What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Comments

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing Blog: Utah Children's Writers, Most Recent at Top
Results 1 - 25 of 782
Visit This Blog | Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Blog Banner
A group of talented authors from Utah who aim to enrich the lives of children everywhere through our writing.
Statistics for Utah Children's Writers

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 5
1. Finish your novel

Have you got a NaNoWriMo project mostly done and need a kick in the pants to complete it? Me, too. Brian A. Klems from the Writer’s Digest blog reposted an article that addresses that. Called “5 Things to Stop Doing (If You Really want to Finish Your Novel),” it hits on some of the things distressing me that may be affecting you.

The first is to quit with the excuses. Too busy, kids too demanding, the house needs cleaning, the muse is away, need to research more, Facebook is too accessible, don’t have ideas, too tired, my writing sucks, all the good stories have already been written, too stressed, not much money in it, I’ll write later, too distracted, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Sure, life gets busy, at times more so than at others. But as Klems says, writing goals “don’t die on their own. We suffocate them.”

Stop trying. Just write. Sometimes we try too hard. The best thing to do is back off and don’t think about it so much.

Shut out the internal editor. Man, that thing can be demanding. I seem more able to keep him quiet during NaNoWriMo. For the other eleven months of the year, I’m stymied by the inner critic. Especially for a first draft, just slap it down and know that the self-editor, like a player on the sidelines saying, “Put me in, coach,” will be back in the game. 

Klems’ next tip is don’t overdose on caffeine. Maybe not a problem in Utah, so we’ll leave it at that. 

Lastly, stop thinking writing should be easier. It is what it is - sometimes a breeze, sometimes a gale. If you expect it to be work, then you’ll be delighted when it is not. 

So, go out and finish that novel.


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

0 Comments on Finish your novel as of 1/24/2015 11:15:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. Slogging Through the Bog of Historical Research

If, like mine, your stories often require historical research, then you have no doubt run into some common problems:

  • How do you tear yourself away from the fascinating research and actually start writing?
  • What do you keep and what do you leave out?
  • How authentic do you need to be?
 How do you tear yourself away from the fascinating research and actually start writing?

This is a serious problem for me. I love doing research. One reason I choose to write about a particular period is that it fascinates me. I want to learn more about that time and what it would have been like to live then, and find stories that support my own quest to learn.

Writers find all kinds of ways to avoid writing, and none are more convenient that research. If I am researching, I am engaging in an important part of the writing process. So, I convince myself, as long as I am researching, I am spending my writing time wisely. After all, everything I learn will make my story more authentic, right? Well, not exactly. I mean, yeah, I guess, but the story will not be authentic if it is never written.

There's another  problem with research besides taking up all of the time and being addictive: Too much information can be paralyzing. I'm dealing with that now (again). I have so many interesting people and events that I want to include, that I feel absolutely have to be in my story, that I'm having troube writing. Sure, I've written about 40,000 words, but it's a mess. And it's hard to continue because I'm trying to figure out how to make it work with all this great material.

Obviously, something has to be done. I've been through this before with other novels and a couple short stories, but it doesn't make it any easier. I have to decide what is really important.

What do you keep, and what do you leave out?

The easy answer here is, keep only what really applies to the story and leave everything else out.

Only, of course, it's not really that easy. As you research, you make note of all these cool things that can enhance your story, so leaving any of that out will make the story weaker, or at least different than what you had planned. The last part of the previous sentence is actually true, but the first half likely isn't.

Stories are about characters, and your main story is about your main character. So you have to figure out what that character's real story is. Not the plot, but his growth or failure as a person. What is he trying to do? Who gets in his way? How does opposition and conflict affect him?

Once you've answered those questions, use the answers to determine which historical events and people actually contribute to that story. If your story is based around real people, and not fictional people in a past world, you can choose only stuff that was true to what that character faced. But even then, you have to choose. You can't include everything you know, just because it's true, or you'll have an unwieldly, messy story. You have to choose what really applies to the story, the real story about the character.

It's a little tougher if you're writing about fictional characters in a real time and place, because the history itself doesn't create limits to help guide you. But the same basic principle is true. Everything you include in the story needs to help tell the character's story. Adding color is OK, but that color has to mean something to your characters. And too much color might show your dazzling knowledge of the time and place, but it also distracts the readers from what is really important, and that's your character. (By the way, this applies equally well to fictional world building. Show off your world building skills, but make sure the story remains about your characters, not the world you created for them.)

You want to leave enough color to create a vivid impression of the time and place. After all, as I wrote in a previous post, your setting is a character too, and affects your character like any other fellow character would. But that doesn't mean you keep everything in. You want to create an authentic world for your people to move around in, but you don't want the world to overshadow the characters.

How authentic do you need to be?

We've all read historical books about a period we know something about and come away dissatisfied. No, 7th Century medieval knights did not wear 16th Century plate armor. No, Vikings did not storm huge stone castles when they started to invade Europe. Yes, they have earthquakes in California, but no, a strike/slip fault like most of the ones in California does not affect the ground the way a thrust fault does.

If you really care about the history in your story and are not simply creating an imaginary period background for readers who probably won't know the difference anyway (as is common in romances and medieval fantasies), you want to make sure that you are authentic enough that you don't undermine your story by including incorrect facts and unlikely scenarios for the period.

The good news is, really, the less you try to show off your knowledge, the less likely you are to offend the sensibilities of people who know more than you do or, as is very often the case, simply think they do when they are wrong.

You want the flavor of the time, including maybe some key events (as long as they affect your character's story) and a good sense of what people were thinking about in those days. You want enough to make it feel real. But you really don't need that much. Historians always want more, but readers want to feel like they spent time in the period while enjoying the character's story. I like my chili extremely spicy, but that doesn't mean I cook it that way for my family. They love chili, but their expectations are different than those of a chile-head.

Every bit of seasoning you include in your story needs to be authentic and contribute to the enhancement of the period's importance to your story. But a little seasoning goes a long way.

So does that mean all that research time was wasted? Not at all. The better you understand the period, the better you are able to mix the right blend of spices.

So what's a poor writer to do?

When it comes down to it, if you don't want to leave something out in your first draft, then include it. When you take it out later, some of the flavor will remain behind. Just know that your first draft will be especially messy. But they always are.

There will inevitably be places in your final draft where you look back and think that you wish you could have left that really cool scene in there, and somewhere in your mind you might actually believe the book is weaker without it. Chances are, though, that you'll realize that the story is better, flows better, without the intrusion of the coolest stuff you know.

Historical writers have an awful lot of darlings to kill.

The good news is, you know that scene you took out with the really interesting facts about that 3rd Century political assassination? That just might be your next book.




0 Comments on Slogging Through the Bog of Historical Research as of 1/21/2015 5:01:00 PM
Add a Comment
3. Beta Readers

So, I’ve moved on to the beta readers stage with my novel. I’ve never gotten to this stage before. I’ve never had anyone read a completed novel of mine that wasn’t a friend or family member—aka someone who wasn’t subjective.
This time around, I asked on the Facebook page of the writers’ group I’m in if anyone was willing to read my finished manuscript, and I got three people who expressed a willingness. I had never met any of these three people before. One of them finished the whole thing in one night! She’s got to be one of those people who reads a book a day or something. She was so positive in her feedback. A second girl I sent it to hasn’t finished it yet, but also told me she was enjoying it so far.
I’m trying really hard not to get too excited here. I know my manuscript still needs a ton of work, but it’s so great to get positive feedback from people I don’t know. I know it’s not that they like me, but they actually like the story and characters I created on the page. This is my first taste of what it actually might be like to be an author, and it’s so exciting.
I know, it’s just two people. I’m trying to stay calm, I am. I need to make sure I’m still super open to inevitable criticism and emotionally ready to make all the edits that still need to be made.

And if anyone is willing to read and critique my full manuscript, let me know!

0 Comments on Beta Readers as of 1/20/2015 2:59:00 PM
Add a Comment
4. Flaws

We’ve all got them. Your characters should have some, too.

Many craft experts agree. Writing characters with flaws makes them believable and real, more complex. Who is more interesting, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo?

If you buy into the notion, an invaluable tool to add to your library is Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s The Negative Traits Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. Ackerman and Puglisi spend about a third of the book rationalizing character flaws and the remainder examining more than a hundred specific flaws. You have the biggies like manipulative, evil, controlling, dishonest, and jealous. There are other more subtle flaws such as impulsive, pessimistic, verbose, and apathetic.

Flaws provide excellent fodder for building character arcs. These faults and weaknesses can not only block the main character from reaching her goal, but hinder her. Recognizing the flaw then overcoming it entails the MC’s inner journey.

As the title suggests, this is a writer’s guide. Ackerman and Puglisi address character flaws in a manner useable to authors. In addition to defining the flaw and listing associated behaviors, they suggest possible causes for the imperfection - backstory for your character that you the author to need to understand but does not necessarily have to be shared with the reader. They offer suggestions on what the MC needs to do to overcome her flaw and traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict. Examples of characters from literature and film illustrate each flaw.

Recently The Negative Traits Thesaurus was used to flesh out one of my characters. The guy has several things going against him. He is abrasive, aloof, disrespectful, and volatile. He is slight of stature and fears being perceived as feminine. After considering the alternatives, macho is the flaw that fits him best with his role in the story. Some associated behaviors of macho include, aggression, bullying, competitiveness, getting into fights, and using anger or rage to express uncomfortable emotions. Other story ideas came out by examining this flaw. Macho people are prone to proud belching and spitting. I like to give my characters defining behaviors to help distinguish them from others and there it is for this guy.

Jeff Gerke says, “a character who is ripe for an inner journey is a character who has something inside her that needs to be changed. She’s living out of balance with herself, even if she doesn’t realize it. And the universe is going to conspire to rectify her situation.” 

Give the hero the perfect imperfection and you have the makings of a character arc. The Negative Traits Thesaurus can help nail the flaw.


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

0 Comments on Flaws as of 1/17/2015 8:39:00 PM
Add a Comment
5. Try, Try Again

So this week I sent out six new agent queries. I'll do more next week; it takes a lot of time to explore agents and pick those who you think will connect with your writing. I feel good about it, even though statistically speaking I likely won't end up with any of them as my agent. I am pretty sure I'm not the only one who gets frustrated by this merry-go-round of submissions and rejections. Why do we keep doing it?

I'll tell you why I keep doing it. I am not interested in self publishing. I have nothing against it, per se. It gains more and more credibility every year as a viable path. But I want to write. I don't want to negotiate contracts, pay for my books to be printed, market all by myself. I just want to write my books. So I keep doing it. (I will say that most of the self-pubbed books I've read have not been of the same caliber as traditionally pubbed books. This isn't to say it's not possible, but traditional publishers have teams of people who work on your book. It's bound to improve the quality of the thing. I should also add that I edit for self-publishing authors, and I think those who hire an editor end up with a much better book.)

I have several friends who were almost at the end of their proverbial ropes when they finally signed with an agent and sold one or more books to traditional publishers. Their stories lift my spirits when I want to give up.

Here are a few of things I've learned over my many long years of writing, submitting, being rejected, and trying again.

1. If the same work keeps getting rejected, maybe it's time to set it aside and work on something new. I know for a fact that each book I write is better than the last. And every time, I think this one is it, until it's not. Each one teaches me something I didn't understand before. So don't put all your eggs in that one basket.

2. I am confident that I am a good writer. Maybe even a great writer. I know this because I go to a lot of workshops, conferences, retreats, and critique groups with professionals, and they tell me this. Also because I've been practicing for a very long time. Also because I read by the ton, and I know what's out there. Also, because I have no ego left, so I can assess my own writing in a fairly unbiased way.

3. It's a good thing that some of the agents and editors I've submitted to have rejected me. As mentioned, I been in this rodeo quite a long time, and I've seen the big stall that can happen to a writer with an agent who isn't right for them. Inevitably, that partnership ends, and one has to start all over. As I have gotten to know some of the agents I once thought would be perfect for me, I cry happy tears that they didn't sign me.

4. Agents are just people. Very fallible people. Very nice people. Professional people. But there is nothing to be afraid of. I have given up the role of sweet little author who needs the help of an agent (if that ever was me), and I have started being completely myself when I query and submit. I tell people straight out what I want, what I'm willing to do, and what my vision for a particular book is. I am too old to tiptoe around, hoping my good behavior will get me in the door. You know that saying about well behaved women rarely making history? That.

5. Even when nothing happens, something is happening. I spent the last year hoping to nail down a particular agent. She asked for fulls of two manuscripts, read them, sent back copious editorial notes. I spent two months revising one manuscript per her notes, resubmitted at her request, and waited. For six months. Nothing. All my writing friends said to move on, which I am doing. But that was a good experience, because it gave me more confidence, revision notes to work with, and some good revisions came out of it.

6. Never, ever sit around and wait for that reply. Be working on new things and revising old things and researching and everything else. It gives me so much energy to be working on the next, new, shiny manuscript that I can forget there is ever one making the rounds out there. It keeps me from obsessing or worrying. It keeps me moving forward and writing better books.

I wish us all the best luck this year in achieving our writing and publishing dreams.




0 Comments on Try, Try Again as of 1/15/2015 8:09:00 PM
Add a Comment
6. The Mobile Author: Taking Scrivener on the Road

Many of you use Scrivener as your primary writing tool. Turns out, Scrivener works pretty well for the mobile author.

You can, of course, install it on a laptop and take that with you. But what if you want to travel light, or what if you think of a change you want to make and all you have with you is your phone or tablet? You can still edit your Scrivener files.

All you need is a portable device, an app that reads RTF files (most office suite apps do), and an account on a cloud storage site, such as Dropbox.

When you set up your project in Scrivener, set it up to save to a folder in Dropbox. This is a good idea anyway, even if you don't plan to use a tablet to write. If you save to Dropbox or a similar service, you do not have to worry about a sudden disk crash erasing your files. They are on the web. It also makes it easier to sync your files between your desktop and laptop computers, or work and home, or wherever you have Scrivener installed. But it's also nice if you have a smaller portable device.

To edit on your tablet, all you have to do is download the file from Dropbox and open it in the editor on your tablet. Be aware that the files won't have the nice names you set up. Scrivener stores its files as numbered rtf files, such as 18.rtf. Just edit your file, save it back to Dropbox, and next time you start Scrivener, your changes will be there. This works for your documents and your project notes.

Of course, it would be nice to have your full Scrivener set up on the tablet, but you can't do that yet, exactly. Unless you have a Surface or other device that can run Windows programs, and you have the Windows version of Scrivener. You can, however, use Google Remote Desktop (finally released for iOS just this week) to control your computer from you tablet. It's a little awkward and takes some getting used to, especially if you don't use a mouse, but it works. That's beyond the scope of this post, though.

The main thing is, you can easily edit your Scrivener files remotely. So if you are out and about and have the sudden urge to tweak a file, all you need is an Internet connection and the setup I described. It's kind of cool.

0 Comments on The Mobile Author: Taking Scrivener on the Road as of 1/14/2015 9:04:00 AM
Add a Comment
7. Get your WIFYR on

First, I must confess a shameless partiality toward Carol Lynch William’s WIFYR conference. Pronounced, wiff-er or wife-er, it is coming in June. It’s time to get your WIFYR on.

The assistants met today to plan. It felt good to be back with a community of writers. That is what the conference is about, coming out of our solitary endeavors and sharing with like-minded others. No matter your level of skill or where you are along the spectrum, there are others cheering for you and helping you improve your writing. The draw is the the collegiality, the chance to mingle with other writers.

The WIFYR site is almost up. Technicals issues, you know how they go. The authors include: Dean Hughes,  Dave Farland, Kathi Appelt, Dan Wells, Julie Berry (whom I’m assisting for), Lisa Mangum, Jennifer Adams, Ann Cannon (whom I’ve assisted for previously and can attest is a kind heart and an entertaining writer. And of course, Carol.

You should consider joining WIFYR this year. It will do you and your writing good. All the local conferences - LTUE, LDStorymakers, League of Utah Writers - have a community of writers in common. It is inspiring to being in their midst. WIFYR offers five intensive days of it. The level of commitment varies with each writer depending on cost, time, and other commitments. There are less expensive options for just the afternoon sessions or one of the daily mini-workshops. But I say take a big bite of the whole thing. The morning workshops is where real writing takes place. Knowledgeable, published authors pour over your manuscript and offer suggestions. Ten or twelve of your new best friends, in a gentle and caring manner, look at each other’s stories try to make them all better it. Bang for buck, there is no better deal than this conference.

The most important reason to should consider WIFYR this year is you’ll love yourself for it. You’ll  grow as a writer. Your manuscript needs this make-over. 

0 Comments on Get your WIFYR on as of 1/11/2015 3:50:00 AM
Add a Comment
8. Choose-your-own-adventure tip

The virtues of plotting become more evident for me every day. Gone are the days of winging it and seeing where the story takes itself. Hours are no longer wasted writing in circles. Not just for the story’s big picture, but short scenes writes smoother with a bit of planning ahead. 

The sweet thing about it, even with carefully calculated scenes, surprises still pop up. There you are, typing along, fleshing out the scene as imagined when a fantastic Plan B presents itself and demands to be heard.

I wish I knew who to credit for this idea, but during the recent NaNoWriMo, someone suggested a way to take advantage of diversions in the intended story. When new ideas pop, they said to do a choose-your-own-adventure number on them. 

Remember those books a few years back? Right as the action of the story would heat up and a decision had to be made, the author would stop and say something like what should heroine do now. If she should go into the mine shaft, turn to page 49. If you want her to continue climbing the mountain, go to page 54. The story moved in various ways, depending on which choice the reader made. Elementary grade readers loved them. They were great read-aloud books. My students would vote to go to page 49, then we would try page 54.

(I wasn’t a writer back then, but would love to get my hands on one and see how the author carried the final storyline.)

The point is, when faced with a dilemma in our stories, we can explore various alternatives in a similar fashion. During NaNo, when time was a premium, I found a way to do that, all along adding to the word count and keeping the momentum of the writing going.

When a new idea came up, I would change my font color to red and write: Choose your own adventure and make myself a note explaining the idea. Then I would type CYOA1: heroine goes into mine shaft and finds the missing child. I would switch back to black font and write the scene in that direction. Once that possibility was exhausted, I would switch to red font, write CYOA2: heroine climbs mountain and finds the missing child up the trail, then switch back to black and write the scene from that perspective. 

Silly, I know. But it worked. The story continued to advance without a stoppage or the story skipping a beat. Of course, that is added effort during the revision phase. But at least there is more time now to explore those alternatives and see which serves the story best.

It’s still working. While stuck the other day on another story, I changed to red font and explored the options.

0 Comments on Choose-your-own-adventure tip as of 1/7/2015 5:55:00 AM
Add a Comment
9. New Year's non-Resolutions

I am not a New Year's Resolution type of person. I'm not much of a goal setter, either. Everyone says to make your goals precise and reachable, but when I've done this, I inevitably fail, and then feel like a failure. I don't think that's the point of setting goals, or making resolutions, so I gave up on that. Besides, I'm not a super organized person, so making a resolution in my mind often means I can't even remember it next month, Even if I write it down, I find that I easily forget it. And if I do manage to remember it, by the time I do, the goal has often been revised or circumstances have changed in such a way that the goal no longer even applies.

Here's an analogy from yoga class. Often, the yoga teacher will have each person silently set an intention for the class session that day as we let go of the rest of the world to focus on yoga for this one hour. Usually my intention is something along the lines of "I just want to make it through the class." While I love yoga, it does push my physical limits sometimes, especially when balance or strength are elements of the pose, so sometimes getting through it is all I can hope for.

I feel the same way about life sometimes. Just getting through the day ahead--or the week, month, etc.--is my best goal.

So, I don't do resolutions.

However, my friend and fellow writer, Joanna Marple, wrote this blog post the other day, and it really spoke to me. Instead of resolutions, she suggests we choose a word that we wish to be the focus and intention for the coming year. Hers is serendipity.

I can get behind this kind of thinking. I chose the word EXPAND. In all areas of my life--work, friends, writing, music, travel, cooking, all of it--I can focus on expanding my horizons, increasing the number of new experiences, looking at things in new ways. It makes me think of expanding my mind by reading, listening, and learning. Expanding my circle of people, especially writing people.

This isn't a goal or resolution I can fail at. I can expand my life in so many ways that every day provides opportunities. Maybe it's just a mindset or a mind game, but this feels so much more useful than resolution making. So I'm on it.

If you'd like to join in, feel free to comment with your word and what it means to you. Otherwise, just keep on writing, which is what I'm going to do.

0 Comments on New Year's non-Resolutions as of 1/6/2015 10:19:00 AM
Add a Comment
10. The Forgotten Character

When thinking about characters, we always think the protagonist and antagonist, love interests, sidekicks, and other people who play major or minor roles in our story. We seldom think of the forgotten character: setting.

We think about setting in other ways. We consider the place and time as part of the framework of our stories. But a good setting does more than provide a stage where the story takes place. A good setting affects the story in all the ways a character does by providing conflict, plot elements, and all the emotions that accompany a relationship.

People react to our surroundings in complex ways, just like we do our personal relationships. We feel differently about the town where we grew up than we do about the places where we live later. And those who moved around a lot, for example in a military family, are affected by the lack of a real home town as much as the lack of a long-term childhood best friend.

A story set in say, Chicago, is going to be different than the same story set in Miami. The main plot points may be identical, but the landscape, the attitudes, the priorities, and the weather are different. All of those differences affect the human characters in the story.

The same is true of time. San Franciscans reacted to their surrounding differently in years just before the 1906 earthquake and fires than they did during the dot com boom or at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

All of this holds true as well in fictional worlds. The hobbits of The Shire are not the same as the hobbits of Bree. They have different concerns and are affected by their environments in very different ways.

When setting your story, think about how the time and location affect your character. It's one thing to to mention landmarks and other elements that set up the location. Those are very important. But equally important, and maybe more important, are the ways your character interacts with the other influences of a location. Research (or create) the outer elements of the location, but also look at the inner workings. What do the people think about? How do local politics and trends affect the way people live? How does a city's history affect the attitudes of its current residents? How does your main character react to his surroundings? Is your character a local who shares the inner feelings spawned by the place, or an outsider who finds the town foreign and has to deal with the shock of a different culture, or a newcomer who wants to fit in but has to fight the conflicting ideals of where he is from and his new town?

Treat time the same way, and consider not only the timepoint of the actual story but the time when the human characters were raised. Consider generational differences in attitudes, speech, and ideals and the problems that arise when those differences conflict with the human character's sense of self and how he fits in with the world.

Where we are, and when, are among the most powerful influences that tug at as as real people. The same is true of the people in your fictional worlds. As a result, time and place affect the emotional stories of your human characters as well as the external plots.

Setting is more than the stage. It's a real, breathing, living character that pervades every aspect of your story.

0 Comments on The Forgotten Character as of 1/4/2015 5:57:00 AM
Add a Comment
11. Revision tips

It’s been about a month now since NaNoWriMo. Perhaps it is time to drag out that November endeavor and see what can become of it.

A recent article by Allen Eskens addressed revision. In 3 Tips For a Better First Revision he says the first revision is probably the most important factor in sculpting your novel. One of his favorite quotes on the idea is by Shannon Hale who wrote: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” Eskens says the first revision is the building of those sand castles. Though there are numerous tips to a successful rewrite, his three to make a novel better are: conflict check, transitions, and the “was” edit.

Conflict Check:
As Terry Pratchett says, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story,” so it is centered on getting the main storyline established. Eskens says that Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that every character in a scene should want something, even if it’s only a drink of water. In his second pass, Eskens asks what does every character in each scene want, and what obstacles are standing in his or her way, trying to add suspense. Rarely does a first draft take advantage of all the opportunities for tension and conflict. They can be added in the revision.

Transitions:
Quite often in the first draft we may tend to jump abruptly from one plot point to the next. Eskens says transitions should be eloquent and have wait on their own, not just move the reader from one scene to the next. He compares reading a novel to kayaking a river, sometimes shooting through rapids, bound up in the excitement of the action. At other times, one floats peacefully, admiring the landscape. “The pace of a novel is the balance between those two competing forces (between plot and scene),” says Eskens. If your transition floats, maybe you can go off on tangents that deepens characters or enriches the scenes. If you’re shooting through the rapids, the transition will be shorter. 

The “Was” Edit:
I’m guilty of including passive language and probably nowhere as much as in my first drafts. Esken uses a word find function to look for instances when he’s used “was,” then tries to find a way to rewrite the sentence to make it stronger. “He was taller than me,” may be revised to say “he stood three inches taller than me.” Other times, “was” may work just fine, but at least the “was” edit forces one to examine their word choices.

If you’re ready to dust off an old first draft and start revising, incorporating these tips may be of use.

0 Comments on Revision tips as of 12/31/2014 5:41:00 AM
Add a Comment
12. It's Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve, and I wish each of a very Merry Christmas. May you have a wonderful holiday with your family, a day filled with love and happy memories of those who can no longer share the day with you.

And, if Christmas means extra time off work, may you find some good writing time!

0 Comments on It's Christmas Eve as of 12/28/2014 5:50:00 AM
Add a Comment
13. Merry Christmas

This bears repeating. A Canadian airlines, JetBlue, went out of their way to spread the joy of the season.


JetBlue did it again this year for a Dominican Republic community.



Merry Christmas to all and to all a good write.

0 Comments on Merry Christmas as of 12/24/2014 7:10:00 AM
Add a Comment
14. Random, Possibly Helpful, Thoughts

One of the problems with regular blogging is that you sometimes feel like every single post should be breathtaking, new, insightful, and most of all exciting. But, truly, none of us has anything new or exciting to say. Maybe different ways to say the same thing. Or new-to-us insights into the same old material. Disclaimer: this is one of those mundane posts that may not have anything new to say, but perhaps it at least offers a new twist on the same old stuff.

Random Thought #1: Strategies for first draft writing come in all different sizes. Some like outlines, some prefer complete plot diagrams, some are pantsers (writing by the seat of your pants). I'm usually a pantser. I frequently know where I'm starting and where I'd like to end up, and maybe a few scenes in the middle, but beyond that, my first drafts are where I discover how I'm going to get from start to finish. I have a lot of fun with rough drafts, even though it's agonizing to create something out of nothing. Here's one thing I've discovered that helps me keep the momentum going--I stop writing before the scene or chapter is over. I send the character into the midst of the problem of the moment, build the tension, and then leave the character there while I go make dinner or whatever. A lot of my writing takes place in the synapses of my brain while I'm doing other stuff, so I let the character be in trouble for a day or two or three and when I come back to the writing, often the character has figured out a great maneuver or solution. I can write that scene, which moves me into the next one, and then I leave the character hanging off the edge of the cliff for a while again.

Random Thought #2: Things not to say to writers. Most of you reading this are writers, so if you'd like to cut and paste this section into an email to all your family and friends, you have my blessing.

  • "That's cute." No, cute isn't what I was going for. I don't do cute. So "cute" to me just means you're not getting what I'm writing. Or else you're illiterate and have no idea what you read. Or maybe you didn't really read it at all. Typically for me, the people who describe what I've written as cute are, in this order: 1) my mother, and 2) any of my mother's friends. So I don't show them my writing anymore. It is now my policy that anyone who calls my writing "cute" will never again have the privilege of reading it. 
  • "How's your great American novel coming?" I hate this for several reasons. First, it implies that I am ignorant of the publishing industry and I think my novel is the ONE and ONLY important piece of literature of my age. Second, it assumes that I have only one novel in me, ignoring the many others I have already written. Also, it suggests that I'm never really going to finish this thing (despite the fact that I have already completed others), because I'm not really working at it, nor do I really have any serious intent of writing professionally. 
  • "I like it." Okay, I know, we all like to hear this--once the thing is published and public. But until then, if I'm sharing my writing with you, it's because I want your feedback, your critique. When you have nothing useful to say, I know you aren't a helpful critiquer, which means, again, that I probably won't be sharing with you anymore. I need critique, by golly, not admiration. I'll call you when the book is for sale, since I know you'll "like it."
Random Thought #3: Why do others want characters to act consistently? People aren't consistent, are we? Nobody I know is consistent. Sure, someone might highly value honesty, say, but they sometimes fudge the truth or tell a "white lie," rationalizing it by saying it spares the feelings of others. I know some people who are definitely one persona when out in public and quite another when they're at home. I think the secret of writing characters who aren't consistent is to make sure the inconsistency doesn't appear just at the moment of highest tension or just jump up when it suits the situation. You have to build the character's inconsistency into the persona and voice of that character from the beginning of the book, so that when the moment comes for that inconsistency to rear its ugly head, it is not a surprise to the reader. Plus, most of us here are children's writers, and kids are constantly changing--sometimes for the better, but not always. So the characters in kid lit should be, I think, inconsistent too. It's a way for them to learn about themselves, see ways that the characters grow, and contemplate their own path. 

There you have it--all the wisdom floating around in my brain today. Well, I do have lots of other wisdom about all kinds of other things, but I don't think you want to here that right now. 

by Neysa CM Jensen
up in Boise, Idaho

0 Comments on Random, Possibly Helpful, Thoughts as of 12/22/2014 10:56:00 PM
Add a Comment
15. What Makes Your Sidekick Interesting?

Recently, I've posted about how to make your protagonist and antagonist interesting. Today I'm going to write about a character who never gets as much attention as those two, the sidekick.

First of all, your story might have multiple sidekicks. Both the antagonist and the protagonist might have a sidekick, and they might even have a different sidekick in different scenes. I'm going to focus on the hero's sidekick, his bestie, but what I say applies just as much to other sidekicks.

Have you ever read a story where the sidekick is just an extension of the hero, a helper character who sees the world in much the same way as the protagonist? Of course you have. It happens a lot. But to write a sidekick that way is to rob a ton of potential from the story.

A sidekick, like the protagonist and the antagonist, is her own person. Like all people, she has her own objectives and perspectives. She might be helping the protagonist win the day, but she's doing it for her own reasons. Sure, a big part of it might be loyalty to her best friend, but that loyalty only goes so far. As a person with her own views and needs and wants, she does everything to further her own agenda. Remember, every character has an agenda, and those agendas create conflict.

Just because two characters are best friends and are helping each other doesn't mean they always agree. The best sidekicks are an additional source of conflict. Think of Frodo and Sam, two characters whose affection for each other is almost sickening. They both want to get to Mt. Doom at all costs. And yet, there's conflict between them. As Frodo sinks into ring-induced paranoia, he no longer trusts Sam, and this causes trouble and, more importantly, enhances the plot.

The same is true of Luke and Leia, Harriet and Sport, and many other characters. In fact, the sidekick often seems much like another antagonist.

The sidekick provides help and shows the protagonist other ways of thinking, but at the same time, the relationship is often strained by conflicting goals and differing views. In many stories, the protagonist and sidekick aren't even friends. They might not even like each other. They might be reluctantly traveling the same road.

Remember, stories depend on conflict. There shouldn't be anything in the story, including your hero's sidekick, that does not add more conflict and peril. There is probably no other character who gives you more opportunity to add emotion and heartbreak as the sidekick.

As the hero's life goes out of control, she needs to be steadied by her sidekick. But the sidekick has his own ideas, and is sometimes unable to offer the support. He might even oppose the hero's goals and actions. Best friends, siblings, and spouses all oppose each other sometimes.

One of the most important things to remember as you write is that every character is a person, and every person has his or her own story. That the stories intersect in the one you are telling doesn't mean their individual paths are any less distinct. This is true whether characters appear to ultimately be on the same side or not.

0 Comments on What Makes Your Sidekick Interesting? as of 12/17/2014 10:40:00 AM
Add a Comment
16. Writers' Conferences

Writers' conferences are so valuable. Some of the best Utah Valley ones are coming up in the next several months.
I just finished registering for the LDS Storymakers conference that’s going to be in Provo in May. I entered the drawing for a manuscript consultation with an editor, kind of assuming there was no way I would get it since I never “win” anything. To my surprise, I found out this weekend that I did get lucky this time, and I need to have 10 pages of my newly-finished manuscript perfectly polished by the beginning of March so that an editor from a publishing company can look it over and critique it.
Ensue panic.
Probably I should do my best to have my whole manuscript polished by May just for the tiny chance this editor will ask to see it. This doesn’t help my panic.
But in the end, this will be great because it forces me to really get my MS edited and consult with the experts that are available to me and force down my pride and my fear and fix those dang things that need fixing.
The value of writers' conferences in general is often that they kick me back into gear. When I’m feeling myself in a lull or when I’m even a little bit ready to just give up, writers' conferences get me excited again. In this case, it’s even giving me a deadline to work for with my manuscript. That alone will be so helpful.

So, I’m excited. This writers' conference is already doing its thing. 

0 Comments on Writers' Conferences as of 12/16/2014 3:50:00 PM
Add a Comment
17. Fried

During the month of November, I was a writing fool. For the last two weeks, there’s been a rebellion.

It was an exciting month, watching a story develop under my fingers on the keyboard. If I had a solid direction for where the story was going, I could put down 600-800 words per hour and could find three or more hours a day to write. The month ended before the story did, and after 50,000 words had been reached. So exciting was this story, I figured another week or two was all it would take to finish.

Then December hit. Admittedly, there were a few items around the house, neglected for thirty days, that needed attention. People included. Yet for some reason I seem to be fighting myself to get back into writing. It’s not writer’s block or anything. It is more like writer’s enough-is-enough, or writer’s take-a-break. 

It is worrisome to me, this lack of motivation. I had a coupe of stories in various stages and with NaNo, now there’s one more. I almost skipped the November writing marathon, just to keep moving on the other two projects. I even found a writing craft book on characterization last month that I became excited about. Now none of them holds my enthusiasm.

I think we writers need to back off every once in a while. I’m trying to give myself permission to let up and take a break, but it is hard.

On the other hand, Carol Lynch Williams talks about acting like a writer, and writers write. Thus to act like a writer, one should plant themselves down at a computer and plunk out words.

So easy to say. Sometimes so hard to do.


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

0 Comments on Fried as of 12/13/2014 9:44:00 AM
Add a Comment
18. Description is also Voice

By Julie Daines

I keep hearing people talk about descriptive narrative as though it's something different from internal dialogue. I suppose if you're writing some kind of literary fiction from an omniscient POV, it might be. But for the most part--especially in children's and YA fiction--it is the same thing.

Interiority and description are the same. It's all in the POV voice. It's all about what the POV character is thinking. Sometimes they're thinking about their feelings and motivations, sometimes they're thinking about what they're seeing/hearing etc.

All of it needs to be written from the mindset of the POV character.

Remember this poem by Wordsworth?

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;

This is good practice to think about description in your own writing. Imagine a huge field of daffodils. Now ask yourself, how would a lonely or depressed person see that field verses an angry person, a betrayed person, or a happy-go-lucky person. Then write the description through their eyes and in their voice.

It's easy to try too hard to write a snarky narrative voice, but then when it comes time for description, wax into an eloquent Dickensesque voice. 

It should be all the same voice. 

All writers struggle with this, so practice and always keep it in mind.

0 Comments on Description is also Voice as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
19. Gifts I Want

It's that time of year when everyone everywhere has a list of gifts for your favorite mom, or golfer, or skier. So here's my list of gifts for writers and readers. Mostly these are things I personally want or like to have, so it's pretty self indulgent. I'm sure you can add items to the list.

I'd like to preface my list with this statement: I am all about gifts of experiences or things that can be used up, consumed. I don't need more stuff in my life, but I do want more life in my life.

1. SCBWI membership for your favorite aspiring/published/nationally known children's author or illustrator. Many of us on this blog are SCBWI members, and I'd just like to throw out a couple of wonderful benefits of this membership. First, it's the world's largest and most respected professional organization for children's publishing. It's important to your career to belong to the professional organization for your industry. We have great programs, great publications, resources of all kinds, networking, critiquing, and conferences. You'll make contacts with editors and agents, fellow authors, and learn from the best.

2. Audio books. Personally, I have never outgrown my love of being read aloud to. My mom hooked me early on, and my fourth grade teacher read to us every day after lunch. My husband reads to me every night before bed. When I was in the hospital once, he read me Beatrix Potter stories. Audio books are perfect for car trips, subway rides, plane travel, or just doing the dishes. I have an app on my phone, so I can take my audio books anywhere I go. And when the hubby is out of town, I let my audio book read to me before bed.

3. This one is sort of obvious. Gift cards to bookstores. One of the highlights of our Christmas celebrations is going to the bookstore after Christmas and using our gift cards. I prefer indie bookstores.

4. Send your favorite author/illustrator to a conference. There are dozens of workshops and events close by, or if you want to splurge, send them somewhere like Highlights workshops or Big Sur. Of course, SCBWI conferences are awesome, and there are many. The big ones in LA and NYC every year, as well as regional conferences all across the U.S. and around the world. Go to http://www.scbwi.org/events-home/ to check out all the possibilities. Conferences are invaluable investments in perfecting one's craft and meeting people in the industry.

5. Pens and paper. Yes, I know it's the age of the computer and other electronics, but I have yet to find an author or illustrator who doesn't use the old-fashioned method once in a while. I keep a notebook with me wherever I go to jot down ideas, images, resources, etc. I used to write out all my first drafts in longhand, and even now that I've trained myself to write at the computer, I still occasionally like to write a chapter on paper. It uses a different portion of the brain. If you don't know what your author friend likes, a gift card to an office supply store is also a good bet.

6. Chocolate. I don't think this needs any explanation, except that I prefer the highest quality dark chocolate available.

7. Coffee. See #6.

8. Time. Writers need time. Life is busy and there are a million other things demanding our attention. Give your writer the gift of time. A weekend at a cabin. A babysitter once  a week. An offer to do the dishes every night (or insert appropriate chore here) while he/she writes. A nudge to attend a critique group.

9. Buy your writer/illustrator a critique with an editor/agent through one of the conferences in our area. Learning what professionals see in your writing is so important and valuable.

10. A puppy. So this is personal, but I have to include it. My dogs are always by my side when I'm writing. I have two of them. But I've been asking for a golden retriever for almost a year, and if anyone who loves me wants to buy me one, that would be the best gift. Pets comfort you when the writing isn't going well. They encourage you to get out for a walk when your butt has gone numb from the butt-in-chair work ethic. They are also characters in many children's books. There's a reason for that.

There you have it. A complete guide for gift-giving for the writer. Print it out and give it to your family, or use it to thoughtfully gift your writerly friends. Or hound my hubby about giving me a puppy.


by Neysa CM Jensen
up in Boise, Idaho

0 Comments on Gifts I Want as of 11/21/2014 4:26:00 AM
Add a Comment
20. Yay or nay

By now you either have given up on NaNoWriMo or know you stand a good chance of “winning” ten days from now.

If you’re in he first camp, I understand, I’ve been there before. For a number of reasons - lack of time, other commitments, stalling of story, loss of confidence, seemingly insurmountable odds of completing it - the wind has been taken out of your sails. You started November enthused and with a killer story idea, but the thing beat you down. That is the nature of this beast. 

However, one not need feel like a failure. Take solace in knowing you’ve got the start of something great. Maybe not the complete first draft, ready to be fine-tuned, you had hoped for, but a beginning. That spark of an idea that once held such promise, though now stalled, still has potential. It had potential then, it holds it now. Give yourself a little time away from it, allow it to stew in the subconscious, then come back to it in January and try again. 

If you’re in the second group, I’m pleased to finally be among you. At least I will have 50K words by then. It doesn’t feel like the story will have been completed. As this is different territory for me, I’m not sure what is required to receive that treasured prize of being allowed to print my own “I Did It” certificate, or a new car, or free trip to Disneyland, or whatever it is they do to reward winners. Again, I’m new here and am not sure the procedure for officially completing the marathon. Something from the NaNoWriMo site tells how to validate and “win.” I personally have promised myself a massage once “the end” is reached. 

There still is a week and a weekend to go, so keep writing. And if NaNo got the best of you, go get your massage anyway. You’ve earned it, too.


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

0 Comments on Yay or nay as of 11/22/2014 9:58:00 AM
Add a Comment
21. What Makes Your Protagonist Interesting?

What makes your protagonist interesting? Sparkling blue eyes? Rippling muscles? Brains? Money? Clothes?

Let's reword that. What makes a real flesh-and-blood person interesting? All of the things I mentioned above could be part of what draws your attention in the first place, but they aren't what holds your attention.

Just like a real person, the most important thing about your protagonist is that you have to care about him. I don't mean you have to like him. Many of the great protagonists aren't particularly likable. Ignatius J. Reilly, Holden Caulfield, Jay Gatsby, Scarlett O'Hara, Hamlet, Humbert Humbert and countless others are deeply flawed, sometimes to point of being straight-up unlikable. But the authors make us care about them. There has to be something sympathetic in the way even "bad" characters are portrayed, so we want to stick with them for a few hundred pages.

Some of the things that make a flawed character sympathetic are described below.

Action
A character who is not very active quickly becomes boring. A protagonist needs to protag. The things that happen in the story have to largely be due to her own actions. Maybe she makes the wrong choices, but those choices raise the stakes. We might not like the character's choices, but we want to know how she is going to get out of her predicament, or whether she even will. She can win or lose, but she has to put herself into situations that draw us in, and then through her own actions, get out of them or deepen the peril. When your main character is always a victim and relies heavily on others to solve her problems, she's not likely to be very interesting, or to grow (or fall) during the course of the story.

Wit
A clever character who pulls us along with his unusual or profound way of thinking, his humor, and the unique way he looks at the world can make us care about him, even if his actions aren't always (or ever) admirable.

Relatable Problems
Yeah, OK, your readers might never be expected to slay the dragon, defeat the evil wizard C'na'ard, and make the world safe for the Nine Peoples of Gerkin, but they will care more about your protagonist if he has to face problems they can relate to. Disloyalty, unrequited love, school or work or family that create problems, dealing with a world that is too big to handle, and many other problems can be worked into your story, problems your reader does have to face. If we relate to your character's issues, we care more about spending hours looking at the world through his eyes, watching

Strength of Character

Your character should always take a stand. She should have a goal and do whatever she needs to do to accomplish the goal. The character's journey doesn't need to be a straight line. In fact, it shouldn't be. But it should trend in a general direction defined by her values, whether the reader (or writer) shares the values or not. Her actions don't have to be predictable, but when we get to the end of the story, we should be able to look back and see that the characters actions were consistent with her values.

Vulnerability
We have to believe your character can fail. There are so many books, well-reviewed books, that have disappointed me because I never believed the protagonist was in peril. This tends to be a problem in YA fantasy, especially. A "Chosen One" character who is destined to defeat evil is not going to lose, and in some stories, the possibility of failure is never seriously raised. Every dangerous situation is easily defused without any serious peril. The character is perfect for the situation, and, well, let's face it: perfection is not very interesting. While it is unlikely that the protagonist is going to die, failure needs to be around every corner. The odds need to be against him. Death might not be a likely result, but it doesn't hurt if it does seem possible. Failure, however, might be worse than death, and with rising peril and a real likelihood of failure, we can't help but stay interested. It's like the proverbial train wreck we can't stop gawking at.


If your character creates the story through her actions, views the world through somewhat familiar eyes but in a unique and interesting way, is in real danger of failure or worse, and acts in a consistent-but-sometimes-surprising way, we'll be drawn into her world and her life, even if we don't always like her.

0 Comments on What Makes Your Protagonist Interesting? as of 11/26/2014 9:18:00 PM
Add a Comment
22. Eleven things I learned during NaNoWriMo

1. Fifty thousand is a lot of words to throw down.

2. Not all 50,000 have to be good words. 

3. 50K does not a story make.

4. Notes to self to fix something keeps pesky internal editor guy hidden.

5. Notes to self boosts word count.

6. Pesky internal editor guy is persistent, is a narcissist, insists the rough draft can’t be done without him.

7. I write more words per hour when I know what I’m writing about.

8.Plotting is better than pansting, even if it takes away from writing time.

9. If it’s late and the day’s word count hasn’t been met and I’m tired, it won’t be met.

10. It is possible to slap down a rough story in thirty days, as long as internal editor guy is kept at bay.

11. Fifty thousand words is a lot of words.


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

0 Comments on Eleven things I learned during NaNoWriMo as of 11/29/2014 11:41:00 AM
Add a Comment
23. What Lead Richard McEwan to Write a Children’s Picture Book



What lead me to write a children’s picture book?

Until this Spring, I had no idea I would be writing a children’s picture book. My wife and I had recently moved to North Carolina and since I was mostly retired, many of my days were filled with projects. However, I believe the good Lord decided it was time for me to direct my efforts elsewhere.
Little did I know this was happening until I started to write my first book, and one day, I stopped and reflected on what was taking place…I was actually writing a story! 

Crazy as this may sound, I was taken aback by this realization, but once I thought about it I knew it was God.

I believe the book came together for a number of reasons:
(1) Our grandchildren: we moved to North Carolina to be near two of our three children and our grandchildren whose ages are 4 and under. Their love of books is more than evident whether being read to or pulling a book off the shelf to thumb through it by themselves, studying the illustrations or photography and relating the story.
(2) Our dogs: my wife and I have a great love for dogs in general and, specifically, for own. They are an integral part of our lives. Their antics lead to writing about them. Plus, they are both foster dogs.
(3) Fostering dogs: my wife for years would pick up a stray dog and either find its owner or a new home. With this passion, we became involved with the Animal Welfare League where we lived in Virginia. Over a five-year period we fostered about 50 dogs at our home until each was adopted. The dogs came to us via many sources including AWL, County Pound, and, of course, strays picked up by my wife!
(4) Children learning: picture books are a great vehicle to convey a message even before a child can read. As with this story, it is so important to instill in children at a young age the importance of caring for pets…I believe it is the first step in caring for others. 

It has been a joy to write the book. My hope is this story will encourage children to think about the story when they come upon a stray or lost pet, and with an adult’s involvement, help find it’s home or foster home or forever home.

***

About the Author: Richard McEwan retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina after a long career in sales, marketing and advertising. He lives with his wife, Christie, and their two dogs, Buddy and River, one cat named Oyster and many photos of foster dogs. He was inspired to begin writing because of his grandchildren's love of books.
 
The Adventures of Sir Buddy and Mr. Pupples: The Rescue
Written by Richard McEwan
Illustrated by Amy Rottinger
Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
ISBN Number: 978-7-61244-307 -2
Genre of Book: Children’s Picture
Places where book will be available for sale: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ingram
Author Website: www.twodogstales.com

0 Comments on What Lead Richard McEwan to Write a Children’s Picture Book as of 12/1/2014 11:38:00 AM
Add a Comment
24. What Makes Your Antagonist Interesting?

Last week, I explained some of the ways to make your protagonist interesting. This time, I'm going to turn the tables and talk about the protagonist. I've written about the antagonist before, but this is a subject that can not be talked about enough. The antagonist is every bit as important as the main character.

In some ways, the antagonist may even be more important. Your main character cannot become sympathetic without an opposing force. The antagonist is more than just a bad guy who tries to stop the good guy. A good antagonist actually pushes the protagonist to action. The bad guys gives the good guy a reason to behave like a good guy.

Because he is so important, your antagonist has to be every bit as real, every bit as well-rounded, as the protagonist. So how do you do this?

The Antagonist is Evil

No. The good antagonist is not evil. OK, he could be, but not for the mere sake of being evil. The antagonist truly believes he is the good guy. Everything he does has a reason, and to him, those reasons are Right. They are Correct. They are Good.

Few characters are as flat and dull as the arch-villain who is evil just because being evil is evil. People aren't like that. Even people with a warped sense of reality (and here's a little secret: we all have a warped sense of reality, shaped by our own histories and imperfect perceptions), do things for a reason.

There are truly evil actions, and your bad guy might do some of them. But we humans have an almost unending supply of rationalizations for our actions. If we're honest, we recognize that sometimes the way we rationalize our actions is often, at best, flawed, and at worst, just plain delusional.

Just like you want your good guy to have flaws, you need your antagonist to have positive characteristics. In some stories, the reader might even start to wonder just which character is the good guy and which is the bad guy. The line doesn't have to be a thick one.

A Rebel With a Cause

Your good guy is on a mission, a quest to accomplish something. The same is true of your bad guy. Your antagonist has his own character arc. Character development is as important to your antagonist as to your protagonist.

So give your antagonist a cause. She wants to accomplish something, wants that more than anything else. And, like your protagonist, she is prepared to do what she has to do to achieve it, because that's what people do when something is of ultimate importance.

Even a bad guy who wants to do something truly awful, like, say, blow up a stadium full of innocent people, does it because he believes it has to be done to achieve the goal. He probably doesn't enjoy doing it, but feels it is necessary and does what has to be done to achieve the end result, which he believes to be for the ultimate good.

Most antagonists act in smaller ways. It's easier to justify the actions of somebody who is competing with your protagonist for the position of Head Cheerleader or who wants the powerful amulet for himself.

A Hero in His Own Mind

Because the antagonist believes what he is doing is the right course, he believes he is the hero. Or, at least, he is trying to become the hero. Your protagonist, who stands in his way, is the villain. My favorite example of this principle comes from politics. No matter what your political position is, you view the other side as wrong. Maybe even evil. The thing we don't always accept is that the other side looks at you the same why. Why? Because each side believes it is right. Each side believes it is the hero, and if they were only allowed to have their way, the world would be a spectacularly better place.

The other side is only "wrong" because you happen to believe in your own candidate. Chances are, you don't admit your own candidate's flaws, or at least not the big ones that the other side tries to highlight. Whether you want to admit it or not, the other side probably has a point, and the criticisms may well be justified. But you're committed to your side, so whatever faults your guy has, the other side is exponentially worse.

It's the same with your hero and villain. Switch to your villain's point of view and he is clearly, obviously, without a shadow of a doubt, the hero. Let your reader see that.


Let your reader sympathize with the antagonist, and understand why he wants what he wants, and maybe even see his point. Maybe you don't want your readers to agree with the antagonist (or maybe you do), but if your reader can sympathize with both characters, the conflict becomes more real, the stakes are raised, and your reader is more engaged.

0 Comments on What Makes Your Antagonist Interesting? as of 12/3/2014 10:13:00 AM
Add a Comment
25. Now what?

It’s over. The annual November writing marathon is a thing of the past. We’re done. 

Almost, at least for me. 

I hit 50K words but I’m not yet done. It was more of a Na3/4NoWriMo thing for me, with a quarter more to go. The final few chapters are done. To muddle through the murky middle melancholy, I jumped ahead, knowing how it was to end, and wrote the ending. Then I doubled back, filling in the story with short summary chapters that helped march the story toward the end. Once the general direction had been established, I went back and expanded on the individual chapter summaries. I’ve still got about ten or so chapters to flesh out.

The question is what to do with it now, other than to finish it? Once it’s complete, then what? 

I suppose there are varying strategies. These imaginary characters have been a major part of my life for the last five weeks. They and their issues are on the brain and I’m very aware of what kind of things need to be resolved. I’m in a groove, the keyboard is tapping, the story is flowing and I’m not sure I want to let that go. Plus, I want to workshop it this summer at WIFYR and it’s not ready for that.

On the other hand, forgetting about the whole thing for a few months is not a bad option, either. Hide it away on a flash drive and let it stew in the subconscious and view it later with fresh eyes and a refreshed head.

I’ve ignored the story somewhat this week. I was steady with it and dedicated up through November 30. Once December hit, the urge to keep up with it wasn’t as strong, and other obligations have been ignored for a while. I’ve been more sociable with loved ones this last week. And reading. I didn’t get much of that done in November and have been enjoying that again. 

So, what is your strategy? Make December NaNoRevMo - National Novel Revision Month, or give yourself a break?


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

0 Comments on Now what? as of 12/6/2014 11:33:00 AM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts