Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Turn It Up Tuesday: Who You'd Be Today

Karlie here.

My song is Who You'd Be Today by Kenny Chesney. Be warned - it's a downer.

Nolan broke a promise to his sister, and even though neither of them knew the repercussions that would have, she died because of it. So he struggles with his guilt, knowing if he'd only kept his word, it would never have happened.

She wanted so much, dreamed of so many things. Gone in a heartbeat. So he wonders.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Prologues

It's Karlie here, with a rather controversial question for you guys.

I know many agents/editors/professionals discourage prologues, saying they tend to be info dumps and most readers skip over them anyway. I agree with this to an extent - I know some writers have a bad habit of just pulling an exciting scene from somewhere in the middle and calling it a prologue, there for no other purpose than to 'hook' the reader.

But...sometimes prologues and prefaces are unavoidable. Take Eragon for instance - there was no way that would have fit in somewhere else in the story, and still done its job. Twilight - the preface was the turning point of the novel; it was the culmination point, and personally I like the way Ms. Meyer used that.

I don't know if anyone out there has seen The Prestige, starring Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johanssen, but it uses the preface to perfection. (Yes, there can be prefaces in movies). It was so artfully done that when the reasons behind it was revealed -  about half-way through the movie - that it was just a jaw-dropping moment. All writers should watch this movie, btw.

So I believe prologues should be used for those two reasons only: To say something that absolutely CANNOT be worked into the body of the story, and to state the theme/turning point of the novel in a way that draws the reader in and works toward an "Aha!" moment later, when it's fully revealed.

What are your opinions about prologues? Readers, do you usually skip them?

Lisa: I don't skip prologue/prefaces (writers are generally too nosy to skip something), but I do tend to skim. So, while I'm not against them as a writing device, it's probably better not to have one if you want readers to enjoy every bit of your novel. Most of the time the prologues people deem necessary are those which tell of a very specific event that happened in the far past (which is why people tend to skip/skim them as it's not current and pressing). Oftentimes, though, I've seen where the retelling of that event could be worked in the rest of the book, and people are less likely to miss out on valuable details of that scene due to skipping or skimming. For example, the event could be told to another character when the topic comes up and questions are asked,  it could be in a letter or diary entry the main character finds, a flashback, or your character thinking about the event here and there and little by little filling the readers in on the details about it. That adds a little more mystery too. If you think about it, all of our characters have pasts and it's our job to try to work that past into the story while progressing the plot. One thing I have seen that seemed to be very necessary was the prologue being in someone else's POV. It doesn't have to be in the past for this to work either. This device becomes especially necessary if there is an unreliable narrator.

Caitlin: The first time I heard that most readers skip prologues, I was surprised. What if there's something important in there? So, no, I don't skip prologues. But I still don't think they're a great idea. Like with all "rules" in writing, this is another one you can break but you better have a darn good reason to have a prologue. I've also heard that most prologues just turn into first chapters somewhere along the publishing process anyway, and usually work fine. However, I recently read Chime  (good but challenging read, btw) and I think that's what happened with the first chapter. It read much more like a prologue and timing wise it didn't make a lot of sense as a first chapter (but, again, did as a prologue). So I do think it's possible to avoid the prologue to a fault.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Value of Freewriting

Caitlin here. I’ve found some of my best “stuff” comes from free writing sessions, those times when I just let my fingers run wild on the keyboard. I don’t sit down with a scene or story in mind. I don’t have any goals beyond “keep typing for X minutes.”  Those times are sometimes the most fun I have writing because there is absolutely no pressure. Just write! It’s okay if the page is filled with utterly useless crap!

That said, it’s one of those things, like meditating, that I know is good for me but that I rarely make time for. Why spend ten minutes sitting quietly and concentrating on the hum of the air conditioner when I could be doing something productive? Why free write for ten minutes when I could use that ten minutes to make progress on a novel or a story? I should move the ball forward, so to speak. But, when I don’t take the time to just splash around in writing, through exercises or free writing, I think the lack of creativity in my actual writing shows.

So, I’m wondering. Do you think free writing is worthwhile? If so, how do you motivate yourself to do it?
Karlie: I'm forced to confess that I usually don't free write. Most of this is because I have limited time to write, and usually spend my time on a working manuscript - but I've never really benefited from it the times I did try it. However, I usually have three or four projects going at one time, so I jump from one to the other. It helps keep my brain fresh and ready to go. Sometimes I'll flesh out a new idea - just write about the plot for two or three pages. That's my version of free writing. :)

Lisa: I used to free write more often, but it's been so long. And I'm talking about years. I guess I haven't done it in so long because I'm a bit like you, Caitlin; it feels like a luxury - not a necessity - and my writing time is too tight to dwindle on luxuries. However, the times that I do recall freewriting, it was to get over the hump of a difficult plot point or stubborn writer's block. And it worked. Though I haven't free wrote in a really long time, I do know that it's an valid option for getting writers out of a bind or get creative juices flowing. I should do it more often, though. I think I will try to get back into the habit of it every once in a while. Thanks for the reminder about how nice and unburdening freewriting be, Caitlin.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Turn It Up Tuesday: When You Love Someone

Hiya, Karlie again!

My song for today is Bryan Adams' cover for When You Love Someone (originally performed by Doctor Rocktor.) In the light of some startling revelations, this song outlines Aria's motivations perfectly.

When we started out, she was hard. A survivor who was used to making decisions for the whole, and whose loyalties extended no farther than those she was responsible for.

By the end, she is being forced to choose between letting the world go to hell, or destroying the man she loves - a man who, because of someone who didn't have a choice, doesn't even remember she exists.

But when you love someone...you'll shoot the moon. Put out the sun. Do crazy things you can't explain.

No one left alive cares what happens to Aria Rinehart...but for the first time she makes the decision for herself, instead of for the good of the whole.

(I couldn't find a video with him singing live. Sorry.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Unrequited Love

Hello everybody! It's Lisa today, posing a question about L-O-V-E.

I've always had a fascination with unrequited love. I've wanted to write it, but the thought scares me and fills me with doubt. Could I do this type of love justice? Can I make a book based on unfulfilled love marketable? Questions like this have stalled me in that endeavor, but I'm going to tackle it one day. What are your thoughts on unrequited love? Ever experienced it or seen it unfold from an objective view? Have you ever written about one? Read about one? Did it work for you? Or did it just make you frustrated with the characters? That's a lot of questions, huh? Oops, another one. I'll stop there and just make a request. Let's talk about unrequited love.

Karlie: "Can I make a book based on unfulfilled love marketable?" That question is actually one I'm turning over and over in my head right now. In Kismet, Logan is in love with Aria but for a lot of personal - and valid - reasons, she sees him as an interference, an annoyance she has to put up with. The book is told only in Aria's POV, so it's a challenge showing what Logan feels, but it's also more rewarding seeing his actions through her eyes when it all comes out in the end, when he finally gives it up and walks away. But...does it cheapen the end to have them end up together? On the other hand, is it unfulfilling for them not to end up together?

I do enjoy reading about unrequited love, though. Eragon is a prime example, even if Arya came around in the end. He still spent most of the books mooning after her. So yes, I'll definitely read it if it's well done.

Caitlin: I don't know if I'd enjoy writing or reading a book entirely about unrequited love. However, I could see that side plot playing a valuable role within another plot. The emotions involved with that supply a lot of fertile ground for character development. What does it mean that I love this person but they don't feel the same way? Can I still love and accept myself even though someone I value so much does not see me in such a positive light? Definitely some interesting questions to explore....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Turn It Up Tuesday: I See Fire by Ed Sheeran

In Tricolor, my characters are doing everything in their power to keep their loved ones from dying. Time after time, their efforts are thwarted, but they never give up. Life is lost in their effort, though. Smaller in numbers, they keep going.
The song I See Fire by Ed Sheeran encapsulates O'Ryan, Seth, Jamie and Peter's fight in Tricolor perfectly. There isn't one line that relates to the story any more than the other. They're all perfect. The mood of the song is also perfect as it was written for the movie, The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug.

Great song. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

When Is A Character TOO Flawed?

It's Karlie here! I've been having a bit of trouble with this lately...

We're all tired of stereotypical perfection - perfect princesses, handsome guys swooping in to flawlessly save the day. So we add imperfections - little weaknesses that make our heroes and heroines more like regular people. She doesn't always tell the truth, he tends to be overbearing and arrogant...But when does it cross the line to being too much? When do we lose all sympathy for them?

Help me out here guys - what makes you despise the characters you're supposed to be rooting for? Have you ever read about a hero you just couldn't stand?

Lisa: For me a character can be too flawed when he or she is no longer redeemable. There has to be one saving thing that sticks in our head and makes us think Jack is so infuriating, but wasn't the way he handled his sick father soooo sweet? Or there has to be a good reason. There needs to be something going on with Jane that makes it obvious why she is the way she is. This way we can have sympathy for her even through her negative traits. Such as, Jane is overbearing and controlling, but she's that way because she is the caretaker of her handicapped little brother. He is only handicapped because of an accident she believes she could have prevented had she only taken control of the situation and not let little brother slide down the slide head first. She has a daily reminder that loosing control only leads to pain and permanent injury.

So my answer is that characters can be very flawed as long as you have strong and regular reminders that the character is this way for a reason, there is something saving in their actions, and they can be cured of their flaw (character arc) or at least improve.

Caitlin: I agree with Lisa's answer. I love flawed characters and I love dark characters, but I don't care much for characters who have very few redeemable qualities or explanations for their actions. My husband sometimes teases me about how I like characters, my own and others, to ultimately lean toward "good." He uses Walter White as an example. I never really got into Breaking Bad and I think it's because I couldn't see any reason to root for him. (Full disclaimer, I'm basing this off of glimpses of the show while my husband watches it. I really don't know much about the show/character, but what I do know doesn't draw me in.)

However, I used to think if a character did something bad, I'd have to know why right away. Stephanie Kuehn proved me wrong recently with her Charm & Strange. The main character horribly beats up another kid within the first five pages (so no spoiler here), and he isn't even remorseful. But...there was something about him the fascinated me. I'm still not quite sure how she pulled it off, but I felt for him (in ways I never felt for Walter White). So I kept reading and, in the end, I think Lisa's explanation would be right on. He has a lot of flaws, but you begin to understand why he has the flaws, and you root for his redemption.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Turn It Up Tuesday: Invisible

It's Karlie again. :)

I found the perfect song for my Kismet character, Aria.
She can't let herself get close to anyone, for so many reasons. She's different in a strange and frightening way, and because of that, she is hunted. Scorned. Feared. Only a few people understand, but even they don't know what it's like to go through life as she must.

Invisible by Hunter Hayes is her song. I can just picture Logan singing this to her. If she would just listen, just see him, she would see that she has someone in her corner. Fighting for her. Beside her.