Tag Archives: action

Finding Balance

I’m a Libra–the sign of the scales, so I thought my life came with some automatic balance.  Come to find out, one of my favorite astrologers explained that being a Libra meant I was constantly SEARCHING for balance.  A whole different thing entirely.  And after I thought about it, aren’t most people striving for balance, too?

The old saying “Too much work and no fun make Jack a dull boy” could apply to too much of anything.   I read a thread on twitter recently where Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost (both New Times bestselling authors) worked so many hours writing their books that Jeaniene Frost ended up in the hospital and both suffered from too much stress and felt everything else in their lives got neglected.  What were they missing?  Balance.

Now, I’d love to be a bestselling author, but not enough to ONLY write.  I like seeing my husband, kids, and grandkids.  I like having family and friends over for suppers.  I enjoy cooking and gardening.  I’m not very exciting, but I’m happy.  Of course, if all I did was play, I’d feel out of sync, too.  I like checking off goals when I finish them.  They give me a sense of accomplishment.  Too much down time, and I get antsy.

As a writer, I strive for balance in my books, too.  I recently finished reading Maria V. Snyder’s POISON STUDY.  I really liked it and highly recommend it, but the book had so much action, with the heroine under constant attack from enemies on all sides, that it felt like too much of a good thing.  For me, the book’s rhythm began to feel repetitive.  She created wonderful characters, and I’d have liked to spend a little more time with them.  Valek, especially, was fascinating.  So were many of the minor characters.  On the other hand, though, I’ve read books where action would be welcome.  It feels like nothing is happening, page after page.  No character development.  No clues to add up.  The pacing’s so slow, the story barely moves forward.

I also recently finished reading Cee Cee James’s cozy mystery CHERRY PIE OR DIE.  I loved the characters, the interaction between them, and the clues sprinkled here and there that teased me to solve the murder.  The pacing took its time, taunting me with tidbits of information and red herrings, like cozies do.  And that’s one of the things I liked about the book.

Great books create a balance between action, dialogue, setting, character development, and building momentum through pacing and tension.  Not many of us get every scene, every page right.  And not all of us can even agree on what’s good and what’s not.  What excites me can make another reader close the book and toss it aside.  But for whatever you’re working on now, I hope you find a good balance.  And happy writing!

My webpage:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Twitter:  @judypost

 

 

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Writing: What motivates your character? Does it work?

First off, I have a summer cold, so if ideas don’t always blend together in this blog, my head’s a little fuzzy. But here goes:

I just finished reading a book that I loved, but sometimes, I had to MAKE myself keep turning the pages. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? It was, and I had mixed feelings about it. I loved every scene, every character. The villains were deliciously complicated, and sometimes, I actually felt sympathetic to them–the sign of a good writer. But sometimes, the decisions the main character made felt forced. They worked for the plot and led to tension and battles, but I kept thinking there might have been a better way to handle the situation, and that the character was smart enough to think about something less dangerous. True, the bad guy is forcing her hand, but the story felt like she was reacting to one threat after another without ever saying, “Hey, what if…..?” But then that might be just me. I usually think first, act later. My daughter read the same book and said it was her favorite in the entire series. But then my daughter has no fear. Just goes to show you. But my reaction to the story made me think.

A character’s motivations have to feel REAL. He has to want something enough that he’ll take risks to get it or achieve it. But the risks have to make sense. It’s hard for me to follow a hero who doesn’t care, who’s so blase’, he just goes through the motions to see what happens. I have just as much trouble following a hero who takes risks he doesn’t need to, someone who puts himself and his friends in trouble when there’s a better way to solve the problem. Conflicted motivations are really hard to pull off, and that’s where I ran into trouble in the book I read. People are complicated, and I like that. But when a character is so complicated that I can’t decide what he’s trying to achieve, I waffle.

The other thing that slowed me down in this book was the nonstop action. After three fight scenes back to back, I just got tired. I had to put the book down to take a break. Don’t get me wrong. These were some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever read. But there were a LOT of them. Books need tension, and that tension has to build and build and build. But sometimes, I need to catch my breath.

Did I love this book? Yes, but not as much as the last one. Will I read the next book in the series? A big yes. Did this book make me think about writing and what works for me and what doesn’t? A resounding yes, because I kept asking myself, How can each scene be so good, and I need to put the book down for a minute?

Reading other writers, really good writers, are such great learning experiences. Hope you find authors who push you to be a better writer.

Writing and YA

I have three friends who write YA. I love their writing and love their stories, but I don’t know the genre that well, so invited Susan Bahr to be a guest on my blog this week. She reads and writes YA and is generous enough to share her ideas with us. I think they can apply to all good writing. Thanks, Sue!

Thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts on Young Adult fantasy, Judy!
I’ll call this post “The Evolution of Sue, the author.”

It started almost five years ago, when I launched into writing. Oh, those days of blissful ignorance. Genre? Plot structure? Voice? I didn’t even understand POV! But I was on fire, and the words just flowed.
Flash forward about a year and picture brave little Sue prepping for her first agent pitch session at her first writer’s conference. I thought I was prepared, until one of my fellow attendees turned to me and asked, “So, what’s your story’s genre?” Gulp. She must have read the terror in my eyes, because she took pity and helped me figure something out. And I’ll be forever grateful.

Advance another year or two and now I’m batting around writing terms like an old pro. My knowledge has expanded, but one thing has remained consistent: my love for young adult fantasy. Here’s a fun fact: More adults read Young Adult fiction than young adults. A survey in 2012 put the number of adult readers at 55%. As of 2014, it’s 68%!! No more closet reading for old Sue (which is a good thing, as my eyes aren’t what they used to be)

I read YA fantasy. I write YA fantasy. And here are just three reasons why I believe every author can benefit from reading at least one YA fantasy this year.

1. Pacing. No brainer. Young people watch six second clips (Vines), communicate in 140 characters and snap-chat. Long-winded, slow-developing plots just aren’t going to cut it with this crowd. I believe, even if I wasn’t writing YA, that my stories have benefited from understanding this basic rule: Never bore your readers.
2. Strong protagonists. Most seem to be female and what’s wrong with that? These characters have an arc, a goal, and usually some kind of kick-ass quality that sets them apart. They also must grab and hold a young reader, so they need to feel well-rounded.
3. Visual action. Lots and lots of showing, not telling. Fantasy novels must, by definition, set the reader in a well-defined world and THAT requires all the senses. I love stepping into a new place with new rules. I love reading and I love writing fantasy for the world-building.

I now have three completed manuscripts, all in various stages of editing. Each one is unique. Each one is a Young Adult. If you’d like to check out my writing, you can find it at:

http://www.wattpad.com/user/vermontwriter
My author blog can be found at http://www.suebahr.com

Happy reading!
Sue

Sue’s summer reads:
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Sue and I traded blogs this week, so my usual post can be found on her blog. Hope you check it out: https://suebahr.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/passiveactive-voice-explained-finally/

And P.S. My 3rd Wolf’s Bane novel–Magicks Uncaged–is now available on Kindle:

Writing Goals 2013

I’ve been reading more books that are outside of my usual tastes lately, and it’s been good for me.  It’s made me think about what makes a good book.  When I read my favorite authors, I expect them to deliver certain things really well.  And they almost always do…that’s why they’re my favorites. But when I try a new author or a new genre, I don’t know what to expect, and I end up paying more attention to how the plot is constructed and the characters are developed.  It makes me think more about what works and what doesn’t…and how I’ve told my own stories, and how I can tell them better.

Things I’ve learned:

1.  Great scenes do not necessarily create a great book.  I’ve read quite a few novels lately where each scene is entertaining, and I keep turning the pages, but when I finish the novel, I realize something was lacking.  I enjoyed the book, but I didn’t love it.  The book didn’t demand much from me, so I didn’t invest much into it.  The novel’s a great one-shot read, but I wouldn’t go back for more.

2.  Repetition kills tension.  Every author knows that repeating information in a novel is redundant and loses a reader’s interest, but using the same technique over and over again gets old too.  I quit reading mystery writers who killed someone every time their plot started to sag.  I’m not against a death here or there to keep tension up, but enough is enough.  And glopping on more gore doesn’t make the scene more original.  The same goes for battles in fantasy novels.  Even if the writer adds a new element each time to keep the scenes fresh, the technique gets old.  The writer needs to change it up and surprise us.  Don’t be predictable.

3.  Angst isn’t enough to make me like a character.  Every protagonist has a problem, or an author wouldn’t have a story.  I’ve read a few stories lately where the writer straps a bad choice/experience onto the main character, and she carries it everywhere with her.  It affects the way she interacts with others.  I like that.  It adds depth, but it’s not enough.  The character has to come alive as a person to hold my interest.  She does this through her actions, not her thoughts.  What she does says more about her than lots of internal dialogue.

4.  Balance is hard to find.  My favorite books get it right.  Every main character comes to life.  No character fills a “slot”–this is the love interest, this is the bad guy, this is the potential body when someone has to die, etc.  There’s internal and external conflict, and there’s tension between characters.  Every scene has a purpose and conflict of some kind.

5.  Knowing the rules of good writing and doing them are two different things.  But my goal for 2013 is to try to grow as a writer, to make my stories more powerful or to involve the reader more.

Also, I want to thank anyone who’s taken the time to write any kind of feedback for my stories or novels, from long reviews to one sentence opinions.  I appreciate it.  Constructive criticism is a blessing.  It makes me think.

I hope 2013 is a great year for all of you–whatever your endeavors.  And if you’re an author, I hope you flex your writing muscles and your stories are better than ever.  What’s your favorite novel?  And why?