Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shhhh, I’m Reading a Quiet Novel

How do you define a quiet novel? I’ve always thought of a quiet novel as a story with more emotional conflict than physical confrontation and action. One where the main character strives to solve a problem that is important for that character and his or her immediate family or associations, but may not be world or life threatening. Death probably isn’t a factor. A quiet story is probably a more subtle story. It may be intense but perhaps constrained. I’ve read that a quiet novel is a mellow tale most likely with calm, restrained prose. With a quiet novel, a reader’s heart rate may not race. Blood pressure may not peak. However, the reader might be touched by the beauty, the passion, the intensity, the seriousness of the plot, and the writing of a quiet novel.

What do you think defines a quiet novel?

Writer Shannon Hitchcock blogged about a workshop she attended on the quiet novel (it’s a great post):

I’d LOVE to know your thoughts on quiet novels. Care to share?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bits of Randomness

With the transition from spring to summer, which includes the end of the school year (of course), I find that I'm tying up loose ends. I’ve just finished up my last week of school visits, Skype visits, and bookstore visits. Happy dancing time. That's not to imply that I didn't enjoy these events. They were all big fun and I met lots of amazing and wonderful people. However, I’m itching to write, revise, crawl into my office and lock the door against any and all distractions. My head tells me I must promote and get out into the world with my novels, but often my heart nags me to write the next novel. It's an ongoing battle. Errr, should I admit that?

Anyway, I have a couple bits of random information to share. For example, I’ve

added a “News” page to my website. It will show updates on events and novels and stuff—whatever "stuff" means. Here’s the link: Of course, my timing on this isn't great given that I've just finished a whirlwind few months of events, but I'm happy to have this bulletin board page.

Next up, I want to offer up a big thank you to Susan Fields for the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. This requires that I list seven random facts about myself. Here goes: I love socializing, but I really hate rudeness. I love music, but couldn’t hold a note if it had a handle. I love horses and horseback riding, but I haven’t been on a horse in years. And for me, a perfect day always includes some sort of reading and writing.

Finally, and especially for you writers out there, here's a great article about a six-year-old girl pursuing her publishing dreams. Yup, six-years old. Wow:

Okay, those are my random updates. Do you have any random bits of information and "stuff" to share?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When a Subplot Takes Off with its Writer

Sometimes writing a subplot reminds me of a horse I used to ride. If I didn’t pay attention, that horse would grab the bit between his teeth and take off with me at a flat out gallop. He nearly threw me more than once—which was, of course, what he was going for. For better or for worse, I’ve had more than one subplot take me on a similar ride.

Like a ride on that horse, a subplot can begin calmly--just long enough to throw a rider or writer off guard. For me, though, when the narrative journey experienced by a secondary character or characters becomes complicated, when things get sticky, my subplot can grab the bit and take off. If I let it go, it might become it’s own story and turn into a thrilling ride. Or it might run me into a tree (like that horse tried to do more than once). Either way, this sort of messes with my original work in progress. This is the heart of the problem. Is reigning in the subplot the way to go? Hmmmm.

Writers: Have you ever had a subplot take off with you?

Readers: Have you ever become more interested in the subplot of a story rather than the main story line?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


We all need a little inspiration now and then, right? I’ve been busy with school and library visits for the last few weeks. These are always fun, but every so often a visit becomes more than fun. It becomes inspiring. Here’s an example . . .

A couple weeks ago, while chatting with fourth-graders about their writing and my writing (swapping thoughts and notes and such), I shared how writers sometimes talk about the importance of putting a character up a tree (meaning get that character in some serious trouble). I, of course, added that after a character is in a tree, a writer should throw rocks at that character (meaning hit that character with even more problems). The kids hadn’t heard this before, so we had a good time chatting about this visual in relation to our stories.

About a week later, an email from the librarian from that school pops up in my inbox. Apparently, these amazing young writers had been drawing trees with their story characters in the branches. And then, these clever writers cut out rocks from cardboard and labeled each with additional story-related problems to “throw” at their characters in the trees. Taking this exercise even farther, these crafty writers took turns sharing their stories with each other while displaying their characters in the trees along with the assorted rocks. After listening to each story, the audience suggested even more rocks to throw at each character. How brilliant and fun is this?

The librarian ended her email to me by very sweetly writing “You truly inspired us!” The truth is, they inspired me.

Now, I'd love to hear how you have been inspired lately.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Got Layers?

Despite the yummy photo, this is not a post about layers of cake. Sorry. Today, I’m talking plot layers--not as many calories. Do you take note of a character’s plot layers when you’re writing or reading? I don’t always consciously take note of these layers as much as I should. So, I revisited some of my favorite writing books (not cookbooks).

A plot layer is a plot line given to a character, usually the protagonist (as compared to a subplot, which is a secondary plot line involving different, usually secondary characters). More than one plot line is necessary to create a character with depth, intensity, and complexity. To me, this translates into a character that comes alive. My favorite kind of character.

For example, imagine a high school freshman a tad on the insecure side. Let’s say he’s on the school track team and struggling to achieve better times in his sprints. He loves running and competing, but most of his friends are not into track. So, our protagonist's love of track is causing conflicts with his friends. Maybe he finds himself often torn between training and hanging out with his buddies. On top of this, let's say that our freshman’s parents don’t like the direction that his friends are going in. The parents suspect the friends will be getting our protagonist into trouble. He can’t afford trouble if he wants to stay on the track team, and keep his parents content, but he’s had these friends forever. In addition, maybe our protagonist is also sporting a major crush on a certain girl. How about if he knows she’d be impressed if he won his races?

Our freshman protagonist is dealing with layers of internal and external conflicts. Isn’t this the way with most of us? There are plenty of plot layers for everyone that I know. To be real is to have layers.

Think about your favorite characters from your reading or writing. Do they have layers?

Okay, NOW it's time for cake. ; )