Monday, October 24, 2011

Theatre in the Writing

Theatre was my passion in grade school. Now I wish I had taken legible, detailed notes in my high school drama class and kept them in a safe place until my writing passion developed. (Yes, I know, I'm hilarious).

Drama class never consisted of note taking, but the things I do remember apply to writing in very useful ways:

This refers to every movement made by an actor on stage. For an actor, this can be as hard to memorize as the lines. The margins of a script are never big enough to fit all the notes a director gives an actor. Then, the actor must make it all look natural instead of rehearsed a million times.

Each movement made by a character MUST have a purpose to it. But a character that doesn't move at all appears unnatural and stiff. The most common blocking purpose is to facilitate the scene (moves to door in response to the doorbell ringing). The more uncommon are propelled by emotion (pacing impatiently) or can be a character trait (moves to the table and runs a finger along the top for dust- character is a clean freak). The balance between dialogue and blocking must be made to keep the scene natural. And when you add more than one character to the stage, you must balance the blocking between them.

See how writing plays in yet?

This is a no-brainer. Even for those that have never set a foot in a theatre (though if you've never been in one for a live performance, I slap your cheek with a white glove and say 'get thee hither, man!') you know all about characters.

The difference is this: writing from inside the character's head, to actually embodying them. One particular drama class comes to mind, when our Drama teacher taught us the differences in how people walk. Some lead with their belly, some with their nose, some with their chests, and some with their toes... forehead... etc.

Bet you never thought of that, huh? (Now you'll be noticing this with people in public tee hee hee.) And while it may not be intrinsic to your plot whether your character leads with their belly or their forehead, it's still good practice to know your character that well. Also, posture says a lot about what that character thinks of themself.

Script Writing
There are times when a scene jumps into my head so fast, my fingers aren't fast enough to get it down before the magic passes. Sometimes it's just one layer of the scene that hits me (like just the dialogue, but not the blocking). In either case, I whip out my trusty pen and paper and jot it down, script style. I'll include a short example out of my notebook to show you what it would look like:

Cole: (pulls Lesser by his hair and pulls him up to half sitting) You'd better start talking
Lesser: What would you like to chat about, sweetheart?
C: There was a woman you took from the apartment. What happened to her?
L: We took 4 women. You'll have to be more specific.
C: She would've been more scared than the others.
L: Oh, you mean bear-slippers-and-a-bathrobe? Ugh, that lady wouldn't stop screaming.
C: (lights L on fire and watches him writhe)
L: (mocking) Your Daddy's fire is a lot worse than yours.

Then I can go to my keyboard and put it in with all the punctuation and proper blocking, etc.

Hope this helps. Break a... pen :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Leave Us Breathless" contest hosted by Brenda Drake.

Another great contest hosted by Brenda Drake. Get the deets for this contest here:

Title: Hellfire
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
WC: In progress
This is a scene from my current WIP. Cole is half demon/half human. Humans are naturally afraid of him, so physical contact isn't something he's used to. This is from Avery's POV, who isn't a regular human, and isn't scared of Cole. This is Avery and Cole's first kiss.

Cole shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and stared out at the water. “It’s stupid. Forget about it.”
“No way.” I picked up a rock and put it in his hand. “If it’s so stupid then why don’t you just tell me?”
“Blooping isn’t something... I can’t really...” He gave a huge huff. “I’d have to show you, and I don’t know if you’d want me to.”
Cole was embarrased for once? I tried not to smirk. “Oh, I want you to show me all right.”
Looking me in the eye with one eyebrow raised, he said, “just remember that you asked for it.” He drew back to throw the rock in the lake, then hesitated. “The rule is we don’t stop until we hear the rock bloop.” The rock flew from his hand.
“Stop wh...”
He took my face in his hands and planted a kiss on my lips. It was tentative and soft, and quick since the rock went bloop.
Cole stepped back, and slowly bent to pick up another rock while I stayed rooted to the spot, frozen with tingling that broke free of my stomach and spread all over.
“Next time I throw it farther,” Cole said quietly and waited for me to nod.
He smiled, relieved, and wound his arm back. The rock flew.
His kiss was more confident this time. His lips parted slightly, and then the rock went bloop.
“One more throw,” he whispered.
“Make it far,” I whispered back.
He stepped back, bent down for a rock, and threw.
All hesitation left him, as though he couldn’t stand being careful around me anymore, and the guard he had kept up crumbled. His lips moved firmly over mine without being rough.
When we broke for air, Cole gasped and held me close. “Holy hell,” he whispered. He was trembling.

(P.S. I'm currently searching for critique partners. I write paranormal YA and some adult. If you think our styles would match nicely, send me an email.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

YA first page contest hosted by Brenda Drake (Can you hook a teen?)

Title: Hellfire
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Avery was fully dressed, under a sheet, and felt more exposed than if she were naked. Even if she were checked on, she could pretend to be asleep. There wouldn't be any reason for her covers to be ripped back, revealing her intentions, but the sleeveless top and jeans she had on felt like a traitorous beacon, calling out. She laid flat on her back, and staring through the darkness too aware of the rise and fall of her chest with the summer heat pressing down on her.

She couldn’t be early-standing out in the dark alley alone would be stupid. And if she was discovered to be out of bed, she'd be caught before Megan could pick her up. Being caught meant bruises and being locked in her room for a week, if she was lucky.

She couldn’t be late, either. Megan would wait for a minute, maybe two before creeping away, thinking Avery was unable to escape and not wanting to draw any unwanted attention.

The light from across the hall that leaked under Avery’s door had gone out forty-three minutes ago.

 Please let her be asleep by now.

Six minutes to go.

She had to move now, or she wouldn’t have enough time to get the window open and the screen out without feeling rushed and making noise. The edges of panic nipped at her as she sat up and pushed the sheet aside, but she knew from experience that if she allowed it to take hold, it would be harder to think and even harder to react. Her whole life she had lived knowing taught her this, and more than anything, she wanted control over her fear.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Shelley Watters First Page Contest June 25

Here's the first 250 words of my paranormal romance (ghosts), Nepenthe. This is the same MS that was in the last contest, but it's undergone some revisions (hence the totally different opening). Good luck all!

(Resposted with some comments taken into consideration. Thanks!)

The night was chaotic, and I welcomed every minute of it. My new cafĂ© was buzzed as the new employees made their way through their first shift. The customers were came in steady and the desserts were flowed  fast. an hour after opening we were down to less than half of what was stocked in the display case that ran the length of the side wall of the cafe.

"Can you believe the turnout?” Trisha, my manager and new best friend, bounced beside me as she rinsed a large knife under hot water. “And it’s only June! Imagine how full we’ll be when peak tourist season hits next month.”

“Yeah, it’s great.” After years of working in my parent’s restaurant this wasn’t overwhelming. “Watch your cutting lines—we can’t afford any waste on a night like this,” I told her.

As I was about to lean down to grab a fruit flan for the next customer in line, a man about my age—maybe late twenties at the most, caught my attention. His light blue eyes were a stark contrast to his jet black hair, with irises the colour of blue jeans that had been washed too many times. They were bright though. Almost gleaming.

I’d seen him before, but never this close or for this long. A couple of times I’d caught him watching me from across the street while I spoke to the contractor about exterior renovations on the cafe. I was drawn to this mystery guy the first time I saw him, but he’d always dissapear before I got the chance to cross the street to speak with him.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shelley Watters Has Done it Again! Contest Time!

It's another first page contest with Victoria Marini as judge. These contests are an amazing way to connect with other writers, get some feedback, and ofcourse have your first 250 words read by an awesome agent. Check out the link below:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Made of Awesome Contest (First Page Contest with Shelley Watters)

Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton, AB (setting of Nepenthe)

Here's my first 250 words (263 to be exact, since we aren't supposed to end in the middle of a sentence.) Can't wait to peruse all your blogs and read your first pages as well. Good luck and thanks!
Title: Nepenthe
Genre: Paranormal Romance (Ghosts)
Word Count: 99,500

The first time I met Michael, I had no idea he was dead. I was locking up my cafe for the night, taking a deep breath of mountain air to wash the scents of cinnamon and dish soap from my nose. When I turned around, he was standing there, so close behind me that I almost ran into him.

My heart leapt into my throat. I could swear he hadn't been there a second before, but he reminded me of a stone carving that hadn't moved in ages. His eyes stood out in stark contrast to his jet black hair, with irises the colour of faded blue jeans that had been washed too many times. They were bright though. Almost gleaming.

"Good evenin', Miss." He couldn't be much older than me—maybe late twenties at the most, yet his formality and slight Southern drawl were right out of an old Western movie. He was dressed in very current looking dark jeans and a white shirt, though, so he didn't look at all out of place.

He reached out and gently took my hand to shake it. "I'm Michael." At his touch, a surge of butterflies invaded my chest.

Kicking myself for ogling, which I never did no matter how good looking the guy was, I forced myself to return the handsake. "Kate," I said, barely managing to get the word out.

Michael took a step back, giving me some space. "I have to confess, I've been trying to summon the courage to introduce myself for some time now," he said, looking anything but nervous.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

Getting Edited

A year or so after I began writing, I started wondering if  I was any good. There was no way for me to objectively tell. I had to find someone that would be bluntly honest with me; if what I was doing was publish-worthy. Not that it would've stopped me from writing if I sucked, but at least I would know what I should do; start seeking publishing or keep working on the writing itself.

I found an editor by shopping the Internet, emailing potentials, and came upon a Canadian freelance editor, Alethea Spiridon, and gave her a call. You know how they say you get a gut feeling about some things? Yup, my gut was happy. I sent her the first book in my trilogy, the outlines of book 2 and 3 in that trilogy, and waited for the MS evaluation to come back.

The day I got the evaluation back was an emotional shock. My trilogy was, in fact, a much more solid single novel, according to the evaluation. But there was hope, and very specific advice on what worked (yeah!), and what didn't work (yeah, too, because that is what I needed to know.)

What did I do next? I took the weekend to cry. I mourned the loss of the 100,000 plus words that would be axed. I even considered if I should follow the advice at all. In the end, I realized I had only been in the writing scene for a few years, ultimately didn't know anything, and if I really wanted to get somewhere that I should give my type A personality a rain check on control.

Being edited was a great lesson in writing, because I learned that as personally attached as I am to what I write, feedback that something doesn't work or just plain sucks (my favorite comment in the MS eval was along the lines of "your character can't do this! Who does this?") IS NOT a personal attack. Writing is art, but it's a type of art with rules (even though they may be flexible) and boundaries on good taste. Most times it takes an outside look to tell you if you've coloured in the lines, or if your free-hand sketch is hideous or not.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Here's A Writing Prompt For Ya...

What the...?

This doesn't have much to do with writing, but I saw this in a classifieds ad and had to share. I didn't buy the thing. I tried, but when I went back looking for it the ad was removed. I managed to save the picture to my computer the first time I saw it, though.

I guess this... thing could've made for good writing inspiration on days when my sense of humour needed a kick start.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Damn Block!

Today I broke through writer's block. Here's a few tips I learned that help me:

1. I went back and read everything I had written so far. I found scenes I forgot I had written (since I don't always write the scenes my MS in order). I remembered what I found so endearing about my characters, and relived the magical moments that did flow on their own accord onto the page. I fell in love with my characters again, and focused on finding out more about the ones that weren't well rounded yet.

2. I made a list of all the things I wanted to include in my MS, or an outline, (after those first three chapters that I couldn't seem to get past) and took an objective look at it. Then I realized that it wasn't working  because my outline was a bunch of stuff happening TO my MC. I like to write character driven plots, which means that my MC goes through hell because of decisions and actions that have consequences that they have to figure out how to live with (or how to live period, since life threatening situations are fun).

I sat back and became one with my character. Then I asked my character how she feels about the inciting incident. What is she going to do about it? What does she want the most, and how is she going to get it, and what is she willing to risk?

3. Then I made a list of all the reactions my character could have about the inciting incident, and chose the one that A- felt most true to my MC, and B- created the worst possible situation.

4. I came up with a new outline. A lot of what I originally had planned still seemed to work it's way in, but only because my MC instigated for the story to go in that direction. Of course some of the other characters contribute to all the mess and stuff does happen TO my MC, but the story is more focused on her choices. When I did this, I realized that a lot of the stuff I'd written before this felt wrong because I could've taken my MC and turned her into a fly on the wall, and the scene wouldn't have changed much.

5. When I sat back down a the keyboard, I refused to let myself start with anything in the first three blasted chapters. The first chapter is the last one to be re-written in most cases anyways.

I hope this helps anyone else who finds themself in a bind. Happy writing!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Marinate Your Manuscript

I'm not talking about immersing your MS in oil or salad dressing. This is the marination of a drawer, the dust on a shelf, or the back of your closet.

Writing the last sentence of a MS, knowing that you're finished, is exhilerating. Except that you're not finished, because if the MS hasn't spent some time in a place where you can't think about it for at least a month or longer, then you haven't gotten to the place where objectivity and reason can win the battle over an emotional attatchment to what doesn't work (even though it's eloquently written, witty, or gut-busting hilarious).

Revisions are best served cold. If the MS is hot out of the oven, you won't be able to see past the steamy deliciousness of it. Once you've saved the file, backed it up, and maybe even printed off a hard copy of it, put it away.

Start another project. Get well into writing your next novel, to the point where you're really excited about it.  When you need a little break to clear your head, join a critique group, read a book on creative writing (I love "On Writing" by Stephen King), take a quick online course in an area that would be relevant to your dormant MS.

Now it's time to pull it out and blow the dust off.

You'll find that it's easier to omit/fix things that didnt't work. More importantly, you'll be able to see what doesn't work. If you have a third party opinion on it, it will be easier to take into consideration what they've pointed out.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

All in the Name of Writing Research... Really

In my paranormal romance, Nepenthe, Kate watches from above as her fiance drops to his death. So in order to put myself in her shoes, I went and watched other people do just that. Except for the death part.
In Whistler B.C. you can go bungee jumping with the option of having the rope attached to your front. This way you can watch the bridge you jumped off get smaller and smaller. It also allows the spectators on the bridge to watch the look of "why-in-the-hell-did-I-pay-to-do-this" as you plummet. It's amazing how well you can see people's faces all the way to the bottom.
And to honour the old adage of "what would you do if your friend jumped off a bridge?" yes, I did it too. This video is of me giving myself hearing damage with my own screaming. It was all in the name of research, honest!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Epic Follower Blogfest/ Contest

This is for the contest mentioned in my previous post. Here is my "Twitter" (140 characters max) pitch.

Actually, I'm stuck on two. Let me know which one you like the best, or which elements of each you like (or don't).

#1.  Michael is a harmless rush until he wants Kate to become a ghost like him. She'll face her past or lose her future, and her (living) lover.

#2.  When the ghost goes from harmless rush to wanting Kate with him for eternity and her lover plain dead, she must face her past to banish him.

Genre: Paranormal Romance (adult)
Title: Nepenthe
To all the participants - best of luck to all! (squeal! Suzie Townsend!)

(added 1/04/11 @ 11:30)
Thanks so much for the feedback! Objectivity is a wonderful thing- you're right on the "rush" thing.


# 3. When a powerful ghost wants Kate to become one too, she must face her past to banish him, or lose her future and her (living) mortal lover.

(tweaking to show all the votes for "mortal" instead of "living". You guys are the best!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Contest time.

Is Suzie Townsend your potential dream agent? Here's a contest that gives the opportunity to put your full MS in her hands!

How about the amazing Sarah LaPolla? Here's a contest for a 10 page critique!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Blog site for query feed back

Came across this blog and thought it was a great idea. If you're writing a query and would like some peer feedback from other writers, go to: