Monday, May 27, 2013

LDStorymakers Conference Highlights

Author's Incognito Mix and Mingle Attendees
Roommates: Alex, Renae, Emily, Angela
It's like a drug. Bursts of enthusiasm and creativity pulse through your body. There's the high of seeing friends and making new ones. You fight to keep all that good info tucked into your gray mass because there is so much to soak up. Thank goodness for notes. That's what a good writer's conference can do for you.

Speaking of notes, Ali Cross and RaShelle Workman put on a great class with lots of notes about self-publishing. My toes are dangling over those waters so I'm in an info-gathering mode there. I'll let you know what happens.

Josi Kilpack delivered what is needed in a first chapter with her class Bait and Hook. Many of those needs: active voice, strong verbs, a great first line, dialogue, conflict that matters, and enough of a cliff-hanger to lead readers to chapter two. I found it interesting how much time she spends on her first chapters. Her critique group gets those pages over and over but they don't always see the rest of the book. Why? Not only do we only get one chance to make that first impression, first chapters are often used as bait/advertising to hook readers to buy the book.

One last highlight I'll mention today was Sheralyn Pratt's class on Creating Compelling and Believable Action. One of her tips was to do what you write. This meant that for her to write that skydiving action scene, she needed to experience it for herself. Whoa! That gives realism relevance. Fun to listen to and great info. That's what a good conference can do for you. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Twists and Turns

Don't you just love a story with a good twist at the end? We like the surprise, the freshness of the path less traveled. But why limit a story to one good plot twist? Readers may not always recognize every Story Turn they happen upon--especially the small story ones. 

Story Turn is where the reader is set up by the author to expect something dramatic or a change. It could be as simple as having a rough character momentarily show compassion or humor. Okay, so this may not be considered a plot twist, but it is a Story Turn and it affects the pacing of the story. It raises new questions and greater curiosity. Story turns are for the reader, not the characters in the story, sais John Brown in the LDStorymaker conference class I attended last week. "Readers want to puzzle and worry," Brown adds. This questioning or worrying is often triggered by a 1) Threat, 2) Hardship, 3) Opportunity, or 4) Mystery. Brown uses the acronym THOM. Not all Story Turns have to be positive or negative, and they should be varied within the story.

Brown suggests brainstorming for possible twists and turns. Work forward with a Story Cycle or backward with a Step List. What the writer is going for, according to Brown, in planning a Story Turn is to first incite a question or problem. Secondly, a THOM is presented to cause a different action than anticipated. These turns occur at the structural and scene level. We need the main question raised in the beginning to be answered in the end AND we need a turn or mini-turns in each scene to drive the pace. See if this short quiz strengthens your understanding.

Which THOM is used for the main story question in the following book/movie?
     1) Les Miz
     2) Jurrasic Park
     3) Pride and Prejudice
See how well you did? Now that's what I'm talking about! Now figure out the THOM for one of your favorites.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Anne Perry - Keynote Address


Oh my gosh, what a great writers conference!International bestseller Anne Perry inspired attendees with a powerful keynote address Friday at the LDStorymakers Conference in Provo, Utah. She began with a connection to the past through words and storytelling. Greek mythology and Bible stories were mentioned. The importance of words was further emphasized when Perry turned  her remarks into a personal pep-talk to each listener. "Books give companionship, knowledge, beauty," she listed. "Maybe your words could give this to someone else." Sharing emotion, from laughter to grief, were encouraged. "Put it down with your heart . . . You can do it." So good to have a cheerleader of such renown. So glad I was there. I hope passing along these thoughts has helped to make your Monday more meaningful (or any day you read this.)
I will share thoughts and snippets of what I learned from the conference in the next few posts. Please check back and I hope you have a great week!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review - Inevitable

Tamara Hart Heiner penned this intriguing YA book where the main character possesses a gift she hates--she Sees the deaths of those around her who have a violent end. Here's the blurb:

Visions of death plague Jayne, who thinks watching her boyfriend and sister die is the worst that could happen to her. But when she witnesses a murder, Jayne finds herself caught up in a dangerous world of intrigue and suspense.

As it turns out, she is not the only one doing the stalking. The killer is on to her, and all of her visions of the dying don't reveal how her life will end. Somehow, she must stop the murderer before he arranges Jayne's own inevitable death.

In this contemporary setting, Jayne is conflicted with the things she Sees and maintaining a normal teenage life. She must choose what to do about her annoying gift. I liked the use of lemon scent and capitalizing verbs about her visions as a way of cluing readers in. I liked the romantic and suspense elements. Much of the writing had me right in the moment, visualizing everything from setting to character actions. The pacing was good. There was only one short spot when I wished for a turn of new events before Heiner gave it to me. I wanted to keep reading throughout. I didn't love the paranormal ending, yet it could satisfy most readers. A fun, clean read.