Jan 27, 2011

Okay, So Let Me Get This Straight!

Does anyone ever say to you, "Huh? I don't get it?
Maybe you see confusion printed across their faces as well! 
I hear you, I just don't get it. I've read it, but....
Kids love to have their parents read to them. Why, because they might use different voices for all the characters, even act out a incident or two. This way, children could comprehend what the writer was saying.

As a writer, we should make it self-explanatory. I'm an adult, I don't want my kid to have to tell me what I just read.

So...Plotting your story becomes essential to your audience. Each event should show progression. Like in Science class, if you do this, this follows. If I read this happening, then....

MaryAnne shivered as her toe made initial contact with the icy water. Each step was excruciating but she would make it. The last thing she wanted Lane to think was that she was a wimp. The idea of a hot shower weaved in and out of her thoughts. Standing below the pulsing spray and letting it remove any chill that linger. Heaven would be the quick disappearance of goosebumps, and replacing it with a warm blanket of heat. The tail fin of a great shark sliced through the water. I'm sorry - say what!!!! How did she get a shark in her shower?

Get me out of the shower and show me the lake or the ocean, or whatever the large body of water is, that would house a great white shark. Toss in a few lines of dialogue, something. I like to read a book that takes me from 'what a shame' to 'way to go' one step at a time.

Plotting out your story allows you to chronologically lay out your chapters with conflict and follow through with your resolution. Study books on our craft. Make it so that as you imerse yourself into a book that you aren't pulled out wondering, "how in the hell did we get there?"

Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell
Conflict, Action & Suspense, William Noble
GMC, Donna Dixon
Plot, Ansen Dibell.

Jan 23, 2011

Does Your Character Have Character?

Does your character have Character?

When you read a story, do you walk away with the feeling that you know the character? Is she the little girl next door, or the high school Cheerleader that you envy? I finished reading a book yesterday (YA, As You Wish) and came away from it remembering a friend of mine from when I lived in Missouri as a Junior High Student. It was such a great feeling to take a walk though my memories. I applaud the author. She did what I, as a writer, strive for; that character that you can relate to or remember.

My grandson (pictured here in his grandfathers glasses and baseball cap) is a little character. His teachers tell his mother that this little four year-old is cute. He always has a funny story or says something funny that makes his teachers laugh. He gives them a reason to 'remember him.' Your characters should do the same.

From the DunMiller's Mansion series, I introduce a teen (fifteen) that has been pulled away from her childhood friends into a whole new set of kids, a new house and a new world (according to her - foreign but still a member of the fifty states) She tends to be a snot. She is rude to her mother, (teens always find someone else to blame) she refers to her brother as 'squid' and pond scum,' and just plain hates her new life. I had a judge tell me that she didn't like my character because she was unlikeable. That she was too snotty and hard on her mother. Yeah! My character showed her true innards, blemishes and all, because, realistically (and I do know this firsthand) girls are fighting the 'need to be in' phase of their life and dramatic changes are hard to understand. Sure, it really brought my score down, but at least my character came across the way I wanted her to. 

The judge said that teenagers weren't like that. Say what! Every teen I've ever met, including the one I raised has their 'bitchy' moments. It's call 'woe is me,' I hate my life, why doesn't such and such like me, and then you can add a little puberty in for shading, and you've got a 'real teenager'. If you know of a sweet easy going teenager, I know a judge who will be right there with you. Please, be realistic, take a look at your niece, or the high school wantabe popular girl, I've just described a little bit about her.

Your characters should come across as the boy-next-door, but not perfect. The kid you used to play ball with. You visualize him, name him and give him quirks. i.e., constantly eating, heavy use of inappropriate words, always tossing a baseball into the air, socks that are different colors. Something that sets him a part from the tall, dark and cute category, but makes him that kid that you look for in everyone after you've finished reading the book. Barbie doesn't exist - she's a plastic doll; don't make your cheerleader the same. I'm sure there's someone in the school that the little sweetheart speaks poorly about, even while smiling.

Give your Character - character!

Observation is the invention of characters.