A Book Sale and Scott!

My novel, “Never Said” is an ebook on sale for 99¢ on
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Never-Blink-Carol…/dp/B00UR7Z0EM…

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/never-said

Nook: https://m.barnesandnoble.com/…/never-said…/1120620566…

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/never-said/id977241760…

Thank you, Douglas, for tracking all this information down. And for talking to me.

AND NOW, EVERYONE!

((My friend Scott Rhoades has written a guest post for Throwing Up Words. Scott writes all day for a living and then, in the evenings, writes for kids and teens. Monthly, he visits a retirement home and teaches more than a dozen eager writers the rules of the craft.))

OVERCOME THE STARTING BLOCK: MAKE A LIST

It doesn’t matter how many writing projects I’ve had. Whether stories, poems, or at my technical writing job, starting a new project is always the hardest part. I have a method, though, that helps me get over the getting started hump.

I make lists.

Before I start, I usually have a very bare-bones idea of something I want to do. It might be a character or a setting, or the beginnings of a plot. I take that seed of an idea and build on it with a list.

For example, I used to write songs with a friend in England, Francis Greene. One day, I really missed the ocean. Having grown up in California, the coast was always a very important place for me. So I started writing down some images from my cold, rocky Northern California beaches. Things like:

  • The water pulling the sand from under my feet
  • Seagulls
  • A foghorn near a lighthouse
  • Ocean spray
  • The pier
  • A ship on the horizon
  • Shells
  • Starfish
  • Hermit crabs

There were a lot more. Many of the items in my list didn’t make the final cut. This is often the case.

I didn’t list only items. I also thought of things I like to do at the beach:

  • Walk
  • Hunt for shells
  • Bark at the sea lions

Once I had my list, I rearranged the items. This is easy to do on a computer, and sometimes (especially if I’m listing plot points), the list becomes my outline. My favorite way to sort a list while brainstorming is to put each list item on a Post-It and stick them to my white board or wall, where I can move them around, group them, make connections, easily add to them, and whatever else comes to mind.

I’ll often use different colored Post-Its and different colored pens for different things so I can easily look at the board and see groupings. Like, maybe green notes are settings and blue notes are characters, and so on.

Once I start making a list, I have never been blocked. I find that as I write each list item, more thoughts and ideas jump into my head. Almost without effort, my brain builds associations between the things in my list, and story ideas and themes start to form.

My song, because I was missing the beach, took on a melancholy feel, even though that wasn’t the original intention. It became a song about loss and loneliness. Here are the final lyrics. See how many of my list items you can spot.

When You Were Here
(Rhoades/Greene, 1997)

The ocean breeze is blowing, fog is drifting in
It’s cool and damp, there’s no one here
The tide is pulling sand from underneath my feet
The sea lions play beneath the pier
Remember how we used to bark at them?
When you were here

(Chorus)
Like that distant ship out there on the horizon
You sailed far away from me
You swore that it was nothing I had said or done, that
You just needed to be free

Across the rocks, a hermit crab scurries away
I find a starfish in the sand
The wind and sea, my wet hair clinging to my face
I always loved to hold your hand
Remember how we used to hunt for shells?
When you were here

(Chorus)

(Bridge)
I remember when I used to walk alone
But then we met and I walked with you
Loneliness was such a very special place
When we walked alone as two

The lighthouse beam, in vain it tries to pierce the fog
A foghorn warns the ships away
A gull is struggling, tries to fly against the wind
My tears disguised by ocean spray
Remember how we used to chase the waves?
When you were here

(Chorus)

(Bridge)

The ocean breeze is blowing, fog is drifting in
A foghorn warns the ships away
The tide is pulling sand from underneath my feet
My tears disguised by ocean spray
Remember how we used to love this place?
Wish you were here
Wish you were here
Wish you were here

You can listen to it, if you’d like, as performed by The Bicycle Riders (featuring Francis Greene). If you listen carefully, you can hear me being absolutely silent.

Exercise: Think of a place that’s important to your character. In Kidlit, this might be a bedroom or a classroom, for example. List key elements of that place. Include objects, but don’t forget to also include sensory things, such as smells and textures. Once you have your list, sort the items and make associations. Note any ideas that surface as you work with your list. Finally, write a scene in that setting. You don’t have to use every item in your list, but pay attention to how the items you don’t use affect your perception of that place.

Visit Scott here: http://scottrhoades.com/doggerybaw/?p=243

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Character is Where It’s At!

I once did an event with an author many years ago. A student asked about plot and I said, “Your character makes decisions and choices. And those choices move the plot forward.”

“Not always,” my co-teacher said. “Not in a plot driven novel.”

I had read this person’s work and while I found it okay, I wasn’t grabbed by the characters. They weren’t interesting. They were flat and, even in exciting moments, I could close the novel because I just didn’t care.

Like in real life, I want to know the people of books so if they fail or lose something or go through a hard event, I am rooting for them. If they get that kiss or lose that boy or find their mother or lose the kingdom, I want to laugh or weep for them.

Knowing your characters helps you be able to write a well-rounded character. Even if all the details don’t show up on the page.

Here are a few things to ponder.

  • Why is this the right character for this novel?
  • Make your antagonist the lead of the book. What happens to the story?
  • How are your main character and the antagonist the same?
  • What are the most important things (people) to your main character?
  • To the antagonist?
  • Morally, how is your main character different than other people in the novel?
  • How are they the same?
  • Every character should have a truth. What are the truths of your characters?
  • Every character should have a want. What are the wants of the characters in your book?
  • How is your character’s wants pro or con to her moral fiber?
  • Finding out you are more like your mother than you had hoped may be a negative for you. Who is your character similar to? How does this help or hinder who she is?
  • If you have to write a song for your character, using the tune to Imagine Dragon’s THUNDER, what would the words be?
  • Everyone has secrets. I have secrets no one knows unless they were somehow involved in specific incidents in my life. What are your MC’s secrets? How does this motivate her? Change her? Influence her decision making?
  • Your character has to leave, now. What does she take with her?
  • Zombies are coming. Your character cannot get her invalid father out of the house and must run for her life. What does she tell him before she closes the door?
  • What minor details (favorite color, favorite treat, favorite shirt etc) does your character show in your book already?
  • If your character had ten adjectives to describe herself what would she say?
  • What would you say?

Answer these questions–and make up your own and share them–for all the major players in your writing. And if you like these kinds of questions, let me know and I’ll come up with a few more.

1 Comment

Filed under Character, Uncategorized

Exercising Your Character

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” Abigail Van Buren

  1. How does your main character treat others?
  2. Choosing three other characters in your book, decide how they really are, by the way they treat people they know.
  3. By the way they treat strangers.
  4. How does your MC feel about animals? Why?

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters” Albert Einstein

  1. Does your character lie? Why or why not?
  2. What would happen if she did lie? How would the story be more compelling?
  3. What is the worst thing your character could do? Why is this the worst?
  4. Write a scene where your character lies, and is caught, by someone who is important to her.
  5. Do only the *bad* people lie in your book?

 

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus

  1. I think another way of saying this is, Actions speak louder than words. How does your character show her love? Her commitment? Her anger?
  2. Write a scene where your character harms someone by her actions.
  3. Our bad characters cannot be purely evil. How is your antagonist good?

 

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

  1. Your MC ends up with information she shouldn’t have. What does she do with it?
  2. All characters must have weaknesses. What are your character’s weaknesses?
  3. There should be a point, in every character’s growth, when they realize they have all the power, or none of it. What happens to your character when they hit this place in the book?
  4. If you MC realizes she is more like the bad guy than she thought, well, that can be very interesting. Write a scene where your MC comes up against the darker part of herself.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Character, Character, Exercises, Uncategorized

The Vehicle of Character

I love a good character. Who doesn’t?

Guardians of the Galaxy. The guy Chris Pratt plays. Hilarious. He makes me laugh. A little off balance in the way he attacks trouble–more human than Star Lord. I go along for the ride. Plus, he’s cute.

Worf in Star Trek. He was one tough cookie. And that voice! Saw Worf without his makeup and realized I was in love with the Klingon, not the human who played him.

Heath Ledger’s Joker. So crazy. So strange. So weird. Not a thing like me. I’m interested.

How do you make YOUR character interesting? How do you choose who will be the lead in your novel? Could any character you’ve written be the lead in any novel you’ve written?

  1. Who are five of your favorite movie characters? List why you like them.
  2. Who are five of your favorite book characters? List why you like them.
  3. How do you discover a new character?
  4. How much of you is in your MC?
  5. What are your character’s weaknesses?

It’s hard to read a novel with an unlikable character. How do you make that character worth following?

  1. Humor. Make her funny. Write a scene where we get to know your main character as she gets out of an awkward situation.
  2. Make her want something that’s important. Write a scene where the character’s desire is revealed.
  3. Make your character relatable. “I get that!” “How do you know how I feel?” “I’ve been there.” When we connect with a main character, we’re interested in sticking around. Write a list of 50 things about your main character. Now do that for each of your other major players. Think outside the box. Think backstory. Think, “Who is she, really?

Let your character want something.

  1. What does your character want?
  2. How do you establish this at the beginning of the book?
  3. How do you keep your character from getting what she wants?
  4. Is her desire reasonable?
  5. Will she fail? Why or why not?

Let your character love.

  1. If your character cares and we see it, we can feel the emotion of the book. So, who does she love?
  2. Who will she lose?
  3. Who does she hate?
  4. Who could she live without?
  5. How does that antagonist fit in the story?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Exercises, Uncategorized

To Ly Word or Not to Ly Word: Writing Real Good. I Mean it. (Part 3)

A few more hints for you as you work this next year, getting ready for WIFYR.

  1. Here’s a great way to self-edit. After those pages are done, here are a few steps that will help you catch a lot of bad writing, confused writing, icky writing.
    1. Read your manuscript, silently, on the screen. Make appropriate changes.
    2. Read your manuscript, out loud, on the screen. Make appropriate changes.
    3. Print your manuscript. Read silently. Make appropriate changes.
    4. Print your manuscript. Read out loud. Make appropriate changes.
    5. Have someone read your work for you, making appropriate suggestions.
    6. Have someone read your work, out loud, to you. Now you can hear if someone stumbles, questions, worries or wonders over something.
  2. Study how the very best writers do it. When you read, read like a writer, with a pen in your hand, making notes in the margins of books. Look at voice, how a writer twists the plot or comes up with new description. Mark it all. Learn from it all.
  3. Watch your body parts. Rolling eyes, shrugging shoulders, standing up and sitting down etc etc etc. Some things just don’t need too much description. That said, I love the idea of comparing a kid and a flamingo. Don’t ask me why.
  4. Write your heart. If you do, you will write truth. And there is something lovely or ugly or hilarious or frightening etc about truth.
  5. I am a William Zinsser fan, owning several of his books on craft. Here are ten tips I found online.  http://www.openculture.com/2012/04/ray_bradbury_gives_12_pieces_of_writing_advice_to_young_authors_2001.html

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

To Ly Word or Not to Ly Word: Writing Real Good. I Mean It. (Part 2)

I’ve had the chance to listen to Lance Larsen  speak several times about writing jaw-dropping sentences. If you ever have a chance to hear Lance speak or read or speak and read, GO! You’ll not be disappointed.

Why do you read?

I read, not just for story, but for the way the sentences of a novel sound. I read to see the way an author puts words together. To see the way I am surprised–not just by plot–but by sentence structure or word choice.

Lance has several suggestions for jaw-dropping sentences and I’ll share one: turn the adjective on its ear. Here’s what I think he means. If every word must do work, then that includes adjectives. Lance suggests making adjectives work in new ways, in ways that paint pictures the reader isn’t expecting. Easy writing isn’t always the smartest, best, clearest, most beautiful etc. It tends to be filled with cliches and overwritten and weak. Good writing, of course, takes place in rewriting. BUT if you’re thinking as you write (some people do), you can put better words on the page the first time through and refine as you rewrite.

Exercise: Look at your first five pages. Trying not to love what you’ve written, start trimming. Adverbs. Adjectives. Weak verbs. Weak words. Cliches. Was-ing words. The words I put up on Monday. Description that’s stale. Etc.

What do you have left? If you’ve been honest, your story should be far thinner.

Exercise: Using these new five pages, write this beginning over in short, choppy lines. (If you need an example, look at my novel GLIMPSE. Or read any of Ann Dee Ellis’ novels.) This is just an exercise, so enjoy the line breaks and be intentional when you add or take away words. Make each stanza have hard-working words so you accomplish more with less.

Exercise: Look at your rewritten five pages (which should be far longer, page-wise). Is there sense of place? Strong dialog? Description that is fresh? Are your words working hard? Is there emotion?

Exercise: Lay this rewritten piece aside for a week. When you go back, see how to change it into regular prose. How do the five pages read now? Can you keep writing this way? Can you do the same thing with the next five pages and the next and the next?

Exercise: Read a book that is known to have strong writing. (I suggest The Road. Or at least part of it.) What do you learn from this author? How does s/he make sentence sparkle? How can you imitate her/him.

So, Writing Brothers and Sisters, have fun. Remember writing is hard work. Good writing is even harder. But there is joy in having written. There is excitement in finding a fresh way to say something. Enjoy the experience!

2 Comments

Filed under Life, Voice, writing process

To Ly Word or Not to Ly Word: Writing Real Good. No. I Mean It. (Part 1)

In writer’s group (a million years ago), an author read her work aloud. The story was a fantasy and while the plot might have been interesting, it got lost in the words.

That can happen, you know. Too many words. Too many weak words. Too many throw away words.

Your words should work for you. Hard.

“If you do these few things,” I said, offering suggestions because we were in writer’s group, trying to be better writers, “you’ll strengthen the writing. Everything will be more clear. Cleaner.”

“Oh,” she said, waving me off. “My genre excuses bad writing.”

My eyeballs fell on the floor and rolled under an arm chair.

Another published writer in that same group said to suggested changes from us, “That’s what my editor’s for. To catch these mistakes.” We had offered suggestions because we were in writer’s group, trying to be better writers. Get it?

At Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers my hope is every writer learns how to be the best writer she can be. Writing well is a process. I always strive to form tight, strong sentences. I want to be better. We can never know too much.

(Here’s an argument from William Faulkner.  “Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.”)

“But, said another writing friend of mine, “you know readers are blind to style.”

That may be, Writing Brothers and Sisters, but at this point, I’m still not. And so as long as I write, I plan to write the best I can. And this week on TUW, I wanna talk about a few tips. Here’s one for today.

My mother said, “If you have to pay a dollar for every word you put on the page, you’d trim your writing and use only the best language.” Mark Twain said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

You can cut some of these words, too–that, well, start, begin, just, was-ing words

Question: What words are throw aways in your opinion?

TO BE CONTINUED

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized