Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anatomy of a Scene

What am I reading now?  The Boyfriend App (Katie Sise)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  Techie Audrey McCarthy used to be popular. She used to be part of a normal happy family with a dad that was still alive. And she used to have a future. She used to be best friends with Blake Dawkins, who still has all of those things and more--popular, beautiful, rich.
Audrey's only dream left is that she might escape her current life, after high school, if she gets a scholarship for college. When Public Corporation advertises a contest for the best app created by a high school student to win a scholarship of $200,000, Audrey starts designing--she needs that money!
(Oh BTW, that 's the company that Blake's dad owns that makes her rich enough to "own" everyone around her.)
But Audrey has an idea, a brilliant idea, and thanks to her dad who taught her his genius programming skills, she has a great shot at winning. The app she develops brings unlikely couples together with just the touch the screen. And where there's passion, scandal isn't far behind!

Anatomy of a Scene
1) When and where does this part of the story take place?
2) What are the characters doing?
3) What conflict arises out of the diverse motives and desires of characters in the scene?
4) What emotional changes are the characters experiencing because of the conflict presented?
5) What is the goal of each character for the outcome of the scene?
6) How is the crisis the protagonists is facing getting worse?
7) What in this scene relates to the overall story message and theme the book is presenting?
8) How does this scene transition to the next based on character reflection or regrouping?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mentor Authors

What am I reading now?  If I Should Die (Amy Plum Revenants #3)
Annnd . . . what do I think of it so far?  Would you die to save someone else? How about someone you don't know? Since this is book three, I can't tell much without creating a spoiler for the other two books. That said, let me add that this is a great ending for a gripping series. I've enjoyed these characters so much and I hate to see them go, but I loved the ending. Here's a bit of the blurb from the first book. And since I'm telling you about them now that they're all out, you won't have to wait a year between each book to read the series. You're welcome!

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity. When Kate Mercier's parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life--and memories--behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

Mentor Authors: Read to Write
A few years ago I was sitting in a conference session, given by Leigh Bale, discussing how to write about a villain when it isn't a person, meaning it might be a thing, a place, a disease, a weather condition, but the thing that stuck with me is not a new concept about an antagonist, although the class had many insightful ideas that are still in my notes, but the idea I worked with this week was: If you are going to write you must read.

I heard that since that time--and I've got that down! I'm definitely a reader, voracious, relentless, nose in a book, book store addict.

However, she suggested that we read with a pencil and write down our impressions about what the author is doing to create the story and do this with a lot of books so we will be able to recognize and create our own stories from insights we glean from these mentor authors.

She was not advocating copying the story, only internalizing the craft.

I took the challenge these past couple of weeks and reread some of my favorite books. They are from different authors, different publishing houses although all national publishers, and they are all in different genres; high fantasy, romance, chick lit, paranormal fantasy, historical inspirational.

Here's a little sample of what I found:
theme was apparent by chapter 2
love interest was known by chapter 3
romance started with admiring but noticing why it just wouldn't work
antagonist/villain made an overt move by chapter 4
inner demons made significant complications in each chapter from one or more characters
one face-to-face confrontation with antagonist before the midpoint
inner demons of 2 main characters collide just after the lowest point for the protagonist causing them to be forced apart
all stories resolved the compelling story problem before resolving the relationship problem

These might be a coincidence or they might be what our society intrinsically wants in a satisfying story. I'm not saying that we need to write stories in a stilted way, using rigid guidelines, hitting predictable plot points with the precision of synchronized swimming. What I am saying is that while doing this exercise, I kept having HUGE ah-has about missing pieces in the stories Deanna and I have written and thoughts about how to strengthen those stories.

So, our stories are going back into revision, and this time I have some definite ideas how to focus my rewriting efforts thanks to these mentors!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

OD'ing on Georgette Heyer

What am I reading now?  Venetia (Georgette Heyer)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  What a fun set of characters! Of course, that can be said of all the Georgette Heyer books I've read. She has amazing diversity of personality and backstory for the cast in each book.

Something I appreciate is that while the books are all historical romances set in Regency and Victorian times, the women protagonists are strong personalities (Yes, I've noticed a little chauvinism here and there and some very outdated stereotypes, but let's not assign this year's moral standards to decades or centuries past) and accomplished in their own right--hard to do considering the times those women are set in.

When I started reading these, I was only going to read one. But I couldn't stop. Here are my favorites in no particular order (Beauvallet, Venetia, Fredrica, Devil's Cub, The Grand Sophy, Arabella):

Writing Romance

1.  This genre has some very specific requirements and it's a good idea to check with the publisher or agent you want to pitch to for those expectations before you send in a finished manuscript. (Confession--I wanted to read The Grand Sophy because it was recommended to me when I asked how to improve a romance Deanna and I have and couldn't stop.) These guidelines will tell you the number of words to shoot for and how much physical intimacy is tolerated or expected.

2. Considering your future submission also gives you parameters for the ages of your lead characters (the ones who are "sitting in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g")

3.  The beginning and the end are somewhat predictable: At the beginning they meet or see each other and although there is some kind of connection, they know it just wouldn't work. The end is when they get together and the reader knows they will be together in the future.

There are some great online resources for writing romances as well as national organizations like the Romance Writers of America.

To internalize this type of story structure, maybe the best advice in this case is read, read, read! And why yes, I do have some great recommendations.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pirates and Raspberry Filled Cupcakes

What am I reading now?  A Change of Plans (Donna K. Weaver)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  Y'all know I don't often blog about adult romance books--like next to never unless it is chick lit, but this isn't and I'm blogging it. I try to stick with YA because I'm a teacher and connect with a lot of teachers through blogs and Goodreads, but this book would easily fit into a high school classroom library, so here it is!

I had a hard time getting into this book, but I'm recommending you buy it and stick with it. There's a great payoff if you do: several chapters are cry-worthy and the love story is sweet and memorable. I truly enjoyed it!

Author Interview

Tell us about your book in 30 words or less.

A pacific cruise. An intriguing guy. Pirates. What’s not to love?

Yeah. I know. It’s 11 words.

What inspired this story?

A dream. There was this guy and gal marooned on an island with a huge old tree and a tree house. Of course, in my dream, they found this concrete building full of dry toilet paper (don’t ask me how that happened on a tropical island) and bottles of shampoo. Yeah. Definitely a dream because that didn’t happen in the book. My challenge was figuring out how to get them on the island.

Where did you draw ideas from for the scenes?

Some things were based on experience, since I spent two years living in the Philippines as a girl. I’m too familiar with the humidity, torrential rainstorms, and huge bugs. I also lived through a typhoon—there was a ripping storm scene that was cut from the book. I’m going to have to figure out how to share that some time.

Which parts of the story did you have to research and how did you go about that?

Yes, you would remember some of my research issues, wouldn’t you? The catamaran and island, especially, were fraught with research issues. I watched YouTube videos, reached out to people I know with medical and geology expertise, and brainstormed with other authors. It’s funny where some (obvious) answers can come from. I tried actually talking with someone on the Coast Guard to help me verify some information, but their online guide answered my questions.

What else are you working on?

I’m currently editing a companion novel to A Change of Plans, where one of the secondary characters—a guy—will become the main character. He’s so broken (readers don’t realize just how much), and it’s been a lot of fun to write about his healing journey. When I’m finished with that, I have a YA fantasy duology that I’ve written but still need to edit.

Raspberry Filled Cupcakes
This is a hurry-up dessert (made from cake mix)
•Bake the cupcakes as directed on the box.
•Then cut the center out of the cupcake and hollow out a well.
•Place 1-2 raspberries in the well

•Fill with pastry cream (recipe below) and place the cap of the portion you cut out to cover the hole.
•Mix one small jar of marshmallow cream with purchased frosting.
•Frost cupcakes

Recipe for Pastry Cream
(The fluffy-happiness you suck out of Twinkies)

1 c. shortening
1/2 c. butter
1 egg white
1 tablespoon vanilla

Blend together until smooth then add:
2-3 c. powdered sugar and
1/3 c. hot milk, dribble this in slowly after mixing in the sugar. You don't need to add all the milk if the frosting looks like it is lickable smooth.

Keep this recipe around to fill Cream Puffs too!