Phew! 1,750 words to write and I will be halfway through my new novel Monday's Child set shortly before the Battle of Waterloo.
I send chapters to when critique partners who offer constructive criticism and revise each chapter after I receive their feedback. This means that when I reach those magical words The End I have a novel which needs little dusting, polishing and revision.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Friday, November 29, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Secondary Character Development
Isn’t it splendid when a wonderful protagonist comes along? He’s (in the case of my protagonist: Sean Donovan) forty, fit and feisty. Sure, there are big gaps in his conscience, but he’s working on it. Ditto for my female protagonist, Beth. She’s attractive, fit and smart as a whip. There is nothing picaresque about either one, so let’s write three hundred straight pages with these two characters in every paragraph. Lots of ‘he said, she said.’ Wouldn’t that be brilliant?
We, as readers, want more. We want to see what’s swirling around Sean and Beth. It’s like the old joke about the narcissist: “Yes, I am great. But enough about me. Why don’t you tell how brilliant I am?” We need to find out a bit about the people who stroll into and out of Sean and Beth’s lives.
And it’s not just a plot contrivance. We really can come to care about these secondary characters. In Three Wrongs, my character Sean needs information, so he walks into the Canadian embassy in London. Over the course of a page or two he has a chat with this vivacious Communications Officer, who can flirt, withhold information and discretely share (sort of) restricted information. That’s all we get from her for the remainder of the novel.
But we remember her.
We want to know more about Beth and wish she hadn’t left us on Page 90. So it is very exciting when Beth returns—now promoted to Female Protagonist—in Book 2: AMACAT. But in Book 1, Beth serves very important roles. As embassy staff, she reveals information that pushes the plot along. She reminds Sean that he’s a man, one who can have feelings and isn’t just a thief for hire, he’s a guy. And she’s witty. We want to know more about her.
I present another secondary character: Madeleine, who is Sean’s sister. Madeleine’s purpose is to bring out much of Sean’s background: his youth, how he came to become a bad-ass, where his unique skillset came from. And she’s funny and brings out some quirky knowledge about the city of Montreal. Madeleine comes back in Book 2 as well, but she remains a secondary character. We still need to invest in her. We still want to learn more about her, discover if she can eventually find a relationship worth keeping. We like her, so she can certainly come along for the ride.
It’s said that, beginning with Page One, the writer creates a world, using his or her rules to dictate how this new, fresh world will spin. It will be a less-interesting world in the absence of any one of plot, setting, exposition, dialogue, primary characters, atmosphere and, yes, the development of secondary characters. The temptation, if you have an awesome plot, might be to stint on dialogue. That would be a mistake. Similarly, just because you have this amazing protagonist, that is no reason to build stick figures and call them ‘secondary characters. No. Don’t miss an opportunity to flesh them out.
I once wrote a book where I introduced these two little girls, secondary characters, on page 80. By the end of the novel, they had become primary characters and I had to re-write the entire novel. It wouldn’t have happened if I’d relegated them to rough sketches. As soon as I tried to catch more than a glimpse of them, I began to see their value. To be sure, not all secondary characters can or will become protagonists.
But some do.
At the end of the day, do every aspect of writing to the best of your ability. How well you do that could spell the difference between a good novel and a great one. It’s true about dialogue, and it’s true about each and every character you introduce. You’re the writer. It’s your world, your rules. Make it a rule to bring every character to life. They will thank you. So will the reader.
- Chuck Bowie graduated from the University of New Brunswick in Canada with a Bachelor Degree in Science. He still lives in on the East Coast of Canada, a few hours north of Maine. Growing up as an air force brat, his writing is influenced by the study of human nature and how people behave, habits he picked up as his family moved nineteen times in his first twenty one years. Chuck loves food, wine, music and travel and all play a role in his work.
- His writing will often draw upon elements of these experiences to round out his characters and plotlines. Chuck is involved in the world of music, supporting local musicians, occasionally playing with them and always celebrating their successes. Because he enjoys venting as much as the next fellow, Chuck will at times share his thoughts with a brief essay, some of which can be found on his website. http://chuckbowie.ca
- He is working through the second novel in the suspense-thriller series: Donovan: Thief For Hire. It is titled AMACAT, an acronym for the three elements of the plot.
- Chuck is married, with two adult musician sons. He and his wife Lois live in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
- EMAIL WEBSITE
Posted by MuseItUp Publishing at 8:09 AM
By Katie L. Carroll, author of Elixir Bound (MuseItUp Publishing, ISBN 978-1-77127-140-0)
I’m excited to share some tips about scene revision. To be honest with you, I think my writing group is sick and tired of me writing comments on their manuscripts like “What is the purpose of this scene?” and “I think this scene serves the same purpose as another scene in the story.” The truth is I’m a plot-orientated writer, so notes about scenes come naturally to me.
When revising for plot, I find a manageable approach is to look at the story scene by scene. The basic definition of a scene is an event—or a series of closely related events—that takes places in the same place and time. Each scene will have its own mini story arc (with rising action and a small climax) that contributes to the greater story arc.
Once you have a good draft of your story, you’ll want to evaluate each scene. Some writers find it helpful to write out a very basic description of all scenes as they appear in the book. You might try using one sticky note per scene, so you can move them around if you want (or you can use one of those fancy computer programs that moves the scenes around for you).
In addition to a basic description, I like to add how to scene contributes to the greater story. You want every scene to do one of two things: move the plot forward or help developing a character. It’s okay if a scene does both these things, and many should do both these things.
Most often a scene that moves plot forward will come in the form of bad stuff happening and your characters reacting to the bad stuff (note that the way your characters react will almost always contribute to character development as well). As you want each scene to build, you want the greater story arc to build as well, so you’ll probably start with the smaller bad stuff and work up to the worst bad stuff.
But you don’t want to just have scene after scene of bad stuff happening because that can actually bore your readers after awhile. You need to have some balance. Character building scenes are great for a break. Maybe there’s a quiet moment (or an exciting moment) between two characters that reveals an important characteristic about one of them, or even better reveals something about both characters.
A good example of a character building scene that doesn’t necessarily contribute to plot is the troll scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry and Ron unknowingly lock a troll in the girl’s bathroom with Hermione. Then all three of them work together to defeat the troll. When Professor McGonagall catches them, Hermione lies to keep Harry and Ron from getting in trouble. The plot of the book would easily remain intact without this scene, but it’s important because this is the moment where Hermione goes from annoying classmate to friend with the boys.
Now that you’ve got your list of scenes, jot a note about how each moves the plot forward or what character trait it develops (or both if applicable). And here comes the hard part. I know, you’re saying, “Wait! All that evaluating of the scenes wasn’t the hard part!” Nope, the hard part is being brutally honest about each scene.
If you have a scene that doesn’t move the plot forward or contribute to character development, it should be cut or rewritten to contribute one of these points. Also, if you have two scenes (or three or more) that contribute the same thing, you need to cut all but one of the scenes or somehow combine them.
One exception to this is if a scene is what I like to call a topper. A topper scene may have a very similar purpose as another scene, but it takes that to a whole new level. I’ll use a scene from my book Elixir Bound to demonstrate this point. The climax consists of Katora, the main character, deciding whether or not she will become guardian of a secret healing Elixir. Once she makes the decision (no spoilers here!), the next thing that happens tests Katora in her decision. She almost has to decide all over again whether or not to stick with her original decision. So there’s not too much new information being revealed, but more of a solidification of her choice.
Now I’m off to go bug my critique partners about their own scenes! Good luck in revising yours!
About the Author
Katie began writing after her 16-year-old sister unexpectedly passed away. Writing was a way to help her sister live on in the pages of a story. Her debut YA fantasy Elixir Bound is about Katora Kase who must decide if she will become guardian of a secret healing Elixir and bind herself to its magic. It is available from the MuseItUp bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other ebook retailers. Her picture book app The Bedtime Knight released earlier this month from MeeGenius. For more about Katie, check out her website www.katielcarroll.com.
Posted by MuseItUp Publishing at 7:51 AM
A Writer’s Confidence
“But I Never Drove An Ambulance In The War…”
By Bruce Jenvey
I was still enjoying the first blush of success after the release of “Angela’s Coven” when I faced the crisis of writer turned author. I’d been a professional writer for over 30 years in the worlds of advertising and journalism. But I’d always heard that while a writer writes what he needs, a true author writes what he’s lived. Supposedly, you can’t write a proper novel until your life has been sufficiently enriched by the adventures, joys and disappointments needed to make you worthy. Whenever this thought came to mind, I was filled with images of Jack London and the Alaskan Gold Rush, Hemmingway driving his ambulance on the Italian front, and even Ian Fleming outwitting Nazi spies across Europe. Me… I was just a hometown boy from rural Michigan who had never really done anything truly important or terribly adventurous. Because of this, I feared I had already tapped out the limited experiences I had to draw upon. What if “Angela’s Coven” was the only novel I had in me?
So, in the midst of dealing with the “I never drove an ambulance in the war, blues,” my wife and I went back to the small Michigan farming community where I had spent my earliest years. It was the weekend of their annual Syrup Festival and I hadn’t been here in fifty years. While time had moved forward, things were still very much the same. The Main Street had been closed off and converted into a carnival midway with events and displays scheduled all over town.
There was a craft show at what was once the elementary school I had attended through third grade. Despite some structural changes, I found my old classrooms quite easily. I opened the teacher’s closet in what had been Mrs. Kelsey’s room where she stored the construction paper, safety scissors and those large jars of white paste. There were still hangers inside where she hung her coat each morning and I swore I could still smell her perfume.
At the end of the hall, I found the room where I had attended Kindergarten. While now used only for storage, I could still see the bright young faces that shared their time here with me, the paper bunnies we all cut out and colored at Easter and how I had folded mine up and put it in my shirt pocket… not particularly proud of my effort.
In town, a walk down Main Street led us past the familiar store fronts and the historic Opera House. I remembered it being used for roller skating every Friday night. At least it was in the very early 1960s.
Right next to the Opera House, stood the house we had lived in all those years ago, a well-maintained but remarkably unchanged duplex. I paused to snap a couple pictures and when we crossed the street for a closer look, we were approached by the current owner.
To my complete surprise, once I explained our interest, she immediately invited us in for a tour. Now, the old house had been divided into not two, but three apartments and while we could not get access to the main floor unit, the upstairs, where we had all slept, was vacant and ready for us to revisit. We entered through the back and climbed the stairs, the same stairs I had climbed every day as a small child. What had been our hallway and storage area was now a makeshift living room. What had been my parent’s room was now a kitchen though I could clearly see where their bed had fit in the far corner. I recalled the Christmas my brother had set the alarm for five AM and how my father groaned that we were actually up and demanding he make good on his promise of early presents that year. That made me think of the fresh scent of pine needles and the sparkle of the hand-hung tinsel in the living room downstairs. The tree always stood against the far wall, between the fish tank and the GE consol black and white TV… every year.
We then moved into the front room of this upstairs apartment. This was our bedroom, my brother and me, and although it now had plush carpeting and freshly painted paneling, I could still see the floral print wallpaper over the plaster and lathe construction. It was somehow, remarkably the same and simply being in that room brought back a flood of vivid memories. I remembered my father telling us bedtime stories in this very room. He made up the best stories and no other kids in the world got to hear them but us. I remembered the excited, sleepless nights we spent here before family trips and vacations. I remembered where our toy box sat at the foot of one of the beds with its broken hinge on the lid. The entire box was covered with a pleated, blue plastic skirting, stapled into the thin plywood. Inside, we could see the bare, faded grain and the shallow knots as we rummaged for whatever might strike the imagination of a small boy that day… perhaps a puppet, or a cap gun, or in my case, anything with wheels.
The room still had the same double-hung windows with low sills. On more than one rainy afternoon, I sat here on this floor, next to the closet and watched the rain drops through this very window. In my imagination, they looked much like a parade of toy soldiers marching their way down Main Street. And then, I was back into the book I cradled in my lap… most always, something by Dr. Seuss and most likely, Horton Hears A Who.
Standing in this very room, where I had not been for a full fifty years, I felt the “I never drove an ambulance in the war, blues” fade away. They were replaced by the rich childhood memories that were all around me. At that moment I realized, it didn’t matter what you had lived nearly as much as how you had lived it! Authors do indeed draw on the rich experiences in their lives and relive pieces of those memories in the stories and novels they share. The goal of any author is to strike a chord within their reader. To find a common ground that communicates more than just the mere words the writer inside has pieced together. It has to be rich enough to smell and taste, and meaningful enough to be etched upon the reader’s memory. I didn’t need to worry about driving ambulances on the Italian Front, not when I had watched rain drops march down Main Street with Horton in my lap and a folded-up Easter bunny in my shirt pocket. And this was just one window, in one room, in a lifetime of memories I could still see, feel, and smell like they were only yesterday.
That’s when I knew what an author really does. An author makes the reader feel everything he has ever felt, and allows them to find the same within themselves.
Bruce Jenvey was raised in rural Michigan in a family of school teachers. After a career in advertising and magazine publishing, he has now ventured into the world of fiction with his series about the Cabbottown Witches. His first novel, Angela’s Coven (October, 2011) has met with high praise and various award nominations. The second book in the series is, The Great Northern Coven. He is now working on the third.
© 2013 by Bruce Jenvey
Posted by MuseItUp Publishing at 7:42 AM
As a children’s writer, one of the biggest questions I receive from young writers is: “Where can I publish my story or poem?” The first thing I tell a young writer is they should seek out publications and markets which are geared toward young writers. There are plenty of magazines, ezines, and contests which are seeking young writers. These markets are not even open to adult writers who write for children!
The following is a listing of some of the markets and resources available for young writers:
Publishing Markets and Resources for Young Writers
Magazines and Websites Which Publish Young Writers
Stories for Children
http://storiesforchildren.tripod.com/ is a free e-zine for children ages 3 to 12 .
http://www.zuzu.org/write.html offers young writers opportunities to write stories about mystery pictures, and submit poetry and photography.
http://www.launchpadmag.com an e-zine for young writers and readers ages 6 to 12 which is published two times a month beginning in January 2008.
CICADA's stories and poems are written by outstanding adult authors and by teens themselves. CICADA also sponsors "The Slam," an online writing forum for young writers who want the world to see what they can do with words. For ages 14 and up.
Creative Kids magazine is the nation's largest magazine by and for kids. The magazine bursts with games, stories, and opinions all by and for kids ages 8-14.
Frodo's Notebook is always looking for well-crafted poems, creative essays, and short stories by teens age 13-19 from all around the world."
Never Ending Tale
Great site for linking on to stories that are created every day by other young writers.
Fiction, poetry, artwork, letters, science experiments, cartoons and articles about the lives of girls and women around the globe edited by and for girls ages 8-14.
Now in its eighteenth year, Skipping Stones publishes bimonthly during the school year. We accept art and original writings in every language and from all ages. We invite you to participate in this exciting project with your submissions, subscriptions, suggestions and support.
Published bimonthly, this international English-language literary magazine publishes stories, poems, book reviews, and art by young people through age 13.
A place to submit for teens
If you’re under 18, you can submit your writing, your art, your Web site, or a description of your monthly activism project for publication in Teen Voices.
The Writer’s Slate
The Writers' Slate publishes original poetry and prose from students enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade. It also publishes pedagogical or creative writing by teachers. Three issues per year are published on-line with one devoted to publishing winners of the writing contests."
Websites About Writing for Teens
Hope Clark Funds for Writers—Kidwriter
Sign up for this e-newsletter and have it delivered two times a month to your email. Lists all kinds of contests, markets, and publishing opportunities for teens.
Writing help for essays and ideas—Good for older teens
National Write a Novel in a Month
http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/ywp (NanoWrimo For Young Writers)
http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/camp-nanowrimo (Camp NanoWrimo)
November is National Writing Novel month. Sign up here to write a novel in a month. Post your progress on the website. Be sure to sign up for the young people’s site.
A listing for young writers including everything from markets to websites about writing. One of Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites in 2008.
A poem a day for high school students
Go to young writers link and find many great ideas and tips and conversations about teen writing.
Writing, links, discussion boards, this site has it all!
Young Writer’s Society
An on-line chat board just for young writers. A Writer’s Digest 101 Best Website in 2008.
Book List for Strong Female Characters
This site lists over 40 titles of books with strong female characters. There are also interviews with authors.
Book List of Newbery and Caldecott Medal Winners
A wonderful resource for listing books that have won the Newbery and Caldecott awards through the years. Students might access this site when looking for challenging books.
**A special note: If you are looking for information on other children’s book awards, go to www.mindyhardwick.wordpress.com and there is a list for of the many, many children’s book awards and listings.
The Children’s Literature Web Guide
Web site includes links to authors on the Web and resources for book ideas
A great website about books for boys!
Looking for something to read? This is the place to look!
Young adult authors talk about their books, along with book reviews of current YA books.
Other Helpful Websites
Scholastic Art and Writing
Enter the Scholastic Writing awards offered once a year. Entries are due in early January. Applications can be found at this website in the fall.
The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
http://www.scbwi.org (National SCBWI Website)
An organization for children’s writers that offers monthly meetings on the craft of writing, selling your writing, and publication. Writers are editors are usually the speakers. In the spring, SCBWI hosts a conference. They do award one student scholarship. Check out their website in February for more information
Helpful Books About The Craft of Writing and Publishing
- A Teen’s Guide to Getting Published. Jessica Dunn and Danielle Dunn. Prufrock Press, 2006.
The book was originally published by two sisters when they were fifteen and ten years later has been updated to include on-line journals and blogs. The book also includes a list of mainstream publishers who are open to teen submissions along with information about copyrights.
- The Young Writer’s Guide to Getting Published . Kathy Henderson. Writer’s Digest Books, 2001.
The book is a fantastic resource for young writers and includes listings for magazines and contest opportunities. Young writers will want to use the internet in correlation with this book as some of the information may not be current and updated information will be posted on the websites given for each listing. Young writers will also learn how to format submissions in this book.
- Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market 2012. Alice Pope. Writer’s Digest Books, 2012.
This book is published every year and although directed at the adult who writes for children many of the interviews with published children’s writers and editors will be helpful. Young writers will also find a section which lists contests and opportunities specifically for them.
- Spilling Ink: A Young Writers Handbook. Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. Roaring Brook Press, 2010.
A great writing craft book for young writers. Includes writing exercises and examples. Ages 8-14
- Writing Magic. Gail Carson Levine, Harper Collins, 2006.
A writing craft book for young readers by award winning author, Gail Carson Levine. Ages 8-12
Mindy Hardwick enjoys writing for children and teens. Her most recent book, WEAVING MAGIC, is a young adult romance available from MuseItUp Publishing. Mindy is included on the Washington State Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster. She is a frequent school and library presenter, and offers Skype visits to classes and libraries. Mindy loves to hear from readers and you can find out more about her at:
Posted by MuseItUp Publishing at 7:32 AM