“Fan”tabulous Friday: 3/4/11

In my “Who? Me?” section, I called out Friday as the day to share my favorite posts of the week. To qualify, the post had to make me think, make me question, teach me, or inspire me.  In other words, I liked the post enough to click the “like” button so I could save it to read again some day.

“In the Beginning” Part One-Normal World
Anyone in publishing will tell you that one of the most important parts of your novel is the beginning. As an editor I hear, “Oh, but wait until you get to the good part on page 50. This is all the lead up.” Um, no. Doesn’t work that way. You might have a humdinger on page 50, but you are competing against authors who hook readers in the first 1-10 pages.

Many agents freely confess that they can tell by page five if they will even bother reading the entire sample submitted. I know. Nothing has changed. I spoke at the DFW Writers Workshop Conference this past weekend and sat through the Agent Q & A. Agents have a lot on their plate, so they are looking for a reason to put a story down. Why?
~ Kristen Lamb at Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Why I Liked It: All of the books I’ve read on the craft of writing fiction talk about hooking the reader from Page 1, possibly even in the very first sentence.  This can lead the writer to believe that his or her novel should start with some great drama or traumatic event; however, this post discusses the importance of beginning in the normal world to lay the foundation for the ensuing drama to connect the reader to the story and the characters.  The hook must still exist, but it’s possible to create it without thrusting the reader straight into the action, leaving them lost and unsure about what is at stake.  Consider it this way: if you meet someone new and the first thing he tells you is some horribly awful thing about his life, you might feel some sympathy but you know you’re thinking “Why the heck is he telling me this?  He doesn’t even know me.  TMI, dude.  TMI.”

Evil is a Bad Thing
Here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t know about Wal-Mart: people steal condoms. You wouldn’t expect shoplifters to be socially conscious enough to worry about birth control, but it must be pretty high on their list of priorities because nearly every day, you can find a partially empty box of condoms sitting on the shelf in the Toy Department (apparently there’s no security coverage back there or something, but it’s still really unsettling to see a box of Trojans sitting next to Sleepy Time baby dolls.)
~ Albert Berg at Albert Berg’s Unsanity Files

Why I Liked It: The villain in a story should be evil, but this post addresses the importance of that villain believing, deep down, that the evil deeds are being done for the right reasons.  This allows the reader to empathize with the antagonist and creates a much deeper story.  And I didn’t realize people stole condoms from Wal-Mart.  I think I’ll keep shopping at Target.

The Idiot’s New Occupation
Well, as you know, I went in last Wednesday and had a series of steroid injections in my right hip in an attempt to stop the nagging leg pain that has dogged me the last 3 months.  After the spinal injections failed to alleviate the pain, the Docs figured that injecting the hip and leg directly would surely knock out the pain.  With steroids, they don’t actually do anything to fix the cause of the pain, they just mask the symptoms….hence I should have been pain-free a couple of days after the shots.  Well, in keeping with my usual pattern…the shots did not work.
~ The Idiot at The Idiot Speaketh

Why I Liked It: First, if you haven’t read this blog, START!  The self-proclaimed Idiot has a wonderful self-deprecating style.  His posts are witty, well written, and have the potential to cause you to snort coffee out your nose as you laugh aloud.  In this particular post, he announces a change in his definition of himself and it’s a fabulous new definition.

Are Standards Shallow?
Earlier this week, fellow blogger (and mastermind of Musings on Life and Love) Dennis Hong accused me of “getting shallow.”  I told him that I’m not getting shallow, that I have always been shallow when it comes to my taller-than-me-in-heels requirement.

Although the majority of my female readers rallied to my defense (thanks ladies!) I’ve gotten a lot of flack for this over the years.  Ironically enough, most of it has come from my younger brother who, up until his senior year of college, hardly ever ventured beyond the likes of the well-endowed blond.  (So yeah, obviously he’s in a position to tell me I’m being shallow.)
~ Kat Richter at After I Quit My Day Job

Why I Liked It: Kat blogs about dating.  Since I’m recently single (again!  Good Lord…), her post about applying standards to the dating pool intrigued me.  Frankly, I can use all the pointers I can get.  In addition, I happen to be a vertically challenged woman and prefer tall men. My reason for this used to be that I wanted any children I might have to have a fighting chance at some height. Years of short jokes took their toll. Now that I’m of an age where I’m positive I’m not having kids, I have the luxury of reconsidering my height requirement (but I doubt I will). My requirements now include having a JOB, a CAR, and a PLACE TO LIVE. If that’s shallow, so be it.

4 Tricks for Getting to Know New Characters
With my third contracted book off my desk and in my agent’s hands, now seems like a smart time to do nothing but kick back and stare at pictures of shirtless men online.  I never claimed to be smart, which is probably why I’m preparing to start a new book.

I’m a pantster rather than a plotter, which means I typically have little idea where a story is headed when I dive in. One thing I do like to have before I start is a basic understanding of the characters. Who are they? What makes them tick? If we went out for drinks and the waiter said there was only one glass of Stoller 2008 JV Estate Pinot Noir left, who would win in a sword fight for it?
~ Tawna Fenske at Don’t Pet Me, I’m Writing

Why I Liked It: The post includes the phrase “stare at pictures of shirtless men online”.  I mentioned I’m recently single in my commentary on the post above this one, so that line pulled me right in.  As I read further, I discovered several tips on getting to know new characters that were inventive and inspiring.  I intend to try them all.

What inspired you this week?

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6 thoughts on ““Fan”tabulous Friday: 3/4/11

  1. I absolutely loved Tawna Fenske’s post about new characters. I believe that the more we know about the character the more our readers will identify and love them (or hate them depending on what role they play.) I like the idea of knowing intimate details about the characters that may not even make it into the story, but are still there. In short, I like layers, and layering characters make them more real to me. Think of a person, no one is just one layer, we’re complicated beings, as our characters should be.

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    • I totally agree. I found Tawna’s post very helpful as a way to think about my characters in a new way, rather than the traditional sort of “list” of things to know about my characters. Her tips will certainly help me get deep into their minds.

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