I love being a writer for many reasons, but one of them is because my community is so helpful to other writers. I’ve seen it and experienced it myself on more than one occasion. Here’s a new imprint for Middle Grade writers and I really believe it was opened to help them and not just fatten up Rick Riordan’s pocket. Here’s the announcement and what the imprint is looking to publish.
It’s hard to write main characters that are strong and likable. Agent Linda Epstein’s blog had a recent guest post who addressed this particular problem and it struck a chord with me. I’m sharing the part of the post that I liked down below. For the rest of the article, you can read it here. (Highlights are my own.)
“According to the Transitive Property of Reader-Character Relations, readers will echo the reactions of characters they already know and like and/or trust, and oppose the reactions of characters they don’t like or trust. Consider the opening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The Dursley family is shown to be amusingly small-minded and aggressively normal, so we readers enjoy feeling superior to them. But we also learn the Dursleys hate the Potter family for being so different, and since we dislike the Dursleys, we automatically like the Potters—a useful first step in making readers sympathize with Harry. Think about how your character math works as you introduce new figures into your book.
You can also use supporting characters to create more dimension in a character who thus far has had only one identity.
In the woods waits the only person with whom I can be myself. Gale. I feel the muscles in my face relaxing, my pace quickening. . . . The sight of him waiting there brings on a smile. . . .
“Hey, Catnip,” says Gale.
—The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In the first six pages of The Hunger Games, we see that Katniss loves her family, but she’s not a particularly kind, enthusiastic, or pleasant person. Then she goes to meet Gale in the woods, and this happens: She relaxes. She smiles. She experiences pleasure in someone else’s presence, and Gale likes her as well, which confirms Katniss must have some warmth we haven’t seen yet. That affirms our own interest in her and maybe even warms it up to affection, and that makes us extremely invested in her when she volunteers for the games at the end of the chapter.
A corollary to the Transitive Property: Readers like characters who are liked by other people. They are suspicious of characters who aren’t liked by other people. If you’re writing premise-driven fiction, consider giving your protagonist friends right away, because the friends provide an instant affirmation of the worthiness of the reader’s interest in the protagonist. With that interest confirmed, you can get right on with the plot.”
A couple of months ago, my mother suffered a severe concussion that required a MRI. I know it’s going to sound crazy when I say that she was lucky, but she was. The scan found a brain aneurysm and it either kills the person or causes a stroke before it is found as there are no symptoms. According to her doctor, her aneurysm falls in the severe category. Last week, she underwent brain surgery to clip it and a stint. Hopefully, if she passes a few tests, she will go home today.
I feel so blessed and grateful that this played out as it did. Also, I’m grateful to all of the love and support that has been provided to my parents and family.
I had the pleasure of attending a SinC-Colorado chapter event with the guest speaker
being Kathleen Mayger who co-owns Sherlock Hounds. A company that trains and uses dogs to detect drugs, gunpowder, and alcohol. It was started by two middle grade teachers who wanted to have an environment where students felt safe. According to Kathleen, who is now part owner, the dogs are:
- Friendly and non-intimidating
- Believes in a pro-active/deterrent program
- That 95-98% of all students are good
I learned a ton and saw some of her dogs in action, which was fun. Not all of her dogs are the same breed and most of their dogs are rescues or from shelters. Before these dogs can be trained they have to have a few characteristics that will help them be good K-9 dogs.
- High Energy
- Not good “pets”
- Want to retrieve objects over and over and over
- Good with kids, meaning that they don’t freak out if their tail is pulled, or ears are roughly played with, and etc.
The dogs are played-trained meaning that they aren’t rewarded with treats, but toys. Kathleen’s dogs are given a ball in a white sock to play with after they find whatever illegal item they’re looking for. On average, her dogs cost $3000-$5000, whereas bomb and narcotic dogs can cost the department anywhere from $20,000-$25,000.
Right now, Sherlock Hounds is training their dogs to alert passively instead of actively. When a dog active alerts, s/he will scratch letting the trainer know that there’s something in that spot. In a passive alert, a dog will sit. The latter training is better because the dogs don’t scratch surfaces, like wood, metal, or cars, which can leave claw marks.
I had an incredible time at this event with Kathleen who was energetic, informative, and fun. As you can probably tell, I could go on and on about my field trip, but I’ll leave quit while I can.
If you’re a writer, whether published or unpublished, you know by now that the market is cyclical. What was hot a couple years of go–sparkly vampires–is no longer the in thing. No one knows what the next big trends will be? (According to LitRejections, Harry Potter was rejected by twelve publishers and that’s not taking into account how many agents rejected JK Rowling.) Or how long the run will last.
This makes it hard to also know what books will fall out of favor. Several of my mystery/thriller writer friends and I have discussed the fate of our genre. With the increase of *worldwide terrorist attacks from 391 in 2015 to 759 attacks just between January 2016 to June 2016, it worries us as to whether or not readers will want to read mystery/thrillers/suspense novels anymore. So far, I can’t find statistics to point in one direction or the other, which is frustrating. However, my friends and I decided to heed the advice of several agents, which is write what you love and ignore the trends.
As I type this the Olympics are in full swing and there is an uproar, rightly so, over the way the media is treating the female athletes. If you don’t know about it, it is in regards to their degrading comments that have nothing to do with the women’s athletic abilities. Sadly, this is not new for women.
Not for women athletes.
Not for women crime/mystery/thriller writers.
Recently, an article in The Atlantic declared, rightly so, that women writers are dominating the crime/mystery/etc. market with books that have twisty, emotional characters that reek havoc on the supporting cast. The author, a male, admitted to reading and enjoying these type of novels. It’s nice to see that these writers are receiving some of the attention they deserve. I can only hope this continues and translates to better book contracts for women authors.
I have a confession and admitting it will not make me popular with quite a few people, but that isn’t going to stop me from writing it here.
I’m a huge fan of James Patterson.
I know. I know. I can hear you booing loudly. But even if you aren’t a fan of his writing (which I am), you should at least respect his business acumen. He has turned his writing into a serious business. Yes, I know he hires “coauthors” and they do most of the writing, but once again, it should be admired that he has figured out how to make it in this tough business.
If you don’t believe me, check out this article on GallyCat. It listed the 12 highest paid authors and James Patterson made number one on the list, beating out the competition by $75 mil. That’s right, he blew away the next author on the list by almost 40%. So boo all you want, he’s laughing at all the naysayers as his bank account grows.
Goodbye summer and hello to the new school year. The youngest two Dahl children went back to school last week and the oldest returns this Thursday, her last year at middle school. Next school year, I’ll have a kid in elementary, middle, and high school. So, I’m going to enjoy the simplicity of only dealing with two school calendars this year.
The kids are out this week and I’m taking a break from blogging until they start up again in August.
If you can’t tell by now, I love the Writer Unboxed blog. I always learn something from their posts and so it’s no surprise that I’m passing it on again today. Guest post author, Jessi Rita Jones, writes that “action scenes need to pop.” That these scenes are not as “forgiving” as other scenes and need to deliver. Read the post here. My two favorite tips:
- Too much focus on the character’s pain.
- Side-ways moving action–“The action must rise or escalate in tension…”