Monday, January 25, 2010

Character Development

I've been reading John Truby's The Anatomy of Story and find it very informative. I finished reading his chapter on character development when I needed a break. My husband and I hied off to a movie, Up in the Air. The way the George Clooney character developed could have been directly out of Truby's work. I was spellbound, expecting and seeing the next stage of the character's transformation.

So, I recommend reading this chapter and then seeing the movie. Clooney transforms his character from detached to someone who begins to feel emotion. The character is not complete by the end credits, which makes the movie all the more intriguing to those of us who like to develop strong characters. They don't all have to begin as positive human beings, but they do have to face conflict, moral and psychological needs, and grow in the process. In fact, Truby wrote a brief analysis of this very point on his site.

All in all, an interesting juxtaposition of reading and cinema.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Animal Communication

On Saturday, I went to a public session on animal communicating led by Karen Wrigley. She worked with a golden retriever that stole the crowd's heart. She talked to several people directly, passing along messages from the pets, living and past over. I found her session uplifting.

Karen has a new book coming out in a few weeks. Called Beyond Woofs and Whinnies, it's full of stories from animals to their humans. Even if you are a sceptic about communicating with animals, I encourage you to get the book. I read the manuscript and found it both entertaining and encouraging. As we say, buy the book, buy the book, buy the book.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Proud of Member of My Critique Groups

Becky Mushko was interviewed on Blue Ridge Library's Cover to Cover show recently as part of her promotion for her upcoming book, Ferradiddledumday. Her retelling of the Rumplestiltzkin tale is due out by the end of January. If you have second or third graders in the family, or if you are the grandparent of a second or third grader, or if you are a second or third grader, I highly recommend this book. It's available for pre-order through Amazon.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Critique Groups

I've been participating in a lively discussion on a public blog on critique or writer groups for the past couple of weeks. Those who added comments about why someone would go to a writer group, both pro and con. Seems like a lot of people had negative experiences with their first group, just like I did. My first group was a disaster -- former teacher wanted to give out assignments to members rather than allow writers to bring in their own work and present it for comments.

I stayed away from such groups until I moved to Smith Mountain Lake. Within a year, I joined the Lake Writers and found a lively but varied group of people passionate about the written word. We have poets, essayists, novelists, playwrites, and non-fiction writers.

Then I joined the Valley Writers in Roanoke. That's not as convenient, since it's about 25 miles each way; however, I carpool with two fellow writers. There is some overlap in membership.

Here's what I like being a member of both groups:

  • Former English teachers who do line edits for grammar, cliches, and the dreadful adverb.
  • Critical listeners who help with voice.
  • Critical readers who comment on story plot, character, and whether or not s/he feels what is important.
  • Poets who by nature labor over each word to help trim unnecessary words, stamp out poor word choice, and offer suggestions for different phrases.

  • Put these folks together and you have a terrific critique group that works with you to help you become a better writer. I have found my critique group home.

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Valley Writers Chapter of Virginia Writers Club

    I must brag on myself and congratulate the new 2010 officers for the Valley Writers in Roanoke. Last night was our annual election. I was flattered to be elected president. Donna Knox, a wonderful memoirist, is now vice president. Richard "Dick" Raymond agreed to continue as treasurer. And Ken Thornsbury, who writes science fiction, is the secretary.

    We all thank the outgoing president, Jim Morrison, and vice president, Becky Mushko for their leadership, referring, and inspired mentoring. Those of us who have yet to publish have learned a great deal from these two published writers. And the critiques the rest of the group provide make us all better writers. Nothing like having a poet go word by word through a fictional chapter and suggest better ways of stating the obvious.

    The energy in this group is high and I hope to be able to continue leading us forward.

    My wish for the group: at least one of us is able to hold a published book or agent contract in our hands this year.

    Onward to happy scribbling and cranking out pages in 2010.

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Bye Bye to Writer's Block

    At last, this attack of writer's block has ended in a burst of near-normal productivity. It started with a small essay for NPR, a brief letter to the editor that was published in the Roanoke Times, two articles as a freelance writer, the start of a short story I am writing with Edna Whittier, a fellow Valley Writer, and a multi-day exchange with another Valley Writer, Keith Martin, on what was wrong with the second chapter of Max 1.

    I think I finally figured out what was wrong with that chapter. Three agents commented on the same problem. I'm planning to read the chapter at Valley Writers on Thursday, rather than watch the NCAA National Championship game. Frankly, my dear writers, getting this chapter right is more important than either Texas or Alabama winning the football game.

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    'Possoms and 'Coons and Bears, Oh My

    With all due apologies for modifying this famous phrase, I ask, what do the three critters in the title in common with writers?

    Give up?

    We all hibernate in the winter. I love this time of the year. The lake is cold and quiet. Snow birds have driven south. Year-rounders are hunkering down and recovering from the holiday season. The family has left and my husband and I are alone with the calico-with-an-attitude.

    Nikki has the right idea. She's tucked in, not to be disturbed until the tree comes down on Twelfth Night. She'll survive, as long as we encourage her sleeping all day. Not a problem.

    And what do I have on my plate as a writer?

  • Finishing a revamp of Max 1 and getting it to be the best book I can write.
  • Sending the revamped book out to agents.
  • Seeing the book in print (or under an agent's guidance) before the end of the year.

    That's enough for now.