Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fair Dinkim, you don't understand

Well, for those of you that don't know, I'm studying to be a teacher and this week I've been at a school "observing" classes before I take over in a couple of weeks. I'll be teaching for a whole month, 2 classes (that doesn't seem like a lot, but considering I've still got assignments and my actual paying job to concern myself with, that's plenty).

I'll be teaching a whole unit on a novel and today the class picked up the novel, Tomorrow when the War Began (lots of moans and groans and 'Miss, I don't like to read'). It's truly an Australian  novel, with language and everything... the class had to collect a dictionary of Australian slang words. Here's a trailer for the movie that's coming out in September.

This actually made me think (*gasp*), would people from other places find a novel with local slang harder to read, or would they be able to fit a definition to the word based on the sentence? I've actually had problems in previous novels, especially since most of my readers are from England or America, where they didn't understand what I was trying to convey.

The hardest time is when that single word changes meaning in different languages. One example was Jumper. This:

Changed to:

It doesn't seem like much, but the person reviewing the chapter couldn't understand why my MC was grabbing jumper just in case it was cold.

Slang, just like dialects in dialogue, can sometimes hinder a person's understanding of the story (seriously, there were even some words/phrases that I had never heard of and I'm Australian), but it can also used to convey the setting. So, how do you choose what slang to use in an MS?
  • Don't use FAD words
    Words that are current at the moment might become outdated before your novel is even published. Such terms as Cool, Bad, Slamming, Rad, etc could mean something totally different so your story will feel outdated, or worse, your readers won't be able to understand it.
  • Use if adds to setting/era
    You can't deny it, slang terms makes up a culture and such terms are necessary to indicate the time or place that the novel is set (this is especially important if you're writing a historical novel since they didn't speak the same way we do now).
  • Make sure readers can get definition from within the sentence
    If a reader has to spend a long time trying to decode the slang that's in a story, then the reader won't want to continue reading (I know I won't... I barely like trying to decipher long-winded fantasy names at the best of times). Simple and sweet is the best way to utilise slang terms, don't go for the hard sayings that no one has ever heard of.
  • If it helps, it helps
    Above all, don't try to eliminate all culture and background. The way we all speak is based on the words we've grown up with. If you try to eliminate all slang words, then you're eliminating a lot of personality from the novel. Just think about what you're saying before you put it in.
So, how do you handle slang in your novels? Do you try not to put it in to make the writing universal? Or do you don't even think about it (and sorry about that because you'll probably start to from now on)?

And on a final note, here's a little quick for you. Can you answer these questions on Australian slang?
  1. Get your "thongs" on
  2. Rack off
  3. I feel safe with the "bum bag"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wind-down Wednesday

To start off with the post today, I would like to thank Lydia Kang for giving me the awesomesauce award.

I would like to pass it on to:

Okay, now that's out of the way I've decided to change up Wind-down Wednesday's and now it will feature contests and other interesting and amusing links that I've seen out there in the blogosphere.

To start off with, there are numerous contests available out there at the moment:
  • - The prizes that are up for grabs are three gift cards. One for $20 and two for $15 from either Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Borders, winners choice. All you have to do is comment on the post to enter, plus there's other ways of getting more entries.
  • Steph Bowe has a contest over at her blog. She's having a massive book give away with lots of great books up on offer. All you have to do is fill in a simple entry form (piece of cake).
  • Noelle Nolan has a contest called the 150 follower contest and it's not going to close until she has 150 followers. Up for grabs is a $10 Amazon gift card and all you have to do is follow her, plus there's extra entries available as well.
  • Steena & Stina is having a contest for a query critique. All you have to do to enter is be a follower as well as fill in an entry form.
Interesting links for the week:
  • For anyone who likes horoscopes, Paperback Writer has created one especially for writers.
  • Here is a post, over at Hyperbole and a Half, that screams they are irritated by the word "alot" appearing in Manuscripts.
 And just to wrap up another perfect day, here is a trailer of the movie Beastly. It looks killer, and now I just want to read the book before going and watching it:

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    The Need to Capture Your Attention

    So, yesterday we looked at beginnings that have been overdone and are probably not the best way to capture the readers attention, but what makes a good beginning?

    I wish there was some easy way to answer this. Every writer always searches for the perfect way to start a story. They search for that one perfect line that will dangle the bait in front of the reader's eyes just waiting for the chance to hook them and reel them into the rest of the story. I could just make a list of what makes good openings, but the truth is that the best openings are unique to each novel.

    Instead, I'm going to pick several great openings (hey, they've been voted upon) and analyse what makes them so great. And, just because I'm mean, I'm not going to tell you where the quotes come from. So, here's a challenge, can you guess where these openers come from?

    1. Call me Ishmael.
      What is it about this line that everyone loves? It's simple, plain and introduces the reader to the character straight away. The conversational way it is written just invites the reader to snuggle in to a nice and cosy chair and follow Ishmael on his journey.

    2. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
      At the first glance, doesn't this just look like it's breaking a big NoNo. It starts by addressing what the day looks like, but then the reader is drawn in by the unusual. Since when do clocks strike 13?

    3. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
      This sentence introduces the character first up. It is not trying to do anything fancy, just letting the character letting the character mull over what advice he was given. Through the use of "younger" and "vulnerable" it's suggesting that the character has made some developments before the story has even started, now the reader wants to know about the character and follow them on this journey.

    4. We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.
      This is a fun little sentence, which also draws the readers attention. It is taking something unusual that the reader can only hope to imagine, after all, we can't really go to the moon now, can we?

    5. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.
      This sentence introduces some of the characters of the novel. It also introduces the normal world. It also hints that something has happened to alter this normal world and you want to find out what "strange" or "mysterious" thing has happened.

    6. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
      This sentence introduces the setting. It's also introducing the unusual.

    7. When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventyifirst birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.This passage introduces the character. It also has a fun voice and introduces the language.

    8. The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.Short and sweet. It introduces a couple of characters. By not giving too much description or names of the characters, it creates an aura of mystery. Who are these characters? The reader has to read on to find out.

    9. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the reaping.
      This passage introduces the character (also another that could be said is bad by having the character waking up, but it works). It introduces her word, and the reader wants to find out what's special about this day. What is the reaping?

    10. My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness.
      This introduces the character as well as eluding to the conditions as to which the character is living. This is done by saying that the character only knows of such a normal setting as the ocean. Every reader should know what an ocean is, so the writer is grabbing the reader's attention while doing some good world building.

    So, by looking at the ten passages above can you see some pattern forming as to what makes up great first sentences? It starts with a "C" and ends with a "haracter". That's right. Most of the above start with a character. If you take pages to introduce the character then the reader has no one with which to identify with.

    Another element that could add interest to the first sentence is through the hint of the unusual. I was more drawn to the sentences that gave some clue that not everything was as it should be. There was something different with the world that is being created, or there was a hint that something was about to happen.

    How did you go with picking where the first lines comes from? Can you think of any other good examples? Or, do you disagree with some of these on the list?

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    We have to begin somewhere

    Last week I focused on can make good or bad endings. Well, even though you need to make the reader want to return for the next book, it's even more important to capture their interest to want to read the book to begin with.

    Beginnings can either make or break the readers view of the story. It is said that the average person takes five seconds to form an opinion on a person or place after the first view, the same can be said with books. Readers often know what they're in for within the first five pages, so grabbing their attention from the get go has to be the main objective of any writer.

    Instead of focusing on what makes a good beginning, let's have a look at some of the train wrecks misguided stories I've seen, and let's see if you've done any of these or have been tempted to.

    1. It was all a dream...
      I bet you can probably name several books that start like this. The writer definitely captures the attention of the reader, drawing them inside the events of a fast paced action sequence. You're sitting on the edge of the seat, wondering whether the hero will make it through (yes, it's only the first chapter, but still they could die... it's been done), and then... and then... the character wakes up.

      All the events that the reader's been following turns out to be nothing more than a dream. So, everything that you've learnt up until this point is worthless and will never be brought up again... so please enjoy this cute animation of a kitten with a duck.

    2. The silly little prologue that makes no sense with the rest of the book and never comes back...
      Just like the dream, but is slightly - somehow - relevant. Some fraction of it may (or may not) appear somewhere throughout the story at which point you'll find out that it was not as near impressive as it was made out to be.

      These beginnings only aim to set up a hook and reel the reader in with promises of big character drama towards the end of the book. Often they are actually a foreshadow of the events that will take place near the end, so when you finally do get up to that point, the writer can head in a totally different direction just so long as they make a brief mention that this happens.

    3. Phone book disguised as introduction
      Once upon a time in the land of Fousuold, in the Barony of Reefutal, King Juujikli consulted his beloved advisor Suolaoud in the matter of Luernua who was betrothed to Juljike after the tragic death of Wearouljdo four Faaulke moons ago...

      This kind of beginning often happen in fantasy stories and is as easy on the reader as swallowing a banjo. Long lists of places, people and customs are rattled off in quick succession like a machine gun loaded with tape worms. If anyone finds any logical reason for mentioning this many people, places, and made up words that require the reader to collect them and create their own dictionary all in the first paragraph please let me know, I am dying to find out.

    4. How I spent my Summer Vacation
      Dramatic event that happened long ago in the retelling of the MC's past. Here, the reader is led to believe that this event had a serious effect upon the characters and plot. In truth it is just an effort to create a backstory that won't be able to fit into the bulk of the book so it is shoehorned at the beginning.

      Yes, the event may prove to be important and may have altered the character (much like being dropped into a vat of radioactive chemical waste would), the true reason it can't be fit into the rest of the book is because it's practically useless to the story that's being told.


      So, your MC is the "Chosen One". For messaihic figure press 1... for deadly battle of intertwined foes press 2... for the only person in the world to stop Armagedon press 3... for dramatic tale of true love press 4... for character getting up, going through an utterly pointless life and dying in a meaningless, undignified death at the end press 5... thank you and have a nice day.

      Prophecy. The easiest way for a writer to join together the tangled threads of a plot, especially if the character has no true purpose and is just ambling through the story. Occassionally this style can be done well, if planned ahead.

      These beginnings usually take the form of Prologues written in fancy italics and doesn't even involve the MC or anyone of specific nature... although most of the times it is the bad guy learning the prophecy that starts the story.

    Don't get me wrong, some of these beginnings can be beneficial. Some times they're just not. I can say that I've been guilty of using a couple of these every now and again... believe it or not, I rewrote the entire beginning of my MS to eliminate the dream sequence opening. Have you ever done any of these beginnings? Or, are there other beginnings that you see that you hate, on the other hand, do you like some of these beginnings (because it's okay if you do)?

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    Review: Princess for Hire

    Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

    Synopsis (From back cover): When a flawlessly dressed woman steps out of an iridescent bubble and wants to know, like, now if you’d like to become a substitute princess, do you
               a) run
               b) faint
               c) say Yes!

    For Desi Bascomb, who’s been longing for a bit of glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C–that is, once she can stop pinching herself. As her new agent Meredith explains, Desi has a rare magical ability: when she applies the ancient Egyptian formula “Royal Rouge,” she can transform temporarily into the exact lookalike of any princess who needs her subbing services. Dream come true, right?

    Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras. Like, what do you do when a bullying older sister puts you on a heinous crash diet? Or when the tribal villagers gather to watch you perform a ceremonial dance you don’t know? Or when a princess’s conflicted sweetheart shows up to break things off–and you know she would want you to change his mind?

    In this hilarious, winning debut, one girl’s dream of glamour transforms into something bigger: the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact

    I liked the idea of Princess for Hire ever since I heard it mentioned in the debut authors list for 2010, after all, what little girl didn't want to be a princess? Desi is a fun character to follow, and you can immediately tell that she's bored with her life and wants a change, but she didn't think that change would come from a want ad in the newspaper or woman travelling in giant bubbles.

    The story is fast paced and I was there wishing Desi would succeed as she subbed for each princess. The story is a bit predictable in parts, but it's a good one to curl up in bed and read for pure enjoyment. The story idea itself was an original take and I loved some of the gadgets that are present that mixes magic with science.

    Leavitt has a fun story here, which I can't wait until the next one.

    Cover: The American cover is what originally grabbed my attention (the one at the top). It has the elegance of royalty which is what the story is about, but it also hints as to what is involved in the story. I was stoked to find this story available in Australia, but it was released with the UK cover which I didn't like as much. The cover emphasised a cartoon version of the story, even though the images depict more of what happens in the story.  
    Plot: 4/5 stars
    Ending: 4/5 stars
    US Cover: 4/5 stars
    UK Cover: 3/5 stars
    Overall: 4/5 stars
    Recommend:  Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

    Debut Author Challenge: #4 of 12

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    I Can't Believe it's the Ending

    Well, we looked at endings that should be stayed away from, but that doesn't actually help decide what is actually a good way to end a story, after all, every story is different (if they weren't then we would all be very boring people).

    Each ending should be distinct and different. You don't want readers to turn around and say that the ending you worked so hard on is actually too cliche or predictable. I know that if the ending really let me down then I don't want to pick up the next book (unless the rest of the story was good). I've even wanted to walk out of movies ten minutes before they ended because the ending really went downhill (they should have finished the movie ten minutes before the actual end and it would have been better).

    So, today I've looked extensively at the endings of movies and books that I've absolutely adored. Most of them can be classified under the following:

    1. Life Goes On Ending
      The main obstacle has been overcome, the hero either wins or loses and life can continue. But life being life, means things are not neat and tidy. The writer actually acknowledges things are still progressing, even if the main challenge that they were trying to overcome has being defeated. Often these endings lead to another clue being revealed or gives a hint that there's still more mysteries left to solve, which dangles a little bit of bait in the readers face and whispers in their ear, "You have to wait till the next book to find out." As long as the main goal of the story is wrapped up, then it's okay to leave the reader wanting more.

    2. Unexpected Twist
      These are the ending where the writer throws in something that the reader is not prepared for. Don't get me wrong, the writer has to do a lot of set up, throwing hints all the way through the story so that it doesn't seem too random. These are the stories I love the most, and these mostly come from psychological thrillers (well, they're the ones I watch the most).

      Here, you are following the character and all the clues points to "the butler" as the guilty bad guy, but did you notice the crooked picture or a stain on the carpet that was mentioned in the detail that you just passed off as the writer getting carried away with description. And then, the ending comes and you're wrong. The one you thought was really behind it was really trying to protect the MC while that distant character that was always in the background of every scene was the real villain.

    3. Method in the Madness Ending
      If done well, I really like these endings. These endings are where the (dare I say it...) the bad guy wins. These endings have to be taken with care and there has to be a reason why the character that the reader/viewer has staked a good chunk of time following, getting to know and experiencing all the ups and downs on this journey would lose. I've seen some smashing movies where the bad guy wins (these are usually psychological thrillers again, or sometimes even horrors) and they were fantastic, but on the other end I've seen some where the bad guy wins and there's no survivors because the writer wanted it to be gory and gross (these mainly are horror/slasher films).

      I haven't read any books where the bad guy actually does win (mainly because I stick with YA a lot of the time and it doesn't seem to fit with that genre), but when dealing with these types of ending the writer has to be careful about not kicking the MC when they're down, but to either show there's no hope of winning or be leading up to an Unexpected Twist which has been carefully plotted out.

      And no, killing your character off at the end of the novel because he's pissed you off doesn't count as having the villain win.

    4. Time Loop
      Oh, I love these sort of endings, so I had to throw it in. These stories always involves some form of time travel or prophecy. This is the endings where it is revealed that the character cannot escape their fate and things are destined to repeat, no matter what the character does to try and stop it. This can also be classified as "Self-fulfilling Prophecy" where the character knows their fate (or even the villain) and they set out to stop it from happening, usually setting the exact things in motion, so no matter what they do, they are destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over again.

     I think when I'm writing my story I always aim for the unexpected twist (even though that often fails and I'm just left with a life goes on type). So, do you know where your stories are going to end before you get there? Or, do you just write and hope the character will end up in a logical but different place.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Wind-down Wednesday

    Billy Joe, Singer and songwriter

    I just love musicals (yeah, I know. I'm sappy like that). And, I felt this song was a fantastic song to represent what writers are like. I like to believe you learn more from rejections and mistakes than you do if you got that "yes" (even though that one "yes" would be absolutely fantastic and I would take it over a rejection any day). If you can get back up, learn from the mistake and try again, that will only make you stronger. We writers are all survivors who will pursue through all conditions (dare I say it... through sleet and rain) until we achieve our goals.

    Just remember that it's okay to scream every now and again. If you're embarrassed to out in public, then go to a theme park and ride a thrill ride... that'll give you the opportunity. And, don't forget to give yourself at least some time to relax and catch your breath. Hope everyone's Wednesday is going good.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Can Life be Tied up in a Knott?

    If there's one thing that annoys me the most when it comes to stories or movies are bad endings. Yes, the writer may have the reader/viewer on the edge of the seat, eagerly anticipating the MC's next move, hoping that they will survive and overcome the obstacles that have been tossed at them from every angle... and then that happens. What is that? 'THAT' is an ending that leaves the reader or viewer unsatisfied.

    I love to read and watch movies, and there are several traps that some fall into that I really regret staying to find out the ending (and often I'm actually enjoying the book or movie). These are:

    1. Saturday Morning Cartoons Ending
      This is where everything is tied up in a nice little bow, express delivered to the reader. You can't forget the happy little group laugh where everyone gathers around the campfire singing 'Kumbaya'. For some reason everyone gets what he wants and everyone lives happily ever after, whether the rest of the story leads towards this ending or not.

    2. The Diplomatic (The Non) Ending
      This is where the writer has been racing forward with the tension. The reader's on the edge of the seat, fearing over whether the MC will survive till the ending and don't know what's coming next. The final battle approaches... then... then


      The reader is left unsatisfied as the climax of the novel fizzles out and the MC moves on to get the girl/save the town/complete the quest/etc. The reader flips back several pages to see whether they missed something, but no. The necessary tension just dies so that the writer can quickly wrap up the story.

    3. The Status Quo Ending
      In a novel or film, the character starts out somewhere, does some things and hopefully gets to his destination at the end. So, how does everything go back to the way things were before? These endings make the entire novel obsolete because the character doesn't learn any lesson or gain anything from their journey, instead, they return to their lives in the exact position they've always been in, some times even further down the food chain. What's the point of a novel if the character isn't going to grow as the story progresses?
    4. Wonderful Life Ending
      "Oh, how I wish none of this ever happened..." And, tada, the whole story has been a dream. Hey, don't get me wrong. There are several stories out there that have worked the whole psychosis angle where the character has been crazy or the character is in a coma and it's all a part of his mind (there's a couple of movies out there that play this angle and they're superb) and these stories work. But, to turn around to a reader after they've followed a character's struggle, triumphs and disappointments and say that none of that really happened, that's just kicking the reader and making the whole journey seem pointless. Who wants to follow something to find out it purely doesn't exist... what a let down.

    5. Illogical (Coincidental) Ending
      So, the characters have travelled long and hard over the course of the novel. They've faced tough challenges and gotten back up when they've been knocked down. Now, they just have to overcome the last obstacle, but they need the right circumstances or objects to win and... there they are, with no explanation as to how they got there. These endings have the characters being in the right place at the right time with no explanation as to why they're there apart form they need to be to triumph. Things need to have a cause and effect or else they will seem like a cop out, whether it's a character that somehow happens to stumble upon the MC with the right information needed, the character finds a magic weapon that is indestructible and will vanquish the foul beast, or even the army showing up to save the day and leave the MC to wonder what the heck they were even doing going on the journey that could have killed them to begin with.

    6. Cliffhanger Ending
      I know it's tempting to plan for a series, but seriously, readers pick up a book in order to finish a book, not have to wait (possibly an eternity) to find out what happens next. These endings lead up to the main action, perhaps the hero overcomes that obstacle but then something else comes up and... and... and


      The reader is left waiting until the next story is published to find out whether the hero will live or die, or that crucial piece of information that the hero has just received... what is it? The writer teases the reader so that they will have to get the next book when it's published, but the reader is actually left incomplete and unsatisfied because they've spent so long on a journey just to find out they need to wait 6 months, 12 months, forever to find out what happens next.
    I know I've been guilty of a couple of these during the many manuscripts I've crafted, especially the cliffhanger. I never know how to leave the story, after all, life is never tied up in a pretty little package. What about you? Do you struggle with endings? And, have you been guilty of cheating with the ending?

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    It's all in the action

    After having several months of hiatus, I've pulled Haven off the shelves and have been busy editing the heck out of it. I was especially anxious to get back to looking at how my action scenes played out. Some of the advice that I got a couple of weekends ago was to keep the action short and sweet. Allow the reader to create the idea of what's happening rather than describing everything in intricate detail, after all, how much detail do people actually pay attention to during fights or other pieces of action?

    For all those that don't know, Haven is (dare I say it) another vampire novel, with werewolves and witches. A brief run down is that my MC gets kidnapped and taken to a juvenile boot camp for vamps, weres and witches, where she's told that she's a Dhampir, half-human, half-vampire. Something that will get her killed if anyone learns the truth.

    Sounds familiar... well, it's not so don't even go there. My story focuses on the secret fight club that operates underneath the camp/school. And, when her opponents starts disappearing and there's footage captured of her at the scene of the crime she has to find the real predator before she is found guilty.
    I have found writing action sequences rather challenging because I want them to be believable and interesting, and it's so damn hard trying to find the words of how someone is moving through a triple combo while the main character is more focused on trying not to get hit.

    I'm a big fan of fighting movies and I decided to have some inspiration on today, so I had Never Back Down playing on the television. When the big fight was happening I kept asking myself, 'how would this look on paper?' There were so many moves and not just from the main character, but also his opponent, the numerous crowd chanting intimidating mantras at the MC, the look of desperation from his girlfriend, the list goes on... so, what would be scribed in a book and what would be omitted? Would the MC take note of every individual move the opponent made or would he just care about the fist coming toward his head or the kick to the ribs?

    When I flipped open the pages of Haven, I probably checked over ten individual action sequences and tried to shorten them, and most of my action sequences is a fist-to-fist (or paw) fight. So, my problem was to check to make sure these fights weren't tedious, and that more things happened than my MC getting the crap beaten out of her (yes, I'm pretty ruthless to my MC... but it'll make her stronger in the long run, I promise). Also, my MC loves to fight... and I mean, L.O.V.E.S.

    This is probably why action scenes should be kept short. The more detail and movement the writer places into the action, the less interesting and believable it becomes. As long as something different happens in each sequence, and the outcomes change, then keeping the action short and succinct will help to keep up with the fast pace of the action.

    So, do you like writing action scenes? And, how do you handle them?

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    Review: Hex Hall

    Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

    Synopsis (From back cover): Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father - an elusive European warlock - only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention from a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile.

    By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. 

    As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

    Hex Hall was right at the top of my to-read list this year, and now I know that it was definitely worth the wait. It is the first book of a new series by debut author Rachel Hawkins. It had me drawn in from the first word to the last word. Sophie's voice is so clear and funny that it's heart wrenching watching her perform all these spells with good intentions only to have them backfire on her, especially the love spell at the beginning for another girl to get her a date for the prom.

    I thought I knew where the story was going, but the twists and turns that Hawkins throws in will keep any reader on the edge. Hex Hall is definitely worth the read, and Hawkins has set out an intriguing and original world.

    Cover: The cover is intriguing. The reflection showing both of Sophie's worlds is the first thing that caught my eye and made me want to read the blurb to find out what it's about.

    Plot: 5/5 stars
    Ending: 5/5 stars
    Cover: 5/5 stars
    Overall: 5/5 stars
    Recommend: For anyone that loves magic and mystery
    Debut Author Challenge: #3 of 12

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Ignoring that Inner Voice

    Over the last weekend I did something that was probably the most terrifying experience of my life. I entered a Japanese karaoke competition (hey, I don't speak Japanese)... and I was the lucky person to go first. I've gotten up on stage and performed before and had no problem, but just with the prospect of doing something new and unfamiliar and maybe, just maybe, embarrassing the heck out of myself a small voice kept repeating over and over again in my head "run".

    As I was sitting around, waiting for the competition to start every inch of me didn't want to be there. The voice kept telling me that "why would I want to get up and humiliate myself" and "why would I want to?" The mere thought of rejection was killing me.

    As writers, we've got to learn and accept rejection. If we don't put ourselves out there, and only keep our writing to ourselves then there's no way to grow or learn from the experience. Rejection is one form of growth. If you can get back up after being told NO, then there's no way you'll be able to improve or grow.

    When the little voice decided to nag me, there was a couple of things I had to do to give myself the strength to push on:
    1. Take a deep breath
    2. Tell myself that it's okay to fail - you learn more from mistakes than you do from successes (even though successes feel better)
    3. Tell myself that all experiences will help me grow... even if I fall on my butt in front of hundreds of people (lucky there were only 50 in the auditorium)
    4. And, picture everyone in their underwear (well, not really... but I've heard this helps some people who have to perform in front of people... I just think it's creepy)
    Well, as you can see from the picture, I ended up singing in front of everyone (not perfectly, but I think I was more focused on keeping my legs from collapsing underneath me... I hope they were shaking in time with the music). I didn't win (the winners were one who sang a Japanese song in opera style and one who translated a Linkin Park song into Japanese), but I did learn that I can do anything if I set my mind to it (and, perhaps learning a foreign song in 2 weeks isn't the best strategy for these sort of things).

    So, do you have a little voice of doubt and how do you overcome it?

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Wind-down Wednesday

    Well, I hope everyone's having a good Wednesday... I've decided I'm taking the day of, so I've been writing. Hey, that's what I do when I need a bit of relaxation. I've found a song today because I love the message of the song (and I absolutely loved it in Glee), and in honour of the return of Glee... I'm hoping it comes down to Australia shortly though... here's Defying Gravity from Rachel and Kurt.

    I love how the song is about not listening to what people say you can't do, but rather finding out your own limits and anything's possible if you only try. So, that's going to be my motto.

    'My limit's my own.'

    I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the day.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Where is your Character Going?

     A good quote that I picked up over the weekend came from Jennifer Fallon who is an Australian Fantasy author. She said that:

    Writers block is veering out into the wilderness and not knowing where you're going and finding yourself running face first into a wall.

    Whether you're a writer who plots out the novel completely before even writing a word or one who writes by the seat of the pants, you need to know the main destination. This is extremely important for the character. You don't want to get to the end of the story and realise your character's moved in a straight line, not learning anything  or making any developments during the entire journey.

    Let's face it, no reader likes to read a character (especially an annoying one) who is the same from beginning to end, just stepping aside casually for every obstacle you throw at them.

    When I write I like to keep track of how my character's developing, well mainly because mine have a tendancy to run amuck if I don't keep an eye on them.

    One way to make sure the character does develop along the way is to create a timeline or chart that states what the character's like (personality and traits) at the beginning of the story and where you want them to be at the end (how are they different? how have they changed?).

    To make sure you're on track with a character's development is to play the role of the psychiatrist. Every time you finish writing, or have a major plot point occur, make a small note on how the character's feeling/are they actually making any developments.

    Just by keeping note of if/when/how the character's developing it's going to assure that you're not going to find yourself with a story where the character exists because they need to.

    So, how do you make sure your characters develop over the course of the story?

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Taking what Life Throws at You

    This weekend was definitely jam-packed for me. I attended the supanova convention which is one of Australia's largest anime/comic/sci-fi & fantasy conventions.I was intending on blogging over the course of three days, but due to unforseen circumstances (the backpacker resort I had originally booked with denied us entry because I was with my sister who's 17 and apparently I wasn't informed that anyone under the age of 18 couldn't stay there), so bags in hand, me, my brother and sister had to venture around Brisbane to find another place to stay for the weekend... just to put your mind's at ease, yes we did find another place... last room as well.

    Over the weekend I got to stand in line for probably over ten hours over all three days (about five hours on the Saturday), fight through over 20,000 people who were rampaging through the stalls very savagely, and get stomped on (by very excited cosplayer's who were 'glomping'... for those that don't know, it's pretty much a hugging tackle), prodded, poked and jabbed by every shape and size weapon I could have possibly imagined.

    I hear you say "was it worth it?" There's only one answer to that... "YES". So, call me a geek, but I got to meet and ask questions from published authors, comic book writers and professional directors and actors who are out there where I'm aiming to be. I got some useful tips about novels which I'll pass on a bit later in the week.

    I (that's me) got to stand up and totally embarrass myself challenged myself by singing Japanese karaoke in front of other people (p.s. I don't speak Japanese).

    And, best of all I got his autograph... that's why I was in line for five hours on Saturday. One thing I did learn from the week end was that you just have to get back up after little setbacks and always think positively about situations. This weekend could of turned into a real disaster since it started off great with not having a place to stay, but I didn't want anything to sour the experience of just being at the convention

    So, how was every one's weekend? I'll also have several posts this week revolving around the tips and other things I learned from the weekend. Well, now I'm off to catch up on some overdue Uni work.

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Give them Flaws

    There's no such thing as a perfect person, even though many would like to think they are, so characters should not be as well.

    I have a habit of observing people (and working in a cafe gives me a lot of people to observe) and forming characters from snippets of what I see, whether it's the way someone does their hair, hair colour, way they walk, etc. I noticed the other day that the first thing I actually look for when I gather information for my characters is a flaw or a little quirk that would make my character unique.

    Isn't it true that when you first see someone that you first notice any flaw or absurdity that they have? Whether it's in the way they walk, look or talk, some little trait that makes them stand out from the crowd always attracts my eyes.

    After all, no one likes reading about someone who looks absolutely gorgeous from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep and never does anything wrong. No one would be able to relate to a character like that.

    When making observations for characters, or even if someone catches your eye, take notice of what exactly draws your attention. It's probably going to be, more often than not, a flaw or some little quirk that the person has.

    So, where do your characters come from and do you set about to give them traits or quirks to make them stand out?

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Wind-down Wednesday

    Today I thought I'll keep with the theme of writing, after all, it's what we do. And, the clips I found comes from none other than the Simpsons (who doesn't love the Simpsons?)

    Well, everyone have a fantastic Wednesday. I hope everyone's week hasn't been too stressful, and just remember to allow yourself to unwind every now and again.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Getting to know the character

    The best way to get to know a character is by interviewing them. Dig up a bit of dirt on them so you'll get to know the motivations they have when they do whatever they need to do in your story.

    Let me introduce you to one of the MC of my Heroes/Villains novel.

    Let me welcome you here, Jaccinta, thanks for taking the time to answer some long anticipated questions.
    Oh, no probs, and just call me Jace, everyone does.

    So, lets start off with a simple question, how old are you?
    That is easy, I'm 16.
    If you had to describe yourself as though you were talking about someone else, what would you say?
    Now, let me think. Jace has long black hair that is unbearably straight with two purple streaks running down each side. She has flawless creamy skin and dark green eyes.

    Do you sometimes lie?
    Well, that depends on what is classified as a lie. I would rather say I'm an actor just playing my part, that can't be considered a lie now, can it?

    How do you handle anger? Are people afraid of you, and if so is this justified?
    It's not my fault if people are afraid of me, I just sort of have a short fuse. When I do get angry I like to go for a run, it's a great way to let any steam off.

    How do you react to confrontation? Would you give anything for a quiet life or do you enjoy winning an argument or a fight?
    I love winning arguments, especially against my brother. If anyone wants to challenge me then let them, but I should warn them that I don't back down from anything.
    What (in your opinion) would be the first impression most people get when they meet you?
    That I don't lack any confidence.

    In your case, is ‘what you see is what you get’, or do people sometimes make the wrong judgement about you? If so, why would this be?
     I don't like to hide who I am, so pretty much I'll say or do anything that I want to. I'm just me and I'm not ashamed to be me.

    Where do you live?
    I live on the sunny Gold Coast in Australia. What more could I ask for? Sun and Surf.

    You mentioned you had a brother. How old is he, and are you two close?
    Jett, he's also 16. I'm 16 minutes older than him, which I think makes him jealous of me. I can't say that we're exactly close. He's a freak that's always tinkering away in his locked room. He never comes out.

    How would you describe your personality?
    I'm confident and determined. I never back down from any challenge.

    If there was one thing about your PERSONALITY that you could change, what would it be?
    I guess I can be a bit arrogant and can say things without thinking, that could probably be something I could change, but why would I want to?

    Has your life changed in any way recently? If so, what brought on this change? Is it a change for the better or for worse?
    I don't know whether I should be telling you this, but boy has life changed, and it all started with a video game. When people say that it's only a game, well they have it all wrong. What can be wrong with it, I've now got the power.

    What particular talents or traits do you possess that will help you to get what you want? How might you influence others to help you?

    Can you keep a secret? Well, that game I told you about somehow gave me the power to control portals that can help transport me or any item to different places. I now want all the attention those other wanna-be heroes are getting.
    What are you about to do right now – today? How is this relevant to what is important to you?I guess I'm going to school. Yeah, even superheroes need to get an education. Afterwards I hope I'm going to get to see some action, you never know what villain will crop up and cause some trouble. I might check the wanted ads when I get home.

    And finally, finish these sentences:
    “The most important thing in life is…” winning
    “If there’s one thing that makes me mad it’s…” Jett
    “I would lose interest in life if…” there wasn't any challenges to take on
    “I can usually get myself out of trouble by…” blaming Jett
    “If I encounter a problem in life I work through it by…” just jumping in, I'm sure I'll come up with the sollution at some point
    “I don’t like people who…”  think they're better than others, especially me
    “I like people who…” aren't afraid to be themselves
    “My most pressing need right now is…” figuring out how to fit school and crime fighting into a single day
    “One thing I’m determined to achieve in the next month is…” master my powers
    “One thing I’m determined to achieve in the next year is…” take on one of the big villains
    “My motto in life is: …” life is just a game worth winning

    Thanks Jace for joining us today. I'll let you get back to your super busy life, good luck with the whole superhero thing.

     Interviewing characters is a good way to get to know how they think and feel. So, how do you get to know your characters? Also, stay tuned for the next interview of my other MC, and see what Jett has to say about his sister.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Crafty Beginnings

    At the moment I'm staring at the blank pages of my currently Untitled Heroes/Villains novel just trying to figure out what to write.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I hate beginnings. I never know where to start or what to say. They say you've only got ten seconds to hook a reader, and I believe this 100%. When I read a book and I'm not instantly drawn into the story I find it very hard to want to continue (even though I often push on and hope that it improves).

    On various blogs there are various suggestions as to what a novel should not start with:
    1. Dialogue - the reader doesn't know why they should care about the character.
    2. Starting too early - find the place in the story with the most dramatic tension.
    3. Dream sequence - a reader will feel cheated if the first chapter turns out to be nothing but a dream.
    4. Prologue - this seems to be the biggest no no in novel beginnings, both agents and publishers hate them.
    5. Too much information - don't load the beginning with all the character's back story.
    6. Endless description - don't start with describing what time of day it is and how the weather's like, nobody wants to know.
    7. Using a cheesy (cliched) hook - getting the readers attention is the desired goal, but don't use a cheesy hook that screams out "look at me".
    Nathan Bransford has a great post about books beginning with dialogue
    Kristin Nelson has a great post about  why prologues often don't work

    With so many things stating what 'not' to do, how can a novel start that will draw the reader in? One of the most important things to starting a story is to establish that the protagonist has something significant at stake.

    So, how do you choose how to start your novels? Do you try to avoid any of the things listed above?

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Wind-down Wednesday

    Another Wednesday and what's not to celebrate and relax for? I've got a whole week off uni, my baby sis is coming up on Sunday and I actually have time to get back into writing, which I've been neglecting lately because I've figured out there's not enough hours in the day (still petitioning to get some more).

    So, this week I found up on the fabulous YouTube a little Monty Python sketch which should be an interesting viewing.

    Also, for anyone that loves good old super hero movies they should check this out when it premieres (I'm pretty sure it's the 8th here and 16th in US). I was lucky enough to get into an Advanced Screening and I've got a new hero... Hit Girl, she's just great.

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