Monday, September 29, 2014

Crafting Your Best Story - Writing Tip #24 - World Building

This is the last Writing Tip post I have - at least for now. I hope you've enjoyed reading the tips and have found them helpful.

Before I get to that I want to share a little excitement The Clockwise series had this week. I put the set on a steep sale for four days and this happened : =>

It only lasted for a couple days but it was pretty exciting to see that Best Seller Badge!

Okay, on with the last (to date) Tip:

World Building

From the quiet romance to epic fantasy all stories need a world. Think of fictional world building as a series of inter-locking settings. Most stories take place in more than one spot, but even if your story unfolds on a park bench, you must make your reader feel like they’re sitting there with you.
World building sounds like a large overwhelming task, but it doesn’t need to be. Just begin with your opening scene. Imagine a dart board. The opening scene is the bulls-eye. The second ring is the setting outside of the opening scene and the ring beyond it the setting that expands beyond that.
What you don’t want to do is spend the opening pages describing your world. You want to gradually build your world as the story is told.
The Harry Potter world starts at Number Four Privot Drive. We learn quite a bit about the Dursleys and how they feel about the Potters as the opening scene is established. We see the house the neighborhood, the room under the stairs. This is the bulls-eye. Once Harry is whisked away to wizard school, the world is gradually expanded. Platform 9 ¾ , the train ride, Hogwarts and so on. The world grows as the story grows.
In Perception the opening scene is a beach. While Zoe Vanderveen is secretly planning a surprise party for her brother we see the glass-boxy house on the ocean with the tiered patio and eternity pool. A cool, sparse but expensive home interior, her vast bedroom. Then the gadgets are introduced. The communication ring, the digi wall, inference to robotic domestic help. It’s unfolded little by little as the characters are introduced and the inciting incident is set up.
We find out about the walls and the gates that serves as a cocoon, protecting the clean, efficient, perfect city from whatever lies outside of the wall.
We find out that the citizens of Sol City are free to leave, but can’t reenter without scanning a chip that is embedded in their hand.
Eventually, the world expands to what’s outside the walls. A crowded, smelly city, with electric pod cars, sky trains and people who resent the utopian community in sight but out of reach.
When building your world keep in mind all the senses. What does your character see, smell, touch, what mood does his environment create?

A story might only require a simple world. A whole story could take place on a plane, for instance. Or you might need an extravagant world filled with mythical creatures and exotic locales as in The Lord of the Rings. The key is to build the world in the context of an unfolding story with changing characters moving through the three acts in a 45 degree angle up hill.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bookbub picked up TWO of my Boxed Sets! The Clockwise Series & The Perception Series only 99CENTS for a SHORT TIME!

It's raining deals on boxed sets!

On sale for only .99 until Friday at most e-stores!

A teen time traveller accidentally takes her secret crush back in time.

Only  99 pennies - two days only!


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Bargain Bundles for iBook Readers!

I'm in two of them!

I'm very happy to be part of is called TEXT ME - 8 Novels of First Love. This is suitable for a younger YA reader and I'm proud that Like Clockwork is included.

All only .99!

Check out the many Book Bundles on sale HERE.

You can find TEXT ME  by clicking here.

The second bundle I'm in is called Girls on Fire - Ten Powerful YA Heroines Kicking Butt and Fighting for Love!

Link to Girls on Fire here.

I so excited I can share this fantastic book bundle bargain bin with you.

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Crafting Your Best Story - Writing Tip #23 - He said, She said--Creating Believable Dialogue

You have two or more characters in a room and they need to talk. How do you make it believable and compelling and not stunted and boring?
It can be tricky. First of all you have to remember that dialogue is there for a reason. It's meant to move the story forward. It's not a place filler.
 Here's a list of dos and don'ts to help you along.
1) use dialogue to reveal character. Instead of saying your character is angry or selfish, show it by what they say and how they say it.
2)use dialogue to catch the reader up on back story. Sometimes it's more interesting that way.
3) use dialogue to create tension. It should never be smooth sailing between your characters. There should always be some underlining tension or foreshadowing of tension in what is said and how it's said.
4) use only the words you really need (see point 1 in the Don't list). Keep dialogue precise and to the point.
1) try to write dialogue the way we actually speak. In real life we use a lot of filler sounds, like "um", "like" and half sentences.  It's okay to use certain slang words sparingly to emphasis a character trait, but the key word here is sparingly.
2) let all your characters speak in the same manner. Especially watch out that they don't all speak like you. :)
3) forget to add action in your scenes of dialogue. People are usually doing something while conversing, even if it's just making an expression with their faces.
4) use fancy dialogue tags like "exclaimed" and "shouted."  This should be obvious in they way they say something. "Said" is the best tag because the eye just skims over it and it doesn't jolt the reader. Also acceptable in moderation are tags like "asked," "replied," "prompted," "stated," and "probed."

Great dialogue reveals great character. How each of your characters speak reveal who they are and hopefully they’re interesting! And unique to the other characters around them.
Here's a scene from Leif Enger's terrific novel, PEACE LIKE A RIVER.  His two main characters, a brother and sister called Ruben and Swede are butchering a goose. Watch how he reveals character and builds tension through their dialogue. Notice that they aren't just talking at each other, but DOING  something at the same time.  Both the talking and the doing reveal character and create tension.
Rueben's POV:
I had, of all things, a lump in my throat. Luckily Swede was standing at my elbow and said, "First thing, you have to cut his head off."
"Well, I know that."
She prodded the goose with her finger; plucked , it looked pimply and regretful.
"Then the wings," she said.
"You want to clean him?"
Swede let it go and stepped over to the ruins of a grain truck that had been parked behind the barn to rot. She shinnied up the big rumplike fender and sat there with the wind tugging her hair. It was a cutting wind; the light was leaking from a mottled yellow sky. Imagine a sick child all jaundiced and dirty about the cheeks--that's how the sky looked. I picked up Davy's knife and tried it against my thumb, then beheaded the snow.
Watching, Swede said, "Forgive me running, Rube?"
"I ran away."
"From the goose? Swede, it wasn't any big deal." I tossed the head into a cardboard box we'd found in the barn and went to work on the wings. They came off a lot harder than the head; I had to saw the knife blade back and forth.
"Come on, forgive me," she insisted.
I nodded, but said nothing. Those wings were gristly fellows.
"Out loud," she said.
She was the most resolute penitent I ever saw. "Swede, I forgive you. Is it all right now?"
She hugged her elbow. "Thanks, Reuben--can I have the feet?"
I whacked them off at a chop apiece and tossed them up to the truck. Swede caught them and scrambled over to the grainbed. My hands were freezing and I dreaded the next part--I ought to've taken Davy's offer to clean the goose. Aiming at a spot under the breastbone, I plunged in.
"Swede," I said--just talking so she'd stay with me--"I don't get what's wrong with Davy."
She didn't answer right away. She sat on the flatbed toying with the goose feet. She took so long to speak I got involved in a tangle of guts and forgot I'd said anything.
Finally she said, "He's mad about Dolly."
"Oh." Davy's girlfriend. "How come?"
She looked at me. "You heard," she said. "Last night, driving over."
We'd gotten a late start, as I mentioned. The football team had been busy getting whomped; it was almost eleven before we got on the road.
"I was sleeping."
"You were faking, I could tell. Just like me."

Here's a short scene from LIKE CLOCKWORK (companion book to Clockwise)
Adeline goes on a drive in 1955 with a guy she's just met.

We pulled into a lookout with a view of the Hollywood valley. A couple of kids in the car next to us were making out. I hoped Howard didn’t have any ideas. I wasn’t ready to let our relationship go that far yet.
Especially since we weren’t in a relationship.
Howard motioned for me to follow him out of the truck. We leaned up against the front bumper watching as the streetlights in the valley below started to pop on.
Howard shoved his fists in his pockets. “How old are you, anyway?”
“Eighteen.” It just slipped out. I couldn’t believe I'd just lied about my age.
“Eighteen,” Howard said, like he was rolling the number around in his mouth. “Are you sure about that?”
It was my ponytail. It made me look too young. “I think I know my own age,” I insisted.
“Well, then, would you like a beer?” Howard stepped over to the side of his truck and reached in to open a cooler.
“Eighteen’s not drinking age,” I said. Besides I hated the taste of beer. I shook my head.
“Who’s gonna tell?” Howard had a can opener on his key chain and used it to remove the cap off the bottle. He took a swig then eyed me with a tilt of his head. “I don’t really like girls who drink beer, anyway. Not very attractive.”

So in summary: dialogue, used together with action, reveals character and backstory, and creates tension compelling the story forward.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Crafting Your Best Story - Writing Tip #22 - The White Room Syndrome

Have you ever read a story where it's all action and dialogue but you can't quite picture where it's all taking place? This is what I call the White Room Syndrome. It happens when the author fails to give the reader enough setting for the scene. As a rule of thumb I try to always provide at least two or three setting details to anchor the scene.
For instance, many YA books have scenes that take place in a classroom. Because most of us already know what North American classroom is like, it's easy to assume that we don't need to provide setting details because we believe the reader will provide those on her own. This may be true, but it doesn't provide for an engaging reading experience.
Say we have two characters sitting together in a classroom. There's tension, conflict and witty dialogue between them, but beyond their shared desk it's a white out.  A few details added by the pov character will create a sense of dimension.
A poster of the cross section of a man's chest hung on the wall, heart, lungs and liver exposed, the corners curling with aged tape held firm by tacks. Across the room a warm breeze blew in through open windows. Mr. Jones's back faced us as he scribbled on the board, chalk scratching in rhythm.
Now back to action/ dialogue between characters. See how mentioning three things brings the setting alive?
Of course the opposite problem to the white room syndrome is excessive descriptive passages. If I went on and on about every detail in the classroom the reader's eyes would begin to gloss over before he even got to the action/dialogue.
Here's an example from Divergent by Veronica Roth. Her main character has entered a room where she'll be tested to determine what faction she's from.
Mirrors cover the inner walls of the room. I can see my reflection from all angles: the gray fabric obscuring the shape of my back, my long neck, my knobby-knuckled hands, red with a blood blush. The ceiling glows white with light. In the center of the room is a reclined chair, like a dentist, with a machine next to it. It looks like a place where terrible things happen.
"Don't worry," the woman says, " it doesn't  hurt."
Ms Roth even uses this passage to describe a setting as an opportunity for us to see what her main character looks like. You can see that she picked out three things to brighten the setting--the mirrors, the ceiling and the reclined chair.
In Clockwise, Nate and Casey are in the cabin for the first time and Nate's asking questions. Casey pauses to consider her surroundings before answering.
... two cots with a night table between them--a candle and a box of matches the only thing on it--and a larger table under the window with a pitcher and bowl for washing up. A small brick fireplace was built into the corner with a little pile of kindling and a stack of wood against the wall. I lit the candle, then stepped across the room, the wooden floor squeaking under my feet.
Three things are described and elaborated on which erases the white room syndrome: the cots, a larger table, a fireplace. Now when Casey and Nate talk, we can really picture where they are.
Sometimes it just takes one or two details to brighten a setting in order to the ground the reader in the setting and make for a more engaging and enjoyable read.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Crafting Your Best Story - Tip #21 - Protagonist vs Antagonist

In case you don't know, and some people don't and that's okay, Protagonist is a fancy word for Main Character. Harry Potter is a protagonist. Bella Swan is a protagonist.
I like to call my main character, Protag for short, but it's not a word you'll find in the dictionary or that spell check recognizes. :)
Most books have only one protagonist, but if you're writing a book from more than one point of view, then each pov will have it's own protagonist. Maggie Stiefvater does this in her Shiver series when she alternates chapters between Grace and Sam and later, Cole and Isabelle.
You already probably know that the antagonist is the bad guy. The most obvious antagonist in Harry Potter is Voldemort. 
Often in any given story the protagonist faces more than one antagonist. We see this a lot in comic book stories such as Spiderman. In the first movie Spiderman had to take on the Green Goblin.
But, your antagonist or antagonists are not only other humans or human-like forces. An antagonist is any one or any thing that gets in the way of the protagonists quest or goal.
The antagonist can actually be a situation like a war or bad weather that is the protag's hurdle.
And very often, I'd say almost always, there is something called the Inner Antagonist. The inner antagonist is a belief system that gets in the way of the protag's goal or quest. In Harry Potter one of Harry's inner antagonist's is his belief that he can't be the one chosen to conquer his outer antagonist, Voldemort. He is constantly questioning his call and abilities.
In Twilight, the human antagonist is James, the vampire that hunts Bella. Her inner antagonist is her belief that she is not worthy of Edwards love, and also her growing mixed feelings for Jacob.
In Spiderman, Peter Parker's inner antagonist is his desire to get revenge and his belief that these feelings won't change him for the worse.
When you are plotting out your stories, make sure you understand who your antagonists are, both inner and outer, and how they are going to work towards thwarting your protag's quest or goal. And in the climax, your protag must conquer his outter and inner antagonists.