Realistic Dialogue and Halloween Parties for Fourteen Year Olds

One of my favorite criticisms is when people say to writers, “Your dialogue is not realistic.”

The reason this cracks me up is because have you ever really listened to most people’s realistic dialogue? It’s pretty funny and makes a pretty bizarre book.

I took this verbatim from a Halloween sleep over at my house in pre-COVID-19 times.

Here’s the scene:

There are six 14-year-olds. They are making cheesy ghosts with olive faces. This is the dialogue. It is verbatim.

And this, my friends, is why us writers don’t have perfectly accurate dialogue in our stories. Are you ready?

The Words They Said:

Didn’t H– make show choir?

She didn’t make it. She tried it again in the spring and she emailed Mrs. Wright and asked her what to work on but she used all these big words so then H–  didn’t try out because she was mad.

Oh no… Big words

She told her she needed to work on her voice and stuff.

No offense but she does

(Abby keeps singing.)

Guys do not be mean.

I don’t want to be mean.

Did you hear her solo?

It was good but she got mad after awhile.

She got sick of it after awhile because Ben told her to do something on her solo.

Is Ben the guy who runs the band thing with the saxophones.

No he does the drama.

I’m so mad.

Can we do it?

Guys we would be amazing.

I would do the choreography. I’m so tough.

The three of us. No the four of us.

What about me. You guys hate me!

No… You don’t do musical stuff.

No! All of us can do it.

Oh! I’m so foolish…

I don’t know how to shape the ghost.

You have a hard butt.

Look! It has a belly button.

I got bored so I put more olives on it.

All of my cheese fell-off.Abby keeps singing.

Abby will you shut up!

(Mallory joins Abby in singing.)

Oh my God, you guys. Emily’s ghost looks like a Pac-Man.

It is a Pac-Man.

Oh.

I decided to announce my geekiness to the world.

This is the dialogue, I swear.


 As a former reporter, I know how messy it is listening to people talk.

Realistic dialogue isn’t always the point. The point is that you want the dialogue to make sense, to advance your plot, to show character, to make your story sing. People will always ding writers on dialogue because they’ll expect the dialogue to reflect the people in their own world.

But the thing is that we all don’t talk the same. Donald Trump doesn’t sound like Barack Obama who doesn’t sound like Joe Biden who doesn’t sound like Mike Pence who doesn’t sound like Kamala Harris.

That’s okay. Just try to hear your own characters’ voices, but more than that, listen to the voices that don’t sound like you and don’t think that they don’t sound ‘realistic,’ instead rejoice in that difference. It’s pretty beautiful.


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NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is coming out October 1 and if you pre-order it now, you can get the Ebook for .99 before the price goes up to $2,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.


Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com


CARRIE’S TEACHABLE CLASS!

I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.

THE END OF TENSION TALKS! How to Increase the Tension in Your Story

In my earlier posts these past couple of weeks, both Steve Wedel and Mark Del Franco had some interesting things to say about point-of-view and tension.

So, in this final blog, I’m going to talk about that a tiny bit more and then give some quick hints about creating suspenseful stories.

Because like Jeff Deaver said it’s our responsibilities as writers to: Give my readers the most exciting roller coaster ride of a suspense story I can possibly think of.


Although, to be fair I agree with Fawn Brodie’s sentence: Show me a character whose life arouses my curiosity, and my flesh begins crawling with suspense.

Character is really intertwined with point-of-view.

There are two main point of views I’m talking about here, first person and third person.

Every day you live in your own point-of-view. Every day you are the main character of your story living out the suspense of your life. That’s the first person.

If you expand beyond yourself, use empathy and imagination to jump back into other people’s lives as well, creating a web that connects both, that’s more third person.

Or, you might end up in this book turned movie, I’m not sure:

Anyway, there are special problems with both point of views.

Issues with I Stories:

1.      You know the narrator is probably not going to die, so there isn’t that mortal danger worry.

2.      In first-person past tense it’s hard to keep it fresh, because the I of the story already knows what’s going to happen.

Good Things About I Stories:

1.      You can use the ‘peril detector.’

2.      The narrator’s fear moves the scene forward, increasing tension.

Issues with Third-Person Stories:

1.      Sometimes it’s harder to get you to care about the character. There. Sorry. I said it. Haters get at it.

2.      Sometimes, if you don’t do it well, switching around can actually ruin the tension and frustrate the reader.

Good Things about Third-Person Stories:

1.      You can set up what’s going to happen, the crisis, the conflict, the scary by switching back and forth between the good guy and bad guy.

2.      It’s very freeing.

I asked Editor Andrew Karre (currently executive editor at Dutton about first vs. third person.

Andrew said, “I think suspense is often important, but adding it to a manuscript tends to involve removing stuff and rearranging stuff. I think a clear, sequential, third-person story is rarely maximally suspenseful, so if suspense is in order, I think a meandering, unreliable first person is the way to go.”

Okay. Here are some take-away tips about adding suspense to your story.

They are summarized from an article by Vivian Gilbert Zabel, which is sourced below.

1. Make the main character someone you like but someone who can screw up. The reader has to care. If the reader doesn’t care about the character, the reader closes the book. If the character is perfect and can’t screw up? Then there’s no tension.

2. Make the plot a question and then “Make a list of all the possible reasons why the answer could be “no.” Those “no” answers become the focus of problems and obstacles – suspense,” Zabel says.

3. Make the hero have a really good reason for what she wants. Make her need.

4. Do that for the bad guy, too.  Stories like Harry Potter wouldn’t be nearly so fun if there wasn’t the possibility that the evil wizard Voldemort might kick everyone’s butts.

5. Make things harder and harder for the hero. Make it get worse.

6.  Pick the right POV for you and your story.

7.  Try to make the story urgent. Imagine a bomb ticking down before the explosion. Make the story a race against that.

And there you go! I hope all these blog posts on tension help you out a bit instead of making you more tense.

SOURCES:

Luce, Carol. “Writing Suspense That’ll “Kill” Your Readers.” The Complete Book of Novel Writing. Ed 2002. Med Leder and Jack Heffrom. Cincinatti: Writers’ Digest Books, 2002.

Reynolds, William. “Keeping Them In Suspense.” The Complete Book of Novel Writing. Ed 2002. Med Leder and Jack Heffrom. Cincinatti: Writers’ Digest Books, 2002.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Vivian_Gilbert_Zabel 

Personal Interviews with Mark Del Franco, Andrew Karre, and Steven Wedel, Sept. 2008.

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NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is coming out October 1 and if you pre-order it now, you can get the Ebook for .99 before the price goes up to $2,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.


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It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.


Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Writing In The Tension Into Your Story Interview with Author Mark Del Franco

I talked to Mark Del Franco about how he builds tension and suspense.  According to his website, “Mark Del Franco spent several years in the publishing field in editorial and administrative roles and in the institutional finance field as a proposal writer. He currently is pursuing a freelance career in both these fields.”

SONY DSC

“Mark Del Franco lives with his partner, Jack, in Boston, Massachusetts, where the orchids tremble in fear since he killed Jack’s palm plants.”

What his website bio doesn’t say is that Mark is an amazing guy and masterful at first-person suspense.

So, Mark, what do you do to build tension in a scene?

I find tension one of the harder aspects of writing because I know what’s going to happen.  Sometimes the execution surprises me—the  scene I envision does not always result in the scene that gets written—but the bottom-line is that it’s not tense for me in the same way it is for a reader.  So what do I do?  I try and be a reader as I write.  The crucial point of tension is something has to be at stake that the reader cares about or at least believes the characters care about.  For me, that means setting a scene first–the visuals and why it’s important.  Then I layer in the idea of the success or failure being equally important—it’s not tension if the result is not in doubt.  Last, the pay-off has to work credibly–if something resolves successfully, the reader must feel that I haven’t cheated to get there (for example, “Poof! she waved her magic scepter”) and if something resolves tragically, the reader must not feel I stacked the odds to an impossible height to make a plot point (for example, “everyone died,  but now he had a reason for revenge”).  These three things overlap, but they do happen for me in roughly this order.

Is it a “big bang shock” sort of technique for you or you more fond of the “take the reader down the dark and sinister hallway” approach?

I like both!  Both techniques have their uses and achieve different goals.  I think the big bang is an after-effect technique.  The Bad Thing happens, and the tension derives from how characters have to deal with it.  The dark hallway is more front-loaded—we know something is coming, so the goal is to face it and the tension derives from whether
the characters can prevent the Bad Thing.  Both techniques, I think, are a test of character (in both senses of the word) that should make a reader care about what happens.

Do you think that it\’s easier to build tension in first or third person? And either way, as a reader (not as a writer) which do you prefer?

As a writer, I’ve been focusing on first person to date so I’m more comfortable with first (though a new novel I’m working on is in third). With first person, I have an easier time slipping behind my protagonists eyes and trying to imagine what would make things tense for me, then translating that to the page.  I think this gives the reader a certain
immediacy to the tension, too.  Third person is a broader kind of tension in that I’m trying to make things tense for the reader and the character in slightly different ways while telling one narrative.  Right now, as I learn my way through third person writing (and every novel is a new learning experience), I’m feeling that third person makes a higher
demand for ensuring the setting tension is strong because the viewpoint is broader.  As a reader, I respond more to first person tension.  With third person tension, for some reason I tend to notice more the way scenes are crafted to create tension, but that may be due to the fact that third person has not been my main writing point of view so far.

If you think of suspense coming in different sizes (small, medium, super-ultra large) do you think it\’s best to alternate these or are you into the steady diet of massive (or tiny) suspenses in your book.

In a way, this is a broader issue of pacing and making decisions as a writer as to the type of book you want to write.  My Connor Grey series tends to medium hits of tension that grow larger over the course of the novel until I hit the big one.  That’s the pay off for myself and the reader—laying out a series of events that become more and more
perilous until Connor must make the big decision on how to act.  With my new novel set in the Convergent World, I’m looking to create a faster pace–I want my main character, Laura, to be put through her paces and prove she’s as good as everyone thinks she is.  So, I end up throwing a lot at her.  That increases the pacing and the way to do that is those
steady hits of tension.

When you write do you think the nature of  your suspense comes from your characters or from the plot?

As an urban fantasy writer that has focused on mystery, I hope the tension is in the plot!  At the same time, I think (and hope) that there’s a level of character tension too since my main character learned he has feet of clay and is struggling to overcome that.  How he becomes a better person–making mistakes along the way.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is coming out October 1 and if you pre-order it now, you can get the Ebook for .99 before the price goes up to $2,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.


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Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

The Tension Interview with Steven Wedel, He Who Writes Erotic Werewolf Novels and So Much More.

I interviewed author Steven Wedel, and my cowriter for a couple of books, about where all his writing tension comes from. At first he said his daughter cell phone bills, but then he got all charming and agreed to the interview.

What Steve’s website says about him is : 

I was born in Stillwater, Okla., in 1966 and we moved to Enid, Okla. about a year later. Some of my earliest memories are of watching The Foreman Scotty Show on a black-and-white TV and winning a call-in contest on the show; the prize was a T.G.&Y. gift certificate. I played in the dirt a lot and had a fire engine peddle car I rode like hell on our back patio.

Somewhere back then, I recall my mom and aunt letting me watch Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” That scared me a lot.

Steve is the author of  a bunch of scary books, mostly about werewolves and people.

So, Steve, what do you do to build tension in a scene?

I always come at my writing from a character-first perspective. So, for me, tension comes from creating a character readers really care about. My stories typically start kind of slow because I’m developing the lead character(s). I also write from the POV of the antagonist (keeping in mind that he’s the hero of his own story). This way, the reader sees the goals of both the antagonist and protagonist and can watch as they come closer and closer to confrontation.

Is it a big bang shock sort of technique for you or you more fond of the taking the reader down the dark and sinister hallway?**

Always go down the dark and sinister hallway! Hopefully there’s a big bang shock at the end of it. When I teach my Writing Horror class at the local vo-tech we spend a lot of time comparing Friday the 13th to The Exorcist. In the Friday movies, all you get is the big bang shock. One after another, characters you don’t care about are killed in creative and gruesome ways. In The Exorcist, you see Regan, her mom, and Father Karras in their normal lives. You come to like them before the evil invades their lives. When it does, it starts slowly, with noises in the attic, a quiet conversation about the loss of faith, etc. By the time of the final showdown, you really know these people and are deeply emotionally invested in their well-being.

Do you think that it’s easier to build tension in first or third person? And either way, as a reader (not as a writer), which do you prefer?

Hmm. That’s a tough one. In many regards, I think it’s easier to build tension in third person simply because if it’s told in first person the reader assumes the character telling the story lives. Also, because you can jump heads and show the motivation of the antagonist. That’s something you can’t do so well in first person because the reader can only see what that one character sees, only know what that one character knows. As a reader, I love the intimacy of the first person narrative, though.

If you think of suspense coming in different sizes (small, medium, super-ultra large), do you think it’s best to alternate these or are you into the steady diet of massive (or tiny) suspenses in your book?

I think of it as dating. Let’s say the goal is, umm … the honeymoon night activity. There are stages you go through in getting there.

“If I try to hold her hand, will she pull away and tell me how gross I am and how she’ll kill me if I ever touch her again?”

He thinks about that, stews about it, starts to do it, but she suddenly has an itch and her hand is gone.

He waits, waits, waits, then tries again. Success! She looks at him and smiles. Later, he wants to kiss her. The stakes are higher, so he’ll have to think about that one longer. After all, his breath probably stinks, he’s never kissed anyone before, doesn’t know how to form his lips, when to use his tongue, how long to hold the kiss, all that. But then it simply happens and it’s fantastic and you release a little of that tension. There are smaller goals, medium goals and that super-ultra large goal waiting at the end of the story.

When you write do you think the nature of  your suspense comes from your characters or from the plot?

What? Are you my wife? You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said, have you? Well, I have that affect on women.* Ya’ll just tune me out. I’m like the checkbook trying to say, “Do you really need another pair of shoes?” when you’re already at Shoe Carnival.

Plot is important, of course. You have to have something going on. This is why I don’t get into much “mainstream” literature. Too often, nothing really happens. Interesting people become boring if all they do is veg in front of the TV. Something has to be going on in their lives, and they have to react, anticipate, and act to shape the course of those events.

Last night I finished this new book where nobody was killed, the foundation of the planet wasn’t threatened, and no ship capsized to kill hundreds, but a lot happened to this one fascinating young girl who was writing letters to John Wayne. In the grand scheme of things, what was going on with her was pretty small potatoes, but in her world the events were huge. That’s what’s important. It was completely believable that Lily became a “girl hero” in the context of her story, but she wasn’t going to be defusing atomic bombs in that story. The plot will grow out of the characters.****

I’ve tried developing stories where the plot is more important and I end up with cardboard cutout characters that are just moved across the board like the little plastic pegs in the little plastic cars in the Life game.

Steve, you are awesome! Thank you so much!

*Reader, he does NOT have this affect on women. It is the opposite. I swear to you.
** Reader, we talk about these techniques in an earlier post.
*** Reader, does it annoy you to be called reader? If I sent you strudel would it make it better

**** This is my book he’s referring to. Steve is nice like that.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is coming out October 1 and if you pre-order it now, you can get the Ebook for .99 before the price goes up to $2,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER? JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Thrill Me, Baby. Thrill Me. Let’s Talk About Story Tension.

My first three books are hardly suspenseful in that Marvel movie way. There are no car chases. There are no end-of-the-world scenarios. They’re stories about identity and love with a little angst thrown in the side. They aren’t even in the typical story’s narrative arc.

So, you’re probably wondering why I’m blogging about suspense.

Because I like it.

I’m one of those writers who likes to try new things… ALL THE TIME. I am very easily bored, so back in 2008, I thought about what one of the hardest things for me to do would be. The answer was easy: WRITE SOMETHING SUSPENSEFUL.

And because of that? It’s why my NEED series was created.

It was hard. It was SO hard. But worth it. My first attempt (while not up at the suspense level of Stephen King or that guy who writes those books that become Tom Cruise movies) came out with Bloomsbury. It’s called NEED.

So when I was trying to figure out to do, I found a great article by Carol Davis Luce called WRITING SUSPENSE THAT’LL KILL YOUR READERS. For a couple of weeks, I’m going to talk about Carol’s points and hopefully expand on them.

And I’m inserting some old photos of my daughter, Em, and our old dog Tala to make it fun.

So, how do we write something suspenseful? 



The first part is tension.


Tension is what keeps us reading.

Tension is what keeps us reading at 3 a.m. when we have to get up at 6 a.m. and go to school or work.

Tension is what makes us read a book while walking between classes. It makes us ignore the hottie across the cafeteria or even in our own bedroom. It makes us ignore the cute doggy next to us, the one who really wants to get walked.

Tala the Big, White Dog says, “I am the cute dog she’s talking about.”

Poor Tala.

Tension.

Without it, a book gets put back on the shelf, abandoned on the kitchen counter, forgotten in a locker, or possibly flushed down the toilet. Without it, dogs get walked.

According to Luce, “Tension is the act of building or prolonging a crisis. It’s the bump in the night, the ticking bomb; it’s making readers aware of peril.”

Or it’s what William J Reynolds calls, “I gotta know!”

Why Do Readers Keep Reading?

Your readers keep reading because the need to know what happens next is there. The tension is there. He calls a story without suspense “like coffee without caffeine – no kick and not very addicting.”

So, that’s what we’re going to be talking about for a couple of blog posts: Tension. Suspense. How to turn nice, normal readers into addicts who will open that door in your book (I mean turn the page) no matter what horrors might be there or what dogs might resent it.

The next few entries will be about techniques to put the tension back into your love life… Oops, I mean your stories. Your written down stories! Geesh. I’m sorry I couldn’t find anything to read last night and I had to read some book about love and relationships by the guy who started Eharmony. I have no idea how it got in my house, but it’s obviously impacted me.

Anyway, stay with me, and we’ll interview horror novelist Steven Wedel and some others. It should be a fun, tension-filled couple of posts.


Carrie: So tell me Tala, what do you think about suspense?
Tala: Woof.

Carrie: You think it’s over-rated?
Tala: Woof. Woof! Snort. Kashow. Yip. Woof!

Carrie: You think that a dog’s life is hard enough and that the suspense of when we are going to actually take a walk… that suspense… that suspense is killing you and therefore I should stop blogging about how to put suspense in stories? 
Tala: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..

Carrie: Okay. Um, where’s your leash?

Tala: Good human. Good. Finally you get it.

*One of the biggest tensions may be whether or not I get all these posts up and posted.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is coming out October 1 and if you pre-order it now, you can get the Ebook for .99 before the price goes up to $2,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

OCTOBER FIRST IS TOMORROW! IT IS ALMOST TODAY!

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

TIPS ON SURVIVING BANNED BOOKS WEEK

posted this back in 2006 when maybe fifteen people were reading my blog and I knew them all in person, I think. But I thought it might be good for this week, too.

The official Banned Books Week is Coming Up! Are you ready?

Sparty Dog Inspiration
Sparty Dog Approves These Tips



TIPS ON SURVIVING BANNED BOOKS WEEK


1. Remember, it’s okay to get ridiculously mad that people ban George by Alex Gino or Captain Underpants or Judy Blume’s Forever or Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club or The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas or anything by Carrie Jones (Okay. I added this last one in.)

2. Remember, it’s okay to think that it’s stupid for people to think kids (and adults) are so weak of mind that reading about a boy being a wizard will make them become Satan worshipers or that ready about potty mouths will make them about potty mouth and etc…

3. Wonder if you’ve ever met a satan worshiper. You know you’ve met a potty mouth.

4. Decide to google (YOUR STATE) Satan worshipers. Then decide not to, because it’s too freaky.

5. Go back to being angry about Banned Books.

6. Why do this? So you can be intelligent while you’re angry read: Kathi Appelt’s exceptional essay about the interplay of fear and banned books. If you can’t find it (Okay. I can’t right now), read someone else’s. 

7. Tell your friends about the essays you’ve read.

8. Argue with someone who thinks it’s okay to ban books. Try not to swear at them and to not go all potty mouthed. It may be hard. Try not to lose your temper. That may be harder.

9. Think about how my favorite line from Kathi Appelt’s essay is “Fear, of course, has a twin: hatred.” Then go all fan girl over Kathi Appelt.

10. Go check out the always the important and insightful American Library Association’s banned and challenged book news and information.

11. Read a banned book. Do better than that. Read three. Buy one. That’ll show them. Who is them? The book banners. That’s who.

Memory is a Special Magic

Last night, I attended my aunt’s Zoom remembrance/memorial/whatever you call these things now. And it was lovely because she was lovely. It was full of brilliant, funny stories and anecdotes and kindness.

But one person stood out among all the beautiful articulate people who spoke. It wasn’t the Congressmen who did a lovely job. It wasn’t the head of a nonprofit or the athletic director of UNH.

It was a five-year-old girl named Grace.

She sat on her mom’s lap, stared patiently at the computer, waiting her turn for well over an hour. Or at least it seemed like she did.

And when her turn came? She blew me away. You have to imagine Grace’s quote with this clear, articulate, pausing-between-most-words, five-year-old’s voice, absolutely convinced in the confidence of her statement and that confidence? It’s deserved.

Here’s what Grace said.

I’m here to tell you that Aunt Max is still alive. She’s in our memory. Memory is a special magic that survives in your whole life.

Grace

So many of my friends hurt today and so many days because they miss people, because they blame themselves for other’s deaths, because they long and grieve.

But here’s the thing that Grace knows and I want you to know.

Memory is a special magic that survives your whole life.

And that memory keeps people alive and it can keep the ideas of those people alive. What they loved. What they worked for. What they believed. Their intrinsic values.

That works for countries and communities too.

The job of the living is to embrace that special magic but also use it to shape ourselves, your own families, our communities and our futures.


Dog Tip for Wednesday

It’s easy sometimes to give everyone (especially cats) some side-eye, but giving back to your community, your world?

It’s more than writing a check. It’s about taking a chance, making a life connection, touching someone.

You don’t have to be perfect. Just reach out.

xo

Sparty Dog

Morning People, You Are On Notice

Morning People, you are on notice.

Seriously, the entire United States is geared towards you and now that the school year (remote learning version thanks to COVID-19) has started, I’ve decided that I just have had enough!

In case you doubt, let me list what heinous crimes you have committed:



1. Made it so school starts at 7:55 a.m.
         

Yes, that is AM as in AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHFREAKINGAIT’SM-MORNING.


2. Made it so in order to get to school on time, or to get your little people to school on time you must wake up at 6 a.m. (at least)
3. Made it so banks open at 7 and close at 4!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4. Give all the dinner specials to EARLY BIRDS!

That is so wrong. It is us late night people who eat up all the leftover food. The early birds already get the fresh stuff.

 Those early birds also get the cool graphics that are kind of schmarmy.


They also get the worm. Let me say, I think all worms out there should joinme in my revolt against these Morning People/Early Birds.

Listen up worms! The early birds aren’t just getting you! THEY ARE EATING YOU! It is time to revolt! Leave those tequila bottles and gather up arms!

Oh, wait. You are worms. You don’t have arms. Do you have any fighting abilities whatsoever? What? Oh, you can burrow away. No. That’s not much help, really.

Proof that I am not a morning person:

1. When I woke up this morning my right eye went on strike and refused to open for a half hour, which meant I had to walk around the house using only one eye.
       

My left eye behaves. She has no gumption and has never gone on strike. I don’t think she’s actually related to me.

2. I fell up the stairs.
3. When I walked the dog, I thought a tree was a person and said hello.

This can kind of be blamed on my right eye.

4. When I went to put my cell phone into my shorts pocket, I actually put in the deodorant!

This means I walked around with deodorant in my shorts.

5. It just took me twenty minutes to remember how to spell deodorant.

And when I just wrote it right there? I spelled it wrong again! Darn it. DEODORANT! You are on NOTICE! 

Secret: Oh, no! I am so scared.


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Continue reading “Morning People, You Are On Notice”

How Do You Defy Expectations

When my super cool daughter Em, was in sixth or seventh grade she was in the newspaper for doing this logrolling day with Timber Tina at the Great Maine Lumberjack Show.

This place is where she studied logrolling all summer and is where she battled seven boys, trying to knock them off logs by fancy footwork and all that. Timber Tina (she was on Survivor for one show and then went back for a reunion show, too and is amaze-balls)is a professional world-class lumber jill. The log rolling day was in honor of her son Charlie, this absolutely amazing guy who died that same summer. He was really young, still in his teens.

The picture was hilarious because of the boys in the background staring after she’s knocked off one of their own.

That night the issue came out, Em plopped on her bed, nuzzled under the covers and said, “I can’t believe I’m in the paper.”

I smiled. “It’s great. You should be proud.”

She hugged her stuffed kitty (appropriately named Kitty Kitty) to her chest. “I bet I’m the only cheerleading logroller.”

“At least in Ellsworth, Maine,” I added. “And don’t forget you’re also a stunt girl.”

She as named Stunt Girl at a Stunt Camp in California. It’s this big stunt camp honor. The stunt camp was all about jumping off buildings and stuff. All of this mattered because when people looked at Em, they didn’t think Brave Girl or Logrolling Girl or Stunt Girl. They tended to think Smart Girl, Brilliant Girl, Very Polite Girl, Artistic Girl, Pretty Girl.

“Aren’t you going to tell me I defy stereotypes?” she asked that night, holding out her arms for a hug.

I hugged her back. “You already know.”

Why This Matters And Isn’t Just A Braggy Mom Post

And as I remember all this, thanks to some pretty good written records, I’m sort of struck by how brave Em has always been to defy the expectations of what people think small, brainy, artistic girls are going to be doing. She was a cheerleader and a log roller. She jumped off buildings. She got into Harvard and Dartmouth all on her own. No mommys and daddys buying buildings here folks. She was a field artillery officer in the Army. She studied Krav Maga in Israel, volunteered in Costa Rica, studied film for a tiny bit in high school in New York all by herself. All these random things. How cool is that?

It’s pretty damn cool.

Somehow Em usually never lets other people’s expectations define her.

I wish that we could all be that brave, that we could have the opportunity and empowerment to be that brave, that we could all become who we want to become, define ourselves instead of others or society defining us. How shiny the world would be then, wouldn’t it?

A LOT OF IT COMES FROM YOUR FAMILY

In my family, my sister was the good one. Another sibling was the handsome, successful one. I was the quirky smart one. Another sibling was the angry one.

Those labels are who we were expected to be.

But the thing is that my sister? She’s smart. She’s successful.

That angry sibling? He did some amazing things before he died. Things that make him stunningly successful in my eyes.

And I’m quirky, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the smartest of us.

But those are the expectations, the roles, the labels and those scripts our family’s right for us (both good and bad) can really stick.

How Do You Defy Expectations

Think of who you want to be.

Think of what you want to try.

Think of why you haven’t yet.

If it isn’t about money and resources and you can, give whatever it is a try. Do the thing that people don’t expect you to do (Try not to go to jail though. Legal things are usually a better choice.) and see how it feels. See how you feel.

Do people expect you to be quiet? To be loud? Do they expect you to be an activist? A peace-maker? Think of how you can be the opposite of expectations if you feel like those expectations are holding you back. The first step is to imagine being what it is that YOU want to be, not what your teachers, family, friends, coworkers, employees, bosses want you to be. YOU.

Is there something you always wanted to do, to be, and people scoffed. Show them how wrong they are. Blow their minds. Blow your own mind, too.

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Writing Talk Wednesday: The Scene

The Scene

It’s this element of structure for the story. We all write them, but sometimes it seems like this overlooked aspect of our stories. I’m not sure why this is. It’s not as elemental as the word or punctuation. It’s not as long and sexy as a chapter. It’s not as easily diagramed as a sentence, right?

But it’s so important.

There’s an old book by Raymond Obstfeld called Crafting Scenes and in its first pages he has a chapter called “What a Scene Is and Isn’t.” In it, he quotes the actress Rosalind Russell who was asked what made a movie great.

She answered, “Moments.”

And Obstfeld compared that thought about movies to our thoughts about scenes. He wrote, “The more ‘moments’ a work has, the more powerful it is. Think of each memorable scene as an inner tube designed to keep the larger work afloat.”

And then there is the corollary, “The fewer memorable scenes there are, the quicker that work sinks to the depths of mediocrity.”

So What’s A Scene and How Do You Make It Memorable?

That’s the obvious question, right? A scene is usually action that happens in one setting. But it’s not always. It’s about focus. It can be ten pages or one.

Obstfeld says that a scene does the following:

            Gives reader plot-forwarding information

            Reveals character conflict

            Highlights a character by showing action or a trait

            Creates suspense.

And a memorable scene? What is that?

It’s unexpected.

What does a scene have to have?

A beginning, a middle, and an end.

And the beginning? It’s like a blind date, he says. You have to tell the reader what’s going on and not just expect her to know. It has to hook the reader in, pulling her into its clutches so she wants to keep reading.

So, authors, look at those scenes. Are you hooking people in? Do they want to keep on that journey with you?

And people, look at the scene you’re at in your life. Are you into it? Is it at a beginning place? Are you still hooked into what you’re doing, who you are? Do you want to stay this way? Are you good?

I hope you’re good, but if you aren’t? Be brave. Make changes. Think about who you want to be and what you want the scenes in your life to be like. You can do this.

Brave Thing I’m Doing

Pretty soon, I’m going to have a Teachable class all about the scene. It’s going to be pretty cheap and hopefully you’ll sign up and like it.

Continue reading “Writing Talk Wednesday: The Scene”