Thursday, March 25, 2010
How long does it take in your story before readers are hooked with your main character? Will they connect with the character at all?
We as readers need to care about the main character to keep reading. Even if she's a cranky, self-centered person, she needs to DO something to make us like her. It can be subtle or loud on the page.
I've pulled a few young adult and middle grade books off my shelf and give examples of when I cared about the MC's journey.
"Tender" by Valerie Hobbs has an MC that looks on the darker side of life. At first, I didn't know if I liked her. I always enjoy Valerie's books, though, and so I wanted to care about this main character, Liz. On page six, the grandmother forgets to do a simple thing, and this is what happens. Liz settles the tea cozy over the pot because Gran has forgotten. This is where I begin to LIKE Liz. A subtle move, but to the point within the first pages of what promises me a powerful story.
"Each Little Bird That Sings" by Deborah Wiles is one of my all time favorites about the progression from life to death. This middle grade book can help any child who's struggling with loss of a loved one. On page eight, Comfort (the name drew me to her) sits in her closet with her dog, Dismay. Here's where I liked Comfort. Dismay sat facing me (it's a big closet), with his paws touching my bare toes. He panted nervously and his dog saliva drip-drip-dripped onto my feet. Comfort loves her dog, and now I love her.
"Bad Girls Club" by Judy Gregerson had me on page five. Destiny tells her parents what she wants to do for the summer. Then, her mom speaks sharply to Destiny's little sister, Cassidy. Here is where I care about Destiny. My arm automatically goes around Cassidy's shoulder. I lean my body in close, but Mom reaches behind her, grabs a towel from the counter, and throws it in my sister's face. I quickly pull it off. Destiny cares about her sister, so I care about Destiny.
I've learned much about this from Blake Synder's "Save The Cat," a screenwriting book that you can apply to novel writing. People are saying this is the best book ever written for writers. All I know is that it helped me.
With my story, ROAD TRIP OF THEIR LIVES, Kari's ninety-year-old granny begins a six hundred mile drive with her granddaughters to visit family. Granny knows Kari isn't happy about it and has told her she can continue the trip without them. On page three, I think readers will care about the MC. Kari can't imagine Granny driving all the way to Oregon by her lonesome. She studies Granny to see if she's joking, but she wears her poker face. Kari seizes the moment. "You know Granny . . . wouldn't it be fun to stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see the dolphins and fish?" Kari cares about her granny and her sisters' safety, and I hope readers will want to stay with Kari's journey.
Check out Synder's book and you'll learn his secrets of how we can work our words to keep readers reading.
Until next time . . .
Friday, March 12, 2010
Writing is an exhausting journey. I've wanted to quit a few times, but when I think about not writing . . . I can't imagine. Writing is a learning process. I started out not knowing a thing and had forgotten most grammar rules to boot. I have to nurture that passion to keep writing, and to find stories I look to real people.
For my second novel I wrote sentences daily, even if only one, until I had a solid first draft. I completed that story in three months. I wrote at night, which was really odd for a morning person like myself. Why would I write at night? I decided it was because the story opens at night and a storm is one of two antagonists. I've got dark, dark, going on and so I wrote at night.
I've written both my novel length stories in first person, but I don't do that well. Not yet, anyway. I wonder if I have to write that first draft in first person to create the story I envision. I'm learning this may be what works. For now. Maybe, just maybe, this is my way of writing that outline that so many folks talk about. I can't seem to get the feel for the story that way. Oh, I did a short outline for Second Novel, and it helped. But, the heart of my stories unfold in first person.
I'm still new to writing the novel length story. I'm not sure how best to pound out my words any faster. I do many things fast, like chores, speech, and when I take walks. Why not writing? I have many questions here, I know. So, back to what I do understand and that's where I get my stories.
My second novel idea came about in a real-life chatter between my two granddaughters, my mother-in-law, and myself. We had just buried my husband's dad, and I think we were all looking for something to laugh about. Mom said a daring thing and it sparked a gem of a thought (don't ever believe just children say cute things). We four kept elaborating on Mom's comment, building a make believe world of what if. I looked over at Mom and said, "This conversation gives me an idea for a story."
She laughed and seemed pleased. So, on our long trip back home, my husband drove and I typed and typed and typed. That ten hour drive sped by in a blur. Best of all, I knew I had a story.
This story is different than my first novel, in that this one is more humorous. Oh, it's got the tense scenes one would expect with nature being the antagonist, but it's also funny. And this story has come at a perfect time after the fourteen years I've been learning how to write. It's my favorite topic, where old-fashioned meets contemporary.
Thanks for allowing me to ponder. I hope I didn't bore you, but a blog is a good listener. Now, I hope people will comment and give me more insights.
Until next time . . .