Monday, May 27, 2013

So what if?

I'm working on the premise for my new book and in a book I'm reading about outlining, it suggests that you ask yourself "what if?" so you can create an extensive list of options for your story. Not all the "what ifs" will be good for your story, mind you, but in order to cover all the bases, you are instructed to write them all down. Then, you can eliminate the extraneous one that don't work.

My working premise, so far:

Ari, an unhappy apprentice, attempts to solve the riddle of a puzzle box he finds in the ruins of Chaldea, and is faced with the challenge of magic gone awry.

My what ifs, so far:

  • What if puzzle box can't be opened?
  • What if Ari sells the box to a magician, who opens the box and falls under the spell of what's inside?
  • What if Ari opens box?
  • What if Ari and his friends fight with what's inside, but lose?
  • What if what's inside begins to haunt the land and Ari must stop it from destroying Chaldea.
  • What if Ari likes what's inside and joins forces with it?
  • What if Ari's enemy makes him trade the puzzle box for his sister's hand in marriage (Ari is in love with her)?
  • What if Ari's enemy opens the box and falls in league with it?
  • What is Ari goes to King with Puzzle box and offers it to him as a pledge?
  • What if King opens box and causes havoc throughout kingdom?
So here we have only ten different ideas that are different avenues to take my story. Here is the catch: I have to decide which, if any, are going to be incorporated in this second book of magic and mayhem that I'm working on.

How do you create your premise and decide where its going? Do you do an outline? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Bright Idea!

Welcome to my blog!

Have you ever had a bright idea for a story that kept you up until all hours, but you still didn't get all the pieces put together? That's where I'm at right now. I've realized that my niche is definitely YA Fantasy and Science Fiction and have decided to gear my stories for that group.

That said, I'll go back to my crackling idea. It's like this tree up above. It starts out with bare branches going this way and that, and the leaves and blossoms begin to grow. With nurturing and watering (and a lot of research), those blossoms bud into fruit. But I have to be careful at this stage, because the fruit can be attacked by insects (bad ideas) and it will fall off the tree, dead. In other words, trying to merge bad ideas with the good ones and coming up with bland, sand-in-your-mouth ideas.

Over watering (too many ideas) can cause the fruit to rot and fall off also. That's why I need just the right amount of water and fertilizer to make the story come alive. I'm excited with all my ideas, so what I'm doing is making a list of all the ideas on 3x5 cards, so I can shuffle them around and decide which ones to keep.

So what's a good idea, as opposed to a rotten one? I suppose I'd have to say if it cracks with energy and sparkles with excitement, I'll keep it. But, some of those bad ideas have merit also. Not everything in life is hunky dory, 100% A-1 okay. There are those spooky, unsettled moments that are just as important in a story. By making a list of all my ideas I can weed out the extraneous material and work with the rest.

How do you set up a story? Is it part of your regular plan, or do you just get in there and write?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Back To The Drawing Board!

I've just finished the first draft of my book Call of the Dragon and I've realized that my main character (MC) is lacking something that my readers can grab on to and say: Yep! I can relate to that! I thought because he was unhappy about his situation in life and wanted it changed, it would be good enough. But without a real outstanding character flaw, his character comes off as just so-so.

I plan on re-writing my novel and re-structuring it so my MC will have more of a challenge at getting what he wants and he'll have a character flaw he must overcome in order to reach his goal. While I'm not looking forward to that kind of major overhaul after finishing the draft, at least I can say it'll be easier to do it now than when I get all finished with the book.

Have any of you ever had major overhauls on your manuscripts that seem insurmountable? I like to think positive about it and say that it can only make my story that much more sensational to the reader and much more palatable in the long run.

An edit today means one less tomorrow!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

5 Ways To Turn Up The Suspense...

I'd like to pass on some suggestions from Brian Klems article: Five Ways To Make Your Novel More Suspenseful. This was in an e-mail I received from Writer's Digest Magazine. I found the article to be what I would call a keeper. For the sake of brevity, I'm only paraphrasing what I read. If you'd like to read the entire article, please click here.

#1. Turn up the sensory detail.
Suspense is sustained by the absence of anything terrible happening, and the continued focus on detail. By focusing in on the little things like a car back-firing, the hiss of a cat or anything that would keep the reader holding their breath, you are building the suspense.

#2. Turn down the velocity.
Slowing down time increases suspense.
a. Complex sentences. Stay away from the short sentences that speed up the action.
b. Internal thoughts. Let the reader hear what your character is thinking.
c. Bring the reader as close as possible to the scene. Let them experience the tension of the sequence first-hand.

#3. Modulate suspense. 
Building suspense takes time. Break the tension by having something happen that advances the plot or provides a moment of comic relief.
a. Insert a pause. A telephone rings. One of the characters cracks a joke. Remember, in real life, humor is used to ease tension.
b. Reveal something that seemed menacing to be ordinary. A scary shape turns out to be the shadow of a tree in the moonlight. A hand on the shoulder of the protagonist turns out to be his best buddy.
You can use this technique to give your reader a respite, then continue to crank up the suspense to keep them hooked.

#4. Foreshadow rather than telegraph.
Creating a suspense sequence that ends harmlessly is a good way to foreshadow something more sinister that happens later on in your novel. Be careful to foreshadow and not telegraph: giving away too much too soon is guaranteed to ruin the suspense.
The line between foreshadowing and telegraphing is subtle. When you insert a hint of what's to come, look at it critically and decide whether it's something the reader will glide right by, but remember later with an Aha! That's foreshadowing. If instead the reader groans and guesses what's coming, you've telegraphed.

#5. Always end with a payoff.
You can have a suspense sequence early that ends with nothing more than a harmless tabby padding off into the night. But as you near one of your novels end-of-act climaxes, the suspense sequence should pay off. The payoff can be an unsettling discovery of evidence of a crime: finding a dead body, bloodstained clothing, a weapons cache, or that the floor of the basement has been dug up.
The discovery might reveal a character's secret. Finding love letters might reveal a hidden relationship between two characters.
Or, the payoff can be a plot twist. The bad guy confesses, the sleuth gets attacked, or locked in a basement, or lost in a cave, or the police show up and arrest the sleuth.

I hope these ideas have given you food for thought and have stirred your juices around enough to check on the suspense in your novel. The main thing is to enjoy the process. And write!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Carpe Diem...

Seize The Day. 

"O me, O life of the questions of these recurring.
Of endless trains of the faithless.
Of cities filled with the foolish.
What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer: That you are here.
Life exists and identity.
That the powerful play goes on,
and you may contribute a verse." 

~~Walt Whitman~~


Friday, May 3, 2013

Adverbs and Cliches...

 Do you get finished writing a piece and then discover you've put in every cliche and adverb that comes to mind? Why? Why do you have to get out the red pencil and whack out half the descriptive prose?

I've asked myself this question several times and today I read an article that answered it. We generally write how we speak in our head. And if it's full of those old fashioned sayings that scream cliche and adverbs galore, perhaps we should start a new trend. Instead of thinking with those -ly words, try inventing new descriptions when you sit at your favorite coffee shop, or even while you have a conversation with someone.

Of course, talking with new speech patterns might surprise your family and friends, but it will also bring new flavor to your conversations. Instead of being fantastically funny, you might find yourself saying things like: I am funny! More so than so-and-so. If you don't believe me, just listen to my new ideas about...whatever or whomever you wish to add. But don't say you're more fun than a barrel of monkeys. That's one of my favorite cliches. I had to root it out with a shovel. I think you get what I mean.

One of the best things I am doing is making a list of all the descriptive words I use in a story, and how often. If I'm repeating words, I get out the thesaurus and do a little expanding of my universe. In my latest story, I discovered I used the word froze too many times. He froze... alarmed by what he heard. I decided to try some different words to make this a stronger sentence. Petrified by what he heard, Elias couldn't move a muscle. 

I found that cliches were a little harder to replace when you want a certain meaning. But more fun than a barrel of moneys could be easily replaced with the most fun I've had since meeting last years circus clowns. It does become a little wordy at times, but the rules of the trade are exacting at times and make us think. How are you with adverbs and cliches? Have you got it down to a system? I'd love to hear your ideas!