Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aspiring Advice: The Test of Time

Imagine you are having dinner at a decent restaurant with some friends and you start discussing your favorite movies and books. More often than not, you're aware of many of their choices. Some might even be among your favorites. Then you ask yourself, why is that? What makes them stand out from other works out there?

There's many theories and answers that may satisfy these questions, but I think the best is perspective. When I hear the name Spielberg, I think of E.T. When I hear the name Gershwin, I think of Rhapsody in Blue. James Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life. Of course, if other people heard these same names, they may come up with something else off the tops of their heads. To wrap up this Memorable March, we'll explore the open and ambiguous topic of how to stand the test of time.

I'll level with you now. Writing something that will stand the test of time is not what you may think. Must it be a New York Times best seller? Absolutely not. How many books do you love that never made it on the list? How many books were on the list, but you've long forgotten them? This is all subjective, to a point, but if someone remembers a work, they'll keep it alive by thinking on it or talking about it. Some works are considered to be so terrible, that even they have stood the test of time . . .

Is it wrong of me to laugh?

How do you write a (good) book/story that will stand the test of time? The answer is quite simple. Write it.

My grandfather wrote a book, historical fiction, about the Nevada Gold Rush. It was never published. To my knowledge, I have his only copy, in his own handwriting. While it's rough around the edges, it's a wonderful story, a moving tribute to the end of the old west. It's a story worth telling, so one of these days, I'll type it up, clean it up, and see what I can do with it. I may be his only audience for now, but because I want to do this for my deceased grandfather, his work still has time on its side.

The worst case scenario for us writers is that we'll never get published. Even if that's true, you've still written something. You've left a book behind, containing your perspective on the world and other cherished thoughts. Long after you're gone, it will land in the hands of someone, even if it's years down the timeline.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Tell us a good story, a moving, memorable, life-changing story. What people do with it will determine whether or not your work will stand the test of time.

What are your thoughts on the test of time? Is it important to be remembered by millions or just a few?

I'm David, and this clock is fast.

If you haven't checked out my Candy Princess Monster giveaway yet, there's still a few days left to enter.

Until next time, keep up the good write!

Monday, March 28, 2011

100 Giveaway: "Candy Princess Monster!"

(Presented in part by the star Fomalhaut, commonly known by astronomers as The Eye of Sauron)

I never imagined this day would come. What started as a noob two years ago has effloresced into a three-digit followship. I'm humbled by it, and surprised that you're all willing to return. From the deepest reaches of this aspiring author's interstellar core, I thank you.

(Enough mushy stuff--how do I win some goodies?)

As promised, I will raffle away THREE SIGNED BOOKS, each from local authors in my surrounding area who quickly became household names in our home and on our handsome bookshelf. They include the following:
(All descriptions from

The Candy Shop War - (Hardback)
Welcome to the Sweet Tooth Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe, where the confections are bit on the . . . unusual side. Rock candy that makes you weightless. Jawbreakers that make you unbreakable. Chocolate balls that make you a master of disguise.

Princess of the Midnight Ball - (Paperback)
Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls.

Monster Hunter: International - (Paperback)
Five days after Owen Zastava Pitt pushed his insufferable boss out of a fourteenth story window, he woke up in the hospital with a scarred face, an unbelievable memory, and a job offer.

Rules for entering this bounteous giveaway are simple:

-You must be a follower.

-Depending on what book you'd like, say "Candy," "Princess," or "Monster" in the comments (if you'd like a stab at any of them, say, "Candy Princess Monster!").

-Link this giveaway on your next blog post for a second entry (before April 3rd).

On April 4th, I will preform three raffles and announce the winners. If you happen to miss the draw, don't feel left out, because I'll offer a 250 word or a query critique to ANYONE who wants one. I have a soft spot and a strong stomach, so send whatever (except naughty stuff). I'll put up a "Contact Me" page next week.

When we get to 200--expect another giveaway.

Can you believe it? NINE NEW FOLLOWERS since last week! Feel free to click on each and every single one of them. Welcome to The Laire, you awesome nine, you.
Kathryn Packer Roberts, Bekah Snow, Shayda Bakhshi, SicileyS, The Blogger Formerly Known As . . ., L.G. Smith, Sierra Gardner, Milo James Fowler, and Nick Rasmussen.

Updates: I'll level with you guys--I haven't done a lick of Chapter 19 since the last update. Between house-hunting and personal family matters, it's been a tough week. On the bright side, I've outlined an intellectual property agreement and drafted a query letter for this "Unannounced YA Fantasy Novel." It's pretty good, I think. Needs some fine-tuning, of course, but it's one of the better (rough) queries I've written. This week--Chapter 19 and a "slip" into 20 (that was a hint).

Click back Thursday for our final Memorable March entry, which might very well stand the "Test of Time."

I'm David, and good luck, everyone!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Serial Saturdays: Should I, Or Not?

A friend of mine asked a thought-provoking question:

"On your blog, do you post any of your writings?"

The short answer--no (followed by shame).

I've entertained the idea, but I don't exactly have a whole lot of (worthy) freebie stories to give away, but if I want to provide a taste for my awesome readers and share my voice, maybe I should post what freebies I do have, with short, one-page increments each week.

What do you think? Would anyone be interested in what lurks in the dusty files of my early writings? Granted, I'll read them and update if needed. Doing so would boost this blog to three posts a week. That's good, right?

(Positive response = a pilot run, next Saturday)

Aside from that, it looks like the time has come!


I'll post details on Monday for a Signed Book Giveaway.

Speaking of contests, go check out S.M. Schmidt's blog for her first 50 followers contest. Have fun answering her inventive question!

By the way--does anyone know where I can get or how to place some sweet tabs on The Laire? I've looked everywhere, but can't find a set that suits the place.

I'm David, and SCORE! I found a dime!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Pay Attention To Tension

Before we begin, I'd like to introduce you to a spine-chilling (in a good way) movie trailer that I think goes well with our subject this week.

Kinda brings you back to the early 80's, doesn't it?

When I'm not writing or carrying out basic survival needs, I'm more than likely reading books or watching movies, and I always enjoy a good trailer. This one took me by complete surprise when I saw it last week. From start to finish, it provided enough information for me to genuinely care about this motherless kid, his friends, and his town, without revealing names or what forces are running rampant from the bowels of that derailed freight car. Even more impressive is that it followed the perfect formula for building tension that's memorable.

Tension occurs whenever conflict arises, and it does not always have to be intense or dire. The story is then propelled forward with every instance of conflict. Now, I'm not a fishing expert, but reeling in a fish works in a similar manner--you pull on the fish, release it, reel it in, and pull some more (the next pull being more intense than the last), until the fish (reader) has succumbed to the fisher (author). That makes the task of "hooking" your reader all the more important. Give them a conflict to nibble on, then reel them in.

With that Super 8 trailer for our example, let's break down the layers of tension that make it work so well:

A boy recently lost his mother.
Father does not approve of him making movies.
Boy has a crush on a girl.
Something pounds on freight car hatch.
The US Army comes in without explaining why.
Dogs go missing.
Object smashes through wall, towards a water tower.
Chaos ensues--the kids want to find this thing first.
Random objects float everywhere and smash stuff.

My interest is piqued. I want to know what this thing is and what the town's water tower has to do with it.

Notice how each element slowly builds on each other with a few HUGE defining moments wedged throughout? Now THAT'S good tension building. It also happens to be the formula I use for writing (and the kind of story that I like to tell). What is Super 8's surprise element, then? Obviously, it's the creature--and it had better not be some incarnation of the boy's mother, or so help me . . .

Other effective elements of tension may include character conflicts (discontent, attraction, weaknesses, and personality), what's said in dialogue, time limits, short/active sentences, and adequate pacing, with the next layer (or pull) being more intense than the last. Furthermore, every layer has to serve a purpose.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Good tension building, combined with a fitting climax, are among the ingredients needed for a memorable story that will hold fast in the minds of readers.

How do you build tension? Are there any ingredients that I missed? Are you subtle or intense?

I'm David, and we're making curry tonight!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Post: Inching Towards 100 - And The End


So I splurged on The Neverending Story the other day, adding to my somewhat modest and limited Blu-ray collection, and we finally had a go of it last night. And you know something? It's still a very enjoyable little film. Even our kid got a kick out of watching Falcore when he chased those bullies into that dumpster in the alley. He made us replay that scene about four times, I think. The laughter was priceless, as is this movie.

Anyway, that's not what this post is about . . .

It's about this place inching towards 100 followers! How fantastic is that? To show my appreciation (when the time comes), I will hold a rather generous Signed Book giveaway. Make haste. Go and spread the word!

A great and giant THANK YOU to all who have followed me so far. It means a lot more than free pizza.

Before our weekly update, say hello to The Laire's latest, all signing in from across international waters:

- an incredible advocate on mental health issues with an intriguing blog that was once featured on a BBC radio station. Welcome, Gary!

Amie Kaufman - an aspiring middle grade writer from the land down under, with a blog that does not beat around the bush. Give her place a swift click!

Madeleine - an aspiring author and recipient of the coveted Star Blogger award, heralding from the United Kingdom. She has a bright future ahead of her!

Ellie Garratt - an aspiring author of speculative fiction who is not afraid to put on a space suit as she reaches for the stars with her writing and her active blog!

Welcome and thank you for your generous followship.

Update - about that chapter 18 business? It's done--and I mean 6k done. It's a real doozy, but we're moving on now. Chapter 19 is mapped out and ready to draft as soon as this post is up, but I should tell you that a benchmark has been reached. 200 pages (I write my drafts in an unusual format, so in double-spaced terms, it's more than that). There are about 27k more words to go (the makings of another six chapters), the final quarter of this WiP. Six weeks before my deadline--six chapters to go. Cakewalk, my friends.

For the sake of "tension," click back Thursday.

I'm David, and who wouldn't want a Luck Dragon?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Aspiring Advice: The "Surprise" Element


Uh oh! Those rascally lepurchans have taken all the gold from this part of the interstellar web, but from one Irish descendant to the rest of the world, top o'the day to ya!

The last thing you expected to see in The Laire this week was a scary ol' leprechaun, right? But that's entirely the point. If you're not surprised, you will be, as we enter our next memorable topic--the element of surprise.

Aside from great scenes and characters that evoke our emotions, some stories stay in the minds of its audience by throwing them for a loop, an intellectual punch to the face, so to speak. This happens when a story moves along, minding its course, and an event happens that no one expected, usually followed by a stunned, "What the (insert preferred expletive here)!" We can all think of a few excellent examples, like the ending of The Sixth Sense or when Ender learns what he's really been doing in Command School. The storyteller left out a few details while feeding us yummy intrigue along the way. Vader knew perfectly well that he was Anikan Skywalker. What would happen if he freaked out when the Emperor told him that Luke was his offspring? Apparently, I'm not the only one to has dwelt on this thought . . .

So how do you execute an effective surprise? For me, it's a strategy game--I must place several key elements down first. That's why I like games. Keeps my critical-thinking juices flowing. What would that taste like...?

Anyway, these "elements" may include the following:

Goals - If your characters have goals, that gives the reader an idea of where the story is headed. They understand story arcs. You be their guide.

Clues - write an occasional scene that helps build up to the surprise, but be subtle, not obvious. This gives your reader anticipation, or something to look forward to.

Purpose - you must have a reason for your surprise, rather than taking your audience on a trip for the sake of it. Random shock value will make readers feel cheated.

What's my method? In the initial outline, I ponder the surprise element first, how intense it should be ("I am your father" vs. "I'm from the future" Spock), where to put it, and what I must do in the rising action to reach that point. Effective writers are good strategists--they start with a goal, plan how to get there, sneak into the reader's mind, and take it. You really are attacking readers when you surprise them effectively. Be sneaky. Rub your knuckles and think "muahahaha" like the evil genius that you are. Screaming "CHARGE!" (providing too much information) will tip off your readers (bore them) and they will counterattack (close the book).

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Surprises don't have to be earth-shattering. It's helpful (and super cool) in high fiction, but sometimes, just finding out if X and Y get together in the end is enough. How you build up to that moment is the real surprise.

Do you like to surprise your audience? What elements do you incorporate? Do you try to surprise yourself?

I'm David, and Monday's comments surprised me!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Post: New Chapter, Award, and Followers!


This week, I'm giving a massive THANK YOU to Michael Offutt for passing this award onto me (and comparing my appearance to Joshua Jackson's). It might be a little too pink for my taste, but pink is a naturally occurring color in the spectrum of things in our universe, so I'll take it. The Laire can use some color. Again, thanks!

The rules for recieving this award are as follows:

1) Accept your award and post it on your blog, with a link to the person who sent it to you.
2) Pass the award to 10 other blogs that you've discovered recently.
3) Contact those persons so they know that you gave them this award.

The real trick is finding 10 recently discovered bloggers who don't already have this award. So, after careful searching and consideration, I'd like to pass this lovely award onto the following, unsuspecting bloggers . . .

Tracy's Forever Endeavor.

Rachael Morgan's Writes.

Cindy Borgne's Dreamer's Patch.

Tony Benson's Fireside Park.

Kelly Dexter's Nerdville Rhapsody (love the name).

L. Blankenship's Notes from the Jovian Frontier.

Libby Heily - and her screen/playwright and fiction blog.

Misha Gericke's My First Book (which is done - yay!).

Dan Harrington -freelance writer and author.

Amber Argyle - author of the upcoming Witch Song.

Congratulations! Feel free to accept your award and pass it on. Or not. It's all relative, but worth it! 

I would now like to point out our EIGHT new followers:

E. J. Wesley, Deborah Walker, Libby Heily, Lucinda Bilya, Alyson, D. U. Okonkwo, Misha Gericke, and SM Schmidt.

Wow. That's a lot of linkage! Everyone--I recommend you check out each and every one of these blogger's blogs. They're all worthy of a look, if not a follow.

Update: you're going to be furious. Chapter 18 is not finished (begin the throwing of rotten vegetables). My only excuse is that I got into an editing kick because it flowed so well that I wanted to keep going. Getting hooked by your own work--I hope that's a good sign. I did take a few notes and jotted a couple paragraphs on a piece of scratch paper, so I worked on it some, just not as much as I would've liked. That's my goal again this week--finish 18 and be well into 19 by the weekend.

Thank you all for the award, for following, and for reading/ commenting. There's more to come!

Click in Thursday for an unexpected Aspiring Advice.

I'm David, and this is One Lovely Blog!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Evoking Emotion

Last week, I brought up some thoughts on scenes that "hold fast," or rather, scenes that aren't easy to forget and how to go about making your own. The open-ended question received some great responses and "emotion" popped up the most. I sincerely agree. Emotion is something that I often associate with "character." I may be on left field here, but for me, emotion is (for a better sense of the word) a sensitive subject. When I browse books or DVDs, I occasionally read this little descriptive phrase in one form or another - "filled with (honest) emotion." This makes me shrug. I then say, "okay," and put it back on the shelf. Every story should have elements that make your audience feel emotion. Anything that goes out of its way to tell you something is full of emotion is only trying to sell you something.

(warning: "filled with emotion" may kill query letters)

My personal thought on the matter is that stories are not full of emotion. The audience is. It's the writer's job to fill their story with the right elements to draw in its audience and effectively evoke their emotions. Do that and people will reflect on the story and remember it.

Something else to keep in mind is that emotion is a vast ocean. Millions of people can watch the same movie or read the same book and get something different out of it. Someone will love what is generally disliked and someone will always hate what is generally admired. The Bell-Shaped Curve. It applies to everything. For example, one of my favorite shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender was brought up in last week's comments, about how a particular scene moved them and brought them closer to that character. I love the show, but for me, that instance was filler and the character deviated from her established arc in a way that deterred from advancing the plot. Again, that's just me. If that scene evoked strong emotion from someone, it did its job. I look forward to Legend of Korra in the near future.

Now, about evoking emotion. How do you do that? The first step I use is giving the reader a scene where they are immersed, using whichever of the five senses that will work best. Then, I give my characters a situation, a response and consequences (more importantly, I give them a history before I write the book, which then gives me insight into how the character will react in a given situation). Paramount to all else is giving your character weaknesses. We all have them. Weaknesses help us relate. Admitting one's weaknesses opens a lot of doors and makes us care about them more. A small dash of the unexpected (Luke's chopped hand/Joker's pencil trick) also makes for a delectable, memorable brew.

The rest is application, something to be practiced rather than taught, but I can suggest that you move your scene along and not get too hung up on the details. 

I'm currently writing a scene for my WiP that moved me in a very unexpected way. I'll admit it--I shed a tear. What made the scene so moving was the culmination of two characters, realizing what's important to them after 200 pages of growth and development. No. It was not a kissing scene. This isn't a kissing book--for the most part--but it made me cry. That's saying something.

Even us tough guys have feelings too, you know?

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Click here for an older post on the intensity of feelings. 

How do you like to evoke emotion from your audience?

I'm David, and it's--sniff--kinda emotional in here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Post: This Will Be Quick. Time Is Short!

Hello and welcome again! I hate to disappoint, but I'm plum out of time to draft a witty reflectional post about last week's goings on since I'm a tad behind schedule. If I have any hope of staying on track, I better keep this short and sweet. First, let's welcome our new followers: 

Александр, L. Blankenship, Michael Offut, Cindy Borgne, and Tony Benson.

Each of these fine writers have stellar blogs that I think everyone should go and check out. Go on now, if you haven't already. Go on. Click away and enjoy!

Update: Chapter 18 is (gasp) not finished yet, but I'm over eight pages in. I'm getting close to the end. The chapter contains a very touching scene and I'm doing my best not to ham-and-cheese it up, one of my graver writing weaknesses. That, and I can't afford to keep my friend waiting on new chapters, so this week, I'm pulling double duty. Might have to pull an all-nighter, or two. If there are miracles, I'll be on Chapter 19 next week.

Click back Thursday for an "emotional" Aspiring Advice.

I'm David, and my calender has a beach on it.

P.S. I do want to thank you guys for your comments recently. Last Thursday's column had the largest turnout in its history. Thank you for participating. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Aspiring Advice - Scenes That Hold Fast

It was by complete accident that last month carried a theme for advice on the effects of writing on the body. I kind of liked that. So, for this month, I've given some thought as to what makes stories so enduring, or not so much. Welcome, fellow readers, to Memorable March.

In every story, there are scenes where events take place, serving to build character and/or move the plot. Some are quite simple, like a conversation while walking across the countryside. Others are complicated, like epic battles where thousands are involved. Then there are those that leave a lasting impression. An excellent example of this is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I know, Christmas is over, but you can't argue that just about every scene in that novelette is so singular and moving that the work itself is not easy to forget. The scene that holds fast to me is Marley's Ghost. It's eerie, it lays out the rest of the story and presents a moral that's not preachy. Marley doesn't say, "You must change your ways or you will become like me!" but rather, "This is my fate. Yours will be like mine, possibly worse. You have this chance to change that." In the end, Marley left Scrooge with a choice, not a guilt trip.

To make scenes memorable, at least three key things are necessary: description, character and uniqueness. In Patrica C. Wrede's The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, there's a scene in a witch's house with lots of cats and a door that reveals different locations every time it's opened. The setting is described so well that I can visualize the entire scene. The characters are fun, their interaction is engaging and the situation is unique. What I mean by unique is how the scene applies to the story as a whole. Does it carry the plot or is it an anecdote? If a scene serves no purpose but to show off your writing, readers may not feel inclined to turn the page.

Drafting scenes are great fun and the possibilities are endless. Make your reader feel welcome. Give them a place where they won't mind visiting again. Better yet, make them want to visit again. Being published is great (I'm sure), but being read is far more important.

What makes a scene hold fast to you?

I'm David, and there's a birthday today (not mine).