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YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart

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Writing Techniques

Breaking Writer’s Block

How to Break Writers BlockWritten by Beth Rodgers

There are so many places to visit and ideas to consider that I find it hard to even know where to begin. Breaking writer’s block should be much easier, however, once you explore the places and think about the people who help provide you with the best writing fodder.

Just last month, I had my second child. I must say that children really do say the darndest things much of the time, and that holds true with my toddler, but with newborns, just watching them and feeding off of their energy and sweet smiles can provide a whole different set of instincts that can be stupendously helpful in writing.

There are also museums, libraries, movie theaters, sports arenas, comedy clubs, and a variety of other locations to inspire fun writing ideas. Some of these places may have children around, while others will only have adults or senior citizens, and others will have a mixture of all three. Viewing people through the perspective of locations they go to and the different demographics they go with can be especially telling when investigating new and distinct writing techniques.

Now, you must have an open mind. All the places mentioned above will have creative writing guides who will be happy to share their expertise with you. Just remember, you don’t have to visit any or all of the places listed here. There may be other places you frequent, or places you do not go so frequently that you want to re-visit. Sometimes re-visiting locations, or even characters or settings that you have written and left alone for a while, can help you get back on the right track, as you look at each once again from a fresh viewpoint.

Here is a sampling of some of the creative writing guides you might find as you visit a variety of these places:

Creative Writing Guide #1: Museums and Docents

You’ll find a guide to breaking writer’s block at almost any museum you visit. There are hosts and hostesses who act as docents, and who will at least point you in the right direction, if not lead you on a tour of inspirational areas that just may heighten your writing interest in a new (or old) topic. I myself love visiting presidential homes that have been turned into makeshift museums. I find the historical value fascinating, and the woodwork or other decorations in the home oftentimes provide me with unique ideas for settings that I might want to incorporate into my own writing in some way.

Creative Writing Guide #2: Libraries and Librarians

If you are a writer or a reader, this should be a no-brainer for you. Libraries are chock full of what we love – books, books, and more books! Librarians will be your guide to help you research what interests you at your local library. A variety of books, CDs, movies, and possibly even microfiche (remember that?!) to supplement the ever-popular Internet will be available at most locations you visit.

Creative Writing Guide #3: Movies and Scriptwriters

It may sound ridiculous that anything original can come out of the movies anymore. There are some great ones still, mind you, but they are few and far between compared to the feature films of the past.

Visit movie theaters and video stores (yes, they still exist!). Allow scriptwriters to be your creative writing guides in discovering what writing formats work best for them, how those styles make you like or dislike their work all the more or less, and how you can use these same formats for breaking your writer’s block.

Creative Writing Guide #4: Sports Games

Go to a game. Don’t just attend baseball, basketball, hockey, or football games. Try something new. Find a soccer game in your area. Watch a high school team play lacrosse. Seek out a rugby tournament. Some of the best writing in movies, books, and newspapers come from America’s favorite pastimes.

Don’t discount the power of watching a sports game. The fact that you enjoy it means that you can discuss it at some length, and therefore you can write about it with some sense of authority.

Creative Writing Guide #5: Comedians and Comedy Clubs

Comedy clubs are popular, and more and more people are repeating jokes that Dane Cook, Amy Schumer, Jimmy Fallon, and other comedians are reciting. After all, if Saturday Night Live wasn’t popular, it would be off the air. It has been running in syndication since 1975, and its popularity is still sky-high.

Comedians are writers, too. So use them as your creative writing guides. They use other comedians, as well as book, TV, and movie writers to help them come up with new and sensational jokes. They feed off of pop culture, news stories, and interesting things that happen to them or that they come across.

So, pretend that you’re a comedian – at least in the sense that you pick and choose what best works for you, and write those ideas down. You’ll soon find that you are breaking writer’s block for good if your mind is constantly churning and ideas are constantly being written down.

It sounds hard, but breaking writer’s block is an easy task. Visit some of these places as well as others that come to mind. Write down what you see and hear. Attend concerts, ask questions, listen to what is being said in line in front of you at a Starbucks. You may be surprised at what you come across.

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American English VS British English

American English vs British English in writingWritten by Lauren Mayhew

Ok, this may seem obvious to most of you, but here is a quick pointer to differences in English and American English words. I have read many books written by non-British authors that contain English characters and not all of the terminology has been correct. The same can be said for British authors writing American characters too.

To me as a reader, this is only relevant to books written in first person or for dialogue. In descriptive text, feel free to use ‘Organization’ instead of ‘Organisation’. This is only relevant to when a British/ American character is speaking/ thinking.

I know that if I was writing an American, Australian or British character, I’d need to do some research into certain words that may be different. Here’s a little list of words or phrases that are used differently. (I’ve put the American English first.)

Band-Aid  –  Plaster

Bangs  –  Fringe

Block  –  Street

Candy  –  Sweets

Cell Phone  –  Mobile Phone (to be honest, I just say phone..)

Crossing Guard  –  Lollipop Man/ Lady (you probably won’t ever have to use this one, but I love it)

Diaper  –  Nappy

Fall  –  Autumn

Faucet  –  Tap

Flashlight  –  Torch

French Fries  –  Chips

Galoshes  –  Wellies

Gas  –  Petrol

Jello  –  Jelly

Jelly  –  Jam

Math  –  Maths

Mom/ Mommy  –  Mum/ Mummy

Pants  –  Trousers (pants mean underwear in England)

Potato Chips  –  Crisps

Recess  –   Break Time

Robe  –  Dressing Gown

Sidewalk  –  Pavement

Sneakers  –  Trainers

Soccer  –  Football

Sweater  –  Jumper

Trash Can  –  Dustbin

Vacation  –  Holiday

A Fortnight is a measurement of time. A fortnight is equal to two weeks.

After Patrick ever so kindly edited my book, he brought a few more words and phrases to my attention that I presumed everyone knew! Here they are:

Coconut Shy  –  This is a fairgound game where coconuts are sat on little pedestals and you American English vs British English Coconut Shyhave to try and knock one off with a ball to win a prize.

Eggs and Soldiers  –  A boiled egg with toast cut into strips (soldiers) to dunk into it.

Faffing around  –  To ‘faff’ around: to spend your time doing a lot of things that are not important instead of the thing that you should be doing.

Stonking  –  Used to emphasize something that is impressive, exciting or very big. I used it like this: How do you hide a stonking great Land Rover?

There are so many words that I would love to put in here, but most of them aren’t really appropriate for a YA audience. If you’re ever in doubt about a word, ask someone. I’d be more than happy to help any fellow authors with British slang. Just send me a message or tweet!

The Love of Writing

 

ladybugWritten by Debbie Manber Kupfer

 

At eight years old I turned into a ladybird. The story prompt in the Puffin Post said to choose a creature and write a story from its point of view. I spent days wandering around my house and garden in Barking, a working-class borough of London, peering into my dad’s magnifying shaving mirror and imagining my life as a tiny red, spotted crawling thing. Then I wrote that story and sent it off to the magazine and I waited.

Two months later I tore open the envelope that held my Puffin Post and scanned through the pages and there was my name in print – Deborah Manber. I’d got a mention for my ladybird story. And so it began: my love of words, of dreams, of stories (and as that first story involved me turning into an insect, I guess my love of shapeshifters started here too.)

As a child I filled notebooks with tales. I wrote a series of school stories, based around the playground. I even remember the titles – Rodney and Me (about a large Old English Sheepdog that hung out around the school playground – the only dog I ever truly was comfortable with), The Day the Workman Came (about when the playground was torn up and the equipment reminded me of huge monsters breathing fire), and Parents Week (a week when we got to go out to work and our mums and dads sat in the classroom. I didn’t understand back then that the parents might actually have enjoyed the swap!)

Each time I wrote another tale, I escaped – escaped from the meanness that surrounded me in that playground, but back then I never put the bullies in my stories (that would come later when I wrote P.A.W.S.) My stories were my refuge and apart from that one tale I sent to the Puffin Post, I never shared them with anyone.

Over the years I would continue writing. I wrote letters to an imaginary boyfriend in my teens. And as he was imaginary he wrote me beautiful letters back and sent me a handmade Valentine!

During college I wrote bad poetry in a black bound notebook that I believe still sits in a box in my basement. Maybe someday the kids will clean out the basement and find the poetry and laugh at their mom. My own mother, I discovered a couple of years ago, used to keep a diary when she was a kid. I found it when I was helping her move and she let me keep it. It’s a treasure. She wrote mundane stuff about her everyday life, which is fascinating to me today, but also in the back of the book are two stories she wrote. So maybe this writing thing runs in the family.

Both my kids write – my son recently started writing fan fiction for a game series he likes to play online. I felt very privileged when he let me read some of it a couple of nights ago (“but no editing, Mom, OK?”) Privileged and surprised. He has more confidence in his writing than I ever did at his age.

Since I’ve been published my mum has read each of my books and enjoyed them even though fantasy isn’t really her thing. My father enjoyed the genre, but sadly passed from this world before I became a published author.

Today I still find comfort and love in words. If I’m particularly tired or sad, I can sit down at my computer or just with a piece of paper and pen and write out an escape. Sometimes I’ll tear up the words, sometimes I’ll save them and eventually share them. But either way after writing it down I feel a little better.

Amazon and the Future of Publishing

Written by Christopher Mannino

Amazon is generally considered to be responsible for the demise of hundreds of brick and mortar bookstores. The mega-retailer helped drive dozens of independent bookstores into bankruptcy, and pushed the former chain Borders into oblivion.

Then, last fall, Amazon surprised many by opening a physical bookstore in its home town Seattle.

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The bookstore is built on a different model than large bookstores of the past, such as Barnes and Noble, Borders, or Books A Million. With most chain bookstores, books are stocked by the publisher’s demands. These demands are issued by the so-called “big five” traditional publishers such as HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin. The publishers sign an author, and release a set number of books to the stores.

A new author, for example, might get offered a 10,000 book run. All of the bookstores would be sent copies of the novel, totalling 10,000 copies, and the author hopes they sell. The bookstores are given a time limit, usually about three weeks, and then any books that are unsold are destroyed and sent back to the publisher. If the author had an advance, he can be docked the cost of returned books. If he didn’t have an advance, he still knows he likely won’t get another contract if the books sold poorly. With this model, the big five establish what books are in stores, and all books are either “make it or break it” novels for an author. If you don’t succeed big, you fail, and there’s little room in between.

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However, all of that might change. On Tuesday Feb 2nd, the announcement was released that Amazon will open HUNDREDS of physical bookstores. CNBC shared the announcement, citing up to 400 brick and mortar stores to open. Amazon retracted the statement shortly after, and while not denying that it plans to increase its number of physical stores, it is backing away from specific numbers. Only TWO days after the announcement originally aired, Barnes and Noble stocks had plummeted 14%, showing the real fear of the mega-retailer’s possible entry into the chain bookstore venue.

If Amazon does open hundreds of physical bookstores, the entire publishing industry could change. Amazon has publicly stated that its physical bookstore’s selections are based entirely off of sales and ratings of books on Amazon.com. A quick look through the online store and many of the bestsellers are NOT published by the big five publishers. Many bestsellers are self-published books offered at Amazon only. If these then become the books seen in physical bookstore chains, how will the big five respond?

In 2012, Houghton Mifflin filed for bankruptcy to help erase debt. The big publishers are facing increasing financial hardhips, and with the oncoming Amazon phyiscal chain, they NEED to shift their focus if they hope to survive. One model that may gain in popularity is Print on Demand, or POD. Many books, including The Scythe Wielder’s Secret, are currently offered as POD, and since books are only printed when they’re ordered, there are far fewer financial risks. If a national bookstore chain is filled with POD books, will old model publishers even be relevant? Could the big five focus on print on demand publishing, instead of enormous gamble-based runs? Could the older publishers focus on marketing, or other mechanisms not necessarily available to smaller presses, so that they still have something unique to offer? Or will the older publishers crumble, like Borders did? The only thing certain in the publishing industry is that the business is changing rapidly, and the old rules don’t necessarily work any more.

The ABC’s of Writing: Part 2

abcsofwritingpart2Written by Beth Rodgers

The ABCs of writing continue this month with the rest of the alphabet (see January’s post here).  It’s vital for writers to know their own ABCs so they know what they’re aiming for in writing.

 

Nostalgia.  Use experiences and memories.  Capitalize on the effects of something that happened to you, or causes that got you there.  Feed into nostalgia by remembering how you got a character out of conflict in the past.  It may help you figure out just how to solve a similar problem in a new story you’re writing.  Use nostalgia to your benefit.  Establishing a solid store of connected memories and emotions can make for gripping writing.

 

Opaque.  Don’t be too opaque or transparent.  Don’t make it difficult to understand, or, for that matter, too simple.  Leave room for curiosity.  Don’t give everything away (too transparent), and don’t keep everything a secret until the last chapter (too opaque).  Let readers’ minds wander, but give clues to maintain interest.

 

Purpose.  It may sound cliché, but writing must have purpose.  Know what you’re writing, whom you’re writing for, and why you’re writing.  This helps writers hit home with their purpose.  It’s the driving force behind the greatest writing.

 

Quality.  Quality may seem an overdone characteristic, but it’s absolutely essential.  You may have heard that quality is more important than quantity.  In good writing, this rings true.  Quantity looks good on paper (the more you have, the more work you did, right?), but the truth is that too much of something can be troublesome.  For example, you might find yourself becoming repetitive if you’ve done too much writing.  Season your writing with quality; pepper it with all the ABCs that are staples of your process.

 

Respect.  Have you ever read a book, watched a show, or listened to a song and wondered how in the name of good writing certain lines got uttered?  Maybe you’ve wondered how certain writers keep their jobs or how they continue to publish?  Respect quality writing.  Prove you know what makes good, impressive writing by reading great authors’ works and aspiring to the greatest heights with your own.  Not only should you respect others’ writing, but you should respect your own.  If you don’t respect what you do, how will others?

 

Sportsmanship.  Give your characters competitive edges.  Let them work both for and against one another to make more compelling, animated writing.  You want to keep readers on the edges of their seats by keeping characters on those same edges.  Make characters so vivid that readers are rooting for or against them as they deal with written conflicts and emotions.

 

Tact.  Watch your word choice.  You don’t want to fall into the trap of using too strong or too juvenile of language.  Gauge your intended audience and see what words and phrases best fit.  When writing dialogue, write how a person talks – not necessarily with proper grammar.  Understanding your characters will help your writing become more tactful.

 

Uniformity.  Don’t conform to normal writing approaches.  That isn’t to say that some of those approaches shouldn’t be used, because they should be.  Take into account all approaches that other writers have used to make their writing magical, creative, and interesting.  When you make your writing put on a “uniform,” you aren’t allowing it to bask in its own glory.  Let your writing take its own form.  Let it whisk you off into other worlds and help you understand your own style and approach.

 

Value.  Surely you take a vested interest in your writing.  After all, you’re penning it.  So, value your writing technique.  Trust what you know and what you write, and encourage yourself as you go.  Second, find value in your writing.  See strengths it exhibits.  However, don’t forget to look for areas to improve.  It’s the mark of a great, gifted writer when he or she can see areas that are lacking and in need of refinement.

 

Whimsy.  Make your writing fancy-free and whimsical.  Imagine new worlds.  Reach new heights or depths.  Create characters that only you have the ability to solidify through your unique technique.  Have fun, and as you do, write to your heart’s content!

 

Xylophone.  There aren’t many words that begin with ‘X’ that work.  So, go with me here.  A xylophone produces different sounds depending on the parts hit.  So should it be with writing.  Know how to hit high notes, low notes, and everything in-between.  Xylophones allow you to improvise, so try out different writing styles.  Improve your technique by testing different genres.  See what you can do to make your writing more surprising and impressive.

 

Yet.  If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?  You may not have been published yet.  You may not have perfected your writing technique yet.  You may not even know what you want to write about yet.  Notice what the key word is in all this: yet.  Nothing may have happened yet, but it may be on the verge of happening.  Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  Work harder.  Strive to higher heights; imagine thrilling scenes.  Everything good will come in time, as long as you keep in mind that it might not have happened yet, but it’s working its way there, just as you’re still working your way there.

 

Zest.  One of the most important aspects of the ABCs of writing is to have zest for what you’re doing.  You want to come across as someone who loves his or her craft, and the best way to do this is to prove your love of writing by making it part of your everyday life.  Use zest to engage in symbolism, vocabulary, and other aspects of your own ABCs that make you love what you do.

 

The ABCs of writing don’t stop here.  There are many more words that can be explored to further your craft.  You can learn to write what you like and do it well.

 

Now that you’ve read my ABCs of writing, what are yours?

Are Writers Like Voldemort?

Written by Christopher Mannino 

Two recent reviews compared School of Deaths to the Harry
Potter series. I decided to play on that a bit with this question: are
writers like Voldemort?

I say YES.
The first similarity is that both writers and Voldemort use magic.
Voldemort’s magic mostly involves torturing and killing people.
He seems especially obsessed with a teenage boy, and finds ways
to get into the boy’s mind.  A writer also uses
magic.  Writers use a group of arcane symbols arranged into
clumps they call words.  Like a spell, they can take an image,
something that only exists as a slight fancy in their imagination, and
dump it into the imaination of their reader.  As I type, an
elephant walked in front of my window stinking of manure.  Did
you picture an elephant, or smell manure?  What if I then told
you there was no elephant?  That transference is the most real
form of magic imaginable….
“Writing is magic.” – Stephen King,
On Writing
 
Another striking similarity is in what both writers and Voldemort
want: eternal life.  Voldemort is obsessed with the idea of
immortality.  He kills people to create horcruxes, ironially
causing his own downfall and death, when one of the horcruxes fights
back.  Writers are no different.  It’s true that many might
simply want to share their ideas, but in the end, by creating stories
that will endure, a writer has taken part of their soul and created
something eternal: a part of their soul that can be shared in
another’s mind, and could last forever.  Sounds a lot like making
horcruxes- only without all the murders.
So what do you think?  Are writers like Voldemort?
Also, don’t miss this stellar review for School of Deaths:  http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=20235
 

ABCs of Writing: Part 1

ABCs1

Written by
Beth Rodgers

When learning to write, we start with our ABCs.  They provide components that make writing easier.  Peruse the following words and explanations about how to use the alphabet to promote your writing craft; then check back next month for the rest of the alphabet!

Ammunition.  My reservoir of writing techniques serves as my ammunition to get the ball rolling.  I work to come up with new ideas to share with myself as I work on my writing.  Ammunition does not only have to be construed negatively.  People hear it and think of guns and violence.  However, in this case, it’s meant as the driving force behind my writing.  Each new idea I consider is part of the ammunition I’ve made a stockpile of as I pen my thoughts.

Bravery.  I’m not afraid to take risks.  I want to stand out and make my writing shine.  I make a point of including conflict to make endings more magical.  My characters struggle through dilemmas and emotions; they also consider ways to overcome struggles.  Sometimes that isn’t possible, and that’s what makes for more emotional, substantial details that lend themselves well to pulling at readers’ heartstrings and making them feel deeply for my characters.

Collection.  I have a large collection of books, poetry, websites, etc. I use when I feel stuck.  I read books in my chosen genre, and I make a point of learning more about authors by analyzing why they chose to write a certain way, why they made their characters act certain ways, etc.  It is important to see the paths others have taken in order to learn the craft well.

Decisions.  Making decisions can be hard, not only in life, but in writing.  Even when writing fiction, the reality of the writing must set in as you embrace the lives of the characters and realize you must make decisions that affect the outcomes of their lives.  Remember that creating conflict isn’t the worst thing, as there must be some sense of urgency throughout your writing in order to make it realistic.  You might have your readers suspend disbelief, but you also might want them to feel grounded in reality.  Pick your moments wisely, and make the most of your writing as you do.

Energy.  Never lose the vivacity and excitement you have when you begin writing something.  Stay on the writing rollercoaster, and let it take you on all the twists and turns it can.

Freedom.  Write to your heart’s content.  You can write a novel-in-verse or a short story that chronicles the top news headline.  You can write an idea for a unique TV pilot.  You are at liberty to make revisions, additions, and concessions within your writing until it’s to your satisfaction.

Gravity.  Stay grounded.  Even if you are writing fantasy or science fiction, don’t go so far as to be totally unbelievable.  You want to convey comprehension, and this may be lacking if you get too into ridiculous notions that readers aren’t apt to understand.  If you do choose to write silly, ridiculous stories or poems, great!  Just make sure the context is right.  Don’t write in this way if you haven’t prefaced your work to make it comprehensible.

Happiness.  Enjoy what you write.  Laugh at your jokes.  Employ descriptive words and phrases.  If you’re not happy with your writing, how can you expect anyone else to be?  Obviously, concessions can be made if you feel it’s for the best, but you’re the one doing what you love.  Make it a happy experience.  The rest will fall into place.

Instinct.  Use your instincts.  Intuition is a strong tool, and if you feel something is right or wrong for your story, trust yourself.  However, it can’t hurt to make a note of what you choose not to include, as you never know how it might come in handy in the future.  If you don’t write it down, you’re more likely to forget it.  Keep all your thoughts, as you never know when they might become useful and creatively stimulating in a way you never considered.

Jello.  This may sound silly, but when you make jello, you leave it in the refrigerator for a while before it becomes solid.  Until this happens, it’s liquid.  At that stage, it is not ready to eat, but when it takes on a more solid form, it becomes edible and tasty.  The same is true of writing (except the edible, tasty part – unless you’re thinking metaphorically).  Your writing needs to be worked on before it can become a solid structure.  You want to make sure you focus on all details necessary to make your work well-rounded.

Kin.  Work on characters.  Outline their physical characteristics and personalities.  The way someone acts is equally, if not more, important in some instances than the way he or she looks.  A character’s personality can be equated to someone readers know, and this will give them a vision of what they think the character looks like.

Lifestyle.  Writing should be a part of your daily lifestyle.  It is one of the most important ideas that gives creative license to write what you know and love.  Learn to think outside the box and see the world, your writing, your characterization, your emotions, and everything else in new, glorious ways.  Let your lifestyle become your motivation to notice more.

Market.  Be sure you market your writing appropriately.  Don’t attempt to sell a children’s fairy tale to an adult romance publisher.  Also, set your sights on the right demographic.  Consider who will read it.  Be certain that the words and phrases you use are at least somewhat specific to that demographic so you meet the needs of the people you’re most trying to impress.

More ABCs are forthcoming next month, but as you learn your own writing alphabet, consider the possibilities I’ve already presented.  There are so many places to go with your own writing; you just have to keep your eyes open.

Creating a Fantasy Supervillain

Written by
Christopher Mannino

As a speculative fiction writer, I’m always looking for new and interesting creatures. Often villains and magicians in fantasy have special abilities, things they do that are beyond normal,and might be terrifying.

Imagine, for instance, a creature with visual omnipresence. Omnipresence means that you can exist everywhere at once, able to see and witness everyone and everything. Unlike an omnipotent character, who knows everything, an omnipresent character would be able to see everything themselves. It’d be impossible to keep any secrets from this godlike ability, because everywhere you go, whether sleeping or awake, the character’s there, watching. Imagine for example, Sauron with visual omnipresence- he takes one look at the Ring- book’s over in chapter one. Same thing with Voldemort, President Snow, Darth Vader- you get the idea. Even in history this idea is terrifying. Want D-Day or the next drone strike to be a secret? What if the villain sees everything all the time? In nearly all fiction, the protagonists do things the villains aren’t aware of. Crafting a story around this feat is daunting.
Let’s make this super-villain more three-dimensional. As of now, he just has a superpower, albeit an impressive one. Imagine the villain also has a supernatural means of transportation. While he’s still able to see everything anywhere, he can’t actually get to places without traveling. We won’t let him fly directly, that’s too Marvel Universe for us, so instead we give him a flying car. Yes, he can hop on a flying car and travel rapidly to any location in the world. How fast? Let’s assume he can get anywhere he wants within a single night, even making multiple stops. Scared yet? This character can see everything, and now get anywhere within one night. It’s like having a TARDIS with the viewfinder always switched on.
The guy’s still not interesting enough, though. Let’s give him some minions. All villains have them. This character’s got dozens of them- all enslaved to his will. They do whatever he says all year round, making anything he asks for. Yeah, now we’re cooking, a character with visual omnipresence, able to travel anywhere within a night, who has a horde of servants.
Now we need to stop focusing on the evil/supernatural aspects and give our character some personality. President Snow and his blood breath and love of roses, Darth Vader’s persistent asthma and respirator- that sort of thing. Hmmm… well, let’s start by making the character fat. Too many villains are really thin and gaunt. It seems the skeletal look usually frightens people, so let’s make our character as chubby as possible. In fact, give him nice red cheeks, almost comical looking.
Let’s also give him a backstory. Maybe he used to be a farmer. Yes, he was a farmer long ago, before things went terribly wrong. His mother used to say “Plant, plant, plant! Plough, plough plough!” He’s never forgotten the last thing his mother demanded, asking him to hoe the fields, right before the accident. To this day, the guilt around her final words consumes him, and he can’t stop repeating them.
This character, by now, should be truly terrifying. Let’s take a look at what he might look like, if an artist was to draw a rendition:

Click HERE to see an artist rendition.

And no, I won’t even get into the obsession with little kids. That’s too frightening, even for me.

Songs to Write to!

Written by
Lauren Mayhew

I know everyone is different when they write and some people like to work in complete silence, whilst others have to have music playing. I personally, cannot write in silence, but if I play familiar songs, I find myself singing along to them and not doing any writing.

I do find a lot of inspiration in music though – I don’t steal people’s lyrics, if that’s what you’re thinking. I simply mean that certain songs evoke emotions that make me want to write certain things.

Below are a few certain scene types in all books and a few songs that I think are great to write to and get you in the mood to create something epic! I’m trying not to be too obvious with this, so no Titanic theme tune here! (The names of the songs also have links to their YouTube videos!)

Romance/ Love Scene:

Over and Over Again by Nathan Sykes
Always by Bon Jovi
AND every Adele song ever written…

Battle/ Fight Scene:
Ash and Smoke from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Soundtrack (Actual Battle Scene)
Call the Police by James Morrison (More of an argument song)

Comedy/ Light Hearted Scene:
Little Joanna by McFly
The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars

Death Scene:
Hi & Low by The Wanted
Close Your Eyes by RHODES

Uplifting Scene OR if you, as a writer, need some motivation:
Wings by Little Mix
I’ll Be Your Strength by The Wanted

I know there are many more generic scenes than this in a book, but I thought I’d pick out a few that are used most often. I’d love to know what you listen to when writing!

Playwriting

Written by Paul Briggs

Playwriting opens up new audiences for your writing and new avenues for success. Many community theaters are looking for local playwrights to showcase. This generally means writing for “exposure” rather than money, but unlike certain Web sites I could name, it gives you the chance to actually meet the people who like your writing.

 

If your story doesn’t have too many characters and takes place within one or two specific locations (preferably indoors) it might be a good subject for a play. Writing a play isn’t any harder than writing a novel, but it is a little less forgiving. Unless there’s a narrator or Greek chorus, the audience knows nothing about the characters except what’s revealed through their words and actions. In fact, that’s really all there is to your characters. The actors who portray them will give them not only their faces, but their inner lives.

 

My advice to anyone starting out in playwriting is to keep set description simple and not worry too much about the blocking. Let the director deal with that stuff. Concentrate on the real meat of the play — the lines.

 

We’ve all had moments, reading books or watching movies, where we were suddenly yanked out of the story by the thought “that’s not how the character would talk,” or possibly “that’s not how anybody talks.” In a play, more than anywhere else, your dialogue should sound spontaneous — even accidental. It should flow naturally from the characters and the situation. Spencer Tracy said to never let them catch you acting. If you’re a playwright, never let them catch you writing. If you have one perfect line you just have to get in (and I know you do) take the time to guide the conversation to where it becomes a natural response.

 

The usual rule is that one page of script equals one minute of performance, but don’t count on this. As you write, try acting the parts, and time yourself as you do. This will give you an idea how long your play is.

 

Also, don’t flex your vocabulary too much. I’ve seen even skilled young actors struggle to pronounce words like “omnipotent,” “peculiarly” or “trimethylaminuria.” (If you’re wondering what fool put that word in a play, I give you one guess.)

 

If your play is chosen for performance, it will escape your control and take on a life of its own. The director and actors will change it, and don’t be surprised if they improve it. They know what works onstage better than you do.

 

The biggest surprise of all will come if you take characters from a novel you wrote and put them in a play. These people you can picture so clearly you could spot them on a crowded subway will have not only different faces and forms, but reinterpreted personalities. Aspects of them that you thought no one knew about but you will suddenly be on proud display. You’ll learn new things about your own creations.

 

In short, I love playwriting.

Characters

12226885_1674434429437572_2084173535_nWritten by Cammie Conn

As in real life, books contain casts of characters as unique as winter snowflakes. If they didn’t, they’d lose their magic and compassion. People find immense joy in reading when they stumble across three-dimensional characters that remind them of themselves — or someone that they know.

In my books (or drafts), I tried to include a wide array of personalities that would serve to broaden the story line as well as provide some thought-provoking questions about the inception of their traits. How would these characters interact? What is her favorite pastime? Why does he walk like that? Readers are inquisitive creatures, which makes writing all the more enjoyable.

A few stock characters can usually be found in most fictional novels, if not all of them. But whether there’s a courageous hero, a powerful heroine, a cunning villain, or a plucky sidekick, the most exciting character (to me, at least) is the wounded anti-hero. This character is often defined by a pain-ridden past, a fierce internal struggle, and the capacity to be a hero. Make no mistake: villains and anti-heroes are NOT always the same. Villains are openly evil, complete with evil laughs and evil hand rubs and evil armies at their command. Anti-heroes are struggling against their nature and against what they know to be right at the same time.

Do they win? Not necessarily. In fact, not usually. At least, they don’t “win” according to our connotation of the term.

Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series is a perfect example of an anti-hero. Throughout the series, you find yourself alternating between rooting for and against him. In the end, you realize his great internal struggle. While some fans continue to vilify him, many argue that his life was, indeed, heroic. It’s all about perspective. Another example of an anti-hero would be Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars saga. (My nerdy is showing, I know!) In Star Wars, we watch as Anakin turns from a young, powerful person with good intentions to a bitter, broken monster because of his life experiences. But also, like Severus Snape, he ultimately redeems himself.

And that leaves us at redemption, one of the most touching and awe-inspiring qualities of an anti-hero. In my dystopian trilogy-in-progress, the heroine — Enna Price — finds herself fighting against several enemies, the most of which is herself. (No spoilers here … *whistle innocently*)
After all, the best heroes are often anti-heroes who win the battle against their dark nature.

Writing for the Reluctant Reader

Writing for Reluctant Readers

Written by Cynthia Port

Enticing the Reluctant Reader

Dear children’s author, please write for the kid who would rather trim her toenails for the third time than open a book.  Please write books that are better than video games and snow days and pizza. Please write books that make you feel as good as when your brother admits that you will always be better than him at video games and snow days and pizza.

A daunting request, but think about it: if you can hook reluctant readers, you’re pretty much guaranteed that the avid ones will be gaga over them. It’s kind of like broccoli; find a recipe to please the most finicky eater, and you’ve found your family’s new go-to dish.

 

I HATE reading

A reluctant reader is anyone who does not show a natural interest in reading.   This definition is very broad, encompassing children with learning disabilities and visual or psychomotor issues. But even when medical and development issues are absent, a child may still treat reading like a chore, and I would know.  Though we read equal numbers of books together, I have one child who did and one who did not experience an early love of reading. For the latter, just about any other activity brought her more pleasure, including staring at a television screen that I had turned off over an hour previously.

Reluctant Reader

A Picture Leads to a Thousand Words

With my reluctant reader, the key to getting her into reading, the gateway drug, so to speak, of literature, was Graphic Novels.  The books she initially chose were glorified picture books – goofy, simple drawings with fewer than 20 words to a page – and even then I wasn’t entirely sure she was reading any of the words.  I did not care.  She was holding a book in her hands willingly. She was taking them to bed at night and then propping them up against the cereal box in the morning.  She was letting me know when it was time to go back to the library.  She even wanted to read parts to me. And whether or not I found them entertaining, I pretended to be enthralled.

Slowly, over several years, she increased both her reading speed and her word to page ratio.  By the time she was paging backwards through manga graphic novels as thick as bricks, she was devouring them the way I polish off a bag of potato chips – I mean carrot sticks.  Today she is starting the third in the Fablehaven series.

After looking into the subject, I suspect the drawings in the graphic novels solved a problem many Reading Specialists identify among reluctant readers: connecting text to meaning.  Simply put, some children experience reading as an exercise in tracking words on a page, aka DRUDGERY. The drawings help make the connection between the words and the story because, while she might get the general gist just by looking at the pictures, bothering to read even a smattering of words made the pictures more alive.  The more she read, the more alive it became. Ta daaa!  Reading!

For many children this process happens during the traditional picture book years, but my child needed an extension.  She needed a way to be “held back” to picture book and early reader level without feeling punished or embarrassed by plots like “the puppy played in the mud and needed a bath.”  And though I’m not personally a fan of Graphic Novels, for giving my daughter this second chance, I have undying respect and gratitude toward the genre.

A Day in the Life of a Writer Part One: Life style changes for better production

become a more productive writer

Written By

Korey Ward

Now let me begin with saying that I know everyone has their own particular way of doing things, but this is the routine that works best for me.

  1. Once I made the decision of being a published author, I knew that I had to make some changes to my lifestyle, so I may be more productive. I knew from the start I wasn’t ready to quit my day job so I dedicate my days off to my writing. When I’m not working at the hospital, I usually begin my day by waking up in the morning and drinking me a 16oz bottle of room temp water. I do this to rehydrate after hours of dehydrating throughout the night from being asleep. Your brain is made up of 75% water and when you’re dehydrated your brain gives you the sensation of feeling tired and fatigued. So drink water, my friends, it’s the first step in lubricating the “gears” so they can move at their full potential.
  1. Your body and mind are one machine, and like any machine, it needs to be taken care of and maintained properly to work at its very best. After my bottle of water and bathroom duties, I stretch for a few minutes and head to the kitchen for some hot herbal tea and oatmeal. As I eat my breakfast at the kitchen table, I look out the window and observe the coming day while collecting my thoughts and prioritizing my goals for the day. I find that having many small goals propels me forward toward the ultimate big goal. Most of us writers need to feel accomplishment and with the smaller goals it’s easier to get them done, giving you the awesome feeling of completion.
  1. I will then head to my desk where my laptop sits, waiting, mocking me, daring me to turn it on. Once on, I will go through and check my E-mails, Sales stats, and my various social media sites. I try to limit the internet time to 10 mins before unplugging my router.
  1. I find that it always helps to hit the day head-on with a plan. I usually have a set time that I want to write and then plan my day around that. For example, after my morning ritual for prepping my mind and body for the tasks ahead, I will usually write for a predetermined amount of time, and then when I feel a need for a break, I’ll set aside some time to take care of bills and other priorities I may have. Once everything is done I will head back to writing for a while until it is time to stop, rest my mind and spend some time with loved ones and doing the other things I enjoy doing.
  1. Sometimes as writers, we forget to take care of ourselves. Most of us have kids, we work, and we all have bills and household chores that all needs to be taken care of. I’m not going to lie, it can be downright stressful at times, but that’s life, and none of it is going away until we die. The good news is if you start your day off right with a plan, then you will be more prepared for the day ahead. While in EMT school I was told something by my instructor that made a lot of sense to me and sticks with me to this day. He said, “You have to take care of yourself so you’re able enough to take care of others.” I believe that applies with writing as well. You’re creative. You’re imagination exceeds far beyond the norm. That’s is why you’re a writer. You need to take care of you so you’re able to do what you do best.
  1. As Writers and even heavy readers, we are mostly introverts. A rare breed that likes to stay indoors and keep to ourselves, while only expressing our feelings through our stories. While I believe there is nothing wrong with that, I also believe it is good to get out and do a little exploring in the real world to recharge the batteries. I try to go on long walks or even hikes as often as I can. It helps me think, clears my head, and often times if I’m stuck on a problem or situation, the solution comes to me on those walks.
  1. Well guys and gals, that’s the Day in the life of me after I became a writer. Being a writer isn’t something that we do, it’s a part of who we are. It’s a life style, and we are all unique in our styles. What are some of your routines? How do you deal with stressors and responsibilities that tries to get in the way of your writing? Let me know down in the comments section. I would love to hear your story. Until next blog….Write on!

Literary Illusions: Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

YA Author Rendezvous Literary Illusion

Written By

Beth Rodgers

Writers’ block can be a real issue. Luckily, there are tons of techniques to help move past this pesky problem. Divining inspiration is not an easy task, especially when you’re eager to move forward with whatever it is you’re working on. Even if you’re just a reader, not a writer, readers’ block is something that can strike at any time as well – you just don’t feel like reading, or you don’t know what your next read should be.

It is times like these that call for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Finding stories in everyday occurrences is easier than one may think. Basically, it involves keeping your eyes open and knowing how to observe effectively.

Consider literary illusions. Yes, you read that right – illusions, not allusions. Illusions are a unique way to see the world through a different lens. Think of an oasis in the desert. In your mind’s eye, you see it. It relies on the concept of possibility, and the adaptability of your mind to function in such a way that you believe what you’re seeing, hearing, or for our purposes, writing and reading.

You may be thinking that it’s impossible to write with illusions. You’ve only ever seen illusions happen. I’m going to give you the tools to write with literary illusions and to know how to pinpoint them in your reading.

TV shows and movies use illusions which help with the persuasive writing styles they are trying to convey. They are trying to persuade you to believe their storylines. They must use illusions to help do this. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The camera adds ten pounds.” It’s also true that the camera adds depth and width to a set.

In person, the set of Central Perk, the coffee house on Friends, is much smaller than the cameramen would have you believe. Their camera angles add substance and enlarge the area that your mind’s eye sees. The same goes with the set of Jeopardy. On TV, the cameramen would have you believe that the audience is twice the size it truly is. These examples illustrate just how important the concept of illusion is in good writing. If the Friends cast was picking up their coffee everyday from a shop no larger than your bedroom, the hustle and bustle of people on a busy New York street coming in and out while ordering skim lattes and scones wouldn’t be nearly as believable and enjoyable to watch. The same goes for the set of Jeopardy. If the audience looked like it had only about 50 people in it, it wouldn’t seem the show has nearly the amount of fans it truly does. They add depth to make viewers perceive things in such a way that they are engaged and curious about just what will happen in any given scene. If the cameramen do their job, the illusion is captured, and you, the captivated audience, don’t even realize what is at work before you.

So, I’ve discussed how to more aptly notice it, but now your question probably is just how to do this in writing. I’m here to tell you that just because TV and movie writers have the visual medium to help craft their illusions, writers are just as capable through their words. Showing and telling are powerful tools that can help.

In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, she creates the literary illusion of a fantasy world where wizardry is cool, and young children can win out over evil forces and dark powers. The question of whether Snape was good or evil throughout the books is one that I will not reveal here, in case you haven’t had the pleasure of reading these tales, but the concept of whether he was good or bad throughout the stories was an illusion in itself. Rowling created instances in which Snape would seemingly be doing something threatening and with ill will toward Harry, and then she would turn around in the next chapter and have Dumbledore singing Snape’s praises and telling Harry that Professor Snape was a trusted friend and teacher, and there was no chance he worked for the darkest wizard.

So, which was it? Rowling’s ability to make us see Snape in both good and bad ways make his character as poignant a one as can be found throughout her stories. He is a character whom people love to hate, or maybe just plain hate, but if it wasn’t for Rowling’s writing, the glorious illusion that she spun out through those seven books wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining to read. She made us question ourselves as well as the character.

That is the mark of truly good and persuasive writing. Readers must ask questions. However, they must also have their questions answered. Open-ended questions might be fun to keep readers on the edges of their seats, but if they are not answered, you will have a broken link that didn’t connect the parts of the story. Curiosity must be satisfied. Create illusions, but help readers along. Make them see, hear, and feel. Write (and read) in such a way that allows you to do just these things, and your literary illusions will be dutifully crafted and created for your audience.

Where Does A Story Line Come From?

Writers find inspiration all around.
Writers find inspiration all around.

Written by

Lauren Mayhew

The answer to that question is anywhere and everywhere. You can take inspiration from everything.

 

You know when you have an argument with someone and once it’s over, you think of all great things you could have said. In your head you are creating a story. That argument in your head could turn into anything you want it to… even murder!

 

Don’t look at me like that! Everyone’s had thoughts like that. Haven’t they?

 

Have you ever been walking home in the dark? Ever get the feeling that there’s someone behind you, but every time you look behind, there’s no one there? When you’re scared, your mind automatically goes into protection mode and you’ll start thinking about escape routes and how to get away if someone really is there. That could be an opening to an action packed thriller.

 

It’s not just scenario’s like this that can inspire you though. A few words spoken can start the wheels of your brain turning, as can a simple image. You just have to ask yourself the questions: What does it mean? Where is it? Why am I here? Am I with anyone? How do I feel?Answer those questions and you’re ready to begin!

 

I have personally taken inspiration from dreams that I’ve had – trust me when I say you wouldn’t want my dreams – and tragic events that have happened in the world.

 

You simply have to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. Think about how their life is going to change after this event. You don’t have to keep it completely realistic, it’s fiction after all. Has this tragic event altered reality in some way? How many people have been affected?

 

A story line can come from absolutely anything. You just have to ask yourself the right questions to turn it into something incredible. Once you have your characters, they’ll tell you the story, from then on, you just have to keep up with them!

 

Here’s a little exercise to end this blog. Here’s a made up book title: The Secret of Darling Forest.

 

Now, tell me what this book is about. You can leave a comment below! I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

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