Showing posts with label AmWriting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AmWriting. Show all posts

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Aerobics for a Writer's Imagination Muscles by Alice Orr @aliceorrbooks #MFRWauthor #AmWriting


Time to buff up your Writer Imagination Muscles

An editor and author provides advice on th eessential storytelling question.
Would you feel better or worse if I told you I get rejections? In my pre-indie days, I
Aerobics for a Writer's Imagination Muscles by Alice Orr @aliceorrbooks #MFRWauthor #AmWriting
traditionally published several romantic suspense novels and a nonfiction book. One night back then, I had a dream so vivid I woke up trembling, short of breath and convinced the goddess had sent me a bestseller for sure.
I'd actually experienced An Idea That Wasn't A Story. Too bad I didn't recognize this. To my credit, I honed that nightmare scene till the impact was razor sharp. Too bad I didn't have much to go with it. I figured my boffo opener would carry the rest. My agent disagreed, and pointed out that, after the boffo had passed, pacing lost steam, story urgency waned, my heroine lacked a compelling voice. I'd built up expectations with my opener, then squandered them.
I'd leapfrogged over the essential storytelling question. "What am I going to write about?" as filmmaker David Lynch, author and director of some of the most imaginative screen scenarios ever, says. "Ideas dictate everything. You have to be true to that or you're dead."
Yet, there's always pressure to write what will sell. I'd been piling that pressure on myself when I conceived my boffo opening with no follow-through. I was writing pyrotechnics I thought might turn my agent on, instead of seeking the true conflicted heart of my story and letting my imagination lead me onward from that place.
I call it the Idea from Heaven. The idea that makes the heart of a story pound. I could have taken my nightmare inspiration, then coaxed depth and richness from it to create an Idea from Heaven. I forgot I possessed the power to accomplish that. What, specifically, should I have remembered to do?
Imagine that the imagination is a muscle. To make and keep the imaginative muscle equal to the rigors of storytelling, we must give it a daily workout. If I'd gone from terrifying dream to imagination exercise mat, instead of straight into writing, the results would have been very different. Here's the five-step exercise I should have done. You should do it too.
Step 1. Find your most fertile imagination time. For me, that's morning, immediately after waking, close to the state that produced my terrifying dream. Pen and pad are ready. I believe imagination, and writing voice, are best accessed in longhand. BTW I used to think night was my most imaginative time, but found that being tired encouraged me to natter on way too much.
Step 2. Find the idea recording method that works best for you. Notebook, cards, a voice recording device, which works well for many verbal people. Try different possibilities.
Step 3. Pose yourself a question. "Where does the story go from here?" Or, "What does my main character do next?" Fashion your most pressing question, take your time, but don't obsess over it. Trust your writerly instinct to know what your story needs. Use a current writing project as subject ground. If you don't have a current writing project, get one.
Step 4. Come up with answers to the question you've posed. Never settle for the first idea that comes. Keep thinking. Push yourself to the more original response, the less expected reaction. Burrow deeper into the situation and the characters. Encourage your mind to run wild.
Step 5. Record each idea as it comes. Limit the exercise to 10 or 15 minutes. Don't censor your responses in any way, like "That's too outlandish," or "This won't work." Record everything, without critique or evaluation. Time limit ends. Put down your pen or turn off the recorder.
The Crucial Cool Down. Sit for a moment and take note of how you feel. Maybe stimulated, full of mental energy, ready to spin off still more ideas in a cannonade of creativity. The imagination muscle has had a good workout for sure. Do this every day. You'll find yourself being more creative than ever before, and enjoying it too.
I robbed myself of that enjoyment when I neglected to take time for this exercise as preparation for developing my story idea. My flabby imagination muscle failed me because I failed it. Learn from my negative example. Take power over your own creative laziness, and give your story idea the strength it needs to succeed.
For more insights into writing and publishing – Visit my blog at www.aliceorrbooks.com.

About Alice Orr

Alice Orr is author of 16 novels, 3 novellas, a memoir and No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells. Hero in the Mirror: How to Write Your Best Story of You is in progress. A former book editor and literary agent, Alice now writes full-time. Her latest novel is A Time of Fear and Loving – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book 5. Find all of Alice Orr's books on Amazon. Alice has two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and lives with her beloved husband Jonathan in New York City.
Author Website www.aliceorrbooks.com


Friday, April 3, 2020

Editor Alice Orr on It Takes Two to Tangle: Relationships that Move Your Story @AliceOrrBooks #MFRWauthor #amwriting


Editor Alice Orr on It Takes Two to Tangle: Relationships that Move Your Story #MFRWauthor #amwriting
It Takes Two to Tangle, in real life and in storytelling. But, whether a fictional connection is romantic or not, the other person in your main character's relationship exists, mainly, for the purpose of moving and intensifying your hero's story.
The second character gives your hero someone to talk to, moves her thoughts into dialogue. Which cuts down on internal monologue that slows the pace of the story. Dialogue appears more active on the page than paragraphs of uninterrupted narrative, and more active to the reader's consciousness also. This dialogue must, of course be interesting and compelling.
How do you make dialogue interesting? First, by creating a complex, fascinating story mate to match your complex, fascinating hero. A mate whose opinions and attitudes differ from those of your main character. They may be mates in general, but they debate, irritate one another, and even openly conflict on occasion.
These conflicts are usually variations in attitude rather than violent disagreements. They force your hero to articulate her feelings and beliefs. This allows your reader to know her better and identify more closely with her, which is critical to hooking the reader into your story.
The second character need not be portrayed as sympathetically as the hero. This mate character may be in the process of evolving, with something major yet to learn in life. He or she may or may not accomplish that goal in this story, unlike your hero who must learn and grow.
You should also contrast these two characters in more external ways. Family and cultural background, life experience, economic and social status, physical appearance. These differences provide potential for fireworks in the relationship, which may be sexual or not. Either way, they enflame reader interest, and that heat serves your storytelling purpose.
In real life, we prefer people to get along, but, in fiction, too much harmony is boring. Conflict in a story relationship makes that story more interesting. However, you, as author, must understand what storytelling conflict is. Banter back and forth between characters, no matter how clever, is not strong enough conflict to create compelling fiction.
There must be a crucial problem between the characters for real conflict to occur. The greater the problem, the more intense the trouble between them becomes, and intense conflict is the heart of strong storytelling. These two characters may basically like, or even love, each other, but if they get along too well for chapter after chapter, they lose the reader's interest.
You must create characters with the potential for legitimate contention between them. Most importantly, create an active hero with the strength to stand up for herself and what she believes, and to defy opposition. She is a person who refuses to remain passive while bad things happen to her, or to those she cares about. This portrayal makes her defiance believable.
Next, create a mate character strong enough to be a worthy adversary. Now, you have a relationship that is a juxtaposition of equals, with potential for true tension between them. Without this tension, conflict that grips your reader will fail to ignite. With this tension, and the sparks it produces, the relationship, and your storytelling, set fire to the page.
For more insights into writing and publishing, visit my blog at www.aliceorrbooks.com.
Alice Orr is author of 16 novels, 3 novellas, a memoir and No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells. A former book editor and literary agent, Alice now writes full-time. Her latest novel is A Time of Fear and Loving – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book 5. Find all of Alice Orr's books at amazon.com and other online retailers. Alice has two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and lives with her beloved husband Jonathan in New York City.
Author Website www.aliceorrbooks.com


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Character Triage: Kick Out Your Characters by Alice Orr @AliceOrrBooks #MFRWauthor #amwriting


Character Triage: Kick Out Your Characters by Alice Orr @AliceOrrBooks #MFRWauthor #amwriting

Join former literary agent and editor Alice Orr, author of No More Rejections, as she offers advice for character triage, kicking out characters who do not work in your story.

Character Triage

Who's In? Who's Out? Every character you start out with in your story may not carry enough storytelling weight to be allowed to stick around. Some will most likely have to go. Which characters do and do not belong in your story? How do you decide? First, let's make a couple of general lists. Then we'll move on to my personal specifics.

Character Triage –Characters Who Should Stay in Your Story

They sparkle with contradiction and controversy.
They enhance the main characters in the story, make them more intriguing.
They aggravate the main characters in the story, make them more conflicted.
They have often dark secrets the main characters would like to know, or should know, but don't.
They have hidden dreams the main characters would like to know, or should know, but don't.
In other words, they generate plot by adding more complications to the story.

Character Triage – Who's Out? Characters Who Should Leave Your Story

They don't make anything happen.
They get along with everyone, neither creating nor enhancing conflict.
We aren't interested in knowing more about them.
They are not connected with either the main characters or their stories.
In other words, they don't generate plot by adding more complications to the story.
Here are some specific character types I especially want to boot out the door.
#1 Exit Candidate: The Lackluster Character
Especially when you are creating the main characters of a series who must be extra unique and compelling. In fact, any continuing character must stand out in order to hold a reader's interest through several stories. Be careful not to focus on thrilling plot at the expense of thrilling characters. This can be fatal to storytelling success.
The Character Who Cloys
Especially as your romance heroine. She's cute enough to kill, and the alleged hero scampers along in her wake for far too long. At first, she may be lovable for the reader as well. Then, we become exasperated with her and, eventually, out and out irritated. She's a distraction from the story and undermines your hero's portrayal too.
The Character Who Fails at His Story Mission
Especially as your mystery-suspense hero. He's the detective who doesn't detect. A murder is committed, and he should be intent on finding the murderer but does too little to further that quest. He avoids real investigative questioning. He lets others to do the legwork. He slows the pace instead of enlivening it. He must thrust himself into danger and battle his way out again.
The Interchangeables
Especially as your secondary characters. For example, three sisters or friends or whoever that would be better as two. The extra sidekick clutters the story. She isn't distinctive enough and her lack of substance drains story vitality. She should be folded into one of the other characters to streamline plot and pacing or rewritten to reveal her individuality.
Character Triage: This is Only the Beginning
I've shared my personal sampling of characters who need to go if you want to write a strong story, and of course you do. Now, you must make your own list, from your own work, but don't be discouraged when you do. There are ways to save these characters from the no-hope heap. Every character, like every human being, has a story. Your job as storyteller is to dig deep, discover that story and give your creation life on the page. In other words, perform character triage. When you do that, all your characters will not just belong in your story, they will be embedded in your reader's heart.
For more insights into writing and publishing,visit my blog at www.aliceorrbooks.com

About Alice Orr

Alice Orr is author of 16 novels, 3 novellas, a memoir and No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells. Hero in the Mirror: How to Write Your Best Story of You is in progress. A former book editor and literary agent, Alice now writes full-time. Her latest novel is A Time of Fear and Loving – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book 5. Find all of Alice Orr's books on Amazon. Alice has two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and lives with her beloved husband Jonathan in New York City.
Author Website www.aliceorrbooks.com
Author Blog www.aliceorrbooks.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter
Twitter https://twitter.com/aliceorrbooks
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E


Thursday, October 3, 2019

How to Get an Edit Bird on Your Shoulder @AliceOrrBooks #MFRWauthor #amediting


Writing advice from thriller author and former editor Alice Orr

How to Get an Edit Bird on Your Shoulder @AliceOrrBooks #MFRWauthor #amediting
Every writer I know has endured rejection. If you’ve escaped that fate, you should be writing this, because my work has been rejected many times. On the occasion of my first major rejection, the editor implied, or maybe told me straight out, that I had no idea what I was doing.
My big mistake was agreeing to a sushi lunch. I didn’t know sushi from tsunami, but, to appear cooperative, I replied, “Sure. Sushi’s good.” Had I understood the purpose of the lunch, I’d have made a different response. I didn’t have a clue, though I probably should have.
I was writing my second novel for this editor. The first didn’t set the world afire. The second had dragged through two extensive revisions, and I’d pretty much lost track of what the story was originally about. As I took a wobbly chopstick grip on my third portion of something raw wrapped in seaweed, my editor let me know she felt the same.
“This just doesn’t work for us,” she said. I plunged into shock, but I was also suddenly no longer clueless. I was stone-cold certain. There would be no more revision chances. Novel #2 had gone down the plumbing and months of my work along with it. The sushi slipped from its precarious perch between my chopsticks and plummeted to the edge of my plate.
“You seem to think a little bird sits on your shoulder and tells you how to write,” my editor was saying. “Like you don’t have anything to do with it.” I couldn’t respond. I excused myself, dashed to that upscale restaurant’s upscale ladies’ room, and leaned my clammy forehead against the cool tiles of the black marble stall, struggling to keep my insides under control.
Bird on my shoulder? What was she talking about? I’d never been aware of anything, with or without feathers, telling me how to write a book. What I had always been aware of was my helplessness. Because of the way the publishing world works, I had no control over the destiny of my writing career. Now, I understood how perilous cluelessness can be.
If you’ve ever submitted a manuscript, you know what I mean. You labor over your work, send it out into what feels like a void. then wait for a thumbs up or down on your efforts, your ambitions, your hope. You endure this because you have no idea what else you can do. You are as clueless as I was in that ladies’ room with my forehead pressed against tile as black as I believed my future to be.
A couple of years later, I became an editor myself. That choice had a lot to do with power. I was determined to regain mine, and to share it. As an editor, then a literary agent and teacher, I would be that bird. I’d sit on a writer’s shoulder and whisper in her ear the words she needed to hear to avoid demoralizing rejection scenes of her own. I could do that because my years on the other side of the desk taught me a lot about creating publishable fiction.
Now I write articles and blog posts to share that knowledge. Still, the dread words are out there, “This just doesn’t work for us.” Words that hit their mark hard for any writer. I wish I could guarantee they will never be heard again, but I can’t. What I can offer is my experience and expertise, and to be a bird on the shoulder with an empowering song to sing.

About Alice Orr

Alice Orr is the author of 16 novels, 3 novellas, a memoir and No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells. A former book editor and literary agent, Alice now lives her dream as a full-time writer. Her latest novel is A Time of Fear and Loving: Riverton Road Romantic Suspense - Book 5. Alice has two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and resides with her husband Jonathan in New York City.
Author Website: www.aliceorrbooks.com
Author Blog: www.aliceorrbooks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter
Twitter: https://twitter.com/aliceorrbooks
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Is it More About Writing, or About Being a Writer? #MFRWauthor

This will be a shorter than usual blog, since I'm borrowing from another blogger. Not to mention running late.
I ran across this blog from Screencraft, a site to advise screenwriters. The post resonated with me and I think will have the same effect on other writers Beware the Writing Zombies Check it out while I get more coffee.
Do you recognize anyone you know? All I had to do was look in a mirror, and also remember the time I spent researching to avoid actually writing. Whether it was to start a new book or continue on with a current project. And I would hate to admit how many times I've delayed starting so I could use the new project for a course.
Maybe I should title this 'Games Writers Play.' Or maybe I should just get back to edits?
Happy writing!

I need a photo here. I think I'll go with a New Mexico sunset, sharing the beauty of where I'm living.

Monica Stoner w/a Mona Karel
Website/Blog 
Mona's Amazon Page
Twitter


We retired to the high plains of New Mexico, where I finally put all those seminars and critique sessions to work, not to mention pulled together my courage to offer a story I'd beaten into submission. I am honored to help Marketing for Romance Writers with list moderation, and wherever else my skill set is of value


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5 Tips for #Writing Emotionally Charged Heroes #MFRWauthor @kayelleallen

Negative Traits Thesaurus 
I recently bought the book Negative Traits Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It's subtitled, "A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws." The book is a strong resource for creating a three-dimensional hero or heroine, but can also help you write strong villains. Creating an emotionally charged hero or villain means giving him/her more than a laundry list of flaws or strengths. Developing those in a relatable way is important too.

However, after studying this book for a bit, I've noticed there are five basic things that determine whether a character is a hero or a villain. Ask these questions about your hero/ine to make them more relatable.

  • What are the emotional attributes of your hero?
  • What are the emotional wounds of your hero?
  • What are the emotional flaws of your hero?
  • What fears drive your hero?
  • What morals prevent the above items from making your hero a villain?

Tarthian Empire
Companion 
Now ask these questions about your villain, and ask yourself what morals prevent him/her from becoming a hero.

If you write science fiction or fantasy, my new book Tarthian Empire Companion, an illustrated World-Building Bible and Guide to Writing a Science Fiction Series might be helpful. It includes info on organizing a story bible to track timelines; character development; a section for military ranks, ships, and naming protocols, plus other aspects of writing a scifi. Amazon ($3.99) http://bit.ly/companion-az