Tag Archives: action

Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 2

 Cinder: Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer419rjQNqYhL

First chapter is 16 pages.

The first line: “The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, …” Quite the attention getter. There’s enough information given between the back cover blurb, the inside flap blurb, and the cover itself for us to know that she’s a cyborg. We don’t know how much, but we can safely assume it’s at least the foot.

The first page focuses on her removing her foot. She struggles getting the rusted screw out, then fighting with the other hardware and, finally, just letting her foot dangle from her leg by its wires. We discover not only her foot but one hand as well is artificial.

Second page begins a detailed point of scene. She has a stall filled with used android and other odds and ends electronic and mechanical in nature. We also get a picture of the stall’s position with relation to other stalls in the crowded market square in New Beijing.

Third page, also finishes with her removing the foot completely.

Because of children playing Ring Around the Rosy, a recently revived game originating during ancient plague times, there’s a hint of a plague or some other widespread health issue.

We are introduced to Sacha the baker and her disdain for Cinder because of her differences from “real” humans. There’s inner dialogue from Cinder indicating a few of the vendors in her area are aware of her differences and are somewhat uncomfortable with it.

Prince Kaito arrives with a broken android. (No, not his tablet, but a walking, talking android, or it was before it broke.) Cinder recognizes the Crown Prince, and the handsomest man in all of New Beijing. We deal with her stammering and fan craziness for a page or so.

For the next five pages we are filled with all kinds of things that might be wrong with the android: it’s old, the problem isn’t readily apparent, how was it acting before it stopped completely, etc., etc., etc. Along with the troubleshooting Q&A, we get a glimpse of character development and some insight into Cinder’s abilities. Possible spoiler: There’s more to her cyborg-ness than just her foot.

Cinder’s android assistant shows up with Cinder’s replacement foot. Cinder makes excuses claiming it’s for another client. Her assistant, though android, is smitten with the prince as well.

When all the arrangements are made for Cinder to work on the android and get it ready for the prince to pick up in a few days, the prince departs.

Shortly after his departure a scream is heard across the way. Sacha the baker has the plague… End chapter.

Okay, four characters in eleven pages. There were other people milling about, a group of kids, but nobody with any real presence, they’re there for point of scene. Sacha is removed from the equation fairly fast, so, basically, we have three characters who, from all appearances, will be central to the story.

There was a lot of useful information and character development in the first chapter. Some of it was a little drawn out, but informative nevertheless. Some things I can definitely take and use.



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Spellbinder Saturday: Third Time’s the Charm

Easy as A, B, C . . . from HA

Benotripia3Benotripia: Keys to the Dream World is the third and final book in this series by McKenzie Wagner.

It’s been a great ride sharing the adventures of Roseabelle, Jessicana, and Astro as they rescue the queen (The Rescue), find three mystical, magic stones (The Stones of Horsh), and, in this final installment, enter the Dream World… and destroy it or risk losing Benotripia forever. “Only the final battle remains…”

Keys to the Dream World has everything we’ve come to expect in this series: magic, action, kenzie_frameadventure, danger, mystical creatures, interesting characters, and harrowing escapes. The one thing Keys to the Dream World has the others didn’t is a conclusion… or is there? The afterward takes place four years after the end of the final adventure, but there’s always hope for something new and dangerous for our heroes.

And, just as a reminder, McKenzie Wagner turns fourteen this year. We hope she continues to write and share more of her imagination and stories.

See you next time for Tips on Tuesday

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Thinkin’ on Thursday: I May Be Lying, But . . .

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Sometime, way back in elementary school, one of my teachers gave us a little “chant” to help us in figuring out the proper forms of verbs:

Now I . . .

Yesterday I . . .

I am . . .

I have . . .

[Though I didn’t realize it at the time, these will yield the verb forms for the infinitive, the past, the present participle and the past participle. Never mind trying to remember — again — what all those labels designate; just thinking through the little chant will give you the help you need, unless you’re taking a grammar course in a college class: “Now I…Yesterday I…I am, I have…”

So I gift you with The Chant to help you think through what form to use for the verbs “lie” and “lay” (though, of course, they work with any verbs) which SO many of us use incorrectly

If you mean to recline, or assume or be in a lying position, you want to use “lie.”

If you mean to put or place something, you want to use “lay.”

Now, here are the chants — say them over and over and over, until it begins to “sound” right to you.

Reclining: “Now I lie…Yesterday I lay…I am lying…I have lain…”

Putting/placing something: “Now I lay…Yesterday I laid…I am laying…I have laid…”

Note that putting something down or placing it somewhere is the ONLY one which uses the word “laid.” And it uses “laid” twice.

Another hint for choosing the proper verb is to remember that more than one noun (person, place, thing) is required to put or place: one noun designates the person or thing doing the placing, the other is the thing placed. For instance:

Jane (person) laid (action) the book (thing) on the piano bench yesterday.

But what about that old nursery prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep” ? ? ? “I” and “me” designate the same person. WRONG. In this case, you have two words (both pronouns, which stand in the place of the noun): I and ME — yes, they designate one single person, but in this case the person, I, is the one acting upon him‑ or herself, me; therefore, “I” am capable of putting myself, “me,” in a prone position.

If these last notes only serve to confuse you somehow, revert to The Chant:

Reclining: “Now I lie…Yesterday I lay…I am lying…I have lain…”


Placing: “Now I lay…Yesterday I laid…I am laying…I have laid…”

Good luck with that!

See you next for Saturday’s Spellbinder!

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Thinkin’ on Thursday: Road Maps in More Detail

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Last Tuesday I wrote about possible ways for Pantsers to make a road map which would help keep them on the straight and narrow with their novels. I also pointed out what can be learned simply by looking at some stats. And I made a promise. A promise to show what else I learned by taking a careful look beyond the numbers, and checking out the actual content.

This time, I put the chapter number at the top of each section. Underneath, I made 4 columns: page number, character, a single verb describing what the character was doing, and a brief description of what was done. The latter was accomplished in somewhere between two and half ‑a‑dozen words (seldom that many). Some of the pages were completed in only a line or two, most took about four, a few complex ones took more, but my first 14 chapters took only 2 pages, while double‑spacing between chapters. So keep it all short — it’s your story: you should recognize what’s going on in just a few words.

If the verb in the 3rd column was passive (that’s a problem of mine) I typed it in all caps. Here’s an example:

4          Wyndell          THINKS                     about (possibly) dead twin

Poppy            coughs                    —

Mum              rushes                    to help Poppy

Wyndell          STARES                    at tools

tells                           himself he’s NOT the One

HEARS                     Poppy saying “have to be sent…”

Those six lines encapsulated the entire page in 30 words.

So what can be learned from this? After the first 14 chapters I drew a lot of conclusions:

The story didn’t really begin until the second page

It was too long by at least half, considering all the passivity which was trying to pass as action: thinking, wondering, knowing, feeling, realizing, watching, wishing, questioning himself, acknowledging, hearing, worrying, believing — none of those were acting! (How should I deal with the fact that too often Wyndell, the main character, was by himself? How do I work in someone for him to talk to?)

I wanted to know what the reader would actually learn from these pages (in however subtle a way). So I made a list of story items revealed, such as:

An Evil Essence is threatening

11‑year‑old Wyndell is making a Luck Hat with scraps

He begins to notice Elements (water, air, earth, fire) responding to him

He wants to know what his Skill will be

His twin is missing . . . etc., etc., etc.

Then I was able to make some decisions about these chapters:

Split the first long chapter into two

Bring in the Sidekick character as quickly as possible

Let Wyndell confront his ailing father

Mix everything up by throwing in a 3rd (and important) character’s chapter

. . . and so on.

I was surprised to find that even though I was aware, in the back of my mind, that the writing was too passive, it took really listing what was going on to see how nothing much was going on outside the MC’s head. And that led me to seeing other ways to portray the events.

It was an interesting and revealing journey. I would recommend this to any of you who know you need to do some rewriting, but are not quite sure where to start. Good luck with your endeavors!

See you next for Saturday’s Softcover!

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Thinkin’ on Thursday: Thinkin’ Lean and Mean

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

I suppose plenty of writers have first drafts so lean I might call them “skimpy”. They go back and pad — in college my friends and I called this “pad it and fake it.” I am not one of those writers. What I need to do is stop over-writing: saying everything two or three times to be sure I’ve been understood.

Even the best of writers can get caught up in that trap. Years ago, Irving Stone had a stop-over in SLC, and was kind enough to speak to the League of Utah Writers just after his book, The Greek Treasure, came out. He told us the story of publishing The Agony and the Ecstasy. He’d offered it around many times, but it was always a “no” from editors. He took it to a secretary he knew, asking her to take a look and tell him what was wrong. She said she knew nothing about writing, but he insisted her fresh eyes might be a help.

After reading the manuscript (can you imagine how long it was? It’s a huge book still!), she said to him, “You’ve said everything three times.” She went through it, trying to see which time he’d said it best. He (they?) slashed it mercilessly and sent it out again. It sold right away. He took the advance and used it to marry her, and she edited all his books after that! Gotta love a love story!

But how to go about it on your own?

I know I love every golden word I put down. But maybe if I look at small bits at a time…? I’m talking sentences, phrases, words … maybe even syllables.

Cut redundancy.

Redundancy is irritating because it contains no new information. It might also make the reader lose trust in your story. Trust your reader. And trust yourself to be able to write with clarity. Don’t lose the readers’ trust in your authority.

Deliberate repetition, for an effect, can be good. Just be sure it adds impact to the plot on an important point. Repetition just for the sake of repetition is . . . redundancy.

Get rid of over-explanation.

If you feel you have to explain or excuse something, it’s probably not on the page. In what ways do you “defend” your choices in the midst of a critique group? Instead, assume that the reader is at least as smart as you are and can figure things out. It can be tough figuring out what most people know or don’t know, but consider your target audience: if you’re writing historical romance, is the word “farthingale” going to throw them off without explanation? Probably not. In any case, they’ll probably figure it out through the context in which it was used.

Pick up the pace.

“Pace” can be thought of as how much new information a reader can absorb per page, or per 100 words. Fat-free paragraphs should be clean, crisp, quick. Getting them slimmed down may even cut your verbiage by half, or more.

Think of that as taking a novel from almost 170,000 words to 90,000. Look carefully at your mss. and cut every word you can — it will teach you what makes “good” writing.

Get over yourself, when it comes to “literary effect”.

Finally, cut for literary effect (I often think I’m writing for literary effect, when I’m probably over-writing and obliterating the “effect” part!). Instead of cutting the fat, this means omitting connections where you’ve pointed the way, so the reader can puzzle those connections out for himself. Get readers involved, and they’ll likely keep reading. This takes careful analysis on the writer’s part: focus on the most climactic incident, or the moment of realization. How can you cut the actions down which lead to that result in order to force the reader’s deduction of what those actions were? Is that a stronger, more enhanced version of your story?

A Caveat or Two

These guidelines for cutting don’t apply in the same way to dialogue. Your dialogue characterizes, not only by content, but by form. Your character may be a repetitious person, someone who over-explains. S/he may be pompous, insecure, lonely — and such dialogue will help to show his/her real nature.

Remember, too, that some very successful books are heavily padded. If they were/are truly successful, they obviously have something else to offer: exciting action, thrilling characters, intriguing ideas, etc. Yet it never hurts to offer the reader clean, crisp prose, which can make the difference between sales and rejections — especially important for as-yet unpublished authors.

See you next for Spellbinding Saturday!

[Note: last Tuesday I offered some Tom Clancy ideas from an old issue of Writers Digest. Many of the ideas here came from an article in the same issue by Nancy Kress called “Wielding the Scalpel”.

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Tips on Tuesday: Writers to Readers and Back Again

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Now that I’ve had a few days at home after attending the WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers) week‑long workshop, I can begin to reflect on all I heard and learned. As tired as I was, my last session gave me life again. That’s what happens when you get to hang with an outstanding Writer/Reader/Book Person like A.E. Cannon. Ann writes books, writes a regular column for the Salt Lake Tribune, often writes book‑oriented articles or interviews outside her own column, and also works at my favorite local bookstore: The King’s English.

In that last WIFYR session, Ann tackled the subject “Learn to Hone Your Skills While Reading Works by Other Authors.” While doing so, she mentioned a few writers worth paying attention to — some of them from Utah or with ties to us: Carol Lynch Williams’ The Chosen One — where she showed us how to set the stage in only 4 sentences, complete with a sense of place. She also recommended authors like Beverley Cleary and Judy Blume (ironically I won a book by Judy Blume during the closing ceremonies an hour later!). She suggested reading (or re‑reading) books like Where the Wild Things Are, Frog & Toad, Strange Case of Origami Yoda, and afterwards trying to write in the style we’ve just read. A great idea.

Early on in her presentation, Ann mentioned a book I’d not seen before: Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose. I hadn’t seen the title before (though now I’ve sent for it – still available from Amazon), but I really knew the name: wa‑a‑a‑a‑ay back, I took a writing class at the U of U from Francine Prose, a visiting professor. I had fun digging out my old handbook, printed by Kinko’s under the category “Professor Publishing.” It’s really just a thick, spiral‑bound, 159 page tome containing stories by many of the greats: Frank Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, Anton Chekhov, Ernest Hemingway, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, etc.

Just a few of Ann’s lessons to be learned by a reading like a Writer might include:

What things to watch for as you read

Word choices that jump out at you

Sentence structure (long, short, varied, a good mix); why some work of them and others don’t

Sense of place, a stage set for action


Ask why and how something works . . . or doesn’t

If you gave up on a book, why could you not finish it?

Do you make the same mistakes?

Listening to audio books can also help you “hear” how to set your story up

(my thought on this last: listening also helps develop your sense of rhythmic words)

In this rapidly changing publishing world, we writers need to pay attention and keep up with the changes. It also behooves us to look to the greats of the past, see what their methods were, and which ones will still work.

See you next on Thinkin’ on Thursday!

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Tips on Tuesday: Find a Character Voice

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

On March 25, 2014, I wrote a blog about a lesson in “kid‑speak.” After hearing praises for Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones stories, I finally broke down and read one. Then seven, seven more, and another ten. So I’ve read all but 2 or 3. I mentioned how the author nailed the sounds and thought processes of a child. Hilariously!Junie B

Now, as an example, let me share a line or three:

“Just then the bell rang and Mrs. (that’s what this kindergarten kid calls her teacher) marched out the door. Then everybody else marched out too. Except guess what? I didn’t.”


“. . . First, I got the sponge from under the sink. Then I made it soaky wet with water. I pointed it at the target. “Ready…aim…fire!” I said. Then I throwed the sponge with all my might.”


“Peekaboo. I see you,’ I said. Then I laughed and laughed. ‘Cause I’m a laugh a minute, that’s why.”

In just a few words, Park demonstrates how a young child substitutes a title for a name, constantly asks questions like “guess what” and answers them herself, slips in grammar mistakes while she’s still figuring out how English is constructed, thinks of her place in her world, and picks up phrases she hears “grown-ups” commonly say ‑‑‑ not to mention the “logic” a child applies to actions an adult will take as being “naughty.”

Any of the old Eloise books by Kay Thompson, do much the same with a more “affluent” flavor.

Percy jackson 1bToday, I’ll also show how Rick Riordan manages much the same thing for a slightly older hero (and readers). If you ever devoured mythology like I did, and you haven’t read his Percy Jackson series, this will give you a lesson in “kid speak” as well as in the thought processes for an adolescent. And a lot of laughs. Start with The Lightning Thief and the table of contents:

1. I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre‑algebra Teacher

2. Three Old Ladies Knit the Socks of Death

7. My Dinner Goes Up in Smoke

11. We Visit the Garden Gnome Emporium

13. A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers

Clever, funny, somewhat mysterious chapter titles . . . and you’re almost guaranteed to remember what the whole chapter was about by just reading the titles, even days, weeks or months later. And that’s a Good Chapter Title!

Here, try the book, and study the level of kid‑speak, as well as the adolescent perspective:

“See, bad things happen to me on field trips. Like at my fifth‑grade school, when we went to the Saratoga battlefield, I had this accident with a Revolutionary War cannon. I wasn’t aiming for the school bus but of course I got expelled anyway. And before that, at my fourth‑grade school, when we took a behind‑the‑scenes tour of the Marine World shark pool, I sort of hit the wrong lever on the catwalk and our class took an unplanned swim. And the time before that . . . Well, you get the idea.”

The ideas, the thought processes, the choices of vocabulary all combine to help create memorable characters. And besides, what a great way to study “kid‑speak”: The laughs, the lessons in mythology, the imaginative stories ‑‑‑ they’re all just icing on the cake!

See you next for Thinkin’ on Thursday!


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