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Jul 22

Shelley Workinger Guests with Mike Angley

MA: I’m joined today by author Shelley Workinger. Shelley was born in Maine, educated in New Orleans, currently resides in New Jersey, and considers all of them home. She’s here to talk about her latest release, Settling. She has a few websites I want to recommend my readers check out where you can discover more about her and her novel series.
http://www.solidnovel.com
http://www.facebook.com/SolidNovel
http://twitter.com/SolidNovel
http://bookfare.blogspot.com

What did you do before jumping into the world of writing?
SW: I graduated magna cum laude from Loyola double-majoring in English and Sociology – majors I initially chose to avoid math, which I detested and thankfully placed out of. However, I ended up running a small real estate office and doing all of the accounting – a job I actually loved. What I love even more is how many people think they know everything about the world, when most of us don’t even know our own selves.
MA: With a degree in English, I imagine you had a burning passion to write someday…was this a path you set out to be on some day?
SW: I would never have chosen this path! For me, writing is all-consuming; I can’t sleep, I lose interest in eating, and I can’t quiet my mind enough to ever relax. But the idea behind the “Solid” series was one I couldn’t let go of, and that, combined with my concern that early teens become so overwhelmed with required reading that many lose the love of leisure entirely, made me sit down and expand my idea into a fun, fast read that would be approachable for reluctant readers.
*In choosing to write to the tween age group, I also committed to keeping “Solid” clean – i.e., no drugs, cursing, sex, or gratuitous violence – and I’ve been commended by sites like Reading Teen and Litland for doing so.
MA: What’s your elevator pitch?
SW: The briefest synopsis is: Teens who discover they were secretly genetically altered before birth are brought together at a classified site where they forge new friendships, find love, develop “super-abilities,” and even unearth a conspiracy.
Many readers have called it an “X-men” for girls, focusing more on the relationships than the superpowers.
MA: Probably a good thing you didn’t call it “X-Girls,” then! How did you go about creating your characters?
SW: I began with a tagline – What if you discovered you were the product of a secret government experiment? – and then looked at my premise through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl to create what I felt would be a natural reaction/path.
The second layer to developing Clio’s character was my concern for her actual character values; as a mother of small children and a product of American society, I had a few “requirements” for a female character I’d introduce to young readers:

1. She had to eat real food. (No dieting, unhealthy body issues.)
2. Her life would not revolve a boy. (There is a romantic interest, but Clio can function without him.)
3. She *gasp* had to have a great relationship with her mother. (Specifically, a mutual respect.)
MA: Those seem like healthy traits, so what are Clio’s strengths and weaknesses?
SW: I believe her biggest strength is her weakness – that she is not worldly and experienced, so her actions and reactions are real and relatable. She makes mistakes, she sometimes trusts too easily, but she learns from them.
MA: And does she have to do battle with any particular bad guys or girls?
SW: There isn’t one antagonist per se; it’s really the unknown that challenges the characters. They’re trying to find answers without even knowing where to begin; the revelation of the experiment done on them before birth not only throws their entire pasts into question, but they can no longer even be sure of their own bodies. There are also “bad guys,” but the self-discovery is the bigger hurdle in book one. (There’s a killer on campus in book two, but that has not been released yet.)
MA: I understand you were a military brat (raising three of my own!). Did that experience inform your writing?
SW: My father was a career Army officer, but not in the traditional sense – we never moved. I absolutely romanticized the life of the constantly-moving Army brat since I didn’t get to experience it, so my characters are “living the dream” in that sense.
MA: So what’s next?
SW: I have two very different ideas (from “Solid” and from each other) – a futuristic dystopian YA novel and a football-related horror for adults – but I can’t put any time into those until “Solid” is complete.
MA: I am currently waiting for the release of my third novel, Child Finder: Revelation, so I know what its’ like to write a series. I assume many of your characters migrate from book to book?
SW: Clio and her circle are the whole basis for the “Solid” series, so all of the books will revolve around them. As their “world” continues to grow, new people do come in and/or take on larger roles – book two brings in four new characters, and book three will add at least that many more. I also initially only planned this to be a trilogy, but as I work through book three, I’m starting to think I may have to write a prequel to tie up some loose ends. I’ve also just decided to re-release a slightly-extended version of “Solid” at the same time “Settling” comes out, so I’m working furiously to put that together!
MA: It sounds like you are busy – a good thing to be! Thanks for stopping by to visit with me today and for telling us all about your stories.
SW: Thank you so much for your interest in “Solid” and giving me the opportunity to speak with your blog followers; I know we all have dozens of books on our TBR lists and I am so appreciative for your consideration of mine!
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Jun 03

Back for Her THIRD Visit with Mike Angley: Julie Achterhoff!

MA: Julie Achterhoff was born in Michigan, but brought up mostly in the big city of San Francisco and a small island in the Gulf of Mexico. Her imagination was sparked by experiencing these different ways of life. She grew up reading very adult horror, mystery, and thriller novels passed to her by her mother. When reading she would get as excited about the writing of the books as the reading. She ended up becoming a home birth midwife with five children of her own. Still, with every book she read there was that gnawing urge to write something of her own.

Julie – welcome BACK! This is your third visit to my blog, and while I’ve had a few authors guest with me twice, you are the first with a triple visit.

My readers can go back and read the original posts Julie did with me, first on January 1, 2010, and then again on September 10, 2010.

Please remind my readers what you did before beginning your writing journey.

JA: I was a midwife raising a family for about 17 years, but when the oldest got big and responsible enough to watch the younger ones I started taking a couple classes a week at the local college. Of course I picked writing and English classes. I didn’t even dare hope to actually write anything. It was this deep, dark secret I kept even from myself! I started getting addicted when teachers and other students told me what they liked about my writing. That gave me more confidence. I suddenly realized the authors of every book I’d ever read were just regular people like me who probably started out not knowing if they could write. So I allowed my deeply buried creativity out and gave it full rein.

MA: I know you didn’t start writing novels right away, but you actually began with plays, is that right?

JA: My first major effort after some short stories and essays was actually a three-act play called Angel in the House. I really got excited about seeing my work performed. I eventually hoped against hope that I could work in the movie industry. But the structure used in plays and screenplays was very stilting for me. I had to pay so much attention to form that I felt it took away from the writing. I enjoyed just writing away without a care like I could with the short stories I’d written. I just couldn’t imagine putting enough words down to make up a whole darned book. But I decided to give it a try. I figured if others could do it, so could I.

MA: So how many books are you up to at this point?

JA: I’ve now written four books. I still can’t believe it, but I swear it’s true. I just kept writing and writing, and somehow the word count kept climbing until finally it was the end and I had a whole book in my hands. The first was Quantum Earth. It’s about a team of metaphysical scientists racing to find out why we’re having more natural disasters of a higher degree leading up to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, and if our own human thoughts are actually creating this reality. Deadly Lucidity is a thriller about a woman trapped in her nightmares and dreams. Then she meets someone who tries to help her find a way out of her own mind. He seems to be another part of her imagination, but he is also so real. Native Vengeance is a novella about a woman who meets a friend on the internet and eventually goes to visit her during the town’s main event of the year. Of course, this annual “event” isn’t what it seems. The town has an old Indian curse on it because of something that happened a long time ago. The new friend needs her so she can escape the evil that occurs each year to punish the residents of the town.

Then there’s my latest book, Earthwalker- Earth can be Hell for a Vampire. I’ve always loved vampires the most of any of the beasts around. Maybe that’s why it took me this long to write my own kind of story about them. Plus, I hate doing anything that’s “in.” So I figured I’d have to write the book so different and far from the main crowd that it would hardly resemble any vampire story from the past. I think I achieved this. Earthwalker is a book about a vampire. And there is a passionate love story. But from there on out it is different in almost every way from any past works of its kind. I think I was successful in finding a fresh new way of presenting it. It’s all in the writing, though, anyway, isn’t it? I mean if you like my writing, you’ll definitely like this book. It barely gives the reader a moment to take a breath. I write tight and lean. There’s not a lot of flowery prose or descriptive overload in my stuff. I think you learn a lot about yourself and your style of writing with each new attempt. I would call Earthwalker my dissertation.

MA: Are you the kind of writer who starts with a hero and then builds the story, or do you start with a plot and develop the right man or woman to fill the need?

JA: Whenever I begin writing a book I already have a pretty good idea of who the protagonist is. I have the framework in my mind and then let them develop and grow on the page. I say “let” them because that’s how it seems to happen. They become alive to me. I think that’s how I’m able to write a whole book at all. The characters kind of take over and tell me what could possibly happen to them that would be thrilling and exciting, but also believable to the reader.

MA: Can you give us an idea of one of your heroes or heroines?

JA: In Earthwalker, for example, Willa is the so-called heroine. In the beginning of the story she is pretty weak. She’s recently gone through some tough life situations and is worn out emotionally. But she’s basically a strong young woman with emotional reserves that she calls on from the beginning. She’s good at dealing with emergency situations, it doesn’t take much for her to catch on when something outside her past experience happens, and she has the capacity to be courageous if need be. She is also willing to sacrifice herself for a greater good. As most of us do, though, she tends to think of herself first. She does sense this about herself and ends up putting herself last. With Willa, it’s like she moves ahead two steps then one step back and so on.

MA: Where do you draw from to create your “bad guys?” I’m always intrigued by antagonists in supernatural stories.

JA: I’ve had pretty intense nightmares since I was very young, so I’ve got plenty of nasty people in my head. I actually tone them down for my books so they’re not totally evil. That would be boring. You’re always going to enjoy a story more when you can somehow relate to the bad guy/gal. It’s like your dirty little secret. It brings the reader in so they feel closer to the characters.

MA: I take it you’ve not had any real-life encounters with vampires or other such creatures, or have you (grinning)?

JA: Not at all. I like making it all up from scratch. You will probably never see a non-fiction book come out of me. The further away from reality the better. My writing is my escape. It takes me far away from this world. And that’s the way I like it!

MA: Okay, so four works of fiction down…how many more to go? Where are you headed in the near future?

JA: Just recently I had a very long and real feeling dream that inspired me to write another book. It’s been months since I’ve written anything, so it’s great to know I haven’t dried up in the writing department. The next one’s about a reporter out to research the latest drug craze. And boy is it a doozy! What a crazy dream that one was.

MA: I can only imagine! I’ve had a few intense dream in my life, so I can relate. Will your allow any characters from past books to tag along in future stories?

JA: I have been asked by several readers if there will be a follow-up to Quantum Earth. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a time-bound novel in that it revolves around a particular time, the year 2012. But I guess it all depends on what actually does happen in 2012 to tell you the truth. Maybe these characters will have more to say and do at that point. Who knows?

MA: Let’s hope the Mayan “prophecy” turns out to be a whole lot of nothin’! After all, the Mayans simply stopped counting days, without actually saying what would happen beyond the calendar. So much about that calendar is super-hyped. Any parting thoughts?

JA: I would just like to encourage anyone who has a desire to write not to make excuses or let your inner critic stop you from doing something that could bring you a lot of joy. Don’t let anything stop you. And don’t do it for the money or fame. Chances are that won’t happen. You just have to love it. And then just do it. Get those words down on that page! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. If you do it this way it’s gonna show in your writing. Then you’ll have something to be proud of.

MA: Thanks again, Julie, for coming back. I want to encourage my readers to check out Julie’s blog (http://earthwalker.tk) and her books’ website (http://julieachterhoff.tk).

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Mar 09

Character Mannerisms as Told by Mary Deal

Character Mannerisms
by
Mary Deal

In fleshing out the narrative of a story, writers need to describe mannerisms of the characters. These gestures and habits help the reader know your story people and what makes them tick. The actions each character performs must be in accordance with the scene and their responses to it.

These seemingly innocent extras that the writer adds must be accurate. Readers, especially avid readers, know when something isn’t right as the plot moves along. A wrong point or description can stick in the readers mind and distract from their ability to suspend disbelief and to lose themselves in a story.

An example might be when you have your character making physical gestures. When they roll their eyes, make sure it fits what you having them doing. Neurolinguistics teaches that a person rolls their eyes to the left if telling a lie, also known as constructed (made up) information. So if your character is telling a lie, make sure you don’t say he rolled his eyes to the right, which is from where remembered (true) information is pulled in.

Instead of being so detailed, which necessitates accuracy, you might simply want to say something like:

“He rolled his eyes, looking disgusted, and then studied the papers again.”

That’s a simple sentence that not only provides a good description of what is happening with the character at that moment, but also allows the reader to feel the character’s emotion.

A different example is if you have a left-handed cop. You might assume all cops in your story are right-handed, but suppose you make your cop character different. To flesh out his actions, you might want to add something to the fact that in spite of being an awkward left-hander, he was an award winning sharp-shooter quicker than lightning with his left handed draw. His left hand draw was quicker than any of the right handed cops on the force.

To include something like this about the cop does not and perhaps should not all be added when the cop first enters the story. Defining actions and gestures such as these are parsed out throughout the story whenever a scene allows for them. Perhaps with the cop, he might be identified as a sharp-shooter early in the story. Deeper into the story when the scene dictates him drawing his service revolver quickly, the rest could be added. Breaking up the information like this adds cohesiveness to the telling of the tale. Readers will remember that he was a sharp-shooter and will feel the connectedness to this character.

As with psychological aspects such as rolling the eyes in one direction or another, or other physical gestures, these must be accurate or they should not be included if the writer is unsure about the legitimacy of the facts.

Keep your readers in mind at all times during the writing of a story. Know that readers have read enough stories to know when an author is weak in their research.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Feb 16

Prologue, Denouement and Epilogue as Only Mary Deal Can Describe Them

Prologue, Denouement and Epilogue
by
Mary Deal

First let me quote from the Oxford Dictionary before we discuss usages.

Prologue: 1) A separate introductory part of a play, book or piece of music. 2) An event that leads to another.

Denouement: The final part of a film, play or narration, in which matters are explained or resolved.

Epilogue: A section at the end of a book or play which comments on what has happened.

A Prologue can set up the rest of a story. That is, it can relate a brief occurrence that led to the present action of the story that we then jump into the middle of in Chapter One. Used this way, a prologue becomes a bit of back story, should not take up any more than a few paragraphs, and definitely should not be as long as a full chapter. Too, anything that isn’t foreshadowing for the rest of the story should be cut.

The longer the Prologue, the more it seems the writer is, again, quoting back story when, in reality, back story should be incorporated into the present of the telling. This is done through conversations between characters or brief remembrances of the main character. Providing too much life story in the prologue, keeps the reader bogged down in the past when you really want them immersed in the action of the now that starts with the first word, sentence and paragraph of Chapter One.

Completely opposite of that, the Prologue can also be used to show the outcome of the entire story up front before Chapter One begins. In other words, your story has a problem the main character needs to resolve. The story goes on to show the character resolved those issues and then shows the climax and denouement, which led to the information first presented in the Prologue.

My preference is not to read a book where I know up front that all ends well. I want to feel all the indecision, fright and other emotions that the characters may endure. Then I want the relief of learning how their situation is resolved. If I read up front that their lives went back to normal after something drastic had happened to them, I won’t feel their emotions as I read.

Part of reading is to experience what the characters endure. First reading that everything came out okay seems, in my opinion, to diminish the thrill of suffering with these story people. So what? I ask. I already knew these people would prevail.

The Denouement tells how the characters are affected once the climax of the action is made apparent. If a mystery, the climax happens when the perpetrator is caught or gets his or her comeuppance. You cannot end the story at that point. You must tell how this climactic revelation affected all the other characters. That portion after the climax is the denouement.

The denouement need not be lengthy. It can be a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs. It can also be one or more brief chapters.

In my thriller, River Bones, after the perpetrator is caught and people realize just who the serial killer is, many more additional clues are found to cement his guilt. Too, a few subplots needed to be wrapped up that did not really affect catching the perpetrator, but which followed through and fed into the action of the entire story. That wrap-up, my denouement, took two additional brief exciting chapters. But that wasn’t all….

An Epilogue is best used to show how the story resolution affected the characters after a period of time has passed. Yes, it’s enough to catch a perpetrator and everyone return to their normal lives in the denouement. However, in River Bones, I used an Epilogue to not only wrap up the strongest subplot, but to create a situation where it leaves the story open for a sequel.

Another example might be a romance. After the lovers settle their differences and end up together in the denouement, the Epilogue might be used to show that a year later they parted. What caused them to part must be something already written into the story beforehand. The Epilogue is not a place to introduce new information – ever. Whatever happens in the Epilogue is a result of some action already dealt with in the story.

Between prologue, denouement and epilogue, the denouement is the only part necessary to any story. Think hard about using Prologues and Epilogues and have good reason for doing so.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Jan 28

Scientist-Turned-Novelist Paul Guthrie Joins Mike Angley Today

MA: My guest-blogger today is Paul Guthrie. Paul – or Dr. Guthrie – is a scientist by training and vocation. He received a BA in Physics from Cornell University, followed by a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Massachusetts. After graduation, Paul went to work for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD. His work was primarily in the development of computer models to simulate the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere in order to understand ozone depletion and climate change. After thirteen years he left NASA and joined a consulting firm in San Rafael CA, working mainly on air pollution issues for the EPA. By then he was irrevocably committed to the use of computers and the development of software. In 1999 he left the environmental field entirely and became involved in developing software for biotechnology and medical applications, which he continues to do part time. Starting in 2002, however, Paul decided to pursue another interest, that of writing fiction. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, still married to the same person after thirty-seven years. We have two grown children.

Now that’s a fascinating biography you have, Paul. I am curious about how you found an interest in fiction with so much science in your life.

PG: I’m a scientist, with degrees in physics and astronomy. Working on issues like climate change, I was part of the collision of science, where truth (even approximate truth) is an ultimate goal, with politics, where truth is irrelevant. And I like to read. I‘ve read lots of fantasy and SF over the years, from classic “hard” SF to Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan, Martin, Stephenson, Gibson…the list goes on and on. I also like technology thrillers, like early Tom Clancy and early Michael Crichton.

MA: It’s good to have a wide breadth of interests, but how did you end up writing fiction, and why novels?

PG: My teachers always said I was a good writer, back before I chose a career in science and technology. In 2002 the medical imaging startup where I was working ran out of money and went belly up. Writing seemed like a good way to keep my mind occupied until something else turned up. Something else never did. Why novels…the form is long enough to really explore characters and story. You can say a lot of things in a novel.

MA: Tell us about your novel.

PG: “The Wrong God” crosses genres a bit. It involves something that looks like magic, elements of science fiction, some real science, politics and religion. Here’s the pitch:
Since the beginnings of history people have believed in magic, but California science writer Andy Taggart is not one of them. Until the day that John Chalk, his old friend from grad school, makes a ballpoint pen rise to stand on end – untouched. From that moment Andy is caught up in John’s mystery. Is this an illusion or is it new physics? Why can John do things that other people can’t – things that will mark him in some eyes as a worker of miracles? And why does John think someone is watching him?

Someone is watching. Wendell Murchison is possibly the most powerful man in America. He controls wealth, his own cable news network, an army of evangelical political operatives, and the President of the United States, but he wants more. From the new America of terrorist sleeper cells, detention camps and legalized torture he sees a path to levels of power not seen since the Inquisition. He would make a new all-out war of religion; all he needs is a leader – the New Prophet, John Chalk. Whether John believes or not.

When John refuses and disappears, Andy is left to face an adversary who will offer bribes, publish lies, send goon squads to beat him, whatever it takes to force him to betray John. Under constant surveillance and unsure who he can trust, Andy can’t stand alone; he has to find John. But even together, what can they do against Murchison? Levitating pens won’t stop him and there’s no point in hoping for miracles if you don’t believe in anybody’s gods.

Actually, it all grew out of a single observation. Traditional epic fantasy often involves ancient magic, with a venerable sage or a sacred book to explain the magic. My question was, how did the book get written? Who were the poor bastards who first discovered magic and had to figure out how it worked without killing themselves? Since I assumed (naturally) that they would approach it like scientists, the story became contemporary.

MA: That sounds intriguing, and it contains many of the same elements I enjoy reading about and writing with my own work. Tell us how you developed Andy’s character.

PG: Andy is kind of an almost-scientist. He has the training, but he isn’t entirely part of that world, the way John is. Andy can see the ambiguities in John’s discovery. I tend to like stories of ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, so he had to be somewhat unheroic.

MA: Andy’s strengths? Weaknesses?

PG: Strengths…determination, loyalty, intelligence, humility, his love for his girlfriend, Rachel.
Weaknesses…fear, self-doubt, a little envy.

MA: It sounds like this Murchison guy is pretty devious…your antagonist, I assume?

PG: Oh yeah. I spent a lot of time on Wendell Murchison. My wife kept asking for more backstory. I kind of saw him as an amalgam of the kinds of people who have been involved at the intersection of great wealth, political propaganda, and the religious right.

MA: I almost hesitate to ask if any real-life experiences made their way into your story, especially given you hard science background.

PG: I guess the main influences were knowing how physicists think and approach problems, and experience watching scientists collide with politics. One other thing isn’t really central to the plot, but I’m a student and player of Taiko, the big Japanese drums. I gave that to Andy so I could try to describe it.

MA: I spent many years in Japan and always enjoyed Taiko drum performances, so I can relate to that character aspect (and a good thing you gave that to your hero!). So what’s next?
PG: I’m working on another novel that is still an untitled work in progress. It’s unrelated, more of a straight-ahead technology/political thriller. Beyond that I have notes for two more books to continue the story of “The Wrong God.”

MA: Thanks, Paul! You have a great blend of real science colliding with fiction in your work. I like the confluence of the two. For my readers, please check out Paul’s website: http://www.thewronggod.com Read More

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Jan 26

Something We All Hope for: Avoiding Rejection, an Article by Mary Deal

Avoiding Rejection
by
Mary Deal

The following tips are some that have been reconstructed from a handout I gave at one of my workshops for writers already far along in their manuscripts. On the registration form I asked what each attendee would most like to learn. Surprisingly, the frequently mentioned information pertained to feeling insecure about submitting once the manuscript was finished, and how would they know it was ready for submission.

In order to help avoid rejection of your manuscript, you need to think through what you’ve created. Start by analyzing these points before submitting.

Does your story start off strong enough to grab a potential reader’s attention?

Does your plot contain enough twists and turns to keep the reader from knowing the ending beforehand? Or is your story so predictable that it might be boring?

Does any possibility exist that you’ve created a story that creeps along, when it should fly and keep the reader turning pages?

Do you know the difference between a slow moving, arduous read and a story that moves like lightning where the reader has difficulty keeping their eyeballs in their sockets?

Have you included your own opinions in the plot sequences instead of allowing the scenes and characters to write themselves?

Are you preachy and trying to make a statement concerning something in which you believe and wish to share? Have no doubt. It is a definite turn-off and will show in your writing.

Have you developed your story to its fullest potential? If not, that would be the same as a detective having four clues and investigating only three. Whatever happens in your story, make sure you cover all aspects and possibilities of each scene.

What about your narrative voice? Is it different from your characters’ dialogues? Does it sound realistic or forced?

Always be careful of clichéd writing, and the use of stale jargon. Use only the most recent language of the time period of your plot that people in real life would use if they were your characters. To have a story taking place in present time, but using age-old language just doesn’t work. That’s unless the author shows that their particular story requires it.

Does each and every scene pull in the reader? Are the scenes developed so the reader knows when and where things happen and how the characters fit into that scene? In other words, have you written the scenes well enough so the reader will feel a part of it all and not know that they sit in a chair reading a book?

Do you have the appropriate beginning, middle and ending? As already stated, the beginning should grab the reader’s interest and make them want to keep reading. The middle may sag if you’ve simply tried to flesh out the story by adding inappropriate information that doesn’t feed into and forward the plot. The ending should be dramatic or contain the element of an Aha! experience. Whatever the experience, the reader must feel satisfaction for the characters when the story concludes.

Are your characters’ dialogues commensurate with the types of people you’ve created them to be? Do all your characters sound the same? Even if all your characters share the same backgrounds and social status, you must make each of them unique. One of the easiest places to accomplish this is through their dialogues.

As with the story line, the same applies to the characters. Are they lackluster predictable types?

Do your characters perform to the best of their abilities while moving through the plot? They can be demure to dastardly, but whatever they are, make them true to type and the best that they can be for the situation in which you’ve placed them.

Have you had your finished manuscript edited by a new set of eyes, preferably professional ones? A relative or friend critiquing your manuscript just isn’t enough – unless the person is an English teacher, perhaps.

Too, here’s something I do:

I have my final manuscript in one long file. I do a search for various important words that I may have used throughout the book. When I find too many of one word, I replace some of them with a different word or phrase with the same meaning. To read the same words too often begins to make the writing seem amateurish, as if the author had not seen the inside of a dictionary or thesaurus.

Lastly, these are some suggestions that should be thought through before submitting your work to agents or publishers. This information also applies to short story and novella writers, even some nonfiction. Much of this information may have crossed the mind of the writer way before getting to the end of the writing phase. In that case, that author is a huge step ahead and their manuscript will show it.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Dec 01

Mary Deal Discusses Plot Driven versus Character Driven Stories

Plot Driven or Character Drive

by

Mary Deal

A book writing format includes numerous topics and fine points, many of which I have already written about. However, two writing objectives include knowing if your story is plot driven or character driven. Writing topics can sometimes dictate this but the story itself will identify into which category your story fits.

Plot Driven – We mystery writers or genre writers create plot driven prose. Early in the story, the mystery is introduced. Readers know that ultimately the mystery will be solved; it’s how the writer brings this about that drives the plot.

A recent example of a plot driven story is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Another example from a little while back is Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton.

Putting the characters through their functions is what adds suspense and tension to the story. Whatever the characters stir up or endure all feeds into the plot. In order to keep these stories from feeling one or two dimensional, the writer must make the characters exciting in such a way that the information about each character enhances the plot. You can enhance your characters all you want, but if the information doesn’t enliven and enhance the plot, cut it. Find other ways to make your character three dimensional and that also make the reader feel they needed to know this or that about a particular character in order to further understand the plot.

Character Driven – Most nonfiction writers produce character driven fiction. Whatever the character says or does directs the story and the action. The character leads. You’ve heard the saying that the characters wrote the story, right? That is character driven. We are more concerned here in what the characters do and say that propels the story forward and creates new action. A plot may or may not exist, except to be created by the main characters actions and responses to story developments.

A good example of a character driven plot was Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden.

The fine line between the two – plot driven or character driven – is that plot driven contains a predetermined plot with the characters interacting in the story line and the story comes to a conclusion. In this sense, since no one knows how the characters will react, the characters lend a blend of character driven action to a plot driven story.

In nonfiction, even literary fiction, the story evolves from the character’s thoughts, emotions and decisions and where he or she will take the action. If the desired ending is strong beforehand, this lends itself to a bit of plot driven scenario, though character driven stories usually find their own endings as the story evolves.

A problem with character driven plots is that a writer may proceed to a certain point and realize they want the story go proceed toward a certain ending. From this point all the characters follow or feed into that end. This has a tendency to distort the part of the character because it’s easy to have your character do something that isn’t cohesive with the personality you’ve established for them. If at some point in the story, you see the ending and you make all the characters move in that direction, your story then becomes plot driven.

One of the main problems I’ve seen in some of the stories I’ve edited is the inclusion of a prologue. First, this represents the writer unskilled enough to work back story into the present plot. But more than that, plot drive stories don’t always allow for the characters to contemplate or think through their actions. Plot driven usually moves at a fast pace and characters react spontaneously or compulsively.

In character driven stories, characters are contemplative. We get to know their inner thought processes. It might be easier to work prologue into these types of stories because showing a person’s inner workings allows us to realize their back story and resultant motivations.

So the problem I recognized while editing is that writers do not know if their stories are plot driven or character driven. Understanding the difference between these two categories will make writing a lot simpler.

Distinct differences exist between plot driven and character driven. In actuality, a polished writer will create a unique balance of the two.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Sep 03

All the Way from Australia Comes Romantic Comedy Author, Sylvia Massara to Guest with Mike Angley

MA: Today’s guest flew in all the way from Australia…seriously, just to be on my blog . Sylvia Massara has been writing since her early teens. She has written in a variety of genres, from stage plays to screenplays to novels. Since she can remember, she’s loved immersing herself in a world filled with characters of her own creation—so it only seemed natural that she would become a writer. But before she became a writer, Sylvia had a career in Human Resources and she also ‘tinkered’ in her other love – acting. For a full bio on Sylvia, please visit her website: www.sylviamassara.com
Tell us more about what you did before becoming a writer.
SM: Prior to embarking on my writing career, I spent many years in the corporate world being a HR Manager, a Trainer/Lecturer, and most recently a Business Consultant. Having said this, my true love has always been acting. I can remember wanting to be an actress since the age of 5. I was in lots of school productions, and later in amateur theatre. I also did a stint (when I was in between jobs) as an extra in some Aussie soapies, where I rubbed shoulders with actresses such as Melissa George and Isla Fisher, whom I believe made a bit of a name for themselves in the US. I was also in TV commercials and a couple of documentaries.
MA: I can see how your acting and creative beginnings brought you to writing fiction.
SM: Well, I always lived my life in what you might call a ‘world of make believe’. Even now I do this. Ever since I can remember I always caught myself day dreaming; and I usually run several plots through my head at any given time. So I guess it was natural for me to progress to a career as a writer. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and I always loved it.
MA: Tell us how this daydreaming resulted in your new novel.
SM: ‘The Other Boyfriend’, which I have just released in ebook format, is a quirky romantic comedy in the style of ‘Bridget Jones’. My heroine is a little bit scheming, trying to get her man by any means possible, but she’s also naïve and rather impulsive in her approach – and this is what gets her into trouble. The whole premise of the story is that she’s in love with a guy who is already in a relationship (albeit a relationship that has been platonic for many years), and Sarah, the heroine, comes up with the idea to find a ‘boyfriend’ for her man’s partner. All Sarah wants is to get this woman out of her life and she’ll pretty much stop at nothing in order to do it. Sarah’s best friend comes to the rescue by suggesting a male friend of hers – a so-called ‘lady killer’ – to romance the other woman away from Sarah’s man, and Sarah goes along with it. What she doesn’t expect is that she finds herself inexplicably attracted to her ‘partner in crime’ or ‘the other boyfriend’ as he’s dubbed in the story, and suddenly her world is turned upside down.
I’d say this book is ‘chick lit’ or ‘romance’, if you’d like to call it that. But I’ve had feedback from several male readers, and they loved it. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill love story. It’s more a story filled with a bit of scheming, plenty of humor, witty dialogue, some wacky characters and a few very unexpected turn of events.
MA: I must confess I don’t know the chick lit or romance sub-genres well. How did you go about crafting Sarah’s character?
SM: I have to say that I was inspired to write this story because Sarah is based on a life experience of mine. Of course, the whole story is highly fictionalized. But the love triangle, betrayal and the lessons Sarah learns along the way are similar to what I (and probably millions of other women out there) went through. And, I have to add, that Sarah has just turned 40 in the story, so she’s not your typical ‘perfect female’ romance character. She’s a mature woman full of flaws, trying to capture as much time as possible before it’s all too late. She wants to have it all: everlasting love, a family and a business before the big M catches up with her (the big M being menopause).
MA: (Smiling, wiping brow). I got that. What are Sarah’s strengths and weaknesses?
SM: Sarah is determined, if anything, to go after her dream, but she’s also vulnerable and rather naïve. The positive thing about her is that she is able to face harsh reality when things don’t turn out as she’d planned, and she is able to acknowledge that she didn’t act in the most honorable way in relation to her man’s partner. Ultimately, however, Sarah learns a few good lessons, and she comes out of her situation a stronger and more mature woman who is ready for a serious kind of love and commitment.
MA: Who’s the bad guy – there has to be one!
SM: There is. Jeffrey is the guy Sarah is trying to land. He is the one who leads her to believe that he’s no longer interested in his partner, Moira. He’s the one who keeps Sarah trying to do a balancing act. Half the time she doesn’t know whether he’s serious or not; whether he loves her or not. And there are other things Sarah doesn’t know about Jeffrey … until it’s too late. But I won’t say anymore or I’ll give the story away. Let’s just say that Jeffrey is the ‘super rat’ or ‘the charming bastard’ of the story
MA: I know you mentioned there are some elements of your own personal life in the story, if not every woman’s story. Did I get that right?
SM: The answer is YES. I already said that Sarah’s situation reflects something of what happened to me (and to many other women out there). Of course, all the characters are fictional, as is the storyline, but I guess you could say that there are little things in this story that were inspired by real life events.
MA: So what’s next?
SM: Towards the end of August, 2010, I will be releasing a totally different novel to this one, entitled ‘The Soul Bearers’. This one a life drama, inspired by true life events. It’s a story about courage, friendship and unconditional love. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, really. So I advise having a box of tissues on hand.
I’m also in the process of planning my third book. This one will once again be a quirky romantic comedy, only this time the main character will feature in future stories.
MA: You have been an entertaining guest, and it’s not often that I blush during an interview. Is there anything you’d like my readers to know as we close?
SM: Both ‘The Other Boyfriend’ and ‘The Soul Bearers’ are available from Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu. In the next two months or so the books will also be available on paperback. I’ll be keeping readers up to date through my blog: www.sylviamassara.com.
Read More

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Aug 02

“Promoting Fiction: It Isn’t Easy” An Article by Sandra Beckwith

I’m privileged to have as a guest-blogger, Sandra Beckwith. Sandra is a former publicist who shares her award-winning expertise with others as the author of two publicity how-to books, as a book publicity e-course instructor, and as a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences. Her book publicity classes and free book publicity e-zine help authors learn how to be their own book publicist. Sign up for her free Build Book Buzz e-zine at www.buildbookbuzz.com.

In today’s article, Sandra addresses the reality of promoting works of fiction. I hope you enjoy her insight, and please be sure to come back to my website for future articles from Sandra with the “inside scoop” on book promotion.
Promoting Fiction: It Isn’t Easy
by
Sandra Beckwith

There’s no question that it’s harder to publicize and promote fiction than nonfiction – that’s why many book publicists won’t accept novelists as clients. But whether we write fiction or nonfiction, we have to make the effort to get the word out about our books. We have a responsibility to the people who need the information we’re offering to let them know our book is available.

What are you doing now to promote your book? Maybe you’ve got a Facebook fan page for it, maybe you’re tweeting to a good-sized following on Twitter, maybe you’re trying to cross-promote with other authors. There’s an effective tactic for every type of book and author personality – the challenge is finding what’s effective for your target audience and your own skills. In coming months, I’ll offer advice on how to promote your book to the people who are most likely to buy it. To get started, I’d like to offer some thoughts on the basics that often get overlooked. They will help you focus on what counts.

* Get as specific as you can about your target audience. Many of my “Book Publicity 101” students tell me that their target audience is “all women between 18 and 65.” In an ideal world, that would be true. The reality is that we can – and need to – narrow that down further so that we have a much better chance of getting the book title in front of the people who are truly most likely to buy it. (Here are tips on my blog on how to do that.)

* Think beyond book reviews. They’re great and we all love them, but if we limit our publicity efforts to getting reviews, we’re not letting our books enjoy their maximum promotion potential. Work to get your book title into conventional and online media outlets and into blogs on an ongoing basis. We’ll discuss how in coming months.

* Promote your book to your “warmest” markets first. Then move outward. A “warm” market is one that already knows and likes you or is most likely to help you spread the word about your book. For most authors, the warmest markets are friends and family, their e-mail lists, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and the memberships of organizations they belong to. It also includes the local media.

* Do what’s best for your book, not someone else’s. Your target audience might not see tweets – yours or anyone else’s – so don’t use Twitter just because “everyone else is.” Blogging might be a better fit for you than podcasting. Some people enjoy public speaking, many more don’t. The point is, use the tactics that you can execute and that will help you get your book title in front of the right people.

I’d like to hear from you about the challenges you face when promoting and publicizing your fiction books, or about topics you’d like to learn more about here. Please send me a note at sb@buildbookbuzz.com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Read More

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