Practical Prompt 9/21/16: Mysterious Past, Part 1

WriteOwls logo 150 blackFor our September “Learn to Write by Reading” challenge, we invited you to examine books that had characters with mysterious backstories. Now, apply what you learned to your own manuscript.

Find the place where the author first really piqued your interest with a hint about the character’s past.  How far into the story was it? What kind of hint did the author give you, and how explicitly was it written? Was it just one sentence buried in the rush of current events, or did the author spend more time on it? Did the hint come through dialogue, internal thought or a triggered memory? Or did another character drop the clue? Did the author give the character some physical manifestation–a scar, limp, a unique mannerism or affectation as a tangible manifestation of past trauma, or are the character’s scars all emotional?

Now using the book you read as a guide, look over the early sections of your own story for places where you can drop hints about your character’s past.

Bad Day? Here’s a Cure

Laura Ayo

Laura Ayo

I had a bad day on Saturday. Many things contributed, one of which was the knowledge that the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference for our region was taking place a driveable 180 miles away and I was at home having a bad day. My writing friends, including three fellow WriteOwls and two other members of my writing critique group, were all there. Together. Meeting new lovers of kid lit. Rubbing elbows with authors, illustrators, agents and editors. Talking about writing. Thinking about writing. Learning about our craft. Being inspired and motivated. And I was missing it!!! Continue reading

Learn to Write by Reading: Mysterious pasts

WriteOwls logo 150 blackSuccessful writers say it all the time: To be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. So we challenge you to read more and to read outside of your comfort zone.

No matter the genre, a certain element of mystery is essential to a great story. When it’s done well, even a small, but pivotal mysterious event in a character’s past can add depth to the writing and augment the plot, drawing the reader in. But how do authors cultivate a reader’s curiosity about a character’s past without confusing the reader or disrupting the flow of the story? To find out, this month we’re focusing on books in which the author, through a series of hints and reveals, does a great job of building a mystery into a character’s backstory.

Alicia: Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
Laura: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Megan: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
Naomi: Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Stacey: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Deadlines, Not Goals

Stacey Kite

Stacey Kite

Today, for the first time, I’m doing a follow-up post to give an update on my latest get through the *#*!%** first draft strategy. The reason I’ve never done a follow-up post before is that none of the other gazillion methods I’ve tried have really worked, and I don’t like reporting negative results any more than does your average pharmaceutical company. But in my last post, My Key to Progress—Mocking, I wrote about my latest strategy which, at nearly three months in, is (pause for dramatic effect as triumphant music swells) still working! Continue reading

Choosing Real Life over Writing

3-26-14 Naomi  gravatarAh, my dear fellow writers, it’s that time of my writing cycle again when life and all manner of distractions invade and paralyze my writing time. What about you? Perhaps its the beginning of the new school year, or that a new season is about to begin. (Can you smell fall? I can, and I wish to pete it’d get here.) Or the fact that I’ve had a poo-tastic week (and I mean that with every ounce of sarcasm I can muster). Continue reading