Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rattle Readers -- Make'em laugh.

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series called Rattle Readers. I'm exploring the emotional landscape of books, and this week I'm going to chat about making readers laugh.

First off, laughter isn't far from tears. If you can pull off both in the same book, you are drawing close to revealing life as it truly is. Laughter is about the utterly or obviously senseless. It hits what is illogical and contrary to all reason.  Laughter bubbles up when common sense flaps in the wind. We laugh at the foolish, irrational, and disorderly, especially in the light of close relationships. We laugh at the meaningless. I think it's the slant that's important. In dark places, the author heals our heart by pointing out the humor in the situation.

I love to laugh when reading. Plenty of authors have made me laugh and I love them for it. A few come to mind: Douglas Adams' THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY is one great laugh-my-head-off memories. I'm sure I laughed so hard I fell off my bed more than once. Another book was Louis Sachar's SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL; this one snuck up on me. I was like ho-hum for like eight chapters, but by chapter 30, I was laughing so hard I spit. Another book that made me laugh so much I slipped out my chair was THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie.  I get the life of poverty, the ridiculous stuff you put up with when you are one the outcasts of society. Sometimes, if you don't figure out a way to laugh, your heart won't function anymore.

I believe that books make me laugh when the author reveals the impossible truth. This takes a sense of humor; an author who can ease the confrontation in the world has a real gift. You might offend people; a good laugh doesn't sugar coat life. You must write what you think is ridiculous in the everyday. Uncover the absurd about life. Reframe tragedy. The best humorous books will make readers laugh and cry. Think about this: Trade mourning for joy. Laughter may be the only thing that gives your characters the strength to endure and will be the gift that is passed on to your reader to alleviate tension in their lives. A secret, you  get to fall out of chair laughing before your readers.

Laughter is powerful and leading and must be used with care. I don't laugh at belittling others. Laughter for me is about uncovering joy in the darkness. Your story will give your readers an island of happy, a place to escape to.  Laughter  helps us dream or dream again. It is a way to reframe all the stupid circumstances the universe has given us. Laughter is relief that danger is over and the promise that good things are to come.  I think laughter is about bonding with each other about the human condition. We are not alone. No.

I hope that you will consider making readers laugh as you write. I'll be back next week with a new series called: SOUL INSPIRATION. Meanwhile, seize the day!

Here is this week's doodle. I call this:  "Woman 2."

Here's a quote for your pocket.

If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane. Robert Frost

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rattle Readers: Make 'em weep

Hi folks, I'm continuing my series about called Rattle Readers. I'm exploring the emotional landscape of books, and this week I'm going to chat about how to make readers cry.

I'm a bit of  faucet, so I don't think it is that hard to make me cry. That said, I think the stack of books that have made me cry is higher than for most folks. A few come to mind: Neil Gamain's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK (I cried because in way aren't we all growing up in a graveyard seeking a life), Holly Cupala's DON'T BREATHE A WORD (I cried for Santos), and SACRED SCARS by Kathleen Duey (I cried for Sadima when she finds love after her memory is ripped away by Somiss.)  I'm moved by emotion on the page. I'm  not always sad when I cry, but I am changed forever. I don't forget these moments. I find some truth on the page that I have always known but never had words for. You will rattle readers to tears if you place truth on the page.

I believe that books make me cry when authors are honest and write down the stuff that terrifies them, breaks their heart, or when they write something that is taboo to say. This takes bravery. You must write what you won't say. You must reveal those hidden secrets of the heart. You must suffer.  I mean the best books show that the human condition is fraught with suffering. We are fragile, so fragile, and with ease can be shattered. I think about this: Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed.  I think placing those sins on the page is very compelling.  It will touch the core of your readers. It will make them burst into tears.  Secret, you will cry before your readers.

I find the ancient paths lead to the truest emotions. Heal the broken hearted, make the blind see, make the lame rise up and walk. If you do this good work, yes, your readers will cry but they will also find curled up in the egg shell of their lives, hope. A most profound way to tears: confess that you haven't sinned but have forgiven those who have sinned against you. I think this is one of the most profound things you can do.

I hope that you will be as honest as you can be and say what you need  to say. Will be back next week with more shaking of the cages. Meanwhile, seize the day!

Here is the doodle. I call this: 'Girl in the moon'.

Quote for the week:

A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. Frank Kafka.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rattle Readers: 7 Quick Tricks

Hi folks, I'm writing a series on what is provocative about fiction, what rattles readers. I'm at the SCBWI New Mexico Retreat right now, so this week is going to short and sweet.  I hope one of these tricks helps you rattle the cages!  

1. You're my sister, Leia.  I'm you're father, Luke. Yes, revealing a deep dark secret is a fab way to shock your reader. I do request that you shock me. Don't make me giggle. I'm borrowing from the movies.

2. Sixth Sense us, I mean if you can make the reader look over some very important fact like your main character is dead until a big reveal at the end, good. If you do this, well, you get a shiny sticker.

3. Strand us somewhere terrible: the woods, the ocean, the Arctic, a haunted house, in a pit with snakes, the desert,  the moon, the turret of a castle, Oz. Any convenient spot will do.

4. Have someone your mc absolutely trusts betray her. We will really appreciate it.

5. Take something tried and true and turn it upside down. You know Cinderella, or Seven Samurai, or the Poky Little Puppy.  Reinvent and twist.

6. This is obvious.  Murder the parents, best friend, dog, or any choice character. Violent deaths always rattle readers the most.

7. Have your mc murder the parents, best friend, dog or any choice character.   Yikes!

There are lots to ways to shock us. these happen to be a few that I think are AWESOME. I have a tear trickling down my cheek.  If you can think of more, please post. I hope you come back next week.

No doodles. Computer is not being nice. 

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.   Maya Angelou

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Rattle Readers: Shocks in Fiction

I'm starting a new series about what rattles readers in fiction. I've read a ton of books, and I would like to mention that only a select few of these books rattle me. So words aren't enough, and characters aren't enough, and plot isn't enough to rattle me. I'm going to write around this idea in my brain about what makes most excellent fiction, and hopefully I will uncover something.

A great book suspends me. The words on the page fill my brain and I'm there. The real world disappears and I'm lost in the fictive dream. The fictive dream idea comes from John Gardner's book THE ART OF FICTION. Many writers understand the mechanics of story and can adequately sustain a story over thousands of words, but few writers can send me into a fictive dream state and keep me there.  So here goes some thoughts about how to rattle readers: what works, what doesn't, how do you know you are creating that dream?

I search for stories that rattle my bones. I feel myself pacing inside when I can't find a book that really stirs me up.  One way authors hook me is by uncovering something I call shocks: you know, unexpected revelations (plot, character, theme, setting, etc.) that change the shape of the whole story. Don't get me wrong, I'd don't like lazy shock value pushing the story forward. The problem shock comes when the author begins to flounder in their fictive dream and then slaps down a shocking twist  that does not naturally rise out of the plot of the story. As a reader I feel frustrated. As a writer I'm shoving my story in the direction I want it to go. So annoying. Some writers slap down too many shocks for the reader to care. (Guilty!) Some don't even offer one shock. (Boring!)

When a shock is spot on, as a reader, I feel excessively nervous or I'm totally relaxed (no inbetween); the shock hits and I can't breathe. I shut the book and try to get my emotions under control. I go back a few pages and read up to the shock again. I'm that immersed in the fictive dream. As a writer, I know I'm in the sweet spot when I'm laughing out loud and falling off the couch when I'm reading my story back to myself, or I start crying when I've read the scene a hundred times, or I have to put my manuscript down because I'm so angry again.  Yes, if you are participating in your own dream, this is a good thing.  You think you have written the greatest thing ever. It may not be there yet, but if you able to enter into the dream and stay there, you are on the right track and will succeed.

Hope you place some shocks on the page this week. I will dig around more in this subject next week. Short post though because I am off to the SCBWI New Mexico Fall Retreat.  I'm excited.  Seize the day.

Here is the doodle: " Spider Chicken".  I know, enough with chickens already.

Quote for the week.

My task which I am trying to achieve is by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see. That--and no more, and it is everything.
- Joseph Conrad