Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SERIES - Your First 50 Pages

Part 4 of 8

Reveal the Genre

Important in the first 50 pages is to let your readers know what kind of a book they'll be reading. Is it a Western? A Sci-Fi? A romance? You must decipher genre, milieu, era, setting, backdrop, and tone. You also need to help ground them by revealing the time and place that the story is taking place in, as well as to set the tone for the story.

For example, look at the opening sequence to any James Bond movie. Through the beginning set of scenes we learn that he is a suave character who is calm, cool, and collected under the most extreme circumstances. We learn that this is a man full of ingenuity, and also a womanizer. We further learn that this is going to be an action packed movie, with the use of nearly impossible gadgets to get him out of most any danger. He can drive a boat, hang-glide, ski, and do most anything else required for the circumstance. We learn that it is set in modern times (for the date of the movie). You see where I'm going with this?

Remember, it's important to ground the reader in the beginning of the book by revealing these things at an early stage. If the reader feels confused, or cannot form proper images in her mind, she is quickly going to get frustrated and become discouraged in reading further.

Let's try to dig down a little further. Take Genre for instance:

Do you know what genre you're writing in? Is it clear to you? Even if you chose not to stick to a particular genre, and decide to write more commercial, where the genre is a mix of various others, it is still important for you to orient your reader into what kind of story this is going to be.

For example, say you have a young man and woman walking through a field of flowers, hand in hand, surrounded by nothing but open fields and countryside laughing playfully with each other. What would you be picturing in your mind right about now? Maybe this is a modern day story -- or something else completely. Suddenly the scene changes and we discover that this is a middle-age horror story where the young coupled are captured and tortured by dragon-riding elves. Hmm, see what I mean? It would be quite a shock to your reader, and not a good one.

Now look at Milieu, Era, and Setting:

Every story, no matter what genre it is, happens in a time and a place. Whatever milieu you choose, make sure you establish it in the first 50 pages. For example, if this is a story set in the Arthurian age in the 500 AD period, show the reader castles and men in armor riding horses. You need to let the reader know when and where the story is taking place. Again, ground them and help them to form images that will propel them through your story.

Now Backdrop:

Be sure to choose a backdrop that helps you tell your story. One of my favorite movies, and saddest, is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The backdrop in it shows the movie set against the concentration camps of WWII. Without the backdrop, showing a boy's discovery of how man can be cruel and unjust to innocent people would lend itself to a variety of settings and genres. But when you set it against the WWII backdrop, your story takes on its intended feeling.

Now I know there are writers who choose against backdrops, maybe because it makes them feel limited. But for me, as a reader I like the feeling I get when I can imagine the characters in their surroundings, so as a writer, I write it that way. In fact, I like to pick my backdrop first, and then place my characters within it.

How about Tone?

It took me a little bit at first to understand what was meant by tone. Writers, advisers, agents, and publishers would mention tone, but what the heck did they mean? When someone mentions tone, what they mean is the novel's sense of seriousness, humor, or irony. The mood or flavor of the story. Yes, it's portrayed by voice, message, and theme, but mainly it's the feeling you give the story.

Pay attention to the tone. You don't want to open the story as a serious family drama, and then end with it being a comedy.

So, now you know the importance of picking the genre setting up the first 50 pages. Tie that in with steps 1 - 3 and you'll be well on your way.

Are you having difficulty picking the genre? How about setting the tone, or choosing the backdrop, or anything else discussed here? Let me know. Leave a comment and ask your questions. Either me, or one of my followers will be glad to assist. If you're not having a problem or had a problem and managed to get it resolved, leave a comment and tell us what worked for you. And by all means, JOIN this blog and follow along. You'll be glad you did. :)

Here are a few resources for you to help you along:

How to Choose a Genre for Your Fiction Novel
Identify Your Novel's Genre
Genre Descriptions
Genre Writing
Definitions of Fiction Categories and Genre

I hope you found this post helpful. Remember to share your thoughts.

Until then, all my best for your success.

Dee Ann  :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

SERIES - Your First 50 Pages

Part 3 of 8

Establish The Context of The Story

You can't start your story in the middle of the climax. Well, you could, but that wouldn't be a great start. It's better to first let your reader know what's going on, or she just won't care. Before you can be effective with your story, you need to set things up. This means you have to introduce the characters, establish settings, and lay out the story. Let the reader know what things are like before the the main action begins. This will help the reader understand how things are different, how things have changed for the main character, and will hopefully help the reader establish feeling for the story.

Let the reader in on your character's world before the main action, before the conflict. What does your main character do for a living, for fun, for pleasure? Where does she live? What are some of the issues she deals with on a day-to-day basis? What are her challenges? Does she have a disability? Is she a caregiver? What are her hopes and dreams? Is she in a relationship? Is she married, have kids, pets? But remember, you want to show us, not tell us about them.
Take the time to address the questions above and jot down complete answers to them. Get to really know and understand who your main character is, or any of your characters for that matter, and make them real. Establish their normal life before you thrust them into turmoil.

Another very important part of your first 50 pages is to establish what your main character's expectations are. Show the reader what her life is like, and what her projected goals may be. However, you are an author, and as such you understand these expectations are going to change completely because you're most likely to throw a wrench into these plans. That's part of the fun of being a novelist. You get to set her up, take her down, and set her up again. Ah, the joy! Ever have something go completely against your plans? You look up at the heavens and wonder at God's sense of humor. Has He passed off this scene of your life to a new apprentice allowing him creative freedom with it? Do you want to scream... Take the damn pen out of his hands and give it to someone who knows what they're doing! I know I have.

Make the reader feel for your main character. Introduce them, show their relationships, reveal their dreams. Then, when she's thrust into sudden chaos and her life is on the brink, your reader will have something to hold onto, to relate to, in order to help her worry about your character and be afraid for her.

And do all this by showing!

Here are some helpful resources:

I hope you found the information here helpful. Be sure to come back soon for PART 4 of the series. Until then, I wish you all the best success in your adventures.

Dee Ann

Thursday, May 17, 2012

SERIES - Your First 50 Pages

Part 2 of 8

Introducing Your Main Character

Are you having a problem on how to introduce your main character or any other characters in your book? If so, you're not alone.

If you've read part 1 of this series, you now know the importance of engaging your reader. The next step is introducing your main character. So, how do you do this without a whole lot of back story or telling? 

First, make sure you know who she is. What are her likes and dislikes? Do you know what makes her tick? Have you spent a great deal of time with her?

Getting to know a person means discovering the many different layers that make her who she is. It's imperative you develop a strong first impression for your main character. Done right, the reader will be able to expand upon this information later in the book.
If the character they see later doesn't match who they saw in the beginning, the reader may get frustrated and angry that you led them down an incorrect path. You need to keep your character acting... well... in character. If you make them act out of character, this must be intentional or the reader will know.

Who is she?

Figure out who she is as an individual. Who is she at her core? What's heroic or likable about her? What are her inner turmoils? What is her temperament? What is her primary characteristic? One of the vital components of your novel is being able to depict your characters as believable individuals who are differentiated from every other character in your book.

So how do you introduce this unique person you've created? That will be determined on how you set up your book. Are you opening with a prologue or a chapter 1? One way (of many) I decide if I'm going to use a prologue or not, depends on how I plan on introducing my main character. If I'm going to open with her already on stage (so to speak), already in action, I usually start with a chapter 1. If, on the other hand, I feel that I would be forcing my character into actions that would not be true to her, I may start with a prologue that features other characters. Then I can bring my main character into play in chapter 1. 

The whole idea is to decide for yourself what your character is really like, who she is, how she would act. When you've got this down, you're ready to introduce her to your audience.

Remember, keep your character true to herself. Don't have her orchestrate a bank robbery if that  isn't part of her character unless you intentionally need her to act out of character.

In short:

* Decide who she is and what her characteristics are
* Choose the opening of your book - prologue or chapter 1?
* Introduce your main character in a way that stays true to who she is as a person

However you decide to introduce your character, remember to utilize step 1 of this series and engage your reader.

You can find more on how to introduce your characters at the following links:

Thanks for reading! I hope you found this information useful. Don't forget to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on this subject. Are you having problems with introducing your characters? What is your stumbling block? I may be able to help.

Until we meet again, stay safe, keep happy, and keep writing! I wish you the best in your success.

Dee Ann

Monday, May 14, 2012

SERIES - Your First 50 Pages

Part 1 of 8

Do you know the value of your first 50 pages and what they must accomplish? They must:

1.  Engage the reader
2.  Introduce your main character
3.  Establish the context of the story
4.  Reveal the genre
5.  Set up the tone
6.  Introduce the antagonist
7.  Establish the MC's (main character) desires
8.  Begin the MC's inner journey

How do you do all this in the first fifty pages without boring the reader, misleading the reader, or dumping a whole lot of back story on the reader? Very carefully and with finesse. I know, not the answer you were looking for. Let's dig further for a better one.

Okay, so let's look at how to Engage The Reader:

First and foremost - feeling. Think about a main character from a book you read, or a movie you watched, and try to figure out why you cared about that person. Maybe they brought back memories, or helped you to relate to a certain dilemma in your own life. In other words, they moved you and helped you experience the story on an emotional level. You felt their sorrow, anger, and joy. You felt sorry for them, maybe even pitied them. You felt.

The best way to engage your reader is to make her develop a bond with your character. Build a strong and solid emotional connection between your reader and the main character.

Think about this. Writers don't only do this with people. Do you remember the Benji movies about the little mutt dog? How strongly did you feel for that little guy? And all he had to do was look at you. But the writer brought you inside the dog's head, made you feel his sadness, pain, turmoil, etc. The writer made you forget there was a trainer standing off-camera making the dog do the tricks. That's what you must do as a writer. Make the reader forget there is a writer off-stage making your characters do and act the way they are.

Does your main character need to be likable? Let me ask you this: have you invested many hours reading a book where you didn't like the main character? Probably not. So, to engage your reader you must make your reader like your main character. 

I'm not saying you can't have a main character with a bad side. In fact, it's almost required that your character be flawed in such a way that the journey is worthwhile. But also remember that she has to be somewhat likable at the beginning, or you'll risk losing your reader for good.

Now, we've determined you need to make your character likable; but how? You need to make your main character a hero of some sort. Give them principles, show their softer side, their vulnerabilities, make them wise, or intelligent.

Get your reader to pull for your main character, intrigue the reader, give them a reason to turn the page.

Make your reader's world dissolve, and help them enter the world of your character. This, and only this, will make them turn the page.

Please don't forget to stop by for part 2 of this series - Introducing Your Main Character. For more resources on engaging your reader check out:

Until then, my best wishes for your greatest success.

Dee Ann
Author of The Consequential Element

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"The vision that you glorify in your mind, the idea that you enthrone in your heart - this you will build your life by, and this you will become." ~ J.L. Allen

What do you think about the above quote? Do you believe your thoughts will shape who you will become? I do.

I've always wanted to be a writer. I started as a young child writing stories to my stuffed animals and imaginary friends. (Come on, don't lie - you had them too!) As I grew into my teens I played with poetry. You know, the... dark, my life sucks, oh what a weary world... sort of stuff. (Admit it.) Then I became an adult, a wife, a mother, a career woman. Life wasn't easy (whose is), and as a result of my trials and tribulations, many stories developed. Guess what - I wrote them down. And, if I do say so myself, some of them are rather good. :)

But I had a problem. A big one. I never showed my writing to anyone. Why, you ask? Fear. Of what? Many things: rejection, ridicule, embarrassment, mediocrity, criticism, commitment, exposure of my feelings, fear of failure... fear of success.

Another big problem: not feeling good enough. By this I mean, not eloquent, literary, seasoned, or intelligent enough to pull off a really good book that would sell. Guess what - I am. That's right, in my own way, I have each and every quality necessary to write a book, and so do you. How can I say this? How do I know what I'm even talking about? Simple. I'm a person like the rest of us. That means my thoughts and feelings and impressions are one of two things: the same, or different than someone else. Meaning? Someone out there is going to relate to, like, enjoy, and feel for something I've written.

So, the above quote relates to my life. I believe in my heart and mind that I am a writer. I build my life by it, I live, eat, and breathe it. I write - therefore I am a writer.

Here's a question for you: Do you feel that if you don't get your writings published, then you have failed?

Answer: Not by a long shot. You have SUCCEEDED! How many people can say they wrote a book, or a piece of poetry, or a short story, or... well, anything for that matter?

Write for yourself. the rest is just icing on the cake.

Don't believe me? Here's my challenge to you. Write something. Send it out to the world and see if people respond. I believe you'll be pleasantly surprised.  :)

Check out the links below to help you along your winding road.

All my best for your hopes and dreams,

Dee Ann

Creativity Portal
Parents - Writers Block
Fiction Writing
Overcome Your Fear of Writing

Just Around the Writer's Block: An anniversary is ‘a date that is observed on an a...

Just Around the Writer's Block: An anniversary is ‘a date that is observed on an a...: An anniversary is ‘a date that is observed on an annual basis because it is the same date as an important event in a past year, e.g. the d...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why You Should Find the Perfect Editor

As you might know, editing something isn’t a one time affair. You write your MS without editing (hopefully). Then you read it once, again without editing or correcting anything (and Lord isn't that difficult to do). You read it again, this time doing a red pen markup. When your done, you let it rest a few more days and you read it again, adding more red marks. Now you fix it. Think you're done? Not yet.

Next you find an editor. Choose well, my friend. Your editor can make or break you.

Now send this first draft off to the editor and have them work their magic on it. What you get back are more changes and suggestions from your editor in what is now called a Second Draft, meaning the story still isn't done yet. You make the corrections and apply the suggestions that you agree with, and send this baby the editor. 

If you've found a good editor, one whose worth their weight in gold, the most important and valuable thing they will offer you is constructive criticism regarding plot points, character development, and anything that may make the story more appealing to your readers. 

But keep in mind, an editor won't be able to offer anything constructive if they have to spend a great deal of time fixing spelling errors, typos, and passive voice errors instead of concentrating on plot and story. It's very important that you take the time to do the preliminary work yourself. Don't lean on your editor to do every single little aspect of getting your book in shape. You must take responsibility for the basics. Run your work through spell-check, check for noticeable grammatical errors, review for know, the basics.

Finding the right editor can be hell. An editor that works well with your friend might annoy you to no end, because different people edit differently. You might be the type of writer who is terribly insecure about their writing. In that case you need an editor who will be nice and patient and diplomatic when pointing out ridiculous plot mistakes. Other writers might need a Grammar or Spelling Nazi for an editor…

The bottom line is, you might think you know what kind of an editor you need. But it might turn out that the person you’ve chosen to provide criticism doesn’t really help you improve your writing, and improving your writing is the whole point of editing.

Maybe you learned along the way that you shouldn’t use just one character for your exposition and that you should stick to one POV and how not to write a Mary-Sue. Feeling confident in your knowledge and skill, you go and write your story. Only, like every writer does, or should, you have an extremely personal relationship with your stories. And that is precisely why you are incapable of seeing any wrong in it. That’s why you need just the right editor to tell you in just the right words that your main protagonist is a Mary-Sue, that your POV is shaky, and you should decide who exactly is telling the story. 

It's possible you could end up rewriting the entire story, and it may only just resemble your first draft. You might even start hating your editor because of the cruel, cold way they are destroying your precious baby. But once you relax, sleep on it, have your caffeine boost, you might just realize that your editor is on your side. And...she was right after all.

So, now you might understand that you  need to go and give your Mary-Sue glasses and a phobia and you’ll get rid of that prophecy, you will rewrite the entire story to tell it from the POV of the Evil Warlock and you’ll call the main love interest Jed Forrester.

If you decide to stick with your editor after that first story is edited and done, your second story might suffer similar treatment. But you’ll notice, maybe after the third or fourth, that your editor is pointing out different things than in the beginning. And after the fifth and sixth story, you’ll see that corrections are made less and less often. You've improved and your readers will notice it too.

Bottom line: find a good editor, trust your editor, love and cherish her, for she is your beacon in the fog. 

As always, I wish you all the best,

Dee Ann 

Great links to help you find the right editor for your masterpiece:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Consequential Element

I've finally finished! Please read below about my new novel, The Consequential Element.

Roland Dupre, an archeologist on a dig in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (DRC) Africa discovers a cave where a rare earth element called Promethium is found. As news of this discovery gets out, Roland soon finds his life in danger. In desperation, and to keep his greatest discovery from falling in the wrong hands, he creates a map, tears it in 4 sections, codes a notebook and sends the notebook and two sections to his niece, Danielle Montgomery. He disappears soon after. 

Danielle, once a captive of the People's Republican Army (PRA), a rebel force led by a ruthless killer named Obasanji, is now a woman living in Boston attempting to live a normal life. After receipt of this cryptic information from her uncle, Danielle, too, finds her life in danger. When she discovers her uncle's disappearance, and with no one to turn to to rescue him, it becomes apparent that she must return to the country that had taken her mother's life, and colored her own world black. Will she save her uncle? Will she save her country? Or will she choose revenge against the man who stole her life?

Read Prologue