Monday, July 29, 2013

Cue the Sunlight and the Golden Retrievers


One of my guilty pleasures is reality ghost shows like GHOST HUNTERS and MY GHOST STORY.  Saturday night, A&E had a marathon of a show I’ve never seen called AMERICAN HAUNTING.  
In each episode, some poor family has the show’s cameras put all over their house to record ghostly happenings, various experts like mediums and researchers are brought in, the violence ratchets up to the point that they realize something a lot meaner than an annoyed and dead former owner is around, then an exorcist, priest, or psychic exorcist comes in and kicks out the evil thing.  

Most of these shows are filmed in the darkness and even the filming in daylight tends to be in dark tones, but after the evil whatever has been removed and the miasma on dark nastiness is lifted, the outside and inside of the house are shown in much brighter light.  

At the end of one show, the family is sent away while the psychic exorcist is at work, then they return.  As expected, the sun is bright, and the house is filled with light, but very unexpected was the presence of two golden retrievers waiting for their family to come home.

Since there had been no golden retrievers present during the filming, I was flummoxed.  Other episodes had cats wandering around and an occasional small dog as well as dogs in outside pens.  Why hadn’t they shown the golden retrievers?

I thought about it for a while and realized that it’s hard to think of evil in the presence of golden retrievers, the dog equivalent of dolphins or friendly angels, so the producers of this show had them removed from the house during the filming.  

This got me thinking about writing and how most writers fail to use images and metaphors that offer such a visceral reaction.  Even when a writer thinks about creating dark images during the unhappy times in the story, she may fail to offer light images when the unhappiness has been banished.  

Sure, some images like sunlight and golden retrievers are a bit cliched, but that’s because they are honest images that convey emotion.  

Consider this the next time you are rewriting those scenes after things change for the better or worse.

For more information on how to use images, I suggest my article on archetypes.  

NOTE:  My website is still down.  Curse you, Dotster!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Links of Interest

NOTICE:  Dotster screwed up my website big time so it's totally offline.  Sorry about that.  Now to today's topic.




SELLING RIGHTS AND LICENSING OF YOUR BOOK:



NEWSLETTER BASICS:



AUTHOR PORTRAITS FOR WEBSITES:



CREATING BETTER CHARACTER ARCS:



13 WAYS TO GET A LITERARY AGENT:



FINDING YOUR VOICE:



HOW TO SET UP A GOOGLE + ACCOUNT:



7 KEYS TO PLANNING YOUR CAREER PATH:



CHAPTER LENGTHS:



BUILDING TENSION:



HOW TO FORMAT AN EBOOK FOR KINDLE:



MANAGING YOUR FACEBOOK PRIVACY:



THE TOM CLANCY ACTION ROMANCE FORMULA:



FIGURING OUT YOUR STORY’S TURNING POINTS:



Monday, July 22, 2013

The Story Plot Twist



The story plot twist is a turning point or new bit of information that changes the reader's perception of the story.

The twist can be at the end like in THE SIXTH SENSE where we realize that Bruce Willis' character is not only helping the little boy deal with his ability to see ghosts, Willis is a ghost himself, so we have to rethink the movie to see that this truth has been there the whole time, but we've not noticed it.

A twist can also be within the story. For example, the reader discovers halfway through the novel that the hero's sidekick is really the bad guy, and everything the hero thinks he's learned or gained is now suspect.

One of my favorite types of twist is the expectation reversal. Sometimes, this involves the writer using a popular story trope like the marriage of convenience.

When the reader realizes this trope is being used, she will expect it to follow the standard pattern of the pretend marriage-- the characters will avoid sexual and emotional entanglement, they will gradually become emotionally and sexually closer, then their sham marriage will become a real marriage.

With the expectation reversal, the trope is set up, but the characters will do the exact opposite of what is expected. For example, the sexual relationship they've agreed not to have may happen almost immediately when they get drunk on their wedding night.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK has another excellent example. Indiana Jones is chasing after the men who have kidnapped his girl, and a huge bad guy with an enormous sword steps in front of him. The expectation is that Indie will pull out his sword, and they will fight.

Instead, pragmatic Indie pulls out his gun and shoots the man so he can continue after the girl. The big fight trope is not only skewered, but also the viewer realizes that Indie doesn't buy into the heroic yet stupid belief that a fight must be between equals with equal weapons no matter what the cost. For Indie, the girl's life is more important than the heroic ideal of an equal fight.

One of the most important things to remember about using a story twist is that the story itself must hold together and have depth of character and plot without the plot twist. The twist is the cherry on top of the sundae, not the sundae itself.

The other thing to remember is that you have to play fair with the reader and give them bits of information that will give them little clues to the big twist. It shouldn't appear arbitrary or come from thin air.

If Bruce Willis' ghost character interacted with live people as well as with the little boy, the viewer would have felt cheated. Instead, they think back to him talking to a wife who is ignoring him, not because their marriage is in trouble, but because he is dead, and she can't see him, and the viewer will give a gasp of surprise and a bit of a wince at missing all those clues to what was really happening.

If you can make the reader gasp with surprise and rethink what she's read, your twist has worked.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Links of Interest


PRODUCTION COSTS FOR THE SELF-PUBBED AUTHOR:



BODY LANGUAGE AS SUBTEXT:



INCLUDING THE FIVE SENSES:



WHAT TO DO WHEN A BLOG ENTRY STIRS UP CONTROVERSY:



MARKETING, BOOK GIVEAWAYS:



DO YOU NEED A LITERARY EXECUTOR?



THOUGHTS ON AGENT-ASSISTED SELF-PUBLISHING:



MARKETS, SHORT STORY:



HOW TO GET YOUR AVATAR TO APPEAR EVERYWHERE



BUILDING A GREAT CRITIQUE GROUP:



CREATING EMOTIONAL RESONANCE AT THE END OF YOUR BOOK:



Monday, July 15, 2013

Avengers, Assemble


Think of the beginning of a scene as an establishing shot in a movie.  You must give the reader visual clues about where the scene is and who is in it.  You must also tell them when the scene is if time has changes much from the scene before it.  

If you have four characters in a car, you must tell the reader within the first paragraph or two that Tom, Dick, Jane, and Harriet are in that car.  You can’t have Jane and Harriet chatting in the front seat for five pages then have Dick chime in on the subject in the back.  That will jerk the reader right out of the scene as she tries to figure out where Dick came from.

In a scene with a lot of people, it’s not necessary to mention everyone who will be important, but you should show a character who hasn’t been mentioned as there come forward to join the conversation or whatever, and the viewpoint character should react to their presence.  The new character may need to say why they are there if their appearance is totally unexpected.  

Remember that you are building a visual and emotional scene for the reader, and you must offer enough information and clues to allow them to see the scene themselves, or you lose them as readers.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Links of Interest


ADDING A PLUG IN TO A WORDPRESS BLOG:



THE MARKETING QUESTIONNAIRE:



 AUTHOR NEWSLETTERS:



ADDING SEXUAL TENSION:



DIFFERENT PRINT FORMATS AND THEIR SALES PROFILES (WELL WORTH THE READ):



MARKETING OUTSIDE THE BOX:



SUITING YOUR WRITING TO EACH TYPE OF SOCIAL MEDIA:



WHAT THE MIDPOINT IN A STORY REALLY IS:



AN EASY TIP FOR DEVELOPING STORY IDEAS:



THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL AS PART OF PLOT STRUCTURE:



GOODREADS USERS ANSWER THE QUESTION--WHAT MAKES A BOOK READABLE:



APPLE FOUND GUILTY IN PRICE-FIXING CASE:



YOU MUST UNDERSTAND YOUR GENRE:



WORLDBUILDING, CREATING FUTURE HISTORY FROM OUR PRESENT:



EMAIL NEWSLETTERS, FREQUENCY AND CONTENT:



Monday, July 8, 2013

Beware the Unexpected Spoiler


Spoilers of plot and character are the bane of many readers and authors’ existence.  Especially frustrating are those spoilers in the packaging of the book.  The cover, back cover blurbs, and the book jacket plot summary are noticeable sources of too much information.  

I, unfortunately, just found a new source--the acknowledgement page.  The first page of text of a mystery I just read was the acknowledgement page.  With just a quick glance at the contents, I discovered in the first sentence of the second paragraph a huge thank you for information on carbon monoxide poisoning.  

On the third page of the first chapter, a young ghost appeared with cherry red cheeks which is a classic symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning so one of the major mysteries of the novel--what killed the little girl and her family--was not such a mystery.  

So, the moral of this story is, if you have control of the publishing of the book, put the acknowledgement page at the end of the book, not the beginning.  If you don’t have control, don’t spell out what your informants helped you with, unless you can be very general.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Links of Interest


BETA READERS AND THE QUESTIONS TO ASK THEM:



CREATING IMMEDIACY AND CONCURRENCY IN ACTION SCENES:



SEVEN SECRETS TO BOOK PROMOTION:



ORGANIC LAYERING:



MARKET NEWS-- AGENTS, EDITORS, AND PUBLISHERS LIST THEIR MARKET NEEDS:



A FREE WORDPRESS BOOKSTORE PLUGIN FOR AUTHOR SITES:



FIGURING OUT BACKSTORY:



IT’S NOW ABOUT LONG-TERM BOOKSELLING, NOT SHORT TERM.



TROUBLESHOOTING DEEP POINT OF VIEW:



HOW AUTHORS CAN SELL BOOKS THROUGH INDIE BOOKSTORES ONLINE:



TEMPORARY BLINDNESS FOR A CHARACTER:



10 QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING SETTINGS:



HOW TO ADD A FACEBOOK BADGE TO YOUR BLOG:



PLOT POINTS FOR FANTASY:



WHERE TO FIND COVER ARTISTS:



EDITORIAL LETTERS AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM:



AUTHOR NEWSLETTERS:



TARGETING A READERSHIP:



RHYTHM IN DIALOG: