I Forgot How Hard This Part Is…

So, I started writing the first Avery Jacobs novel this evening, and, boy, I forgot how hard it is to write that beginning and like it enough to move on. I keep tweaking and changing and haven’t gotten more than 730 words on the page. Ugh. I feel like it is somehow harder now that I know more about this process than it was when I wrote my first manuscript. Shouldn’t it be easier?

In other news, I started reading the third Alex Craft novel, Grave Memory, by Kalayna Price. So far, I love it.

GraveMemory

However, I honestly expected nothing less because I love this series. The voice is amazing, the characters are fully-developed, and the love triangle is done amazingly well – I don’t want to smack the main character repeatedly until she chooses one of them, which is my normal reaction to these things. Instead, my knees get wobbly right there with her. Go check this series out! It’s definitely become one of my favorites!

10 Endings

A month or so ago, I finished reading Plot & Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish by James Scott Bell.

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While I highly recommend this book to any aspiring writer, the most helpful part – for me – was an exercise that can be used to brainstorm a really good ending. Now, for those of you who don’t know, I struggle with endings. That was one of the weakest parts of my first manuscript, and I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Mr. Bell suggests that you come up with 10 different endings for your story, each more unique than the last. At first, I had a hard time breaking with the ending I’d already thought up. After all, it seemed good enough. However, when I really started to think about all the different things that truly could happen at that point in the story, I was suddenly able to break through mental blocks that I hadn’t even realize existed.

I started thinking about all the possible outcomes of the final battle scene, no matter how bizarre or anticlimactic. What if the antagonist escaped and was never apprehended? What if the protagonist was captured? What if she wasn’t captured but was framed instead? What if the cost of her survival is the loss of her gift? What if the cost is the loss of her sanity? What if her gift can be used as a weapon? What if she kills the antagonist? And so on.

Thinking of Orson Scott Card’s advice (in his book on characters) to take your story ideas and give everything a little twist, I twisted different pieces in different directions as I brainstormed. And you know what? It worked. I came up with a much better – and much less cliched – ending than I started with.

Now it’s your turn! Let me know if you find this technique as helpful as I did, or if you use a completely different method. I’d love to hear about it.

Comparing the Tone of Two Urban Fantasy Novels

Although it started months ago, my tour de urban fantasy has continued. I read two very different novels over the past week – both urban fantasy, both with strong female protagonists, both with love triangles, both with magic… But both had very different tones. By “tone”, I mean a combination of both the writer’s voice and the “feel” of the narrative.

The first book that I read was Grave Witch, by Kalayna Price.

GraveWitch

The second book I read was Dead Spots, by Melissa F. Olson.
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The first few lines of Grave Witch are:

The first time I encountered Death, I hurled my mother’s medical chart at him. As far as first impressions went, I blew it, but I was five at the time, so he eventually forgave me. Some days I wished he hadn’t – particularly when we cross paths on the job.

It’s catchy, intriguing, and light enough that you can tell that this novel will be a bit tongue-in-cheek. And it was. The tone helped balance out the darkness inherent in a world with open magic.

Dead Spots has an entirely different tone. It opens with a prologue that slowly builds to a crime; then, the first chapter introduces us to the main character, and it doesn’t take us long to learn that she sees herself as “broken”. It’s a dark story, and it only gets darker – but that’s the world that the author has created.

Now, let me say here that I don’t think that one book is “better” than the other. Both were well-developed and well-written. However, I noticed that I responded differently to each. After Grave Witch, I immediately looked up the second book in the series on Amazon. I went back and forth for a few days, but, in the end, I bought the expensive thing. I couldn’t stop wondering what would happen next. When I finished Dead Spots, I felt rather sad. Honestly, this is probably a combination of all the, well, sad things that happen in her world and her serious tone. Dead Spots doesn’t use a lighter, tongue-in-cheek tone to help balance the dark themes in the plot. And, as a reader, I realized that I need that.

So, what’s the point?

The point is that tone makes a difference. My reaction to each authors’ tone told me something important about what kind of book I not only like reading, but, moreover, the kind of book I want to write and the reaction I want to create in the reader. In the end, I want to write a story with a tone that makes the reader smile – even when dark things happen. This is an important thing to realize for someone about to begin the actual writing of her own urban fantasy novel. Now I just have to stop reading and start writing.