Tag: fiction

fiction

First pages.

If the first line sets the tone, the first page(s) lay the groundwork for the entire tapestry of a book. What does the reader expect: genre, point of view, place (time and geography). How about mood?  If the compelling first line did its work the reader is interested. Now you have to round out the experience. Did the first sentence make them uncomfortable? Or pose a question. I’m again reminded of Celeste Ng’s “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” The opening to Everything I Never Told You. The first pages need to immerse the reader in the story, and most likely in a significant, if not main character. What kind of protagonist is at the heart of the tale?  What about the first pages of a “next in series?” The first pages must bring fans back to a familiar world while introducing it to new readers for the first time.  This brings the complication of repeating information in a new way. Reassuring fans that they will enjoy this installation as much as they did the last.  For ongoing discussion and examination of this topic look to the weekly First Two Pages blog hosted by Art Taylor athttp://www.arttaylorwriter.com/blog

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My Protagonist Hereby Resolves…

 The Missdemeanors hope 2019 is a kinder, better year than 2018. We believe that in a world where you can be anything, you should be kind. We also believe our characters should resolve to make some changes in the new year:MicheleSabrina Salter resolves to find her mother whether she is dead or alive. TraceeAgnes Luthi is going to finally learn how to play mah jong RobinEmma Quinn resolves not to swear so damn much. (Resolutions are made to be broken, right?) CateLiza Cole resolves to take her medicine regularly. SusanMaggie Dove resolves to be a better aunt, lose two pounds, and be more ferocious. Or ferocious at all. AlisonAbish Taylor resolves to get some sleep (preferably daily!) and to forgive her father. AlexiaGethsemane Brown resolves to switch to a whiskey that’s less expensive than Bushmills 21, win the All-County Orchestra competition again, not lose her temper when someone calls her “Sissy,” and improve her brogue. 

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Lessons Learned.

 Tracee: What have you learned, or changed as you advance from first to second, or sixth novel? I feel like number one and two were seat of my pants (regardless of actual plotting) in relation to the larger world of writing and publishing. Now I think I am – for better or worse – more Aware of what I am doing or should be doing. Not that I’m necessarily doing it.  As I write, I feel there is more at stake. Honestly the biggest difference for me is a sense of wanting it to be better. Which can get in my head and wreak havoc.  What’s changed for the rest of you?  Susan: I love reading books on Kindle because I love seeing what people highlight. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that while people will highlight some beautiful sentences, and some funny lines, they are mainly marking up sentences that offer some form of wisdom. People are looking to authors to help them interpret the world. If you read a book like Beartown by Fredrik Backman, for example, just about every third line is highlighted. So I’ve become more conscious of that as I work on my new Maggie Dove. […]

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3 Things I Know About The Future… From Dystopian Fiction

A critical part of creating fiction is a careful examination of the world. Storytellers, first and foremost, must be students of the human experience. We have to spend time learning about what motivates people, how different personality types tend to form and respond to situations, how various societies react to different stimuli and challenges, how the setting we all share (the earth) responds to our existence. Sometimes this intense study leads to forecasting rather than fiction. Here are three inventions by famous authors that look like they will definitely come true–for better or worse.  #1. Meat won’t come from live animals.  In her book, Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood writes about chicken that is grown in parts by machines. Her ChickieNobs don’t have eyes or beaks, though they have a mouth-like orifice for receiving tubes of nutrients. It’s meat without the animal.  Such “nobs” are not a reality–yet. But since the 2003 publication of her book, “cultured meat” has been cloned from the muscle cells of beef cows. The process isn’t exactly like the blobs with tubes sticking out of them that Atwood envisioned, but when you hear about the “tubes” of muscle tissue that are grown and stacked to create one of these burgers, she […]

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In fiction as in life

 Yesterday, I posted about authors getting into shape. That got me thinking about the physical fitness habits of fictional characters. “Person versus nature” is a classic literary theme. A character engaged in an outdoor activity like backpacking, skiing, or trekking might find themselves combating nature’s fury in the form of a landslide, earthquake, or avalanche. A character might undergo physical training as preparation for battle against their antagonist. Even if you’re not a fan of sports films or boxing, when someone says, “Rocky,” you imagine Sylvester Stallone’s triumphant run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Dr. Strange” features several scenes of Benedict Cumberbatch enduring physical as well as magical training. Superheroes require physical toughness to fight the forces of evil. Two my favorite movies, “Stripes” and “Private Benjamin,” present the rigors of military physical fitness as both a literal antagonist to overcome and as metaphorical antagonist for the characters’ battles against themselves and others who are betting on them to fail. Christine Sneed, one of the authors interviewed for the article, “How the bookish stay in shape,” (William Hageman, Chicago Tribune, November 11, 2015) includes college athletes and distance runners as characters in her novels. Author Philip Brewer […]

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Why the pseudo?

Why the Pseudo?     It’s the question I get asked most when talking about my debut novel, I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU (Thomas & Mercer, 2018). If you look on Amazon, you’ll find the author of that book is “S.M. Thayer.” Which doesn’t match the name listed on  the byline of this guest post. So what’s up with that?  Until a couple years ago, I saw myself as a writer of wry absurdist fiction. Despite the efforts of several really good literary agents, none of my novels came close to being published though. The emotional toll of writing these failed novels was high. Something had to give—I either needed to stop writing to spare myself of the heartache of failure or drastically reconceptualize what I wanted to do. In January 2016, I read Paula Hawkins’s THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. It was my first dip into the domestic suspense/psychological thriller genre. Hawkins’s fast-paced twisty plot, her bevy of largely unlikeable characters, and the inadvisable choices these characters made, provided immense readerly pleasure. More than anything, I was struck by the novel’s narrative propulsion. I tore through the pages and then dweebishly Googled, “Books like GIRL ON THE TRAIN” to find similar books. The genre had me […]

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The next book. Where and when to begin….

 Good morning Miss Demeanors! I’ve been on the road recently, first to the wonderful Southern Kentucky Book Festival in Bowling Green, then to the Mystery Writers of America symposium in New York, and finally to Malice Domestic in Bethesda. At every point, there was talk about writing. Lots of talk about writing.  One of the questions is how to know when it’s time to start a new project. My question today is, what part is the most difficult for you? The initial idea, outline, writing the first pages? Do you have a process to go from idea to “start”? ROBIN: The opening scene. I try to subscribe to the crappy first draftprocess where I focus on getting the story out of my system. Ideas areeasy, 3-dimensional characters take a little more time, knowing whereto start the clock ticking is hard, a great first sentence is where I agonize. I have to remind myself I have permission to just spit thefirst draft out and worry about that all-important first page whenI’ve got some clay on the table to work with. SUSAN: I’m with you, Robin.  I really like to know the opening scene, and even though I plow forward with a rough first draft, I’m […]

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Writers talk.

 Today is the Mystery Writer’s of America symposium in Manhattan. The three day event kicked off with a party at the Mysterious Bookstore…… but those stories need to stay in the room. The actual symposium kicked off with a panel of Best First Novel Nominees. The panelists may be ‘firsts’ but they had a wealth of knowledge to share.  Jordan Harper (She Rides Shotgun), Deborah E. Kennedy (Tornado Weather), Winnie M. Li (Dark Chapter) and Melissa Scrivner Love (Lola) discussed how they got their start, what inspired the creation of their protagonist, how their own history played into their work, and their path to publication.  It was a fantastic panel but there were a few overarching takeaways. – Don’t be afraid of the dramatic changes to the manuscript (both Harper and Love rewrote their manuscript from an entirely different character’s point of view).– Writing is based in place, but the place doesn’t have to be exotic (Kennedy makes the point that digging deep into a place you know well can be as rewarding and rich as drawing from wide travels).– Experience, and therefore character, may come from explicit personal experience (as with Li’s fictional account of violence in her own life) or from taking one element of common […]

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Names names names

 Authors think about names a lot. Does the name best represent the character? Does the character bend toward the name or does the name follow from the character?  Names signify gender, ethnicity, social and economic class. A name may suggest background without having to say it – is the character a Russian woman living in the US, or were her parents Russian, or did they simply love a Russian name?   My last name means ‘of Rooster.’ The blend of de with Hahn indicates that at some point a German name was given a French veneer (de in place of von). It would likely be impossible for anyone to realize that the German name is really from the Baltic States. In fact the name tells a story of a Baltic German who had a son born in a French speaking country. In the 20th century you might intuit the impact of a world war. And you’d be right. The Dublin airport currently has an exhibit of portraits blended with elements representing the person’s name. It reminds me how literally a name reflects a person.   What does your name say about you? And what about the names of favorite fictional characters?   

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Storage disaster day. And a few solutions.

 TRACEE: Let’s get the facts out there first. It shouldn’t be difficult: You write or type words on paper. There they are! Ready to be manipulated, changed, read aloud, or published. At least that’s what I used to think. When I was in junior high school I had a long obsession with James Michener’s books. I won’t claim to have read them all, but I made my way through quite a few. Some more than once. I then read in an interview that Michener had a near final manuscript on a book set in Russia. For an adolescent Russophile, this was pure joy for me. Then…. the bad news. The manuscript was lost in a suitcase and he simply couldn’t imagine trying to re-create it. This may have been when we parted ways. Was he lazy? It was written! Flash-forward years later and not only do I empathize but I can’t imagine how he ever wrote anything again. Needless to say, now I fully understand that the re-creation of a sentence or phrase is difficult enough. The re-creation of an entire chapter is impossible. The rewriting of an entire book…. What’s the word beyond impossible? I’m going to create a new word for this level […]

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Recent Posts

First pages.
  • February 13, 2019
First lines.
  • February 12, 2019
Lots of counting in writing
  • February 11, 2019
How Do You Even Brand?
  • February 8, 2019
Left Coast Party
  • February 7, 2019
The Power of Yes
  • February 5, 2019
Embracing My Brand
  • February 4, 2019
How to Deal with Change
  • February 1, 2019

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