Sunday, May 27, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday #5!

Neal could fool himself into believing it was just him and the band and as much of the crowd as he could see, the first seven or eight rows. It was really a good thing he didn’t have the chops to do lead axe yet because doing lead vocal was nerve-wracking enough.

He belted the song out with all the fear, love, and sweat he had. Electricity rippled through his veins. Punches of double bass drums and cymbals thumped in his head and gut. People down in front danced and sang along: I am alive again!
Welcome to my SSS excerpt! Continuing the scene from my previous excerpts: #1, #2, #3 and #4. The scene I'm using for these snippets is not intended for the novel; it's just something I'm having fun with.

Visit Six Sentence Sunday's homepage for a plethora of pieces from other writers. There's truly something for everyone. I like the limit imposed by only six  sentences. I really have to think about my word choices to get the most out of that little bitty piece of scene.

Thanks to everybody who stopped by today, whether you left a comment or not. I like having people drop by so much I'll set out a nice plate of your favorite cyber muffins, tea, and coffee :)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Because just being bad isn't good enough

Continuing with thoughts on the motivation for your story's antagonist/villain/BBU. On Magical Words, Faith Hunter has part five in her series about 11 things you should know about your own book. Faith uses the abbreviation BBU for villain.

image photo : Poison Pen 2
The poison pen
For me, the idea for my novel didn't start out including anybody I could clearly identify as a villain. It was about a clash of cultures as personified by two characters with opposite personalities and lifestyles who are thrown together.

The character of Tony, Neal's biological father, appeared in a small role and gradually took on more importance as I saw what fun it could be to use him as another complication in Neal's life. And gradually I realized that underutilizing Tony was letting a good bad guy go to waste.

But, I still don't have enough motivation for him to be the bad guy toward Neal. Using a technique taught by Laurie Schnebly Campbell in her course at Writer U, I have this much so far: Tony finds out that Neal has moved in with filthy rich musicians; he wants some of that money--why? Well, he's into selling drugs, and he wants money so he can eventually become filthy rich himself and maybe live in another country where it's easier to live outside the law while being filthy rich himself.

Why does he want to be filthy rich? Ah, here we are: good question!image photo : Light bulb with a brain Well I have to admit it, I just don't know. I feel the reason's out there; I just have to keep fishing for it. I also want to know why he went into law enforcement and which came first, being a cop or being bad. Those answers will tell me a lot about him. I've gone to the trusty brainstormers on Critique Circle for help.

Once I find those things out, his part in the story will have to be adjusted. Now that I'm well into my third draft, Tony is mentioned much earlier than in the previous drafts. Still, I'm sure he can contribute additional excellent plot points.

I really like the unpolished scenes I already have between him and Neal, after Tony kidnaps him. Tony threatens to shoot Alex, his other son, when Alex tries to rescue Neal so I also know that Tony doesn't have much attachment to family. Yet, I don't want Tony to be a cliched, 2-D villain. I want readers to understand why he's bad and maybe even sympathize a bit. So use your BBUs to their fullest! Exploit them, because that's what they're good at.

PS -- Please join me tomorrow for my entry for Six Sentence Sunday!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday #4!

Phil gave him a light push from behind. Neal slung his guitar on; the way it hung in front of him reminded him of a shield. His heart pounded harder when the hot chicks in the first few rows screamed at him, waving and bouncing. Off in the darkness of the wings at stage left, April would be sitting with other friends of the band, watching. Eyes closed, one hand gripping the neck of his guitar and the other clenched around the microphone, he announced the last song.

“I want to dedicate this one to my lady friend, and even though it’s a cover, it says exactly the right things.”
Welcome to my latest excerpt for SSS. This is an innovative idea guaranteed to get you interested in other writers' work. Read more authors here. It's pretty darn cool!

My previous entries: #1, #2 and #3. Thanks to everybody who stops by my blog, whether you comment or not - I appreciate it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What do you know about YOUR book?

A recent post at Magical Words by Faith Hunter is for her series on things writers should know about their own books. We've all read books that had us scratching our heads over one or more issues. I don't want to be one of the authors somebody in the future uses as an example of a bad writer, so I'll see how my WIP measures up with Faith's points.

The post is part 4 in the series; here, she asks What is your Main Character’s biggest motivation? Faith said
image photo : Attackthat one's easy, but not so fast: I thought I had Sandy's motivation down but it turns out that it wasn't enough. It wasn't personal or high-stakes enough. When I discovered that his cousin slashed him with a knife a few years earlier then died while in alcohol detox, his guilt over what he saw as his failure to help her became the primary motive.

Neal's main motive has been easier, but still, it can sink into cliché-ism (yes, writers make up words, woohoo!) He wants to escape a life so rough that he literally doesn't know from day to day how long he'll live. Oh fine, whatever. Good luck with that. But: He's effectively an orphan because his father died and his mom abandoned him, so he was pretty much raised by that street gang. When he's offered the chance to start a new life in a completely different segment of society, he knows that if he accepts, he can never go back to the friends who accepted him when his own mother discarded him.

And speaking of her, Neal's rescuer offers to hire a PI to try to track her down. Now Neal might even find out why she abandoned him.

Ah, now we've got the start of something potentially interesting. J

Faith's next question: what's your antagonist's (whom she charmingly refers to as the Big Bad Ugly) main motivation? This is a valid question because readers in the 21st century are no longer content with villains who are bad just for the fun of being bad.

image photo : Dangerous manFor my first two drafts, my antagonist didn't even show up until the last 1/3 of the story. And then I didn't know why he was the antagonist! He was just there to throw more difficulties in Neal's way. The fact that this villain was also Neal's biological father--but not the man his mother married--was just a side note.

Next time I'll go over that angle. I shall try to get my post for Six Sentence Sunday to go live on time, but Blogger refuses to schedule it, so keep your fingers crossed! J

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random acts of writerly kindness

The ladies who are every writer's best friends at The Bookshelf Muse have a cool thing going on to celebrate the release of The Emotion Thesaurus, and it's better than a bloghop.

Becca and Angela have been member of Critique Circle for a while and have what may be the best site for writers. Their collection of thesauruses--thesauri?--really help you break out of that cliché box. Emotions are maybe the thing writers have the biggest trouble conveying believably and yet not boringly. Angela and Becca have put together a thesaurus that makes you think about what it is you're trying to show, and helps you say it just the right way.

Because those two muses regularly do things differently, they've decided to host a kind of Writers Thanksgiving: Random Acts of Kindness Toward Writers. Without writers, the publishing industry would not exist; without our support systems, writers could not exist. So today especially, but also anytime it occurs to you, say "thank you" to anybody and everybody who helps you as a writer. We put up with a lot while improving our craft--it's time to appreciate everything we do for each other.

So in no particular order, I give big cyber hugs to:

* Critique Circle; Jon and his crew of moderators, and the cast of members who bring the site to life. You guys lit the fire under my rocket!

* Art Edwards, instructor for the Rock-n-Roll Writing course I took over a year ago. Art offered sensitive and constructive critiques, and even answered a list of 18 questions about the music business, which was not directly related to writing and something he could very easily have said 'no' to. Whenever I email him, more than a year after the course, he always replies and is still sweet and helpful.

* Elmwood Writers Group, my local bunch. We meet at Spot Coffee every Wednesday evening and share silliness, crits, encouragement, great food and drink, and the sort of camaraderie that only happens when people 'get' you.

* The insightful folks at Magical Words, who are published authors yet not the type who feel they're too good to interact with their readers.

* All the authors whose works I've read over the last many years and loved, because you are the ones who first helped me realize that it's okay to be a dreamer.

* The people who visit my blog for Six Sentence Sunday, because I love seeing your comments and going to your sites to see your own excerpts. What a great concept SSS is!

* My sisters Jackie and Rose, who write also and therefore understand me when I come into the room, shake my head, and mutter "Characters! Where's the wine?"

* My mother, who was a HUGE Agatha Christie fan and passed her love of reading on to her daughters.

You can be sure that I will have to thank all those people again in the future, because all of them will be--can I say this?--instrumental in getting my rock lit novel published.

Have YOU hugged a writer today?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

grab bag

I've had a number of writing-related thoughts banging around in my head lately, so I'm going to get some of them out right here.

Hands of friends Stock ImageMy local writers' group--I love these people. We always go out of our way to tell new people we're glad they came and let them know when they offer particularly insightful comments. This past Wednesday, for example, we were reviewing some of the lyrics for a play/musical Jack is writing as a parody of a major, well-known work. (Will not go into more details because I haven't asked him for permission.)

Five of us read the lyrics. A new person stopped in to the meeting and offered a suggestion for a better rhyme that hadn't occured to any of the regulars. Fresh eyes help! This was somewhat embarrassing for me since I write things I like to think of as lyrics, and I didn't think of that idea. I don't write them to music though so I have no idea if they'd really work as songs, but I try, and to have somebody totally out of the blue come up with a great suggestion was a bit embarrassing and pretty humbling for me.

Critique Circle--always fascinating points of view and opinions on the forums. Different from a live group because you can take time to really think about your answer and edit it as you're typing it into the box, I never fail to get a kick out of the ways people express themselves. Some folks clearly type and hit "send" before thoughts are fully formed and others seem to be meticulous about how, and what, they type.

And if I see that some people's posts are routinely riddled with typos and badly worded ideas (such that they often have to explain what they meant), then I'm not likely to read their stories. That's just how I feel about writers. Express yourself as clearly as you can, if you're going to say something where others can read your words.

And for those who obsess about such things, I realize everybody makes mistakes. I'm talking about routine mess-ups. My backspace key gets a serious workout, and everybody who uses a computer has one though not everybody uses it. That's my opinion, and this is my blog.

Will not turn this into a rant. The other thing I love about a site like Critique Circle is that it really helps me feel that I'm part of a community of writers. You've got to observe people (if not interact with them) in order to write about them and writing websites are excellent for that.
Space Stock Photo
The mélange of topics in the "forums" lets you see what makes these people tick. I'm fascinated by how different people think differently and this comes out vividly in a website, where members come from all over the world. Some evenings I just lurk in the forums and never get to my WIP.

I'd rather stay home and write than go out most of the time, but I've never regretted going to a single meeting of my local writers' group. What do you guys think? How do you balance the need to do the actual writing all by yourself with the human need for some contact?

(BTW I'll be back on May 20th with Six Sentence Sunday--issues with Blogspot tripped me up this week)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday #3!

"She's not crazy," Phil said. "Need anything before you get out there?"

"All the tequila in the world wouldn't help tonight," Neal answered, "but thanks."

He followed Phil to the stage curtains and tried to stand still while Phil fitted the earpieces on for his monitor system.

She wouldn't do that to him--turn him down? Maybe this was a bad idea . . . ah shit, he'd already made up his mind.
Continuing from last week. Neal's in a rock band and getting ready to offer a ring to his girlfriend onstage, if she'll come out from the wings.

Read excerpts from other people's WIPs here. It's a great way to sample other writers' works and maybe make some new friends.

Anybody who stops by to read my excerpt--thanks for coming! Comments are always appreciated.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Share some ice cream with your characters

A recent post on the importance of character interaction on the site Magical Words reminded me that one of the things I love most about my novel-in-progress is the characters. I absolutely love the way Neal and Sandy interact; they surprise me constantly, they make me think about human nature, they draw me further into their futures than I ever intended to go.

In his post, David B Coe makes the observation about the Harry Potter books that Harry himself has some intriguing things going on with his background and his personality, but it's his interaction with Hermione and Ron that we see a more developed character. As he deals with enemies we see his inner strength, and that brings out emotions in us, the readers. We get more invested in Harry the more he seems like a real person.

image photo : Portrait of an urban boyDavid's post gives me a certain validation about the way I'm handling my own WIP. Throughout the novel, Neal goes through several changes; some are precipitated by Sandy and some by other characters. Sandy's less-than-noble side is brought to the fore in his interaction with Neal, and Sandy is forced to deal with the things about himself that he doesn't like and tried to ignore.

On Letter Go, you'll find (on a separate page) an abbreviated version of the scene between Neal and Sandy on the day of Sandy's wedding. It takes place years beyond where I plan to end Street Glass. The full version of the scene is absolutely classic Sandy-and-Neal: Neal picks on Sandy for being the perennial Nice Guy, Sandy picks on Neal for being, well, Neal. They remind me of Carson and McMahon.

Even though that scene won't make it into the novel (unless maybe a sequel) it still gives me a lot to build on. Because I know how their friendship develops, it's easier to write how it begins. Some of the novel's plot points happen because of how they interact with each other, too.

image photo : Two cool guys with guitarsIn his post, David recommends doing pretty much the same thing--writing scenes with the intent of just getting to know the characters. From comments I see on Critique Circle, it appears that a lot of writers either don't know how helpful that can be, or have forgotten. If you've explored character interaction in scenes outside of your WIP, what have you learned that you didn't expect to? How has it made working on the WIP easier? Because y'all were nice enough to stop by, come have some Creme Brulee ice cream  :) And Happy Cinco de Mayo!