Thursday, March 21, 2019

On Exceeding Expectations

When a reader picks up a novel, they want to be entertained. 

(Face it: in the world we're living in, we all need a bit of escapism.)

How do you keep the reader entertained? You make your story interesting. Yes, it kind of goes without saying, but if you're bored writing the words, then your reader is going to be bored while reading them.

Of course, the literary fiction novel isn't going to pack as much punch as the thriller, but the conscious reader knows what he/she expects when reading in a genre. It's up to the writer to know the rules and expectations and conventions set forth based on the readership (this is especially true for Indie authors, who are operating without the guidance of an editor). It's okay to break the rules, but you have to know them first. Break too many rules and the story may become something unrecognizable (which could be a good thing or a disaster--that's up for the audience to decide). 

Compelling characters. Intriguing settings. Striking images. An engaging plot.

Know the reader's expectations, then do your best to exceed them.

If the reader can close the cover of your novel satisfied with the hours he or she spent with your characters in their world, then you've succeeded (and that, my friends, is no small feat).

Be Brilliant!

~Katie~ 

Monday, March 18, 2019

On Finding Your Purpose

I firmly believe that each one of us is here because we have a purpose--some potential we're meant to fulfill. I also don't think we discover that potential by playing it "safe" or sticking with the status quo or meeting the expectations others have forced on us. 

We discover our potential by taking risks and trying something new. By pushing boundaries and stepping outside our comfort zones. We have to work hard to find that purpose--some of us have to work harder than others--because the world is doing everything it can to make sure we're conforming. The pressure is unbelievable. 

But, as history often shows, it's the boundary breakers who make the difference--the ones who didn't follow the rules--the men and women "polite society" rolled their eyes and scoffed at. 

So . . . eight years old or eighty, it doesn't matter. Pick up that pen. Tie those slippers. Grab the guitar. Step on stage. Dip that paintbrush into water and work on that masterpiece. 

Discover what it is you're meant to do, then do it with abandon.

~Katie~ 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

On Being "Stuck"

"I'm stuck," you say, leaning back in your chair. Maybe you fold your arms across your chest or chew on your thumbnail as you stare at the page in front of you that isn't quite blank but isn't close to finished, either. 

You're trapped in that "messy middle." You've introduced your characters and set up your story problem. All of that initial "fun stuff" has been covered, you're 75 pages in, and your ship has stalled.

The most obvious solution, of course, is to power through. (I have an entire course devoted to unpacking writer's block and how to overcome it. Powering through is key.) Just get the words on the page. They can always be fixed later.

Another option?

Think.

Why are you stuck? What happened?

Because when the words aren't flowing, it's because something is wrong. 

If you think about writing as a journey down the river, it's easy to imagine a blockage at the head that might keep the water from flowing, or some barrier at the end that's causing the water to back up, impeding progress. 

Either way, something needs to be fixed: a character isn't who he needs to be; a backstory isn't serving the story's purpose; the plot isn't moving in the most satisfying direction.

At the onset of a block, it would help to do some reassessing, because if you can pinpoint the problem early on, you can save yourself a lot of cutting and editing later. 

So yes: power through, but not until critically thinking about whether or not you're motoring down the right road.

Be Brilliant!

~Katie~ 

Monday, March 11, 2019

On Selfishness

You're not being selfish for refusing that phone call or skipping that errand or ignoring the laundry for an hour while you put words onto the page. 

The world won't end because you picked your art over chairing the bake sale. 

It's okay to say "no," that you have plans, even if those plans are just between you and the page (or you and the piano, or you and the canvas). 

We make time for what we love and value, and we should, above all, value the reason we were put on this planet, for the contribution we're meant to make--"selfish" or otherwise.

Be Brilliant!

~Katie~

Thursday, March 7, 2019

On Coincidences

A coincidence, according to Merriam-Webster, is "the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection."

As a writer, coincidences undermine the reality of your story. They can plant seeds of doubt in your reader's mind. 

Does the writer really know what he's doing? 

But are there ever situations where it's okay to use a coincidence? 

Nancy Kress says yes.

A coincidence is okay if you're setting up a plot complication (but not resolving it).

A coincidence is okay when the event seems engineered at the time, but can be explained logically as more information is revealed to the reader.

A coincidence is okay if your story is humorous (i.e. not intended to represent reality).

In Cross My Heart (and its Collateral Damage counterpart), there's a scene where Parker and Blake get into it in the parking lot, and Jaden intervenes. 

Coincidence?

Maybe. But we already know that Jaden works in the office last hour (we've seen her there), so the fact that she's running late isn't too much of a surprise. The tension has been building between Parker and Blake for a while, but CMH hints at a previous altercation between the two gentlemen which CD describes more fully--they're walking timebombs, basically. So while it might seem coincidental that everyone happens to be in the right place at the right time, ready for a fight, the stage was set long before the scene played out, which (I hope) allows for the reader to suspend their disbelief of that moment.  

Because that's what fiction demands of us, right? To suspend our disbelief for while and invest in the narrative being spun.

So use those coincidences, but use them well. 

A coincidence done poorly has the potential to raise the proverbial red flag.

A coincidence done right isn't really a "coincidence" at all.

Be Brilliant!

~Katie~ 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Show Up Anyway

You have a right to your work, but not the acceptance of it by others. 

Enjoy the work, but know that the work isn't you. 

Do the work knowing that you're doing your best. 

Next time? 

Do even better. 

Above all? 

Show up and do the work.

Be Brilliant!

~Katie~

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Don't Forget to Feel, Then Think, Before You React

Did you realize that our first reaction to anything that happens is emotional?

Post-insult, the character feels intense anger (rage!). That anger is what propels him to cock his arm back and punch the offender.

Immediately after hearing that her beloved dog has died, the character becomes sad (heartbroken!). This sadness incites tears (and, quite possibly, driving aimlessly around town the rest of the night to be alone with those tears).

The emotional reaction precedes the rational one (where you finally start to think, trying to make sense of the events and what to do about them). The action inevitably follows.

In the character's world, this can take hours (or days) or happen in a matter of moments.

Why is this important? 

Because when we're developing characters, emotions matter.

So when you're writing a scene that requires a real, visceral reaction, spend a few lines letting the reader know how the character is feeling (bonus points if you can show us the effects of these feelings).

After this, tell us what he or she is thinking (especially if they are entirely wrong about what's happening, because this will help us better understand their motives). Then . . . move into the physical response or action.

Game. Set. Match.

Be Brilliant!

~Katie~