"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Session #6: A Little More Conversation

To The Ones I Love,

It was so nice talking with you on the phone the other night. Wow, I really miss you, Mom and Dad and Tootles. I’ll be happy to get a mid-summer’s break from camp next week and see you all!

Still learning a lot here, though. And not that I’m one to argue with The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but I’m learning that a little bit more of good conversation—or at least dialogue—is just as good as fast-paced action.

Coach Sol taught us that what counts in dialogue is not what is said but the meaning behind what is said…or not said. I never realized how funny our words to one another can be. How often do we really mean what we say? Or rather, how often are we trying to convey something along with our words that we don’t (or wouldn’t dare!) come right out and say? This is another way to fill our stories with tension.

Coach said to avoid common dialogue. No one wants to read pleasant, boring conversation. My job as a writer is to make things happen.

I’m also learning what my character’s speech says about him or her. Some speech markers are vocabulary, throwaway words and phrases, tight or loose wording, run-on sentences, sarcasm, poor grammar, and inappropriate modifiers. I’m not just trying to stir up a little trouble (conflict) with my dialogue, I’m trying to get my reader to know my characters better.

Another thing writers need? Rest! That’s why I’ll be glad to take next week off and spend some time with you guys. Looking forward to it!

Your Little Yapper

I know many writers who insist that writing dialogue is some of the most enjoyable writing they ever do. How much fun do you have writing dialogue? How do you put a little snap in your character’s conversations?

photo credit: wikipedia

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Session #5: Suspense, Tension, and All-Around Trouble

Hi Mom and Dad and Tootles,

I can hardly wait to share what I learned this week at camp from Coach Sol! It’s the key to writing a book that a reader can’t put down. It’s what makes a story great. It’s…are you ready? Are you really really ready?

Maybe I’ll tell you in my next letter…

Just kidding—it’s suspense!

Coach Sol said that suspense is achieved by arousing the reader’s curiosity and keeping it aroused for as long as possible. He told us NOT to rescue our hero/heroine. Instead, make their problem bigger. Don’t eliminate danger, and don’t let our characters overcome immediate danger without going through a greater danger. Is there an unwanted confrontation my character is dreading? I should put it off as long as I can. Other suspense tactics include bringing an old fear into the present. Or making my character’s actions backfire.

Coach also told us to avoid taking the reader where he/she wants to go. Use those cliffhangers at the end of scenes and chapters. Talk about fun!

Writers are troublemakers. That’s our job! (I knew I was gifted in that area for a reason….) Coach told us to increase the tension in our stories by stretching out intense scenes by adding characters or difficulty. Don’t be afraid to stretch!

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m off to make a little trouble with what’s left of summer!

Love You Guys!
          Your Very Own Rabble-Rouser

Is there a deliciously naughty part of you that loves making trouble in YOUR stories? How do you make the most out of tension when you write? 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Session #4: Let's Get Planning!

Dear Mom and Dad and Tootles,

I hope you’re all doing well. As for me, my brain is spinning with all the plot planning we’ve been doing here at camp.

This week we learned that characters must be motivated by their wants. The best wants are ones most readers can relate to: gaining or losing a love, obtaining a certain ambition, seeking out justice, saving a life, seeking revenge, or accomplishing a task that at first seemed impossible.

My job as a writer? To keep my characters from getting what they want by creating conflict. Hmmm....creating conflict. Shouldn't be a problem for me! 

Coach Sol gave us other hints of things that readers like (and remember, I’m trying to consider my reader, here!). Things like enemies being trapped together, or a scene in which we experience a character’s embarrassment or fear. Surprises are always great reader experiences, as are new obstacles or unforeseen confrontations.

Wooh! To keep my plot moving forward I need conflict. Coach said that the secret to creating conflict in scenes is to give your characters different scripts. Like actors in a movie, their agendas need to be different. They need to want something badly enough that they don’t—or can’t—run away from their situation or their opposing character.

Well I’m taking plenty of notes because my brain is just about fried. I know I won’t have all this right on my first draft, or even my first book, but I’m looking forward to persevering…and planning!

          Your Conflict-Lover

How do you create a great plot? What inspires you? How do you look for conflict? Are you an outliner or a pantser (write by the seat-of-your-pants)?  

Another great book on plotting is Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Session #3: Character Development Camp

Dear Mom, Dad, and Tootles,

Wow, what a week. I feel like I’m learning so much, and what’s more, I’m excited to use what I’m learning. This week, Coach Sol taught us about creating characters. No small job. I never realized how important characters were to a story. I mean, I knew, but I suppose they were always more of a means to moving my plot forward. Now I’m learning that my plot can grow organically out of my characters—if my characters come alive well enough.
I had a lot of fun conducting character interviews and writing character journals for my main characters. I haven’t even started my story and already I feel like my characters are living people.

Coach Sol says there are five different ways to characterize:

~Through physical attributes
~With clothing or the manner of wearing clothing
~Through psychological attributes and mannerisms
~Through actions
~In dialogue

He said that instead of saying that “George was a big fellow” to try something like “When George came your way, you thought you were being run down by a truck.” Doesn’t that give you a different feel? Very neat.

Coach Sol told us to use different markers to characterize. He said to pay attention to simple things that can tell your reader a lot about your character. Things like fingernails. Public conduct with children. Accessories, gum-chewing what kind of car they drive, their mannerisms, what they eat and drink, their vocabulary. Their attitudes.

Coach said that characters of different cultural classes caught in a crucible (the environment, emotional or physical, that holds your characters together) are ideal for fiction, and for creating a great plot—which is next week’s lesson!
Thanks for making me stay at camp, Mom and Dad. I never would have gotten to know my new friends—my characters—so well if I’d left!

Love you,
          Your Creative Camper

What methods do you use to make your characters come alive? My favorite character is Hadassah in Francine River’s Mark of the Lion series. What’s yours?