing the scene. I know the goal, and I know the conflict, but the character still isn’t right.
Why. Why. Why.
It’s the one I didn’t mention in the sentence, so you know I’m going to beat MOTIVATION into the ground. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Motivation matters.
The good news is that motivation doesn’t necessarily have to be something you’d agree with. As writers we’re not here to judge our characters but understand them. And try to make other people understand them. They may still be wrong—many times they are—but it’s in understanding we begin to be more open to the variance of our world. We’re not alike in many things, but we’re not that different either. Human needs and wants are universal. The motivation for these needs and wants usually stem from the same poverty we’ve all felt at one time or another in our friendships, childhood, parental relationships, or some combination of all the above.
I don't know about you but I usually find my character's motivation stems from one of the Main Three: his childhood, his secrets, or his motto.
First, look to his childhood. A lot of us see therapists because of our childhoods; and a lot of us are still doing things as adults that have to do with our childhoods that rationally we know we don't need to do anymore. But we do them anyway. It is what it is. Now, I grant you, not everyone has the same crappy childhood. I have a friend who is so well-adjusted and has such normal parents, I want to make her a circus exhibit in a freak show. So it’s true. You don’t need to create the most hellish childhood for your character to have a great story. You can give her awesome parents, a great middle-class life, but what’s the problem with the character now? We’re either righting a wrong or recapturing something that was lost—what is your character looking for?
Second, the Big Bad Secret. I admit to having trouble with this one. I say it’s because I don’t have any secrets, but this is a lie. I have a ton and there is no way in hell I’d tell Deerhunter a 1/10th of them. They just sorta slip out individually now and again and we deal with them. He does the exact same thing. We say that the secrets are no big deal and that’s why we didn’t mention them, but I’m betting that’s not the reason. We’re not telling because we both know we’re horrible catches and if we just told everything up front, the other would run screaming in the other direction. Which was about what happened when he told me he was a Republican. Which was a while into our dating and too late to turn back the boat. I finally got over it. Mostly. I'm pretty sure everyone in a relationship does this. No one just tells their junk right out the gate; and I've been on first dates where they have and I did not ask for a 2nd date. So we know why we keep this crap secret. It needs to never be told, that's why.
But in fiction, we have to work a little cleaner. In fiction, we believe in unconditional love. You can’t leave secrets untold. The formula is secrets revealed equals Happily Ever After. Sure, sure, whatever. So not revealing leads to more and more conflict keeping it secret; the truth sets you free. Fear is revealing your secrets will make them not love me. Love is accepting your loved one’s secrets without judgment. Simple, easy to remember. We all have secrets. We’re just not telling. Figure out your character's secrets, ruin his life with them, and then make him reveal them.
The third and last character building exercise in your writer’s toolkit is the Motto. Every character has a motto. Jack Sparrow: “I can get through anything so long as there is rum.” Like that. The motto is your character’s personality in a nutshell, a touchstone to come back to if your character is acting out of character. If your character is a brawny “hit-first-ask-questions-later”, he doesn’t start talking and rationalizing a situation. That is not ACTION when he is a man of action. If he’s a professor type who thinks through everything before he makes a step, he’s not going to go into a room, guns blazing. What is their motto, what is their character in a nutshell--and is it being shown in this scene?
What do you do to clarify your character’s motivation in your story? What books have you read lately that demonstrate an excellent use of motivation in their characters?
Morning Crew! I want ya ta crawl outta yer mangy hammocks and give a warm welcome to me guest, Melissa Keir! I met this lass while wanderin’ the streets a Facebook city, when she popped up to say how much she enjoyed my book! In fact, she reviewed it! (Good review, too…)
We got to chatting and I ended up blathering on her blog and invited her ta come blather with us. She be a newly published author, but she been doing more than writing, as ya’ll see as ya read along!
Melissa – I very much enjoyed your short story, Forever Love, especially the hero arriving with the entire fire department to make it clear his intent to the heroine. When we chatted, you mentioned fire crews areintensely close to each other. Was this scene something you had experience with?
Maureen, thank you for having me and for reading my book. It means a lot to have feedback from other authors, especially ones that I admire. My best friend is married to a firefighter with the city of Detroit.
They are a family in all sense of the word. They share life and death daily with each other. When something unfortunate happens, the whole fire department rallies together to take care of the each other and their families. For my friend’s wedding, the guys all showed up on a fire truck to take her to the wedding.
Tell us how you found yourself taking part in the anthology with Ruby Lioness Press.
What is it like working as a reviewer for Sizzling Hot Books?
I love reading books. Marissa gave me a chance to read books and write my thoughts on the books for fun. I’ve been able to find some wonderful series and fabulous authors to read and even become friends with.
Does it help or hurt with your writing to be looking at other books with a critical eye?
I know for a lot of us, once we start writing it’s difficult to separate the writer from simply reading for joy. With you, editing, reviewing and writing, is it difficult to sit down and just enjoy a good read?
I have certain authors that I read for enjoyment that it is no problem to read and let myself go. Most of what I read these days is not for pleasure. I don't have a lot of extra time in my day, so I read more for reviews (which I do love and have found some new favorite authors) and read for editing. For me, it isn't that I can't separate the different types of reading, but having the time to do what I used to take for granted. I would rather earn my keep, than read for pleasure many nights.
And wearing a third hat as an editor? I’m impressed! Writing, reviewing, editing…do you ever wake up uncertain what day it is? Is it difficult to switch gears? Does the editor ever block the writer or the reviewer get too critical with the writer? Does the writer ever send chocolates to the reviewer?
Wearing all the different hats… I am also a full time elementary teacher, can get in the way of just writing. Time is limited. I can’t write in my sleep yet, and I do still need sleep in order to be a human. So all my extra jobs sometimes get in the way.
I write with passion, not that part of my brain that the editing comes from…at least for the first draft. Then after I get the story down, I think it is helpful to have that critical eye. I am able to take a look at my work and make changes that help make my story clearer. Of course, as we all gain experience with writing and editing, our writing gets better and clearer. I wish that someone would send me flowers or chocolate on occasion. Any offers??
I read on your website that you wanted to be a race car driver…what series? Do you follow racing now? Who is your favorite driver?
I don’t follow a particular racing series. I do love the funny car races. Cha Cha Muldowney was an inspiration to me, as the first woman of drag racing. I used to watch her race and loved the idea of going as fast as I could and controlling all that power.
Second chances is a big theme for me, too! Tell us about ‘Second Times the Charm’.
Second Time’s the Charm is a story of a middle-aged divorced woman who finds love where she least expects it. She falls for her best friend’s ex-husband! Divorce can often shred a person’s self-esteem. Lissa’s divorce hit her like a ton of bricks. She didn’t expect it, nor did she expect that her husband would cheat on her. Lissa and her best friend commiserate about the horrible things that their ex’s have done and she develops a picture of Alex that doesn’t fit the guy she meets and falls for.
And what is your next book from Rebel Ink Press? Tell us about it!
My June 3rd release from Rebel Ink Press is titled “Protecting His Wolfe” and tells the tale of a police detective, Mr. Pigg who must protect a witness to a murder when the murderer comes after her. Her last name is Wolfe and she is a secretary for a transportation company. The story has a cleaver play on the fairy tale of “The Three Little Pigs”. I plan on writing three stories in this series, telling the stories of Detective Pigg’s two brothers.
Okay, now the nitty gritty…Who is this pirate ancestor you claim as yours?
My maiden name is Watling. We did some research on our family. Watling is a popular name both in fiction and real life. You’ll find a Belle Watling in Gone With The Wind. There is also a famous actor in England named Watling that is related to my family. Back before San Salvador became the name of that island in the Caribbean, a pirate by the name of George Watling was working the waters around the island. But he was a kind pirate and helped the people who were living under an oppressive rule. The people elected him the governor and renamed the island Watling’s Island for a while. I know that a kind pirate sounds like a strange oxymoron but I like that he was helpful for the people.
I love to hear from my readers or people who love books! I have a bunch of keeper books that I’d never part with and have read over and over again. Not to mention that I have a blended family and often write about the stresses and blessings of being a parent. Okay, you found me out… I love to chat!
Now, keep in mind, Melissa is a teacher so I doubt we’ll be hearing from her until later in the day. I for one, want to know how to get in on an anthology…
My point is her prologue. Now, there's debate out there about prologues, about their effectiveness, their ideal length, their permanent banishment from the literary canon, etc. I personally have used them a few times, sometimes to great affect, and perhaps sometimes to the story's detriment.
But this prologue was perfect. It was, in my opinion, the best possible use of a prologue.It was short and snappy - only 16 lines long; it introduced both suspense and humor, accurately reflecting the tone of the book; it gave immediate insight to the hero, who wasn't introduced until a few chapters later; and it hid within it's text, a clever hint that would niggle at the back of my mind later, at an opportune moment. (yes, I used the word niggle.)
1. Make it concrete. I think the tendency is to be abstract in prologues. We want to tease the reader's imagination, we want to give them some information, but not too much information. We want to hint at things, but not give away the ending. In striking that balance, many prologues become abstract, leaving nothing for the reader to connect with.
2. Make it short. This particular prologue was one page, and in mass market paperbacks, where the first page of each chapter starts 9 lines down. It was still one page. Because it was so short, it was easy and quick to read. I think this is vitally important. Jenny Cruise is well known for her disdain for prologues. She says they're lazy writing, because the writer is telling the readers things she needs to know before reading, when the reader only wants the story. In this particular prologue, it was so short, that it didn't make me anxious to get to the action.
3. Make sure it has a purpose. From a writer's perspective, I could see the purpose of this prologue (I'm pretty sure, at least). Putney needed a few chapters to set up the romantic suspense (ish) plot, all from the heroine's POV. It was going to be a while before she introduce the hero. The heroine is in jepordy, early on, and the hero saves her (surprise!), but for him to pull it off, she has to trust him. And if the heroine must trust the hero, the reader must trust the hero. (Following me? Agree? Disagree?) So Putney had to give readers a sense of the hero, a reason to trust him, or at least be interested in him enough to roll with it. The prologue was a funny, short little bit from the hero's POV, that gave us some insight to the hero, and a reason to trust him, before starting the story.
I'm sure there are many more tips for pologues, but I'll stop rambling now. What about you? Any prologues stand out to you as particularly effective, or particularly distracting? Do you use them yourself? Like them, hate them? What tips would you offer up for writers?
By the way - has anyone else seen this quote floating around facebook? I love it!
Maya Rodale is a new author to me, and I am always excited to pick up a new author in the hopes I will have a new romance author to glom. This week, I had the opportunity to read: THE TATTOOED DUKE, which is the third in the Working Girls series.
The Working Girls series lives up to its euphemistic name. Four young women are column writers for the most popular newspaper in town, The London Weekly. Of course, since it’s 1825, such a career (so to speak) is scandalous in the extreme, and the women are kept secret, though London knows there are women who work for the paper. Already we know we do not have our typical shy, retiring wallflower trope in the Regency (slightly after) setting. We have trailblazers.
This heroine, Eliza Fielding, is having a bit of writer’s block and knows her next column better work or Knightly, her boss, is going to fire her. She needs this job (the reason is not made exactly clear right away, but it is clear she’s not as well off as her other Writing Girls friends, who have married into the gentry or ton.) She is offered a position to research and write about a newly-back-in-town scandalous duke who is a well-known explorer, traveler, and heartbreaker. She immediately applies as his housemaid (since no one with sense would want to work for such a scandalous man and there are many positions available) and begins her research.
Then the snowball rolls down the hill.
Eliza writes a most delicious column; it is published; the duke is even more infamous—and things get better and worse. The duke—Sebastian, the Duke of Wycliff—is dying to get some money (he has none) and go back out adventuring to find the city of Timbuktu. Eliza’s columns get more popular—and she’s getting paid more and being taken more seriously as a writer; however, her columns are ruining the duke’s reputation, and soon he is out of the running for being eligible to head the expedition to find Timbuktu. She feels bad (she now likes him), so she writes another column—and as you imagine, it just keeps circling down the drain. Hell is paved with good intentions, as they say.
Meanwhile, there are a couple other characters available to keep our hero and heroine busy and wreck their lives. There is no rest for the wicked, and the duke and Eliza are not perfect people by any means. Also, it’s a well-known fact that when one part of your life starts to implode, the rest explodes with it. It does keep things very exciting and keeps you turning the page to see what will go wrong next.
All in all, Maya’s author voice is compelling and keeps the reader engaged, and the pacing of the story was such that it made for a quick read. However, hard-hearted stickler I am for historical plausibility and emotional depth of characters, the story fell short on those aspects for me.
So while this story didn’t work totally for me, that is not to say it would not work for other readers. If you enjoy historicals where the heroines are a bit more modern and more relatable to the modern world; if you like plot twists and reveals that make your jaw drop (mine did a few times in the story—it did keep me guessing); and you particularly like the trope of CEO and secretary (which is where I think Lord and housemaid fits), this book will probably be a funny, engaging read for you.
I did see a glimmer in a couple of the other characters in the story, the last Writing Girl writer, Annabelle, and Knightly, the owner of The London Weekly. She's in love with him, and he barely seems to acknowledge she exists--so while the Lord and housemaid trope did not work for me (mostly on a political level *LOL*) in this story, I am looking forward to reading other books by Ms. Rodale, checking out the previous Writing Girls and finding out if anything happens for Annabelle and Knightly.
So this week, let’s discuss: What are your favorite and least favorite tropes? Are you a stickler for historical plausibility or do feisty heroines mean more to you? Has anyone else read this book and has a different take? I’d love to hear from you!
Big Thanks to 2nd Chance for changing days with me! Lifts tankard of rum in salute.
It's officially March. That's three months into the year and three months away from when many of us set new writing goals for this year. They looked so shiny and attainable and full of promise in January but as the days ticked by, they lost a little of their special shimmer didn't they?
It happens to all of us, this slow fade from a promising new year of writing highs to a harsh dose of reality that although you might WANT to improve your writing, it takes more than just setting a goal to affect real change. So here is some great advice for lighting the fire under your goals again and making them work for you!
First, focus on what does work for you. I know you've had that day where the words just flew and everything came together perfectly. Why was that? Was it the setting, the time of day, music choice, setting? Maybe it was because you planned your scenes or even relaxed before starting to write? Pay attention to these small things so you can find what works for your prefect writing environment. How can you recreate those things when you are having issues getting words down?
Secondly, what are your strengths as a writer? And I don’t want to hear you just suck at all of it. We all know better. In fact, I did a blog post not long ago asking you to sing your own praises on something you know you do well. Think back (or better yet check out that post again) and anytime you find writing a challenge or that your story just isn't working, move to a scene that will play to that strength.
Is your strength planning, plotting, etc? Don’t get bogged down in it, but take a few minutes to plan or plot your next scene. Step away and see if it helps to get the juices flowing. Likewise, if character banter is where you shine, skip ahead to a fun scene you can really let your characters go at each other. Let your writing strengths inspire you!
Next, step back from your goals. Yep. I know this is about how to reignite your writing goals but for right now just toss them aside. Instead let’s focus on a new concept, the worst case scenario goal. Set yourself a bare minimum goal for the day or week. Seriously, maybe 50 words a day?Think about that as the absolute worst case, life shot to hell goal. And meet it. Achieve that bare minimum goal and feel great about it. That bare minimum goal is going to surprise you one day with how close its getting you to that BIG GOAL without all that angst and drama that hangs over your head with a big goal. Oh, and make sure you are celebrating these worst case goals. Hell, I’m celebrating BICHOK the past few weeks!
Finally, never forget that basic thing that speaks to you about writing. Why do you love it and what drew you to writing in the first place? Don’t lose those feelings. Find something physical to keep around you to make you smile or give you that nostalgic lovey-dovey feeling for writing all over again. Is it a sticker on your laptop that reminds you of something? Is it a copy of your favorite book placed on the shelf next to your writing desk or the cover of your first book hung on the wall? These physical reminders of your passion for writing can help you focus on even the crummiest of days.
Today I want to hear any tips on how you stay focused on your goals or how you pick back up and refocus after time off. Do you let your goals just drop, or do you redouble your efforts? Will you set a drop dead goal and are you brave enough to share it? Are you someone who's fantastic with goals? Tell us your secret! Let’s talk it out and discover where we can help find the keys to making our goals cry out for mercy.
ACK! Yes, it’s coming on strong and fast. Convention season. And I have a whirlwind tour on my hands this year. I think it’s going to be fun, if I don’t have a nervous breakdown beforehand.
I have the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in April. May is a new steampunk convention called Clockwork Alchemy, but at least it’s in San Jose, less than 40 miles away. (Whew!) The same weekend is BayCon, also in San Jose, so I might be bopping between one and the other. CA is gonna win for most of my attention, I’m on a few panels!
June has RomCon in Denver, and the Northern California Pirate Festival. July is RWA Nationals (where I’ll just be attending, so it will be a bit relaxing. I hope.) August? Right now it’s looking like no convention but instead a cruise with my family. Then the fall season, which I’m going to ignore at the moment.
Now, the first convention has me starting to freak out. The last few months have been busy with figuring out what I’m going to give away in Club RT. I’m part of a steampunk social and there is a lot of figure out with that group. (Costume!) I’ll be signing my two prints and pushing my e-books…and I hired a pirate actor to work the Saturday line for the big book fair.
He’s great and I can’t wait to see him at work! Giving out my pins, bookmarks, temporary tattoos… Hee, hee!
The hard thing…ah. The panel I proposed and am in charge of. A game. A game of romance Mad Libs. I tricked…errr…convinced two other authors to do this with me. One new book is Scottish historical, Katharine Ashe. One writes hot cowboy romances, Beth Williamson, and then there is me…pirates.
Fictional Mad Libs – Who Ya Gonna Write?
Join three authors as they coach you in how to choose the right words for the right character. From Scotland to the Caribbean to deep in the heart of Texas, we’ll spin you around and mix it up to create that Scottish Cowboy wearing a tricorn you’ve all been dreaming of. Trust us, it’s all in the words. Come play Mad Libs with us and discover a hilarious way to create a story.
This is where it could be fun… For a pirate, it’s a tricorn. For a Scot, it’s a tam-o-shanter. For a cowboy, it’s a ten-gallon hat. For a pirate, she’s a wench. For a Scot, she’s a lassie. For a cowboy, she’s a ma’am. That sort of thing.
Now, I need some good adverbs, adjectives…verbs… So, I’m coming to the crew…because I know you read all of these genres. (I was reduced to a google search. It wasn’t bad…but I need more!)
So…what works? I was thinking… a cutlass, a claymore and a pigsticker (or a Bowie). A pistol, a (was there a firearm of some sort?) and a colt. (Yeah, I’m obviously reaching for the Scottish historical.)
It’s play day! (And help a bartender out day.) Can you think of particular words that let you know, with a sentence or two, where you are? (the Caribbean, the moors, the panhandle) Who the hero is? Who is heroine is? What’s the insult each hero would use?
Specific to BLAME IT ON BATH, the third son, who was never going to have much money regardless, decides he needs to take up with a very rich heiress before word gets out that or is possibly confirmed that he’s illegitimate. Fortunately for him, as he’s about to leave on his expedition, he is approached by a widow who proposes marriage to him. A very rich widow. The best kind. After finding out that her offer is legitimate and her worth is about ten times what he’d been hoping to get, he agrees to marry her.
Many, many, many moons ago, I was inspired to write an article called: “The Writer’s Compass: Writing for the Directionally Challenged.” It was pithy—and by that, I mean, brief—for me, touching on the four things a writer should evaluate in a scene (or book) that she is writing: characters, conflict, tension, and ending. It was a Quick Fix for Writer’s Block.
It assumed a few things: 1.) You were already in the middle of writing a story; 2.) You already started at a beginning and you likely had a clear or at least blurry vision of the ending; and 3.) You had characters, plot, and tension—but you were having a bit of trouble figuring out where to go next.
That’s where the article came in. It was like a little mantra to do a quick evaluation of your location and get you back to writing. Usually if you’re suffering from writer’s block, you either don’t know where to go next or you don’t feel you can move on because the scene you’ve just written doesn’t feel finished, yet you’ve written about a hundred pages on it so clearly it must be over.
So this is where you stop writing and pause to think, to recalibrate your writer’s compass, and the first thing you always recalibrate first is where True North is. In writing, for me, characters are always the True North of any story. If your writing has gone doldrums and adrift, your characters are probably pretty lifeless on the page. You need to fix them quick.
Characters seem to be rather easy…but hard. Most characters for me seem to arrive without warning, as if you’ve known them all your life. Of course, everyday you’ll likely learn something new about your characters—“I didn’t know you knew how to shoot a gun!”—and yet we all seem to feel pretty confident to just start writing, so we must have known quite a bit, right? At least that is how I feel. I’m typing along, confident I have some idea of the hopes, dreams, and ideals of my character and I know how the story is supposed to unfold.
Then one day I find that the story is not unfolding. Granted, I tend to unfold in the same manner every time. I write like I’m a scriptwriter for the old show 24, unraveling the story in real time, which can be a problem if say I was retelling the story The Illiad.
So the first thing I do is look at my characters. What are they doing in this scene? Are they avoiding their goal? (Characters do love to put off adventure and give it to someone else to accomplish. It’s why writers need to make sure they take away all the crutches a character might embrace to get out of doing what needs to happen.) Do they even know what their goal is? Have they forgotten about their goal?
Finding your True North again usually stems from the fact that the initial goals of your characters are not in attendance and you’re just flailing about on the page, trying to find a plot or some suspense…but the goals belong to the characters, not the plot. So you need to stop and figure out what goals belong to these characters. What makes these goals important to them? Why are they so important? Is there anything that can distract them from these goals? Is there anything else they want more?
The reasons don’t have to be life or death, or even reasons that would make you or your reader want to pursue these goals, but they have to be real to the character. If the character believes in them, you and the reader will too.
While it’s true that many characters’ goals aren’t the same at the end of a story as they are in the beginning, the goals do need to be strong enough that the character still wants to stick with them—wrong though they may be—for a long, long time. It’s not a real goal if they’re willing to give them up at the first opportunity. We want our character to grow, not be wishy-washy.
Goals work best if they are built out of universal themes: justice, righting of wrongs, survival, finding someone we love or saving someone we love, etc. Or even the darker attributes of us: revenge, finding the killer who killed our kinsman, etc. These are things that are passionate, and when we are passionate about something, we’re not likely to give them up at the first opportunity. We will cling to them like a child’s baby blanket, until it’s in rags and worthless only in memory.
I think we tend to create goals for our characters out of the core themes we like to tell in our story. I do think all aspects of a story work together and if you don’t have a firm foundation, your house will fall at the first breeze. So if you’re writing about redemption or forgiveness, then your character’s goals need to reflect something of it in its outcome. Sometimes we write without knowing—I get that—and it’s only after the story is all done and we think about our characters do we realize what the theme and such was. But I do believe, we tend to write the same kinds of stories that are dear to us. We’re all working out some deep Gordian knot within us. It’s our way of being the hero who fixes his life and gets the happily ever after—we don’t necessarily have it for our own.
So today I want to talk about goals and how to find True North? How do you recenter yourself when you finally realize you’re flailing about (either in writing or life in general)? What types of goals do you prefer characters to pursue? (I have a fondness for the goals that center around revenge. I love some revenge.) What type of goals do you usually give your characters (mine spend a lot of time trying to lead a conflict-free life—I swear to you that’s their goal, and it never works out)? Do you think core themes reflect in goals?