Monday, January 28, 2013

A Young Voice Tip

Last week I talked about making passes through your manuscript.  At that time I intended to work on my manuscript Ungifted, but I have shifted back to my middle-grade dystopian story, currently titled The Adult Plague. I’m not really sure why I’ve made the transition.  I think because I haven’t worked on it for a long time, and I feel like it’d be a fresher experience to go back to it, considering I’ve spent a fair amount of time on Ungifted lately.  Anyway, I plan on making a couple passes through The Adult Plague before I send it out to critique partners, but I wanted to talk about one of the passes I plan on making.

I’m going through the whole manuscript and making sure the story feels like it’s being told through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy, since that’s the protagonist.  A part of this is simply making sure his emotions in any given scene are not only coming across, but are logical (for any person, not just a twelve-year-old boy).  Another part of that is making sure that the way he conveys those emotions or simply narrates the story sound like they’re coming from a kid (in terms of word choices and turns of phrases).  I’ve already started making this pass, and I’ve realized just how important a “young voice tip” I learned recently is (I learned it at my last residency at Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program in January): Kids exaggerate everything.  My protagonist’s mom didn’t tell him something a “thousand” times, she told him a “trillion.”  Something isn’t “big” or even “enormous,” it’s “ginormous” (sounds more extreme to me, anyway, since it’s a combination of the words “enormous” and “gigantic”).  Simply having my protagonist exaggerate things more makes him seem/feel like the twelve-year-old kid he is, and so far I think it’s working “extremely” well.  In fact, I think I’m going to get back to the manuscript and do even more of a “mind-blowingly incredible” job of that.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fun Contest

I rarely find or hear of contests online. I have no idea why, but I simply don't bump into them. However, recently I was notified by a writer friend about a contest that looks quite interesting, particularly for science fiction writers of all kinds and/or young adult writers of all kinds. The contest is called the 13th "Dear Lucky Agent " Contest. I'll be entering. Good luck to those of you who do, too! Here's the link to the contest: Peace for now!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


And, no, I’m not talking about football or basketball passes, or illustrious, elevated mountain passes.  I’m talking about manuscript passes.  As every writer learns at some point (at least most writers), you can’t possibly get everything down in the first draft, or second, or third.   It takes multiple passes through a manuscript for it to start to really come into shape. 

For example, once you have a first draft, it’s a good idea to make a pass through the manuscript to ensure that character and setting placement are in order.  Another good pass would be to ensure that the characters’ emotions are showing on the page and that they’re responding physically to that emotion in a way that’s logical.  The final pass is usually the polishing pass, in which you remove all extraneous words and “ing” words and those pesky adverbs (at least those that have hung out undeservedly for a while).  Of course, depending on the project, you could have many more passes.  But I think passes are great, and I think one “golden rule” should always be kept in mind when making one.  When making a pass, my advice would be to focus only on that one aspect throughout its entirety.  If you’re making a pass to ensure all your world-building elements are in order, don’t get sidetracked by a paragraph that could use some trimming/tightening.  Save that for the next pass, that way you don’t miss or overlook something pertaining to world-building that needs to be changed in your world-building pass.
At the moment I’m working on UNGIFTED, and I think I’m going to make another pass, if not a couple more, through the manuscript.  I’ve done some work in getting deeper into my protag’s head and portraying how he views the world, but I want to get closer, and I want to make sure he’s using terminology that a twelve-year-old boy would use.  I also want to make sure that the world-building details I drop in sound like something he’d actually think about in each part of the story.  Like I said, I’ve make some progress in these areas in general, but I think a couple more passes couldn’t hurt…

Monday, January 14, 2013

Character Sketches

As I mentioned in another post, I like to draw detailed character sketches of the big players in my novel before I even start writing the book.  That includes the protagonist, villain, and typically a couple secondary characters (usually the friends or romantic interest of the protag or villain).
Man, I love character sketches.  There’s nothing like really fleshing out your character and knowing what makes them beat before you even make them come to life on the page.  When I flesh out my characters, I personally (though this is just the way I prefer) like to answer a lot of questions about them, including the nitty-gritty ones.  Sure, it’s absolutely imperative I know what they want/what their biggest goals and motivations are, their deepest values and fears, etc., but I also like to figure out what was the most traumatic thing to ever happen to them, or what happened to them on the best day of their life.  Often those will tie into those deeper fears and values, but they’ll provide reasons for them, which will make the characters all the more relatable and three-dimensional, even if those particular answers are never spelled out in the novel itself.  Knowing all these types of nitty-gritty things in addition to the big characteristics of the characters help so much when you put them on the page.  I mean, then you’ll know exactly how your characters are going to react to other characters, and if you’ve done your job of fleshing out those other characters also, then you know exactly how they’re going to react, too (that might sound obvious, but bear with me).
Which brings me to my last point, which has to do with something I overheard a professor say at my school’s last residency (which also happened to be my last residency because I graduated—so sad…but exciting, too, I suppose): you’ve reached a certain level as a storyteller when you realize that tension (which makes a story go round, mind you) is much more than just minor squabbles between characters over something trivial like spilt coffee.  It’s about the core beliefs and values of each character clashing.  That’s a component of powerful storytelling, and the more you flesh out your main characters, the more intensely they will clash in your story, which will make it all the deeper and more riveting.
So, yeah, character sketches.  Go and make some right now if you haven’t already.  As for me, I gotta go clean up this coffee I just accidentally spilled on the table by my laptop.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

First Two Pages of UNGIFTED

I thought it'd be fun to post the first two pages of my middle-grade epic fantasy, UNGIFTED, so here they are. They may still wind up changing a lot, of course, but they've already gone through many revisions and I feel proud displaying them here for all to potentially see, should anybody happen to perchance wander onto this blog.

Chapter 1

The Ungifted One


Dwyth Oruf focused on the giant lizard a few feet in front of him.  He extended his Telepathic Influence toward it like a finger, and poked its brain.

 Come on, you big stupid lizard—let me in!

Two hundred and fifty pounds of tough yellow skin and muscle—all of which stood completely still inside his log hut—stared back at him.  The beast’s head came up to Dwyth’s waist, the rest of its thick, seven-foot long body lay sprawled behind it.

Zeph, the older boy who stood a few feet to the side of the lizard, was administering Dwyth the test.  If Zeph hadn’t been controlling the beast with his Influence, it would’ve been running wild around the straw-floored hut, and somebody could’ve gotten hurt.

Dwyth gritted his teeth.  It wasn’t working.  He couldn’t penetrate the lizard’s brain with his own Influence.  No matter how hard he tried.

No surprise there.  But no way was he giving up.  Not this time.  Of all times, not this time—his last chance to be somebody.

Come on, come on…He tightened his mind’s extension, made it firmer to pierce through the beast’s brain.

Please, just this once…

He felt Zeph’s Influence give a tug, and the beast slithered up to Zeph, who tenderly stroked its head. 

No—that couldn’t be it!  It was over too quick.

“I think that’ll do, Dwyth,” Zeph said softly.

“No—wait.”  Dwyth’s voice reached a high pitch.  “Gimme another chance.  I swear, I got it this time.”

Zeph reached up and put a hand on Dwyth’s shoulder.  He looked about fifteen, three years older than Dwyth, but not as tall.  Unlike Dwyth’s short, wavy brown hair, long black spikes jutted from his head, his body skinny as a fire starter stick compared to Dwyth’s muscular physique.

“Sorry,” Zeph said.  “I really am.  But you can’t even penetrate its brain, not even a little.  Your Influence is…well…pretty puny.  No offense.”

“That’s not true!”  Dwyth said, even though it had to be obvious to both of them and his parents across the room.  All Amnarites—a tribe of humans— could sense each other’s Influence and how strong it was.  “I just needed more time.  Just a little—”

“In the Coliseum your lizard would’ve been slaughtered ages ago.  I’m…real sorry, but I can’t qualify you for this year’s battle.”

There they were.  The official words.  Like Zeph plunged a bunch of Spitting Lizard swords through Dwyth’s chest.  Dwyth stared at the wall.

Mother Jungle, he’d been stupid.  So incredibly stupid.  How could he have ever thought he’d have a chance to qualify?  Sure, it wasn’t in his blood to give up, but after all these years of hardly having an Influence, it’d been silly to expect it to grow strong in him at twelve years old.  Like Mother Jungle suddenly realized She forgot to give it to him in the first place.  Like She woke today and thought, Bird scat.  My mistake.  Forgot about that child in Klahn Village I gave a weak Psychic Pull to.  Better give him a strong one now, so he not only passes the Spitting Lizard Battle qualifying test, but thrives in the contest so he can have a future in the military.  Or have any important job, for that matter.

Dwyth’s eyes burned, but he had to stay strong for his parents.  And in front of Zeph.  Oh, what he wouldn’t give to be like him.  In a low voice Dwyth asked, “How many children haven’t qualified so far?  I mean in all Amnar?”