Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Encore presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM







***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.
 

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
 
 
Writing a Masterpiece Ain't Easy!

by Margot Finke


Like any other job or career, a writer must spend time learning the craft of writing - an apprenticeship if you will. The rules are available for those who take the time to learn them. And once you learn the rules, you can take an occasional deep breath. . . and break them with impunity.

Active and powerful words are a BIG Plus:

The creation of active and powerful plots is much the same whatever the age or the genre.  It is all in the words you choose, the dialogue you use, and the way you put it all together. Whether you are trying to appeal to adults, kids on the cusp of adolescence, or teens with raging hormones, success depends on HOOKING your reader.
If you plan to whip up an action packed book that will HOOK reader interest, here is a preview of the ingredients you’ll need to dig out of your imagination and your well-honed craft box.

·       Think out of the box.
·       Tight writing + action and pace
  • Active and powerful verbs.
  • A plot that’s cool and fast paced.
  • Characters alive with authenticity.
  • Dialogue that is true to the characters.
  • A background rich with possibilities or mystery.
  • Your own unique writing voice.
  • Hints and clues that are woven into the fabric of the plot, and tell of past history and things yet to come.
  • End of chapter HOOKS that keep readers turning the page.

·       A Thesaurus (either a book or Shift F7 in Word) is your best friend when looking to replace problem words.
·        For further clues regarding weak "Stuff" to cut from your chapters, visit my



When completed, your MG or YA masterpiece needs to be somewhere between 30,000 and 80,000 words. Yes, I know Jo Rowlings upped the ante with her succession of Harry Potter books, and if your plot and characters have the same appeal as her Harry, you too might get away with a bumper word count. However, first-time authors might be wise to err on the side of fewer words. Adult books can have a much higher word count. 

WARNING: there needs to be a pile of really good “meat” in the plot sandwich to make that larger word count worthwhile.

Action Rules:

Action does not have to be a gun fight, a car chase, or a fight to the death.  Great action means keeping your story moving along. Scenes that have good pace, great humor, or introduce intriguing clues also qualify as action. Your plot, characters and dialogue, must tease, lure, and draw the reader in. If your story keeps the reader turning the page, eager to discover more about the characters and the plot, then you have ACTION covered.

Lack of Action is when. . .

Stagnant “waffling on” does not move the plot along to the next cool scene.  You add long descriptions that interrupt the build up to a momentous scene. Lots of “telling,” rather than using actions and dialogue to show what happens.. If your book is billed as a mystery, a thriller, an adventure or the like, chapters that drag will turn off readers. NOTE: short punchy sentences build better pace and tension.

A Sample: 

From my latest young teen ghost mystery, the “Revenge of Thelma Hill.” Note the shorter sentences and the word choices.

Heavy rain clouds hid the moon, turning her room into a dark cave. Half awake, Frannie shivered.  Brrrr. . . Might as well sleep in the fridge. She tugged the comforter over her ears.  The prickle of goose bumps slid up and down her spine. The room had frostbite. Wow! Could this mean the return of the gray ghost?  Why didn’t I put that camera closer; like under the pillow?
Nervous excitement battled dread. Was the ghost there? The urge to know overwhelmed her. Pushing herself up on one elbow Frannie peered at the foot of the bed.
Frost covered her quilt, the dressing table and the curtains. Icicles dangled from her bedside lamp, their eerie white light shimmering over everything in the room. The Ghost hung in mid-air, swaying gently. A low moan escaped her. The gray spidery veils clung to her like a drowned woman’s gown.
Frannie gasped. Her breath went in just fine, but it refused to go out again. The camera lay on the bedside table, forgotten.


As a professional Critique Service Provider, here are snippets of advice, hot from my latest manuscript critiques.

Wordiness:  (Tight writing rules)


Nothing kills tension and fast pace quicker than wordiness. When fingers hit the keyboard, and their owner has a fresh document begging to be filled, many writers never know when to quit. I prune and trim acres of unnecessary words, sentences and paragraphs. Think of these words and sentences as frills on a fussy looking ball gown. Rip off those frills, and you have an elegant and exciting gown. Your writing needs to be like that gown – elegant and exciting. Sure to make an editor drool. Tight Writing keeps the pace and action moving along. It is also vital for tension building. A few short punchy sentences create tension far better than one long ramble.


Puny Verbs:


The writer who understands the value of verbs already has the battle half won. Great verbs, active verbs, and powerful verbs, they all have the same goal - pages and chapters that crackle with excitement, dynamic plot twists, and vibrant dialogue. Strong verbs create strong characters, memorable plots and evocative scenes. If your plot and characters read like a bowl of over-cooked noodles, look at your verbs. Your verb choices probably don’t deserve all the blame, but they definitely led the retreat into a big yawn!


Lack of Focus:


Focus is a juggling act. Everyone admires the way a juggler keeps all those balls in the air at the same time. He can do this because his focus never wavers. A good writer must also juggle. It our case, it involves juggling the plot, the subplot, the main character, and the lesser characters. While keeping these vital elements in place, a writer must also juggle word choices, character enrichment, pace, and the action. Lack of focus on one or more of these fundamentals, and your story loses momentum. The pace and action wanders, and other crucial elements scatter.

Having a really good critique group nit-pick your chapters will help a lot.  And picking the brains of the published and established members of the group is a bonus. Their advice and support will be invaluable.


"Stuff" That Only Adds to Your Word Count:


These I find in manuscripts everywhere: irritating tag-ons, and add-ons that waste space, yet offer zero in the way of plot enlightenment pace or action. Some are adverbs that snuggle up to weak verbs. Some are overused and tired adjectives. Others appear as twenty ho-hum words that need to be exchanged for 8 more evocative words that explode with meaning. Here are examples:

  • Prune the Fluff: very, some, just, like, that, and words ending in LY.
  • Verbs to Strengthen: Any verb preceded by WAS or ending in ING. Plus: ran, sat, looked, talk, ate, fell.
  • Adjectives That Need a Boost: pretty, happy, nice, good, big, small.
  • Unneeded Thoughts: it seemed, perhaps they will, maybe they can, he felt, they feel, would catch, would do etc.
  • Runaway Sentences and Descriptions: Put those long compound sentences under a microscope. Cut them in half. Do this by using more active and powerful verbs, and breaking it up into at least two shorter sentences that offer more punch and active content.
Your Competition:

Today, writers must compete with action heroes, action movies, and computer games that hemorrhage violent bloody battles. This is especially true for men and boys. These movies and games do not bother with good story lines – violent action rules! The trick is, for you to offer compelling stories that also have fast pace and action. Give them heroes and heroines they can root for and identify with, and you will HOOK your readers. Research your readership ( your niche market), and bring them characters and plots that have meaning to them. When done right, tension intrigue and action can effectively GRAB readership.


The Author’s  “Voice”:

And finally, it all comes down to the “Author’s Voice.”  The unique way you string sentences together: your word choices, verb choices, and the phraseology that makes a story YOURS.  Sometimes voice comes early. At other times it takes time, experience, and lots of rewrites.





Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant, now living in Oregon with her husband and family. She has 13 published books (PB to young teen), and runs a well known Manuscript Critique Service. 





*Website :
http://www.margotfinke.com
*BOOKS
: http://tinyurl.com/bg9dtxt
Latest: Kangaroo Clues
   -  The Revenge of Thelma Hill

*FREE “Sneak Peek” inside all her books:
http://tinyurl.com/9npjy9n
*SKYPE Author Visits (schools etc) : www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-LLo_eWdxk    
 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Encore Presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM




 



***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.
 

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
Building Tension
by Nicole Zoltack
Tension is such an important part of writing. The greater the tension, the higher the stakes, the faster a reader will turn pages and the greater the chance that a reader will be so gripped and caught up in your story, they’ll read it all in one sitting!

So how do you build tension in your story?

Pacing and Action – Pacing and tension go hand in hand. Pacing revs up during a conflict and then slows down after it’s resolved until the next conflict point. As the story continues on, the slowing down period shortens as tension ramps up as the climax nears. During action, high-paced scenes, use shorter sentences and sparingly use adjectives and adverbs. Shorter sentences heighten paces and increases tension. Choose heavy duty action verbs. Moving the story along at a faster pace with action helps to build tension.

A ticking clock – A deadline, a race against the clock, is a strong way to heighten tension. Any time a goal has to be reached by a set amount of time, the tension is automatically raised. Drama, suspense, tension—all results from a ticking clock. If a serial killer is taunting the police, leaving them clues as to who they are going to kill next, promising they will kill again and again, the police officers are going to be scrambling to locate the murderer before he can kill again. Talk about tension! Especially if the clues point to a family member of a police officer, or even a police officer himself.

Stakes – Increasing the stakes build tension. If your character’s sister is kidnapped, there is plenty of conflict. If the ransom call comes in and demands more money than they could ever afford, the stakes are raised. If they rob a bank to get the money and are caught, the stakes are even higher because now they have to elude the police and still find a way to get the money. And if their brother is then kidnapped… Stakes can be built upon to build tension throughout the story.

Obstacles – Make it as hard as possible for the main character to reach their goal. Block them at every turn. If the reader fears the character will not succeed, the tension will be sky high. The bleaker the outlook for the character, the more the tension. Going back to the ransom story, if the main character is the next one to be kidnapped, but by different people than the ones who have his siblings, that is a huge obstacle for the main character to overcome.

All stories need different levels of tension. A suspenseful mystery will need a ton of tension. A romantic comedy, not quite as much. Determine the level of tension that is correct for your story and then add that amount of tension through pacing action, timing, stakes, and obstacles. Tension is a wonderful tool in a writer’s arsenal. Do not overlook it.






Nicole Zoltack is the author of The Kingdom of Arnhem trilogy: Woman of Honor, Knight of Glory, and Champion of Valor. Black Hellebore, the first book in a superhero romance trilogy, will be released on October 21st. She loves to write romances with lots of tension, and it’s no surprise her favorite TV show is the action-packed The Walking Dead. To learn more about Nicole and her works, visit www.NicoleZoltack.com or her blog at http://NicoleZoltack.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Encore presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM







***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.
There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***


On Writing “Multicultural” Literature
By Miranda Paul

For those of you who don’t already know, I’ll put it out there: I’m white.

It probably shouldn’t matter, and at the same time, it should and does. Here’s why:

Not every story is mine to tell.

I know that, and I respect that.

That doesn’t mean I only write stories that originate my Midwest hometown, about characters who look like me, grew up like me, talk like me, etc. In fact, those of you who know what I write is far more diverse. But what I write is also based upon experience, research, passion, and personal connection.

Let’s consider this current kidlit dilemma:

Even though people have been advocating for more “multicultural” literature for decades, we still need more stories about all kinds of people who come from all sorts of backgrounds and live and talk in diverse ways.

Oh, and they need these stories written by authors who are just as diverse.

Back in 1970, award-winning poet Lucille Clifton published two children’s books—The Black BC’s and Some of the Days of Everett Anderson. This certainly wasn’t the beginning of multicultural kidlit, of course. But I begin with Lucille because she was my first professor of children’s literature, and because she championed the idea that children needed both “mirrors and windows. Mirrors in which they can see themselves, windows in which they can see the world.”

I was blessed to be initiated into the craft of writing for children by such a kind, strong, and gifted woman. Her books offered positive, contemporary portraits of African Americans without racial stereotyping. Her books are wrapped in authenticity, humanity, and universal truth.

Lucille’s example of consciously giving children access to “windows and mirrors” stuck with me as I headed off to teach in West Africa later that year. There, my students had a significant lack of books that accurately depicted individual, contemporary African settings and characters, and I’ve been working over the last few years to build libraries with relevant books. I also married interracially and when we had children, this idea became very personal. Most picture books were “window stories” for my children. Far fewer were “mirrors”, with characters who looked like or had families like our own. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for great “multicultural” books (although sometimes, the separation and separate-shelving of that label irks me) that depict biracial families, children with grandparents living abroad, immigrant parents, a second language in the home, West African and Caribbean cultures, etc.

Let me now get back to an earlier point, about not every story being mine to tell.

Although I’ve written several stories that are classified as “multicultural”, they’ve mostly been stories I have a personal connection to and resulted from experience, research, and collaboration with people within the culture.

There are a lot of underrepresented cultures or lifestyles that interest me, and I see a need for stories about them in the publishing market. But ultimately, at the end of the day, each story should be about a character, in a specific place, at a specific time. That means DETAILS. I am not always the best person for writing those details, especially if the culture is one I’ve not experienced firsthand.

The thing is, not only do children deserve stories that contain “mirrors,” but the author bio or photo needs to reflect diversity as well. Growing up, I never got the chance to actually meet anyone who wrote for a living, and the lack of a model seriously affected my confidence that writing for a career was even possible.

So when I got invited to a school with other authors, I noticed immediately all four of us were white women with blond hair and blue eyes. I had to question what unintentional message this was sending to the kids. Perhaps our lack of diversity meant nothing on a conscious level. Maybe the kids didn’t notice. But what if there was some sort of subconscious message at work? Don’t they deserve to see authors who look like them, in order to ignite a sense of possibility that they, too, can be authors?

I think it’s extremely important for authors who are not of color to remain encouraging and supportive of the organizations who are consciously making an effort to address the call for diversity in children’s books. I am thrilled that publishers such as Lee and Low are hosting a New Voices contest (http://blog.leeandlow.com/2013/09/04/lee-lows-new-voices-award-writing-contest-deadline-is-september-30) for authors of color and it’s still open to entries until September 30! The Coretta Scott King award (http://www.ala.org/emiert/cskbookawards) and Pura Belpre multicultural children’s book awards (http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal) are critical in realizing visions where all children can find both windows and mirrors in books.

Whatever your race or ethnicity, don’t feel as though multicultural literature means only writing about your own heritage, or about making the culture more important than the story or character. At the same time, don’t feel as though a marketing need or lack of books on a subject qualifies you to write that particular book. If you feel like an outsider, your narration will seem distanced and inauthentic, and your reader won’t have access to a true window or mirror.

Writing multicultural literature is a daunting task, but there are individuals and organizations out there to help you. Mira Reisberg at Hummingbird Literary (http://hummingbirdliterary.com) has made it a point to seek out multicultural stories, and a few agents at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency (http://www.andreabrownlit.com)   and Full Circle Literary (http://www.fullcircleliterary.com) mention a desire to see multicultural submissions on their websites. The Highlights Foundation (hey, I’m there right now!) can help you find out which stories might be yours to tell, and how to present authentic and diverse characters and settings. In fact, they have an upcoming workshop called Writing Across Boundaries (http://www.highlightsfoundation.org/workshops/writing-across-boundaries) that will address these very subjects from October 27-30.

Remember, if you have the passion to write a multicultural story, and if you honestly address your bias or fear of writing across boundaries, keep in mind the child who deserves that window to another world or a mirror of her own. Then go immerse yourself in that world.






Miranda Paul is a teacher, world traveler, and mother of two. As she raises an international family, her writing goals include depicting diverse characters (and animals!) with positive and sometimes ridiculously funny stories for children. Miranda Paul has served as a volunteer teacher in Gambia, West Africa and also has family scattered around the Caribbean — so she occasionally escapes her Wisconsin homeland for tastes of the tropical life.

Two of Miranda's picture book manuscripts won her the 2012 SCBWI-WI Mentorship award and her debut picture book, ONE PLASTIC BAG, is forthcoming from Lerner Publishing (Millbrook Press). Her second book, WATER IS WATER, to be illustrated by Jason Chin, is forthcoming from Neal Porter Books (Roaring Brook / Macmillan) in 2015.

Miranda also works for-hire writing and editing children's stories for digital and print markets, and has published pieces in national magazines such as POCKETS and TURTLE. She's also finishing up her first YA novel and has plans to save the world someday.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Encore presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM




***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.
There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***


CREATING ANTHROPOMORPHIC CHARACTERS
By Judy Cox

Grumpy bears, curious mice, lost toasters—the world of children’s literature abounds with animals and objects that act like people. Giving “people” traits to things or animals is human nature—just eavesdrop on a child playing with a favorite toy, or a doting pet owner speaking for her pet. People love to pretend that non-humans think and talk and feel just like we do.  
Here are a few of the reasons why children love books with anthropomorphic characters:
  • Anthropomorphic characters are gender, age, and ethnicity neutral, allowing a child to project their own image on them.
  • Anthropomorphic characters can be stand-ins for adults, allowing children to engage in grown up activities like living by themselves, driving, cooking, or throwing parties.
  • Anthropomorphic characters can be stand-ins for children—behaving in exaggerated ways that real children could not.
Children’s literature reflects our love of anthropomorphic characters, whether they are animals, toys, or objects. Animals make particularly appealing characters, and I have used many in my books, both picture books and those for mid-grade readers. Anthropomorphic animals fall into three groups:

1. ANIMALS THAT ACT LIKE CHILDREN:

Franklin by Paulette Bourgeois, Arthur by Marc Brown, Frances by Russell Hoban, Olivia by Ian Falconer, Kevin Henkes’ mice,  One is a Feast for Mouse by Judy Cox

2. ANIMALS THAT ACT LIKE ADULTS

Babar by Jean de Brunhoff, A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker, Go to Sleep, Groundhog! By Judy Cox, Redwall by Brian Jacques, Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

3. ANIMALS THAT ACT LIKE ANIMALS, BUT WITH HUMAN TRAITS

Watership Down by Richard Adams, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, The Case of the Purloined Professor by Judy Cox
Of course, animals aren’t the only anthropomorphic characters in children’s books. Here are some other examples:

  • TOYS -- Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • OBJECTSThe Brave Little Toaster by Thomas Disch, The Spoon by Amy Rosenthal, The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg, The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger
  • MACHINESKaty and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton, The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper, Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. W. Awdry

WRITING ANTHROPOMORPHIC CHARACTERS

First, decide how human to make your character. There is a spectrum of behavior to consider—will your characters be completely human? George and Martha in James Marshall’s series never behave like real hippos.
Maybe you’ll want your characters to act more like animals, like the duck family in Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. Mrs. And Mrs. Mallard have human feelings, but they always behave like ducks.
Perhaps your characters will be somewhere in between, like Frederick and Ishbu, brother rats, in my Tails of Frederick and Ishbu series. My rats climb, jump, swim, and gnaw—like real rats--and I use these attributes, as well as animal behaviors like brushing whiskers, scratching, and marking territory, in all of their adventures. Unlike real animals, however, Frederick and Ishbu also talk to each other (although not to humans), and Frederick can read.
Sometimes, the choice is up to the illustrator, not the author. Initially, I imagined Mouse (One is a Feast for Mouse) as a real mouse. The illustrator chose to dress him in a striped T-shirt and glasses—a brilliant move, by the way!

Whether you choose to clothe your character or keep them au naturel, balance animal characteristics with people characteristics so you don’t end up with the dreaded “people in animal clothes” syndrome in which the animals do nothing animal-ish. Keep characters true to their animal nature—fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly! Besides curious mice, cuddly bunnies, and grumpy bears you can also play against type—a shy lion or an owl who isn’t as wise as he thinks.
Your anthropomorphic characters must be as three dimensional as human characters. They need charm and personality, as well as a goal and a conflict.

WHAT NOT TO DO

  • Avoid overdoing the cute factor. Too much sugar becomes cloying.
  • Avoid alliterative names. They’ve been so overdone that they are clich├ęd.
  • Avoid strange or unappealing beasts that children find repulsive.
  • Avoid following the above guidelines too closely!

             Be thoughtful about inanimate objects. When I first started writing, I was given the advice to never use non-toy objects as main characters. The reasoning was that inanimate objects are not as innately appealing as animals or toys. That said, there have recently been a number of successful children’s books that feature objects—leaves, tableware, machines--as main characters, proving (once again) that rules are made to be broken!
Whether toy, animal, or object, the only unbreakable rule is that your characters must appeal to readers, both children and adults. A main character must be someone the reader can identify with, someone the reader can root for through trial and tribulation. In the end, it’s the quality of the story and the writing that are important—traits that are true for any good children’s book.




Judy Cox is the author of twenty-six award winning children’s books, including many with animal characters. In 2009, the first book in the Mouse series (Holiday House), One is a Feast for Mouse, won an Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award.  Her latest book is Ukulele Hayley, (Holiday House 2013) which features humans acting like humans.



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Encore presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM

 
 
 
 
 
 
***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
 
 
CHARACTERS – THEY’RE ALL AROUND US
by Marsha Diane Arnold

Last week, Donna emailed me a sweet reminder that my promised blog post on character-driven picture books was close to overdue. To my horror, my reminder had fallen off my calendar! Things do fall off calendars you know, even if the calendar is an Apple iCal, maybe especially if it’s an Apple iCal. Donna kindly rearranged things to give me more time, but I felt very ditzy, a little like Lucille Ball. Most folks don’t see me as a Lucille Ball type; only my husband knows the truth.

As my new deadline approached, I realized this week is my busiest in a long time. A dark blogging despair came over me. But as I hurry-scurried, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel…because characters are all around us.

Take that faint resemblance between my sometimes zany self and Lucille Ball. Lucille Ball was one of the funniest comediennes of all time as well as a pin-up model and a studio executive, when that just didn’t happen for women. A truly unique character.  Check out some I Love Lucy clips and you might get ideas for funny characters and situations. At the least they’ll put you in a good mood for more writing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQVH_MVN8mI 

I didn’t get to my blog on Thursday either. From 9 AM to 8 PM I was in the neighboring county, keeping appointments and doing errands. I stopped by my husband’s retail store to talk to him about a few matters, only for 10 or 15 minutes. What did I find? Characters surrounding me!

There was Marilyn, owner of the bicycle shop next door. She’s founder and director of a group that recycles old bicycles (pun intended) and organizes mountain bike outings for disadvantaged kids. http://www.tripsforkids.org/national/history.htm

There was Liz, whose father had been a customer of my husband’s for over 15 years. My husband shared that Liz’s father was a gentleman, in the old sense of the word – a man who gives respect to others and so receives it back. He’d smile a big smile every time anyone entered the room. My husband says you may not remember what people say to you, but you will always remember how they make you feel. Liz’s father made everyone feel special.

And most memorable of all was Mr. Kaufman, 96 years old, standing tall with a head of white hair and sharp as a whip. Mr. Kaufman had worked for ABC as an on-air personality and producer for many years. He assisted in getting Nat King Cole his first record deal. And he was a glider pilot in WW II.

All these folks came into my life and left again in under 15 minutes!

But I might not have heard any of their stories if it wasn’t for my husband. Whenever anyone comes into his store, he asks them about themselves. He wants to know their story. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t have met these fine folks. Indeed, this was 96-year-old Mr. Kaufman’s first visit to my husband’s store. We had a lovely conversation, because my husband started it.

Editors praise writers whose characters are relatable to kids. But remember that if your character is interesting, if he/she makes you curious, then you’re touching one of man’s deepest and strongest traits: curiosity and interest about another person. Afterall, what you really want is for your reader to be curious about your character. 

Yes, there were stories waiting in my husband’s store. Character-driven stories. Stories to make a child curious. A story about a kid who takes a trip into the mountains on a bicycle. A story of a character who respects you and makes you feel special. A story of a hang glider pilot from WW II.  A story of a man who always asks, “What’s your story?”

Thursday, September 26th at 6 PM Pacific Time, Mira Reisberg and I along with Mark G. Mitchell are doing a free workshop on Creating Wonderful Picture Book Characters. There’ll be a contest with great prizes, including my Writing Character-Driven Picture Book e-course. You can sign up here for the workshop: http://makeyoursplashes.com/mira-and-marsha/






Marsha Diane Arnold is a multi-award winning children's author. She's originally from Kansas and so like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz that you wouldn't believe it. Her book The Bravest of Us All, which centers around a storm cellar, tells only part of the story. She now lives in the California countryside with her husband, two cats, deer, fox, owls, wild turkeys, and many more fabulous creatures, including the ones in her imagination.

The media has called Marsha a "born storyteller." After writing an award-winning column for 10 years, her first book, the multi-award winning Heart of a Tiger was published in 1995. You can learn about all her picture books, her ebook, her Prancing Dancing Lily app. and more at www.marshadianearnold.com. Recently she contracted for three new picture books, two with Neal Porter Books, and a third with an editor tba. 

You can find her Writing Character-Driven Picture Book course at http://www.picturebookacademy.com/writing-character-driven-stories.html.
 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Encore presentation: WRITERLY WISDOM

 
 
 
 
 
***I have a number of writing deadlines coming up over the next couple of months so I have decided instead of stepping away from my blog completely to concentrate solely on my writing, I will bring back an encore performance of my WRITERLY WISDOM series from three years ago. WW is 52 glorious posts by authors, agents, and editors from around the country providing writerly wisdom in categories from why even become a writer all the way to how to publish and market your books.

There will be two posts loaded per week...Mondays & Wednesdays...so be sure to stop by and check out all the encouraging information given by my lovely writerly friends! I hope you enjoy the encore presentation of my WRITERLY WISDOM series and I will return with shiny, new posts in the fall!***
 
 
Talk To Me! 
by Monica Kulling

I write description in longhand because that's hardest for me and you're closer to the paper when you work by hand, but I use the typewriter for dialogue because people speak like a typewriter works.
                Writing story dialogue sounds like it ought to be easy, right? After all, conversation surrounds us, all day long. We might think we know everything there is to know about putting words into a character’s mouth, but it’s helpful to keep in mind a few tips in order to add that extra sparkle.
Story dialogue needs to be doing many things at once, which can sometimes be a challenge to pull off. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind. Conveniently, these all happen to begin with the letter “D.”
Distinguish characters: Each of your characters must have a distinct way of speaking not only so that the reader can tell each one apart, but also so that the character’s personality can be revealed as the narrative unfolds. Each character has something that is most important to him or her and this is revealed in well-crafted dialogue.
Determine emotion: Write your dialogue so that the reader knows exactly what your characters are feeling and what’s important to them. Good story dialogue pays attention to the flow and movement of the words. Dialogue that expresses the sadness felt by a character is markedly different from dialogue that expresses exuberance.
Drive the story forward: Dialogue should be purposeful. It should set the scene, give insight into characterization, advance action, and foreshadow events around the corner. Do not use dialogue simply to convey information. It must move the narrative forward. Writers listen with hearts and minds to their characters’ interactions, and this becomes the backbone of any story we are writing.
Dynamic: Your dialogue ought to sound like an actual conversation, but with the boring bits removed!
Delightful: Write dialogue that not only accomplishes all the above but is also full of life and fun to read. This is possible by giving each character his or her own particular way of expression—his or her own dialogue notes, if you will. Like the color of a character’s hair, the way each character speaks, the idioms he or she uses, reveals something about your characters that description alone can’t cover.
I am by no means an expert on this subject but I have always enjoyed listening to and reading good dialogue. To get a better feel for this element of writing, go to the theatre and see lots of plays. A beautifully written play uses dialogue efficiently, majestically, and impressively. The ring of the words can be heard in your head long after the curtain falls.


Monica Kulling is the author of over forty books for children, including the popular Great Idea series, stories of inventors. In 2012, In the Bag!, the third book in the series, was selected as both a Top Ten Amelia Bloomer Project title and the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance Honor Book.