Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Objective

           What does the protagonist want? Frank Ball described it as, "The passion the character is desperate to satisfy." The character's objective sort of drives the story. The story after all is about the character trying to reach his goal.
           But the fun part is that our hero is not the only character with an objective. Every single character to walk the page has an objective. Their objectives for the most part dictate what they do (while who they and what they've experienced dictate how they do it). And when their objectives clash we have conflict. Like two cars meeting head on, maybe they are going toward the same goal, but for different reason. Or maybe they have two complete different objectives, one to free his friends, the other for world domination (you know, for the ambitious antagonist). And sometimes one objective leads to another and changes upon circumstance.
           Dustfinger, in Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, wants to return to his own world. That's his objective. His friend, Mo, wants his wife back, and his daughter to remain safe. But when Capricorn promises to send Dustfinger home, his objective, or desire, to return home is stronger than his friendship with Mo, and so the story begins (in the middle of the action). Now Dustfinger wants the book, Inkheart, and Capricorn's help to return home.
           But Capricorn does not want to return at all. His objective is terrorize anyone who crosses his path and become the most powerful man alive (why go for mediocre when you can have an antagonist who wants it all?). So he betrays Dustfinger and makes a show of burning all the books. But Capricorn's objective is to be the most powerful man alive, he keeps one book, because he wants the Shadow by his side.
           And the only reason Dustfinger returns is to find the last book. He's a coward, but it's the only way to get what he wants. But he doesn't help Meggie, Mo, or anyone during the ceremony at the end because his desire to return home is stronger than his loyalty to his friends. If he dies trying to save them, obviously he can't return home. So he stays safely away, allows them to save the book, then quietly steals it away. 
           But Mo's main objective is to keep Meggie safe. That's why he risks his life for her. He wants her safety more than his own.
          Other characters' objectives could be an Obstacle for the protagonist.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Appearing Professional: Pitfall Words Edition

           I'm not sure if you had this in school, but my English text book had lessons on words that were commonly misused and confused. Actually it had whole units committed to this, complete with a glossary.
           The mentor workshops at the writer's conference covered this briefly. Here's a few words that they threw out there:

           Affect/ Effect (I missed this throughout a whole essay once, but I found a trick Affect is normally the verb form while effect is the noun form, so affect = action: they both begin with a.)

           They're/ There/ Their

           Advise/ Advice (advise is normally the verb, advice the noun)

           Allusions/ Illusions

           Accept/ Except

           Lead/ Led

           Its/ It's (I have to reword my sentence and extract all the contractions to spot this one.)

           Words I always mix up are lose/ loose, chose/ choose/ choice, and I am forever writing what for want and want for what. Thank God for editing.
          What about you? Are there words you commonly confuse in your writing?
          

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Character

           More writer's conference notes.  On characters. Mostly the protagonist. This could open trouble. I might go on and on for a week about characters. :)
           Frank Ball called the character (the main one), "A hero whose desire matters most."



          
            This is the person whose eyes we will see most of the story in, and if your story is in first person than more than likely we'll be in this person's head the whole time. But who is the protagonist? Every writer knows who the side characters like to steal the spotlight. Spotlight stealing is okay for a few pages or scenes. But if they're stealing the whole show, then perhaps is it their story instead?


         
           At the conference, Ball taught that the protagonist is the one who changes the most in the story. There must be some sort of change in the main character. I'm not entirely sure I agree with that. There are classics out there where it's more about the character remaining the same and how all the other characters change because of the protagonist's influence. Jeff Gerke talked about this at a seminar of his I attended. The two examples he gave were Anne of Green Gables, and the New Testament. Anne Shirley changes little. And Jesus doesn't change ever. The story is about their impact on the other characters.


           The story is to be told through the protagonists eyes, for the most part. If your writing in third person or maybe even two first person POVs, or third and first person (*applause* for the brave people out there), then you have a great option to write from other characters' point of view (POV, maybe I need to state what the acronym stands for? I'll talk about it more soon). In the mentoring workshops we were given a long list of things to brainstorm for our characters. I found these two very interesting:

           Personality:
             Self-Description:

             Other's View:



          Have someone ever told you that you have a certain characteristic or quality that you would have never attributed to yourself? This has happened to me often. People often see us differently than we see ourselves. Sometimes they are more accurate, and sometimes both accounts, no matter how different, are accurate in certain situations. So when writing from another character's POV, they may have very different thoughts than the character thinks of himself. Maybe he thinks he's all that, but his love interest thinks he's dweeby. Or maybe he considers himself awkward and maybe even geeky, but others see him as cool.
         Here's some other things to think about when developing characters:

               What is the lie they believe?
               What is their comfort zone? 
               What is something they would never do?

           So the protagonist is the character whose desire matters the most in the story. That desire is what moves the story and creates the plot, in ways. The protagonist's desire is his Objective, the next point of SCOOP IT UP.

All photos from morguefile.com

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Appearing Professional: Puntuation Edition

           At the writer's conference, my workshop mentors said that the difference between an amateur and a professional is in the little things. The things that everyone loathes to deal with: grammar. The basics of English. Have you ever read a book from an acclaimed author and found grammar mistakes on ever other page? I don't mean a tweak of the rules for the sake of style. I mean definite mistakes. It seems to downgrade the quality of the writing.
           So maybe grammar is important. At least, a little bit. Here a few common mistakes that were pointed out at the workshop.

          Two complete sentences joined with a conjunction must have a common before the conjunction.
           Incorrect: Cindy rode her elephant everywhere she went but today she left him at home.
           Correct: Cindy rode her elephant everywhere she went, but today she left him at home.
       
           A series of items, actions, or phrases must be set off with commas.
           Incorrect: She walked down the road over the hills and into town.
           Incorrect: She walked down the road, over the hills and, into town.
           Correct: She walked down the road, over the hills, and into town.
           But there's an exception to this rule. If you are writing a college essay that is supposed to be in APA style (who knew there were different formats for essays?), then you leave off the last comma. Like so:
           She walked down the road, over the hills and into town.

           Commas are set inside the quotation marks at the end of dialogue.
           Incorrect: "Look, that's the elephant lady", people whispered to each other.
           Incorrect: "Look, that's the elephant lady" people whispered to each other.
           Correct: "Look, that's the elephant lady," people whispered to each other.


source


           If two words are used as one adjective, then a hyphen is needed to connect the two words. I always have problems with hyphens. It's kind of confusing, so I'm glad they cleared this one up for me. But now that I know, I'm afraid I may have given a few people whose work I've edited bad advice concerning hyphens. :P
           Incorrect: Cindy walked into the high-school.
           Correct: Cindy walked into the high school.
           Incorrect: She talked with her friend, a high school teacher, about the elephant.
           Correct: She talked with her friend, a high-school teacher, about the elephant.
          
           I despise commas. There are just too many rules and exceptions to them. Although I suppose that goes for all the English rules. If I have an adverb phrase before the subject of my sentence, I always forget if I'm supposed to put a comma after it or not.
           What are some punctuation rules you forget?

Situation

           Situation. The first point of SCOOP IT UP. Frank Ball called situation, "The problem that gives the story purpose at the beginning."
            This isn't just setting: the place, time, weather, and all those other details that bore the reader. Not that these things aren't necessary. The reader needs some kind of clarity as to the setting. But it doesn't need to drag, and it can be shown.
           But situation is exactly that. The situation that the beginning of the story finds the character in.
           The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Katniss lives in District 12. She hunts to keep her family alive and she would do anything to protect her little sister. But what if her name is drawn to participate in the Hunger Games? Certainly that would end in a death of terror. Where would that leave her family? This is situation of The Hunger Games.
           Jeff Gerke, author of Plot versus Character, said (I'm paraphrasing because I can't quite remember), "You have to establish normal before you violate normal." You have to show what the character's normal life is like before he goes on his new adventure so the reader knows what the character has to loose (aka the plight, we'll get to that later). Then you move on to the inciting incident. The event that takes the character out of his normal life. In The Hunger Games, Katniss wasn't drawn. But her sister was.
           Besides "establishing normal," the situation really just introduces the reader to the character, objective, and obstacle. The next few points of SCOOP IT UP.
           I apologize for having been gone for so long. My computer has not been behaving. Also do you like the Times New Roman font? Is it easier to read?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

scoop it up

           The best part of the writers conference was being around other writers. It was great to talk story with people who "get it." :)
           At the conference Frank Ball talked often about this acrynom called SCOOP IT UP. It's great if you're a plotter (that would not be me). And it's rather handy if you're writing a query. It helps summarize you book, and focus it.

Situation- The set-up. The inciting incident. What gets the story going. With the setting included.
Character- The main character. The MC. The protagonist.Whatever you call him.
Objective- The character's desire. What he wants most.
Obstacle- The thing that stands between the character and his objective. So, yeah, an obstacle.
Plight- The stakes. The risk. Cost vs. benefit. What the character has to lose with every choice he makes.

Insight- The knowledge the character learns on the way, scene by scene, and overall.
Transformation- The change. The difference in the character from beginning to end. Negative? Positive?


Unresovled Problem- What happens next?


           Over the next couple of days I'll elaborate on these. If you can identify each of these in your WIP than you are on your way to having a good summary for a query or something to say when someone asks, "So what's your story about?"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Annoucements of sorts

           I will be at a writers conference over the weekend. Hurray! But there is no internet access. I'm sorry we will not have Fictionography this Friday. But I should learn some cool stuff that I can share with you guys when I'm back!

           On a side note, I've been reading Inkheart. And I sketched one of the characters.


          

          Darius the reader when he first appears in the book. I didn't add many details elsewhere because I wanted the focus on him. His head looks too big for the rest of him though. :P


                                                                                

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuseday Quips

Talent is overrated. The ability to get tough, stick to it and produce words beats lazy literary giftedness every time.

James Scott Bell
source

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Other Things

 The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.
Alan Dean Foster
Obviously if your a writer, writing is very important to you. You probably do a it all the time (or so people think). You may think about even when your not writing (at least). Some writers, pick up a pen or sit at the keyboard and just go.
Then there's the writers like me. We kind of. . .procrastinate. We can always find something else to do. Even though we really do like writing, it's not until we are in the moment of actually writing that we can say we enjoy it. It's just getting to that point.
But at the same time. Story is about life. Because life is a story. You live it everyday. So all those 'other things' you do. Work. School. Hobbies. Family and friends. Driving down the road. Eating dessert. Staring out the window. Think of them as research. It's real life.

For instance I work, attend college, clog, practice guitar, watch movies and play games with my family, read, draw, walk in the woods, normal life stuff. Research. Some of my characters may do similar things. And even if they don't do the same activities, they may encounter similar situations and people that I have.
Not that you, huh, I should do so much research that I neglect the writing part. *cough* It fits into life too. Besides if you're stumped on your writing, it's good to get your mind off it for a little. It helps.
Creativity is the residue of time wasted.
Albert Einstein
But what in my research and, uh, wasted time has inspired my writing? The best way to find inspiration is to not look for it. Here's some times when inspiration came:

hanging up the clothes
watching superhero movies
listening to the radio
listening to a friend talk about their experiences
sitting in English class
reading history
reading other fiction books
talking with siblings (especially brothers, they always think up the wildest things)
looking at various art
looking out the window
walking in the woods
staring at the sky
feeling the wind
climbing trees
playing guitar

How about you? What 'other things' do you do? Where has inspiration found you?

Friday, June 7, 2013

On the Spot Link Up

On the Spot! Let's see what we can come up with. Remember, no editing.

          *whimper*

           Prompt:
source

          


The wind blew low and quiet as if it whispered a bad secret. Oddball cringed as his footsteps crunched the grass. The sound seemed so loud in this quiet world. There was nothing but tall dead grass and gray clouded sky.

He didn't dare call for Muddhed. The guy just wandered off by himself. He hated Oddball. They could hardly stand one in minute in each others presence without arguing or Muddhed threatening his life. Muddhed was fine. By himself. Wherever he went.

In a land supposedly full of cannibals.

They hadn't seen anyone. Not a single living thing. So it was all just rumors after all.

But something told Oddball otherwise. Maybe it was the bad secret the wind hissed to the grass.

From a distant he spotted a hill. It was just large enough to be classified as a hill and not a small mound of dirt. But it was different than the rest of this flatland. And on top. That was a tree. A living tree.

Oddball moved the strap of his postal traveler bag and headed for the hill. The closer he came the faster he walked. Somehow that tree seemed to be some hope in this empty land. He just wanted to stand under it. Some kind of land marker. Maybe from the hill he could see Muddhed. How did one just disappear in a flatland anyways?

Oddball kept himself from running up the hill. He looked around. Grass stretched out until the sky met the ground. A few trees. But only a few. And not a single breathing being. Maybe that was good.

Oddball leaned on the trunk. Muddhed was fine. He really was. A big guy like him could look out for himself. Pull his weight around and flex his muscles and anyone would run for their life. Yeah, he was fine.

But maybe he should try looking for him. He looked at his feet and kicked at something in the dirt. Sure Muddhed and him didn't get along, and the guy wanted to kill him. But Jaykin had made them partners on this escapade. And it would be the right thing to do. Especially considering the circumstances.

Wait. What was in the dirt? Oddball moved the grass away with his feet.

Bones. Spine bones. A leg bone. Dry, dirt-

Bones.

A chill shot up his back. It was just the remains of something dead. Something dead couldn't hurt him like something living could.

But what if whatever caused it's death came back?

Don't jump to conclusions. It could've just been sick or something. Or. . .

Oddball had to keep himself from running down the other side of the hill.



On the Spot will be open for a week. Have fun!



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Roughing it through the First Draft

Writing is easy; all you have to do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood from on your forehead.
Gene Fowler


           Rough drafts. First drafts. Daft drafts. It doesn't really matter what you call them. They're all the same.



    
           And I despise them all. All of mine at least. They are the worst things to ever come across paper, or the screen. Really.  I know I can do better than that. That the words can be so much more expressive. I'd rather edit. I love to take my ugly mess and turn it into something wonderful and captivating.

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Thomas Mann


           I used to edit my scenes before I moved onto the next ones. Which may be one reason why I haven't finished a whole book yet. Editing in the middle of your first draft slows progress. Also I may have spent a whole day on a scene or character that I may end up taking out of the book! What a waste of time.

Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
Emma Coats

           Then I used to avoid writing (of course I still do). But then I have nothing to edit either, nothing to work with, no story at all. That doesn't help much. So I have to force myself to writing. I have to give myself the okay to write terribly. Because there's no getting around it. (forgive this next image) Writing the first draft is like throwing up on the page, all the ideas, all at the same time, sometimes with no particular order, and all written very badly. Everything is all mixed together.

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.
Louis L'Amour

         Once I wrote a short story. But I had two ways of getting to the ending. Since I wasn't sure which way to choose, I wrote both ways in the same draft. I'm not sure I would recommend that. But I always have to remind myself:

It's perfectly okay to write garbage- as long as you edit brilliantly.
C. J. Cherryh

           What about you? Do you prefer first drafts or editing? What do you like and dislike about either of them?

All photos are from morguefile.com

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesday Quips

"It's lovely. If only you could frost someone to death," I say.

"Don't be so superior. You can never tell what you'll find in the arena. Say it's actually a gigantic cake-" begins Peeta.

"Say we move on," I break in.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fictionograhpy Friday, on, ahem, Saturday


           Yes! The official kick-off for the link-up Fictionography. Excitement all around, eh? Okay, here's it is:


http://mrg.bz/F87e2v

Writing Prompt

Friends

Something lumpy bashes through my sleepy brain. And again. I crack an eye. All I see is the back wall.

"Stop it!" It doesn't like the intimidating shout I meant it to be. More like a whimper through a soggy sponge. The pillow thumps my head again. Okay, that's it. Just because Tony is a nutty early bird doesn't mean he has to wake the whole house.

I whip to a sitting position. "I said. . . Kaylenne?"

 My best friend, my only friend drops the pillow and grins at me. "You don't have work today."

 Queen of the obvious.

I groan. "Good-bye."

 She tugs at the blankets. But my grip is awake enough to hold tight.

 My head. The pillow. Again.

 "Come on, Chris," she says. "The world is out there. Just waiting to be conquered."

 "And it's Saturday. Universally known as the day when morning begins at 10 am," I say. "At least."

 "Pllleeeasse!"

 I roll over. The second my head hits the pillow though, I'm awake. "Wait." I shoot up in bed. "What are you doing here?"

 "Waking you, duh." Kaylenne rolls her eyes.

 "In my house. In my room." I look her and down. "On my bed. Now?"

 "We've been over this."

 I run a hand through my bangs. Hm, so we have. A few seconds ago,I guess.

 Kaylenne jumps up and I loose my grip on the blankets. "When is the last time we had the whole day to do whatever we wanted? The whole day!"

 I slouch. My blankets are on the floor. My senses are fully awake. My friend is standing in the middle of room about to drag me out into the dreaded world of people. It's to late. There's no going back to sleep now.

I sigh. "Fine. Just let me get dressed."

I rummage through a moving box and pull out some jeans, and faded blue T-shirt, and mismatched socks. When  I come out of the bathroom, Kaylenne tisks her tongue.

 "How," she says. "How? You are the only person I know that when you're ready to leave, instead of looking refreshed and alive, you look. . ." She gestures to me and shakes her head.

 "Like I've been wadded up and shoved in the back of a wardrobe drawer for a month?" It's how I feel.

 "Exactly," she chirps. Always happy, that's Kaylenne. Maybe that's why we're friends. I need happy, and she needs. . . well, I don't really know.

 She tosses my plaid converse shoes to me and soon we stand outside the very red front door. Why red? Just why?

 A few seconds pass. A full minute. We still stand there. The sky is clear and large blue. The birds have roused a nice mid-spring chorus.

 I'm not a good judge of time, but it has to have been five minutes by now. Five minutes of just standing here in front of this terribly red door.

 "Um." I glance at her and then find interest in the porch. "What did you have in mind?"

 "Oh," she says a bit surprised, a bit quiet. "I was hoping you would have come up with something at this point."