Is Your Character's Name Hot? Or Not?

Let’s say you’re writing a sizzling hot romance with a tall, handsome hero and a super sexy heroine. You probably think a lot about how their personalities and looks affect their attractiveness. But what about their names? . . . .

You can read the rest of my guest post at Intern Spills.

P.S. Remember the Alternate Version Blogfest coming up!

When the Supporting Cast has More Visible Growth Than the Main Character

NoteOnce again, a reminder that the Alternate Version Blogfest is happening on April 1st.  This is your chance to be Hemmingway or Austen.  Go take a look!

I recently read two books in which secondary characters underwent more visible development than the main character. (Warning, some moderate spoilers for Story Time and Dark Dude, although I don't think it ruins the book.)

For example, the main character of Story Time by Edward Bloor is Kate, who is forced to attend a new school with crazy teachers and rumors of demons. The book centers around Kate and her efforts survive the school and figure out its secrets.

While Kate has plenty of adventures, the most visible character development in the book occurs in two supporting characters. Her mother, June, fights her severe social anxiety and eventually overcomes it for Kate's sake. The other growth character is Kate's uncle George (who is actually two years younger than Kate). He starts out as a nerdy sidekick, but at the new school he comes into his own and learns to step into the spotlight.

The other book I read was Dark Dude, by Oscar Hijuelos. The main character here is Rico, a Cuban boy from New York City who runs away to live with his friend in Wisconsin. He meets new people and gains a new perspective on life before returning home. However, Rico ends the book in pretty much the same situation he started in, while a very visible character change occurs in his friend Jimmy, who breaks his heroin addiction and learns to harness his talents and start a new life.

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that both these books are YA. Stories like these might fit into the overall YA theme because part of becoming an adult involves helping others reach their potential.  But while I enjoyed seeing these secondary characters develop, part of me also wanted more visible change in the main character. Especially in Dark Dude, I wanted a more concrete manifestation of the lessons Rico learned in Wisconsin.

Have you read any books where the supporting cast has more visible growth than the main character? How did you feel about it? At what point does a strong secondary character arc distract from the main story?


The PG *cough* Scene Blogfest

So there's a --- um, blogfest today called the *cough* (PG love scene blogfest), which I,  was suckered, was mercilessly peer pressured.  decided would be a productive writing challenge.  The idea is pretty much what the title says.  You write a *cough* (love scene), but you have to do it with PG language.

In addition, not just any warm fuzzy scene will do.  The characters have to be having... an intimate moment.  Fade to black is cheating, but yet it has to be suitable for a middle grade audience. The idea is to come up with a believable, yet tasteful and subtle scene.

So here's my entry.  Don't blink, cuz it's only 32 words long.


She winced.


“It’s okay.”

His hair had fallen into his eyes, and she reached up to brush it out of the way.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“I love you too.”


Um, okay.  A little short, but I'm a YA writer.  I don't do *cough* (love scenes).  At least, I don't do them without surrounding them with lots of asterisks, small font, and crossed out words. But if you're curious how other writers met the challenge, go check out the other entries.

Of course, I can't end a blogfest entry without a shameless plug for the Alternate Version Blogfest, coming up on April 1st.  Ever wonder what your WIP would be like if it were in a different genre, or written by a different person?  Here's your chance to find out.  Go sign up if you'd like to participate.  I promise it will be easier than this challenge :-P

Resources for Synopsis Writing

I'm currently writing a synopsis for a manuscript critique, so I sent a query out on twitter asking for good synopsis resources.  People responded with lots of helpful replies. As per @suelder's request, I'm posting them here.

Updated 3/16 to include comments:

  1. Screenwriter's Bible via @WhenDovesCryAA
  2. How to write the synopsis , youtube video from Bob Mayer
  3. The Sell Your Novel Toolkit via @amithaknight
  4. Helpful tweeps for synopses:  @bubblecow and @nicolamorgan (via @alisonwells and @dirtywhitecandy)
  5. Post from Nathan Bransford via @lindakay_astray
  6. Post from Writer Unboxed via @swinglet
  7.  Post from Scribechat via Jane Friedman's  Best Tweets for Writers
  8. Post from Natalie Whipple via Lady Glamis
  9. Post from Caro Clark via Simon Larter
  10. Post from Gina Ardito via Jordon McCollum

If you know of any other sources, please post them in the comments!

Announcing the Alternate Version Blogfest (aka, I turn my YA fantasy into a steamy romance)

Update:  Use the hastag #altversionfest to discuss the blogfest on twitter.

I recently submitted a scene to my critique group with some sexual tension between two characters. They all thought it was too abrupt and suggested I sprinkle in some tension in previous scenes to make the development more gradual.
Well, you know how these things go. I went back home and started fooling around with an earlier scene.  One thing led to another ... and before I knew it, a very different version of that scene was born.

For comparison, here's the original scene, from my YA fantasy Midnight Thief. It's an excerpt from the scene I posted for the Fight Scene Blogfest.

“Most times you won't have the luxury of resting after a fight.” At first she thought it was Riley speaking, but then she realized the voice came from off the mat. She sat up to see James watching from the side. This was the first time she had seen him here during her practice. Hastily, she climbed to her feet as Riley also stood.
James stripped off his outer tunic, tossed it on a nearby box. and walked onto the mat. He reached a pale but well muscled arm towards Riley, who tossed him the dagger he had been using. James caught the dagger and in the same motion beckoned Kyra toward him. She stood, frozen in place. He motioned again, more curtly. This time she obeyed, muscles tense as she approached him.“Let's see what you've learned.”

And here's Midnight Thief:  Scandalous Romance Version

“Most times you won't have the luxury of resting after a fight.” Kyra looked up to see James on the side, his cold blue eyes boring into her with an intensity that she felt down to her very bones.She watched in fascination as James stripped off his tunic, revealing a well muscled chest made all the more interesting by two scars that ran across his chiseled abs.

His eyes swept over her, taking in first her face, and then lowering to appraise the rest of her body with a calculating eye. She flushed. He was just evaluating her as a fighter, she knew. But still, her breathing became quick and shallow.
James stepped aggressively onto the mat. "Let's see what you've learned so far," he murmured, his voice husky with anticipation.


And once I started, I couldn't stop! I call this next one Midnight Thief: The Thriller

“Most times you won't have the luxury of resting after a fight.” At first she thought it was Riley speaking, but then she looked up and saw how wrong she was.

Chapter 35

It was James. This was the first time she had seen him here during her practice. Hastily, she climbed to her feet...

I learned several things during this exercise. First, that I probably don't have a future in romance. And second, this is really fun! And thus, I'd like to invite you all to participate in the Alternate Version Blogfest.

Here are the details:

1.  The Blogfest will take place on April 1st, 2010.  Yes, the date is intentional.
2.  Sign up on the Mr. Linky Widgit below.
3.  For your entry, post a short passage from your WIP, and then an alternate version of it in a different style.  It can be funny, but doesn't necessarily have to be.
4.  Post your entry on your own blog on April 1st, and go surf around to see what everyone else has come up with.
5.  And of course, I'd appreciate it if you could retweet/blog/share about this blogfest.  It's always more fun with more people :-)

Tips for Developing Character Voice from Dee Garretson

I recently attended a workshop at a Central Ohio SCBWI meeting with middle grade author Dee Garretson*. She gave some good tips for developing character voice.

Just to clarify, people talk about several types of voice. One type, what Garretson refers to as authorial voice, refers to the author’s writing style. A while back I blogged some tips from Cathy Yardley for developing your own voice. Dee’s presentation focused instead on character voice, which is the style of a specific character in your story.

So on to the tips:

1.What kind of observations does your character make? What would that character notice about someone they just met, or a room they just entered? It would be different for a 12 year old girl than it would be for a middle aged man.

For example, if a character were to say:

“She was a German and made brilliant meatballs,”Gideon, the Cutpurse

What impression do you get of the character? What kind of person would mention meatball making ability as a defining characteristic?

2. How does your character react to situations?

I felt a drop of sweat trickle down my side like a spider and disappear into the waistband of my itchy, brand-new suit pants, which I hoped never to wear again.”  -I,Q

From this reaction, we can tell the character is young and uncomfortable in formal clothes. 

3. Word choices  In the first example, change "brilliant" into “yummy” meatballs and you get a very different voice. 
There are also some good word choices in the quote from I,Q -- spider, for example.

Another example:
The fog hung over Booker Mountain like an old ragged coat.” - The Dragon Heir

If you change “old ragged coat” to “malevolent ghost”, again, you get a  different feel.

How do you invoke character voice in your own writing?

*Garretson’s middle grade adventure book Danger’s Edge: Wildfire at Camp David will be released in September.