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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Building Block: The Five Bones (#AuthorToolboxBlogHop)

During my time at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, I had a professor who taught me something he called, "The Five Bones." Basically, it's a way to get to know your characters, particularly your main protagonist. 

What are "The Five Bones?" They are the things that make your character tick. "The Five Bones" are what makes your character who they are. When Professor Pritchett first told me about his building block theory, I thought it was crap. But I found myself using it in order to better understand my characters. Using "The Five Bones"has really added a depth to my story that wasn't there previously. 

And here are "The Five Bones"
  1. Desire - This is what your character wants now and will want five years now. It is one of the things that drives them.
  2. Fear - This is what terrifies your character and again, will terrify them five years from now. It also is one of the things that drives them.
  3. Strength - This is what will help your character accomplish their desire.
  4. Weakness - This is your character's suffering. It is the thing which will stand in the way of your character fulfilling their desire.
  5. Action - This is what your character is doing about the other four bones. This is what defines your character. This is what makes your character lovable, relatable, and revered. 

This building block technique has helped me give purpose to aimless characters. It has helped me discover what exactly my character needed to be doing in order for my story to feel complete. I say, give it a try. Use it to outline, at least, your protagonist and antagonist. See if it helps you get out of writer's block.

Let me know if "The Five Bones" works for you in the comments! 

Have a great week everyone!!

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click here.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fifty Shades of Once Upon a Time

I want to preface this post by saying that I am not anti-fanfiction. In fact, my current obsession, The Dorothy Must Die series, is fan fiction. But, I sometimes wonder... do authors (including myself) have no more original stories to share? I'm sure that isn't the case. I mean, borrowing from other authors is a tale as old as time. Yet, I can't help but notice, even with TV and movies, everything seems to be a retelling or re-imagining these days...

I feel like Hollywood has always had a penchant for reimagining previous movies and remaking them or turning them into TV shows. The writing world may have done the same thing, but more in the form of publishing new editions of novels, not reworking them. But, it feels like the moment Fifty Shades of Grey was published and the moment Once Upon a Time hit the small screen, that stories started to be reimagined. Especially fairy tales...

I was browsing books at Barnes and Noble the other day and noticed that there were so many books based on fairy tales. My mind immediately went "this is the Once Upon a Time effect." Disney has a set of novels written from the villains point of view. (I will be reading Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen, thanks to Prime Reading.) I saw Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles which twists fairy tales and makes them as dark as they were originally. I picked up Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige because I'm a sucker for all things Wizard of Oz and was intrigued by an evil Dorothy. I also saw The Storymakers books by Betsy Schow (these seemed ridiculous to me and the back matter put a nail in the coffin of me reading it,) where Dorothea wears Hans Christian Louboutin heels and her parents are stuck in Kansas. As much as I liked the play on words with the shoes, the reimagining felt like it was just along for the fan fiction ride.

So, have we gone too far? I mean, at least Fifty Shades of Grey tried to distance itself somewhat from it's source material. Honestly, if I hadn't known it was fan fiction, I might not have put it together. I love that fan fiction has opened a path to creativity for so many, a path that has lead to some amazing writing and original stories. I don't want it to go away, but should we, as authors, try harder to make sure our stories can stand on their own even if they are a result of fan fiction?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Review: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I know this week's blog was supposed to be about find a job that you love and that actually allows you to use your degree, but this week has been long and tiring and I would love to put more effort into that post.

So, instead I am going to review a book.

I am not a Me Before You reader, at least not normally. I prefer my stories full of teen angst and supernatural tendencies, but my sister recommend that I read this because I said that I needed a good cry. 

The story was well written. I absolutely loved Lou and felt myself falling for Will with each turn of the page. I honestly didn't think that a story about a women who took a job caring for a quadriplegic and fell in love with him would be any good. I mean, it sounded like a giant cliche and I was afraid that it might be insensitive to those who were really wheelchair-bound, but it wasn't. It was actually quite magical.

I had heard rumors about how heartbreaking this book could be but after getting almost a third of the way through I still wasn't feeling the heartbreak. I knew it was coming. The build up was extremely well-crafted. It broke me. I sobbed. I bawled. I felt everything Lou felt.  I have never been so mad at a fictional character while also understanding their decision.

Do I recommend it? YES, especially if it falls outside of what you normally read. This isn't a traditional romance and I am wholly thankful for that.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Importance of Word Choice

Have you every read a short story or a book that felt off? The story itself was good but something just didn’t feel right. There is a good chance that it was poor word choice that was throwing you off.

The way I see it, one of the most important things a writer can focus on is word choice. Especially when it comes to dialog. Dialog can make or break a story. As a writer I need to know when to have a character say “hello” versus having a character say “hey.” I need to know the connotation behind words, particularly if I am writing a period piece or a story taking place in a certain country (if the story takes place in the US but a character had just moved there from London, it would be a smart choice to have the character use British slang versus having them use American slang.) 

Along with good word choice, I find that my favorite writers aren’t afraid to use “colorful” language. They use cuss words and content appropriate slang. It’s kind of sad that I feel the need to mention this, but Americans are extremely weird when it comes to language. The word “fuck” will have some of them up in arms and they will act like you’re obscene idiot for using the word, but they have no problem watching something extremely violent as long the language isn’t too filthy (PG-13 movies.) 

Why is using colorful language important to me? Because it makes your characters easier to relate to. Think about Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s hard for to me to take it seriously because of the language that the characters use, whether in dialog or their head. The main protagonist is 22 and calls her vagina “my sex.” She says “holy crap” and “double crap” way more than most adult women do. The only Latino in the books says “dios mios” almost every time he appears. (Basically, you should read Fifty Shades of Grey as “what not to do” example.) It’s all good to have a character who has a tagline, but to have them repeat the same words over and over feels cheap and lazy.

So, when you’re writing your next story or editing your current story, please look at your choice of words. Did you make sure the language made sense? Did you make productive choices? If a sentence doesn’t sound right, try changing a word or two and see if that helps.

I hope this helps you in your writing. Please let me know if you have any word choice tips or advice!

Next week’s blog will discuss getting a job that allows you to use your degree. I would like to give a shout out to my great friend, Lori, for the idea!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Change: A Story Needs It

Last week I ranted about the changes that I am currently going through and I promised to share how one could use that change in their writing.

Well, how do you use what you’re going through in your life in your writing?

  1. Keep a journal. Writing about your feelings about things as you are feeling them is the best way to capture the emotions in a raw way. 
  2. Use that journal to help mold your characters. It is much easier to write a realistic emotional scene if you know you how that emotion actually feels. For example, if you have ever moved and felt said about it, you will know exactly how to have your character emote that without it being over the top or unrealistic.
  3. The changes in your life, no matter how small, can be used as inspiration for your story. Maybe you have a character that feels like their life is piling up on them but it feels off to have everything be a major issue. I hate it when I read stories about people who literally have every bad thing you can imagine happen to them. So, if you have a character who has gone through a series of bad things (they got into a car wreck and lost their job in the same day) using a small change could be the best way to set the character off (like their favorite snack being taken off the market or even going to. different restaurant than their usual for a birthday dinner.) I feel like making the tipping point something small makes the situation for realistic. 

Why do I feel that way? Why wouldn’t it be something major that sets a character off?

When I think about my own life, I was fine with moving and getting a new job, but it was spending a holiday (Valentine’s Day, a day I don't even care about) in our temporary living space that made me cry. With everything changing around me, I couldn’t help but long for something to stay the same. I feel like that tends to be the case with most people. Most people say that big change freaks them out when it’s really the little things that get to them. For example, moving is a big change and while it is normally not a bad thing, a lot of people hate it. I don’t think they hate it because they don’t want a change of scenery, but because of the little things that will be different (you might have to use a different grocery chain, your bedroom might be set up differently, but mostly, it’s just not the same.)

Why is using your experience with change important in your writing?

Because you have no story without change. If your character’s life is the same from beginning to end, if there is no change, no growth, then you didn’t tell a story.

I hope this helps you harness your own experiences and using them in your writing. Next week I will talk about words and why word choice is extremely important.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Change is the Only Constant

Lately it feels like everything in my life is changing. We have recently sold our first home and are moving into a new one, but we haven't closed on the new house yet. I feel like I am in limbo in our temporary shelter, living out of a suitcase and never feeling quite right. I may have somewhere to lay my head but I feel homeless. 

I also got a new job as a Digital Marketing Assistant with a small, woman-ran company. So, I quit my part-time gig and while I should be so happy that I finally got a job that allows me to use my degree, I can't help but miss my co-workers at H&M. Some of those people are like family and it's going to suck not seeing them daily. BUT, I am happy about my new job and I love that I am helping companies reach out to their customers in an organic way (the only downside is my lack of time for writing...)

My sister is getting divorced, making holidays and family get togethers different. America is being ran by a narcissistic psycho, making me fear for the future. The QuikTrip near my work is closing and being moved down the street. In 2018 my driver's license won't be an acceptable form of ID to fly because Missouri is stupid. My kiddo will have to go to a new school district because of the move and he fears he will lose his friends. I miss our first house terribly and makes me regret the decision to move.

I just want something to stay the same in my life, even if just for a minute, but it can't. The only constant in life is change.

And how can I use my feelings about this change in my writing?? 

I'll tell you next week...

(P.S. Thanks for reading my rant about problems that aren't really problems. I don't handle big change well and writing about it helps.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Name That Book

I believe that a compelling story needs an equally compelling title. 


Titles matter. Think about the titles of the most beloved books in literature and you will find that they are not only unique but also memorable. Same goes for the books on the best seller’s lists. Titles are, at times, what originally draw readers in.

Here are a list of my favorite book titles, even though they are not always my favorite books.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (One of my favorite books of all time)
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Also a favorite)
The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Fifty Shades of Gray by E.L.James (I loathe this book but the title is memorable and catchy)

Of course there are many many more, but looking at these titles should give an idea of what I mean. These titles are catchy, unique, and memorable. Just think if these books had generic titles, would they have caught people’s eyes on bookshelves?

So, how does one come up with a badass title?

I actually find my inspiration in music and from my own writing. The story I am working on now is called “Reigniting Salem.” It came from a line in the story, it’s funny because its a minor character who says it, but it works on so many levels.

When it comes to using music, sometimes a line in the song becomes the title or it becomes the inspiration behind the story and weaves itself into it.

My one piece of advice for naming your story is to write it first. I never give a story a title until a good chunk of it is written. 

Do you have any advice for coming up with titles? Let me know in the comments!