The Quarterfinals Are Here

Pyro made the quarterfinals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. I’m cautiously excited. I’ll get a Publisher’s Weekly review, which, hopefully, might help me sell it. Last year Snake Talker got a great review from PW, and that got me to the semifinals. Maybe this year I can make it to the finals. You never know. It’s all subjective. It’s like a painting. Some people will like it, some won’t. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad painting. And it doesn’t mean it’s a good painting. You just have to hope that the people who like it are the ones in...

Setting As Character

Setting can be so much more than simply a backdrop for action. A good setting can enhance the mood and emotion of a scene. A great setting can come alive and act like a character in a story. It’s the difference between a backdrop you’d find in a photographer’s studio and the 3-D version of Avatar. The planet, Pandora, was a living entity in the movie and the 3-D qualities made that believable. The world surrounded you and made you part of it. Imagine Little Red Riding Hood without the woods. Where would the buildup of tension and foreboding come from? How about To Kill a Mockingbird without the small town southern location? Would it have become a classic if it had been set in New York, or Boston, or even in a small town in southern California? It needed the history of the south, the civil war, the race tensions that pervaded the very molecules of the atmosphere of that time to help make that story a classic. So how do you make a setting into a character? To start, ask yourself do you want to set your story in a real place or in a made up one? If you hesitate to use a real place because of travel limitations (no cash to fly to Venice to check out the Grand Canal) is there someplace local that you could use to recreate the atmosphere? It can help a lot to go to a location and soak it up. It’s amazing the ideas you get from someplace real. All of your senses are involved and because of that, it’s...

Jumping Bo

I took these photos last week when we had the first heavy snowfall of the year (can anyone say “drought?”). I’m constantly amazed at Bo’s athletic ability. Looking at the jump marks I estimated he leaped a distance of 4 feet. I was off by 2. He jumped 6 feet without even trying. Bo likes to leap. If you’ve ever seen the cartoon character Pepé Le Pew, that’s what he looks like when he bounds over the ground. He seems to spring straight up, hover for a couple of seconds, and then come down. I wish I could take a video of him doing it sometime. He’s so much fun to watch. Usually he jumps like that when he sees a squirrel. I think he leaps so high so he can get a better view of his prey. Last week he was jumping for the shear joy of it—no squirrel in sight. I bet he could leaped even farther if he’d been after something...

Jumping Bo

I took these photos last week when we had the first heavy snowfall of the year (can anyone say “drought?”). I’m constantly amazed at Bo’s athletic ability. Looking at the jump marks I estimated he leaped a distance of 4 feet. I was off by 2. He jumped 6 feet without even trying. Bo likes to leap. If you’ve ever seen the cartoon character Pepé Le Pew, that’s what he looks like when he bounds over the ground. He seems to spring straight up, hover for a couple of seconds, and then come down. I wish I could take a video of him doing it sometime. He’s so much fun to watch. Usually he jumps like that when he sees a squirrel. I think he leaps so high so he can get a better view of his prey. Last week he was jumping for the shear joy of it—no squirrel in sight. I bet he could leaped even farther if he’d been after something...

The “Oh My God I Can’t Believe It!” Moment

The Sweet Spot. That moment in the book where readers universally proclaim, preferably out loud, that they never saw that coming. It’s what writers strive for in books, in movies, and in TV. I experienced one last night during “Once Upon A Time.” I totally did not see it coming when the blue fairy turned out to be Cora in disguise. It gave me such a thrill when I realized the writers had fooled me. Yet, at the same time it made so much sense. Of course the blue fairy would never offer dark magic to Snow, even to save her mother’s life. Magic has a price and to save her mother she would have to take another’s life. Snow loves her mother but she is good at heart and even for her mother she can’t take an innocent life. So how do you do it? How do you lead your readers/audience to think one way and then blindside them with something completely different? At the same time, that “something completely different” must seem more logical and right than the thing they were expecting. Such moments don’t just happen during the process of writing. They have to be planned for; engineered from the beginning. One way to approach it would be to think of the one thing no one would expect to happen, and then work backwards from that. You have to create the motivation and a believable foundation for it to work otherwise it will seem contrived. It’s the type of moment that people will go back and examine the story to see if it holds up. If...