Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Progress and Revision Note Cards

Song Playing: Wrong to Love You by Chris Isaac
Quote: “You have written a scene when something important changes.” Holly Lisle

So! Lots of progress was made over the weekend by yours truly on the editing front.

On Sunday I spent just about the entire day working on my revision note cards for my book Masquerade. I am taking a revision class (Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel), and this is one of the early steps of revision. If you have never used note cards for revision, well, allow a recent convert to sing the gospel. Revision note cards are different than plot note cards you use before you write a book.

Basically, you write one note card per scene, and condense the scene down to one very important sentence. You write the setting, protagonist, antagonist, the conflict, and the twist of the scene in one sentence. It’s difficult to get the hang of at first, but once you get it down, the process goes rather quickly.

So, for example, a complete scene might look like “At Suzy’s apartment, Suzy and Kyle argue about who will get to use the time travel machine first, but then an elephant comes out of the machine.”

Suzy’s apartment is the setting, Suzy is the protagonist, Kyle is the antagonist, their argument is the conflict, and the elephant is the twist. You don’t have to set it up in the same “setting, protagonist, antagonist, conflict, twist” order every time, but I did. It makes the scene easier for me to dissect, even if it made for some awkward sentences.

Allow me to briefly explain those elements. You all know what setting is, and the protagonist is the protagonist of THAT scene, not necessarily the protagonist of the entire book. So if you have some scenes from the book’s antagonist POV (like I do) then they become the protagonist of the scene, because it’s their needs and wants we are currently concerned with. A scene from the POV of your serial killer, for example, will place the serial killer as the antagonist, because it’s his needs we are currently wrapped up in, even if the serial killer isn’t the main protagonist of the book. Likewise, if you have secondary characters, and the scene is about what they need and want, then they are the protagonist for that scene. You as the writer gets to decide who the protagonist of each scene is, and the POV character isn’t always the protagonist of the scene, but they normally are.

In my opinion, save for rare instances, the POV character SHOULD be the protagonist of the scene, because if not, why are you writing the scene from their POV to begin with? If you are writing something from the POV of a secondary characters, like Watson is for Sherlock Holmes, then make sure you keep the focus on the protagonist, not the POV person. Through Watson, we clearly care about what Sherlock wants. It also helps that Watson’s and Sherlock’s goals are normally the same.

The antagonist is the primary character or motive power opposing the protagonist. So if someone is shooting at the protagonist, he’s clearly the antagonist. If a character’s mother isn’t letting her go to prom, the mother is the antagonist. If your character is stuck on a deserted island, then the elements are the antagonist.

The conflict is need of the protagonist against the opposing need of the antagonist. So, for our example, the argue is the conflict. The conflict can also be subtle, like a man stuck on island. That’s subtle conflict because nothing is actively opposing our stranded dude. Sometimes the conflict of the scene isn’t what you think it is, as I discovered with my book. The main character might be arguing with her parents, but the real conflict of the scene was she knew her parents would never approve of her love interest.

The twist is the element in the scene that changes, taking it in a new direction and surprising the reader. Another way to look at the twist is the plot advancement. Every single scene in your book must have a reason for being, must advance the plot in some way. This plot advancement is called the twist by Holly Lisle (and I personally like her take on it). The easiest way to figure out what the twist of the scene is to add “And then.”


Mary and Carl were walking down the street, and then…
Mary was hit by a bus.
Carl threw her into traffic.
A large pterodactyl picked them up and carried them away.

By the way, I was really happy I got to look up "pterodactyl" on wikicommons. I don't think there are enough dinosaurs on this blog. Not enough at all.

And so on. You get the point. The reason why you were writing the scene about Mary and Carl walking down the street was so they could get picked up by a pterodactyl, because you needed to explain how they got to the Land of the Lost. In thrillers and mysteries, the twist is also when we get new information about the killer or the crime being committed.

So much for a brief explanation… but I wanted to explain everything in enough detail that if someone wanted to try this out for themselves, they would have enough information to do it properly. Or better yet, if you really like this idea, and want to know more, you could PM and ask me about the course. I would recommend it to anyone looking to streamline their revision process. I know one person’s methods aren’t going to work for everyone, but I like to find other methods of revision so I can refine my own.

Back to the revision note cards: If you are missing one of these elements, you put it in brackets at the end. So if you have a scene where the character just thinks, you put “At Suzy’s apartment, Suzy thinks about the time travel machine.” [no antagonist] [no conflict] [no twist].

I went a step further than the lesson said, and highlighted each scene element with a separate color (I am using white index cards). So I highlighted the setting green, the protagonist yellow, the antagonist blue, the conflict pink, and the twist orange.

Then, I spread out all my note cards and eyeballed my book in miniature. It was very telling. I could tell there was something wrong with some scenes while I was reading through the book, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now, looking at my book on note cards, I can see I don’t have enough conflict, or weak conflict in a lot of the scenes.

This process sounds arduous, but it actually didn’t take too long to write everything out on a note card and highlight the different elements, and it was a lot of fun to see the end results. I moved onto the next lesson, which had you label the note cards as “Plot” for the scenes that directly related to your main story, “Subplot A” Or B, or C, whichever subplot it is. I currently have two subplots, so I have some note cards labeled Subplot A and some Subplot B. Last, for those plot lines you threw into the book, hoping for something cool but fell short, or subplots you planned that actually have nothing to do with your book (I am guilty of this one) you labeled “Not Plot”.

After I finished labeling all the cards, I pulled all the similar cards (all the cards for Subplot A, and Not Plot A for example) and laid them out in order of what happens. I could clearly see the story arc *cough* or lack of, for the main plot, each subplot, and the Not Plot.

Now I can see exactly where I dropped the ball. And let me tell you, it’s much, much, MUCH easier trying to analyze a subplot by itself, than to try and weed through the entire novel in order to catch my mistakes.

I made notes on a worksheet about any missing action, any leaps from one place to another, and any development and progression I left out. I am really excited about revision. I feel like I have a handle on the bucking bronco that is my novel.

My next step is to develop my subplots better. I think once I get them smoothed out, most of my conflict problems will go away.

I also need to strengthen the internal structure of the novel. As I mentioned earlier, I wrote this book a little over a year ago, and I have learned a lot about novel writing since then. So some of the essentials steps in novel writing I skipped and wrote by the seat of my pants. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I salute those of you who can wing an entire novel and not spend a year revising it into something readable.

What about you guys? Does anyone use note cards for brainstorming or revision, or I am the only one single-handedly keeping office supply stores in business? Does anyone have any nifty revision tricks they learned and now cannot live without? Who else thinks I need more cowbell and dinosaurs on my blog?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why Life Will NOT Be Like Star Trek

Also another hilarious website.

Life will NOT be like Star Trek

This is an article by the guy who wrote the “Dilbert” comic. I laughed the entire time I was reading this. I think the funniest thing about this article is it’s TRUE! That’s exactly how people would respond to those technologies!

This also provides a nice reminder to science fiction writers to remember to extrapolate with your new inventions. Don’t assume that people will use these inventions exactly as they are intended.

Have a happy Friday guys! Back to the revision trenches for me!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Plot-o-matic

Okay, this website is tons of fun.


I was looking for some good plot prompt generators, and found this little beauty. Totally not usable for a story, but oh so much fun to play with.

Here is my screenplay. I expect Hollywood to call any minute now:

Things Go BOOM!
An original screenplay concept
by Elizabeth Poole
Period Piece: A precocious child teams up with a well-built female cyborg to win a wager. In the process they sign a suicide pact with a super intelligent chimpanzee. By the end of the movie they shoot 42 oogly mothers-in-law and end up winning the admiration of their spouses, living happily ever after.
Think Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Equilibrium.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [CUT HERE] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
How to make a million: Print this page now. Make a copy, send it to your favorite movie studio, and before you know it an armored car will pull up to your door and unload bag after bag of beautiful green entertainment bucks. And they’ll be yours to do whatever you wish!

Isn’t that just pure genius?


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Plot Bunny for You

One month from today, I will be getting married! Yippee!

Okay, done with the mushy real life stuff!

Back to the blog.

I have recently found a great website for writing prompts, otherwise known as Plot Bunnies (You all know what a plot bunny is, right? It's an idea that spreads through your manuscript, procreating like...well, bunnies. The new idea usually have nothing to do with the main plot, and can lead you astray. But sometimes plot bunnies can spark some creativity to your first draft and take it places you never imagined.). I don't like to use writing prompts to write something completely new, but they have helped me out of a sticky scene a time or two, or recharged a saggy manuscript.

So I thought I would post some of the more interesting ones on my blog from time to time.

I can hear you groaning from here.

I promise, I will only post the prompts I think are different, and actually have a chance of sparking someone's imagination. I don't like the writing prompts like "A man meets a mysterious stranger". Too vague. A good writing prompt should spark something inside you, and make you immediately think of the possibilities. I will only post the most high quality, writer-tested prompts for your enjoyment.

And before you scoff, saying “I don’t need no stinkin’ prompts”, remember the last time you stared at the computer screen, knowing the story should be going somewhere but you aren’t sure where?

Sometimes prompts can help. They can provide a springboard for you to jump into the scene in a cool new fashion. Most prompts I have used never go into the book exactly as it reads, but are changed to fit the story or situation. Sometimes I don’t even use the prompt itself, but thinking about the prompt made me think of something else, which in turn made me think how cool it would be if…you get the idea.

Think of them as inspiration Energy Drinks. A Red Bull for your Muse, if you will.

Here is today’s prompt, from the Forward Motion for Writers forum story idea generator:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _


You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and that's never truer than in fiction. What you write about a character when they first enter a story will create that character in the reader’s mind, so make sure the intro counts!

Today, see how many one line character sketches you can do, giving attention to making a vivid first impression for each of them. For example:

'Long blonde hair and a face so sweet it was hard to believe she could be standing there with the bloody knife still in her hand, the smell of death and gunpowder clinging to her gown like lilies in at a funeral.'

Okay, your turn!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

I especially like this one for vamping up your secondary and tertiary characters. Not exactly main characters, but people that exist in your story to make it more real.

You could also revamp the introduction to your main characters, paying attention to the most unique details of the person. Let us know who that character is immediately, and your chance of hooking the reader goes up exponentially.

So what do you guys think? Do you like the prompt? Should I be burned at the stake for posting a such cliché writing tool? Do you have a favorite search engine for story prompts? How do you like to use them?

I would also love to know if anyone has actually created an entire book from a writing prompt. I assume this mythological creature exists, but I have yet to sight one.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Today I am working my way through making scene cards for my revision process, and I am reminded of the importance of checking your “echoes” throughout the book.

“Echoes” are what I have always called the ripple-like events that precipitate through your novel. Say Scene 1 is of your hero looking for her lost puppy. The puppy is just the excuse you want to use so she can meet her love interest, but don’t forget about the lost puppy, either. That puppy will have some small echoes throughout the book. Most of the time it will finish up within the same scene—at the end, they find Mr. Wiggles and have a cup of coffee together—but sometimes not.

When you look at your novel in outline form, whether it’s before you write it or afterwards, check the events and make sure they have the proper ramifications throughout the book. This also might give you ideas for missing scenes or motivations.

I like to outline my novel with note cards, and then check to make sure I have everything properly worked out and set up. If by the end of the book, my hero needs to diffuse a bomb, I need to put more than one scene where her techie boyfriend shows her how to diffuse a pipe bomb on a lark. The climax of the book will have many echoes throughout your book, both great and small.

Some of echoes are wrapped up within the scene, small bits of details that make your book feel more real and breath, and other echoes will be much larger, and spanning multiple scenes. It’s confusing to keep all of these details straight in your head, so I would recommend either writing out your outline on a piece of paper, or putting the scenes down on notecards.

Go through the events. Ask yourself, Have I properly set the climax up? Are there any skills or abilities I need to mention earlier? Have I forgotten to mention any minor bits of plot, and how they were resolved?

What about you? What methods do you use to ensure you’ve set everything in your novel up properly?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Yay for Friday

Friday celebrations abound across the blogosphere! People are throwing parties and confetti! I saw it!

For me, it’s just another workday, or closer to a Thursday, since I work on Saturday. Also, today I have to go in early, and I have back to back clients. Which is really awesome, but also makes me want to cry, just a little. Saturday is shaping up to be busy too. Which, I repeat, is awesome, but makes me want to cry.

Yesterday I had a Eureka moment while I was in a massage. That’s one of the downsides of being a massage therapist. If I have a eureka moment I can’t just scribble something down and go back to work…I am a little busy.

Either way, it was good times.

Revision is progressing merrily along, since I am still riding the high of finishing the first slog. I am starting to get into what Holly calls Triage, where I am rooting out characters, conflicts, and Promises, which I will explain later.

I hope everyone has a great day. Anyone will awesome plans? How are the WIP coming along?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Updates Galore and a Free E-Book Download (Oh My!)

Hi guys! Did you miss me? I know I missed you.

It’s been a crazy week, and I am really grateful to Mia and Lena for their interviews, giving me something to post when I didn’t really have time to make a proper post. Since Monday wound up being busier than I thought it would be, I shall tell you about my progress now.

And guess what? I finished a huge milestone for revision on Sunday.

Some of you may remember I started taking Holly Lisle’s class How to Revise Your Novel about two months ago. Lesson one is brutal, and I just finished. Huzzah!

Lesson one is the main editing slog, where I go through each page of my manuscript and make notes about the characters, the worldbuilding (even though it’s set in New York City, worldbuilding is still important), the plot (and all of those pesky subplots I tend to throw in there), any parts I feel myself skimming, and any parts I really enjoy. All of these notes go on their own separate worksheet, where I make a note of what is or isn’t working, and what might be the problem.

This is very time consuming, especially since I have already been over the manuscript twice before I started taking the class and flailing about. But I finished!

Of course, that’s just Lesson one, but hey! It’s one of the hardest lessons of the course, according to the graduates.

Now I am reading the next few lessons to see what I can combine. Because a) I am a few weeks behind because Lesson One took me so flippin’ long and b) Lesson Two requires going through your manuscript again. I am pretty sure I can simultaneously do lesson two and three, and perhaps even four. It’s not like I won’t be juggling this stuff in my mind eventually, since at the end of the course you learn how to put all of that together so you can do the famous One Pass Revision.

In preparation of lesson three, I bought the largest paperclips I have ever since. Seriously guys, these paperclips are four inches long. You use them to string your scene notecards together, and the other size the store had were hardly an inch long, and I was worried about running out of room. So I bought the big ones.

In other news, I finished reading The Career Novelist by Donald Maass, which is also available for free download at his agency’s site Here, and I am spreading the gospel. True, this book was written in the nineties, so some of the book market stuff has changed, but most of his advice is still relevant today. I highly recommend this book to all writers in all walks of life. Maass really sheds some light on how the publishing industry works, and how it affects you as a writer.

Well, I am off to continue my revisions. Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Author Interview: Lena Hoppe

Good morning people!

First of all, I would like to apologize for my epic failure yesterday when I misspelled Mia’s last name. True, it was that way in her email, but I should have checked her blog to be sure. AND the link to her blog didn’t show up the way I wanted it to. I have now fixed everything, and apologize for the mistakes.

If you would like me to interview you about your writing career or job, please email me at writer (dot) elizabethpoole (at) gmail (dot) com.

In the meantime, we have another great interview! Lena has been my friend since NaNo two years back, and she’s been invaluable to my growth as a writer. She writes wonderful stuff, too. Go check out her blog!

She posts helpful advice and writing prompts! So, after you’re done with the interview, go check her out!

Writer Interview: Lena Hoppe

First, introduce yourself. Tell us who you are, what genre you write in, and what stage of the writer journey you’re currently mucking about in.

I'm a bilingual writer living in Germany. I write character-driven fantasy, sometimes YA and sometimes not. I am unpublished but I plan to start querying agents soon. Right now I'm in the middle of editing my NaNoWriMo novel from 2009.

You can find me at The Writing Desk.

1. Why did you decide to become a writer?

I didn't decide to become a writer. In a way I have always been one. I have been making stories up all my life, and I started writing them down in my early teens. I did decide to pursue writing as a profession and the reason for that is very simple: I'm not much use at most other things. Writing is the only thing I *want* to do, so I think I should try as hard as I can to make it my profession.

2. What is your writing environment like now?

I share an apartment with my boyfriend, and I have a desk in a corner of our bedroom. A picture of my writing space can be found on my blog!

3. What is your ideal writing environment like?

When, instead of actually writing, I sit at my desk and daydream, I envision a kind of cross between an office, a library and an art studio. I'd need at least two desks, one for the computer and another one large enough to draw huge maps on. I'd love to have all my non-fiction and reference books in my writing space with me, instead of spread throughout the apartment as they are now. I have a collection of dictionaries that just *belongs* in a proper office/study/library. My ideal writing environment would also be quiet (which my current one is) and have a nice view (which it doesn't).

4. Do you write with music? Why or why not?

Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I love writing with music, but it has to be exactly the right music for whatever I'm writing. And sometimes I don't know what that is, so I write without. But when I have the right music, it helps me drive the plot and character emotions and focus on the story.

5. How do you find time to write in between the other demands on your time—kids, family, job, etc?

Right now I am lucky enough to be able to spend most of my time writing.

6. What are your comfort books? Those books you can read again and again, that foster and rekindle your desire to write?

The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce - I read those books as a kid and they still give me that cosy, coming-home feeling every time I open one. Various children's books - for the same reason. And, if I'm in the right mood, any of several Richard Jury mysteries by Martha Grimes - for the delightful characters that never really change.

7. What authors do you find influential?

I think I've been influenced in some way by every author I've ever read. But some that stick out, for various reasons, are Astrid Lindgren, Tamora Pierce, J.D. Salinger, Tom Robbins, Tonke Dragt, Madeleine L'Engle, Philip Pullman, Douglas Adams, and Federica de Cesco.

8. Do you belong to a critique group? Writing organization? Why or why not?

I don't belong to a critique group because there are none where I live (at least not English-speaking ones). I do have a number of writer friends, though, that I discuss all kinds of writing issues with.

9. Have you ever been to a writing conference? Why or why not? If so, what was your experience like?

I haven't. Wrong continent again. But I would be too shy to talk to anyone anyway.

10. Are you querying? If so, what’s keeping you sane?

I have not started querying but plan to do so as soon as I have polished my current WiP. No idea what the process will do to my sanity, but I guess that my support network of extraordinarily lovely people will help to keep me sane.

11. What are your favorite kinds of characters to write about?

I have a soft spot for insecure characters and slightly sarcastic or dry voices, though I make sure that my narrators don't whine too much. I also like writing three-dimensional, realistic characters with physical disabilities - because there are too few of those out there.

12. What are you favorite kinds of characters to read about?
Same as above, but I can enjoy any well-written character as long as I can relate to them on some level.

13. Are you an outliner or a seat of the pants writer? Why?

I am a bit of both. I do need an outline, but my outlines are never extremely detailed. As I progress through a first draft, I often outline the next few scenes in more detail, but I could never write with an outline that tells me everything that will be in the book. I'd be bored to death. I need the story to still surprise me a little as I'm writing it - but a bit of structure and planning ahead is also necessary. I need to know what I'm writing about and where I'm going with it.

14. Would you like to be a bestseller or have a smaller, more manageable following?

Of course I would like to be successful and make some money with my books. But since I am shy, hate being the center of attention and am generally scared of strangers, I think I would be much happier with a smaller, friendly following than anything resembling literary rockstardom.

15. Do you have a writing "process?" What is it, if so?

First, I have an idea (Hah! I bet you didn't see that one coming!). Ideas usually come to me in the shape of characters. I develop the characters, setting and plot for a while. I put most work into the characters. I need to see them as clearly as if they were real people. I may jot down lines, but I don't write entire scenes until I actually start writing. When I write, I write linearly. Jumping around in a book doesn't work for me.

16. What is the single best writing advice you have ever received/come across?

To not hold back. I used to feel that what interested me most about a story would be dull for others, so I restrained myself and compromised and wrote half-heartedly. BAD idea. None other than the host of this lovely interview encouraged me to not only write what I cared about but to not hold back one little bit while I was doing so. And I have been writing so much better since than. (Thanks, Elizabeth!)

17. Any fears about becoming published?

Plenty. But that's just who I am. I worry too much about everything. I manage to be equally terrified of rejection and success. But I just keep going anyway.

18. Where do you get your ideas from? (*grin* sorry guys, I had to include that)

From everywhere. Books, movies, music, sunsets, sunrises, snow, rain, carpet patterns, castles, exhibitions, friends, walks, meals, overheard conversations, people's online status messages, paintings, photographs, dreams, anything.

19. What is your biggest pet peeve in your genre?

In fantasy, it's poorly developed characters and settings receiving more attention than the plot. Also, magic as a deus ex machina. In YA, I don't have any particular pet peeves that are specific to the genre. I guess I have been lucky in the YA I've read.

20. What is your biggest pet peeve in books in general?

Unrealistic or flat characters who don't act believably. Also, disabled characters who are either bitter villains or helpless victims. Or die.

21. Do you like books about writing? If so, which books would you recommend and why?

I enjoy books about writing if they are well-written, entertaining and not too preachy. But I don't always follow their advice.

22. And lastly, if you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would it be?

It's tempting to go for something with a high page-count, but I guess if it's just the one book for, hopefully, decades to come, even a 1000-page monster of a book might become boring. So I'd pick something that I love for the beauty of its words and could read over and over again. Still not an easy choice, but I'd probably go for "The Waves" by Virginia Woolf, "Island Magic" by Elizabeth Goudge, or "Franny and Zooey" by J.D. Salinger.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Author Interview: Mia Hayson

First I would like to say: HIIII!!! to all of my new followers. Second, I do author and job interviews on my blog where I interview authors via email about their writing career. The lovely Mia Hayes agreed to do one such interview, so here it is. You should go check her out; her blog is like a daily party of awesome and interesting.

Mia's Awesome blog

First, introduce yourself. Tell us who you are, what genre you write in, and what stage of the writer journey you’re currently mucking about in.

I'm a nineteen year old student living in Scotland and writing my way through the dark nights. I'm just in the writing stage of the journey currently, but that's sometimes the best one right? I'm unpublished, I think, although recently I remembered that one of my short stories from when I was 14 was put in a REAL book. So maybe I am? No, I don't think that counts. And I'm not telling you the name of the book because it makes me cringe when I read it. It was a story about a door, a queen and Scotland… and that workshop guy made me do it.

So, I mainly write Young Adult and Paranormal Fiction because I love the bizarre and being able to defy the laws of gravity. Having said that, when an idea hits I tend to ignore genre and just go for it. My WiP is a YA Paranormal Fiction piece and I love it… kind of…. I mean, we have a turbulent relationship…

Now, some questions. You may keep your answers as short or as long as you want.

1. Why did you decide to become a writer?

I guess there was no one point I decided suddenly that I was going to become a writer. I started writing this WiP one day, got to about 20 000 words and realised I wanted to finish it. And then somebody suggested jokingly maybe I should publish it and I thought why not? Then I did a little research online, discovered blogging, joined in and here we are. Suddenly my computer is full to bursting with words and I appear to write in my sleep.

2. What is your writing environment like now?

My room in my flat is mainly where I write. I have this great view of the street so I often people watch whilst I'm typing. It helps with dialogue sometimes too, although some things you just can't write down no matter how funny they are. I can write almost anywhere though; travelling is a fun way to write because there's great inspiration to be had.

3. What is your ideal writing environment like?

Oooh, um, there would be an open fire because I like to be warm, a good view and endless quantities of tea.

4. Do you write with music? Why or why not?

I think music is my second biggest love aside from literature so it feels natural to write to it. I'm on the student newspaper so I often have new promo CDs to listen to that I end up writing to as well, I don't mention that in my articles though. I use music to get me in a particular frame of mind.

5. How do you find time to write in between the other demands on your time—kids, family, job, etc?

I write in-between studying, socialising and working ---> I mostly write when everyone else is asleep. It's actually a brilliant strategy because most of the USA is still awake on Twitter and whatnot, so if I need help there are people to consult. At the moment it's very much about using all my free minutes to type a little here and there. It helps that I rarely sleep.

6. What are your comfort books? Those books you can read again and again, that foster and rekindle your desire to write?

I have so many but the main ones worn out from my reading are The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

7. What authors do you find influential?

Terry Pratchett

Douglas Adams

8. Do you belong to a critique group? Writing organization? Why or why not?

I haven't found the guts to really join one yet! Actually, I think I am a member of and they have groups that critique there but I haven't worked up the courage to join in any.

Seriously, I've been speaking with a few people over the net about maybe starting something but I'm shy I guess. My work isn't nearly finished yet so I worry it'll be torn to shreds and I'll never be able to do so. Also, you've got to have the right people you know? Ideally, I'd like people who I feel I know well enough to trust them with my work but whom I also know won't hold back when push comes to shove.

So if you know of any…

9. Have you ever been to a writing conference? Why or why not? If so, what was your experience like?

I want to, haven't been a writer long enough to check them out. Also there's an issue with travel and funds. I'm a student so unless there happens to be a practically free local one I'm unlikely to be able to join.

10. Are you querying? If so, what’s keeping you sane?

11. What are your favourite kinds of characters to write about?

The weird and disturbing ones I think. I mean, I do write an awful lot of characters that you shouldn't sympathise with but you do. I guess they're more fun than normal people.

12. What are you favourite kinds of characters to read about?

Oh the quirky ones. The ones that surprise you and take you along with them as they discover who they are.

13. Are you an outliner or a seat of the pants writer? Why?

I'm seat of the pants writer. I try to outline overall the things I still need to add in at some point, choose a scene "area" and then unleash the MC but it just doesn’t work for me. The way I write I need to freedom to be able to surprise myself so the planning actually happens after everything has been written.

14. Would you like to be a bestseller or have a smaller, more manageable following?

I don't mind. It's more about making a difference than who enjoys the writing. I want my writing to have a positive effect because it is books that helped me through difficult times in my life and no doubt will as the hard times roll on by. So I'd like a following of people who feel the book made a difference. That's probably even more ambitious than requesting an uber-bestseller, isn't it?

15. Do you have a writing "process?" What is it, if so?

Make a cup of tea, choose an area that needs work/finishing and then let the MC take me where she will. There's no other way to roll with her. I write until the words run out, then realise that the tea has gone cold and repeat.

16. What is the single best writing advice you have ever received/come across?

17. Any fears about becoming published?

Not having the time to write.

18. Where do you get your ideas from? (*grin* sorry guys, I had to include that)

As any writer will probably say, I get them from anywhere and everywhere. Songs, scenes you watch play out in front of your window, er dreams. Yes, I know that's very cliché but I do write my dreams sometimes. Well, once actually. My current WiP is the result of a very disturbing dream I had and just had to write down. I'm more ashamed of this than anything else, my subconscious just had to go and be all "cool" and find something in a dream.

19. What is your biggest pet peeve in your genre?

VAMPIRES, which is ironic because I actually love stories about them. Let me amend that statement, stories that have been recently published and are incredibly similar to that best seller about vampires. That's my pet peeve. I love that best seller but let's all branch out a little ya? Also, vampires are allowed to be evil people they don't have to always sparkle from now on.

But then again I do end up falling in love with Vampire stories *sighs* so it's a love-hate thing.

20. What is your biggest pet peeve in books in general?

Confusing stage directions, I'm sure I do this in my writing but I try my best to whittle it out. I hate reading a paragraph of action and then having to re-read it because I just don't understand where and what everyone was.

21. What is the biggest writing issue you’ve had to date, and how did you fix it? (writer’s block, crappy first draft, realized the main character sucks, etc)

22. Do you like books about writing? If so, which books would you recommend and why?

I want to read more books on writing but find non-fiction difficult to trawl through. That may have something to do with the fact I already have to read about 20 different textbooks for my course anyway. Reading textbooks can be difficult; I associate it with exams and LOTS of stress.

Something far more helpful is just reading the blogs and advice of other writers. Books often won't agree on certain points and that can be confusing. Talk to a bunch writers on a forum and you'll discover why there's a miss-match in opinions and can make your own mind up about things. I've discovered that writing involves a lot of learning rules that must be absolutely obeyed AT ALL TIMES and then breaking them, books can't really tell you that.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are some FAB writing books out there, it's just they'll rarely tell you the truth about writing like people can. Writing is subjective, you can obey all the rules ever thought of and still not have a good book. It's the story that really counts.

Oh and p.s. I LOVE adverbs. Deal with it. :P

23. And lastly, if you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Alice in Wonderland. FOREVER.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Great Article on Voice

Hello! Late post due to unexpected work conflict. A therapist quit today and I had to pick up some of the slack. Tomorrow will be busy as well, but never fear! We have another author interview!

But for today, let me direct you in the direction of this wonderful article Nathan Bransford wrote on How to Craft Great Voice.

I have read many articles on how to craft voice, but this one really sums everything up in a nice, neat fashion.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bad Girl Blogfest

Today is the Bad Girl Blogfest, hosted by The Write Runner so after you're done with mine you should check everyone else's!

This scene is from one of my WIPs, A Dangerous Mind. This is also a continuation of the Bar Scene Blogfest.Enjoy!

After the fist fight Li and his minions showed up every night to Mr. Chen’s club, Stir. I watched them for a reason to pick a fight, but so far they behaved. Mr. Chen assured me they were just there for the club’s protection from the other gangs, but I didn’t believe him.

I watched Li sit in the lounge area with two beautiful Asian girls on his arms, girls I mentally dubbed as cupcakes, and the other members of the Dragon gang around him. Bai, the guy who stabbed me, seemed to be in charge, which was weird, because Li could beat Bai. Normally pecking order in gangs was arranged by skill. But obviously their gang didn’t work on that principal, because Li was just their lap dog.

I leaned over to refill a grungy looking girl’s Screwdriver, and my side screamed in pain. The spot where Bai stabbed me was shallow, but it still hurt like nobody’s business. He couldn’t even stab someone properly. I would keep that thought to myself though. I wasn’t that stupid. I took another shot of whiskey to dull the pain, and felt it burn all the way down.

“Alcohol is bad for you,” Li said from behind me. He barely had an accent, and sounded like he was raised in the United States.

I pretended he didn’t catch me off guard and turned around. He was sitting at the corner of the bar, looking yummy in a tight black shirt and pants. His cupcakes had left, and the other members of the gang were spread out through the club.

“So?” I said.

“Jade, can I get a refill?” That was Josh, asking for yet another refill. I rolled my eyes, and poured him another.

Mr. Chen wandered out from his office and looked around. I poured some refills, and made drinks for the patrons sitting out in the dining area. I even made Stephanie’s customer’s drink twice, even though she’s a terrible waitress and a useless human being in general who didn’t know how to properly ask for liquor specifications, until Mr. Chen walked over. He looked nervous.


“What?” My side was killing me. Damn Jim for taking my painkillers away. I can handle them. I think. The last time I had a problem with drugs, “Uncle” Jim tossed me on the wagon. He and Caroline raided all of my stashes and threw them away, and threatened all the dealers with jail or worse if they sold me drugs. I was barely allowed caffeine.

Quitting cold turkey was hell.

As a consequence, I wasn’t allowed any painkillers stronger than Ibuprofen for my stab wound. It was fine until I started to walk, or lean over, or drive, or bartend.

“You’re being a little surly with the customers.”

I glared at Li, who had an amused expression on his face. “That’s on the account of someone stabbing me in my side.”

“Take some painkillers then,” Li said, still looking amused. I wanted to fake a punch to his smug face, so I would have the satisfaction of seeing him flinch, but we would both know I wasn’t serious. I thought I wanted to meet someone better at wushu than me, so I could have a challenge, but this wasn’t fun anymore.

“I’m not allowed. I like painkillers too much.”

“Not allowed?” Li said, raising his eyebrows. “I didn’t think anyone could stop you from doing what you wanted.”

Mr. Chen melted away into the crowd at this point, content to let Li bear the brunt of my wrath. “Yeah well, Jim has my better interest in mind, so I listen to him. Usually.”

“If you meditated, you could use your chi to remove the pain.”

“I do,” I replied. It wasn’t a lie. I meditated every night. Or tried to. Mostly what I did was think about what I was going to do the next day. “Inner peace isn’t exactly easy to achieve. If it was,” I gestured at the club full of people. “I would be out of a job.”

Li laughed and I actually laughed with him.

“When I see that guy who stabbed me, I am going to punch him in the face,” I said, wiping down the sink in front of where Li was sitting. “Just so you know.”

Li nodded.

“So, what do you want to drink?”

“I hear the regulars say you’re good at making them up.”

I loved making up drinks on the spot. I perked up a bit. “What sort of alcohol do you want?”

“I don’t care. Make it green, like your eyes.”

I grinned at him, and mixed Midori with Sprite, voldka and gin. I shook the entire thing together and poured it into a martini glass. “I will name this drink Zen. If meditating won’t bring you inner peace, maybe this will.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Kōan for Your Book

Quote: “A monk asked Master Haryo, 'What is the way?' Haryo said, 'An open-eyed man falling into the well”
~Zen kōan quote

Yesterday I talked about have a list of ideas that interest you.

The other part of my list are questions. I am not going to call them themes exactly, although some of them could be, but questions that interest me.

An example of some:

*Why do people fall in and out of love? Why is it when you fall in love, you think, this is the one? And the next guy that comes along, he too, feels like “the one” Why is there just one? Does that make the one guy really special? Could he be really special even he wasn’t “the one”?

*What would happen if you could switch places with someone? Why would you? How would that help? Not just their job or standing, but their emotional experiences?

*Life is Beautiful: Why is it to really live sometimes you have to die? Why is it ironic, why do you have to give up your hair for a hair comb?

*Why is it sometimes the things we want hurt us the most? Is it the act of wanting it? Or the thing itself? Is it us? Our choices? Something we can’t control? Why do we intentionally make bad decisions, eat too much, drink too much, smoke, and hurt the ones we love. Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we think it will fix? What do we think it will help?

*What is up with people hurting other people? How can someone be born without a conscious? Does that mean someone else can be born without empathy, without the ability to love? What then? Is that just a safe answer, so we don’t have to deal with an unpleasant truth that some people just like hurting other people, for no reason. Not because of their troubled childhood, their genes, their brain chemistry, but just because they like it?

As you can see, none of these are themes, per se. They are just questions, musings of mine I like to talk to people about over a cup of tea late at night in a diner. I especially enjoy deep discussions, and I usually find myself asking a question of similar nature while I am writing a book. It’s almost as if in the act of writing the book itself, I am looking for one possible answer to the question.

For example, one of the questions “Why do people fall in and out of love?” I have examined in several different books with different outcomes. Sometimes the lovers fight and never make up, sometimes they find someone new, sometimes they reconcile.

These questions are almost like a kōan for a book. A kōan is part of Zen Buddhism, and is frequently a story or dialogue the monk mediates on in order to reach enlightenment.

An example of a famous kōan is:
Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?
— Hakuin Ekaku

" the beginning a monk first thinks a kōan is an inert object upon which to focus attention; after a long period of consecutive repetition, one realizes that the kōan is also a dynamic activity, the very activity of seeking an answer to the kōan. The kōan is both the object being sought and the relentless seeking itself. In a kōan, the self sees the self not directly but under the guise of the kōan...When one realizes ("makes real") this identity, then two hands have become one. The practitioner becomes the kōan that he or she is trying to understand. That is the sound of one hand." — G. Victor Sogen Hori, Translating the Zen Phrase Book

Here is a modern day kōan from The Tao of Programming:

A student was playing a handheld video game during a class.

The teacher called on the student and asked him what he was doing.

The student replied that he was trying to master the game.

The teacher said, "There exists a state in which you will not attempt to master the game, and the game will not attempt to master you."

The student asked, "What is this state?"

The teacher said, "Give me your video game, and I will show you."

The student gave him the game, and the teacher threw it to the ground, breaking it into pieces. The student was enlightened.

The purpose isn’t to find the one right answer to the question, but to expand your thinking. Finding an answer to the kōan required the monk to let go of conceptual thinking and logical way of looking at the world so, like creativity in art, the appropriate insight and response arises naturally and spontaneously in the mind.

I think of these questions as a kōan for my book. I am not looking to pigeonhole the book, but to find greater insight into the characters and the plot. For me, this question is the heart of the book. Every book I have ever finished had a burning question attached to it. I had to answer the question for myself, and the book wasn’t over until I found one possible answer. Every book I haven’t finished have no question attached. I am not going to say this question is the secret to finishing a book, but it helps.

Most of the time this question is bubbling under the surface. None of my characters ask or wonder it directly, it’s just something that I feel, an instinct.

In short, this question is the reason why I am bothering to write this story with these characters: I have to find out the answer to the question.

I could write three books with the same sort of question in mind, but the characters and plots are always different, so the question itself feels different, even if it’s very similar to a previous questions I asked. It’s the subtle difference between “Are you happy?” and “Are you excited?” There is a slight difference, but that difference could change everything.

And it often does.

You could decide that thinking about questions and themes for your book would mess up some of your process, and that’s fine. No two writing processes are the same, so what works for one doesn’t always work for the other.

But you’ve got to wonder at some point why you’re bothering. Why are you writing, not only in general, but this book with this character and this plot? Why not another idea?

Sometimes the answer is as simple as “because I love these characters” or “this is the only idea I have at the moment”. But even under those deceptively simple answers lies another layer. Why do you love those characters so much? What about them you find so compelling you are willing to spend months or years working with them?

Why is this the only idea you’ve seized upon? You have probably had other, half baked ideas that didn’t interest you at the time. What about THIS idea is so compelling?

I believe our motivation for why we do the things we do, and love the things we love is in our subconscious minds. Most of us aren’t Zen monks, so the self-awareness required to know why you like what you like is beyond us. That’s okay. Some things can stay subconscious.

But I also believe some our interests can be discerned, and when that awareness is applied to our writing, can yield many rewards. After I noticed what a difference having a question made in my writing, I made sure every book I started after that had one, and the razorlike precision I achieved was breathtaking. I haven’t started books yet because I don’t know exactly what the question is.

Finding that question is like putting a name on the passion that fuels the book for me.

So what you do think? Have you ever thought about writing as a way to seek answers? Do you know what themes interest you and why? Do you have any other insight to add?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Write What You Love

Editing has made my creativity run into overdrive.

Apparently editing doesn’t count as writing as far as my brain is concerned, so I am currently suffering the symptoms I experience when I haven’t written something in a while: unable to fall asleep, and tossing and turning when I do, I feel out of sorts and listless, everything seems neither really exciting or really boring—just a gray in between.

As a creative outlet I am tinkering around with ideas (in between editing. I logged thirty more pages today, and thirty yesterday, so I am not slacking off). I have three book ideas that feel very similar on the surface, so yesterday I opened a new MS Word document, wrote out a working title for each book, put it into bold and underlined them, and then listed some basic elements for each book as a way to differentiate between them.

Something wonderful happened. I started to be able to clearly see each book as it’s separate entity, and not the murky brown color they all seemed to be. Part of the problem is one of the ideas was split up into two separate books, so it still felt like characters didn’t quite fit their new home.

Listing each book out clearly allowed me to see each book idea in it’s entirety, and I could compare each one to the other. After that, I went through my “My Themes” document to further mine for ideas.

Let me explain “My Themes”. I think every writer needs a document, whether it’s paper or electronic, where they keep track of all the stuff that excites them. I am not talking about book ideas—that’s another file entirely. I am talking about a list of stuff that makes your muse go into hyperdrive (I fired my last muse, and am now working with his brother, Ira. It seems to be working well so far).

Here is a small sample of my list:

survival in a dystopia
survival after an apocalypse
Orpheus going back to get his love
death is not the end
serial killers
1940’s gangsters
Mental illness
Hostage situations
Forgotten cities, and ancient lore.
Autumn in New York, when the leaves are on fire.
Rocky coast lines
Ghost tours
Complicated relationships between people
Childhood accidents
New kid learning the ropes
Characters forced to be together
Making difficult, no-win moral choices
Heaven and hell battling, angels versus demons
Deals with the devil
Being thrown into a new situation
Constructed people—golems, homunculi, etc
A likable villain
The one person that interests a misanthrope
The bad guys are really the good guys

My list is about twice this long, but you get the point. Notice how I have all kinds of stuff on there? Some are concepts like constructed people, some are conflicts like new kid learning the ropes, and some are settings like rocky coast lines.

Because really, doesn’t this picture give you a thousand story ideas?

But all of this stuff fascinates me. You can even analyze the list and then figure out why I like the TV shows and movies that I do. Let’s see, my favorite TV shows are: Firefly (space western), Criminal Minds (thriller about profilers), Bones (forensic crime solving), House (medical mystery about a misanthropic doctor), and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (crime solving with emotional situations for the cops/victims).

Some of my favorite movies are: Equilibrium (science fiction dystopia), The Prestige (rivalry between former friends who are magicians), The Day After Tomorrow (disaster movie), Legion (heaven versus hell).

Do we see a pattern here? These shows/movies interest me because there’s one or more (usually several) elements in them that I find fascinating.

You’re probably thinking, “No duh, Elizabeth. Of course you like those shows and movies because they have elements you find fascinating.” But it’s really helpful to know exactly what about something interests you.

Because then you can repeat it.

They say write what you know, but I think we should change that to write what you love. If you are not in love with your story, you’re just not going to have the strength to get through all the work it’s going to take to make the story salable. It’s not enough to start with one good idea. You need several good ideas within one book. You might start off with one good idea, and write out the first draft without planning more. That’s fine; whatever your writing process is.

But eventually you’re going to have to analyze the plot elements, and I feel it would behoove you to make sure your plot has several things going for it. When I say “idea” I am not just talking about plot points and characters, but everything. You could set the book in somewhere you find beautiful, have a character in a situation you love, with a cool villain idea, and a new twist on the conflict. It could be something as simple as what the character does for a living. You could make a new book based of off this list, or you could just add the elements you find appropriate for each book.

For example, let’s say I have a new book idea. Let’s say you only have the character idea, like I frequently do. No plot in sight, but the main character shows up as a real person. Let’s say the character is an anti-hero who is a misanthrope. So we have:

Misanthrope who (does something)(not medical related, so no one says it’s just a House ripoff).

To start with. We could leave it at that, and start writing if you are a pantser, or we could just develop the character more if you’re a planner. The obvious direction to go would be Why is this guy such a misanthrope?

Because I hate the “anti-hero with a heart of gold” trope, we’re going to just say that he’s always been kind of a jerk, and bucks society’s rules because he thinks they are pointless. To further avoid the “anti-hero with a heart of gold” trope, let’s say he made a mistake that got someone killed he was supposed to protect (instead of saying mommy didn’t love him enough, and that’s why he’s a jerk. People in real life are more complicated, so let’s make sure our characters are more complicated too, okay?).

You could write a perfectly good book all this jerk, but let’s not stop there. Let’s add more awesome stuff to this already fun idea.

I already have the concept of the one person that the misanthrope doesn’t hate, so let’s add that:

The one person that interests a misanthrope

So now we have character number two. This could be a woman, and they fall in love. This could be a younger girl and he has to raise her (for some reason). It could be a guy, whatever. It all depends on the type of story you want to tell.

Since he’s an anti-hero and a misanthrope, he’s already going to be complicated. So let’s add:

Complicated relationships between people.

Since I don’t see the jerk going out of his way to get to know someone, let’s also add:

Characters forced to be together

Since he’s already a jerk, we could play with:

The bad guys are really the good guys
A likable villain

We could add setting about here:

Rocky coast lines
survival in a dystopia

I picked dystopia because it fits the misanthrope vibe, but you could also go for contrast, and say it’s set on a lush tropical landscape to further show how miserable the guy is.

So to recap we have:

Misanthrope who (does something)(not medical related, so no one says it’s just a House ripoff).
The one person that interests a misanthrope
Complicated relationships between people
Characters forced to be together
The bad guys are really the good guys
A likable villain
Rocky coast lines
survival in a dystopia

And the cherry on the top, a theme of:


Now this books has several ideas going for it that excites me. Some of them might not make it into the story, they might have to be teased out, but it gives you some ideas to brainstorm with at least.

Some of you might be wondering if doing this might not make your books all sound familiar.

I don’t think so. That list is long, and many times I have more developed ideas arrive, without needing to build a book from scratch off of it. And that point I might add one or two ideas to it, but not too much more.

Also, see how vague all of that is? “Characters forced to be together”. There are so many ways character can be forced together. If we were to boil most books down to this bare bones, they would start to look similar.

So the next time you need something extra to a book idea, why not look through your interests list?

Any thoughts on the matter? What are some ideas that you just love thinking and writing about?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Never Write About Wimps

Song Playing: Soldiers of the Wasteland by Dragonforce

Deep confession guys. Bearing my soul over here.

Did you ever read a book or take a class, read a passage/hear a statement, and think blithely “Nope, that’s not me.”

You read a part about characters think, “I might have issues with pacing and length, but definitely no problems in the character department.”

I think we’ve all done that to one extent or another. Pass over some advice because you think it doesn’t apply to you.

BUZZ! Wrong!

Hubris was the fall of Dr. Frankenstein, and hubris will be the fall of a great many writers. Sometimes you read a book about writing, or talk to another writer, or a helpful blog post (like this one!) and they mention a problem. A problem you think you already have covered.

You could be right.

But you could be wrong. Very wrong. It could be a part of the problem with your manuscript that you were vainly searching for.

There I was, reading my book in the break room at work. It’s called “Thanks, but This Isn’t for Us” by Jessica Page Morrell. I almost skipped this chapter, honestly. It’s called “Never Write About Wimps.”

I have many failings as a writer. Many. There are plenty of areas that I struggle with. Characters is not one of them. I am confident in that. I can create vivid, realistic characters that have three dimensions (my blogfests may or may not reflect this depending on how much editing I have done). It might take several tries and some time to develop said characters, but this is one of the areas of writing I really love. It’s actually the reason why I write: to give my character somewhere to play.

So yes, I almost skipped that chapter, thinking I was A-Okay. My main character for my WIP Masquerade is a lot of things—arrogant, high maintenance, shallow—but weak isn’t one of them. She is not wimpy.

And yet, something was off. The scenes just weren’t working the way I wanted them to. And *gasp* my other secondary character was more interesting.

For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why.

Then I read that chapter, and this passage “Motivation, based on a character’s beliefs, family, and environment and cultural background, provides a trajectory for characters to act and grow on. Motivation compels action, create goals in scene, and drive characters to achieve goals. Thus, motivation provides characters with credible reason for their actions, and they should carry out those actions with plausible skills or acquire skills along the way.”

After I read that part, I did a quick check with my characters. I asked myself what the motivation of my main character is, and then I asked myself what the motivation of my secondary character was.

It hit me like a lightening bolt then, putting the motivations right next to each other, that the motivation of my secondary character is greater than my main character. My secondary character had more at stake, at least at first, than my main character.

How the heck did that happen?! (behind my back, while I wasn’t looking)

No wonder I have been having problems with my main character. My secondary character is more interesting than she is!

This is a good news/bad news situation for me. The good news is now I know what’s going on, I can fix it. The bad news is it’s going to take some rearranging to implement said fixes. And figure out what those fixes might be.

My point? Go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb and question everything. And I mean everything. Even if you love the character, and the plot, still run it through the wringer.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Soundtrack for My Books

Monday update time!

I am still making progress with revision. It’s going really slow, but progress is being made.

Today I am going to tell you about music.

Some people don’t like to listen to music while they write, or if they do, they like stuff without words so it doesn’t distract them.

Me? Not so much. I have music playing, pretty much 24/7. The only time I don’t play music is while watching TV. Then it’s too much noise, I can’t stand competing sounds. Sometimes my roommates play music on their computer, which is right next to my desk, and then I have to shut mine off or use head phones. But other than that, I listen to music constantly. All kinds too. I really do listen to a little bit of everything, but I listen to rock the most, and it’s sub genres like classic, pop, opera, etc.

Sometimes while writing I tune out the music completely and all I hear or see is the world I have created (it’s like being in a trance, and way cool to experience, but a little weird to come out of. I imagine people with multiple personality disorders have a similar sensation of coming back to themselves, and wondering where the heck those three hours just went). Mostly I am actively listening to the songs, though, and it fits the mood or setting that I am striving for. I am one of those anal retentive people, who have playlists for each book, and most of my main characters have a theme song, and even certain scenes have a specific song that I associate with it.

The downside to this is I frequently mention or write this into the scene, and wind up having to prune it out later. Also, my characters go to karaoke A LOT. But that might be a sign of my nerdiness and not so much my music obsession. Or my nerdiness and music obsession had a love child, and karaoke is the by-product.

A rather frightening thought.

Speaking of karaoke, yesterday I spend most of the afternoon playing Rockband with my friends. It was FUN!!!!!! It fun to pretend we really are a band, and touring around the world playing songs for adoring crowds.

What I love best about music is it helps me capture an essence that is otherwise missing. It can help me really FEEL what the character is going through, especially if it’s a situation that’s removed from what I have personally experienced. It also inspires me, and can open another level to a character I have, making them seem like a real person to me, and not just, well, a character.

So let’s give a hand for all the musical people out there! Good job everyone!

If you haven’t thought about writing to music, why not give it a shot? It might help. You of course need to figure out what’s best for you, but experimentation can be fun (supervised, of course, don’t try this at home while running with scissors).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Baking Scene Blogfest

Charity is hosting a blogfest here that you should check out!

This scene doesn’t fit anywhere in a book yet. It features two of my well developed characters, and I was trying to play around with subtext in dialogue. You know, where there’s lots being felt, but the people really aren’t saying things out loud.

This is my first attempt at subtext, and I think it’s about as subtle as a jackhammer, but there you have it.

Also, I cheated. Mackenzie is cooking, not baking, but it’s in the spirit of things!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Kayth had been off all week, Mackenzie couldn’t help but notice. He was a quiet person, but he was brooding over something. He talked, he laughed, he made every show of having a good time, but he was thinking. Hard.

Dinner was her responsibility tonight, and she decided spaghetti was something she could make that would turn out edible. Her friends and family were split between downstairs swimming, or in the basement playing pool. Even Autumn, who had previously been underfoot, was playing pool with her Uncle Cole and Argent.

The only question was whether or not to ask him about it. Kayth wasn’t shy, and usually talked to her about something if he wanted to. He was a private person, and preferred to think about things in his own time.

I guess I will just leave him be, Mackenzie thought, stirring the sauce and humming to herself.

She turned around to grab some spices and almost ran right into Kayth at the kitchen island, tearing up lettuce.

Mackenzie yelped, “Oh!”

“Sorry. I thought you heard me.”

Mackenzie laughed. “You? An elf? No way.”

Kayth pulled some tomatoes out of the fridge, and started slicing them up on the cutting board. His shoulder length black hair was pulled back into a ponytail, the way she liked.

She resisted the urge to touch his hair. “Oh, Kayth, you don’t have to help. It’s my turn,” Mackenzie said.

Kayth looked up. “You want me to leave?” He said with unexpected intensity.

“Uh, no. I just mean that you don’t have to help me make dinner. You can enjoy yourself at the pool.”

“I know.”

“Okay,” Mackenzie said. She shrugged, and pulled some oregano, basil, and a bay leaf out of the drawer where they kept the spices. Definitely brooding about something.

Mackenzie tried to think of something to say, but all she could think of was his strange behavior, his quiet intensity. “You guys like going on that pirate walk?”

Kayth shrugged. “It was certainly more informative than I thought it would be. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable. Xenarah really enjoyed herself.”

Kayth paused, and added as an afterthought, “There were a few spots that were questionable with ghost activity.”

“Oh, good thing I didn’t come along then,” Mackenzie said. She never liked talking about her magical abilities. She didn’t understand them. “Autumn buried everyone in the sand at the beach today.”

Kayth nodded again. There was a pause, and then he said, “Everyone this time and not just Dallis and Cole?”

“Yep. She even managed to rope in a few of the locals before she was done.”

Kayth smiled, and started another tomato.

Mackenzie tried desperately to ignore Kayth’s strange behavior, but his energy took up the entire kitchen. Before long it felt like the tiny hairs on Mackenzie’s neck was standing on end.

“You guys have any plans for tomorrow?” Mackenzie asked, stirring the noodles.

Kayth shook his head no.

“Autumn wants to go wave running.” The knife hovered in the air for a split second before Kayth sliced the tomatoes. She might not have caught the pause if she didn’t know him so well. What about Autumn going wave running got a reaction out of him? “I’m going to see how many people want to come, and then call the tour guide tomorrow. There’s a ctour of the bay area that looks really fun.” Don’t babble on, Mackenzie. He sees right through you and will know if you’re uncomfortable. He might even ask what's wrong, and then what you would say? You? You're being weird and it's making me jumpy?

Kayth was silent while he started on the cucumbers.

“Do you want to come?”


Mackenzie tried not to let out of puff of air. “Wave running.”

“What’s that?”

Mackenzie grinned. “It’s like a jet ski, only a little smaller, and there’s a stream of water that shoots out of the back. You ride around on it on the ocean.”

“So, self propelled personal boats?”

“Yes. Autumn said she’s going to ride piggyback with her Uncle Cole, since he takes her on his motorcycle and lets her drive sometimes. Personally, I think she’s hoping he’ll let her drive, even though she’s way too young. So you can ride piggyback with someone, or go solo.” Mackenzie rolled her shoulders, trying to calm down.

Kayth nodded. “Who are you riding with?”

“Me? No one. I was going to ride with Autumn, but then she said wants to ride with Cole. We don’t all have to double up, but it’s better for those of us with a little experience to steer for those of us without. You could accidentally tip the wave runner over or something.”

Kayth nodded again, scraping the tomatoes into the salad bowl.

“It’s not hard to learn how to drive them, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Kayth looked at her. “You said it was better to ride with an experienced driver.” His voice was soft, but his voice held undercurrents of emotion like the ocean here had a deceptively strong undertow.

“Well, yeah. But…” Mackenzie blinked. “Anyway. I was just trying to see who wanted to come. We can work out all of the logistics after we get the final headcount.”
Mackenzie turned and stirred the sauce and noodles. The noodles were done. She could feel Kayth watching her, thinking. She wanted to shake him and ask him what was on his mind, but she knew better. He would talk to her when and if he was ready. She never got anywhere from pressing him.

Mackenzie poured the noodles into the strainer, the moist steam rising out of the sink like a small mushroom cloud. She turned the sauce on low, and pulled the French bread out and set it on the counter. The banality of routine settled her nerves.

“I would like to go wave running tomorrow,” Kayth said, sliding the cucumbers into the salad bowl.

“Great!” Mackenzie grinned. “Now we just need to convince Vega.” She started to mix the garlic and the butter together. “I doubt Xenarah will need much convincing. And Argent and Cadence already said they wanted to go.”

“Will you ride with me?”

Mackenzie looked up. “Huh?”

Kayth was watching her face. “The wave runner. You said before that you’ve ridden them. I have not. Will you ride with me?”

Her stomach flip flopped. Don’t be stupid, Mackenzie. It doesn’t mean anything more than he likes you more than a friend. It’s just because it’s technology he doesn’t understand. “Sure. You want to drive for a bit too?”

Kayth shrugged. “We’ll see.”

Mackenzie nodded, as a herd of elephants in the form of the rest of her friends made their way up the stairs. Their dinner senses were going off, and soon the room was swarming with people and food and plates. A warm feeling in the pit of her stomach stayed with her the entire time.

Suddenly tomorrow was looking up.