Monday, September 28, 2015

Touring the Senses...Again!

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Last year, I did a blog series on how using the five senses can improve your writing's power. People found it pretty helpful, so dust off your author passports - we're doing it again!

Follow the links below for your very own "Tour of the 5 Senses."

  • Using SIGHT in your writing
  • Using TOUCH in your writing
  • Using TASTE in your writing
  • Using SMELL in your writing
  • Using SOUND in your writing

Monday, September 14, 2015

Leaving Room for Spontaneity

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Imagine how boring and stressful our lives become when we don’t leave room around the edges for spontaneous fun or spur-of-the-moment decisions. The same holds true for characters.

While we know every moment of our book is plotted, readers should feel like our characters could spin off into random actions every once in a blue moon. Otherwise, the most beautifully twisty plots become semi-predictable and overburdened with tension. But how do we convey that spontaneity in a way that doesn’t seem contrived?

  • Let your characters do something totally different than the heart of the current plot (notice I didn’t say totally unrelated to the plot). If war is pending, have them race to the river on a dare, let them check the home-brews they’ve started on their space shuttles, or go dancing in the sky. It’s funny how often—in fiction and in real life—THESE are the moments that stick with us and carry the most poignant meaning.
  • Time of day can also be helpful. Early morning or late evening and night are great times for spontaneous walks, flights, swims, and reflection. It also provides a pause in the action so your character (and readers!) can catch a breath.
  • Have your character meet someone new or strike up a friendship with a previously distant co-character. The novelty and new set of dynamics between the two will help their actions feel spontaneous even in instances where it’s a little more scripted.

So, there you have it. A trio of ways to add spontaneity to your tightly plotted novel.

It’s also fun to track the spontaneous things you do in real life. Next time your friends ask you to get drinks, go fishing in the Amazon on a whim, or catch that flight to Iceland at the eleventh hour, start a list. You can use the ideas as inspiration.

Now, I’m off to do something wholly unplanned and adventurous!

Oh, and don't forget to catch up on all our reviews, author interviews and fandom posts over at Books. Fantasy. Fandom!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

BFF's First Review & My Favorite "Tell Me a Story" Books

Happy Summer Monday, everyone!

First off, stop by Books.Fantasy.Fandom. to check out Ashley's review of A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES. It kicks off our first official week of posts. I'm so excited for our Q&A with Kate Elliott on Wednesday (one of my fave fantasy authors), and our reactions to the Sherlock Special trailer for Friday Fandom.

'Tell Me A Story' Books

You know those books that draw you in and wrap you gently in their story as it unfolds like you were listening wide-eyed around a campfire or on a cozy winter night on Grandpa's knee? I call these "Tell Me a Story" books and, boy, do I love them! They make us feel like kids again, surrounded by the wonder of adventure and danger, honor and friendship.

The kind that have perfected narrative distance to achieve an almost-omniscient tale that feels like someone's speaking it right to us. Whose opening lines whisk us away and make us lean forward, elbows on knees, thinking, "Oh, this is going to be good!"

To round out the summer reading season, I wanted to a share a few of my favorites with you. They hail from many different genres, so hopefully there's a fit for all!

  • The Deed of Paksenarrion, Elizabeth Moon - Epic Fantasy
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle - MG/YA Fantasy
  • The Emerald Atlas, John Stephens - MG Fantasy
  • The Far Pavilions, M.M. Kaye - Historical Fiction
  • Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen - Nonfiction, Memoir

And, if you're still looking for a good read. Check out my review of Karina Sumner-Smith's RADIANT at Fantasy Faction.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sneak Peek of Books. Fantasy. Fandom.

Fun news, guys! Ashley Nixon and I are starting a book review and reading blog! You may have seen the hints on Write Me A World already. While we both love (and will continue) our writing blogs, we also wanted a site where we could fan out as readers. And we figured you might too!

The result is Books. Fantasy. Fandom. Or, BFF for those who like clever acronyms.

On the site, you’ll find:
  • Weekly reviews of fantasy books across all ages
  • Friday Fandom posts about our favorite fandoms on the large and small screen
  • Q&As with authors like Kate Elliott, KA Stewart and more
  • Categories and tags that help you find reviews in our archives (even tricky finds like “YA for boys”)
  • Our review policy in case you’ve got something you think we’d love!

As you can probably tell by the number of exclamation points, we’re really excited about BFF and hope you are too!! In fact, we hope you’re so excited you’ll spread the word and stop by to enjoy. We can’t wait to share our favorite books and new reads with you!

If you have questions, salutations or are interested in a guest post, email us at booksfantasyfandom[at]gmail[dot]com.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Eyes Have It...Or Do They?

Hi everyone! I'm back from a short summer hiatus. I bet you've all stayed busy, and I definitely want to hear about your latest projects. I'm also excited to share some fun blogging and book review news (remember that secret announcement I hinted at a few months ago?). Details are coming next week, so stay tuned!!

In the meantime, I wanted to let you guys in on my favorite tips for writing emotion.

©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos

If you're anything like me, you've watched your share of gut-punchingly emotional scenes in movies or TV shows where the characters seem to say EVERYTHING with their eyes.

No words.

No actions.

Just the subtle play of their eyes in that split second to capture what they feel: heartbreak, hope, fear, disappointment, anger, love.

Even in our daily lives, the eyes tell a story of someone's moods, thoughts, and reactions. Talented actors and actresses can convey even more. (The 100's Bellamy Blake seems to have a corner on the expressive eye emotion market.)

So, if you're FURTHER like me, you watch these great scenes and think, "That! That right there is what I want to capture in my novel."

And here's where those eyes begin to lead us astray. The danger is that, while eyes can be a powerful nonverbal cue on-screen, readers can't actually SEE them on the page. We end up describing the eyes (telling) rather than the emotion itself (showing). All that great potential too often fizzles in feeble phrases like "He looked..." or "Her eyes widened."

This last one is a good example of the limitations. While "eyes widened" is a nice lead-in phrase, what does it actually tell us? People's eyes can widen in surprise, in hurt, in fear. Which one is your character facing?

On TV, we naturally intuit the answer from tiny clues. A frightened eye looks different than a surprised eye. But those are nearly impossible to communicate on page via eyes alone. In order for it to have meaning, we need to take it deeper and that can be danger-ground for telling.

But it doesn't have to be. Instead of letting the eyes do all the work, opt for other supports and alternatives that pack more punch on page:

  • Facial expressions and movement - What does your character do with her eyebrows, forehead, lips, nose, chin that helps convey what she's feeling?
  • Action - Make your character DO something. Even a subtle shiver or the clenching of a hand can speak volumes. Action is doubly effective for emotion, because it can be seen, and sometimes felt, by both the POV character and any other characters in the scene with him.
  • Internalized actions - Showing action doesn't mean your character needs to physically move. Throats can tighten, stomachs can turn cold, spines can stiffen.
  • Inner dialogue or thoughts - A character can't see her OWN eyes to describe emotion, so unless you're writing omniscient, sprinkle in some thoughts to give us a peek at her internal reaction.
  • Dialogue - This is your best bang-for-the-buck at conveying emotion and advancing the story. Dialogue on the page is what eyes are on-screen. Readers intuit the tone, subtle undercurrents, and what's left unsaid as much as what your characters discuss aloud.

Now, go forth and make us weep!

Monday, June 15, 2015

7 Common Fears and Advice for Writers

Digging this one up from the archives, because good advice never goes out of style! And neither do writers' fears. 

Hats off again to Sylvia for her words of wisdom.

The talented Sylvia Ney over at Writing in Wonderland is taking over the blog today to share her insights on common writing fears and how to overcome them. Take it away, Sylvia!

Writers often express common fears when talking with agents, editors, and other authors. The advice I offer below is based in part on my own experience and in part on interviews I have completed with agents and editors.

Rejection and Inadequacy - This is the most common fear because it’s the hardest to let go. You question if your work is worthy of publication. You feel it as a first timer wondering if you’ll ever find someone to like your finished product. And this feeling will still sneak up on you as a multi published author worrying if the next creation will be as successful. Rejection happens. You can’t please everyone all the time. Shelves are lined with the books of famous authors who suffered repeated rejection. The key is, they never gave up. They continued improving and searching for the right market. You can too.

Success - Many people are afraid of success. They believe too much will be expected of them and the thought of everything becoming too big to handle is enough to paralyze them into doing nothing. The trick is to deal with the situation one step at a time. Worry about success when you get there.

Revealing Too Much - There are times writers expose so much of their soul, inner demons, dreams, hopes, and beliefs that a project can become very journal like. You begin to fear you are revealing too much of yourself. Maybe family and friends who read the book will see right through the characters, and to the true depiction of yourself (or worse yet, one of them). Relax. Every great writer draws from experience, as well as the heart. The relationship you have to the story is what makes it memorable. It’s what will hook and never release a reader. And the truth is, someone will see themselves in your story whether that was your intention or not. That means you’ve been successful at capturing human experience.

You’re Too Old - You’re never too old. I know a thirteen year old who has just published her first book, but it’s nowhere as moving as the first book my friend published in her seventies. With age comes experience. Experience adds depth and maturity to your writing. A novel requires patience - something young authors often lack.

Too Much Research - Details are important in a novel. You have to know the period in which the story is set, details of characters’ occupations, nuances of different cultures, etc. Enjoy the research. Learn about your characters and the world they live in. Try writing articles, blogs, or ebooks based on the new things you are learning (these can prove to an agent or editor that you are highly qualified to write on your topic – even if the book is fiction). Don’t consider learning a job. It can be a fun hobby as well as a lucrative side project.

Technology - If you’re only comfortable using a word document, and have yet to learn anything else about your computer, the thought of mastering the technology involved in submitting and publishing might be intimidating. The great news is that it’s all relatively simple to learn and use. You can take the time to learn to do it yourself, or there are many others you can hire to help with everything from formatting, to cover design, to marketing. Shop around and ask for recommendations.

Marketing - Some people are natural marketers: confident, charismatic, and with an instinctive grasp of what benefits will entice their audience. Others find marketing uncomfortable at first. Marketing may not come naturally to you, but you’re perfectly capable of it. You are simply letting people know what you can do for them. Focus on your audience in your marketing. Instead of trying to write about how great your work is, write about how it can help them. Start an email list, create social media accounts (facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc.), use your own blog, guest post on other sites.

If one of these fears has been holding you back, decide today how you’re going to move forward. If you want to ask specific questions, I encourage you to leave a comment below or read Jane Friedman, Rachelle Gardner, Noah Lukeman, and Chuck Sambuchino. Other agents are helpful as well, but these four have FREE information available on their websites/blogs.

Awesome advice, Sylvia! I know from experience those four names you suggest are fantastic resources for writers. So go ahead, guys, check it out and vanquish those pesky fears and doubts!