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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 4

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen12432220

“If I had to do it all over again, I would not have chosen this life. Then again, I’m not sure I ever had a choice.” Great opening line followed up by a furious chase as the MC runs off with a chunk of raw meat he stole from the butcher who is hot on his heels.

With this chase, the author has the perfect venue for giving us a great point of scene by including the sights and sound of the marketplace while the action keeps us in its grip.

We also discover Sage, the main character, is an orphan and that knowledge is imparted in a very slick way: it’s his target, his home base, where he knows he can find places to hide.

Then, of course, we have the butcher. There is some dialogue between the two, but mostly threats on the butcher’s part. So now we have two characters.

A man rescues Sage just as the butcher catches him and starts into beating and kicking him. His rescue is in the form of paying for the roast Sage stole with some extra cash for the trouble he caused. The man takes him to the orphanage where we find his name is Bevin Conner and he’s there to adopt Sage. Now there are three.

Last, but certainly not least, is Mrs. Turbeldy, the head of the Orphanage for Disadvantaged Boys. That makes four.

The number of characters introduced is one of those “just right” numbers. Every one of them helps move the story forward while giving us information and background in a straightforward and useful way. And it’s all done in eight pages.

There’s a lot of the first chapter I’m leaving out. A lot of information is presented in those few pages, but every word moves the story forward and that’s what it’s all about.

I’ll be studying this chapter at length, checking the tempo and beats, timing the flow. There’s a lot to be learned from this writing.

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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post-WIFYR (Yes, I said “POST”)

The assignment is to read the first chapter of 50 books in the Middle-Grade and Young Adult venue. They can be sci-fi, fantasy, or into whatever genre they fall. I am to read them from a writer’s perspective, paying special attention to: intro to main characters, plot development, intro to other characters, anything useful that points to why these books start out well and, as a result, get published.

So here is the first book. “Edgar Allan’s Official Crime Investigation Notebook” by Mary Amato. Middle-Grade. 140 pages.61K7EpEI-qL

From the School Library Journal:

The kids at Wordsmith Elementary School get a lesson on poetry when a thief stages a series of classroom thefts, leaving behind small poems at the scene of the crime. Edgar Allan keeps notes in his crime journal and writes some verses of his own as his classmates compete to solve the mystery. He thinks his home life is strange with his parents both employed as clowns, but when he learns more about the thoughts and personal lives of his classmates through the poetry they write, he gains a deeper understanding of himself and his community. With characters named Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett and a teacher who drinks Tennyson Tea, readers will get thinly veiled lessons describing alliteration, meter, and metaphor. … A good springboard for introducing poetry units.

Opening paragraph shows the reader the crime of stealing the class goldfish.

Characters introduced:

  1. Edgar Allan (MC)
  2. Ms. Herschel (teacher)
  3. Kip (a skinny boy whose leg was jiggling against his desk)
  4. Taz (the class clown)
  5. Maia (the person who gave the fish to the class)
  6. Gabriella (the new girl)
  7. Destiny Perkins (Another classmate. I’m guessing she’s going to be an important character later. She’s the first character given both names)
  8. Patrick Chen (Edgar’s nemesis)

Eight characters introduced in the first four pages. One complaint about my storyline was the introduction of five characters in eight pages. Apparently too many characters are not always an issue. Further study on this will be necessary.

It’s a fast beginning. The theft, the discovery, several theories of who did it, and Edgar and Patrick’s competition to discover the culprit before the other are all laid out by the end of the first chapter (page 6). Fast paced and quick. That part I get.

One comment in a review section said, “It’s a little slow paced as the story progresses and sometimes Edgar seems to think older than a fifth grader.” To people who consider that fifth graders must sound a certain way and be only so intelligent, I divert your attention to “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

I had similar complaints that my characters sound older. They sound like I sounded at 14-16. My friends were, for the most part, the same way. We were avid readers and had been for a decade or more by that age. Nerdy kids who read a lot don’t sound like kids who don’t. They don’t think the same way either. I may try to tone it down some, but if I do it too much, the characters will lose their personalities.

I’ll definitely finish Edgar Allan’s Official… It has the makings of a good ride.

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Struggling with the Internet at Days Inn – Summit in Birmingham

For my May 13 minimum GOAL: 3 hours YES! I DID IT! But just barely, and not as productively as I would have liked. I worked on my story for a while, then did something drastically wrong which took out ALL the spaces between words for over 30 pages. I didn’t notice what had happened until it was (I thought) too late to “undo” the damage. So I started working through a word, a sentence at a time. I added to that time the time I spent reading some more of the stories in the book GRIM, and actually had my 3 hours, but it didn’t produce NEARLY as much “new” writing as I had hoped! Then, problems with the Internet . . . AGAIN — so I didn’t post this. I’ll just combine it with what I do today, Thursday May 14.

For my May 14 minimum GOAL: 3 hours. YES! I DID IT! Wrote some new material for my WIP. In fact, I put in some 5.5 hours between reading and writing. That totally makes up for the lost time day before yesterday. And I managed it, in spite of the Internet connection being even worse than yesterday. Now need to work on melding that, what little I did yesterday and the two chapters I’d written previously together. New fairy tales I read brought me to having finished all the short stories in the book GRIM. There were about three that I really detested (two for gross and/or gruesome elements and one for the modern-day frat boy talk which I didn’t think worked well n an “old” fairy tale. But most of them were good and two or three I ABSOLUTELY LOVED!

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Happy Mother’s Day from Alabama… Oh, and an Update

WRITING PROGRESS REPORT:  For my May 9 Minimum GOAL: 3 hours.

YES! I DID IT! I spent my first hour sorting out things I no longer needed in my story and getting things lined up correctly. Then I spent most of the final two hours fussing with character names . . . FINALLY got my 30+ characters with appropriate names both from the standpoint of the national origin, AND with meanings appropriate in SOME way to each of the characters. All of that also helps me to give an added level of meaning to the characters and therefore to the story itself. I had a little time on my hands this afternoon, and spent it reading another story from the book Grim, mentioned here previously. This was probably my favorite so far in the volume. It had the real feel and value of the old-timey fairy tales I read as a kid and drew memes and ideas for multiple old tales. Besides, it was just flat – out a fun read!

TITLE ~ AUTHOR REACTION/IDEAS

The Raven Princess ~ Jon Skovron

A queen with a crying baby girl is unprepared to care for the child, and wishes she could fly away with the nearby ravens. The wish comes true and the princess can only assume human shape for an hour at midnight. At age 18, she comes across a hunter in the forest who cannot bring himself to kill. She makes a bargain with him that could free her if he can wait until midnight, sans any food or drink. He promises to do so, but is tricked by an old hag (her sorry mother) into eating or drinking anyway. How he finds the Princess again, and whether she’ll have him or not after three betrayals . . . well, you’ll have to read it yourself. Memes from many old tales, with a feel of the real and old tales I read as a child. Cleverly done, even squeezing in a hint of the Princess on the Glass Hill.

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Update from BB in Alabama: May 8

Note from Herb: We’re visiting family in Birmingham, AL. The Internet connection at the motel is flaky at best. Bear with us as we try to get these updates out in a timely manner. Thank for your patience.

WRITING PROGRESS REPORT:

For my May 7 Minimum GOAL: 3 hours.

YES! I DID IT! Organized some notes (and took down some new ones) to help with my WIP, re-vamped some of the goals. Did some new writing for the WIP.

Every writer needs to be a reader as well. I’ve always known this, always believed this. I’ve also noted that some of my BEST ideas for writing have come while reading. As I am currently writing a fairy-tale type story, I’m also reading old fairy tales I’ve loved forever, new ones that are mock-ups of old tales in modern garb, and some which are just written as a “new” fairy tale. All of that is to explain why PART of my daily “writing” (3 hours) is actually reading: currently a book named GRIM (edited by Christine Johnson) containing short stories from “some of the best voices in young adult literature today.”

Stories Read:

TITLE ~ AUTHOR REACTION/IDEAS

The Key ~ Rachel Hawkins

1st person: Lana, teen & runner whose Momma acts as fortune teller out of their trailer home with some heads-up help from Lana who actually has some real psychic ability. Lana’s crush on Skye comes to a dangerous point when she “sees” him as a . . . Oops! don’t want to give too much away. Definitely a fun and somewhat twisted story, but too little “fantasy” element for me.

Figment ~ Jeri Smith-Ready

1st person from a non-sentient creature’s POV, whose “thoughts” can be heard by the “right” person, left to Eli by his now-deceased father, a former one-hit wonder musician. Interesting novelty to the POV! How could I make that work in my WIP? The “creature” can bring Eli fame AND fortune, if only he’ll respect the “creature’s” abilities. He names the 0creature “Fig” for Figment (of his imagination). Eli’s band becomes a success, but Fig knows Eli should go solo. The band breaks up at . . . There I go again, almost spoiling the story. . . but it’s a good one!

For my May 8 Minimum GOAL: 3 hours

YES! I DID IT! Double-checked that my COMBO file for Twisted Oaks Hollow had everything in it that it needed. Spent some time reading while visiting HA’s sister, Vickie. Wrote some notes on the reading and ideas that came up; will go back to reading to complete the last of my third hour, and hope to stay the full 3 hours in the motel tomorrow morning, working on Twisted Oaks Hollow, while HA visits family again. Will go with him in the afternoon for family time. Today’s reading covered:

TITLE ~ AUTHOR REACTION/IDEAS

The Twelfth Girl ~ Malinda Lo

Creepy, modern interpretation of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” one of my all-time favorite fairy tales. LOVED the forests of silver and gold trees in the original. In this case, the girls are in college together with an elite group living in The Castle. Only 12 at a time, though three,including the sister of the girls’ leader, Haley, have “disappeared.” Liv, a new girl, is invited to take the sister’s place. They go down through Haley’s closet and/or hole in the floor beneath her bed, enter what seems to be a night club at midnight, dance until 3 am., then return to the Castle “dorms.” A dark, unspecified, probably male, character lurks in the shadows. Eventually Liv looks for help to break the “curse” on the girls and . . . that’s enough! WOW! The best match to the original was the night club’s rooms of crystal, silver and gold leaf décor of three rooms. The old story is turned on its head. Would love to write my own version which would be as non-threatening (at the end) and magical as the original was for me.

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/28/15

Last year, with Christmas looming, Carol commented in “Throwing Up Words” that we should write a scene “from your character’s POV about their favorite holiday.” For years, my favorite was Christmas. Then I grew up. My mother passed away the day before Valentine’s Day, so that became a “favorite,” and a time to remember. I got a divorce — a second time — and Halloween became my favorite, where I had every opportunity to be “witchy” and no one judged me. What’s your favorite? Write a scene about your character’s favorite.

YES, I DID IT! I wrote about preparing for “All Saints Eve.” Managed to work in a little magic, a lot of superstition, and it was perfect for something in the neighborhood of the 16th Century. The atmosphere of the heath at that time of year, the various preparations of food, drink, the celebratory drinking and entertainment, the crowd atmosphere, superstitious antics, charms and curses are all becoming a colorful part of the story.

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )


WRITING PROGRESS REPORT:

April 28 Minimum GOAL: 3 hours — only made 2 of them, but finished cutting “garbage” out of my WIP. Good thing I got 6 hours in the last 2 days when I only expected to do 1 hour each.

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/26/15

When I was 10 years old, we moved away from Hawaii and returned to Utah. As we drove over the Pali on Oahu (you couldn’t drive THROUGH the Pali in those days ‑‑‑ the tunnel came much later), my mother said, “Brenda, look back, down the mountain. You may never see this again. You should remember it.”

“But why?” I said. “It’s just all green.”

Then Utah. Deserts. REALLY big mountains. Autumn leaves. Snow. That was some change! I guess I’ve never been big on “looking” at the real world. Would I rather read about it in a well‑written book?

So the Prompt for today is to take something of nature, be it what you can see right now out your window, or a scene remembered ‑‑‑ maybe as far back as childhood. How can you write that (for those of us who are less observant individuals) and bring it alive for a reader. What difference can it make to your manuscript, your story, your MC, the “bad guy”?

YES! I DID IT! I remembered a time, early morning, when the sky outside my bedroom window made the cream‑colored shutters glow in gold. I jumped out of bed, pulled on some clothes and went running outside to see what was going on.

A small excerpt of what I’ve written about that morning:

For days, the fog had made this December more dreary than ever — yet here it was, almost Christmas. Something new must be happening for this much gold to invade. Knowing “nothing gold can stay,” I rushed by the alcove, giving my favorite statue a tiny, finger‑tip kiss as I passed, pulled on my jacket, stuck my feet in the running shoes which lay by the door, raced down the hall and out the front.

The air itself was golden!

Fog and dew had frozen on the trees, which lifted their whitened limbs into the radiant air. From my front step, I could see only as far as the second house west on the circle. But, for a moment, the fog — not the dreary, depressing gray which had haunted us for so long — cocooned itself and everything else in a lustrous, golden mantle. . . .

I ran down as far as the corner, seeing one house, then another, slowly take form ahead of me in the shimmering air. Bushes, trees held out white‑tipped limbs and fronds, yet presented their stolid, black trunks and interiors as a sign of stability in this fantasia world. . . .

Now, tell us what you’ve seen and been able to slip into your writing.

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . .


WRITING PROGRESS REPORT:

April 25 Minimum: 1 hr   2-3 hours’ worth of planning the new writing schedule – WooHoo!

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