What is the RIGHT Genre for YOU?


What is the RIGHT Genre for YOU?

Natalie Bright

 

The discussion at a writer’s workshop many years ago led by Jane Graves, an award-winning author of contemporary romance, changed the way I think about writing.

Her advice was to, “Hone in on the one thing that speaks to you. Freshness and originality comes from what you can imagine.”

I attended several romance writer’s conferences because that’s what I thought I’d be writing. In the beginning of my writing journey, the whole creative process was a chore; I hated my characters, the dreary plot line, and the editing process seemed like torture. What made me think that I’d ever be able to write a romance novel?

Janes’ words got me to thinking. What I’ve been obsessed with since a very early age, besides writing a book, is Texas history, stories set in the American West, and the great tribes of the Plains, most especially Comanche.

Believe me, I’ve tried to follow the advice of my husband who said if I’d write a spicey,  marketable romance it would make me a fortune, and to consider the ideas of well-meaning editors who suggested I should add a vampire or werewolf to revive that boring western tale. I never could follow through. The stories that didn’t seem like a chore are for middle grades set in the Texas frontier: the Trouble in Texas Series. True stories for emerging readers about rescue horses. And now I’m working on a nonfiction book about cattle drives and chuck wagons. I’m loving the research. Okay, so maybe a little romance in the form of a contemporary women’s fiction book set on a Texas Ranch, still in the early stages, but hopefully a published series one day.

The RIGHT genre is the character that wakes you up in the middle of the night, the endless edits that light a fire in your gut, and the finished piece that feeds your soul. That’s what you should be writing.

Keep writing, my friends!

 

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The Old Man and the Sea


Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Santiago goes out on his usual fishing trip and makes a huge catch, the biggest of his life. Then a shark attacks and tries to steal his catch. Santiago battles with the shark for days. He returns to the shore beaten, tattered and torn, and his catch consisting now of mostly bones.

I love this story. I recommend both the book and the movie.

Thanks for following WordsmithSix

Rory C. Keel

RESERVE CHAMPION


RESERVE CHAMPION

Lynnette Jalufka

 

Last week, I wrote that The Lion Kingsolidified its place as my favorite movie after I watched it in 3D. This happened shortly after I saw the last Harry Potter film, also in 3D. I’m referring to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, my reserve champion of movies.To be fair, it is only half a movie. You had to have seen Part 1 first to follow the story. And none of it makes any sense unless you’ve watched the other six films, because important things from them show up in these two movies.

Both parts of Deathly Hallows are amazing when put together. They tell the story of Harry’s final showdown with his enemy, Voldemort, who has taken over the magical world. Harry goes on a difficult journey with his friends to find and destroy objects called Horcruxes, which, once all are destroyed, will be the end of Voldemort. That is, if he can do it before the Dark Lord kills him.

Part 2 is the more action-packed and emotional of the two movies. It contains a huge battle at Harry’s school, Hogwarts. I love this line from Harry as he argues with Hermione about returning to the school. He says, “Hermione, when have our plans ever actually worked? We plan, we get there, and all hell breaks loose.” It summarizes what has happened before and foreshadows what is to come.

I read the book before and after I saw the films. I’m glad the novel was made into two movies, because they contain all the emotion from the book. (I have shed tears in Part 2 ever since I watched it in 3D, which is incredible since I don’t usually cry in movies, and this is an action-packed film.) In my opinion, these movies are as close to the book as films can get.

Favorite Works of Fiction- Book Review


Favorite Works of Fiction

by Adam Huddleston

For our book review month, I wanted to bring back an old blog of mine concerning my favorite works of fiction.  They aren’t necessarily detailed book reviews, but rather an insight into the types of works that I enjoy.

A couple of weeks ago I published a blog concerning my favorite non-fiction books for writers.  This week, I would like to list a few of my favorite works of fiction (in no particular order).  As you can imagine, me being a life-long reader of fantasy and horror, the list is full of selections from those genres.

Stephen King has always been a “fave” of mine.  He has a plethora of thrillers and chillers.  Some works seek to get you at the “gross-out” level.  Others are more intimate examinations of the inner-self.  My favorite novel of his belongs to the latter; “The Long Walk.”  Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, this story follows a young man as he participates in a horrific annual tradition.  The book is eerie and very well written.

Shifting to fantasy, you can’t find many works better than those of J.R.R. Tolkien.  In a world where new writers are shoveling their wares in both bookstores and electronically, this legendary author’s work stands the test of time and his “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is, to me at least, at the top.  It is the definition of an epic fantasy with a huge cast of characters, a sprawling world, and an entire language created by the author.

The late Michael Crichton penned a ton of great science-fiction stories, many of which were adapted into motion pictures.  My favorite work of his is “Jurassic Park.”  The movie, once it gets going, travels at a break-neck pace.  Guess what?  The novel does as well.  The author even goes into great detail concerning how they manipulated the DNA to create the stories antagonists.  

The last piece I’ll mention is one by Richard Adams.  One of my earliest cinematic memories is watching “Watership Down” on a VHS player in my parent’s bedroom.  When I was older, I discovered that it was based on a novel of the same name.  The book does a great job of personifying the characters, mostly rabbits with a black-headed gull thrown in for good measure, and bringing their adventures to life.  Like Tolkien, Richard Adams gives us a healthy dose of backstory, native language, and even a form of lupine religion.  

Whatever your favorite genre might be, these novels are worth looking into.  They will give insight into proper world building, plot, dialogue, and character development.

Happy writing; and reading!

Provenance – Book Review 


Provenance

Review

Provenance written by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujois a true story of John Myatt, an artist living on the edge of financial ruin, yet possessed the ability to recreate the paintings of Cézanne, Matisse, Giacometti.

Enters John Drewe, who becomes the biggest client and collector of Myatt’s “genuine Fakes,” and begins paying John Myatt large sums of money in appreciation to for his work.

Let me let you in on a little secret, Drewe was selling John Myatt’s work to the art world as real Cézanne, Matisse and Giacometti’s. John unknowingly becomes an accomplice through accepting the money Drewe makes selling the paintings. When the fraud is revealed to the artist, it’s difficult to quit.

Provenance is a truly suspenseful story of one of the greatest art frauds of all time. If you like suspense or art, this is a fantastic read.

 

Let’s Talk about Endings.


Let’s Talk about Endings.

Natalie Bright

Do you have an idea the ending before you start writing?

Are you a total pantser, allowing the characters to take you on their journey and realize the ending when you get there?

My brain does not work in pantser mode, I’ve discovered, after a workshop with Kathleen Baldwin, who explained the difference. I work with numbers and deadlines at the day job, and for the time I have at the keyboard writing, I like structure. My characters are well defined and I have a general idea of the ending; then I can begin writing.

The final scene is the big yellow ribbon on  your plot. It ties up the story in a satisfactory way for your readers and answers all of their questions. Make it big, make it bold, play that last climactic scene for all its worth.  This is your ultimate test, proof that the main character is worth their time and worth saving.

In bad fiction the ending may seem forced. The plot and characters have been manipulated. As a reader it is unsatisfying, maybe a bit annoying. In good fiction, plot and characters meld together and the climactic ending seem inevitable.

Happy writing!

DIALOGUE FOR KID LIT


DIALOGUE FOR KID LIT

Natalie Bright

 

When the critique group works on my kid lit stories, I remember how annoying it sounds when I read the work out loud with every bit of dialogue having a “said” after or before. That is normal for most books targeted to beginning readers.  Every spoken line needs clarification and an origin as to who said what. The same rules apply for kid lit as it does for adult, as in ‘said’ is an invisible word.

Most children’s stories are heavy with dialogue. Kids do not like a lot of narrative. Fill the pages with white space. Short sentences, short paragraphs and pithy bits of talking. Chapter books are very important to beginning readers, but remember chapters are short as well.

Don’t use your word count for empty words that do not move the plot along. For example, the phone rings:

“Hello,” Jenn said.

“Hello, Jenn?” Todd asked.

She answered, “Yes, this is Jenn. Is that you, Todd?”

People do not talk in long sentences, especially here in Texas. Make your dialogue ring true for the era and for the setting of your book.

Read your dialogue out loud. Is it believable for that age of character? On occasion my critique partners will point out that my twelve-year-old character would never say that word, for example, and they are always right. Stay true to the age of your characters.

Since I write historical westerns, I have to be careful about modern day lingo that can sneak into my writing. I have caught myself using “give me call when you get there.” (Ugh.)

Still having trouble? Go to a local gaming center or sports facility and listen to kids talk. My office is right next to the high school, and my son and his friends sometimes stop by to hang out and grab a Dr. Pepper from the fridge I keep stocked. Honestly, I have no idea what they’re talking about most of time. It’s amazing how fast they can move from one topic to the next and everyone seems to keep up with the conversation, except me. Their use of slang terms are more than interesting, and highly educational, to say the least.

Happy writing, and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

Natalie

 

Dialogue Tags


Dialogue Tags

Natalie Bright

Dialogue is spoken communication between characters. The purpose of a tag line is to let your reader know which character is speaking.

Most commonly used dialogue tags:

Said

Asked

Yelled

Hollered

Whispered

As a reader, we hardly notice the tag lines. “He/she said” is boring, and our eyes are used to reading said. We want to know what’s between the quotation marks.

Seriously, can a person “screech” or “Sigh” or “acknowledge” words? Can you “laugh” a sentence? Instead use descriptive words to create motion or response in your characters. Over use of anything besides “said” can be annoying. Think of how you can use narrative in place of tag lines.

One of the best resources for an explanation of dialogue is the book WRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE AND FLASH FICTION by Harvey Stanbrough. I highly recommend this book as an addition to your writing reference library.

Here’s an example from Mr. Stanbrough’s book:

She approached him cautiously. “Come on now, Baby,” she cooed. “You don’t want that knife. What are you going to do with that?”

He swung the knife in a wild arc. “I just can’t stand it anymore!” he exclaimed. “I’ve had it?”

If you read the same passage above out loud omitting the tag lines, it reads the same. In fact, we might even say that the tag lines of cooed and exclaimed are somewhat annoying. You could add a he said or she said if you want, but the action and narrative helps us know who is talking. The imagery is still the same no matter what tag lines you use.

Happy writing and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

natalie

Characters & The Five Senses


Characters & The Five Senses

Natalie Bright

 

The main character Hassan in the movie The Hundred Foot Journey, is a culinary genius whose talent propels him to a world-renowned chef.  The title refers to the distance between Hassan’s family who relocates to France because of a tragedy and opens an Indian restaurant across the road from a traditional French restaurant. I have watched this many times, and I always tear up at the same scene.

The Power of Taste and Smell

One of my favorite scenes is the perfect example of how the power of taste and smell can be used to create powerful emotion.

While sitting in his darkened, closed restaurant overlooking the Paris skyline, Hassan hears a young co-worker on break. He raises his head, pauses, and then slowly rises from the floor. The young man is eating. “Do you want some?” he asks.

As Hassan dips pieces of fried bread into the dish, the young man explains that his wife cooks the traditional Indian way on an open fire in the courtyard of their apartment using spices from their homeland. Tears well up in Hassan’s eyes and you can see the emotion and internal conflict on his face. His mother, who had died in a fire, was the one who had taught him the use of spices. The family’s relocation from India to France had been a struggle of cultural differences. All of this is visible as Hassan buries his face in his hands and sobs. You understand the conflict that is going through his mind. There is no dialogue. He doesn’t voice his pain, but you know. It is a very powerful scene triggered by smell and taste.

INCLUDE THE SENSES

Characters should experience several of the five senses in every scene. This pulls your reader into the emotion and setting and reveals the conflict that the character is experiencing. During the editing process, I find it’s easier to deliberately focus on enhancing the five sense during one pass. As I read every scene, I think about the reality for that character. What more can be revealed? For example, the smells of food, the sounds of nature, the feel of satin fabric, etc. Dig deep into the slightest, most minute detail of what that character is experiencing. Maybe it’s good as written, but maybe it can be better.

Here’s Your Homework

Think of your favorite movie and watch a scene that triggers emotion based on any of the five senses. If you have a particular scene in mind, be very specific with your search terms to find it on YouTube.

Watch the scene several times. Now, turn off the video and write that same scene. Be descriptive about the senses that trigger the emotion. Fill your pages with emotion and rewriter the scene.

Learning Online with MasterClass


Learning Online with MasterClass

Natalie Bright

 

As I write book #2 of the Trouble in Texas series, I’m watching MasterClass with R. L. Stine during lunch breaks. Stine is the author of the Goosebump Series for kids.

Learning online at MasterClass.com is easy. The first class I took was James Patterson, which is an excellent video series about his writing process. Also included in the price is a workbook which you can print or download. The short videos fit into my already busy day.

Although I do not aspire to be a screenwriter, I paid the additional fee for the All Access Pass to unlock every class. I’ve just finished learning about character development from Shonda Rhimes. Listen to her as she breaks down the inspiration and writing process for her characters in Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Go back and watch the pilots for each show. It’s fun to witness genius at work.

Lunch breaks are spent at my desk watching R. L. Stine’s videos, and I print the PDF worksheets from each short segment, jotting notes of the specific changes I’ll need to do to improve my story. I work on edits when I get home.

Interestingly, R. L. Stine does not keep an idea journal. Using character and plot ideas, he formulates a chapter outline. He most always knows the ending before he starts, and then he writes from that outline until it’s done. The key word here is DONE. Finished. The end. I can never get there because I give in to the many ideas swirling in my head. My process is to stop, start this, and then jot notes about that. Those days are over. I’m going to finish final edits on Book #2 of the Trouble in Texas series, THE GREAT TRAIN CAPER, before I start something new.

Mr. Stine has been very inspiring. One class costs $90, and the all access pass is $180 per year. I’ve discovered I didn’t have time to read the writing magazines I used to subscribe to several online magazine, and attending SCBWI conferences is a huge investment. If you want to learn more story craft, consider MasterClass. Next up for me on MasterClass.com: Judy Blume.

Happy writing!