Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

Do you have trouble picturing your characters? Or can you imagine the expressions they might wear during a particular scene? Imagining our characters as if they were in a movie can help us make them come alive. Before starting the writing process I develop what I call a “Character Collage”. I thought I would explain this tip so you can use it in your own writing journey.

What is a Character Collage? To put it simply, it’s a collection of pictures I gather relating to my characters. I usually do this while I’m plotting my novel and brainstorming my character’s personalities. It really helps to solidify who the character is and what traits they have.

I approach finding the pictures several ways. Either I have an actor or actress in mind for each character and then I search google images and find a picture of that particular person. Or, most often, I only have a vague idea of the kind of person I want to play each “role” in my novel. So I begin searching for someone who fit’s the image I already have in my mind. Since I write historical novels it’s very helpful if I can use an actor or actress already in period costume, even if it’s not the exact era in which my novel is set. One of the first places I check is, “Enchanted Serenity of Period Films”, one of my all-time favorite period drama sites. I go to the index of period dramas where there is a huge data base of almost every period movie available, both British and American. Most of these also have a summary of the movie and a few pictures of the major characters. I start clicking on each movie and looking at the pictures provided, seeing if any of the actors or actresses matches what I’m looking for. Usually, I manage to cast most of my minor characters this way and sometimes my major characters as well. If this site fails to produce what I’m searching for and I still have some “un-casted” characters, I usually turn to Internet Movie Database, where I can search actors and actresses by name, or by movie title. Most of the time, they have at least one picture per actor and if I find an actor/actress I like, I can use google images to find more photos of them. A few other options are using characters from television shows as models, although finding a lot of pictures of a character who appears very little in a T.V. show might be difficult. Also, using models of people you know personally is another idea, but you might want to get their permission first.

Searching for that particular picture that feels “just right”, is a lot of work, so I would suggest carefully studying the characters in the movies you watch, even the minor ones, as you might want to consider using them for future novels. I try to find pictures for every character, including secondary characters. Major characters (usually just my hero and heroine), I like to have at least ten different images, showing them in different poses or with different facial expressions. For secondary and minor characters, one or two photos will suffice.

After I have gathered the images, I either make a collage on Microsoft Paint, print the photos, and tack them onto a bulletin board, or copy and paste them onto a Word document. Then they are available when I need inspiration. Another fun thing I do is make desktop wallpaper by pasting a couple of favorite images onto Microsoft Paint and adding a background. Thus, whenever I turn on my computer, I have my characters staring right at me. This really gets my creative juices flowing.

These are only a few tips, and I’m sure there are many more ways to accomplish character casting, especially if you write contemporaries. I hope you found some of these ideas helpful, and if you try them, they make your writing take on a whole new dimension.

Happy Writing,

Your Turn – Do you cast your characters? If so, do you have any tips to pass on to all of us? I look forward to your comments!

This week we are giving away the book "Where Lilacs Still Bloom" by Jane Kirkpatrick. This book is an Advanced Readers copy as it does not release until April 2012. Included with this is a three pack of Bible Study Notes notepads to use during church or during your own scripture studies. This book and notepad set would make a great christmas gift or something for your own enjoyment. So once again, leave your comment and email information.

Congratulations to Jackie, last weeks winner of the Love Inspired three book set. Next week we have a Love Inspired Christmas book by Gail Gaymer Martin and a Christmas cookbook to give away, so stay tuned.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Favorite Period Dramas

Today, I’m going to take a break from my usual writing posts and blog about another one of my passions – period British dramas. These dramas have provided me many hours of inspiration for several of my novels, plus many ideas for future works. They are also great companions to classic literature as many of these are based on famous novels. So without further ado, here are five of my all-time favorite period dramas with a few sentence synopses for each. Enjoy!

1) Pride and Prejudice 1995 – This is a given for many period drama fans. Actually, Pride and Prejudice was one of the first period dramas I watched, and it was what really sparked my interest in the Regency Era, which led to my writing three novels set in that era. I LOVED this movie and my friends and I are always sprinkling our conversations with such phrases as, “I believe we must have some conversation, Mr. Darcy – a very little will suffice” or “This is all extremely vexing. I am quite put out!” Any of you know who said these?

2) Bleak House 2005– If I had to pick one period drama that was my absolute favorite, this would certainly be in the running. Many great characters, scenes, and lines!! The only bad thing about this drama is once you start watching it, you’ll never want to stop! Screenwriter Andrew Davies is at his best here, with a drama that will make you laugh and cry. There are many of Charles Dickens’ characters that are memorable and Bleak House is full of them.

3) Jane Eyre 1983– There are over twenty versions of Jane Eyre, and I have seen three of them. To date, I have greatly enjoyed the 2011 version starring Michael Fassbender, and the 2006 version starring Ruth Wilson. But my all-time favorite has been the 1983 version with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke. Although it has the feel of a really old BBC production (which in fact it is) the acting is amazing and the dialog is taken almost word for word from Bronte’s novel. And of course after watching it, I immediately decided to have Timothy Dalton “play” my next hero.
4) Sense and Sensibility 1995 – Another wonderful Austen adaptation, this is a great version of “Sense and Sensibility.” With a wonderful cast, lovely scenery, and clever dialog this version of “Sense and Sensibility” is one I return to again and again. Although slightly older than Austen’s description of Elinor Dashwood, Emma Thompson sparkles as the older sister “sense”, and the lovely Kate Winslet captures young Marianne Dashwood “sensibility” perfectly. A lighthearted adventure through Jane Austen’s first novel, it has a permanent place on my keeper shelf!

5)Becoming Jane 2007 – Let’s face it, authors love watching movies about other authors. And if the author is Jane Austen, it’s even better. Perhaps not altogether historically accurate, in my opinion, this movie captures perfectly the life and times of one of literature’s most beloved authors. Starring James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway this movie is a true gem!

These are only several of the many great dramas that are out there, but these five are a few of my favorite. Be inspired, intrigued, and enjoy the British accents in these five period dramas!
Happy Writing,

Your Turn – What are some of your favorite period dramas? I read and enjoy each and every comment!

This week in our Countdown to Christmas we are giving away a Love Inspired 3 book bundle. The titles are, "Made to Order Family," by Ruth Logan Herne, "Courting the Enemy" by Renee Ryan, "Oklahoma Reunion", by Tina Radcliff. These books would make great Christmas gifts or great reads to enjoy. So please leave your comment and your email and we will once again pick a winner on Friday. Next week I will be giving away another bundle as we get closer to Christmas. So stay tuned!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Winners of House of Secrets!!

Happy Friday everyone! Congratulations to Susan and Charity the two winners of “House of Secrets” by Tracie Peterson plus a journal!

Tune in next week for more chances to win!

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Writing the Breakout Novel" – Five Things I’ve Learned From Donald Maass’s book.

Recently, I’ve been going through Donald Maass’s excellent book and workbook, “Writing the Breakout Novel.” If you don’t own this set, I highly recommend it. To whet your appetite, I’m going to share five things that I’ve learned from “Writing the Breakout Novel.”
1)  Give Your Characters Extra Dimension – Maass claims the most interesting protagonists are those who keep us guessing what they are going to do, say, or think, next. He also says the reader will be more likely to identify with the character because there is more of the character to identify with. He tells novelists to think of their protagonists defining quality, think of the opposite of that, and then try to have the protagonist demonstrate that, at least once in their novel. I have utilized this technique and it really helps to make characters multi-dimensional.
2)  Combining Roles of Secondary Characters – Plot layering helps make your novel truly breakout. One of the ways to do this is by combining the roles of secondary characters. Rather than adding characters, delete them. Yes, actually delete some secondary characters. Maass tells novelists to write down the names of all characters, whether major or minor. If you end up with more than ten, delete one. If you have more than twelve, delete two. Now think of ways to give the roles you deleted to an existing character. Giving a secondary character an extra dimension makes for a more interesting well rounded character, thus bringing that character alive in reader’s minds. I loved this exercise and although I was not able to delete two characters, I did delete one, and was very happy with the results. Try it!
3) Defining Personal Stakes – Personal stakes are more than what motivates the hero, they are why the hero does what he does. Why the hero/heroine does things, must matter, both to the hero, and to the reader. Maass tells authors to write down the hero’s main problem, goal, or desire, and then find ways to make the problem matter more…and more…and more. He says that while this adds a lot of extra plot complications, it also makes the character much more interesting. After all, a hero who has only one reason to solve a problem can become a little boring. Don’t you think?
4) Tension On Every PageMaass reports that the reason most manuscripts are rejected is because they lack tension. They have too many scenes showing characters just passing the time of day and saying meaningless things, while the story stagnates. He encourages writers to randomly flip or scroll with their computer mouse to a page on their manuscript, then add tension to that page. It can be anything from having the antagonist point a gun at the hero, to the mere anticipation of something ominous to come. He advises novelists to do this on EVERY page. Although I have not done this exercise, I plan on doing so as soon as I finish my novel. Plus, as I write, I now try to avoid stagnant passages. They’re boring to read and even more boring to write.
5) SymbolismLastly, Maass encourages authors to add symbolism. For example, a thunderstorm, a particular tree, a sunset, etc. While every scene cannot have symbolism, what about the first and last scene? Or a few choice scenes throughout the novel? Symbols can become cliché, yet if they are chosen well, they can also become another facet of your breakout novel. Maass instructs novelists to find an object that can present at the novel’s end and also three other places within the novel. This concept provides association within the novel.

These are only a few of the many great exercise and ideas contained in the book and workbook “Writing the Breakout Novel.” I’ve found this tool has greatly enriched my novel, thus hopefully, adding to its breakout qualities. I hope you will too!

Happy Writing- Amanda

Your Turn - Have you read “Writing the Breakout Novel”? Did you find any of the exercises and ideas particularly helpful?

In celebration of Love to Write day - November 15th, we are giving away TWO copies of Tracie Peterson’s newest book, “House of Secrets”. This book was just released in October and is receiving great reviews on Amazon. It would make a great gift for Christmas, or for yourself. Along with this book we are including a notebook/journal for all you writers!  Leave your comment and email so we can enter you to win this book/journal combo. We will pick two winners Friday!
Congratulations to Karen who won “A Sound Among the Trees” by Susan Meissner last week.
Stay tuned for more great giveaways next week as we, Countdown To Christmas!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Famous Last Lines

There’s something about the last line of a novel. Something fascinating and bittersweet. And if that novel is a classic one, it’s even better. So here are fifteen of my favorite last lines from classic literature. Inspiring, poetic, and well written; I hope they’ll inspire you as you begin your writing week!

Fifteen Famous Last Lines from Classic Literature (in no particular order).

1. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. –F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

2. The knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off. –Joseph Heller, Catch-22
3. But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union. –Jane Austen, Emma
4. I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. –Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

5. And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! –Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
6. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past. –Willa Cather, My Ántonia
7. He knelt by the bed and bent over her, draining their last moment to its lees; and in the silence there passed between them the word which made all clear. –Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
8. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain. –Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
9. “We shall never be again as we were!” –Henry James, The Wings of the Dove
10. “Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” –Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
11. With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them." -- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
12. "Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
        Some shall be pardoned, and some punished;
        For never was a story of more woe
       Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."
                                --William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

13. I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

14. In their death they were not divided. George Elliot, The Mill on the Floss

15. At that, as if it had been the signal he waited for, Newland Archer got up slowly and walked back alone to his hotel. Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

Happy Writing,

Your Turn- What is your favorite last line in classic literature? They were not divided. George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

Countdown to Christmas - Week 2
This week we are giving away the book, A Sound Among the Trees, by Susan Meissner. This is an advanced readers copy. This book is a great read that is getting great reviews on Amazon. Would make a great gift!!

To win this book, leave a comment with your email so we can contact you if your name is drawn. Winner will be drawn this Friday and notified then!


Friday, November 4, 2011

Winners of Smitten

Happy Friday everyone! Congratulations to Dawn and Jen the two winners of “Smitten”!
Tune in next week for more chances to win!
Happy Weekend Everyone,