Wednesday, January 19, 2011

To BE or Not To Be

This deep question posed by Hamlet is not merely about living or dying, it seeks to find the meaning in life, as well as the breadth, scope, purpose, and tangibility in it. There's an underlining hope for making an impact in it, to thrive beyond the pages of existence. To Be. It is the question of life. Everyone wants that. To Be.

Whether you know it or not, when readers delve into your story, they subconsciously ask this question of your creations. Will they feel alive or not? Can you make them Be, full of life, uniqueness and complexity, jumping off the page, demanding to be noticed and not soon forgotten, or will they be Nots, deadwood, quickly cast into a bin with other flat-lined drones, ill-crafted by countless others before you?

The best way to reveal true character and circumstance is to show. Many writers always chant the "Show, Don't Tell" mantra because it's a vital ingredient for good storytelling, while others are left shrugging their shoulders, unsure as to what that even means.

In my WIP, Sapphire Reign, my fifteen-year-old character, Skye, is adventurous and feisty. She's an anonymous writer for the school paper and is attempting to uncover the secrets of this mysterious, terrorizing bunch of tricksters in her school called the Wisteria Sisters so she can expose the truth to the masses. Doing so could be dangerous, since she has no clue who or what she's dealing with.

All that about her could easily be summarized in narrative, but that would be telling. Instead, when I pull her onstage in chapter 7, I open her POV like this:

* * *

A scant shuffle of her pink, suede boot sent pebbles tumbling down the jagged face of the cliff side. They clacked like bones snapping until they plunked into the roaring river below, exactly where the current picked up and foamed around boulders.

Just jump, Skye. Jump. Do it. Jump.

Her body tensed. Skye gulped and edged back several steps. The fifteen-year-old covered her face for a few moments and adopted a slow-breathing rhythm to quiet her better judgment before it changed her will. She'd hiked all the way up here through layers and layers of gray to do this. Her mind was set but her shaking body stood very opposed to her decision. Her present espionage gig aside, she never considered herself suicidal. And that's what this was. Suicide.

Skye refused to let herself back out. She took one deep breath and just did it. She ran two strides and jumped. At the fall, she screamed. Her stomach leapt into her throat. A hawk swooped below her. For one split second, she flew too and then fell into a thrilling negative-G producing plunge until her weight mashed into her harness seat and tugged taught at the zipline.

The rush surged so much greater than it ever had. Of course, she'd only zipped through woods, never over a gorge filled with so many ways to die.

"Whooooohoooo. This is crazy awesoooome. Wooo," she yelled on her rapid swoop. She buzzed down, seeing a cascading waterfall from a bird's-eye view, then fell fast in front of it, getting sprayed in its frigid mist as it spilled into another river. "Sweeeeet." Getting wet spots on her sweatshirt was a minor discomfort, with exhilaration making it so worthwhile.

* * *

Then it breaks into dialogue with her two friends that reveals her main goal. In this scene I refrained from writing one thing in the narrative about her personality, her purpose and the potential danger she's really jumping into. Dialogue and action reveal all of that. It's more engaging this way. Readers now know she's a fearless risk-taker, they've seen it, and that her friends, even the wild one who dared to make the zipline jump with her, think she's crazy for going after the Wisteria Sisters. That shows far more about the circumstance and character than telling in a summary ever could.

Here is an example of telling versus showing:

T: Sam, so hot and parched, doubted he'd make it out of the desert alive, but he kept going, a step at a time.

S: The sun lapped up Sam's sweat before it could bead on his arms and grit coated his throat, scraping it with each swallow. He smacked his tongue, but saliva remained dormant. Barely ambling, though still trying, he looked ahead again, shading his eyes with his hand, blinking at the vultures...waiting. An ocean of sand lay before him. Only by God will I get outta here alive.

Showing engages readers and helps them to identify with your characters. Show when you can. Let your people Be.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Aaahh, Breathing Room

Now that I've pretty much decided I'm going to do my own thing and choose my own journey with my YA novel, Kings & Queens, I suddenly realized I have more room. Yay!

You see, with any YA that gets into the big house, word count needs to be super minimal. About 60,000 is average. So, I worked extremely hard and slashed many a darlings to get that word count down from 106 g's to a less jaw-dropping 88. How awesome of me, right?

Well, now that I'm not going traditional with this one, it gives me more creative control, which means suit coats won't be telling me to cut this or that and more of my glorious words will be able to grace the eyes and ears of lucky readers. Sweet.

So, I'm gonna keep the terse version, just in case, ya know, an agent miraculously shows interest, but I'll also create a beefed-up version that's more compatible with its narrative-rich sequel, Sapphire Reign.

I'm only talking a thousand or two words here, but still, the extra room fills me with so much tickly delightful I can't stand it.

So, back to editing I go. This time to give a bit more fullness to my story.

And I'm still slowly but surely getting Dropping Like Flies and Online Girl closer to The End, DLF more than the latter.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Book Review: The Truth of the Matter (Book 3 of The Homelanders Series)

Author: Andrew Klavan
Genre: YA suspense
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 2, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1595547142
ISBN-13: 978-1595547149


"You're not alone. You're never alone."

Charlie West has held on to that belief, but now he's starting to wonder. He went to bed one night an ordinary high-school kid. When he woke up, he was wanted for murder and hunted by a ruthless band of terrorists. He's been on the run ever since. Now he's stuck in prison, abandoned by his allies, trying desperately to stay a step ahead of vicious prison gangs and brutal guards. And a flash of returning memory tells him another terrorist strike is coming soon. A million people will die unless he does something. But what? He's stuck in a concrete cage with no way out and no one who can help. Charlie has never felt so alone-and yet he knows he can't give in or give up . . . not with the final hour ticking away.

My Take:

Charlie West is a feisty protagonist, who's missing a year of his life and running from mystery killers--a group of terrorists he just escaped from. He can't recall what's happened in the last year, so he's on a hunt to fill in the memory gap. When he tracks down the only clue he can remember, a guy named Waterman, he begins to get some answers, but the closer he gets to uncovering the truth, the more danger he finds himself in. And when Waterman dies with questions still unanswered, he's left in a sea of black all alone, trying his best to get out alive.

This book is categorized and sold as Christian, and I don't know how the others in the series are, but this one, THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER, could be enjoyed be readers of any or no faith. This novel really only refers to his belief in God but doesn't preach at readers or speak any Christianese at all. It is clean, but not to the point of being annoying, as the grit and danger keep it exciting. And even though this is YA as well, any reader who loves suspense would enjoy this. It's a good example of a cross-over type.

I got this book from Booksneeze, unaware that it was a third installment in a series, but that didn't bother me in the least.

The storyline was very easy to follow for a new reader, gripping, suspenseful and action-packed. There is a strong possibility this novel could be boring for those who've read the previous, since I as a new reader was riveted to discover the chunks of his missing past, whereas those familiar would already know them, making the reveals less impacting.

The only thing I didn't like was the narrative and dialogue were very simplistic, and I don't think you should ever dumb things down for teens. I think if the author hadn't skimped in this area, his novel would have had even more cross-over appeal. Other than that, it was most enjoyable.

So, if you're looking for a good YA suspense novel, Christian or not, check this one out.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255


~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.