Monday, May 30, 2011

How Many Hook’ers Like Your Book?

Call for submissions! 
Two friends of mine roped me into another blog. I was reluctant at first until we came up with a fun concept that will benefit writers in more ways than just the standard “how to write a query” blog. We wanna be hooked.
 If you have a COMPLETED manuscript ready for a hard look, we’re your girls. If you have a published novel begging for a review, then we’re your girls. The only catch is you have to hook us to get the review. If two out of three hook’ers like your novel we’ll give you a review on Smashwords, your blog, where ever.
It won’t be easy. We are impatient, busy, and picky. The good thing is you have nothing to lose. We won’t post negative reviews or reveal identities of authors. It’s a great opportunity to test out your manuscript before publishing. Who couldn’t use another pair of eyes?
We are not experts. We are three women with opinions and a passion for writing and reading. Not only is this a great tool for writers to test their work out on tough beta readers, it is a way for readers to discover a hidden gem they might’ve missed.
Self-pubbed authors, traditional, undecided . . . take a chance. Hook us. Check out the submission guidelines at Ready, Aim, Hook Me

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Characterization Help From Dexter And A Crappy Movie

Sorry for the looonnnggg break between posts. My house is ready to roll and should be on the market this week. Hopefully that’ll mean more time to write and catch up. I’ve lost my blog traffic, and I want it back.
Anyway, I want to talk a bit about character development. I don’t want to get technical ’cause I’m not an expert, and I’m sure someone smarter than me will scoff and roll their eyes at one of the amateurish comments I’m bound to make. What I want to focus on is two examples: one TV show that I love and one stupid movie that completely sucked.
If you haven’t seen Dexter, I’ll try not to ruin anything for you and be as general as I can. I’m squeamish when it comes to blood and body parts that are . . . removed. (gags) It took me two times to get through the first scene but once I did, I couldn’t get enough of the show. It isn’t so much the plot that has me swallowing each episode as quick as I can get it, although it is good, but it’s the main character who has me right where he wants me. He’s a fantastic example of creating a likable character, one with a gigantic flaw (he’s a serial killer), and making us love him. So what if he only kills bad guys—he’s still a murderer. I root for him, cheer him on to get the bad guy. Hell, I’d even let this serial killer into my house and watch my children. Not my real children, but my metaphorical children.
We see a glimmer of a conscience here and there, possibilities of real love and family, and we see the threat of getting caught. The conflict is always ratcheting up too, sending Dexter scrambling to find ways out of pending trouble. He works for Miami Metro PD as a forensics blood guy, his sister is a detective, his brother is . . .I’m not going to tell you that one, and his girlfriend thinks he’s the best boyfriend she’s ever had. Yikes.
One of my favorite scenes is when a hard-nose Sergeant finds out that Dexter isn’t just a lab geek. He knows Dexter has secrets—dark secrets. During a confrontation at the police station, this happens:

The next example could just be bad acting or irritation on my part, but I watched a Hilary Duff movie the other night. Why you ask? Hell if I know. Beauty and The Briefcase is about a writer wanting to get a gig with Cosmo (yes, she’s a blond fashion snob). She convinces the editor (yes, the editor is a bitchy man-eater) to take a chance on her with a story about going into the business world and only dating men in suits. No other men allowed. So the idiot, I mean MC, lands a job using a overinflated resume and becomes an assistant to an average looking guy in need of style. She decorates her desk area with pink crap and beads and starts flirting with all the men in the office.
I don’t buy Hilary Duff in this copycat type role what’s-her-name did in Sex in the City. Hilary is still Disney to me. The story is littered with stupid people, pretending to be smart or clever. So after she gets duped by a normal dude she wasn’t supposed to date, she realizes who her true love is and runs into his arms at the end( after saving the day with some glammed up presentation, of course). Bet you can’t guess who she falls in love with? Yep, her boss. I knew from the beginning they would fall in love, not because of chemistry but because the story was following the cliche highway to Crapville.
Don’t believe me . . . watch, rubberneckers. Watch this disaster unfold.

So why do I love Dexter and not Lane? Let's start with the basics:
1) The name. Dexter fits his personality. He is a lab geek and funny thing about the meaning of his name (dyer of cloth) he is often seen splattering blood in the lab to determine spray patterns, and then there's the whole killer thing.  Lane is a great name. Not a common one for a girl. But it came off cliched to me--forced. The whole premise road the trendy/cutsey angle so much that it bugged me. So my advice is to pick a name that fits who your character is without forcing it or being too unique or cliched. 
2) I mentioned the cliches before with Beauty and the Briefcase. Beautiful blond fashionista manipulating men to get what she wants. *groan* Whereas Dexter is deeper. He watched his mother being killed with a chainsaw and now he struggles to suppress his own killer instinct. We hear him say one thing, but his action show us another--he does have a conscience.
3)Secondary Characters. I think in order to have a great MC, you need to have strong secondary ones surrounding him/her. They can't overshadow, but they need to add to who the MC is. Do the relationships strengthen the character? Show something the MC just can't? Lane's pals seem fabricated and transparent, whereas Dexter's need him. They need him for strength and reassurance. They rely on him to save the day, to write wrongs, and protect them, yet he repeatedly calls himself evil, unfeeling, a monster.

I could go on, but this is one long post. These are two different genres with different themes, but to me it doesn't matter. Just because one has deeper content doesn't mean the writer should skimp on making a rich, believable, and well rounded character.

What’s in your character toolbox? Do you outline? Cute pics out of magazines and write a bio? Or do you go with the flow? There is no right answer as long as we create compelling characters who are believable and, lord help me, likable. There are some famous examples of horrible MCs who win over the hearts of readers. I won’t name names (BELLA SWAN), but it happens.

I don’t outline, plot, graph, do pics, nothing. I have a general idea and go for it, but I find that in two of my books the MC lacks something. She’s likable, but I’m not sure if she is enough. So I will keep playing around with my characters. Perhaps I’ll give them another Tarot reading. Who knows? 
Here are some tips from some of my followers. Please share yours as well.

L. Diane Wolf uses Florrence Littauer's "Personality Plus" and her four basic personality types as a starting point for developing characters.  I have taken personality tests for my characters as well as part of a writing exercise. It was helpful and gave me great insight.

Sarah McCabe says: "I don't really have a process for character development. But I find that if I can put a voice to a character, perhaps a voice I've heard in a movie or game, then that character tends to come more alive for me. I can hear them in my head every time they say something and it just flows onto the page."  This is how I roll for the most part too.

Shallee says: "In a nutshell, I ask who they are, who they're becoming, and what stands in their way. Then I find out how the character is like any of us, and why we want to be like them. Then, I define their flaws, handicaps, strengths, quirks, and motivation. This process gives me a great complex character to start with. I even do it for my minor characters so they're more fleshed out."  Sounds great to me!

Rosemary Gemmell says: "I always start with my heroine and hero, then I put them into situations and let them play. The story develops from their characters, but their characters also develop as I write the story. You can tell I'm not a plotter!"  I am not a plotter either. 

Leslie Rose says: "I like to put my characters through the filters of visual design. I examine their line, texture, and color to clarify them in my mind."

Madeline says: "I use pictures from magazines and draw from people I've known and then amalgamate all the information into the person I want to portray."  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Look, Shiny! Secrets Revealed

Most bloggers know about the blog awards hopping around. Well, not too long ago, I got a Versatile Blogger Award (Thank you to Romy Gemmell Check her out. She's great!). I’ve been so busy getting my house ready to sell that I had to put them aside. So even though it’s been a bit since my blogging friend hooked me up, I wanted to give her a shout out and participate. If the Versatile Blogger Award is like the Stylish variety, then I’m supposed to tell about myself—seven things. I guess I’ll just fill in the blanks where I left off from my blog award Stylin’ and Profilin’ where I revealed seven things you may not know. Here's the new:
1.    After dodging the zombies and hooking up with Charlie Sheen and WINNING, I met the love of my life. Who wouldn’t love this fella. Tall, reddish hair, brooding, and gor-ge-ous! I knew I had to meet him, and thankfully, my clumsy ol’ feet made it easy. I stumbled into my love on my way into my new school and felt heat rush through me. Not from him, he was colder than a vanilla pudding pop and just as pale.

2.    My new man and I were going strong except he wouldn’t give it up to me, and lordy, lordy I wanted it. I couldn’t control myself around him. He was too damn perfect for me to follow his no touchy rule. Soon, I hooked up with a new pal of mine because he was lookin’ good too, and I was a silly teenager who eats a crazy amount of scrambled eggs. It was weird ‘cause my buddy was so hot to the touch and always wandered around without his shirt on, but when you gots a bazillion abs who wouldn’t.

3.     It’s really weird what happened next ‘cause I’m such a whiny girl and I can’t fathom how anyone could or would fall for me, let alone two men—well, one man (sort of) and one . . . uh, canine-like guy. So they were growling and flashing their teeth for me while I found more trouble, hurt myself some more, ate more eggs, said stupid stuff, and whined a lot. Who wouldn’t love me, right? (insert doe eyed look here)

4.    As much as I liked having two hotties chasing after me, I couldn’t choose between them. Who could? I knew I needed help. I needed the one person who could take the sunrise and sprinkle it with dew. I needed the candy man.

5.    I was in luck when I found some coinage in the street and I bought a Wonkabar and found the golden ticket. I looked up to the chocolate factory, the billowing smoke wafting from the stacks, and knew Mr. Wonka would help me choose between the two most important men/creatures in my life.

6.    Unfortunately, my plan exploded in my face—quite literally—when I tripped and knocked a few oompa loompas into the everlasting gobstopper machine and caused a fire. Mr. Wonka forgave me considering I promised not to tell Ol’ Sluggworth about the secret recipe to the candy that would change the world. It was at that moment when I knew which dude I wanted, plus I wanted more eggs so I had to get out of the factory.

7.    Mr. Wonka took me up in the glass elevator and we flew through the sky in search for my sparkly lover boy. Tragedy struck again, when the elevator crashed into water. We were sinking fast with no way out, thankfully, I stashed a bottle of Double Bubble Burp-a-cola and we were able to float our way back to the surface where more trouble waited. A crazy-haired woman named Bellatrix snatched the candyman and me into her boat and drove the tip of her wand into my throat. “Where’s the Sword of Gryffindore?” she asked. “I don’t know anything about a Sword from a Griffin’s whore,” I replied (insert more doe eyes). That didn’t satisfy the freakshow and she threw me and Willie into a dungeon to await someone she called the Dark Lord. I’m just hoping he has a bazillion abs too.
I guess the rest will have to wait until my next award. Thanks again and check out some blogs I love to stalk.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blogged Down and Results To My Assessment Test

Oh boy! What a week!
My husband scored a new job and had to start training out of state last Tues. So, I’ve been scrambling trying to get our house ready to sell. We’re moving back to my hometown in good ol’ Idaho. I’m torn. I am excited to be around family again. We’ve been gone for ten years and had two kids in the process. We’ve missed out on family dinners, growing cousins, and all that family stuff I grew up with. It’ll be great to be able to set our Thanksgiving table for more than four or send my kids over to Grandma’s or their Aunt Audrey’s so I can do whatevs I want.
The bad part is I love Utah, the mountains welcoming me through our large picture window, the museums, the weather, blah, blah, blah. Plus, I will miss my friends. I hated Utah when I first moved. It was hard to make friends because I didn’t go to church, but I have made some great ones—kindred spirits. How I will survive without them, I’m not sure.
But . . . my husband has a job. Woo-hoo!
So, we have to put our house on the market and that has left me zero time to blog. I wanted to post the results from my last blog: Assessment Test For Bloggers
Are you ready?
For all of those who participated, I want to say thank you. After careful consideration and scientific study in between painting and spackling, I have some good news and bad news. The good news is all of your answers seem to be correctly spelled and formatted.  The bad news is the answers indicate that y’all are crazy. Yep, you’re nuts. Although I’m pleased that no one answered number one wrong. ;)  All those who commented I'll put in my blog roll, so I can keep track of them--safety precaution. Gotta keep track of the crazies and while I'm doing that I'll read their blogs and I hope you do too.  
I was going to use this test as a lead in to my next blog on crafting characters, but I have paint in my hair and have a load of crap that needs to be taken to the dump. So I’ll have to wait until next time.
To prepare for my next blog on characters, leave me a tip about your character development process and I’ll link back to your blog in my next post.