Tag Archives: Carol Lynch Williams

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 3

7456038The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes.

Prologue and first chapter were read: 19 pages. (We never discussed this, Carol, but I assume a prologue is not a legit chapter but a prelude and needs to be included.)

“Paul is dead!” What an opening line! (I’m showing my age, but I immediately saw the Abbey Road album cover. For those of you too young to understand, Google “Beatles Paul is dead.) Once I brought myself back to the present, it was still a killer first sentence (pun intended).

For me, it went somewhat downhill from there. It’s smoothly written, but the author pushed too much backstory, too much flashback, too much telling not showing. (Brenda is going to disagree with me on this.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some strong storytelling here. What surprises me is how the author breaks every rule Carol presented in class. Okay, with the exception of the “Paul is dead!” opening line.

The point of scene is excellent. The story takes place on a small Caribbean island and the descriptions are as lush as the landscape.

Characters are aplenty. There was the main character, Esti, of course. Then we have: the police officer who questioned her; an old family friend (in flashback); Paul, the victim (in flashback); Lucia, a local who had seen Esti talking with Paul. That would be five in the first nine pages, the prologue.

The actual first chapter introduces us to Esti’s mother, Aurora. Then come the two uppity kids from the school who seem to be members of the elite crowd: Danielle and Greg. Their main purpose seems to be to instruct Esti (and, in the process, us, the readers) about local legends, history, idioms and island patois. Oh, and establish that Danielle is in direct competition with Esti for the role of Juliet in the school play. Apparently, she’s sizing up the opposition.

The chapter had too much going on. The locations were varied and moved rapidly: the school grounds, the theater, another area in the school grounds, a flashback to the cemetery in the States, and, finally, her house. Her house took up the first chapter. The others took place in the prologue, the first 9 pages.

Prologue moved fast, first chapter not so much. Too slow, too much backstory. The two schoolmates showing up didn’t fit with the flow, I didn’t think. It seemed out of place.

Bottom line, it’s a ghost story and a murder mystery. How can you go wrong? Besides, Brenda says I’ll love it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I got much in the way of finding improvements for The Other Siders.

 

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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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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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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 04/30/15

The End‑of‑April Last DAILY Prompt (at least for a while- See the last note): Think of three quite different emotions. Imagine which one of your characters might feel all three of those emotions within a fairly short time period. Write a scene which shows the character flipping from one emotion to another, and possibly even back again. Does s/he then come across as a person who has “flipped out,” or one who is displaying expected and rational feelings? Which of those ways would you most like your reader to think of your character? Just have fun with it!

YES! I DID IT! Disgust, Desire, Fear — I’ll take these three. My MC, an early 30‑something male, wakes up at mid‑day from a nightmare and looks around his habitation: it is cluttered and filthy, and it’s all his fault, as he lives alone. He walks outside and takes a short break from his filth, as well as a drag on his last remaining cigarette, and slips psychologically back into a dream‑state, only to see a luscious, though imaginary, woman — with wings! She’s teased him with her presence before. He wants her — too bad she’s doesn’t seem to be real. He dismisses the idea of trying to find a “real” woman like that. In the next moment, a screeching and mewling, as if of a hundred cats, assaults his ears. And the sound all seems to emanate from his upstairs window. In spite of his terror, he runs back into the house, to find the reality: his pathetic and dilapidated apartment is full of cats — some of them hurt or mutilated. And they blame him and begin to attack, wave upon wave.

He moved from disgust with his life style, to desire for a phantom woman, to fear of the cats. I think most readers would believe him to be a rather reprehensible person, but not one who has “flipped out”. Women readers, in particular, might find his life style disgusting and lazy, and might be disgusted at his interest in the “desirable” winged creature, but his fear of the cats would certainly be understandable. I think male readers could more easily imagine themselves in a position such as his, and might feel a trickle of fear (at least FOR him) as the cats attack. They might sympathize to some extent.

OOooo! I liked the idea of combining several emotions, and writing a scene where a character had logical reason to feel one the other without seeming crazy or out of touch with his reality . . . Okay, it’s a given that HIS “reality” is NOT Reality. But the EVENTS themselves seem even crazier than he does.

(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:

And for my April 30 Minimum GOAL: 1 hour (this should have been a “clear” day, and therefore a 2‑hour goal day, but family circumstances dictated otherwise, sometimes that happens) so — YES! I DID IT! I worked on finding “order” among the events of this very convoluted story I’m writing. Part of that is in re‑doing parts of it, more or less like the Prompt I gave some time ago about creating a SITUATION, and then coming up with COMPLICATIONS within the situation. In fact, I think I’ll do even more of that with the rest of the story as well.

Note from Herb: As many of you know (and some may not) I do not write the blogs. I just post them. Brenda (BB) is the main engine on this enterprise. I have written a few in the past, but this month has been all her.

We’re getting ready to go on vacation, but we will be posting periodically while we’re gone. There isn’t a set schedule at this time or even a set format. We’re open to suggestions. How about a Throw Back Thursday where we republish one of the more popular blogs from the past two years? A weekly or every other weekly book review? Let us know what you’d like to read about.

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