Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Does Your Character Cry?

We put our characters through a lot. Obstacles that cause
frustration. Losses that cause grief. Regrets that cause despair. It's our goal as writers to portray our characters experiencing a variety of circumstances--preferably tough ones. It can add a powerful sense of realism to our work.

So how do we show this sadness?

Ways to Show Grief
1. TEARS. The traditional way: weeping, wailing, sobbing, tears streaming down the face. This works, but can end up feeling melodramatic. You can unintentionally create a distance if your reader doesn't relate to the degree of emotions your character is feeling. Definitely don't go all flowery and soppy in your prose when your character is crying; usually simpler is better.

A few tears really do go a long way. Tears can be cliché. But don't neglect them either, or your reader will wonder why your character isn't reacting realistically.

2. BODY LANGUAGE. Slumped shoulders, flat voices, shuffling feet. Trembling hands or lips. An ache in the chest or throat. A building pressure behind the eyes or difficulty finding breath. Listlessness. All these things are great ways of showing sadness without writing the words tears, crying, or sadness.

Key concept: SHOW not TELL your characters' emotions.

3. INTERACTIONS. How your characters react to the world when they are sad is very revealing. They may shout, argue, or rant--displaying their grief by tipping into anger. They may go quiet and somber, staring off into the distance or reducing conversations to monosyllables and short sentences. They may lock themselves up in their rooms, drink to numb the pain, pretend everything is fine, or even seek out social settings where they feel alive and connected. Often judgment is skewed, and they can make (plot-interesting) mistakes while grief-stricken.

It's a Subjective Thing
Everyone has different triggers that makes him/her feel grief; what pulls the heartstrings of some people leaves other people cold and unaffected. Some readers cry over details that other don't, such as a homeless dog or a faded rose from a lost relationship. Others won't cry over a book no matter what happens in it! It depends on your readers' overall experiences and personality.

Trying Too Hard
Often if our GOAL is to elicit an emotion from our readers with a scene ("I'm going to write an intensely sad scene today, that will make everyone weep"), we will often fail to do so. The scene can feel manipulative, and people will be annoyed rather than sad. Readers can usually tell. It's better to be emotionally honest and write from your gut feelings rather than go about the scene with an overt sense of purpose.

Staying True to Your Character
How you show grief in your stories depends on your character. Is your character emotionally free and not afraid to weep in front of others? Is he or she more stoic, hiding their emotions from the world? Are they the kind who weep with a single tear--or fall to their knees wailing?

Universal Events of Sadness
Certain circumstances are universal in their ability to cause grief. Interestingly, readers don't have to have suffered the same loss or circumstance in order to feel sadness or relate to your character. Especially if you have written the scene honestly and well. These include death of a loved one, regret, loneliness, feeling rejected or ostracized, loss of a friendship/relationship, and making a hard choice or sacrifice that leads to a negative outcome (choosing to suffer).

What things in stories make you feel sadness--what sad things do you relate to?
How would or does YOUR character show sadness or grief?
Can you think of any other universal themes or events where your character would experience sadness?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Liebster & Lucky 7 Meme Awards

I've received some awards recently--thanks, ladies! The first is the Liebster Award from Mary Weibel. The second is is the Lucky 7 Meme Award from Tyrean Martinson.

The Liebster Rules:

1. Give to a blogger with less than 200 followers.
2. That blogger will pass it on to 5 followers with less than 200 followers.
3. According to Babelfish, Liebster means Dearest.

I'm pushing 400 followers (yay! nice to meet you, new followers) but Mary did say she was stretching the rules in her awarding. So I will stretch the rules in a different way. Anyone who wishes this Liebster Award, please feel free to take it and pass it on to 7 people via your own blog! I appreciate you ALL. You can follow the real rules or be renegade.

Lucky 7 Meme Award Rules:
1. Go to page 77 of your current manuscript.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy the next 7 lines (sentences or paragraphs) and post them as they're written. No cheating!
4. Tag 7 other writers to pass this meme on to.

From page 77 of my post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA novel, SAFE ZONE:

I bound down the steps and jog to catch up.

"Peyton, Leonard," I gasp, more from a sense of urgency than being winded.

Leonard spins toward me. "Dude, what's up? You look all gray and pukey."

"I can't go to classes today. Let's go somewhere else. Please."

Peyton's eyebrows lift, but she says nothing. She jerks her head toward the front doors, away from the teacher who supervises the bus area.

Congrats to these lucky 7 authors who get to do the same:
1. Michelle Dennis Evans at Michelle Dennis Evans
2. Laura Diamond at Diamond--Lucid Dreamer
3. Keisha Martin at Keisha Martin
4. Victoria Lindstrom at Writ of Whimsy
5. Medeia Sharif at Medeia Sharif: YA Author
6. Cynthia Chapman Willis at Laptops and Lattes
7. Peaches Ledwidge at Conceive Writing

Tag, you're it!

If I didn't just pass this meme to you--what is ONE line from page 77 of your current manuscript? (If you write shorter works, then take it from page 7...or paragraph 7 if way short.)

Do you tweak the rules when you pass on blog awards, do you follow them closely, or do you just acknowledge/thank and NOT pass them on? I confess I do the latter sometimes when I'm crazy busy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

IMPACT: Your Story's Effect

Sometimes I read reviews or hear about books that elicit strong reactions from people. The books affect them in a momentous way. They weep during the reading, or laugh all the way through it. They're inspired or challenged. Their minds and lives have been changed by the arrangement of words the author has placed on the page.

These are books that linger in people's minds long after they reach the final words and close the book (or turn off their e-reader). I think that's fascinating!

How can we make our books this powerful? Consider the following list.

1. Compelling. Does it make people stay up past their bedtimes, unable to quit reading?
2. Exciting. Does it make people's hearts pound as they race through the pages?
3. Humorous. Do parts of it make someone snicker, chuckle, or laugh outright?
4. Poignant/sad. Do parts make people cry or feel grief as they relate and sympathize?
5. Emotive. As a whole, does it elicit a varied range of emotions, make people FEEL?
6. Affirming. Does it promote an appreciation of life as something worthwhile?
7. Life-changing. Does it cause people to look at the world in a totally different way?
8. Thought-provoking. Does it cause people to contemplate or reconsider their views?
9. Challenging. Does it stir up controversy, test long-held beliefs, defy the status quo?
10. Inspirational. Does it encourage, foster joy, generate exhilaration, or spark creativity?
11. Intriguing. Is it fascinating and wondrous, presenting something in a unique way?
12. Beneficial. Does your book cause an effect that improves/betters the world/people?
13. Wholesome. Does it affirm high morals, affirm positive values, promote integrity?
14. Instructive. Does it show others how to solve problems or find courage to change?
15. Informative. Does it tell about science, politics, nature, etc? (usually nonfiction)
16. Entertaining. Does it help people unwind, relax--or provide a much-needed respite?

No one book has to do ALL these things, though I suspect the "classics" or most popular books contain more of the things from this list than their counterparts. It's also true that it's extremely subjective; what affects one person will not affect another person in the same way.

But that's what makes writing challenging and exciting, right?

Do you think a book must contain some or all of these things to be successful?
How does your book rate with this list; do you need to improve in certain areas?
If you had to choose THREE points from this list--the things you'd definitely want your story to be--which ones would you select?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

AFTER THE SALE: Interview with Emily White

Most writers know what it's like to be on the pre-published side of the writerly "fence." But what's it like AFTER you've signed a contract and acquired an agent or publisher? What excitingly murky things go on after you've hurdled that fence and find yourself standing in the next field?

Let's find out! Today, I'm interviewing blogbuddy Emily White, whose blog is HERE if you wish to visit. Her debut novel ELEMENTAL is a YA sci-fi thriller/space opera that will debut on May 1, 2012 from Spencer Hill Press. Yay, Emily!

Just because Ella can burn someone to the ground with her mind doesn't mean she should.

But she wants to.

For ten years, since she was a small child, Ella has been held prisoner. Now that she's escaped, she needs answers. Ella must discover whether she will be the prophesied Destructor or if she will, instead, be destroyed.

ELEMENTAL confronts many of our greatest fears… darkness, loneliness and the power within each of us to become either the hero or villain in the plotline of our life.

1. Once you signed your contract and the giddiness/numbness wore off--assuming it did--what was the first thing on your agenda with Spencer Hill Press?
Well, I only had to wait about two weeks before my first round of edits came back from my editor. So in a way, the giddiness was still there when I really had to get down to business. This is a good thing because I know we writers edit and edit and edit (and sometimes edit) before we ever dream of our WIPs getting before the eyes of an editor, but sadly the editing has really only just begun by that point. But I got really lucky with Spencer Hill Press. Every bit of feedback and notes I got were absolutely perfect. I'm with a company who loves my book and has the exact same vision for it as I do, so revisions were actually just about the best thing I've ever experienced. It's so exciting to be able to see your book go to that next level.

All in all, those first revisions took a couple months. And then the second round hit. Oh yes, editing is NEVER done (at least that's the way it seems ;) ).

2. Describe your revision experience. Was it easy or challenging? Did you make major changes like boosting character motivations, changing scenes around, or altering the book's ending?
Well I LOVE editing, so I'd say they were easy, but as I'm thinking about all I had to do, most people would probably think they were challenging! LOL! I rewrote and reworked the beginning AND the ending a few times until they were finally right. A few of the relationships had to be tweaked as well as boosting one particular character's motivations. Luckily no scenes were moved or deleted although I did have to write a new short one.

3. Did the revision need more fine-tuning after that? How many revisions did you make? What was the timeframe or deadline for all this?
I believe I had three rounds of revisions. I'm pretty sure that's how many it was. I am lucky enough to have TWO amazing editors, so I can't really remember the exact count. The first round took a couple months, but the other one (or two) only took a couple weeks. By that point, there were only very little things that needed to be tweaked here and there.

4. Was there anything about post-contract life that surprised you, or that you found difficult? Anything easier?
I think what surprised me the most was the way my mind reacted
to writing the sequel on a deadline. I don't think I ever really grasped what writing a book under contract would feel like. My mind really rebelled, but I beat it into submission. :) Another thing that really surprised me (and still does) were all the emails I'd get from book reviewers wanting a copy of my book. It's kind of weird to think people would come to ME, rather than me seeking them out. It's one of those interesting (and sometimes sad) truths that people see you differently when you have a contract with a publishing company. In fact, I still remember my favorite email. The girl was so sweet and so excited that I'd replied to her, but she hurried the email back to me because she didn't want to waste my time because she knew I'd "have hundreds of other fan emails to get to." I still laugh when I think of it. I might have had a hundred or so emails that day, but they were all spam.

5. To promote your book, what marketing things have you been responsible for doing?
Oh, this is the BEST part of a book coming out. I get to do all these interviews and mail out swag all around the world. It's amazing! I've met so many wonderful people since I've started marketing ELEMENTAL. Plus, I've gotten to try new things. Just over a week ago I did my first radio interview! It was pretty terrifying, but definitely worth it. I've also been doing some giveaways here and there. In fact, I've got a great one planned as soon as ARCs are available. *hint, hint* ;)

A special thanks to Emily for being my guest for today's blogpost!
Thank YOU, Carol! This was so much fun!

Were or are you familiar with what happens after a book contract or sale?
If you've already gotten a book contract, were your experiences similar?
Are you looking forward to a writerly life on the other side of a contract, or are you a little apprehensive about all those revisions, all that marketing, etc?