Thursday, July 19, 2012

Are Your Characters Riding Shotgun?

     I've been on my share of back roads.
     My husband, a geologist, travels off-road when he's doing field work. The best rock outcrops are off the beaten path, sometimes miles from a paved road. Before our daughter was born, I'd sometimes travel with him. When he used to take me along, I usually had a white-knuckled grip on the door handle. The more the Jeep tossed us around, the better. He loved it. Me, not so much.
     Now I admit when I drive, I don't mind the ruts as much. Barreling along a dirt road, kicking up dust, bumping up and down in the driver's seat is more tolerable when I'm in charge. It's much more fun to drive than be a passenger. Who doesn't like to take control?
     Like the driver, a main character should be living the story instead of watching the events take place. It's that old 'show, don't tell' conundrum: let the MC loose in the scene instead of relegating him or her to the sidelines.

     Take the following paragraph for example:

     Ellie saw the horse running toward her. She was afraid, too afraid to move. As it got closer, she noticed the whites of its eyes as the horse grew more panicked. It kicked up its back legs, one hoof knocking the top rail from the fence. She knew she should run. It was too dangerous to stay put.

     By using words like Ellie 'saw' and 'she noticed', our MC is observing instead of participating. Also, by telling us she is afraid, we don't really know anything more about Ellie's frame of mind other than what's on the surface. Show us she's frightened by how she looks (eyes wide, fists clenched, etc.), what she says or thinks ("I'm outta here!), and what she feels ('My heart pounds like the hoofbeats I feel shaking the ground beneath me'.). Here's an example of Ellie taking charge:

     The horse kicked up dust as it barreled toward Ellie. Ellie's stomach lurched. There was no where to run to; the barn was too far. She'd never make it. 
     "Stop, you stupid horse!" she yelled at the top of her lungs. She threw the bridle to the ground in front of her in disgust. It uncoiled, twisting like a blue snake.
     Sliding to a halt, the horse reared up when it saw the bridle twisting in the dirt. Its flailing hooves blew the hair away from Ellie's face. Tears stung her eyes.
     "I can't believe I ever thought we'd be friends, that I could ride you," she said through gritted teeth. 

      In that section, we get a sense of what Ellie's feeling by her physical and emotional reaction to the horse. This is accomplished by using dialogue, action, and avoiding the passive tense.
    If your MC seems to be taking a passive approach to what's happening, stop the car. Get out of the driver's seat and let him or her take over the wheel. Then hang on and see where your MC takes you.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blog Birthday Giveaway Winner

     Thanks to everyone who stopped by to wish Here's the Story a happy birthday last week.
 Also, welcome to new followers: Tyrean; Jennifer; BLHmistress; Kim; Angela;
 Cordelia; Michelle; and Cathy. 
And finally a BIG congrats for scoring the Amazon gift card goes to:

Leigh Ann Harbin

Have a marvelous Monday and write on!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Blog Birthday Giveaway

     Any birthday is a big deal but the first one is extra-special, wouldn't you agree?
     It's hard to believe Here's the Story is a year old already. In that time, I've met some extraordinary fellow bloggers. I've learned how to write more succinct. I've read (and loved) many books recommended to me through other blogs, challenged myself through the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge and met my blog designer, Lisa Campbell at All Things Campbell. In short, this year has rocked!
     So I'm in the mood to celebrate. Of course birthdays call for these...
and lots of these...
and maybe a little of this (but not too much because it's so obnoxious to clean up)...
     But wait...there's more! Birthdays mean presents, don't they? And since so many of you have visited, commented, encouraged me, and offered advice over the last twelve months, I've been getting presents all year long. Now it's my turn to do the giving. In honor of a fantastic first year, I'm giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky follower! All you need to do is wish Here's the Story a 'Happy Birthday' via the Rafflecopter entry below and one person will be selected randomly on July 16th. 
     Thanks for an amazing first year, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 6, 2012

One Hot Week and Five Friday (News) Flashes

For beating the heat and (ahem) creative inspiration
     This summer of extreme heat and no rain is taking its toll on me. Today the forecast calls for 103 degrees; tomorrow, the same. Looking forward to the high in the low 80s on Sunday (so says Intellicast).
     Despite the heat, I've been busy writing, reading, and enjoying other creative pursuits:
  1. I finished The Knife of Never Letting Go and started on last year's Newbery winner, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. An interesting fact I learned about Ms. Vanderpool after reading a May 2011 interview with her in Literary Mama. The idea for her novel grew from a line she read in Moby Dick: 'It is not down on any map; true places never are.' Her novel is set in Kansas. 
  2. I'm continuing to rewrite a few chapters of a MG from the viewpoint of a different character. What amazing things I'm discovering by doing this! If you ever feel stalled in your writing, I highly recommend this. 
  3. Found a useful site which has downloadable character and setting worksheets at The Writer's Craft.
  4. A visit to south central Wisconsin at the beginning of this week brought to my attention a wonderful artist's retreat in Mineral Point, Wisconsin called Shake Rag Alley School of Arts and Crafts. They host workshops year-round in fiber arts, jewelry, creative writing, blacksmithing/metal arts, and you name it. My latest non-writing obsession is mosaics, and they host a class in November. Come fall, I'm going! I was in Mineral Point many years ago when my husband and I lived in Madison. It's a beautiful historic town filled with artist's studios, antique shops, live music and theater. 
  5. July is this blog's birthday month! Here's the Story is officially one-year-old on July 15th! On Monday, I'm hosting a giveaway for my followers which will run through next Sunday. Make sure you stop by sometime during the week to enter.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Fourth of July from Here's the Story

Enjoy celebrating Independence Day tomorrow
 and look for a post on Friday 
detailing a giveaway for a very Special Occasion!
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