Friday, January 27, 2012

Yoiks, and Away!

I've taken a day off so I can try to finish my wip (work in progress). So of course I'm procrastinating. After I finish checking Facebook and all the news sites, then Facebook again and maybe they've updated the news... I can sit here and stare beyond my computer, to the strip of cork and thumbtacked material that runs around my home office.

Behind the computer I have posted the Best of the Best writing advice I've latched onto over the years. Okay, it's just the Best of the Best that I remembered to write down or print out. Most, but not all, concerns writing. So here are some bits of wisdom for your perusal:

Elements of Fiction Writing: Scene & Structure, by Jack M. Bickham.) The elements of a scene: Goal, Conflict, Disaster. The elements of a sequel: Reaction (emotion), Dilemma (thought), Decision, in that order.

A long, color-coded listing of how to mark up one's manuscript using the EDITS system. This is from Margie Lawson. She teaches this intense system on how to check your manuscript, and it's pretty darned eye-opening. There's a workshop on it alone, but I ran into it when I took her "Empowering Characters' Emotions" workshop.

A sheet of paper that says:


I'm a plotter at heart and it took me a LONG time to get it through my head that character is the heart of a great book, not plot.

How do they FEEL about that?
Emotion is key to showing character. Otherwise you end up with "characters" like Wonder Woman [see blog below], who have no emotional reaction to anything. They are cardboard cutouts.

What's the story about?
After you finish your first draft, sit back and ask yourself: what's the story really about? Sure, these folks go to the moon and shoot the alien zombie invaders, but isn't it really a story about the importance of family? How can I emphasize that? Which leads to...

As with so many things, YOU HAVE TO EXAGGERATE.
This is not real life; this is drama. In drama there's a purpose to everything. There's a theme. Bring it out. Make your characters and their situation high contrast so that it imprints on your readers' minds and embues the book's theme with more meaning and vitality.

A long quote from Jennifer Crusie, one of my favorite authors:
"It's not that they're [hero and heroine in a romance novel] opposites and hate each other, it's that they're different enough to challenge each other's world views, and because of that, their attraction to each other becomes a demonstration of their characters. Or to put it another way: interesting characters like people who challenge them and make them grow, not people who reinforce them as they are and help them stagnate.

"But even more important is the other half of the key to this dynamic: the opposite character traits give the romance crackle, but they're only skin deep. When you reach the bones of the characters—the stuff that keeps them upright and moving through the story—you find that the lovers are actually two of a kind.

"Your lovers spark because they're opposites on the surface, but they love because they're twin souls at heart. Peel back the surface and find where they connect, and your reader will believe your romance really is forever."

Let's see... Here's a chart from the Plot Doctor, aka Carolyn Greene, who might still teach her method here and there, but I can't find her on the Web.

This is a note from Virginia Kantra, who should know a little something about writing:

"...I have a little mantra:
"If she can think it, she can say it.
"It's better if she says it to the hero.
"It's best if they fight about it."

What is it about this situation/character that draws me in? Your primary goal in writing is to get your reader deeply within your story and keep them there. If they care about what's going on, they'll remain.

is more important than

Oh, how I love showing process! Such a bad habit.

something readers can relate to

It's all about keeping them in the story.

And some words of general wisdom and encouragement:

From Calvin Coolidge:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

From Marianne Williamson:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Whew. I feel like going back to writing now. But first I want to know:

What's on your wall? What do you keep around yourself to keep you on track and motivate you?


Beth Caudill said...

On the bulletin board to my left, I have a list of 1000 action verbs, different listings of plot points and arc styles because each story is different, lists of character archetypes - darn those characters being drama queen stars -, WRITE WRITE WRITE, and the 12 stages of Intimacy (Linda Howard fame)

In front of me I have my 2012 Goals of self publishing 7 short stories and novellas this year.

We'll see if it works.

Carol A. Strickland said...

Oh, yes, the archetypes! I have the book in the bookcase to my left. The Linda Howard thing is a great one. I re-listen to that tape now and then and each time think, "I should write this down." ( A list of goals is always great. I have my 2012 goals on the front door where I can face them each morning as I go out into the world.