Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Black and White

http://www.uky.edu/KGS/rocksmn/rocks.htm
It's been sometime since I have posted a poem. Here is a personal take-off on a diamente poem. It is inspired by my research and interviews  for Half-Truths and the rock colors I saw on a car trip through Tennessee and Kentucky.



Black
Onyx, deep and glistening. No shadow
of rich brown granite or weathered shale.
But layers of bronze clay and ashy strips of gray
fading to cream colored rock. Sandy pebbles glisten
White






Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting to Know Kate

This interview is dedicated to Harold Underdown and Ann Manheimer, who have pushed me to figure out what my main character in Half-Truths wants.  
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As I read novels I try to uncover what the characters want and the obstacles that get in their way.  In a well-written book this tension between goal and satisfaction of that goal drives the story and keep readers rooting for the main character's success. 


A few days ago, in an attempt to solidify what my main character, Anna Katherine Dinsmore wants, I decided to interview her. Here is what she told me.



CAROL: What do you want, Kate?

KATE: I want my grandmother to like me. To stop bugging me. To leave me alone and let me be myself.

CAROL: Why?

KATE: Because she gets on my nerves. She makes me feel like I’m not good enough the way I am.

CAROL:  There’s got to be more to it than that.  Did you ever feel loved by anyone?

KATE: In Cheraw. Auntie always made me feel safe. Selena liked me. The goats did too. But they would like anyone who fed them and rubbed their heads. Dolly was sort of partial to me though.

CAROL: What else do you want?

KATE: I am lonely and would like a friend. To feel like I belong somewhere. I belonged on the farm in Cheraw. Now I don’t. I’ve told you. In Myers Park I feel like a cornstalk in a rose garden.

CAROL: Anything else?

KATE: I want to go home and have Daddy there and feel safe again.

CAROL: I didn’t know that. So, is this book going to be about you trying to get back to Cheraw?

KATE: No, I don’t think so. I also want to be able to speak my mind. Does that count?
CAROL: You’re cheating. You must have read the book!



KATE: Come on. I want honesty, a friend, to feel safe and accepted.  What do these all have in common?  


CAROL: Hey, I thought I was asking the questions! These are all internal struggles. What about some external struggles? You know, “public stakes.”

KATE: Having a friend so I’m not lonely is public. I might have to take some risks to prove to that person that we can be friends.  And I’d also love to get back at Grandmother for how she treats Mama and to tell her to stuff it! That’s pretty public!

CAROL:  I would say so.
          **************
After this interview, I took out a copy of my reproducible, Create a Character, and filled it out. This also gave me more insights into Kate, her longings, and her personality.

If you are writing fiction, feel free to download this reproducible. That's how I found out that Kate wants to get even with her grandmother. Other interesting tidbits came out including how she is embarrassed about the pimples on her forehead, her changing body, and her smelly feet. 

I don't know where Kate is taking me, but I think I'll go along for the ride. Meanwhile, here are two Norman Rockwell pictures that have
helped me to picture Kate as I write her story. The first one is how I picture Kate at about 10, the second when she is 13. 




Girl with Black Eye, 1953



Girl at the Mirror,  1954

                        



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Creating Mr. Bad Guy

Today, in preparation for the class I am teaching at Central Piedmont Community College,  I am thinking about what makes a memorable antagonist.  All writers are tempted to create absolutely good protagonists or absolutely evil antagonists. But as Robin Hemley points out in Creating Fiction, "Most people are neither all good nor all bad, and even the best are capable of small and large betrayals." (p. 84)


I subscribe to Delanceyplace.com which sends daily selections from a variety of books. Today's e-mail was from Deeper into Movies and shared excerpts from Pauline Kael's 1972 review of Marlo Brando's acting in The Godfather. This struck me as a good example of an interesting and layered antagonist:


"Don Vito could be played as a magnificent old warrior, a noble killer, a handsome bull-patriarch, but Brando manages to debanalize him. It's typical of Brando's daring that he doesn't capitalize on his broken-prow profile and the massive, sculptural head that has become the head of Rodin's Balzac - he doesn't play for statuesque nobility. The light, cracked voice comes out of a twisted mouth and clenched teeth; he has the battered face of a devious, combative old man, and a pugnacious thrust to his jaw. The rasp in his voice is particularly effective after Don Vito has been wounded; one almost feels that the bullets cracked it, and wishes it hadn't been cracked before. Brando interiorizes Don Vito's power, makes him less physically threatening and deeper, hidden within himself." (p. 422-423)


Hemley makes a number of good points in her essay, "Sympathy for the Devil: What to do About Difficult Characters." Here are a few:


"While fiction certainly deals with conflict, it's also about seeing into the true nature of people, uncovering falsehoods and half-truths. Most people (and by extension, most characters) have fatal flaws." p. 88


Interesting characters are complicated. "If we understand why someone feels she has to kill her child....we might be brought to a place of genuine compassion and understanding that would hardly seem possible without the prose writer's magical ability to make us recognize our deepest selves, the ones we try daily to bury." p. 89


How about you? How do you layer the antagonist in your work? Or, what character have you found in literature who portrays this mixture of good and evil? Let me know and I might include your comments in my class on Thursday night!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Three Not-to-Be-Missed Events




#1: If you're working on a manuscript intended for the Christian youth market and need some outside help, then consider attending Write 2 Ignite's one day summer workshop. Here is a brief blurb from their website:


A Day Apart is not another conference. It’s not a writer’s retreat. And it’s not just a workshop. It’s more than a critique group or a writer’s group. A Day Apart is bits of all these things rolled into one day. It is A Day Apart for us to focus on revision, and on helping each other perform radical surgery on ailing manuscripts. 


Please see their website for more information. 


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#2 If you're interested in a improving your skills as an author or illustrator for children, then I strongly recommend attending the SCBWI-Carolinas fall conference. The brochure is beautiful, enticing and will make you wish that September 23 was right around the corner. Plus, if you live in Charlotte--you don't have to pay for a hotel!

The weekend will be filled with great speakers, opportunities to be critiqued, and workshops on many different facets of writing, publishing, and marketing (including one by yours truly).
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#3 If you love reading YA books and adore meeting their authors, then you need to check out the "Ash to Nash Book Tour." This novel idea (all puns intended) is the brainchild of Myra McEntire, Victoria Schwab, and Beth Revis. As they journey through the south, they will be joined by other authors including Alan Gratz (one of my favorite middle grade authors) and Ruta Sepetys.t’
s


 notkshop
 It’s more than a critique group or a writer’s group. A Day Apart is bits of all these #rol/Pictures/iPhoto%20Library/Masters/2011/07/06/20110706-203129/scbwi-logo.gif rolled into one day. It is A Day Apart for us to focus on revision, and on helping each other perform radical surgery on ailing manuscripts.  Apart is designed with those manuscripts in mind. It’s not another conference. It’s not a writer’s retreat. And it’s not A Day Apart is designed with those manuscripts in mind. It’s not another conference. It’s not a writer’s retreat. And it’s not just a workshop. It’s more than a critique group or a writer’s group. A Day Apart is bits of all these things rolled into one day. It is A Day Apart for us to focus on revision, and on helping each other perform radical surgery on ailing manuscripts.  a workshop. It’s more than a critique group or a writer’s group. A Day Apart is bits of all these things rolled into one day. It is A Day Apart for us to focus on revision, and on helping each other perform radical surgery on ailing manuscripts.