Christian Louboutin. “Printz,” Spring/Summer 2013. Courtesy of Christian Louboutin. Photograph: Jay Zukerkorn. Displayed as part of the Brooklyn Museum “Killer Heels” exhibit.
Our characters move through an arc, changing as they resolve the conflicts, solve the problems, and overcome the challenges that they encounter. One way we can show character change is to show behavioral changes. When our heroine was thwarted in the beginning of the book, she ate a pint of chocolate-chocolate chip Häagen-Dazs. Halfway through the book, though, she’s grown, she’s matured. Now when she’s thwarted, she stomps out of the house. Progress!
Recently I realized that one way I show how characters change is that I change their clothing choices. In an earlier manuscript, I had a young woman ditch her overalls and steel-toed work boots for flowing palazzo pants and high heels when she’d fulfilled her arc. In my current WIP, my heroine goes from suits and high heels to a poodle skirt and saddle shoes, and then to the skinny jeans and ballet flats that outfit her new life. Continue reading →
I had high hopes for good progress on the book this week, but an extra-strength world-spinning case of vertigo laid waste to those plans pretty thoroughly. Since typing away at the computer, reading, or basically movement of any kind risked triggering riding-the-merry-go-round-while-falling-off-a-cliff sensations, I turned my focus to a wordless creative endeavor. Continue reading →
Did I get your attention with my post title? I hope so. I wanted to “hook” you in, make you want to read. And that’s what I’m talking about today — hooks.
We’ve all heard about the importance of writing a “good hook,” one to get your reader invested in your story. Typically, the concept of the hook is relegated to the first chapter/first few pages of your book (or even just the first line). However, hooks need to be pervasive in your book. You don’t just want readers getting hooked on page 1 — or line 1, for that matter. You want to hook them at the end of each chapter, forcing them to turn the page and start reading the next one. Think of fishing: you don’t just drop one hook into the water, hoping the fish will jump into your boat, you Continue reading →
If you’ve visited Jenny Crusie’s ArghInk recently, you’ve seen the most recent collage she’s been creating for a new writing project. If you haven’t seen it, you really should go take a look. It involves carpentry, painting, pictures. It’s a 3-dimensional peek into the story world she and collaborators are creating.
Collage was one of the story discovery tools we discussed during our McDaniel coursework. This is a picture of the collage I did for My Girls during our discovery module. Note that it’s in 2-D. It isn’t fabulous or beautiful or awe-inspiring. It involves simple cut-out pictures and phrases arranged in groupings. But that collage hangs in my office to this day, and even though I’ve revised the story and not the collage, it provides a touchstone when I need to recapture a particular mood or element of the story. Continue reading →
Did you enjoy any small (or large) victories this week?
I had a chunk of time bookended between two family commitments. I didn’t want to start a new scene in case I got stuck half-way and had to visit my mum with the other half still in my head – bad for the scene, bad for mum :-) , so I decided to revisit my first 50 pages. I knew I had work to do. Months ago, Jenny Crusie told me she didn’t know what to root for, because each of my scenes seemed to start a new plot, and the pieces of the story didn’t fit together. Than at RWA in San Antonio, I had feedback on the same pages from an editor who said something like “these are good scenes, but they’re all in the wrong place.”
I didn’t need to be told for a third time.
If the first scene is critical – you’ve engaged or lost your reader by the end of it – the first 50 pages (about 15k words, or half of Act I) are almost as important, because Continue reading →
Ah, love’s young dream and the queer pranks of circumstance! On the other hand, as Ian Fleming writes in Goldfinger, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
I belong to an online book discussion group, and this week, we were talking about coincidence. I said that I’d experienced some amazing coincidences in my life, and ran into a minor coincidence almost every month. And then people shared their own stories of meeting a long-lost friend or relative hundreds of kilometers away from home. Or finding out that an online friend lived only 15 minutes away.
We all know coincidence, yet there seems to be such a disgust of coincidence among readers. On the other hand, is there a work of fiction that doesn’t depend on coincidence? I tried thinking of one; I thought something by Hemingway might work, but even something like The Old Man and The Sea still has the giant coincidence of the man catching this giant fish. There are, as we know, a lot of fish in the sea – why this fish, why now?
The way I see it, we humans are a pattern-seeking species. We see coincidence constantly, and most often the biggest things in our lives happen because of something unusual – a coincidence of people, actions or place.
In addition, fiction is about the unusual – the big moment in life that doesn’t blend into everyday. That’s often going to require a coincidence.
There’s a swim team poster on the wall of my Y that catches my eye each time I go into the locker room. Yet, until this week I’ve never really read it. It’s a list of tips for swim team members having difficulty with their stroke. Slow down, count, and focus on the fundamentals. In other words, go back to the basics.
After a long hard swim, I tend to zone out, particularly when a waterfall of hot water is beating down on me. My mind meanders and I blindly follow it, usually right to my story. This day was no exception, except, hmm….those swimming tips were swimming around in there, too…maybe I could apply them to writing. Not the counting part, of course (I could count words, I guess), but the slow down, step back, and focus on the basics part. Continue reading →