Thursday, September 20, 2012

Snippets of a Story

Thanks to the many writing blogs I follow, I stumbled across a wonderful thing called Snippets of a Story. It is hosted by Whisperings of the Pen, and all you have to do is link up and you get to share small snippets from your writing with all the other wonderful writers out there. How lovely.

Well, I hope you enjoy this and I hope that you are entertained, enlightened, and fall in love with the little bits and pieces of my characters that you see.

Dakota glanced around at her friends. Humans? Now that's a name I haven't been called in a long time. Mutant freak, yes. Phoenix, yes. Firechild, yes, but ... human? That's something I don't hear every day.

-The Search for the Allies

A shadow fell over Dakota and Noah, and Dakota looked up.

A foot ---- a giant, hairy foot the size of her kitchen ---- was poised over her head ready to strike.

Dakota gulped.

“Sure. Yeah. I'll come with you, big guy. Just ---- let me ---- get this ---- rock off him ----”

“No. Come now. I squash friend.” the troll said, his eyebrows scrunched together in concentration.

The foot moved closer.

“Fine! Fine! I'll ---- uh ---- come now.”

“Dakota, no!” Jazmyn cried.

“Yes!” Dakota yelled. “But ---- as my, er, dying wish ---- why don't you S-N-E-A-K over here and get him?”

“What is taking so long?”

A new voice had entered the scene. Everyone looked around ---- even the troll. His poised foot wobbled dangerously.

Dakota saw it first ---- the blood red cloak. The long blond hair.


Oh snap.

-The Search for the Allies

Damian moaned and thrashed, then opened his eyes. “Ohhhh ---- where am I?” He looked up at Jazmyn. “Ah. Good morning, beautiful.”

Jazmyn rolled her eyes and sat him up on a nearby rock. “It isn't morning. We were battling a troll, do you remember?”

Damian swayed like a drunkard, and said, with swagger in his voice, “Maaaaaaybe. Did I save your life, sweetheart?”

Jazmyn slapped him.

Damian clutched his face and fell backward off the rock in surprise. “Ouch! What was that for?”

Jazmyn gnashed her teeth, her eyes flaming. “Sweetheart? Sweetheart?!

“What?” Damian popped up from behind the rock, a bruise swelling on his cheek under his high cheekbone. “Is there something wrong with the term? Would you rather be called darling? No? How about honey, would you go for that?”

Noah guffawed loudly and, hastily, at Jazmyn's poisonous look, turned it into a violent cough.

Jazmyn turned away from Damian and said, stiffly, “Get up. We need to get moving.”

 -The Search for the Allies

“What’s next?” Noah called shakily from his place on the ground, his face paler than it was before, his arm jutting out in a stomach-twisting direction. Though he had been carried by Saphira, and Saphira had handled him as well as she could, he had still suffered painful drops and lurches.

“Healing you, hopefully,” said Dakota, mouth full of ham and cheese. “Ember, could you heal him?”

Ember shook her head slowly, fingering her hardly touched sandwich. “I healed your sister because it was her mind that was wounded. Noah’s mind is perfectly healthy; it is is body that is not faring well.”

“So --- you can’t ---”

Ember sighed sadly. “No. I’m sorry.”

 -The Search for the Allies

Those words made it seem final ---- like he was never coming back. Dakota had never cared for him, not in the slightest. At times, he had been so annoying that Dakota had hoped that something would happen to make him shut up permanently. But that blank look in his eyes and the feeling of his hard, scaly skin would not go away ---- it was like a plaguing nightmare that haunted Dakota day and night.

I'm only fourteen! Dakota thought desperately to herself. I shouldn't be seeing this! I shouldn't be doing this! I should be at home, going to school! Babysitting! Playing with friends! I'm not cut out for this!

 -The Search for the Allies

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: The Last Guardian

Artemis is just released from the therapist, fully recovered from the Atlantis Complex, when suddenly Opal Koboi makes a sudden, terrifying move. Using black magic, Opal has raised the fairy warriors of old --- the Berserkers --- out from the grave to do her bidding and slay mankind once and for all. If that isn't hard enough for Artemis, Butler, Holly and Foaly to take, they soon discover that the Berserkers' "resting place" is the Fowl Estate.
Artemis learns that to thwart Opal once more, he must make greater sacrifices than he had ever dreamed of making.

It isn't as dark as it sounds. The Berserkers aren't dead corpses --- they're warrior spirits who, thanks to magic, have been placed in the ground of the Fowl Estate, waiting to be called up to earth to wreak their final revenge against humans. Still pretty gruesome sounding, but really, it's not as bad.

As usual, loyalty, friendship, and self-lessness are valued. I really like the change Artemis went through from book one to book eight. I own both, so comparing the two is pretty interesting. The first Artemis was selfish, deceptive, and cunning. This new Artemis is selfless, caring, and cunning, though considerably more considerate. I like it.

Of course, there's the violence, black magic, and swear words. H---- and oh my G-- are mentioned, but it seems to me they swear more than usual.

I liked this book. The only problem I have with it (other than the ones mentioned above) is the fact that it didn't end like I wanted it to. :P (MINI SPOILER ALERT) Minerva was the biggest problem I had with the ending --- what happened to her? I was certain she and Artemis would get married, but nope. No mention of her. My other problem was Artemis didn't get married --- I don't know what it is with me, but I like seeing the characters I love getting married to characters I love. It's strange. So, because of these and more, I'm going to rewrite the ending. ;)

I rate it .... hmmm .... three and a half stars. :) One star taken away for language and extras, half a star taken away for the unsatisfactory ending.

Have you read it? Did you like it?

150 Page Mark!

:D A little closer. Every word, every page, every sentence brings me a little bit closer.

At this point in the book, Dakota is trapped in a cage with a pounding headache, multiple bruises and and aches all over. While her body's battling her wounds, her mind is fighting its own battle --- who's the traitor? Who can I trust? What's the plan? How to get out of here?

Here's a segment. I can't do anything from the part I mentioned above without giving anything away, but here's something from earlier on in the book.

Ashton led Dakota past their Defense stadium and through the woods behind it. It was nearly a ten-minute hike, and Dakota was beginning to question Ashton's sense of direction. Just before she was going to question exactly where their destination was, the woods abruptly stopped and gave way to a field.

A huge field.

It was completely surrounded by forest on all sides, and on two of the sides, long rows of bleachers extended from one end to the other. On each of the ends were large white sections that were numbered: one side had the number one drawn in red ink, the other had the number two drawn in blue. In the middle of the field was a big circle – half of it was blue, and the other half was red, pertaining to its sides.

Ashton laughed at Dakota's look of wonder. “Welcome to our playing field,” she said proudly. “This is where the magic happens.”

The two girls laughed and they began their “training”. It was hard at first; Dakota just couldn't get the hang of grasping the ball properly with her talons. The “armor” was not helping her either. Apparently the armor was created to keep creatures like Dakota from burning and fatally harming other creatures while playing by using magic to keep their qualities “under control.” Dakota just found it bulky and annoying. After two hours of hard-core practice, the girls, panting hard and sweating madly, agreed to quit for now.

“Don't worry,” Ashton said consolingly to the frustrated Dakota, “I'm sure you'll get used to the armor during the actual game. One of the perks about it is that it helps protect you from the enemy's – er, the other team's – attacks, but it does slow you down a bit.”

Dakota grunted grumpily. “When's the actual game?”

Dakota bit her lip. “I'll never be ready in time!”

Ashton patted her shoulder. “Don't worry! Some of the best Bludgies – those are what we call the players, by the way – had to wear armor, and they even won awards for their game! So, it can be done.”

Dakota shrugged, cheered up slightly. “Okay, I guess. But do you think we have enough time to practice again later?”

Ashton glanced at her watch. “Yeah, but we might not be able to practice on the playing field. Next time we practice, though, I'm going to have to start teaching you defense and attack moves. I think you know enough of the basics, and plus, you have to know those moves before the game.”

The girls went back to their dorm, showered again, and sat on their beds discussing Cudgbludgeon. According to Ashton, her older brother (who had already graduated from the Haven) was a pro at Cudgbludgeon and had taught her some moves. “Some moves the professionals use, and some moves he made up,” she said proudly. “They're still efficient, though.”

How are your books coming along? Yay? Nay? Okay? ;)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tension Management: How to Keep Your Story Going

"There is no worse robber than a bad book." ~Italian Proverb

I'm sure every one of us has read stories that never caught our attention -- they were dull. Boring. Not enough action. Not enough thrills. Sadly, I've read a bunch of these, and I feel like I wasted my time.

That's every author's worst nightmare --- that their book would be hated,that people would think that they wasted their life while reading it, that everyone would think it was a joke.

This post is to tell you how to keep your reader's attention the entire way. Now, I'm no professional. You'll probably have your own ways to do this, and that's fine with me. I'm pretty much just posting this for my own peace of mind, so I can get this out of my brain to make room for other stuff. :)

#1 --- Begin with a bang.

:) Start with an interesting prologue featuring your villain. (That's what I did). Or start in the middle of a fight scene. Have an opening sentence that catches people's eye. I know several people who open a book, look at the first sentence, and if it isn't to their liking, they close the book, never to open it again. (How awful!) Start with sentences like:

Logan clutched the hilt of his sword, looking out into the shadowy darkness. 
Something was wrong --- Mason could feel it.
Madeline woke up to a masked figure standing over her, an axe in his hand,his eyes cruel and cold.
Lauryn paced the room, her robe flashing behind her, waiting impatiently for the guest who seemingly would never come.

You've got to get your readers thinking. Even if they close the book after reading the first sentence, you have to design the first sentence so they can't stop thinking about it after they leave the library or the bookstore. What happens to Madeline? Why is Logan on his guard? Who is Lauryn so anxiously waiting for? What makes Mason feel that way? Who are these characters, anyway?

After that initial few sentences, you can drop the thrill level a notch. Of course, you can't drop it all the way, but you have to drop it some, or your characters can't have deep conversations and your reader can't really get to know them.

#2 --- Force yourself to cut off chapters.

This is hard for me. I have my chapters sketched out, so I know when they are going to end. I don't like to end them "ahead of schedule" --- which for me, would be before I hit the 17 or 18 page mark. This is a problem, because all my chapters were boring. I would end them at peaceful moments. Not good.

You have to end the chapters at a cliffhanger moment. Notice I said Chapters and not Book. I hate when people end books like that. You have to have some of a cliffhanger, or else your readers won't want to read your next book, but don't overdo it. Don't drive your readers insane. Keep a good balance.

Even if you only wrote five pages in your chapter, even if you haven't reached a crucial part yet, and even if you feel like you are ending too many chapters way too early, do it anyway. Your readers would much rather read a lot of small, thrilling chapters than a small amount of long, drawn out ones. I know from experience. If you've ever read the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, you know what I mean.

Here are some scenes that are good for cliffhanger chapter endings:

In the middle of a fight scene: The sword flew out of his hand, and his opponent, wasting no time, thrust his dagger forward, the jagged blade aimed for David's heart.
After a shocking detail has been revealed: Darth Vader pointed his lightsaber forward. "Luke," he said ominously, "I am your father."
After a sudden death (or a death in general): "You have loved me, after all this time?" "Always ..." his hand slipped from Lily's as it fell to the ground and the stars reflected in his lifeless eyes.
In the middle of a death threat: Adriana's nostrils flared and her haughty eyebrows rose. "Come with me now," she said, grabbing Natalie by the throat, "or she will die."

You don't always have to have cliffhanger endings, but it's good and healthy to have a lot. :)

#3 --- Write on the go.

This is my little term for winging it when you write. :) Just sketch out the huge things that will happen (Emily gets kidnapped by the villain at this point, Jacob gets killed at this point, Marcie arrives at the fairy village at this point) and leave the little things to whatever pops in your head (how about they get attacked by a troll while in the elf kingdom? Hmm. Sounds good. Let me give it a try. :) )

This helps you have tense moments because, just a few minutes ago, you didn't know or expect that you would write that! Do the unexpected, the unpredictable, even for you. If you know every little thing that's going to happen in advance, the story will be dry. I've compared older stories of mine to my current one and believe me, this trick works wonders.

If your brain doesn't work like mine, then probably this won't be very good for you If you like order and organization, then this probably won't work, and good luck. :) The only problem is that it makes the editing process a teensy bit harder --- if the scene is wildly off color, it takes some fixing to get it to work with the rest of the novel.

#4 --- Make a Personality List.

This is because I forget things so easily. :) Sometimes, I'll get so caught up in writing "on the go" that I forget base things, like my main character's flaws and fears. This is a huge problem because flaws especially are something the character is supposed to struggle with through the entire novel! If I forget them, that means not writing about them, which isn't good.

Here's a sample Personality List. You can copy mine, make your own, or just don't do it at all, I really don't care. :)

Kaitlyn Deborah Sullivan

Born January 1, 2001

Flaws: She's full of herself, struggles with loneliness

Loves: Puppies, flowers, coffee

Hates: the color purple, when people chew with their mouths open

Greatest Desire: To please everyone

Greatest Fear: That she will disappoint someone

Greatest phobia (there's a difference between fear and phobia): that she will be eaten by a zombie during the zombie apocalypse

Just make a list of huge things about a character that you need to remember. Post it near where you write - on the wall next to your computer, on the bulletin board next to your bed, etc.

#5 --- Get a visual.

It's hard (at least for me) to describe something that I can't see. So, I draw (or get someone else to do it, I'm not that good at drawing) what I want to say - like, in my story, Dakota goes to the Haven. I'm constantly describing it. So, one day, I sat down with pencils and markers and drew it out, and pasted it on my bulletin board. It's so helpful to be able to see what you're describing. Pinterest, especially, is sooo helpful with this. I can't even begin to say how awesome it is to just type "centaur" or "elf princess" in the search box and see a perfect picture of your character come up. Amazing. 

Another thing --- don't say what happened. Describe what happened. I don't know how to explain it without an example, so here goes.
Compare the two segments. The first is saying, second is describing. Describing is good, saying is bad. :)

Jake was very angry as he screamed in irritation. He marched over to his friends because they were the ones who made him this way and he began to yell at them. Their faces turned red and they began to yell back.

Jake stormed over to his friends, his nostrils flared. "You lied to me!" he screamed, his fists clenched together. "You told me I was a unicorn!" His friends' faces turned bright pink. "We did not lie!" one of them yelled, taking a step forward, his eyes fiery. "It's true!"

This quote -- I don't know who said it --- explains it much better than I did:

That's a wrap. :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Editing Questions to Ask Yourself

Sorry guys. I'm really late with this.


Well, I've been in Mexico for the past eight days, dancing at a Christian festival at the Auditorio Nacional, the biggest auditorium in the nation (I think - it seats like 10,000 people). Well, the last festival was tonight, and it was packed. So many people accepted Christ. It was amazing.

But anyway, I'm getting home tomorrow, so I'll be able to finish posting then. :P


#1 - Is my grammar correct?

This is a simple, not so easy basic. :) A lot of people tend to misspell words or use the wrong verbs in the wrong tense, et cetera et cetera. Spellcheck can be very useful with this, but I don't like it because it considers names that I made up "incorrect" and it puts the little lines under it. This annoys me, so I take it off. :) Not using Spellcheck helps you to get grammar patterns in your head, so you can do it from memory and not have to rely on the computer program to help you. :)
Here are some things you can do relating to grammar mistakes:
Say the sentence out loud --- does it sound right? Really think about every sentence in your head, then speak it aloud. This helped me catch several grammar mistakes of mine.
Reread your book --- are there any obvious spelling mistakes? Are there words that don't look right to you? is very helpful with words you're not sure about.

#2 --- Have I read it through more than once?

Another basic. Before you submit it to the publishers (if you even get that far....we all hope) you should have read it and edited it at least twice. You should only (in my opinion) submit it to the publishers if you can read your book all the way through without making any corrections. Which leads me to #3.....

#3 --- Have my friends or family read it?

Outsiders are very helpful. You, as the author, will always have a different perspective. You know things outsiders wouldn't know --- unexpected twists and turns, even the plots for books ahead in the series, if there is one. You can't read your book without thinking something like, "Oh, she does this, because of this, because of this, because something is wrong with this." Outsiders are on the completely different end of the spectrum - and, in an editing sort of way, they have an advantage over us. They see things we can't. They will have the reaction your readers will have - that's why it's extremely important to let them read it, hear their reactions, and adjust appropriately before you send your creation off to the publishers.

#4 --- Are my characters firm and deep enough?

Every author must make their characters seem alive - which is very hard, since humans are complicated and very complex beings that live in a swirl of emotions and thoughts and backgrounds. Your characters must be real to you if they will be real to your reader. Every character must have his or her own personality, character, struggles, background, testimony, and flaws. Here are some tips to make them seem a little more alive:

Flaws are more important than you would think. Every human being has a fatal flaw. Every single one. Nobody is like those people on TV or movies, who seem so perfect. Don't make your character appear that way -- your reader will put down your book in an instant and declare, "This character's a fake." The fatal flaw can be selfishness, struggling with self-confidence, pride, struggling to believe in yourself, etc.

Write letters to them, and write their response back to you. I know that sounds silly, but it actually does help. Write them a letter saying hello, or whatever you want to say, then write what you think they would write in response. Actually focus on your character's character. :)

Give them battle scars. Wound your characters. Create something in their past or present that haunts them or scars them. This will help you build up to creating the fatal flaw and the background and testimony.