Sunday, December 20, 2009

 

Are your characters believable?

Of late, I've been reading lots--and reading about lots--of different children's fiction. Throw in some of adult reading and nonfiction, assigned writing and many imaginary (and real) protagonists have invaded my mind. While not all are memorable or seem true to their own characterization, many authors succeed in doing both.
Often when constructing a fictional character, we borrow bits and pieces from life. But how frequently do you learn something in real life--someone's romantic difficulties or a high-profile heist--and think to yourself, no one would believe this if it were in a novel?
When developing my stories, I start down one road, sometimes making a flamboyant character, and question whether the reader will believe in her or in course of events. Sometimes I pare down how I might portray a person or an event thinking that by doing so, the reader will trust my fiction more. By doing so, I often find that my readers think the character less believable. Then I read someone else's fiction--a character in an incredible situation. The author has handled it so deftly, that a reader becomes engrossed...and, for pages and pages, believes. That's what I'm striving for.

What about you? When developing your own believable fictional characters, do you stray from your own experiences and embellish elements? Or do you stay close to reality, maybe sticking close to the facts of an event or how people you know would act?

"Happy Holidays!" to all the readers of WOW! Women on Writing. Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

 

Writing Children's Short Stories Dos and Don'ts Part 2

It's time for part two of "Writing Short Stories Dos and Don'ts." If you missed part one, you can find it here.

Now onto part deux:


Don’t use words like “she shouted” or “he exclaimed” or “she questioned” after dialogue. Don’t be afraid to repeat the word “said.” It is the best dialogue tag. Instead of having to use “said” all the time, you can also use action or setting details as dialogue tags. For example:


“When are you going to let me come into your clubhouse?” Martha stood with her nose at the door, trying to peek through a crack in the wood.


Henry sat in the middle of his clubhouse and thought about it for almost a whole second before he said, “Never.”


She stomped her foot and screamed. “I’ll just stand out here and scream until you let me in!”


Before Henry answered her, he put earplugs in his ears. “Okay.” He hummed and went back to carving his statue.


Do use humor in children’s stories. Magazine editors are always looking for humorous stories. They get tons of stories on divorce and other “serious” kid issues. These are important; but if you are a new author, try something that editors always need. (Usually, editors are looking for stories that appeal to boys, too.)


Don’t write a story for a magazine if you have never seen the magazine. Do read back issues or sample stories on a website before you start writing for the magazine. Try to find out what subjects their recent stories have covered and send something different.


Do send seasonal material at least six months in advance. Some magazines want it even further in advance. Also, check websites and magazine guidelines for themes. Brainstorm ideas to fit the themes, and think outside the box.


Don’t give up if you get one or two rejections. Look for new markets—online magazines or children’s newsletters that would be interested in publishing your fiction.


Do use Times New Roman as your font. Also, use 12 pt. font and double-space your fiction stories. Put a heading on each page—page number, your last name, and part of the title.


I hope these few dos and don'ts help everyone on their road to publication success with writing children's short stories!


Happy Writing!
Margo Dill

http://margodill.com/blog/

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

 

Hop, skip and jump to your desk!

For the most part, I make my money writing non-fiction for newspapers, magazines, television, and blogs. But when my kids head back to school (and in between the paying jobs), I'm dusting off my fiction writing, sweeping away some cobwebs and getting back into creating fictional worlds.
It's been too long, but in a way it feels natural to have let the stories germinate for a while. But Thursday morning, as the kids head out the door, I'll revel in the silence (for 5 minutes) and then hop, skip and jump for my pen and paper.
Recently I read that to keep your writing fluid and fresh it helps to dive into a variety of writing styles, genres and projects. Always admired poetry? Dip into during a quiet lunchtime. Interested in short stories? Pull out a pen and pad while waiting for your laundry to dry or for a friend to come visit.
For me, I've been dabbling in non-fiction writing by chance. I was writing fiction--short stories and a couple novels--when I started picking up non-fiction writing assignments. Because of my journalism background, it was a natural fit. But I've now strayed so far that I am aching to finish a novel I've started, a young adult novel my daughter is begging me for, and to stitch together the threads of a story I have been sketching since spring.
With the kids returning to school in a couple days, I am anxious to start creating and crafting fiction again.
Is there anything you've been wanting to get back into creating? What has been stopping you? What is one small step--or one small hop, skip or jump--you can take to start getting back on the path to your project?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at www.CoastalCarolinaMoms.com and www.TheWriteElizabeth.com, delving into creativity in everyday places. For different reasons, she--and her children--will be counting the hours until school starts.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

 

Danette Haworth, author of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning, Launches her Blog Tour!


& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

In Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning Danette Haworth tells a story of growing up and making friends--with a few alligators and lightning bolts thrown in for excitement. Violet Raines' life has been just perfect and when things start going wrong she blames Melissa, the new girl in the neighborhood. But maybe it isn't Melissa who causes all the changes, maybe it's Violet.

Haworth has been writing and making people laugh since she was six years old. As an Air Force brat, she also is an expert at making new friends. Haworth combined those two experiences to make a funny and poignant book that will seem familiar to every young girl whether she lives in Alaska or Zimbabwe.

Finally settled down in Violet's backyard--Florida--Danette would own a diner called "Netti's" if she wasn't a writer. It would be small--you'd probably pass it if you drove by too fast--but the regulars would be loyal. "Try the sweet potato loaf," they'd tell each other. "It is to die for!"

We had to include this trailer of Danette's book, made by Scholastic--it's so fun! Check it out.



Visit Danette at her website at www.danettehaworth.com
and her blog: http://summerfriend.blogspot.com/
Violet Raines Reading Group Guide: http://www.violetraines.com/readingguide.htm

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Danette's book, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end.

Published by Walker Books for Young Readers, $15.99
Children's Fiction, Ages 9-12, Hardcover
ISBN# 0802797911

We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Danette. We're delighted to launch your blog tour for your book,
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning. I just finished reading your book (all in one afternoon). I couldn't stop reading because the characters were so real I felt they would jump off the page and ask me to go search for alligators! Where did they come from? Did you know a Violet, Lottie, Melissa or Eddie? Were you one?

Danette: Thanks, Jodi! They were all so real to me that writing the book was almost like watching a movie! The story seemed to spill out in front of me. Growing up, I knew a lot of Violets, Lotties, and Melissas, but only one true Eddie.

Eddie is based on a boy I knew when I was in 4th-6th grade. He was gracious, handsome, and the fastest runner in school. This boy had dark hair and glittery blue eyes, just like Eddie. Once, we were playing manhunt and he found me, scooped me up like the hero in a romance novel and carried me to base--I just about swooned!

WOW: Tall, dark and handsome--didn’t I just see him on a movie screen last weekend? Actually, that was the most detailed description you gave of Eddie which I found surprising. As writers we sometimes rely on detailed physical descriptions to make our characters come alive. With the exception of Melissa, you never really described your characters' appearances. Why was that?

Danette: Because Melissa was the newcomer, we had the chance to scrutinize her through Violet's squinched-up eyes, but since Violet already knew everyone else, she didn't take a second thought of their looks. That's why I provided only a few nudges in the physical description of the other characters.

What makes characters in any book come alive is the things they do and the way they react to the events in the story. As a reader, I love when the author gets me to the point where I'm thinking, *Gasp* I can’t believe the MC[main character] did that! How will her best friend ever forgive her? I don't mind a little hint of what a person looks like, but I don't need a full description to see the story as I read.

WOW: I'm always interested in how ideas transform into books. How was this book created? Did you have this wonderful Violet character on stage waiting for something to happen or was something else the kernel that grew into this book?

Danette: I was just starting to query for a different novel (Me and Jack, 2011, Walker), but I didn’t want to sit around waiting. I wanted to get started on the next project. But what? I reported to my computer room everyday and sat in my chair thinking.

I had this idea for a mother and daughter story, an adult novel with issues, based on stories my mom told me about her childhood. One story I always liked was this: My mother grew up in farm country up north, and the people next door had a huge family, a big rambling house, and they invited my mom over for a fish fry every Sunday. My mom has a brother and a sister who were NEVER invited. I always thought that was funny, and I wondered why (and of course this was no small victory for my mom, who was the youngest and usually got the short end of the stick for everything).

I kept thinking everyday, all the while having an adult story in mind, when Violet Raines just walked in one day and rattled off the first paragraph of the book. I whipped around in my chair and typed it up really fast; I didn’t want to lose any of it. Here’s what she said:

When Eddie B. dared me to walk the net bridge over the Elijah Hatchett River where we'd seen an alligator and another kid got bit by a coral snake, I wasn’t scared--I just didn't feel like doing it right then. So that's how come I know just what he's saying when I see him in church, flapping his elbows like someone in here is chicken. When Momma's not looking, I make my evil face at him, but he just laughs and turns the right way in his pew.

I could see her, with her short dark hair and the swampy woods behind her. She had a little smudge of dirt on her leg from coming through the woods. I had an instant, complete sense of Violet, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to her!

WOW: Yet another sign that we shouldn't stop writing while we try to sell out first book! Could you tell us a little about your path from writing to publication for Violet Raines?

Danette: During the day, I wrote articles on state-of-the-art tank simulators; after work, I wrote short literary stories and submitted them. Then a few years ago my schedule changed when I became a stay-at-home writer. Since now I had a larger block of time, I thought about maybe adding more clients. Then it hit me--maybe it was time to pursue my own dream, writing a novel.

I thought about writing detective fiction since I love reading it, but then I realized I'd have to figure out how to murder people and almost get away with it. I did not want to do that! (And my husband got really nervous when books such as Deadly Doses: a writer's guide to poisons starting showing up on my bookshelf.) So I thought about some of my favorite authors: Anne Tyler, Sue Miller, Elizabeth Buchan, and Elizabeth Berg. But each time I approached a novel, the characters that came to life for me were eleven or twelve-years-old, and I identified with them! I had to write their stories!

I heard an SCBWI writing conference was coming to my area in the summer of 2007. I was still writing Violet Raines, but I knew the manuscript would benefit from a qualified critique. I polished up the first ten pages, submitted them, and ended up being critiqued by editor Stacy Cantor from Walker Books. She loved what she read, and I loved her response! In the weeks that followed, she read the full manuscript and I queried a handful of agents who I thought might like Violet Raines. I don't bite my nails, but if I did, they would have been nubs by the time I got "The Call!" In October 2007, I signed on with Ted Malawer of Firebrand and accepted a book deal with Walker Books.

WOW: That's quite a success story! Thank you for sharing. Some writers write solely in one genre, while others write a bit of everything: fiction, nonfiction, children's, YA. Which type of writing career do you think you'll have?

Danette: I don't know what type of writing career I'll have! I'm so glad I discovered children's literature because not only do I enjoy writing it, I LOVE reading it! But I love young adult fiction, now, too, and I still read mysteries, literary fiction, short stories and flash fiction. I think, in the long run, my writing career will reflect my reading career.

WOW: What are you working on now? Will we get a peek at Violet in high school? Or are there new characters waiting for their chance on the stage?

Danette: Will we see Violet in high school? Oh, my gosh--I don’t know! I love her just the way she is, and yet some things have already happened there in that little swamp town since the book got published. It’s all in my head, of course, but who knows? I love Violet!

I just turned in the draft for The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness, a middle-grade novel in which a girl who lives in a hotel meets an eclectic group of friends, including a teenage runaway. Blueberry Goodness takes place in Florida, at a dilapidating, antebellum resort whose once manicured lawns are now grown wild. (Walker BFYR, 2010)

Me and Jack is set in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. Eleven-year-old Joshua knows how to play new kid: hang back, don't talk too much, become invisible. Then he pairs up with Jack, a dog he rescues from the pound. Jack yanks Joshua from the sidelines to the front line to take on an unfriendly town, a mountain, and meanest kid in school. (Walker BFYR, 2011)

Whenever anyone asks me about my writing, I'm either all hush-hush or I keep talking even when I see them start checking their watches and looking at their cell phones. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my work with you!

WOW: Well, we weren't checking our cell phones. We can’t wait to meet all your new characters!

Want to join Danette on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

MAY 4, 2009 Monday
Danette will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Danette's book!
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html

MAY 5, 2009 Tuesday
Danette will be chatting with Kim Zook in an exclusive interview! Come join these two in a lively chat at the Zook Book Nook, & book giveaway!
http://zookbooknook.blogspot.com

MAY 8, 2009 Friday
Stop by The Friendly Book Nook to learn more about author Danette Haworth and her unstoppable friend Violet Raines.
http://thefriendlybooknook.com/

MAY 12, 2009 Tuesday
Danette will be stopping by Anne-Marie Nichols' popular blog, A Mama's Rant, for an informative guest post: Write My Book or Wash the Laundry: How Does a Stay at Home Writer Do It? This is not to miss!
http://www.amamasrant.com/

MAY 20, 2009 Wednesday
Danette will be stopping by The Mother Daughter Book Club for an exclusive author interview! Be sure to join in on the chat.
http://motherdaughterbookclub.wordpress.com/

MAY 22, 2009 Friday
Danette will be stopping by A Good Blog is Hard to Find, a blog dedicated to southern authors, for a surprise guest post with tips for writers. Not to miss!
http://www.southernauthors.blogspot.com/

JUNE 4, 2009 Thursday
Margo will pick Danette's brain today at her blog Read These Books and Use Them--both about writing her book and some great activities that teachers and parents can do with their children while reading Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning. Don't worry--no lightning involved!
http://www.margodill.com/blog/

We also have several more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to participate in Danette Haworth's blog tour, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Danette's book Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning.


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