Quotes to Write By – Day 4

I remember when I was in middle school and my language arts teacher had us complete a short story assignment and the catch was we had to use a lot of verbs. I mean a lot of verbs! I shoved my verbs in every sentence — sometimes at least three consecutive verbs and utilized commas in between the verbs to describe the characters’ actions. What fun!

Here’s an example sentence: He thrust himself into the forest, leaping, dashing, running, and dodging trees as the wind blew against his face. The thirst for blood burned his insides, it even set his mind into a fever and his temples pounded, matching the syncopated beat of his pounding heart.

Now, why did my language arts teacher have us do that? As a student, I wasn’t exactly sure, but now that I’m in her shoes, I’ve reflected on the activity and realized that she was trying to get us to understand how important verbs are and how these action words (or muscles) interact with nouns (people, places, things, ideas) in a powerful way.

Me: Bruh, do you need a napkin? Handkerchief? Baby wipes?

My short story focused on a vampire consumed with blood lust as he spies on a lone woman. My vampire of course satiates his terrible thirst by preying on the lady, but hey, even as a preteen I was channeling my inner Anne Rice. Way back when –you know — when Lestat was a naughty, pretty playboy and vampires didn’t sparkle. ūüôā

Quote #4

“Nouns are the bones that give a sentence body. But verbs are the muscles that make it go.”

Mervin Block

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Crafting High Fantasy: Setting the Stage

That First Chapter

Writing the first chapter is something I struggle with because I want¬†those first sentences, that first paragraph, that first page¬†to be absolutely fabulous. So, sometimes I’m afraid to write anything at first. I don’t have a lot of time on my¬†hands lately. My three sons, my husband, and my full-time job as a reading teacher keeps¬†me extremely busy!

Since¬†I want¬†that first chapter to draw readers¬†in and never let them go until they’ve completed reading the book, place it down, satisfied or at best, hungry for the next book, I’m overly cautious. And sometimes frozen with fear. Deer-in-headlights-frozen.

Now, I dare not say that I want the first chapter to be¬†perfect because such a place doesn’t exist.perfection and writing

The first chapter is extremely important. Especially when it comes to high fantasy. High fantasy (or epic fantasy) is a subgenre of fantasy defined by its setting in a fictional universe or by the epic stature of its characters, themes, and plot. Whatever that means, right? Thanks Mr. Wikipedia.

Basically, high fantasy, is one of the hardest fiction subgenres to write. I mean, think about it! You’re creating your own world! The continents, the oceans, the seas, the cities, the roads, the people, their cultures, who they trade with, who they fight with, who they may or may not worship. Everything. Single. Blasted. Thing!

It’s overwhelmingly . . . FRACKING-FUNTASTIC!

And the first chapter has the potential to introduce so many things:

  • the mood
  • the tone
  • the main characters
  • the conflict
  • the antagonist(s)
  • what’s at stake
  • the setting

When I originally wrote Prelude to Morning, I didn’t know that it would be a trilogy. I had some ideas that it could possibly be a series. Well, that was only if it didn’t remain a stand-alone novel. After my oldest brother, Serge Desir, fellow author and video game bad-ass and author E. Rose Sabin gave me some brutal and honest feedback on the book’s weaknesses, I realized I had a lot of work to do to make the book as wonderful as it¬†should be. And for a¬† time, an agent was interested. Until, the world-building fell apart. ūüôĀ

So, I searched for help and re-rendered the map (thanks E. Paige Burks) :

Before:

Reath Before Map

This one I doodled over two days in a composition notebooks years ago. In 2013.

After:

Reath After Map

This one I began drawing on poster board. Still not done!

Next, I created a timeline, which I’ll share in a future post.

The timeline helped me to layout the history of the world of Reath (rhymes with death — an anagram for Earth). The timeline included:

  1. The prehistoric era
  2. Past wars
  3. Catastrophic events

All of these events shaped the world as it is now for the main characters.

So much depth. So much culture. So many languages. So many places. So overwhelming like our world, Earth. And how does one condense so much beauty into a single book.

Which put me at an impasse or is it a fork in the road?

One path would lead me to writing a book that would be heavy enough to murder someone with:BIG BOOK

And a third path appeared to me.¬† . . I’d have to break the story into more than one book.

And Then there were Three . . .

Bloodcraft Trilogy — (why the term¬†bloodcraft ?–which I’m proud of coining — more on that in a future post).

However, I loved the idea of music being interwoven into this world and used different types of movement names in each of the three books that echoed and underscored the story’s themes.

*Book 1: Rhapsody of the Gods

A rhapsody in music is a one-movement work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, colour and tonality. An air of spontaneous inspiration and a sense of improvisation make it freer in form than a set of variations.

Book 2: Prelude to Morning

Preludes are characterized by being short and sweet (relatively), with a melodic and/or rhythmic motif that is featured throughout the piece.   This motif will recur throughout the piece, sometimes differing slightly as the music progresses.  A prelude may be played on its own, or as a preface to another piece, usually more complex.

Book 3: Nocturne of Twilight

Nocturnes are generally lyrical and tranquil pieces. The nocturne is known for being expressive above all else. It follows no specific form, but evolves as the music progresses.

To Prologue or Not To Prologue

In the first several drafts of¬†Prelude to Morning, I originally¬†included a prologue in the beginning. After researching prologues and learning that¬†they’re¬†only necessary if the opening is out of time sequence with the¬†remainder of the story. So, I decided to rename the prologue as chapter one.

However, in my paranormal urban fantasy, Forbidden, Book One of Gabriel Lennox Series, a prologue was necessary because it fit that description and helped to create a creepy ending, which I wrote as a near mirror image epilogue. Thus, coming full circle. New Approved Cover 2015_Forbidden

How do you go about setting the stage for your high fantasy novel?

*Cited source

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Getting to Know You

On my desk, I added a “thank you” note, which reads: “Thank you for taking the time to sit down and spend time¬†with us. Signed, Your Characters.”

The act may seem silly, but the note actually motivated me to place my butt in the chair and write. Even when I was tired, pregnant, and just wanted to curl on the couch and rest.

In order to create believable characters, we need to know them inside and out: the good, the bad, the ugly, the unspeakable, the terrifying, their most embarrassing moments, and their triumphant pastimes. We need to get to know all the things about them.

“So, tell me about yourself? Do you dabble in painting? Do you enjoy coloring outside of the lines?”

And though not everything we know about our characters will appear in the story, these pieces that make up a character’s backstory¬†are important. Because honestly, if our imaginary friends (and enemies) aren’t real to us, they most likely won’t be real to readers either.

I’ve used a lot of questionnaires in the past. At this time I’m using Marcel Proust’s character questionnaire in order to learn more about the two main characters,¬†Alexander Brennan and Tierryn Black,¬†of the second book in the Waking Dream series, “Moondust”. They’re both middle school students. I may teach middle school students, but I’m not completely attuned with their adolescent hopes, fears, dreams, desires, goals, secrets. So, even when I will myself to remember what it was like to be a preteen or a young teenager, those moments seem so foreign to me. Both Alexander and Tierryn¬†are both lucid dreamers. I’ve experienced lucid dreaming on many occasions so if write what you know is true, then I’m doing something right when it comes to that piece of the drafting puzzle. And finally, both characters¬†experienced a lot of growth in the first book titled, “Moonstruck”. I want to make sure that that growth is clear in the second book. Also, for new readers who may not start with book one, I want to include significant events smoothly and in a natural and organic way within the sequel’s plot.

There’s a new antagonist to the series, Mary Katherine (Merricat)¬†Komatsuzaki, (a half Black and half Japanese girl). Since she plays such an important role in this second book, I’ll need to learn more about her too. And¬†of all the questionnaires I’ve seen, the Marcel Proust one seems to¬†suit my needs.¬†

Besides being a priceless tool for fleshing out characters, completing the questionnaire for each character is a great writing exercise that I think will brainstorm scenes, advances in the plot, enticing¬†twists and turns, which should all lead to the story’s climax and resolution.

Marcel Proust Character Questionnaire

This questionnaire was invented by the noted French author Marcel Proust. These questions are frequently used in interviews so you may want to pretend you’re interviewing your characters.

  • What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  • What is your current state of mind?
  • What is your favorite occupation?
  • What is your most treasured possession?
  • What or who is the greatest love of your life?
  • What is your favorite journey?
  • What is your most marked characteristic?
  • When and where were you the happiest?
  • What is it that you most dislike?
  • What is your greatest fear?
  • What is your greatest extravagance?
  • Which living person do you most despise?
  • What is your greatest regret?
  • Which talent would you most like to have?
  • Where would you like to live?
  • What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
  • What is the quality you most like in a man?
  • What is the quality you most like in a woman?
  • What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
  • What is the trait you most deplore in others?
  • What do you most value in your friends?
  • Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
  • Whose are your heroes in real life?
  • Which living person do you most admire?
  • What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
  • On what occasions do you lie?
  • Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • What are your favorite names?
  • How would you like to die?
  • If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
  • What is your motto?

That’s the goal! That’s the feeling I want readers to express about my books!

I found this questionnaire at writingclasses.com and a Word.doc format can be found here.

What do you think? Is there anything missing from this list that should be included? What other questionnaires do you find useful?

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Are You a Multitasker?

I’m definitely a multitasker.

I have no problem reading more than one book at a time and keeping track of the characters and plots in each book. It’s entertaining to compare and contrast how the two different books by two different authors. It’s especially fun when both books are from the same genre.

Being a mom to three sons and a wife most likely has a lot to do with me having to accomplish multiple activities at once. My oldest son is an honor’s student and¬†participates in track, volleyball, violin lessons. My toddlers are busy with weekend sports, building Mega Block Worlds with mommy and getting into all kinds of adorable adventures as I wear them out during the day. ūüôā Because when they’re sleeping, I’ve got lots more to do!

Even as a sixth grade reading teacher, I often use the phrase, “Let’s kill two birds with one stone” when teaching my students how to prepare their essays, even before they¬†have finished reading the anchor text. Basically, the process goes like this. During the initial read,¬†students use special text marking (such as check marking, underlining, and¬†writing¬†comments in the margins)¬†to keep track of important ideas and facts. They’ve done this several times throughout the year and then they realized that a lot of the sentences, paragraphs, or sections they’ve underlined, starred, wrote comments about can be used towards the evidence that will appear in their essay or paragraph. Students who don’t mark the text, during the initial reading, are left at a disadvantage because they didn’t use their time wisely. So, yes killing two birds with one stone works!¬†Why?

Because it’s working smarter — not harder!

Lately, I’ve adopted the same practice with my writing.

I know what some of you may be thinking.

Skeptical Reader: “Is she crazy? Multitasking doesn’t work when it comes to writing! Heck, she shouldn’t even be doing that when she’s reading. It’s a possible way to get the characters and the plot mixed up! Poor, deluded soul.”

Moi: Crazy? Uh, maybe. But at least I’m not straitjacket insane. ūüôā

Skeptical Reader: “She’s doing it all wrong! She should focus on one story at a time. Polish it until it figuratively blinds the readers with its brilliance! Not literally, because that would definitely suck lemons! And then, only then should she¬†move onto another story.”

Moi: Perhaps. But that hasn’t worked for me. I need to break free, breathe fresh air, cook dinner, fold laundry, do some¬†Zumba¬†before getting back into the literary groove.

So, here are 3 easy ways that you too can multitask as a writer and get more words on the page!

  1. Edit and Revise – If you struggle with what to write next, reread what you’ve already written. Look for weak words, potential plot problems, and inconsistencies with your characters in order to make that story shine like the fabulous diamond it is! If the words are flowing like there’s no tomorrow, keep at it!
  2. Start a New Story – Say you’ve finished a draft of a novel or short story. It’s good practice to let it sit for a few days before delving into it again. Separating from the text for a period of time, gives your mind time to prepare for the arduous task of self-editing. And while you step away from the story for a week or so (in order to return with fresh eyes to it for the editing process) you can begin another story. Perhaps, even a shorter one in order to keep your writer’s eye and mind sharp. After all, the creating process is always more fun. The possibilities seem endless and the characters are like precious, new friends you simply have to know everything about!
  3. Write a blog post or create a YouTube post – In between editing and revising a completed work, you can take the time to step outside of your characters’ minds and just be you. Sharing advice or sharing something new¬†that you¬†tried¬†is a fabulous way to keep the creative juices flowing. Even though I don’t consider myself a poet (often, they’re such a noble breed) I occasionally write a poem or two. It’s a different kind of writing and helps me to get out of a writing jam. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that there’s a fourth step:
  4. REPEAT the process!

Are you also a multitasker and if so, what works for you? If not, how do you fit it all in? Please share! I love learning new things.

 

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