Tuesday, July 31, 2012

3 Things I Learned from EJ Patten

What am I reading now?  Carrier of the Mark (Leigh Fallon)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  First of all, what a beautiful, creative cover. And now that I've read the book it's amazing!

I love the Irish flavor to the book and the link to elemental magic. It has great action (but not so much it overwhelms the story) and a satisfying romance between Adam and Megan. They've both had some hard things happen and they have to learn to trust. It's sweet to watch. They're a little awkward but when they decide to go for it, they are both stronger because of the relationship.

The supporting characters are interesting too. I'm glad this is a series so I can see what each of them will do as they try to resolve a greater problem. The book ends at a good point but we know there will be more--can't wait!

3 Things I Learned from EJ Patten
last Friday at the Writers' Workshop

Some things I heard from EJ Patten (The Hunter Chronicles, Return to Exile) in his session about Character-driven Plotting last Friday...

"Ask 5 whys."
          I've always heard that any time you have a character take action you have to know why they would do that. This ensures our plots are valid and believable. Eric said we shouldn't just ask why; we should ask "why?" five times. By following this piece of advice, we can create the depth the story needs to sustain the readers' interest.

"The first action belongs to the Antagonist."
          The action the antagonist takes is why we have a story in the first place. If a protagonist had a problem they wanted to solve or a goal they wanted to reach, it wouldn't be much of a story if they just solved it or achieved it. The antagonist make it a story.

"Subplots arise from character relationships. If you have a sagging middle, you don't know your characters well enough."
          Eric explained that the plot carries interest in the main storyline. However the middle of the story is carried by the conflicting wants and needs of the characters, all the characters. When we know each character well enough, the middle can be used to examine how each character tries to get what they need, while the Antagonist and Protagonist are also working on their goals.
          He gave us 4 Questions to ask each and every character in our stories to get to know them:
          1) Who are they?
          2) What do they want?
          3) How are they going to get it?
          4) What's stopping them from getting what they want?
He said that when we know these answers, we can create a beginning, middle and end for each character making the story a richer reading experience.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Class of Words

What am I reading now?  Destiny Binds (Tammy Blackwell)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  Scout is AP book smart, quick witted, a fighter and snarky! She's a great character with a unique view on life and voice of her own. I didn't have any idea what the book was about (it had been sitting around patiently in my kindle account waiting for its turn to be read) before I read the first sentence. No, it didn't help me get my bearings in the book, but that's how long it took me to decide I would like reading this book. I enjoyed the funny dialogue and thoughts from Scout, especially her thoughts. :)

I love the characters (my faves: Scout and her best friend, Talley.) The boys are boys, gotta love them too. Enjoyed the plot, the pacing (not an action thriller, but enjoyable), the snark.

Sometimes I don't have high expectations of indie published books and am pleased when one of them is amazing. This one is (and it was $0.99--that's less than the price of bottle of Dr. Pepper). I was a little disappointed near the end, but then I remembered it is the first book of 3. Oh, yeah, 3. Okay, I can take a deep breath and not freak out! Then I went to Goodreads and put the next two in this series on my "To Read" list.

Have you been to this part of Thesaurus.com? 
Click on this link to see  ---->  Classes of Words
It's a fun place to wander around--especially of you have writer's block.
Like I do.

I clicked on "Misjudgement".
It's interesting to see the concepts related to the words. It isn't just a list of synonyms, but a web of relationships. Like this one, that will not only give you choices of parts of speech but will also give you related causes for making a misjudgment.
Strolling through this list gave me new ideas for conflicts I could devise. Since the lists deal with concepts, they are great hooks into the themes we develop in stories. Sometimes when I feel blocked from writing it helps to reconsider 
different angles on the theme of my story.
Just another tool we can use.
Happy browsing!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Getting Personal with my Characters

What am I reading now?  Drake Chronicles (0.5, 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4 and 5)

Annnd . . .What do I think so far?  You can probably tell by the long line of book covers that I'm enjoying this series!

Yeah, I really don't care if the publishing industry is "tired of vampire stories" -- I'm not. Good stories are good stories. Period.

The series revolves around two girls, Solange and Lucy. They're neighbors and best friends. Solange is the only girl in the Drake family. She's also the youngest and has seven brothers. Oh, they're vampires from a royal, but ousted, line dating back to the 13th Century.

Lucy is human but her family has it's quirks too. And Lucy would like to be better than just neighbors or friends with Solange's brother, Nick.

Turns out it isn't such an odd thing for this family as Solange is attracted to a human as well. But Kieran's family are vampire slayers.

There's a whole lot here that can go very wrong very quickly, and it does.

You're lucky to be starting this series with so many of the books already out--the ending of book 4 (Bleeding Hearts) about caused cardiac arrest when I read it! Luckily, book 5 had just come out. Whew--dodged a heart attack.

Getting Personal with my Characters

I did a great writing exercise (got the idea from Victoria Lynn Schmidt's book, 45 Master Characters) with my characters this week that I think I'll continue. It gave me some great insight into how they would react to situations the plot throws at them and what their conversations would be like. Here's what you do.

Write 2 pages (long hand) that tells which classical archetype character your character is most like. Classical Archetypes = Greek Gods. Write evidence that shows how that personality plays into their voice, reactions and actions.

Write another page where your character tells you what she/he thinks of the goals you've given them.

I also wrote a short character arc that moves from weakness to strength in 3 or 4 areas to help guide the revisions I'm making on the story.

I've completed two characters so far and it gave me some good ideas for strengthening scenes, characters and dialogue.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When pigs fly

What am I reading now?  In His Eyes (Johannes, Bryant, Strauss, Quinn, Harrell, Vernon, Novak, McCorkle, Cross, Hooper, Oakes, Pauling, Benefiel, Klein, Lasota, Workman)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  This is a fun collection of short stories from the guys' point of view when they met, fell in love with or decided to take a chance on a girl. Each of the stories is authored by a different writer. So if you like what you see, you can get their full length novels. There are a few stories in here that have made me do just that. Enjoy!

Quote for the Day . . . 

Yes, this has something to do with writing. What do you think?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

EZ Lemon Meringue Cake

 What am I reading now?  Caribbean Crossroads (Connie Sokol)

 Annnd . . . Here's the blurb: New college grad Megan McCormick just got dumped. Hard.

Swearing off men and relationships, Megan is coaxed into performing on a cruise ship where she meets the star performer, Bryant Johnson. Handsome and charismatic, he looks like trouble, but she can't deny the intense attraction between them.

Urged to find a wife and run the family lumber business, Bryant is torn between his family's expectations for his life and his own. However, when he meets spunky, but love-skittish Megan McCormick, settling down doesn't look so bad.

Just when Megan begins to trust again, and Bryant makes some big decisions regarding his future, her former fiance returns with a malicious surprise, taking Megan and Bryant to their own CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS.

EZ Lemon Meringue Cake

Cut Angel Food cake into three rings,
Fill with lemon pudding,
Top cake with meringue,

And bake at 425 until you get the desired amount of browning on the meringue.

Not too sweet for a dessert, but I add a little extra lemon powder (called True Lemon) to the pudding to give it a pucker-effect!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What is the "middle"?

What am I reading now?  Taken at Dusk (C.C. Hunter, Shadow Falls Novel #3)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Kylie hangs out with the wrong people at the wrong party and her mother freaks, sending her to away to summer camp.

What do you think a summer camp for troubled teens would look like? Large fence. Fairies abound. Limited visiting hours. Blood donations for vampires. Weres that flaunt how cool it is to be a wolf. Out in the middle of nowhere. A camp counselor that can read your thoughts/future/emotions. YIKES. Ghosts and witches. Of course. And of course two guys she thinks are sexy, trying to spend time with her. Yup, you can bet that'll cause a few fights. The usual right?

That's the usual at Shadow Falls. Kylie is the only human amid a paranormal circus. Until she starts to change.

Click HERE to check out this series on Goodreads. The fourth book is slated to come out October 2, 2012! I love it that publishers are starting to pick up the pace on putting the books out for a series every six months now instead of every 12 months. Here's a peek at the cover for the next one:

Yes--I'm still working on the middle of my story

What is the middle? 
The Beginning gets us into the characters and setting. It sets up the goals the main character has. It helps us develop enough friendship (or morbid curiosity) with the characters that we'll stick with them to see what's going on. And finally, it introduces a problem. Which gets solved in the End. The Middle is where the interest intensifies by revisiting the hints laid in the beginning by taking them to extremes in the storyline. Make each event press the character into reaction, action, mistakes or discovery. Innocent looking details in the Beginning take on new meaning in the middle.

Small paragraph, that.