Log in

No account? Create an account

Recovering Dad -- Book Review

Jun. 13th, 2008 | 10:04 pm

Bianca Balducci is sixteen, she's a high school junior, she's certain she boomed her SATs, regulating herself to the bottom-of-the-barrel-colleges, she's got a boyfriend who's sending mixed signals, a new boyfriend on hold and she's hot on the trail of another mystery. One that draws her into the life, and death, of the father she never really knew.

When Connie - Bianca's private detective sister - announces that their widowed mother not only intends to marry again, but intends to marry Steve Paluchek, the man Connie has always blamed for their father's death. The deeper Connie draws Bianca into her investigation, the more Bianca wonders about the father she never knew. Who was he? Who killed him? And how involved was Paluchek? Soon, finding the answers becomes a matter of life and death.

Smarter than she thinks, witty and always ready with a sarcastic quip, Bianca's own special brand of humor keeps Recovering Dad from sliding too far into the dark-side as she scrambles to stay ahead of her 20-something sister, Connie. And staying ahead of Connie becomes more important than ever as her determination to prove Paluchek guilty of their fathers death drives her into shaky territory, putting not only herself, but Bianca in danger. Between wonder-bras, distant boyfriends and SAT stresses, Recovering Dad is a fast paced, modern Nancy Drew type mystery that is a great read.

Link | Leave a comment |

Character Flaws.

May. 12th, 2008 | 02:34 pm
mood: awake

Sorry, I wandered into my WIP and slipped up here...again. LOL. Funny thing is, I've had this post ready for weeks. My tendancy to wander is a good example of a character flaw -- loosing track of details can really mess a characters quest up, you know???

Okay here it is:

Remember the baggage from yesterday's blog? This is where we're going to put it into action.

Think about your favorite story character or movie character. What makes this character great? Usually is personality flaws or quirks you can relate too. Take Eve Dallas -- J.D. Robbs Death series MC. She's got a bucketful of good qualities -- she's loyal, hardworking, fights for good and truth and justice. She's got just as many flaws though -- she's defiantly not a people person -- you make friends and then they make friends and your stuck talking to people when all you want to do is work. Yuck. I can relate. Seriously. That attitude, snarky as it may be, makes me smile. And the thing is, this attitude and discomfort around people ties right in with her background. It's believable.

Not all characters -- all right, few characters -- have flaws that are so in your face. And you certainly don't have to write a character with in your face flaws. But on the same token, well adjusted, happy-with-their-life characters are a dead bore. They also don't have the one thing that is needed to make a character arc work -- internal conflict.

What is a character arc, and why is it important. A character arc is the changes a character goes through to become a better person. All books need to include a character arc -- all main characters need to learn something during the story. The exception to this rule can be mysteries. In many mysteries character depth isn't an issue, because characters aren't the focus of the story -- so mystery MCs don't have to change.

So, sit down and figure out what is this character's greatest fear? What do they need to learn during the story? What do they want? Why do they want this? And what keeps them from getting it? (this goes back to the fatal flaw)When these questions are answered you have:

Greatest fear. (Surprised?)
Fatal flaw - the flaw that trips them up every time.

During the story -- for the character to be strong -- the character must face their greatest fear and get hung up on their fatal flaw. Overcoming these completes the character arc and builds a great character -- one that readers remember long after they close the book.

Link | Leave a comment {3} |

Characters: Giving them life

Apr. 29th, 2008 | 02:45 pm

Once the central - or core - idea of the story is in place, it's time to begin actually planning the novel. Now some start with the character, some start with the plot, and some just plop their butt into the chair and begin writing. The last group are those who write by the seat of their pants - pansters - and usually their first draft is the same basic thing as an outline. Especially for newbies this can be a hard way to write. It's easy to wander off the garden path, and into another garden entirely. There are many wonderful writers who work this way - though most are a combination of pansters and plotters.

Whatever your writing style, prep work is important.

I start with the character -- so, that's the issue I'm going to address first.

A basic sketch -- don't get out your drawing pencil, I'm talking a verbal or written sketch -- is the first step to bringing a character to life. Is your MC - main character - a female or male? What age? What color is their hair? Their skin? Are they tall, short, thin, fat, pudgy? Neat and clean or messy with sludge under their nails? Fill in enough of these details so you have a mental photograph of the person you're going to be working with. Do the same for each important character in the story.

What is this person's name? A name is important. It conveys race, religion, background, ethnicity, personality, and strength. Baby name books, either on line or hard copy are a good place to begin. And partner up with the character you're naming -- if they don't like their name, characters become hard to work with. Stubborn. Willful. Annoying. Names affect that mental photo too -- a young blonde girl named Billy-Rae is going to look and act different than a blonde girl named Lisa -- so keep that mental photo in mind while picking out names. When writing a romance a man named Bubba gives off a much different image than a man named Tony or James. One is an Alpha name, one is Beta and one is an X. All three have their uses when writing.

Background. Create the character's background. I'm not saying you need to sit down and write out their life history from birth to present, but have a good idea of the event that helped form this person. Events create baggage. We all have baggage -- some have whole moving vans full of baggage. Baggage often has an impact on the reasons people make the choices they make. In a word: Motivation. Now, if you're picturing an actor on stage asking what his motivation is for doing what he's suppose to be doing, you're right on track.

To be continued...

Link | Leave a comment |

High-Concept Ideas

Apr. 26th, 2008 | 04:51 pm
mood: crankycranky

Yesterday I talked about ideas and where they come from. Ideas are like the seeds of the story. The first step in going from idea to book is to turn the idea into a core idea.

So What is a Core Idea?

A core idea is basically the entire plot of a story boiled down to one sentence. A core idea should cover conflict, motivation, resolution. IE: Girl is reunited with her demon-mother and forced to battle evil and herself to remain on the side of good. Whether you're a panster or a plotter, it's important to not only know, but write down the core idea before you begin writing. Because here's the thing: Core ideas are sneaky. They morph into other ideas while you're writing the great American novel. They are also slippery -- it's easy to forget the core idea you were shooting for when hip-deep into the novel.

One more marvelous benny of putting your core-idea on paper is queries. Queries scream for core ideas. It's a basic necessity. ;D.

High-Concept Ideas are a common buzz word. So, what is the difference between a core idea and a high-concept idea? That's simple. A high-concept idea is a core idea presented in memorable terms. Milk-carton girl returns to demon-mom to find herself forced to battle the dark-side and herself to remain true to the force. When thinking high-concept, think of those high-profile movies and books we all know. Not that all plot ideas lend themselves to high-concept. Some simply don't. And that's okay too.

Link | Leave a comment |

Ideas For Writing

Apr. 25th, 2008 | 04:50 pm
mood: calmcalm

Where do you find ideas for stories???

For some writers ideas grow thick on the ground, for some, ideas are harder to come by. I fall into the former catagory. I find ideas for stories most everywhere. Anywhere or any activity that brings up a WHAT IF question in my mind can lead to a new story idea. For those who struggle for ideas try:
Sitting in the park and watching people. Or the mall. Or the zoo. Where-ever you go, people watch and create stories about them, their life, what they’re doing and why? Where might they go next? What might their weaknesses be? Strengths? Is everything in their life roses or pits. Pits make great stories.
Reading the newspaper or watching the news. These are great resources for the problems people face. How did they get into that situation? What might be a good intention that caused the situation. How will they handle this problem?
Watching and listening and expanding what you see in your own mind is a great jumping off place for story ideas. Try it. ;D.
See you later.

Link | Leave a comment |

Under the Artic Sea

May. 17th, 2007 | 07:55 pm
mood: crazycrazy

Today I read about the creatures living under the artic sea -- including the glass sponge, who honestly sounds like a pretty cool guy. And I've read the excerpts from Joe Hill's novel The Heart Shaped Box -- and added it to my buy list. I've read about the Triskelion scandal and thier being disinvited to the upcoming RWA event. I've read about the issues with Simon & Schuster's new contract. I've read about Paris Hilton's reduced jail sentence (good behavior) and her decision not to appeal. I've read about the best and worst dressed at the country music awards. I also read a bit of Julia Quinn, Kevin Brooks and Holly Black. Oh, and i think I slipped some Tess Gerritsen in there. 

I've bugged dragoneggwith writing stuff she didn't want or need to know. LOL. I've watched my G-Neice sing dance-a-rella while dancing her version of bellerina combined with karate kicks. I've played the knock-knock -- who's there game with her (she only knows one joke so it's a sad game) and Go-Fish. I've sat outside with my day-care kids and admired today's rock finds. I've walked the dogs, broke up a fight between the dogs, walked the dogs. I've done some dishes, laundry, swept, and moved things around. I've worried with a friend over her son. I've talked to the bank about my soon-to-start remodeling project. Talked with my son about working on said remodeling project. I went grocery shopping.

What i didn't do today was meet my goals with writing stuff. 500 words is what I managed.  Plus some research into comma recovery. I still need to do a bit more. But, I'm distracted and can't concentrate. I'm not sure why...there's nothing going on here. Really. 

Ah well, maybe tomorrow...

Happy writing.

Link | Leave a comment {3} |

Making Connections

May. 11th, 2007 | 06:59 pm
location: Somewhere Out There
mood: crazycrazy

Writing characters that readers fall in love with is all about creating connections. Show the characters reactions -- thought and physical -- and provide readers with those a-hah moments. Those are the moments where readers recognize the feeling or the reaction they've just read about.


Think about your favorite book. What draws you back to that book again and again? Often it's not the plot -- because let's face it, if we boil down any plot to it's basics, chances are we've seen it before. The voice of the writer, the novel's unique twists and turns, the descriptions or the way the author uses tension might draw us back,  but usually it's the character that draws us back again and again. More specifically, it's the way we connect with that character.


There are writers out there who do great characters. Awesome characters. Characters that actually make us sad to reach the words THE END. We want to know more about that character's life. Nancy Farmer's The Sea of Trolls is a book one of my boys re-reads a few times a year. Jack draws him back. Justine Larbalestier's Reason is a favorite YA character of mine. Reason captures my interest from the first sentence. By the end of page five, she's made connections with me that made her real. (Flaws are a very real part of these connections by the way -- the best characters are flawed, it's what makes them human.) I’m starving, but I'm certainly not going to tell her that -- this to me is an excellent line -- one that creates a connection, because most of us have felt something similar - that cut of your nose to spite your face attitude - and it shows a very human flaw. More than one. It says a lot about Reason -- like sometimes she's not very reasonable...


Rodman Philbrick's The Mighty/ Max the Mighty's Max will always be one of my favorite children's characters. I cheer for the underdog -- I love kids who seem a little off -- and Max is both. He's a great kid and I connect with him during the first paragraph. I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that's the truth, the whole truth. The unvanquished truth. As I read on, I connect more and more with Max. I know that feeling. I understand that feeling.


I've used children's characters here, simply because that's the genre I'm working with right now. But there are a number of other characters, in other genres I return to time and again. 

We don't all connect to the same characters -- We all bring our own experiences and likes and dislikes to the table. So, think about it. Who are your favorite characters? Now, get out that book and look for the connections. Why do you like that character so much?  What does the author do to make that character real to you? Look at every thought, every action, every reaction. And next time you sit down to write -- look for ways to create the same connects. Create a bond between your character and the reader -- and that will bring them back, looking for more.


Happy Writing.

Link | Leave a comment {3} |

Characters and Pinocchio

May. 10th, 2007 | 10:26 pm
location: Somewhere Out There
mood: crappycrappy
music: Getting to Know You...

In the beginning, Pinocchio was a wooden boy. Not even a boy, really, but a puppet. If you've ever read Pinocchio in its original form, you've seen the journey of character creation happen, page-by-page, right before your eyes. When we sit down to write -- whether we're plotters or pansters -- we recreate that magic and bring our own puppets to life.


Sometimes it's a struggle to breathe life into that wooden puppet -- and we'd cheer if the blue fairy put in an appearance. Unfortunately, the blue fairy is usually to busy to visit every single writer...so we're forced to find our own magic.


There are as many ways to bring a character to life as there are magicians...I mean writers. And I have to admit, I worked at character creation at one time, but these days the blue fairy wears a path through the ozone just to help me out with my characters. She usually hands them to me fairly well formed, already whispering their story in my ear. And I bless her for this magical gift daily...er, um, okay, weekly? Occasionally, then.


Anyway, my characters are pretty much real people to me. It's making them come across that way on paper that can be difficult. But the first rule is: Know your character. A lot of writer fills out a character survey that lists everything right down to the color of their toenail polish. Some sit down and do interviews with the characters. I used to write pages and pages of their backstory -- my way of -- as the song says -- getting to know all about you.


Whatever it takes -- get to know your character.


Second, make sure you know and understand what your character's goal is. What do they want to accomplish??? Then question WHY. This is motivation and it springs from the backstory. With the what and why in order move onto the conflict. Who or what is standing in the characters way??? And in understanding why be careful: In each scene remember -- it's not what you would do, it's what the character would do.


Third, know the character's fatal flaw and greatest fear. This goes along with motivation and again, backstory comes in handy to figure these things out. The flaw is part of what keeps the character from reaching their goal and it provides internal conflict -- and internal conflict goes a long way toward making the character real. Before the last thread of the plot is tied off the character should over-come their fatal flaw and face their greatest fear.


Last, remember to introduce the character to the reader. It sounds dumb, huh? But sometimes we forget that our reader wasn't there for the interview, the survey, or the back-story.



Happy writing and may the blue fairy visit you today!!


Link | Leave a comment {3} |

Are you a plotter or a panster?

Apr. 21st, 2007 | 10:01 pm
mood: accomplished

I'm a panster and I spent several months trying to change this about myself -- all I managed to do was make writing difficult. I plotted a few stories. And then sat and stared at their empty files on my computers screen. Plotting takes all the mystery of the story out for me. It sucks the excitment of a new story dry. 

It gives me writer's block. 

And yet, I really, really, really wanted to learn how to plot. I took a number of classes, each covering a different plotting method. I loved each one. Didn't use the material the way it was meant to be used, but I enjoyed the classes. The benifit was a good understanding of plotting and story structure as well as an understanding of what I needed to keep an eye on while practicing my panster ways.

It's a fact of life for most pansters. While we work our way through our first drafts, we can wander off into totally different stories. LOL. Keeping an eye on the goals, the conflict, the scene, the theme...isn't easy. Some of the pieces/parts can get lost in the shuffle. So, I put what I learned in all those classes to work Panster-Style. I took the important things and put them into the header of my current novel. This is an awesome way to keep the wandering to a minimum.

My list includes:

Theme, fatal flaw, inner conflict, outer conflict, inner goal, outer goal, greatest fear to be faced and what needs to be taken from the character before they reach rock bottom.... In my current novel I call that the bathroom moment, because, well, it happens in the bathroom. A really grungy one off the interstate. 

My header gets a little bulky with all this information tucked into it, but it's right there, in front of my eyes and with that reminder my rough drafts aren't quite as rough. <G>

Happy writing.




Link | Leave a comment {4} |