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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Location is Everything: #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Kansas City Skyline (Photo: Vanessa M Scott)

Whether your story takes place in a generic suburb in a "make believe" town or in a well known city like New York City, London or Cairo, you have to make it believable.

If you choose a real world location, I find it best to be a city or place you have actually been to. Why? Because researching a location via the internet, other books or movies is not a substitute for the real thing. I can always tell when a writer has written a story that takes place in NYC based solely on what they have seen in the movies or on television. The story typically lacks the small details that bring a location to life and tends to focus on places that locals tend to avoid like Time Square (unless they work near there) and other famous tourist spots. 

That is why I tend to write stories that take place in my hometown of Kansas City. Kansas City has a lot to offer when it came to range. There is downtown, midtown, and multiple suburbs, along with great hiking trails, scenic parks, and a river. The city offers unlimited possibilities for telling an authentic story for almost any plot.

As for a fictional location, you can get away with quite a bit more and if you want to attach it to the real world, all you have to do is mention that the nearest hospital/shopping center/concert venue is an hour or two away in Berlin/London/Portland. 

Why is location so important?

Your story's setting and location help determine many factors that will ultimately shape your plot. Take my chosen location of Kansas City for example, my characters won't ever take the subway/train to work and will most likely have their own car because Kansas City is too spread out to walk everywhere. Kansas City has all four seasons (though this is becoming less true each year, I really miss a full blown spring and autumn) so I have to make sure that when I write an outdoor scene in January that my characters are dressed appropriately. I should also take into consideration local slang and diction when writing dialog. Imagine reading a story that takes place in the UK but the dialog is completely American, it doesn't make sense. 

So, when choosing your story's location, make sure it is something you can make feel real. There is nothing more satisfying than a story that I can get completely lost in without being distracted by a setting that doesn't make sense for the story being told.

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Visual Writing Prompts

Here are some visual writing prompts... tell me their stories...
Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott

Photo by: Vanessa Scott









Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Voices of YA

Thank you Molly Looby and Raimey Gallant for tagging me!! And thank you Caitlin Lambert  for creating the Voices of YA tag!!

Here are the rules!
1 Thank the person who tagged you
2 Link to the original creator
3 Answer the ten questions

4 Tag at LEAST TWO other YA writers/bloggers


What draws you to YA?
YA feels limitless. It doesn’t have to fit into a certain box and can basically be about anything. 

Describe your writing process. Do you like outlines and structure, or seeing where the story takes you?
My writing process is not structured by any means. I don’t really do outlines. I do a lot of  writing my ideas out by hand in an actual notebook. When I write my ideas out, I let them flow and write whatever comes to mind. Later, when I am typing up my story on Scrivener, that is when I process my notes and make them make sense. 

How long have you been writing? Where are you in your journey?
I have been writing, according to my mother, since I came out of the womb. I only have one book published, The Best Mixtape I Have. It was self-published shortly after NaNoWriMo a few years ago. It is horrible and not at all edited. I do love the story line, but I wish I wouldn’t have rushed it. I just wanted to enjoy the free copies that I received from finishing NaNoWriMo. I am currently working on a book that I am definitely taking my time on and hopefully I won’t self-publish. 

What do you need to write? Coffee? Music?
I need my notebooks and music. Coffee is nice but isn’t a requirement. Music is a requirement, however. I have a special soundtrack that I listen to when I write. I’ll share a sample:

Contagious - The Night Riots 
The Night We Met - Lord Huron
Silvertongue  - Young the Giant
Do You Remember - Jarryd James

If you could offer one piece of advice to another writer (other than "don't give up"), what would it be?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you how it is for you. Whether it be a friend, an agent, a publisher, if making certain changes makes you feel uncomfortable or if you feel like you are destroying your story, do only what you feel best. Now, I am not saying that agents and editors don’t know when changes need to be made, but sometimes you have to go with your gut. You know your story and you know how it needs to be told.


What book still has you reeling from its plot twist? (*no spoilers please*)
I can’t really think of any…

What books are you most anticipating for this year?
It was The End of Oz by Danielle Paige, but I kind of already dug into that book and finished after a day. 

I am also looking forward to The Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts. Here is an official synopsis: In Bastards, we follow Tilla, an intrepid but surly cast-off of Lord Kent of the Western Province, who raised her as a baby but more or less shrugged her off once he discovered his trueborn children. But when a visiting princess chooses to sit with Tilla and other kingdom bastards at a royal dinner, everything starts to change. Especially when Tilla finds herself helping to safeguard the princess’s life as rebellion brews.

In your opinion, which YA book/series has the most unique premise?
I like the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige. I love the reimagining of The Wizard of Oz and how Paige mixes teen angst with a classic story.

What is your all-time favourite quote from YA lit (I know, I'm cruel)?
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.” - The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky. 

What book do you most hope will have a movie adaption?
The Black Witch by Laurie Forest. The book is beautiful and I would love to see it played out.

Thanks again for my tag! I am tagging DJ Humphries and Amy Laurel!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Names Have Power - #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

"Names have power." - Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

You have to be careful when naming your characters. You have to consider the genre, the time period, and where the story takes place.

If you are writing a story about Mary, Queen of Scots (and your story isn't about time travel) who lived during the 1500s then I would stay away from names that have only recently became names. Even my name, Vanessa, would not be appropriate. Vanessa wasn't a thing until 1700s when Jonathan Swift invented it. 

You also have to think about where your story takes place. Some places, like the United States, gives you more leeway when picking names. But if your story takes place is small town in the Ukraine, you aren't likely to find a Nevaeh there, but maybe a Viktoria or a Sofia.

You should also be consistent with nicknames. If you have a character named Gregory who prefers to go by Greg, make sure he only goes by Gregory in formal encounters or only have one friend/family member who calls him by his full name. 

As a writer, I try to avoid using names that are too similar by both spelling and sound. Readers don't always fully read words. If you have characters names Laurie and Lauren, readers might confuse the two. Same goes with Tim and Tom. Also, have two characters with the same name, even if spelt differently can be awfully confusing. 

I would also be careful when naming based on ethnicity and looks alone. If you are going to name a character based on their heritage make sure you do some research. Do not be like E.L. James and be so lazy that you name the two characters go color in your book the same thing. In Fifty Shades of Grey, James named her characters of hispanic decent Jose Rodriguez, Jr. and Sr. It's lazy and rude. It would only work if there was a reason behind it, but as I recall, James never stated one.

When I name characters I tend to avoid names in the top 50 to 100. But if I love a name, I don't care if it's very popular though I rarely love popular names.  I also avoid names with heavy connotation. Beyonce will immediately make people think of the singer. Elvis, Madonna, Hitler, Kanye... those names can turn your characters into caricatures. 

So, where should you look for names for your characters? I keep a running list of names in my writing journals. I also look through phonebooks, baby books, yearbooks, and name generators. I write down my favorite names from my favorite television shows. 

What advice do you have for naming characters? Please share in the comments!!

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Blog Photography

Every good blog contains photos but you have to select those photos carefully. If you need a photo for your blog, please, don't use Google image search. Also, don't screenshot a photo from someone's Instagram to use a photo you find on Tumblr. 
By using photos you find in that way, you would be breaking the law and are opening yourself up to being sued.

So, where do you find photos that are free to use without purchasing the rights to do so? Well, you could just take the photos yourself. I love photography and creating an amazing image. 

You could also use certain website that provide free photos that don't require a license, a purchase, or to cite where you got the photo (though that is something you can do as a courtesy.) 

Here are the websites that I have found to have the best photos:

I am sure there are more, but those are my favorites. 

I hope this helps you add wonderful images to your blog. Also, if you want to see my photos, check them out here: 

If you do check out my photos, please tell me what you think!! 

Thanks and May the Fourth be with you!!

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?