Here we finally are! The rules of this next round in our character creation contest for This Is a Book are simple. Just read over the descriptions everyone submitted over the course of the past few weeks–pasted below–and then vote for up to three of your favorite characters, using our handy little voting widget at the bottom of this post. Just make sure not to vote for your own, because that would be rude and unfair to everyone else’s brilliant creations. I’ll be back later with an official ending date to the voting period, but for now know that you’ve got at least a week from today (Monday, May 20th).
Got it? Good. Let’s get started.
NAME OF CHARACTER: Mr. Squeaks TYPE OF CREATURE/PERSON: Telepathic Mouse SPECIAL ABILITY: Can communicate telepathically, cause explosions and start small fires with her thoughts. PLACE OF ORIGIN: The dumpster behind the deli on Walsh St. DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC: Friendly, outgoing, sociopathic. Favored method of torture involves flooding victim’s minds with images of a scantily clad Dick Cheney. Has total control over rodent brethren. Likes to eat discarded Toaster Pastries.
NAME OF CHARACTER: Lewis James Frogg TYPE OF CREATURE/PERSON: Super Hero
SPECIAL ABILITY: Has super strength on Monday, can fly on Wednesdays, has x-ray vision on Friday. He has no idea why. It may-or-may not be discovered that his apartment was built over a buried nuclear waste drum. His control over these powers is hit-or-miss. He finds it easier to control the powers while listening to opera music or after meditation. He hates doing both of those things.
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Queens, New York
DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC: He just received his powers and is very keen on figuring out how they work. His ultimate goal is to become an honest-to-god super hero, but he’s not really sure how yet. He enjoys: reading comic books, cheering on the Yankees, playing pac man on his phone (he’s on level 78), Brisk (what, it’s good!) and M&Ms. He’s got brains and bravery down pat, but his brawn is a little bit to be desired. He’s kind of on the nerdy side. Looks great in glasses but insists on wearing contacts.
NAME OF CHARACTER: Is
TYPE OF CREATURE/PERSON: Being verb
SPECIAL ABILITY: He allows others to grammatically exist. He is a verb of being.
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Linguistics
NAME OF CHARACTER: Dustan TYPE OF CREATURE/PERSON: Young macho man. His good looks and suave personality catch the women (that is until they get to know him and discover his, um, problem) SPECIAL ABILITY: He has an embarrassing problem… he sweats profusely at the slightest stress, soaking his clothes and its so bad it pours out of his face and arms and he literally rains down onto the ground (see the irony – name is like dust/dry and he rains). PLACE OF ORIGIN: Arizona DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC: Dark, slightly wavy, shiny, thick hair. 5’10″, slender yet muscular. Wears cool dude clothes. Is stuck on himself. He saunters around like he’s God’s gift to women and doesn’t understand why they get turned off by him after they were initially so interested. He’s frustrated, but keeps trying the same tactics. But time after time, his stuck up personality and his sweating problem turn them off once they get to know him.
NAME OF CHARACTER: Spiffy
TYPE OF CREATURE/PERSON: A buffalo-man
SPECIAL ABILITY: Can make very long sentences that are actually grammatically correct. Also, can stampede over anyone. Ever.
PLACE OF ORIGIN: The Wild Plains
DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC: Very hairy. Also, a bit of a bully.
NAME OF CHARACTER: Elane Erica Levine
TYPE OF CREATURE/PERSON: Shape-Shifter
SPECIAL ABILITY: Can transform into any inanimate object with a female gender in the French Language due to her French Family roots. Transformation takes effort and often over-exertion makes her very, VERY cranky.
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Brooklyn
DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC: Oldest of five siblings, keeps her powers a secret, looking for adventure. Has a passion for: Graphic novels, Mozart and Metallica (not at the same time), hoodies, popcorn, Pranks, gaudy earrings, cute girls (as if a magical power wasn’t enough to hide), and Diet Cherry-Vanilla Dr. Pepper.
NAME OF CHARACTER: Schnezz (Or Schnezzie, if you’re trying to be cute)
TYPE OF CREATURE/PERSON: Human dude
SPECIAL ABILITY: NOSE SO GLORIOUS THAT WHEN HE SNEEZES SOMEONE DIES AT ITS RADIANCE
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Russia
NAME OF CHARACTER:Kra TYPE OF CREATURE/PERSON: A badass monster SPECIAL ABILITY:Being a badass. And being an annoying know it all that eats people when they say something dumb. And being a badass. PLACE OF ORIGIN:Atlantis DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC: She thinks that killing people might make them like her. But it doesn’t. It just makes people dead.
Thanks, and remember to read new chapters of This Is a Book, every Thursday on this blog and Sunday on Mel’s!
Wow, can you believe we’re already up to Chapter Twenty in This Is a Book? Yes?
Well. It probably would have been more dramatic if I’d been able to remember what day of the week was Thursday more often, thus actually allowing us to get chapters out biweekly like we’re supposed to (and, you know, instead of on Monday). Whoops. I blame summer vacation.
Anyway, here, finally, is Chapter Twenty. And watch out soon for my post on polling for all those awesome characters you came up with! (Potato.)
“What do you mean you can feel your heart? You’re dead, remember?”
Wrong thing to say. Without even gracing me with a reply, Rose stalks off in the direction of the castle. It’s hard going. After only a step, she hunches over, dress balled in her fist at her chest, a low, frustrated scream escaping from between her lips. I turn to exchange looks with the pixie, but he’s gone. Of course.
And now I am alone in a funky other-world with a ghost who has turned from levelheaded to constipated in a matter of seconds. Yay me.
Then it occurs to me: Whatever is in that weird, sleek castle, it’s affecting Rose. Nothing ever affects Rose. She’s a zombie-ghost-thing.
“Oh my gosh,” I say, stepping around Rose’s still struggling body so that I’m in front of her.
“What?” she manages to get out from between her teeth.
“I think you’re right. I think it is your heart. Because you’re acting almost real.”
“Yes. Because not… being able… to walk,” she struggles, “seems… really… realistic, Mary.”
Ignoring her, I say, “Here, let me help you out…” I reach towards her and she bares her teeth. I jump back, not sure if the other ghostly characteristics besides her ability to walk through walls (and, ya know, air) have begun to waver as well—like maybe she could possibly actually bite me now. “Or not.”
“I need…” she grunts, “… to get… to… it…”
“Why?” I ask, then something on her face catches my attention and I lean closer again. “Whoa. Rose. Your eyes are all bloodshot. How is that even possible?”
“We… are in… a different… dimension,” she feels the need to remind me.
“Good point.” I step back and cross my arms. “So why do you need to get to the castle? You really think your heart is there?”
“Okay, okay, okay,” I put my hands up, “don’t get testy with me.”
“Are… you… serious… right now?”
“Fine. Here. I’m going to help you.”
I reach out to touch Mary on the shoulders, hoping that she truly has become solid enough that I can do that (what a weird thing to be hopeful for), but the instant my skin comes in contact with hers, my legs turn to lead and the air gets sucked out of my lungs so fast it’s like I’ve been punched in the throat. Everything turns crimson, running in rivers, dripping from the sky, bleeding from beneath my fingernails. I stumble to the ground, and the moment I lose contact with Rose, everything turns back to normal. Well, as normal as it is in these parts.
“What. The—” Before I can finish my outburst, Rose cuts me off with a wave of her hand. Her eyes go cold as she takes one last step towards the castle, then gives up. As soon as she stops struggling, she goes back to normal as well. The pain leaves her face and she stands straight, floating a good foot off the ground.
I glower up at her, choking on air. “What in PWNBEIBER’s name did you just do to me?”
“Me?” she snaps. “I did not do anything! It’s the magic of this place!”
I grunt, force myself to stand, and square my shoulders at her. “Rose, whatever’s in that castle, it’s obviously not good if it just nearly killed me. And did—you know—whatever it did to you. As the only member of this team whose actual life is at stake here, I vote we find that pipsqueak pixie, force him to take us to America—the real America this time—and get the heck away from the creepy king and your tell-tale dead heart and whatever else there might be lurking around here in this alternate dimension.”
“Who died and made you queen?” Rose asks, crossing her arms.
“Your sanity and Benjamin Franklin. Because, as I will remind you, you work for me.”
“I will remind you,” Rose says, “your supposed alien invasion is not the most prominent problem at the moment.”
“Have you always been like this, or did death make you grouchy?” I ask.
“You would know.”
“Yeah?” I ask. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you are the most insolent dolt I have ever had the displeasure of meeting, Mary. And, believe me, I have met quite a few of your type. It means—”
“Wait.” I put up a hand, glancing over my shoulder towards the castle. Rose stops midsentence.
Her words are quiet as she says, “What is it?”
“It’s not just me. You’re being affected by it too.”
“Affected by what?” she asks. “All I’m aware of is all the bleeding, bloody blood everywhere.”
There is pressure behind my eyes, growing stronger with every taunt. I stare at the dark, glossy castle on the horizon. It’s almost… pulsing. Growing with our anger.
“Rose, if your heart is in that castle, I don’t think you want to get it back.”
“And why’s that?” She plants her hands on her hips.
“Because it’s evil.” A shiver runs down my spine, spreading heavy cold to my limbs. I am at a loss for clever comebacks.
There’s a little pop to the right of me, and we both jump. The pixie has reappeared.
“Okay, Frank Sinatra,” I say. “What’s going on here?”
“The King,” the little fruit bat says seriously, like this is explanation enough.
“He is imprisoned there.” It gives me a look like this should be obvious.
“By what?” I’m starting to think I might actually rather not know.
“The other one knows.” It nods in Rose’s direction.
I laugh. “Hear that, Ugly #2?” I say to her. “Pipsqueak, here, thinks you know what’s going on.” The laugh turns into a full out snort as Rose’s expression darkens. She opens her mouth to speak, and I stop. “Wait, you don’t really know what’s going on here, do you? You’re lost too, right?”
“No,” says Rose. She stares at the castle, one eyebrow lowered, her lips pursed.
“‘No,’what?” I pause. “You don’t know what’s going on, do you?”
“No,” she repeats. “No, actually I do.”
So, reminder to watch out for the polling post, and Chapter Twenty One will be up on Mel’s blog soon! Hopefully we’ll eventually get back onto our regular schedule.
Let’s be honest: I BS my way through this blog a lot.
Not that BSing things is bad, per say, because that’s also how I got through high school and most of my freshman year of college (with the exception of Spanish class), and that obviously worked out all right–but I feel like it’s probably pretty obvious when I’ve only spent five minutes on a post, or a half hour on a Wordy Wednesday piece, versus when I actually care about what I’m saying.
And here’s the dumb truth of it all: I am lazy. I am an extremely lazy human being, except when it comes to the very few things that I actually care quite a bit about, primarily being my novel writing and using an obscene number of adjectives and other noun modifiers (because seriously, I don’t know what’s with me and modifiers).
But here’s another truth that has finally been coming into focus for me lately: My laziness is just an excuse.
If you don’t know, I use laziness as an excuse for everything. Why I don’t party, why I don’t get a job, why I only took twelve credit hours this past semester. If it can be contributed to laziness, I will contribute it to laziness, no matter the actual reasoning behind my decisions.
And how stupid is that? It’s like I’m so scared of actually backing my decisions, because people might judge me for them, that I just blame it all on how lazy I am instead. And you know what? I was not actually a lazy person until recently. But because I kept blaming things on being lazy, it just slowly seeped in; my deciding to watch Youtube videos instead of working one day, or choosing to hide behind my fear of rejection instead of sending out a query letter, or spending five minutes on a blog post instead of the couple of hours it would take to put in my best effort.
What started out as me just avoiding giving the details behind my choices has turned into me deciding not to make any choices at all. Instead, I just sit here and grouch about the black hole I have forced my life into being.
Recently, all separately of one another, my friends and family started complaining about how I’ve been complaining too much lately. I usually don’t think of myself as being easily fazed, but the past couple of months it’s felt like absolutely every little thing has been a cannon ball crashing through my life, and I’ve turned to ranting to anyone who will listen to me about my “problems”–how I haven’t been asked out in almost a year, how no matter what I do I will never be as good at theatre or singing as I want to be, how other people are naturally gifted with beauty or humor or sweetness while I just sort of wallow in my pile of ordinariness on the sidelines.
Apparently, at the age of nineteen, I have turned into a bitter and jaded moron.
It kills me when people tell me to put a sock in it, that I’m being annoying, that I don’t know how good I have it–not because I’m mad at them, but because I’m mad at myself, for letting it get to the point where someone feels the need to remind me that life doesn’t revolve around Planet Julia.
You know what? Life is hard. Writing is hard, querying is hard, growing up and letting go is hard. All these things that I have been complaining about are true. But what’s also true is that if they weren’t hard, they wouldn’t be worth doing. And as difficult as it is sometimes to look at how much I’m struggling and then see how much easier other people have had it, I’m learning that it’s important to remember that every story is different; just because one of my favorite recent authors, Kat Zhang, got a great agent and a book deal off her second novel, which she began writing her senior year of high school, doesn’t mean that she had it easier than I have, or that I’ve failed just because I have now finished my freshman year of college and I’m querying my fifth novel, still unagented and sans book deal.
All my life I’ve gone about complaining about how I’m not smart enough, not pretty enough, not funny enough, not sweet enough, not talented enough–but you know what? I am sick of complaining.
And I am sick of blaming the decisions I should be proud of on laziness. Like just because someone else might think that taking only twelve credit hours in order to make time for writing and putting extra effort into Spanish class means that I should feel that way about it also.
So what if I’m not the prettiest, funniest, or most talented person in the room. So what if my opinion isn’t the popular one, or others don’t agree with how I spend my time. It’s my life, and I am sick. and. tired. of acting like it’s a burden instead of the incredible gift that it is.
I am a coward. I’ve been hiding behind the bad stuff for too long, and I want to embrace what I do have, finally, instead of focusing on the things that I don’t.
So, this is me attempting to be a better person. No more BSing the blog, or focusing on how I don’t have as many views, or followers, or comments as someone else. No more lying around on my bed with the lights off in the middle of the afternoon, just because I’m too scared of failure to go out and take action.
I don’t have to be the best to be good enough. And I am good enough–at something. We all are. What else would we be doing here. You know?
My best is good enough. No more BS. I’m going to carpe that diem and not let go until I achieve what I have been working towards, now, for years.
One of my novels will be published someday. Maybe it’s Cadence, maybe it’s not. And while I certainly hope that it’s Cadence, if it’s not… well… there are always more novels where that one came from.
It’s time for me to stop being “lazy,” and be brave instead.
So, all my readers: Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love talking to you and getting to know you and knowing that, somewhere out there, there is somebody who I don’t directly know in my life who is willing to put in the time to read my blog. And thank you to all the people who I do directly know in my life who also read this, because your never-ending support means SO much to me, as well. So much.
The new chapter of This Is a Book will be up soon. Thanks for sitting through my rant. I am so grateful to have you in my life, whether this is your first time visiting my blog or your hundredth.
PS. Today is my brother’s 22nd birthday. Can I get a whoot whoot?
I think it’s probably a pretty well-known fact at this point that I have a problem with clothes. As in: I like them too much. As in: I have too much clothing to fit in my closet (so instead it all just ends up on the floor, because I’m responsible like that).
So, as it is, I probably have enough clothing I could wear something different for the next month and still not run out of summer outfit options, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still obsessing over all the pretty new summer blouses and skirts and shorts I could buy (you know, if I actually had any money).
While I was ogling the American Eagle website a couple days ago, on the look out for new jeans (I’ve managed to rip holes in the knees of one of my favorite pairs, and that’s usually where I call it quits with ‘em), I spotted a pair of shorts with a crocheted flower design on the front. They were really, REALLY cute, but also cost about $50.00 and were sold out in my size, so imagine how excited I was when I found the same thing at Kohl’s for only $15.99. I still can’t afford them, unfortunately, but it made me happy to know that other people with slightly more cash than I do don’t have to pay the ridiculous AE price to get such cute shorts.
I love shorts that have just a bit of a pattern or flare to them that makes them stand out without taking away from your blouse. I’d kill to wear a pair of these shorts with a v-neck and some sandals.
One of my favorite, favorite, favorite parts of the summer is getting to wear sandals. I’m not a big fan of tennis shoes, so the moment I can break out the flip flops, I’m a decidedly happier human being. I especially love how there are so many more options with sandals to find really unique ones that match your personality, and this year this has been exemplified by the array of colors you can find sandals in. While a bit more difficult to pair with clothes since they have so much personality on their own, compared to your more traditional browns and blacks, I think the bright pinks and blues and greens are still really pretty, and I’m hoping to get my hands on a pair of them before the summer’s over.
I’ve been seeing a lot of great, light-weight blouses lately that look super comfy but still cute. I feel like you could do a lot wearing a blouse like this–go for an adventure, ride a roller coaster, read a book out in the sun–and it would work well for all those different occasions. Classy yet versatile and comfortable: that’s my kind of blouse.
During the last couple weeks of classes, when the sun finally started showing its face and everyone at U of M went crazy pretending it was July in April (there were people wearing shorts in 30 degree weather; I wish I was kidding), there were a lot of sunglasses popping up. And a lot of them were really funky and colorful. How much fun do these look? I’m always looking forward to sunny days now, just so I can wear a pair of sunglasses.
So, to recap: Summer this year is looking really bright and colorful. And I am happy about that.
Do you have a favorite clothing piece or accessory that you’re especially excited to start wearing now that it’s warming up outside? What do you think about how much color there is this year? Let me know in the comments!
That’s right. Star Trek into Darkness. You may commence screaming with excitement now.
This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story I started writing ages and ages ago but never got around to finishing–and then just found again today, and decided to work on.
It’s in the way my mother says, “Come along, Rory, I’ve got the milk,” like she thinks she’s talking to a child. It’s in the way she takes my arm, sliding her trembling, cold fingers around my elbow slowly and hesitantly, like she’s afraid that she’ll break me. It’s in the way people whisper all around us as we walk along the dairy aisle, the usual creak, creak, creak of shopping cart wheels diminishing for just a moment as they pause to hear one another speak, like they think I’m deaf as well as blind.
This is why I hate the supermarket. Ever since the fire, I’ve hated it so badly, so completely that I can feel it in my gut; a burning sensation that’s more like heartburn than flames, but hurts me all the same.
I hate it. All of it. They’ve ruined my haven.
“The next ingredient on the list is—” Mom begins, but I cut her off, sharply, by saying, “Two avocados.”
There’s burning all around me: the burning of gazes, of the refrigerated supermarket air against my skin. My eyes burn at the creases as I force the tears away.
Mom pauses. There’s the rustling of fabric as she turns to look back at me, her sweater brushing against the shopping cart. She’s wearing the red one that snags; I hope it’s all right.
“How did you know that?” she asks, her tone quiet and level despite the nervousness I know she feels behind it.
It grinds at her, wears at her, the way the fire wears at me.
“I’ve made avocado pudding a million times before,” I say, rolling my eyes. My mother’s breath catches in her throat, as it does every time I do something I learned to back when I could see.
It takes some effort, some imaging on my part, to picture every last detail about the dairy aisle: the bright, sterile lights that are cool on my skin; the rows and rows of glass doors with brushed steel handles that showcase milks and cheeses and bagel spreads; the scarred linoleum that is worn down with dirt and black streaks from shoes, little nicks and fractures from years of shopping carts laden with stacks of soup cans and produce.
And there—there is Mom before me, her gaze burning into my forehead. She always looks at the space just above my blank brown eyes, like the crinkled, scarred skin of my forehead helps her forget the blindness that has wiped away my identity. Her sweater lets out a breath as she folds her arms. She’s trembling. I focus my eyes right at her and the shaking stops.
“Two avocados,” I say. “Let’s go.”
She alternates between leading me through supermarket with one unsure, careful hand at my elbow and telling me to stand still, to be careful, to keep my fingers wrapped around the cart handle at all times—just in case, don’t hurt yourself, Rory, be careful; be careful, be careful, be careful—while she squats to grab a box off a low shelf or someone who does not know about the fire slides past without knowing how simply bumping into me, a tap, could send me to the floor.
When we finally reach the avocados, Mom chirps, “Here we are! Avocados. Keep your hands around the handle, Rory, the floor might be slippery.”
She didn’t have to tell me we’ve reached the produce section. The air is heavy with the sharp tang of lemons and oranges, and the softer, earthier scent of carrots, potatoes, lettuce clogs my nostrils. I breathe in the humidity and let out the dry, cold air of the dairy section. I hear Mom lift a pair of avocados, hesitate, then place them in the cart’s basket.
“Wait,” I say, laying a hand on her arm. Her skin is leathery and warm. “You have to see if they’re ripe.”
“Right,” Mom says. “Of course.” She hesitates again, the breath hitched in her throat.
“Do you know how?”
“Of course.” Her tone is uncertain.
“Here,” I say. I run my hand down her arm until I reach her fingers, and then direct them to the basket. I wrap her fingers around an avocado, and then squeeze. “See how it’s soft?” I ask.
“Yes.” Her hand is stiff beneath my touch. I move away, give her space.
“That means it’s ripe. If it’s hard, it isn’t ready yet, and if it’s any softer than that, it’s already gone bad. Test the other one, now.” I try to keep my tone gentle, soft. Mom gives the other avocado a squeeze.
“This one is hard,” she says. Her voice is quiet; nearly a whisper. The red sweater rustles against the shopping cart in a tremor. I am aware of shoppers passing behind me, staring, talking in murmurs. Mom is watching them.
Without a thought to the matter, I swing past her, grab hold of the side of the avocado bin, and dig in. I test avocado after avocado until I find one that is perfectly ripe. I grip Mom’s hand, lower the fresh avocado into delicately, and wrap her fingers around it.
“This one is perfect,” I say.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “About choosing an unripe avocado.”
“It’s okay, Mom.” I smile. I imagine her eyes darting from my forehead to my chin, avoiding my eyes but taking in my teeth. I can’t tell if I’m having trouble breathing because the air has grown thicker or because my throat has sealed shut. “It’s a learning process. You’ll get the hang of it.”
She takes her hand from my own and places the avocado in the basket.
“What else do you need for your pudding?”
“Just vanilla extract. We have sugar at the apartment, right? You’ve bought some?”
“Yes,” she says. “And I already bought vanilla extract, too.” Then my mother touches my face—she runs her thumb down my jaw, like she’s wiping away some food or a tear. My eyes burn. The numbness washes over me, washes away. I cannot breathe.
“Are you ready to check out?” I ask.
I know she smiles, although I cannot see it.
“Yes. Let’s go.”
I’m not sure, in the next moment, who leads who. Mom’s hand is at my elbow, but my fingers are also squeezed around her shoulder. The stares dig holes in my back, cut open the scars, remind me that although I cannot see these people anymore, and never will again, I still know them. I still can guess what they’re thinking, how they believe I am crippled.
But I am stronger than them.
The first step out the sliding glass doors, the sun is warm on my face. Tantalizing. Like a drop of watermelon juice on your tongue.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” I ask. I lift my face to the sky, close my eyes, let the warmth wash away the fire’s touch.
Goodness, I feel like I have an affinity for feeling like crap, lately. I was sick last week, I had a really wretched headache a couple of days ago, and today I’ve basically just been lying in bed, popping Tylenol and attempting to sleep. And it’s stupid, because I actually feel guilty right now for feeling so crappy, because I’m a baby when it comes to all this sick-kind-of-stuff, and therefore I basically just shut down for the day the moment I feel bad AT ALL.
Which means I have turned into a unproductive slug this past week. And I have so much to do right now (namely trying to find a way to make space for all my college stuff, plus cleaning my Hoarders-worthy bedroom, plus actually, you know, WRITING). And instead of doing any of that, I’ve just been sleeping for thirteen hours a day and filling the rest of my time with HDTV.
In the small pockets of time that I have been productive during the past week, I have done the following things:
Fed the cat. Played with the dog. Neither of which are actually very productive activities (they just make me feel like I’m doing something).
Done the dishes/cleaned the kitchen/cleaned the bathroom (these are my excuses for not doing anything that actually needs to get done).
Read writing from back in middle school (I have a sincere fascination with the way I actually have basically not improved at writing at all since the seventh grade).
Eaten lots of really bad foods. Like donuts and pizza and other greasy things (I tried to eat a salad last night… “tried” being the operative word).
Dyed my hair. (You voted. It happened.)
Unfortunately, this one act of productiveness has led to a severe increase in the number of times per day I burst out in song instead of doing other productive activities, because I like to pretend I look like the Little Mermaid now.
But anyway, I’m going to stop boring you with my state of slug-ness now, and actually let’cha get to what you came for: the final installment of my Writer’s Digest Conference East 2013 notes. Yay!
If you haven’t read my notes from the past few weeks, you can check them out by following the following links:
This week’s topic is Keynote Addresses of Greatness.I say “of greatness” because they were all basically totally awesome–hopefully my notes detailing them manage to inspire you even a smidgen of the amount I was inspired by the speakers in person.
(Unfortunately, though, I don’t have any notes on the Opening Keynote Address from Friday evening, with James Scott Bell, because we got to the conference late despite our mad dash from the airport, and I couldn’t grab out my notebook to take notes without disturbing all the other writers in the room–and, believe me, those people have sharp pencils and an advanced knowledge of different ways of doing away with people. So I wasn’t going to rock the boat.)
Sorry for getting this up two days late! This week’s been kind of crazy for me, between being sick and moving home and everything. Plus, yesterday was my mom’s birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MADRE MI MADRE!!!) and this weekend is my high school’s spring musical (congratulations on a great show as usual, guys!), and because of all that, I haven’t actually been around much to write.
However, now we’ve finally got Chapter Eighteen, so here we go!
Chapter Eighteen: The Da Vinci Code
You are kidding me. You are absolutely kidding me. I finally find myself on the right side of the pond, and the first thing I stumble into isn’t even a Walmart or something—it’s a bunch of lousy crop circles.
I hate my life. I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my—
“Well,” I interrupt myself, “we’d better get exploring. Make sure there aren’t any radioactive bits of rock or anything left behind by the aliens for a farmer to break his tractor on.”
Rose and I follow the path between the circles, trying to get a feel for how many there are. The one we first found is definitely the largest, but there are another four beyond it. We have to dodge left and right to follow the paths between them, like we’re walking over a messed up version of the Olympic rings.
When we finally reach the fifth circle and can’t find a new path leading off of it, I plop down off to the side, away from the more dangerous center of the circle, and Rose hovers to a stop beside me.
“There are five circles,” I say. “Five big ol’ alien-made crop circles right in the middle of a perfectly good cornfield.”
“Maybe the aliens like sports?” she muses. “The circles seem sort of like the Olympic rings.”
“That’s creepy,” I say. “I was just thinking the same exact thing. Either you’re a mind-reader, or we have definitely been spending too much time together.”
“Lucky for the both of us, I do believe it’s the latter. I don’t want to know what goes through that insane mind of yours.” She fakes a shiver, and the sunlight goes wobbling through her.
I roll my eyes and say, “No worries, I devise plans for offing Randy far more often than you.”
“That’s probably because I’m already dead.” She crosses her arms.
“I’d say the alien presence in these crop circles was making you grouchy, but it might just be the fact that I am finally happy and you’re naturally a sourpuss.” I rest back against my arms, stretching out along the edge of the circle, and close my eyes. The sun is warm on my cheeks and forehead, the cornstalk-strewn ground squishy and soft beneath me, and I’m sleepy… sleepy… veeery sleeeeepy………
“Mary!” Rose snaps. My eyes fly open and I jump to my feet. There’s dirt all over my legs, leaves in my hair. I tug my pint-size business attire back into place and stare at her, mouth open. I am suddenly alert.
“We have to get out of the crop circles,” I say.
“Why?” There’s even more distress in Rose’s expression than her voice.
“They’re messing with my mind, making me tired. This is bad. Really, really bad, so we’ve gotta get out, and—” I stop. “Hasn’t it been this intensely sunny and beautiful out for an oddly long time now? And those clouds—” I point, “—they haven’t moved! Quick, get out of the circle.”
Despite her bemusement, Rose follows my instructions and floats her way into the nearby corn. I race after her, crashing through the stalks. The moment my feet leave the crop circle, the sky turns to night so quickly it’s like I’ve gone blind. We continue until we’re a solid fifteen or twenty feet away from the nearest circle, and then I collapse out of exhaustion, but for an entirely different reason this time, as my adrenaline falls.
“If you thought I hated aliens before,” I huff between gasps for breath, “you have no idea how much I despise them now.”
“That was weird,” Rose says. She’s staring back the direction we came.
“Why would the aliens leave weird magical circles behind.”
“You’re my informant on all things alien invasion,” I say. “Shouldn’t you be telling me?”
She frowns, not seeming to have heard me. “What are they doing in the United States, after you’ve been looking for them in England?”
I rub the heel of my hand across my eyes and groan, “Alien invasions always occur in the United States, Rose. We’re the epicenter of the entire freaking universe, don’t you know? I was only looking for them in England because I was stranded there.” I force myself to my feet and begin pushing my way through the corn back in what I hope is the direction of the road, and not more alien voodoo magic.
Soon enough, we’re back on gravel instead of dirt and bird poop, and we walk in the opposite direction of the Beverly Hillbilly’s house. The sun is just beginning to rise for real when we find ourselves in Podunk Town, America. There’s one block of cracked pavement here, along the sides of which are a hardware store, a gas station with only one pump, a general store, a teeny tiny schoolhouse that I’m pretty sure even the Little House on the Prairie peeps would scoff at, and a diner.
My stomach grumbles on sight.
“Do you think they have ice cream in there?” My mouth salivates.
“You are truly the most unhealthy, disgusting person I have ever known,” Rose says, “and believe me—I have met quite a few disgusting people throughout my life.”
“Yarg, I’m Rose, I’m a pirate.” I cover one eye with a hand, like an eyepatch, making sure to leave my heart-shaped mole visible.
She scrunches her nose and glares. “Just go get your ice cream, would you?”
I stick out my tongue at her.
The diner appears to have just opened for the morning when we stumble our way in. Unlike the Cowboys & Aliens-style bar I’m expecting, it has a dusty linoleum floor that probably hasn’t been mopped since it was installed in the ’50s, flickering florescent lights overhead, and chrome-plated tables. Some farmers, even dustier than the floor, sit at the counter sipping coffee and munching bacon. A redheaded waitress with big eyes and an even bigger smile bustles her way over to us at the door, a menu under one arm.
“Good mornin’, sweetheart! Just you today?”
It takes me a second, in my sleep deprived state, to remember that Rose is invisible, and doesn’t eat anyway.
“Yeah. Yeah, just me.”
I catch the waitress biting her lip at my Tarzan-style hairdo, and she gives me a wary but sympathetic smile. “Well, right this way then, missy.”
She sets me up in a booth near the windows and plops the menu down before me. I try to lift it from the table, but the surface is so sticky the darn thing won’t budge.
The waitress turns to head back to the kitchen, still smiling her head off like she’s Barbie or something, when it occurs to me to ask, “Wait—please!” She whips back to face me, and her beehive hair doesn’t sway an inch. How much hairspray is this woman wearing? She could put a hole in the ozone layer all on her own. “Have you ever heard of Shady Lane?”
“Shady Lane, darlin’?” I nod. “Well of course I have, hon! I darn right live on it! ’Bout half a’ town does, I reckon. Ya know someone out that way?”
“Yes, yes,” I say. “My brother. I haven’t seen him in years. Would you mind giving me some directions to the street?”
“Why of course not, sweetheart.” She pulls a pad of paper from her apron and draws a quick map of town.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Rose asks from the other side of the booth.
I shoot her a look that says, I just got here. I’m not going to reply to you right now and make myself look even crazier than I already do when this lady is in the middle of graciously helping me.
Rose gives me the evil eye. I turn back to the waitress and give her the biggest, most obnoxious smile I can manage on an empty stomach. It’s still not as big as her own when she hands me the map.
“Thank you so much! You’re so kind,” I say.
“Of course, honey! I’ll do anythin’ for a friend, and we’s all friends here at Rosie’s Diner!”
Rosie’s Diner? Why didn’t I think to look at the name of the place before coming in?
As soon as the waitress is out of hearing distance, I say to Rose, “Rosie’s Diner. That’s sort of strange, don’t you think?”
“There are quite a few people in the world named Rose, Mary,” she replies dryly. “You truly are losing it if you think that means anything.”
“I live in a world without coincidences, Rose,” I say. I slouch against the bench. “And there have been quite a few strange coincidences since we arrived in the USA.”
She’s just opened her mouth to speak when the uber-friendly waitress comes flitting back with a mug in one hand, a bowl full of white crystals in the other. “Tea and sugar for the sweet British girl!” she grins.
Oh no. Not another one thinking I’m a Brit.
“I’m Ameri—” I begin to say, when the more important response occurs to me: “Wait. I didn’t order tea.”
“No worries, dear, it’s on the house.” She sets the dishes on the table, sloshing tea over the rim of the mug, and then hurries away without a backwards glance.
“See, Rose? It’s strange.” I stare at the mug. “Plus, this tea hasn’t even been prepared properly. There are leaves floating all in it.”
“You dowdy Americans have never known how to brew a good cup of tea.”
“Says someone who can’t even drink it.”
“Now that was just plain rude.”
I wrench a spoon from the table and dip it into the tea, lifting the floating leaves out of it. I’m about to wipe them onto my napkin when I realize they’ve formed themselves into a shape—two words.
“‘I’m here,’” I read.
“What?” asks Rose.
Then the lights go out.
Watch out for Mel’s next chapter, coming soon to a blog near you!
“Of course,” I say, rolling my eyes. “Of course you’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz.”
“The Wizard of What?”
“Oz.” I throw my hands in the air. “Gosh, it doesn’t matter! I was being ironic anyway.” I spread my arms wide to take in the very un-English blue sky above us and the rows upon rows of stereotypical cornstalks spread all around. I can hear tires crunching over gravel somewhere to our left, beyond the corn, and birds chirp as they swoop low overhead. “Welcome, my dear ghosty compadre,” I say, “to the Land of the Free. Or at least Canada.”
“The greatest place on Earth? ¿La parte del norte de las Américas?” Still blank. “The New World?”
“I know what you’re talking about, Mary,” says Rose. “I just want to know what makes you think we have actually left the continent.”
“Besides the fact that it’s not overcast and we were just magically transported through the Norlands by a pixy stick?”
“Yes,” says Rose. She is especially transparent under the bright sunlight, her heavy dress darker and her skin paler. She seems out of place around such happy weather.
I am home.
“Come on.” I point in the direction of the car sounds. Rose stares at me, expressionless. I bite my lip out of the sheer awkwardness. We tramp through the rows of corn to the road. The leaves slap me across the face, scratching at my neck and legs, but Rose just drafts on through. She has her arms crossed, her expression still skeptical.
The instant we reach the gravel, a rusty, dirt-coated red pickup truck nearly runs us over, and I have to jump back to avoid going the same way as the diplomat. Rose lingers back a step, her mouth open in a full-out gape.
“That driver was on the American side of the road!” I cheer, pumping my fist in the air. “Believe me now, sucka?”
“Yes,” says Rose, “but not because of the side of the road. The fact that he almost just ran you over and you don’t even seem to care is what makes him seem most American to me.”
“You,” I say, turning and pointing at her, trying to hold back my obnoxious five-year-old-on-Christmas shrieks of joy, “are a blossom of hope and optimism, Rose.”
Finally, I can’t hold it in anymore, and I start happy dancing on the spot. “I’m home, I’m home, I’m home!!!” I jump up and down and do a cartwheel across the gravel.
“Uh, I hate to break it to you, Mary,” Rose says, trailing after me apprehensively, “but isn’t it dangerous for you to be this side of the pond? Because of the government’s vendetta against you?”
“So what?” I scream to the vast, bright, beautiful blue sky. “This country’s huge, there’s no way they’ll find me! Yay yay yay!!!” I do another cartwheel.
“Mary, shouldn’t we be concerned as to how we ended up all the way in the rural United States of America from a newspaper office in urban Great Britain? Of Europe? Of an entirely different continent?”
“Well, it’s the same planet,” I say with a shrug, “so I’m not too worried.” Then it occurs to me—“Wait!” I freeze mid-dance move.
“Finally, has your brain caught up with the sudden, extreme physical shift of your body?” Rose inquires.
“No,” I say. I scrunch my eyebrows low and frown. “Namely because, if anything, my brain got here first. Because obviously my reasoning hasn’t been working 100% for the past year or so, if I decided to work with you.”
“Oh joy,” Rose scowls, “your charming and selfless personality has also caught up with you.”
“Shut it, Keira Knightly-impersonator.” I narrow my eyes. “All I was going to say was that we need to find a phone so we can call Randy. Let him know what’s up. Make sure he doesn’t call the CIA on me.”
“You truly think Randy would call the CIA on you?”
“Now that I’m not in near enough to murder him in reaction before they got to me, yeah.”Rose’s eyes go wide and I throw my head back, laughing. “What, you actually thought Randy and I are close enough not to rat each other out when we get the chance? The CIA pays so well for turning in suspects in assassination cases. That poor thief-child would never have to klepto his way through a newspaper office again!”
I look up and down the road, guess the direction of the nearest farmhouse, and set off that way. Rose scampers after me. Another rusted pickup truck speeds past us without even attempting to make us feel like the driver cares about our presence at the side of the gravel swath.
Gosh, if I had known working with that Norlands dweeb would get me back to the country faster than stopping the alien apocalypse would, I would have gone along with that whole find-the-king craziness so much sooner.
“Why do you want to let him know you aren’t still somewhere in London, then?” Rose calls after me.
“Because unless that magic fellow shows up again sometime soon to whisk us back to the City of Doom, Randy’s going to put his two brain cells together and realize that we’ve vacated the continent. And then he will surely try to turn me in, and we can’t have that when I’ve just now gotten home, now can we?”
“Are you even from farm-country?” Rose asks.
“Ha! No, of course not. You think I learned how to kill people out in the boondocks? That’s so MI6, not PWNBEIBER. I’m from Maryland. Look!” There’s a little white house just on the horizon, with a picket fence and a cow out front and everything. I break into a sprint. “HOME!” I shout. “HOME ON THE RANGE! WHERE THE WIND COMES SWEEPING DOWN THE PLAIN!” I do a twirl while I run.
“You’re barmy!” Rose shouts after me. “Absolutely, bleeding, nutzo bonkers!”
I reach the picket fence and swing myself over it without looking for a gate. “Hey! Hi! Hello! Wonderful, antisocial American people! Get off your wifi-abusing butts, I need to ask you for a favor!” I call.
“Mary, what if the pixie left us in Canada after all, and you just insulted them by referring to them as Americans?” Rose huffs from somewhere up the road.
I’m about to turn and tell her to shut up again when the front door of the farmhouse squeaks open on its hinges and a hairy man with a beer belly the size of Alaska steps out. I turn my head back to face him so fast my neck cracks. I reach a hand back instinctively. “Oh. Oh, ow. Bloody hell.”
“Who are you?” the hairy man asks. He leans against his doorframe like it’s just far too much effort to stand upright and squints against the sunlight. “You one of them foreign missionary people?”
This stops me. “Huh?”
“Your accent, kid. What is that, Australian?”
My accent. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh, God do not save the queen, those awful Brits have worn off on me.
Rose bursts into laughter behind me, doubling over and wiping at her eyes. The only assurance is that the man remains completely oblivious to her otherworldly, European presence.
“I’m from Maryland, you heathen,” I growl. I cock a hip. Probably not the smartest move, seeing as the guy appears to be the type of American who takes his shotgun to bed with him, but oh well. I’m a trained assassin wanted by the U.S. government. I’m not really concerned about a pesky little shotgun. “Don’t you dare compare me to the Australians. They’re almost as bad as the British, and don’t you dare get me started on the English specifically. Now could I please use your phone, please please please, just for like five seconds? I need to make a call. It’s urgent. Like really urgent. Like… girl problems. Yeah. Girl problems. The phone call is about girl problems.”
“Where’d you come from, kid?” the guy asks. He doesn’t look like he’s going to let me in. He needs to let me in. He needs to. I need to call a taxi or something, get back to civilization, enjoy my Americanism while it lasts. Get to Randy before he can blabber about my new location.
I employ the most drastic name I have at my disposal. “Michigan,” I say. “Specifically, Detroit.”
The man jumps. “Oh, well in that case, come right on in, darlin’!” He skitters out of my way. Rose sobers. I go inside.
One last reminder to fill out the character form if you see this before midnight tonight!
Sorry this post is coming so late to you today! I was distracted by freedom and a package of Twizzlers. And Batman. (It’s finals week. Class let out yesterday and I don’t have anything again until Friday morning. It’s sort of a problem.)
First up today: I want to dye my hair this summer–it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for years but never actually had the guts too–so now I’m taking a poll to see what color I should go for.
Second up: One last reminder from me to fill out the character form for This Is a Book to help Mel and me create some new, wacky characters to use in our genre-bending novelish masterpiece!
Third up: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a continuation of my notes from the Writer’s Digest Conference East a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read my notes from the past two weeks, you can check them out by following the following links:
-Three most important words: scene, series, and theme.
-Like NaNoWriMo, the first draft is quantity over quality
-How to Generate Material:
oCount your words—you can’t simultaneously create and know the worth of what you’re creating—so count your words, rather than the quality of them
oFind a neutral audience, like a writing group, beta reader, independent editor, etc.
oDon’t try to organize everything.
oDon’t count your hours, because you can get distracted during them (hello, Facebook). Count your words. But make sure you have enough hours scheduled to get that number of words.
-“You count the words, you make the time.”
-Listen for the sound of your own voice.
-Have fun—“the most important way to generate material”
THE STEPS TO REVISING
oFind all your scenes, put them in the right order
oDefine (1) where something happens, (2) where, because something happens, something else changes; (3) make sure it’s capable of series, (4) is in service of the overall scene, (5) is necessary to the novel.
oBrainstorm all of your scenes by giving them each a name—the only catch is that you can’t look at the book. Go through the list of scenes, highlight the good ones in green (good enough)—highlight bad scenes in fuchsia. “A bad scene is sort of like a bad relationship; you have to fix it before you can move on.” Highlight in blue the scenes that you forget—examine why they weren’t important enough for you to remember. Highlight in brown the scenes you still need to write.
oYou should always be writing.
oPrint out a list of your scenes, cut them up, try to put them in order—this helps you get new ideas and understand your story better, etc. Examine how the scenes react and interact to create emotional pay off. This is called “series.”
-SERIES: The repetition and variation of elements that work so that their repetition and variation make the book better.
oA scene MUST be capable of series.
oEvery time a series occurs, it’s an iteration of the series.
oA character, relationship, saying, etc can be a series.
o“Series is how a person becomes a character, an object becomes a symbol, and a theme becomes the philosophy of the book.
oSeries can be abstract or specific.
oThe series reveal your narrative arc. “SERIES is the new PLOT.”
oIterations of series create tension—variations of series release this tension.
oSeries—interact, inform each other in complex ways.
oWrite out all the series—cut them down until you just have the most important one, in one sentence—that one sentence is your book’s theme.
oPut your theme in the center of a target. Take our subthemes (your other series) and place them around it on the target, the distance depending on how connected they are. Ultimately, you’re going to want to place everything on the target, from characters to series to scenes.
-Kill your darlings.
-The tyranny of the first draft—you think anything you’ve already created is better than what you will create in the future. This isn’t true.
-Short narrative parts are “links.” Connective tissues between the actual scenes. An example of a link is the “voiceover link,” in which your narrator talks directly to the reader.
oOld-school did “scene and summary”—that was classic literature. It’s different now.
-You should have at least 60 to 70 pages written before using this method of revising.
-“Spend time thinking about what you’ve done before trying again and again to do it.”
b.Choose touchstones (words, pics, or mascots) that represent a character or feeling or idea
7.Change the font, then print out and read the entire MS on. the. page. Take notes as you go.
8.List the first ten things each significant character says or does; include internal thoughts for your POV character.
a.“The man reason for rewriting [is] … to discover the inner truth of your characters.”
b.What is the character’s joy? Pain? What do they want? What will he or she do to get it?
9.Is your inciting incident actual action? How close can you get it to page one?
a.Where are the turning points in the story?
b.Work backward from the climax: do at least three plot developments support it?
10.Chart plotting/book mapping: Map out your book.
a.Plot-oriented mapping: make a spreadsheet with: chapter number, title, POV character, setting, word count. – At the bottom, justify the existence of each plot relative to the other plots and themes.
11.Chart plotting/book mapping: Map out your book.
a.Character-oriented mapping (for each significant character): Desire (conscious, unconscious), strengths, obstacles to reach desire, three actions s/he takes to achieve desire, and overall contribution to plot or protagonist this character makes.
12.Book map (outline) the action of the book scene-by-scene.
a.For every scene, ask: What do the characters in the scene each want? What is the conflict in this scene?
b.For every scene, ask: What is the new info we learn in this scene?
c.Each scene should have:
ii.But (or) therefore (or) meanwhile
a.Provide a 1-to-2 sentence summary of the action in each chapter. Do you have a lot of talking/thinking/action scenes in a row?
14.Compare the vision you articulated in #3-5 with the results of #7-13 and compile a “To Do” list of things you want to accomplish in a revision.
a.Don’t be afraid to think BIG, but take time to listen small.
15.Set a deadline for completing each state of revision and a reward for each one.
16.Work large to small
a.Wording’s the last thing; major plot/character changes are first.
17.Once you’re reasonably satisfied you have the big stuff done, highlight the following in different colors to find your balance, what each scene is conveying to the reader, etc:
Highlight each character’s dialogue in a different color—read through for:
Cut adverbs, other than said, feel, etc—“I felt sad” should be replaced with “I was sad” (stronger language)—Remove passive voice. Use active voice. What’s dangerous is not one particular practice, but an excess of that practice. “Unhelpful babies”—kill your babies when they’re getting in the way of the larger plot you need to achieve. Watch your emotional tone.
18.Check your first line for resonance—needs to promise drama.
a.Last line—fermatas—last line of every chapter or scene should be a note you want to sustain in the reader’s mind.
19.Read the book aloud, or—better yet—have someone read it aloud to you.
20.Keep a copy of EVERYTHING. Never permanently delete anything.
21.Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. KEEP CALM AND REVISE ON.
-You have 140 characters to capture your reader’s attention. You have 140 characters or 25 words to get an agent or editor’s attention. That’s a single line, paragraph, page, or scene.
-“The first page sells the book. The last page sells the next book.” – Old saying in publishing
-Take your favorite ten books off the shelf, read just the first page, and see if you can do the same thing they did.
-First and last page should reflect one another.
-The two most important pages are the first and last.
-The first two weeks as an agent, Paula got 1,000 queries—and they keep on coming. That’s a lot of queries to try to stand out from. But good material will stand out.
-1 in 200 queries is worth asking for material from
-Most writers can’t write a good synopsis—most agents will not hold that against you
-If an agent requests something and the synopsis—they will read the “something” before the “synopsis” generally.
-Reasons Agents Stop Reading:
oI’ve seen it before
oThere’s no strong voice telling the story
oI’m not connecting with any of the characters
oI can’t tell what kind of story I’m reading
oDon’t care what happens next
oThe plot is unbelievable and/or full of clichés
oThe dialogue doesn’t sound like “real people”
oThere are typos, spelling, and/or grammatical errors
-Agents, editors, readers—they’re a sucker for voice—a strong voice can save you
-Make sure your title fits your genre
-You want the reader to be asking questions
-Don’t go for the cheap joke if it’s not authentic
-Invest in your project—get a line editor
-Top Ten Reasons Agents Keep Reading:
oSomething happens (aka: inciting incident)
oLevel of craft is high
oCharacters make you FEEL something
oWriter has gained the agent’s confidence
oDon’t know what happens next
oSomething unique about story/storyteller
oIt’s clear what kind of story is being told
oThere’s a market for this type of story
oThe prose is clean, clear, and concise—the 3 Cs of Prose
-Never open a book with weather. But if you have to start with weather, make it;
oPropel your plot
oAffect your hero in a bad way
oSet the tone
oSpeak to theme
oIf you need a prologue, don’t call it a prologue—use a time reference instead (“Five years earlier,” etc)
oTry to use a device like a newspaper clipping, diary entry, etc instead
oApply a different format to set it apart from the rest of the book (italics, breaks, etc)
-Do not start with a dream
oSo many stories have done this, pulling it off in an original way *now* is tough
-Don’t start with a character alone, thinking.
oIf you do this, he’d better be doing something compelling at the same time, like:
§Committing a crime
§Finding a corpse
§Planting a bomb
-Don’t start with a phone call (especially in the middle of the night)—also, tweets, voicemails, etc.
-DO Start with:
-You have to:
oMove the plot forward
oSet the tone
oSpeak to theme
-Most of all START WITH A SCENE.
-You HAVE to have a killer first line.
-Scene 1 Checklist:
oWhat actually happens?
oWhy will the reader care about/relate to the characters?
oHow do you want the reader to feel? What have you done to evoke that emotion?
oHave you used all the elements of fiction at your disposal—setting, plot, character, theme, etc?
oHave you chosen the right POV/voice?
oDoes the dialogue ring true?
oAre the story questions strong enough to keep the reader reading?
oIs it clear what kind of story you’re telling?
oWhat makes this story different from the others of its ilk?
oIs the scene well-written and well-edited?
-If you can’t think of what makes your story special, you’ve got a problem—you want your story to be “just like [insert successful novel name here], but different because [insert kickbutt reason here].”
I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. ~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977