Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Character Flaws

I’m going to be awful this week. You may have to avert your eyes. I’m delving into the realm of character flaws. Those juicy blights on a character’s personality, if not soul, that may either attract (bad boy) or repel (too good to be true) us as readers.

Hmm? Where do we go to dig the treasures of character flaws? First, if we are brave, we pull them from our own shortcomings. Second, we shamelessly steal negative traits from people in our lives.

Come with me, if you dare, down a list of flaws. (If you think you see yourself in this list you are hallucinating.)

Lack of tolerance for stupid people
Insecure to the point of annoying
I’m so much better than you-osity (I love a good –osity)
Selfish (Not to be confused with shellfish)
I don’t listen when you speak to me-ers
My life/loves/job/problems are so much more important than yours-ers

Enough about me…

What characters flaws drive you loopy, but are a blast to write?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Obsession Confession - Middle Earth Alert

I admit it. I have an incurable obsession with any and all that is J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Above all else this work inspired me to put pen to paper as a writer. It gave me permission to build fantastical worlds, set forth on adventures, and create swoonworthy heroes (Aragorn, not Frodo).

Confessions of a LORD OF THE RINGS addict:
  • I immerse myself in the story every year by either reading the trilogy, listening to the audiobooks (appendices included – you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the full story of Aragorn and Arwen), or watching the extended versions of all three films.
  • I read the entire trilogy aloud to my children. (My Gimli ROCKS)
  • I own a cardboard standee of Aragorn (Thank you Peter Jackson for casting Viggo Mortensen.)
  • I still have nightmares about the Nazgul (Sauron I can deal with, but those nine riders FREAK ME OUT.)
  • I play the LORD OF THE RINGS slot machines (I’m up to the Shards of Narsil bonus.)
  • I attended Trilogy Tuesday, December 16, 2003, and watched all three movies back to back in the theatre the day RETURN OF THE KING debuted (That’s a lot of popcorn. I’m on the left in the pic.)

All kidding aside, I revere this story. It continues to set a literary bar that I will never achieve, but always strive for.

Tolkien permeates my teaching as well.

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost” – is a fabulous writing prompt.

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend…” – this works as a Patriot POV on the Revolutionary War.

Are you a Tolkien devotee? What piece of literature continues to glitter the gold of inspiration to your writing?

Middle Earth Fans: Check out Peter Jackson’s Video blog for THE HOBBIT

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Query Weary

Are you query weary? Have you offered your bright and shiny manuscript up to what seems like a sky-high stack of agents and haven’t made a love connection yet?

You are not alone. Welcome to the business end of writing.

I went to a fabulous SCBWI query workshop last year where I heard, “If you haven’t queried 100 agents you’re not doing your job.”

Wow, 100 agents.

Recently I read on a blog that a writer’s magic query number was 187 before she clicked with her agent.

Wow, 187.

In my acting days we used to say that if you had one callback in 20 auditions you were doing well.  As a writer I equate that to receiving one request for a partial or full in 20 queries.

Is it worth it the hours of agent research and a memory book full of rejections?

You betcha! I’m a first hand witness to the magical synergy that happens when a writer finds THE agent they were meant to connect with. It’s an exciting partnership that inspires and motivates. The journey is worth the prize.

So if you are query weary, here are some hints to keep on the trail to successfully finding the agent of your dreams:

Channel your Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys self and analyze your track record. Is there a pattern to your “no thank yous” from agents? Can you find a weakness to strengthen in your:

Query letter/Voice/Characters/Plot…

There are wonderful blogs and websites that will guide you to excellent agents.  Two of my many refueling stations are:

Casey McCormick’s Literary Rambles

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents

They know your work. They are fresh eyes for you. They are going through the same thing you are be it at the agent or editor query stage. In the case of my group they are now cherished lifelong friends and trusted colleagues. Lean on them.

4. KEEP THE FAITH: In the hopeful song PICK YOURSELF UP Lyrics by Dorothy Fields and Music by Jerome Kern from the film SWING TIME:

Nothing’s impossible I have found,
For when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up
Dust myself off,
Start all over again.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Oh, What a Day!

Glass half-empty:

  • My son and I locked ourselves out of the house an hour before his behind the wheel driving test.
  • We surprised my friend during her shower to get our spare key, after calling another friend to drive us to her house to get said spare key.
  • The brake lights shorted out as the DMV examiner was checking them, so my son couldn't take his driving test.
  • It took two hours to get the short in the brake lights fixed at the car place.
  • A spaced out lady almost backed into me in a parking lot.
  • The DMV website would not let my son reschedule his test online.
Glass half-full:
  • It's impossible to break into my house.
  • My son's friends have their driver's licenses to rescue us.
  • My friend showers.
  • My son didn't get rear-ended while taking his driving test with faulty brake lights.
  • I had time for a delicious veggie wrap while the car got fixed.
  • I am alive to write this blog.
  • Still working on a glass half-full/DMV line...
And then I starting my writing day...
  • Birds chirped
  • Cats purred
  • Music played
  • The outside world disappeared
  • Bliss and Joy took my hands
How has diving into your writing reframed a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day for you?