Monday, September 30, 2013

Weaving Plot and Character Together in Story Beginnings

If you've worried about how to formulate a story, worry no more. It doesn't matter if you start with character or plot first, according to Liesl Shurtliff in her WriteOnCon article on how character and plot work together. Just get those ideas going. Eventually they have to work together and the sooner the better. "If I have a great dynamic character in mind," Shurtliff says, "that character is sort of worthless if nothing interesting happens to them, or they don't make interesting choices. The same goes for plot. I might think up a great scenario, but that scenario will only be as interesting as the characters I develop to carry it out. The very best books take plot and character and work them together in order to build the most resonant stories."

To weave the two together, ask your characters what they want. Shurtliff tells, "The strength of your plot is held in the desires of your characters. Your main character should have an overarching goal and then several mini-goals along the way, which all drive toward the main goal in one way or another." She explains that character desires and motivations; their history, time, and culture; and external forces all affect character and plot. "Plot forces a character to make choices only they would make because of their motivations and personal history, for example. When you develop character and plot together, constantly asking how one affects the other, then you're more likely to develop a story in which readers are willing to completely immerse themselves--both the characters and the plot."

When you think about it, the following great ways to start your story--which I stole from Canda Mortensen--involve both plot and character:

  • Start on the day when everything is different in the world you've created or for the main character.
  • Start when your character must make a life changing decision.
  • Start when your character is avoiding a change.

Now get started without the worry and let those ideas come from your fingertips! You can always revise later--just don't think about that part yet.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just a quick addition here to the below weekly post to shout out another talented friend. Author Michelle Jefferies now provides author services. Feel free to LIKE her page.
...See More

Need that push or guidance to make a struggling manuscript become awesome? Welcome to Metamorphosis Author Services. The place where plot magic happens.
Page: 113 like this

Scroll on down to my previous post if you haven't seen it this week. I'm highlighting some good books. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Good Friends, Good Books

You might call this a support-your-writerly-friends post. That's what we do for each other. You get to find out about the debut of three great books and their authors. It's a win-win. I'm just sharing highlights here but you can follow links to read each summary. Great-looking covers for all. 

The first author holds a special place in my heart. She invited me into my first critique group experience and taught me much about editing. Meet Melissa J. Cunningham and her first published novel, Reluctant Guardian. I had the privilege of being one of her critiquers for this clean but mature YA paranormal romance. Melissa is currently writing the sequel. Learn more on her website or order here.

Next, meet Cindy Roland Anderson. She just released a fun and clean romance story between a divorcee and football celebrity called Fair Catch. Read more about or order this book here

Another clean romance inserted into a spy story can be found by author Jordan McCollum. What could be more fun to read than that? What I can tell you is that I loved her first spy book and gave it 5 stars. The book blast just ended but SPY FOR A SPY is out now this November. See more here.
Happy reading and writing this week!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Agent Perspective on Query Letters

You've got one minute to impress an agent. What do you say about your story? There is a lot of info out there on writing queries. Sometimes it's nice to know what the agent is thinking. 

I listened to an interesting perspective at from an agent who shared what she looks for in a pile of query letters. Carlie Webber of C K Webber Associates went through Sixty Queries in Sixty Minutes. If she was interested in spending more time on a submission, it would go into it's own pile that she would come back to later--the 'yes' pile. Here's a summary of what she noticed in that short amount of time:

Describes emotional development instead of plot--No
Describes each main character and tells what they have at stake--Yes
Genre and idea is appealing--Yes
Author knows market and mentions comps--Yes
Plot not given, query overwritten--No
Characters are not compelling, low stakes--No
Not right genre for this agent--No
A self-published novel wants to go traditional, no sales info was included--No
Lacks info on the main character and plot--No
Introduces character, gives background, presents the major problem simply and how it can complicate the MC's life--Yes
Author has professional background in the subject--Yes
World not mentioned in a sci-fi story--No
General dislikes: Rhetorical questions--No     First person POV query--No     Word count low, high, or missing--No

I've never written a query letter. What I've written is more like a summary or back cover blurb. Familiarity with queries helps for those of us who submit to editor/publishers instead of agents (check requirements) because we still need to give a description of our book. Writing my description out for my Book of Mormon novel helped me to figure out and fix some plot problems. It let me identify the overall goal from the stakes and goals that changed. For this reason, I recommend writing your query or description before revisions. It just might keep you on track.

Here's the blurb I came up with for The Seventh City. I'd love your feedback!
If Lamanite princess Karlinah can return to her father’s kingdom before the truth of her abusive husband's murder is discovered, she just might get her safe, pampered life back. Surprises await her at King Lamoni's household. Karlinah's younger sister, Hepka, is betrothed and tradition requires that the eldest be married first. Matched with Japethihah, the lascivious high priest, she dreads her imminent wedding.

Karlinah is saved from becoming Japethihah’s property when missionary Ammon converts many of the king's household—but not herself. Relief is short-lived after dismantled foolish traditions give Karlinah freedom to choose. She just might tear her beautiful hair out when no one but Japethihah wants a non-believer. Karlinah struggles with loneliness and new beliefs, unable to trust the Nephite missionary when repentance means confessing the secret that could get her killed. 

Finding strength to overcome doctrinal misconceptions, Karlinah aims to show the handsome stone artisan the heart of a believer before Cumroth’s work on the synagogue is completed. But Japethihah has plans of his own and will stop at nothing to make Karlinah his. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Power of Words

"The pen is mightier than the sword." -- Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Truth or falsehood in advertising has the power to entice one to purchase. Speeches stir patriotic feelings or spur listeners to action. Words in the Bible draw out spirituality within. A good book takes us into its world and lets us live alongside the characters. Each of these has a common element: The power of words. No wonder there are so many poets, authors, and orators! These two little words impact relationships: "I'm sorry." A sincere "I love you" warms the heart. What makes words so powerful? They convey emotion.

I've been reading mini stories--events packed with emotion--in JoLyn Brown's A Circle of Sisters. It's similar to my inspirational non-fiction, Bishop Stories. As I've gone over the submissions for this book, I've felt a range of emotions. I've laughed and cried at the tender sentiments conveyed through words. If you would like to be a part of this wonderful collection of stories, I am taking submissions through September 15, 2013. For more information, e-mail me at bishopstories.submissionsATgmailDOTcom or leave a comment. Emotion is at the heart of these stories and that's what makes them so powerful.

Have a great week!

Monday, September 2, 2013

In Your Pants Blogfest Uses Book Titles

In the spirit of fun and reading, I'm participating in the In Your Pants Blogfest. We're sharing reading titles and adding the tag "in your pants". Enjoy some silliness, see what people are currently reading, and leave your title in my comments. I'm actually reading two books for whichever mood I'm in and including a recent read because it's funny. Here's mine:

Recently finished: The your pants.
Current: A Change of your pants.
              A Circle of your pants.

Huh. Similar title format in the last two. We could even get some title ideas here. What are you reading?