Friday, July 31, 2009

Low-budget Office Workspace

As recommended by Ron Woods.... (and brought to you by countless email forwards)


Motivating Supporting and Minor Characters

by Scott Rhoades

In an earlier post, I wrote about characters each having their own script, and that that's what differentiates the protagonist and antagonist. This is true of all characters in your story.

Here's one way to look at it.

You're driving down a busy road. Some cars you only see for an instant. Some are going the opposite direction. The cars you see the best are going the same direction you are.

Each car and each driver has, in an instant, become a part of your life, a part of your story. But, each car is heading toward its own destination. Most likely, the other drivers don't give a hoot about you, unless you interfere with them in some way or catch their interest for whatever reason.

It's the same with the characters in your story. Each character has his or her own destination. The only reason they care about your protagonist is because he either helps or hinders them in their own travels. And, since turnabout is fair play, it's also the only reason your protagonist cares about the other characters as well. Like it or not, this is true even of friendly characters, as it usually is in real life. Even your best friend would eventually stop being your best friend if she stopped getting anything out of the relationship. Cynical? Maybe, but that's life.

Too often we fall into the trap of writing supporting characters as if their whole purpose in life is to help or hurt the protagonist, without regard for their own interests. It's not true. The most important person in the life of each character is most likely the character himself. The supporting character only interacts with the main character because there's something in it for him.

This doesn't mean you have to map out the specific goals of each minor character who crosses through your story, although you should think about it for any major characters, whether they play lead or supporting roles. But you should keep the principle in mind even if the other character only has a momentary role to play. During the interaction with your protagonist, be aware at the very least that the other character, no matter how minor, has his own goals and motivations, even if you're not sure exactly what they are beyond what they want at the point when their lives intersect. At that point, though, even the most minor of characters wants to get something for himself from the interaction.

If you keep this idea in mind, then each interaction between your characters will have a purpose for everyone involved and will seem more real. Otherwise, your characters might come across more like convenient plot devices than like people.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scott Rhoades' Work Space


My not-so-great work space

Thanks to a kitchen remodel, a crazy summer, and an overall feeling of laziness on my part, I'm not much into writing this summer. So my writing space is a laptop on top of a secretary in the living room (used to be in the kitchen until we ripped out the wall...). I stand and type here. If my birds out, I frequently have one standing on my head. I suppose I could call it my "muse" that lights upon my head-- but that would be a stretch!



(FYI-- I'm pretty protective of my kids so I have covered them up or blurred out their names)

But I have a dream of a multipurpose cupboard & desk combo in my laundry room. It simply requires ripping out the current cabinetry and replacing it with something more functional. That is the project for the end of the summer.... (hopefully).

Friday, July 24, 2009

10 Writing Tips

I found this list of tips with quotes from famous writers -- good for both laughs and insight.
  1. Cut the boring parts

    I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

  2. Eliminate unnecessary words

    Substitute “d***” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

  3. Write with passion

    Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

  4. Paint a picture
  5. Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

  6. Keep it simple

    Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.

  7. Do it for love

    Write without pay until somebody offers to pay. ~Mark Twain

  8. Learn to thrive on criticism

    You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury

  9. Write all the time

    Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~Ray Bradbury

    The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything. ~John Irving
  10. Write what you know … or what you want to know

    If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~Lord Acton

  11. Be unique and unpredictable
  12. I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. ~G.K. Chesterton

    Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ~Oscar Wilde

    Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto. ~Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Whatever Happened to that First Manuscript?

After years of contemplation, months of agonizing and then days of staring at your blank screen, you’ve finally started writing your first manuscript. As you type each sentence, and as your words begin forming a story, you are thinking to yourself how brilliant you are! How different your ideas and characters are from any others. Months later (or longer, depending on how addicted you’ve become), you type the final paragraph and lean back, excited to review the work of art you’ve just created.

But as you start reading, you might start to notice that some parts of the manuscript sound like a five-year old wrote it. Characters might seem one-dimensional and you might notice major plot holes. Discouraged, you can’t even bring yourself to start making revisions.

At the BYU WIFYR Conference I attended last year, more than one of the authors suggested that a first manuscript is a good writing exercise, and something that you may never want another person to read.

So is it worth it – writing and editing that first manuscript? Should you consider it good practice and then file it away, never to see the light of day again?

My opinion is that giving up on that first manuscript - that first exciting idea - is letting go of part of your creative side. The side that dreams up your ideas, visualizes your characters, provides you with inspiration and keeps you smiling when your editorial side wants to tear you down. Yes, it will take a lot of revisions to get that first manuscript ready to submit to an agent or editor, but that practice will forge you into a stronger writer.

If you still have that first manuscript sitting in a file box, dust it off and enjoy a fun night of reading. You’ll probably find that it’s not as terrible as you remember, and with some editing, it could be ready to run by an agent/editor!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some helpful bits and pieces

by Kiirsi Hellewell

Due to some major upheaval in my family’s life I missed my regularly scheduled post yesterday. Consequently, I’m posting a day late. And it’s going to be short and sweet today…just a few interesting and helpful articles and things on writing I’ve come across on the web in the last few weeks.

First up, we have author Barry Lyga’s funny and informative post on how to cope with writer’s block.

Next, from the Author2Author site, how to deal with rejection letters.

From Cheryl Klein, editor, comes some really good tips on getting to the emotional heart of your story.  (Cheryl’s site is full of excellent articles and tips…she’s currently in the process of moving all her articles on writing to a brand- new site, so check back soon.)

Lastly, from WritersDigest.com comes a really lovely tool…Jane collects the best tweets from Twitter every week on writing (by category) and puts them all in one place.  As Jane says, “I watch Twitter, so you don’t have to.”  You don’t have to be signed up for Twitter to access these articles. 

 

Kiirsi Hellewell lives in Salt Lake City.  She’s currently knitting, baking in the heat and dreaming of shady pine forests.  You can find her on Twitter or Facebook or on her blog.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Weaving Books into Movies

I think every author dreams of having their story optioned as a major motion picture. In fact, sometimes as we write, we can imagine in our minds how fabulous certain actors/actresses will look playing the different parts. It's the crown-jewels of story writing-- to see your book played out on the BIG screen. Though the process of taking a 300-page book and turning it into a viable screenplay that will sell can be difficult and painful, it is still highly worth it! Your book may or may not resemble the final show, but regardless of what the screenwriters/producers do, it's YOUR name up there in big letters.

Over the years, I've noticed there are some movies that instead of appearing to be loosely based on someone's book actually improve the it significantly. Take Mary Poppins. She's far more lovable and kind in the movie than she ever was in the book. I was shocked to read how sarcastic and demeaning the "print" nanny was. Yikes!

Another movie is The Princess Diaries. Through some skillful rewriting, they took out some potentially "delicate" material and turned the movie into mega "tweenie" hits.

Are there movies you prefer to the books? Or books destroyed by movies? What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Upping the Stakes

I recently had a meeting with a wonderful editing team at a local publishing company. We had a great discussion about how to create a strong climax/ending in a book.


One of the principles mentioned was helping the reader understand what it is at stake. For example, in Suzanne Collins Hunger Games, the stakes are clear: each of the contestant’s lives is on the line, as well as the reputation and future of their respective districts. In Harry Potter, it’s not only Harry’s life at stake, it’s the future of the wizarding community and the world. In Fablehaven, the safety of the magical preserves, magical objects, magical creatures, and the good of the world is at stake.


So what’s at stake I your book? Why does it matter?


During the climax/ending of your book, does the choice of the hero/heroine determine the fate of the world? Of their own soul? Does the reader clearly understand that? Chances are, the higher the stakes (as long as we don’t get too far-fetched), the more satisfying the experience for the reader.


Tiffany Dominguez
Freelance Writer: YA Fiction
http://scribblebymoonlight.blogspot.com/

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fan Fiction: Love It or Hate It

by Kiirsi Hellewell

A couple of weeks ago, author Justine Larbalestier started a discussion on her blog about fan fiction. It sparked a flurry of comments—passionate on either end (for and against). I’ve never really thought much about fan fiction, but after reading this discussion I decided to do a little research into the history and concept.

According to Wikipedia (yes…I know…not always accurate, but still a good starting point for information), fan fiction has been around for a very long time. Examples of old fan fiction include King Arthur stories spread around Europe more than 1,000 years ago; medieval Arabic fiction including Arabian Nights; and even sequels in the 17th century to books like Don Quixote. The popular musical My Fair Lady is a version of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion; Pygmalion itself is based upon a Greek myth.

Think about the current popularity of novels based on fairy tales. This could be considered fan fiction, in a way. They’re based upon already-existing stories. The novels were written because either the authors really loved the original tales or else felt there was something lacking and wanted to expand the story and flesh out the characters (or both).

Sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow praised fan fiction in an article from 2007, saying that he was so inspired after seeing Star Wars in the theater at the age of 6 that he rushed home and wrote his first fan fiction immediately afterward. He makes some good points about writing fan fiction, and the comments under his article and on Justine’s blog are full of reasons that people write this type of fiction:

* It’s a starting point—a springboard—to writing your own, original fiction. Sometimes it’s easier to get started writing with characters and a setting that are already familiar to you.

* For frustrated readers who didn’t like the way the story ended—or felt there were major missing pieces and questions—fan fiction is a way to fill in those gaps or make a different ending.

* Fan fiction allows people to spend more time with characters and a world they love, even when the book or series or TV shows end.

* It’s a great way to make friends and become part of a community with the same interests.

* Instant feedback from readers makes it not only rewarding, but helps the fanfic writer become a better writer.

There are also downsides to fan fiction, however. Here are some of the big ones:

* Bad writing. Some people have said that 90% of fan fiction is not worth reading. (Those same people admit that there are actually some really brilliant fan fiction writers who produce better work than the original source.)

* It’s addictive. You can get so caught up in reading the millions of stories out there that you live more in the fan fiction world than your own.

* Some people, including the original authors, may hate the fact that their characters are taken without permission and written about in ways they never intended, especially in certain relationships. (I personally hate the fact that there’s lots of fan fiction out there—or so I’ve heard—that goes way past PG ratings. If I were a popular author, I would find it very hard to deal with someone doing that to the characters I created.)

* Fan fiction writers aren’t taken very seriously in “literary” circles. They’re often looked down on, criticized, and made fun of.

* Potential legal troubles, if you take it too far. (Not only copyright issues—there’s a whole sub-genre of fan fiction called “Real person fiction” that I really don’t agree with. This is fan fiction written about an actual person, living or dead. You might argue that historical novels are “real person fiction” but since they’re about people long dead, and mostly based on fact, no one really thinks of them that way. My sister came across some fan fiction last year about a popular current singer and was horrified…stories about backstage encounters with fans, impregnating aliens, etc. I would hate to have someone writing in that way about me and my life.)

Any way you look at it—whether you love or loathe fan fiction, or feel indifferent to it—it’s a popular part of our culture and has grown hugely with the ability to share stories over the internet. And hey, it gets people writing—which is always a good thing.

Kiirsi Hellewell lives in the Salt Lake valley. In the interest of full disclosure, she admits that, in her teens, she wrote a few stories about a certain British figure skater. BUT this was before she’d ever heard of fan fiction; it was kept in a notebook; rated G; and never seen by anyone but herself. And yes, it did help her decide that writing was so fun she wanted to keep doing it. :)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cold Feet

by Scott Rhoades

Starting a major writing project is like asking a girl you really like out on a date when you don’t know if she feels the same way about you.

You have big ideas. You plan. You dream about the date, and how perfect it will be. You spend all your time thinking about it, consciously or not. Maybe you spend a little time talking to her, if you're brave enough, just to test the waters, but you avoid anything substantial.

When the day comes to ask her out, you approach her, then chicken out. You might even ask a couple other girls out. They’re nice enough and you enjoy their company, but none of them is The One.

Finally, the time comes to jump in and do it. You get your nerve up and approach. But no matter how hard you try to be cool and suave and perfect, you come off sounding like a dork. You keep going, though, and by the time you’re done, with a little work, things work out pretty well.

The analogy could be continued, I suppose, with drafts being the dating process, even into marriage. But I don’t want to think about that right now. I’m still trying to coax a certain character to spend a little more time with me.

scottrhoades.com

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dear Writer's Group....

"Dear Utah Writer's Group,

"Please excuse Sarah from writing her blog post (which is already late) today. She is not feeling brave or clever enough to completing the writing assignment in such a way that will amuse/educate/thrill/astound you. She will however plan to post her regularly assigned posts in two weeks. By then she hopes she will have recovered from her temporary feelings of rejection paranoia and extreme lack of creativity.

"Thank you.

"Sincerely,
Sarah's Inner Parent"

;oD