Saturday, April 25, 2009

Beginnings (Part V)

I'm back from oodles of fun in New Mexico. Yay for Chris Eboch, regional advisor of the SCBWI New Mexico region and a brilliant writer. She's working on going supernova in the children's lit world with her upcoming HAUNTED series. Everybody hold onto their hats.

Hey, my mega article (30 pages)about the children's market is in the 2009 Children's Writer Guide. You might want to check that out.

I'm back to focusing on beginnings. This week I'm going to touch on character. I love quirky unlovable characters. Bad. Bad. You have to create characters your reader will identify with. This is someone that your reader will be willing to go the distance with. This seems deceptively simple. Perhaps you have run into one the three following common character curmudgeons:

1. Whiny Winnies -- nobody wants to hang out with a character who complains all the time. The only cure? Goth-girl Winnie, look on the bright side of life even if it is in a dead-pan, sarcastic, clueless way. Find your sunny side up, quick!

2. Antisocial Annies -- they have a bad-to-the-core attitude, and no reader has that kind of sympathy. If your character is antisocial you better have a fab fab reason for it or no. Go ahead, make my day, Annie, find your moral core.

3. Perfect Pennies -- if your character doesn't have a handful of faults, put this picture in your mind, your book tossed against a wall and not in a good way. Come on, Penny. Find your inner dark side and hurry.

So think about that main character. Make sure that you have found a true hero and not a Sideshow Bob. I wish you best on your journey.

No doodles this week. Sorry my computer is sick and no pictures until the magic computer fairies do their thing.

Today's playlist hit is "Fountain" from Sara Lov.

Quote for the day...

Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.
James Dean

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Mexico

Hi, folks, I'm out of town this week. I will be back with my series on beginnings next week. I'm dialed out and that turns out to be a fine thing for the writing life. Take some time and soak in the spring. I've done some fine doodles in this beautiful state. I'm going to the Very Large Array. And yeah, I'm seeing some stars!!!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Beginnings (part IV)

I'm continuing my little series on beginnings. The next two post are going to be on the short side. I'm traveling to New Mexico to speak at SCBWI NM Handsprings Conference next Saturday. Nothing like getting out of town to shake down the cobwebs from the corners.

I want to mention a few more approaches to that first line. One of the most classic approaches is to grab the reader by throat and to start shaking. This is also called jumping into the action. "Where is Daddy going with that axe?" A leading question is a common way to get the ball rolling in a story. It releases that first thread to the web that is going to trap your reader.

Here's the deal. Blow something up, crash a plane, fall off a bridge, send in a tornado, hurricane, flood, volcano, meteorite -- a huge action scene is a powerful place to start the action and is particularly helpful if you have a somewhat unlovable anti-hero protagonist.

Is there a way to start your current work in the middle of the action? Think about this week.

This weeks' doodle is "Spider spins web."

Remember: ©Molly Blaisdell, all rights reserved. If you want to use my cool doodles, ask permission first. It is so wrong to take people's doodles without permission!

Today's playlist hit is called "Light on the Hill" from Margot and the Nuclear So & So's.

The quote for the week:

I think there is something, more important than believing: Action! The world is full of dreamers, there aren't enough who will move ahead and begin to take concrete steps to actualize their vision. W Clement Stone

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Beginnings (part III)

Every book needs a hook. You've got about a paragraph to grab your reader and keep them with you for the next couple of hundred or so pages. Exactly how do you do that? This task will take all your ability to pull off! First lines are the crown jewels of writing. They sparkle and shine at the beginning of a novel and convince the reader there is treasure ahead.

I'm going to cover one "hook approach" in this post; there are others. One of the strongest hooks is a main character that will charm the socks off your readers. You want a character that oozes charisma. If you character is not so lovable, your job is harder; that's a fact. You have to create empathy for a main character. To do that, you have to be inside the head of that character. You have to understand him/her better than you do yourself.

The next thing you have to do is surprising, I think. I've looked at hundreds of books, and this is something a good number of authors do. They describe the setting from the point of view of their main character. Of course the setting has to be interesting, certainly not a bed, unless it's at the top of tower that's guarded by a fire breathing dragon, and I'm not sure that's enough. It would be better to ditch the bed and start on a stone cold floor. Start the story in a place of high interest for the reader. Make that place quirky, original, and alive with concrete details all funneled through your main character. Ask yourself, does my story start somewhere interesting?

The main character also need to reveal their problem in those first few lines. It goes without saying that your main character has a problem. "I'm starving!" "I'm lost!" "I'm on fire!" Be sure the problem is one that will make your reader say something like, "Oh, my gosh!" "Whoa!" or "I've got a bad feeling about this." Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm mixes character, setting, plus a problem effectively in the beginning. Give it a look if you wish.

Here's a thought. Some writers can grab a reader with just that character and setting, but in my opinion that's harder. It's doable, but harder. The character/setting appoach is well done in Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. You might give that a look.

Think about how you are approaching those first few lines. Look at a few first lines of books you love and ask yourself why they work. Have a good week. More to come.

This week's doodle is "Ship at Sea."

Remember: ©Molly Blaisdell, all rights reserved. If you want to use my cool doodles, ask permission first. It is so wrong to take people's doodles without permission!

This week's playlist hit come from Ray Charles, "Oh What a Beautiful Morning." But this attitude on when starting every work.

The beginning is the most important part of the work. Plato