Friday, September 25, 2015

Plot Arc

Ideas, characters, scenes, all these things come fairly easily when I'm sitting down to write up an idea, but I struggle with plotting. Kind of problematic when you want to write a book.

I've already mentioned that I've been taking James Patterson's Master Class, finished it in fact, and my favorite section was the one on outlining. His outlines are so detailed that the book is basically done before he starts writing the novel. 

How I wish I would have have outlined the middle grade novel I've been toiling over before I ever started writing it. I'm quickly becoming an outline convert. I should have known better. After all, my background is in public relations and we usually draw up a plan before we start implementing any of the ideas. But like so much of the past, I failed to learn from it.

I've been trying to school myself on outlining and plotting. I not necessarily a perfectionist but I am competitive with myself. I don't like to have a weakness in an area that is important to me. 

I did find three short and helpful videos. The one at the top has seven little nuggets of plotting wisdom. Number seven spoke to me loudest. Basically, if at the end of your chapter, the story hasn't moved the MC's quest forward, then the chapter is a waste of space.

The one directly above is about cluster plotting. It's geared fro NaNoWriMo but still helpful all year long. I liked the "delicious bubbles" because it's a quick way to get your thoughts in an order and see them played out in one giant picture--like a storyboard for a movie. 

And the last video is about outlining in general--the why and a little of the how. 

If anyone else struggles with this, I hope something will help. If anyone else has good outlining tips also, please feel free to suggest them in the comments. And have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Am Now Less Dumb--I Hope

Confession time: I don't often read books for adults. I'm usually competing with my kids for the books they are reading, which means I'm reading picture books up to middle grade (some YA when I get a recommendation). But I heard about David McRaney's book, You Are Now Less Dumb, and popped it in my Kindle thinking I'd get to it eventually. 

I did and am 78% done, according to the little indicator in the corner. I've got over 200 bookmarks in the ruddy thing and even more highlights. Fascinating read. The author takes neuropsychology and makes it relatable, interesting and incredibly funny. I admire anyone who can take what could be a very clinical subject and make it read as easily as a novel, even more so when an author's writing can inspire me with story ideas of my own.

I keep a list of ideas for books. Some I get from my kids, but others I get from watching documentaries or other history-related reads or newscasts. I read a book about the Tudor era and got a kick out of the sumptuary laws. I wondered how you could take that idea and turn it into a kid's book. I can't say I've narrowed down the right story yet, but I love learning about all the crazy in history and other subjects. Truth is stranger than fiction and makes for good fiction.

A friend recently turned me on to a site with obscure and interesting historical tidbits: Stuff You Missed in History. One of my favorite podcasts is about the Dahomey Amazon Warriors. I'd heard of these warrior women of Benin, but enjoyed learning more details about their lives and origin. 

I discovered another story akin to the Dahomey warriors from a visit to the Jamestown Museum in Virginia. Queen Nzinga (spellings of her name vary) was a warrior queen who fought against the Portuguese during the slave trade. Her life isn't without controversy, but she's a fascinating person nonetheless. 

If you're stuck for your next great idea, hopefully something I've listed will spark your imagination. If not, you can still enjoy the video or podcasts, even better if you have some chocolate to enjoy along with them. 

Have a great week.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What a Character

My son's illustration for one of his stories. It appears I'm being hit by an airplane, or maybe an alien invasion.
I recently finished the character development chapter in James Patterson's Master Class. Writing a believable and relatable character is key in engaging the reader, whatever the age.

I find that the easiest characters for me to develop are the ones most similar to me, however, I love writing characters that I wouldn't normally relate to. In high school, I loved to play the part of the villain in our school plays.  

I think kids are like that too, characters that are a little bit, or even a lot bit, naughty are vicarious outlets for kids who feel like so much of their lives is controlled by overwhelming forces--namely parents. I think that's the appeal, in part, of Roald Dahl's characters. Pippi Longstockings is another and Curious George, to name a mere few.  

When it comes to more current children's authors, Mo Willems is one of the best in creating memorable characters with endearing foibles. We love Pigeon at our house, and we were lucky to find available tickets to the stage production of Elephant and Piggy at the Kennedy Center. My kids talked about that experience for weeks. Needless to say, I love the following videos, and I hope you'll find something of value from them too:

Have a great week!