Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Crazy, Stress and Baby Steps

Craziness and stress has been the name of the game for the past few days. Our car broke down Sunday and we had to tow it to the mechanic Tuesday. My amazing brother drove 100 miles to take me to a doctor appointment and shopping Monday. I fought for several hours with my doctor's office on Tuesday. I did manage to make time for writing, but it wasn't much. Sill I have to remind myself that this month is probably trying to kill me and baby steps are still progress.

ROW80 Rundown:

1. Write at least 500 words per day on plotting or blogging.
Monday: I was sad after stepping out of the A to Z fast lane and had doctor appointment and a lot of running around to do which lead to no words.
Tuesday: I wrote 642 words in my Hiveword working on characters.
Wednesday: 300 words on this post. So I fall short.

2. Check out at least 3 A to Z posts per day.
I made it to 4 since the last check-in. So not a win, but not a loss either.

3. Check out at least 5 posts from each new ROW80 linky before the next one comes out.
I only made it to 4, but I'm going to go check out 1 more and call it good. 

4. Use Twitter at least once per day.
Oh goodness, I completely forgot about Twitter. I must work on that, too.

5. Post on my author Facebook page at least 2 times per week.
As long as I get this one out I will be squarely in the win category with this one. 

6. Read 5 books in round 2.
My new book just came and I'm working on it. I'm hoping to get this one done soon.


Photos by Pixabay
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

I'm a Quitter so I Won't Win

OK, it's over. Not A to Z of course, but my ability to participate in it. If you somehow found your way here from A to Z I am sorry to waste your time. If you're here from ROW80 I've got some adjusting to do.

ROW80 Rundown:

1. Blog every day in April. (A to Z and ROW80 there are NO brakes.)
I will be dropping this goal because too much health stuff is going on and I just can't get it done.

2. Check out at least 3 A to Z posts per day.
I was making it to less than 1 per day. I am going to keep trying to visit people because this is my favorite part anyway.

3. Check out at least 5 posts from each new ROW80 linky before the next one comes out.
I was able to get to these. It's nice to have one success. 

4. Use Twitter at least once per day.
More nope. There have been some rough days and Twitter has not been on my mind at all.

5. Post on my author Facebook page at least 2 times per week. 
Technically I did this.

6. Read 5 books in round 2.
Started reading some again and quickly dropped the book on my head falling asleep. If I can't stay awake I may have a much harder time with this goal than I anticipated. Also, I'll probably give myself a black eye. 


Photos from Pixabay.

Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for Opening

The first page is a powerful tool and should be used to tell readers what kind of world they've just landed in.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.-JRR Tolkien from The Hobbit
One of my favorite openings. Already you know you've landed in a magical story with non-human creatures and that there are comforts to be had. The opening section of your book has a few objectives. To hook your readers, introduce your hero, establish stakes, foreshadow future events and then to get the show on the road.

First stop your hook. Larry Brooks over at Storyfix teaches that you need a hook within the first 20 pages of your book. What exactly is a hook? It's something to get your readers attention and pull them into your story. It can be blatant or subtle as long as it packs an emotional punch. The best way to get someone's attention is to make them feel. Immerse your reader in what is happening now. Until you have your hooks in them the time is not right for backstory.

Another opening task is to introduce your hero. Don't tell your readers her whole story, but do let them get to know her. If she spends a lot of your story angry let her throw a tantrum now to set the stage. Show her character flaws, we all have them and so should your characters. Also, let the readers see what your hero's life is like. Is she a rock star who only eats green M&Ms? Is she a humanitarian working to feed and cloth children in a poorer neighborhood? What has she been doing and what are her goals?

Now please tell me why I should care. What does the hero have at stake? Her family, career, love or even the fate of the world could all rest on her shoulders. Show don't tell when it comes to, well everything in your story. It is important to show the readers what will be in jeopardy for the rest of the story. Of course you can and should up the stakes later, but there must be a compelling reason for your hero to jump into the meat of the story.

Foreshadowing future events is subtlety or blatantly hinting to your readers about a plot point or issue of characterization. The purpose of foreshadowing is to prepare your readers for something important that is coming. If readers aren't prepared when a big event occurs it can leave them feeling jarred or worse lied to and cheated.  Most of the first quarter of your story should be a huge beautiful tapestry of these hints woven together. If it's supposed to be an obvious hint give it emotion. If it's supposed to be subtle it's a little trickier and you can let it pass without much notice. Subtle is usually better because you don't really want to give away your plot twists. Once you planted the hint make sure you give them the yield. Not bringing the hints to fruition will leave your readers just as confused as a big event without foreshadowing.

Now if we've done our job all that's left is to get the show on the road. The inciting incident, also known as the first plot point, brings the opening of your story to a close. It launches your hero into a different world where their goals and dreams have just been rearranged by the antagonistic force.

What do you find as the hardest part of the opening to write? What is the easiest? Please leave a comment and don't forget to let me know where you came from so I can follow you back.

Photos by Pixabay.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for NaNoWriMo

I was supposed too be telling you all how my Camp NaNo novel was going, but I wasn't able to get to it because of health issues. I am hoping to start again in the next round, which I believe is in June. So I've been using this A to Z to identify and answer questions and problems that plotting has brought to my attention.

NaNoWriMo is an amazing event held in November where you attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That's 1667 words every day. It is a very interesting organization and you can read the history here. It is worth the read if you have a few minutes.

My favorite part is the camaraderie. I have met some of the most amazing people and they have been unbelievably supportive. I have never made it across the NaNo finish line, but plan to keep trying.

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? Do you like extreme challenges to get you moving? Or do you work better at your own pace? Please leave a comment and don't forget to let me know where you came from so I can follow you back.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for Magic

I'm trying to figure out exactly how the magic in my story works. I know it's biased in the elements and each group is working with a different element, but that's about as far as I've gotten.

I found this WikiHow about building your own magical system that was helpful. I need to decide why the magic in my storyverse works. It suggests the magic should be capable of a lot more than is shown in the story and there should be mystery about the magic as far as the characters are concerned.

Next it recommends deciding who can use magic. If everyone can do it then magic would be common place. Since necessity is the mother of invention it is possible many technologies would not have developed if people already had magic to made their labors easier. Which won't work for my story. That leaves me with a select few who can wield magic. I already know that the magic is passed down from parent to child. Other options include the magic decides, like the force. You have to read and prepare from a book, often this type forgets the spell after it's been used. Then of course you could go with a divine source of magic. These priests can be paragons of good or an archetype of evil depending on where in the spectrum the god they follow falls. I am sure you can think of many other ways magic use could be decided, but I'm out of ideas.

How is magic used? Does it require a wand like in the Harry Potter series? Are the practitioners using material components that will be consumed to cast spells? Is the process more of an internal thing that you really can't see except for the raised hand or concentrating eye? Is there an object that the power is channeled through? Are there objects or talismans that are used to increase power? There are so many things to consider. I think I am going to use a combination of internal process with no focus object, though I can see the characters using some spell components to augment their magic. So maybe I am not good at making decisions.
The trouble with writing fiction is that it has to make sense, whereas real life doesn't.”
-Iain M. Banks
The Wiki goes on to say that you should create a personal guide of how and why everything works even if you don't share it all in the story. I think that is a good idea, but they lost me at their insistence that the magical system has to be logical. I have always felt that authors are hemmed in by something life never has to follow. If there were logic behind everything that happens good people wouldn't suffer and criminals wouldn't get away, but this may not be the place for this discussion. I do think it will be easier for readers if you don't break your own rules. 

It will take a while perfect, but getting it all down will be helpful when you are writing your story. Have you ever created a magical system? Do you have any tips that could help me? I was supposed to to a ROW80 midweek check-in, but the whole production seems unnecessary because I missed all my goals except for posting my A to Z. Though they are getting later and later in the day which is upsetting to me, but what can you do when real life attacks? Hey, I guess technically I just did a check-in. Sometimes it's the little things. Please leave a comment and don't forget to let me know where you came from so I can follow you back.

Check out other ROW80 bloggers here!

Photos from Pixabay.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Luxury, Living, Learning and Leisure

I wonder what my characters do for a living? How can they afford to do all the awesome things they need to get done?

It would be easy to make them independently wealthy. Of course it leaves me to figure out how they came by that money and how it has effected them. Maybe that isn't so easy.

When you meet a new person they often ask what do you do. I can say from experience they don't mean when you're at leisure or the community service your family participates in. They are looking to categorize you by your working life or lack there of. The same is true for our characters. The readers want to know them and knowing their work history is a helpful clue to where, in our societies fabric, characters fit. Even if the characters are not at work during the story I think it's important to know where and how they work. It doesn't have to be super in depth, but the more I know about my characters the easier it is for me to write them.

My main character is in school and working. Her job doesn't pay well and she probably doesn't even get 40 hours. Her school and choice of major are other clues to help feel her out. Since this is an urban fantasy I have planned on using an actual school. I am going to contact the school admissions and find information about courses offered and when a student would usually take certain classes. I was thinking about scheduling a tour, but since none of the scenes will actually take place at the campus that would probably be a waste of time. What is your opinion on using a real school or business for that matter? My main characters goal is to be a dancer so I know that a lot of her time would normally be eaten up practicing and such. Maybe it would behoove me to talk to someone who dances for a living.

The things we put our free time into also tells a lot about us. Someone who fixes cars for their hobby is usually good with their hands and able to figure out how things work. A few of my characters hobbies will be revealed in The Most Magical Place, but I want to focus on something that will further the plot or help the characters in the final confrontation. I found this huge list of hobbies. Do you have any hobbies that you might want to give a character? Have you ever used a characters hobby as an excuse to learn something new?

How important do you think it is to know where a characters money is coming from and their time is going? Please leave a comment and don't forget to let me know where you came from so I can follow you back.

Photos from Pixabay.

Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for Kill

We discussed the things to consider before you kill a character a while back. I never did get to how I was going to do the deed and I feel K is forcing my hand. Remember that killing this character is necessary and hits all 4 of the good reasons to kill a character. There are so many ways to off someone and so may decisions to be made.

I found a helpful list of over 400 ways to kill a character. It's even all divided up into categories to help you focus your decision making process. I never even considered half of them and this list really got my mind cranking. I don't want to say the actual way the character dies because, you know, surprise. I do want to talk about the things I need to consider. The general idea in this case is murder where the character is sacrificing herself for the cause and the main characters. I am not sure if she also kills the killer at the same time or they get away and have to be tracked down. However, murder automatically rules out a few categories:

Nature’s Revenge
Animal Attack (Unless they were using an animal, but that seems hard in this story.)
Everything Goes Wrong
Disease

I don't see seriously organized, heavily propped, broad, lasting or easily traceable methods as effective in this situation, which rules out more categories:

Methods of Execution
Unusual Methods of Execution
Poisonous animals
Poisons in chemical warfare

That leaves a couple categories for me to consider:

Poisoning
Weapons (So many to choose from)

Then I realized in my excitement, is that the right word, at picking a death incident I wasn't being true to the story. It's an urban fantasy and they have magic powers. Why wouldn't they use them for this endeavor? I think the murder would.

I also wanted to be sure my doomed character is fleshed out and preferably that the readers are attached to her. I want my readers to feel for the victim and the surviving characters. In my research I discovered that there was originally supposed to be a pilot flying plane in Pixar's The Incredibles. He was slated to die when the plane crashed, but Pixar realized they would have to spend too much screen time on his life and story to make his loss meaningful. I mean when the red shirted ensign dies no one is surprised or really all that upset. I know I don't want my spectacular death scene ideas to be waisted on a character that doesn't even pay off with the audience.

Now we know the who, why and how decisions have been made. I'm left with the question what exactly am I trying to try and make the readers feel? That is a hard one. I want my readers to like the character and feel sad when she dies. In this case I also want to make the readers mad at the murder while simultaneously making them worry about the 2 main characters. The character on the chopping block is powerful and very close to the main characters so I expect it would effect them similarly. I am planning to use this murder to raise the stakes and show just how much influence the bad guy has.

The victim is going to leave a hole in the story dynamics. Every character has a part to play. In the case of The Most Magical Place the timing of the death won't require that the role is filed again. In other words the characters job is done.

What tips do you have on killing characters? I'm sure I'm missing something, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Please leave a comment and don't forget to let me know where you came from so I can follow you back.

Most photos by Pixabay.
Murder girl photo credit: ; via photopin (license)