- Character development through interaction with animals. We instantly love two of the main characters because of their affection for animals. They sneak food to them. They risk danger in order to protect animals from the bad guys. On the flip side, the bad guys jump off the page with their viciousness. At one point a lit cigarette is flicked into the elephant's open mouth. In another scene, we suffer through the elephant's cries as she's beaten mercilessly.
- First person present tense is not just for YA literature. Obvious, I know. But before reading The Hunger Games, I don't remember having read a book with this POV. YA literature is riddled with first person/present tense, and now I'm used to it. I thought it worked in this book, even though it's not YA.
- Alternating points of view with the same character adds depth. In ELEPHANTS, the author deftly switches between two eras of the main character's life. One is in the 1930's, when the MC was a young man traveling with the circus. The other is when he's an old man, wasting away in a nursing home. It made me think of each person sitting in a nursing home now, and all the stories they must have bottled up inside them.
- Brilliant words that add sound. Clatter, howl, nicker, screech, clackety-clack, clip-clop, snort. These sound words, and many more, added dimension to the story. I felt like I was there, listening to the raucous life of a circus.
- Circus life sounds exciting, but it was a gritty business. I read the author's note at the end of the book, where she explained the depth of her research. Many of the circus scenes and ideas in the book sound outrageous, but they're based on fact. Wow.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Writing Lessons Learned from WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Fear of Letting Go
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Creating Endings that Resonate
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Tips for Word Thieves
I have a new habit I'd like to share with you. Maybe it's lame, and maybe it's short-lived, but I'm loving it. It started with the nonfiction book FIRE LOVER, and now I'm doing it with WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. I've become a bona fide word thief. Here's my looting strategy:
- When reading a book, I keep a slip of blank paper tucked between the pages, and a pencil close by.
- When I come across an amazing word, one I would've ignored in a thesaurus, I jot it down on the slip of paper.
- I struggle with adding sound, so when I come across a great "sound" word, I add it to the list.
- If the word is used in an unusual context, I write down the entire phrase.
- When my slip of paper is full, or when I've finished my reading session, I transfer the words to a computer document. I've given them easy peasy file names, such as NOTES FOR FIRE LOVER.
- I type the words in alphabetical order, avoiding duplicates.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
This is Doubt calling. Can you hear me now?
Saturday, May 14, 2011
- Listen to our readers. If our critique partners starred a line, or complimented a word choice, why mess with it?
- Read each sentence in context. If we pluck a sentence out of the blue, it's possible it won't sound quite right. But within the context of a scene, it might work.
- Read nonfiction books on our subject. In this post I outlined how this step helped open a treasure box of useful words.
- Refer to a list of no-no or addictive words. Adverbs should be used sparingly, but a well-placed adverb sometimes makes sense. (Keli Gwyn wrote a great post about 12 Weak Words)
- Step away. When every word, sentence, and paragraph looks like a tumbleweed, it's time to take a break. A walk, a movie, or a few chapters of a good book does wonders for a writer's soul.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Fueling Fiction with Nonfiction
- It goes well beyond the cursory internet search. Yes, we can gather information from Google, but a biography or real-crime thriller delves deeper into motive, personality, and childhood issues.
- Word choice bonanza. Holy cow. This book was a treasure trove of unique words regarding my book's subject. I plucked out great words, and now I'm sprinkling them in my manuscript. I found slang, synonyms, and words with more zing. Clever words changed the whole tenor of the book.
- World building. My husband is a firefighter, so I thought I knew all there was to know about arson and the firefighting world. I was wrong. After finishing this book, I realized I only knew surface information.
- Nonfiction deepens character. What motivates someone to start a fire? Or rob a bank? Or abuse a child? Or commit suicide? Nonfiction explores the why, and helps a writer create complex & believable characters.
- It teaches how to distribute important information. Nonfiction is full of valuable details, but if the writer did their job, it's layered, built upon, and interesting. FIRE LOVER read like a novel, avoiding information dumps. Even though I knew the outcome of the true story, I was fascinated by the behind-the-scenes scoop.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Interview with Nicole Zoltack
Today our blogging buddy, Nicole Zoltack, has stopped by for an interview. The third book in her Kingdom of Arnhem series, CHAMPION OF VALOR, released May 1st.
Me: Welcome, Nicole! Can you give us a summary of your book series?
Nicole: The Kingdom of Arnhem series (fantasy romance for young adults and adults) is about the final war between two kingdoms - Arnhem and Speica.
Book I - Woman of Honor is about a young girl who wants to become a knight. Aislinn is willing to give up everything for the kingdom of Arnhem - her childhood, her life, even her heart. No matter the pain it brings.
Book II - Knight of Glory. Geoffrey leaves Arnhem to find her allies for the war against Speica and finds secrets, lies, and rumors that could tip the war in Speica's favor. He also finds himself torn between two very different and mysterious ladies.
Book III - Champion of Valor. Selliki loves the mage Gabrael but she is a selkie and love has never treated her race kindly when they love someone from the land. The final war between Speica and Arnhem is threatening the entire world. Lucifer has aligned himself with Speica and wants nothing less than to bring about the Apocalypse before its time. Only one kingdom will prevail; that is, if the world doesn't end.
Me: You're a busy mom with two small children. How did you manage to squeeze in enough time to not only write one novel, but an entire series?
Nicole: It isn't easy being a writer when you have kids. Son #1 is 2 1/2 , son #2 is 9 months (he'll be taking his first step soon!) I write when everyone else is sleeping, either late at night or early in the morning. What's wonderful is that both boys nap at the same time, so I can get dishes and other things done during the day and I try to squeeze in some writing then too, although if I'm honest, I usually try to catch up on emails and blogs then.
Me: Yes, reading blogs is a familiar addiction! What is your favorite part about writing fantasy novels?
Nicole: I love that anything goes. I can have people throw fireballs at each other. I can introduce races like selkies and dwarves. I can show dwarven women (why are they hardly ever portrayed?). I can change trolls so they aren't so monstrous and have magic themselves - the ability to dance on the wind. The freedom is what I love most.
Me: What a cool job--creating unique characters and intriguing worlds. Can you give us a small glimpse into your writing journey?
Nicole: Sure! I first learned about Desert Breeze through a publisher chat on a yahoo group. As the chat was winding down, Gail Delaney (the EIC) mentioned that she loved series, especially for fantasy and a few other genres. I mentioned to her that I had an unfinished manuscript that would be part of a series and briefly described it to her. She said to send it to her when it was finished.
The story I had mentioned was a Nano story (National Novel Writing Month when authors around the world try to write a 50K in November). I abandoned all other side projects and focused on the novel until I completed it. After finishing it, I submitted to Gail and waited. Shortly thereafter, she emailed me an acceptance for Woman of Honor.
Desert Breeze is a non-erotic romance publisher, which is perfect for me. My novels tend to have crossover appeal. Woman of Honor is a coming-of-age fantasy romance, so it's definitely for YA and adults.
Anyhow, I had mentioned to Gail about the series during the yahoo chat, and we worked together to figure out the direction that the series could take so that the entire series was fantasy romance, each book centering on a different couple. And that was that. I had sold a short story or two before this, but this was my journey to novel publication.
Me: That was quite an adventure. What quick tip can you offer fellow writers?
Nicole: Even if you can't write every day, work on your story every day. Even if that just means thinking about the characters and what kind of ice cream they like. The more you know and understand your characters, the more they'll leap off the page.
Me: Thanks for the visit, Nicole. We all wish you success with your trilogy!
Happy Mother’s Day to Nicole and all the other Mommy Writers out there. Readers, be sure to leave a comment to be entered to win some signed post cards and magnets. Each comment during the Champion of Valor Blog Tour gives you an entry for the grand prize: a copy of the entire Kingdom of Arnhem trilogy - Woman of Honor, Knight of Glory, and Champion of Valor.
You can find Nicole here: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter
Her books can be purchased on Amazon here.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Keep 'Em Guessing
- The tough, hunky NYPD cop (Mark Wahlberg) is drowning in insecurities. He plays the harp and dances ballet. Oh, and he's hated by all of New York because he accidentally shot Derek Jeter in the leg.
- The goofy, awkward police accountant (Will Ferrell) is married to jaw-dropping, out-of-his-league Eva Mendes. And he's the one with an exciting, dark past.
- A Toyota Prius, which is mocked early in the movie, becomes the kick-butt car that muscles through a chase scene with killers (while saving gas at the same time).
- The mellow "Monday, Monday," by The Mamas & the Papas, is background music throughout the fast-paced chase scene. A fun contrast.
- The nerdy captain quotes TLC lyrics without realizing it (or does he?)
- It wasn't high-powered rifles that brought down the bad guy's helicopter. Nope. It was golf balls.
- I expected another "the top brass is in on it" ending, but the writers didn't resort to that tired gag. Another surprise.