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

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Suspension of Disbelief

How far will a reader stretch their imaginationWritten By

Jeffrey Collyer

For most of us, the suspension of our disbelief is quite natural when we’re reading works of fiction. That’s not necessarily true for all genres and all books, of course, but certainly within the fictional world I inhabit, it is. And for a large number of YA books it’s certainly true.

 

Whether it’s paranormal, urban fantasy, dystopian, or my own genre of traditional fantasy, there are core elements of the story that revolve around things we just wouldn’t believe in ‘real life’. After all, whether it be dragons or powerful magic; whether the story includes traditional dwarves and elves or whether it tells of more original strange races; these are all the stuff of imagination. We don’t expect to see trolls walking down the local shopping centre, but we’re quite happy to belief they’re real on the written page.

 

It’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved the fantastical in books – within the pages of a mythical story I can retreat from the cares and worries of life. I can transport myself to another world and pretend I am soaring with powerful dragons, or use magic to protect those I love. In short, fantasy requires me to allow the impossible – welcome it even.

 

But our suspension of disbelief only goes so far. We often expect the characters we’re reading about to be in mortal danger. Thus, a sword through the heart will still kill the hero. After all, what’s at stake if the characters we love are invulnerable? What do they really overcome if the outcome is a foregone conclusion?

 

For me, there are other limits to my suspension of disbelief, too. For example, take the guy on the image above. Now I’m sure he’s a lovely chap, and I really hope he finds love. Really, I do.

 

But if the story I’m reading finds a twenty-year old supermodel gorgeous woman falling for him, I’ll probably snort and put the book down. Why? Because that sort of thing just doesn’t happen in real life; at least not sufficiently often to make it believable. I’m happy to suspend my disbelief for magic, but not so much for relationships: I expect those to be realistic.

 

The limits of your suspension of disbelief may be different from mine, but I’m sure there are things – maybe small nuances of daily life – you just couldn’t accept much change to. While all the while you’ll happily accept the werewolves, or the zombies, or whatever the ‘magic’ of your story involves.

 

So our willingness to go along with the fantastical has its limits. Within the parameters of the world that has been built (even if it’s a twist on our modern world), we expect normality to rule, and if we read something that seems contrary to that normality, then a part of us rebels against what we’re reading: our satisfaction levels with the story fall.

 

All of that said, there are some elements of fantasy stories that would still struggle under scrutiny, but which as a reader (and, yes, as a writer) I’m happy to gloss over. This is true especially within portal fantasies, like my own – where the protagonist is transported from one world (usually our modern world) into the fantasy setting.

 

For example:

 

  • So main boy/girl suddenly ends up in strange world and, hey, everyone speaks a form of modern English. Wow, what a coincidence! Okay, sometimes in fantasy the characters of the magical realm will use a more formal version of English, but basically it’s English from the last couple of hundred years. Amazing.

 

  • The writer has two choices here. First, they can have foods within their fantasy world that are all familiar to those of planet earth – again we have the same issue as above. Really?! Alternatively, they can come up with all new foods, or some kind of hybrid between the two. If it’s a portal fantasy, then the new foods option has the problem of our recently transported heroes suddenly hit with a diet unlike anything they’ve come across before. What would that do to their digestion? Well, we’ll just ignore it. It’s for the best really. No, really it is.

 

  • Every magical realm in pretty much every book has horses. They’re convenient to get places quickly. They may have other strange animals, because – well evolution has happened differently in this other world of course. Except for horses, which weren’t even global on planet earth until people started transporting them across the seas.

 

  • I sometimes think it would be amusing for a main character, in the middle of an extended scene where the fate of the world hangs in the balance to say, ‘Sorry villain, but can we take five minutes please? I need a pee.’  What about body odour and bad breath? Our unwitting hero can come from a comfy 21st century home and not be remotely bothered with completely different standards of hygiene. Two months trekking through wilderness, interspersed with sweaty battles. No problem – won’t even notice. Good looking girl; she wants to kiss you. Won’t even notice the fact that she hasn’t brushed her teeth, well, ever.

 

I’ve thought about these issues myself in my own stories, but with a couple of exceptions have mostly decided to ignore them. While I could come up with something to explain the fact that everyone speaks English within the story, I decided it would be pretty tedious for the reader, and overall would do more harm than good. It’s something readers are used to and will accept, so despite the fact that it’s not believable I’ve left it alone. Hey, it’s a story. People will suspend their disbelief.

 

What about you? Anything you’ve read, and gone “Hey, I can do the suspension of disbelief, but this is taking it too far”?

Word Count and Why It’s Important

The importance of word count in writingWritten By

Jerusha Nelson 

Words. You can mince them, mark them, eat them, and be at a loss for them. You can keep, break give and be true to your word. Something you might not do with words is count them; unless you’re a writer. But why? Why bother to count them at all? Isn’t the story done when it’s done? Word count be damned!

Word count actually is important on a very basic level – words equal space.

If you’re publishing an article in a magazine and have been given twenty inches of real estate on the page, you wouldn’t want to submit an article that clocks in at 350 words because you’ll barely fill have the allotted space. When you’re considering publishing your 450,000 word epic fantasy masterpiece you might not consider the word count, until you realize that a paperback copy is going to measure about three inches thick and weigh about 2.8 pounds. While it’s been done before and successfully, that’s a little hefty to lug around and it’s gonna take a lot more space on the shelf than 3 shorter novels. Fewer units on the shelf equal fewer units sold often too. If you self-publish you might not care, but if you’re shopping your work to agents and publishers, they’ll care so it’s another thing to keep in mind.

In other words, word count counts.

Sometimes writers struggle with the word count. Some writers struggle to increase their total word count because their completed story falls short of the goal. Other writers blow well past their aim and have to trim down their word count. We struggle to try to hit our goals of writing a certain number of words every day to reach our goals. This is especially true every November when writers across the world try to reach the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days (an average of 1667 words per day)

Luckily, word on the street is there is an easy way to get help for these struggles. All over the internet there are articles about word count; how to add, subtract, and multiply your word count. I’ve taken the liberty to scour Pinterest to find what I think are some of the best articles about word count. But don’t take my word for it, check them out yourself.

If your story is complete and you need to increase your word count, you might consider adding a subplot. If you do, just make sure it’s meaningful. Here are some tip on how to successfully add a subplot.

Want to trim down your word count? Check out this article on concise writing.

Writing for a deadline and watching your word count crawl across the page? Here’s an article about how to boost your daily word count.

Maybe you’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year and you’re looking for fun ways to boost your writing while socializing with your fellow crazies -um, I mean writers. Here’s a great source for word wars, sprints and crawls.

If you like these articles and want a single source to get to them all, I’ve created a pin board with all of them. Feel free to reference it and if you find other articles you’re welcome to add to it.

One final word about word count- while it’s important to pay attention to word count, the more important thing is to write the story that’s inside you and if your story is good enough, you’ll find an audience for it.

What YA Readers Really Want In Their Strong Female Leads

Blog image10.255
Written By
Melissa A. Craven 
Author of the Emerge Series

What kind of main characters do YA readers really want to see in the books they read? What makes a “strong young woman” strong?

There’s all sorts of talk about this subject, especially with the recent addition to the Twilight series, Life and Death, Twilight Reimagined, involving a reversal in gender roles. Meyer wanted to show the world that Bella’s portrayal of the “damsel in distress” was situational, and had she been a boy surrounded by supes, he would have been in distress as well. While that is a very plausible argument, creating a strong-willed female lead is a careful balancing act that is not easily accomplished.  

In my own series, Emerge, my main motivation for writing the book was to create a true, realistic example of that young woman of strength. (And I like to think I achieved that with Allie.) I knew Allie needed to have an inner fire and a firm resolve to do what was necessary. She needed to face adversity head on and succeed. All qualities that most female leads possess. But here’s where YA has failed me as a reader in recent years. The heroine should not be all of these things to the detriment of her male counterpart! We as writers who influence younger minds, should not set the tone of tearing men down in order to raise women up. A successful female lead should be the epitome of strength, but her love interest should be the one at her side fighting the good fight with her, knowing that she can take care of herself. They should be a team. They each need to have a vulnerable side, with flaws and room to grow as individuals. They are young, so they also need to make mistakes and struggle with confidence. She’s going to have her moments of drama and he’s going to act like a douche sometimes, but at their cores, they should represent equality and have respect for one another. This generation of readers are passionate about equality and they want to see heroines and heroes they can admire.

The best example I’ve seen recently (other than my own series, Emerge, did I mention that yet? You can get it here) is the Defiance trilogy by C.J. Redwine. Rachael has backbone and determination, and the men in her life (father, grandfather and love interest) haven’t coddled her. They teach her how to fight and survive using her own skills and wit. Logan has his moments when he’s completely exasperated with her, but he knows Rachel doesn’t need him to hold her hand. Defiance is a remarkable example of gender equality in YA. See my review of Defiance, and check out Redwine’s upcoming Fairytale retelling, The Shadow Queen due out early next year.

If you’re a reader who loves books with strong girls and the amazing guys who stand beside them, check out my wall of #strong girls on my website to discover new books by authors like Kayla Howarth and her series The Institute.

How to Write a Basic Outline

Written by
Shari Tapscott

Outlining—you either love it or hate it. I happen to love it, and I’m going to share my approach with you today.

When I was in school, outlining felt suffocating. It was like death to creativity. Nothing irked me more than a free writing assignment that required an outline—and I usually wrote one after the fact (not exactly what my teachers had in mind, I’m sure). Years later, when I was attempting my first NaNoWriMo, I decided I needed some sort of strategy to get my word count in. I wrote the major points of my book in three paragraphs and called it good. And it was pretty good. I knew the main events and the ending, and it helped a bunch. But at the end of November, my manuscript was still a mess. I knew I could do better.

Fast-forward a couple more years, and now I proudly call myself an obsessive outliner. I use a mishmash of techniques that I’ve tweaked to fit my style. Before I begin to explain how I do it, I want to say that I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to outline—you need to do whatever feels good to you. And if that means pantsing it (writing by the seat of your pants), then do it! This is just what works for me. I hope it’ll help you as well.

Sum up your idea

First, I start by summing up my story into one paragraph. What’s it about? Who are the characters? How does it end?

Divide the idea into four parts

After that, I divide my idea into four parts and write a summary paragraph for each section, making sure to end the first three sections in conflict. I like to have something inconvenient happen to my character at the quarter mark and halfway through the book. The climax hits about three-quarters of the way through, and then the last quarter is for overcoming the problem and wrapping up the story.

Expand the sections into chapters

There are several ways you can go from this point. You have your story’s skeleton—you can start writing, if you want. Some writers will go on to expand these paragraphs into a page or two. Others may take it a step further and begin chapter outlines. That’s what I like to do.

I decide how many words is ideal for my novel. Then I decide how many chapters I want. For an 80,000 word novel, I’ll usually shoot for thirty. I like to write in short chapters, and that puts me at just under 2,700 words in each.  You can have shorter chapters; you can longer ones. It’s completely up to you, and they’re bound to change as you’re writing.

Since I know I need my conflict at 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 of the way through the story, those are the first chapters I fill in. For example, for my 80,000 word novel, I will have the 1/4 conflict at 20,000 words, which will fall in Chapter 7.

After I have my conflict in place, I begin to fill in each chapter. These little summaries don’t have to be long. I write a paragraph for each. Often, I will find I don’t have quite enough story points to fill them all in, and I brainstorm for ideas until I have a story that flows from beginning to end.

Now, as I’m writing my book, things often change. I’ll just go back and tweak my outline as needed. Sometimes one of my chapters will end up as two chapters. Other times two chapters may merge into one. Nothing is set in stone. The outline just keeps me moving toward the conflict.

After that, I begin to write! That’s really all there is to it. During my planning stages, I also like to fill out character and setting questionnaires. They really help if you’re stuck in the development stage; you’re bound to get new ideas when you’re working on them.

Whether you choose to outline or not, I hope this was useful for you! Also, if you have your own technique, be sure to add it in the comments. I love to hear how other people tackle the pre-writing stage.

Inspiration: A Writers Tale

inspirationblogWritten by
Korey L. Ward

“Inspiration is what gives a writer his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”—
Obi-Wan Kenobi paraphrased.

As a writer, I’m often asked the mysterious and sometimes dreaded question of what inspires me to write, to create new worlds, and come up with memorable characters. I’m not the first to be asked this question, and I most certainly won’t be the last.

But why is it so dreaded? It’s not only us writers, but painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, and any artists really, that needs inspiration to create. I think the answer is simpler than we might think. It’s unexplainable.  That’s it. I said it. It’s unexplainable, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Much like the “Force” In the beloved movie franchise: Star Wars, inspiration is power. It’s a power that we all possess, and uniquely so. Humans, as far as we know, are the only living creatures on earth to possess such power, but why? And where does it come from.

I believe we need to look to the greatest creator of all; our creator. He may have many names in many different religions, but for arguments sake, I call him, God. I also believe that at some point in time this omnipotent being had an instantaneous thought, an idea of wondrous proportions. It was inspiration. It was us. He is the author of the book of life and though he didn’t write it directly, he inspired his disciples to write a book of many tales and parables. It was the bible.

The being I call God, also says that he created us in his own image, and I believe that the part of him that was handed down to us was inspiration of imagination. I don’t want to go on about religious beliefs, but it’s the only thing that makes since to me. We as human beings have the ability to do wondrous things. We too can have joy from being the creators of our own universes through the stories and art we create, and as readers we have the privilege of obtaining joy and pleasure from others creations.

Inspiration can come at us strong and powerful, but can also be fleeting, like trying to catch a beautiful butterfly in a tornado. Some believe that we do not come up with the ideas on our own, but they instead, come to us, and it’s our job to pluck them out of their dimension and bring them into our world by writing them down. Stephen King has been caught saying things similar.

One quote that comes to mind is Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” ― Stephen King

Nikola Tesla has said that his inspiration came from aliens—“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which “We” obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know it exists.” – Nikola Tesla

Inspiration is simple and complex. It is everything and nothing. It comes from the darkest parts of our minds and the brightest rainbow in the sky. Whatever you believe, whether it be aliens, supernatural forces, or divine intervention, inspiration is real and it is up to you and me to take full advantage of its power, and create something wonderful for ourselves and others.

 

Enhancing Writing Through Conflict

Written by
Beth Rodgers

Conflict sells. Whether you are reading a book, watching TV, or viewing a movie, if everything is happy-go-lucky all the time, there isn’t much reason to keep reading or watching as you probably aren’t wondering what will happen next. People thrive off of twists and turns. They want mystery, suspense, and indecision. They desire friction, as it escalates plotlines, enhances character development, and reinforces the age-old quest for sheer entertainment. We live in an “entertainment culture,” if I do say so myself. People seek entertainment because it stimulates their senses. It excites their emotions, and it offers something in place of predictability.

Despite the wish for a happy ending – and believe me, I ooh and aah with the best of them for one of those – trials, tribulations, and all those annoying adversaries must come out of the woodwork to make that happy ending all the more magical. If you’re a writer, spice up your stories with it. Make a young girl the object of ridicule and rejection, only to make her all the more deserving of being crowned homecoming queen. Capture the angst of a restaurant owner who can’t seem to drum up any business until a famous celebrity eats there one day and publicizes the homemade apple pie as the best he’s ever tasted. Every story you’ve read, movie you’ve seen, or TV show you’ve watched, if it is any good, has some sort of conflict in it. Even if you don’t notice it at first glance, look again – it is there. Someone may have a problem with someone else. It may be a squabble at the cash register about the price of cereal. A fight may break out as a result. There are so many options. Use them as a guide to crafting your own.

Writers seek involvement with the subject matter they are reading. So too should readers. It is important that readers know how to pinpoint what the conflict is, when it started, where it escalated, and how it ended. This will make the reading journey all that much more enjoyable and profound so that when you move on to other works, you can appreciate them all the more for the conflict that interests and fuels your reading desire.

My novel, ‘Freshman Fourteen,’ incorporates a lot of conflict early on especially, as I felt it quite necessary to make main character Margot’s journey through freshman year as difficult as possible at the start. In my mind, that would make her that much more worthy of going through the journey to get past all of the troubles she had. They serve to make her a stronger, more purposeful character.

Anything can be construed as conflict. Even writer’s block (or reader’s block, when you don’t know what to pick as your next read) is a conflict. Use the examples above to resolve this and master your own writing and reading techniques.

 

What’s in a Name?

Written by
Lauren Mayhew

Whenever I start to write something new, I get really excited about choosing names for my characters. The only problem is, I’m VERY picky and it can take me days – literally days – to find a name that fits my characters perfectly.

Usually, when I start writing, my female main character is called Lucy. I have no reason for this, it’s just the name that pops into my head first. I don’t dislike the name, it just always reminds me of the Chronicles of Narnia and I want my characters to stand out for their own reasons.

I’m not one to think a name is cool and then just use it in my book. I like names to have special meanings for my characters, so I put a lot of time and effort into it. Here’s a few from my book ‘Reality is in a Dream‘ and the names that they were called originally!

Liliana used to be called Lucy. Liliana means: Lily, a symbol of beauty and purity.

Samson used to be called Emanuel. Samson means: Bright as the sun. Also, Samson’s power is super strength. I didn’t purposely name him after Samson in The Old Testament!

Justin used to be called Greg. Justin means: Just or true.

Asher means: Blessed or happy.

Duana means: Little dark one.

Howard (Liliana’s father) means: Guardian of the home.

Mina (Liliana’s mother) means: Love or protector.

Carey and Melanie were based on people that I went to school with, so I won’t mention their original names! I once had a reviewer tell me that the characters both felt very unreal and they didn’t understand why Liliana didn’t just ditch them. The simple answer – I didn’t. I stuck with them for the pure reason that I’m very shy when meeting new people. It was easier to stick with them than feel uncomfortable around new people.

Carey’s Irish meaning: Of the dark ones.

Melanie means: Blackness or dark.

Even if no-one else does the research when reading my book, at least I know that there are certain meanings to my character’s names. In book two ‘Mourning Memories’ I have continued to research my names so that they match their character traits for example, Geoffrey – Peaceful ruler. I honestly don’t think I could write any other way!

I wrote this post on my own personal blog a little while ago.
It can be found here: https://laurenmayhewwriter.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/whats-in-a-name/

 

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