Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Call for Topics!

I'm in the process of designing a "curriculum" of sorts for this blog, and I'd love to know what kinds of things teen writers are wondering about, or would like to learn about. If you have any suggestions or questions, please leave me a comment so I can add it to my list of things to cover!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer School! Well, kind of...

Ok, not really. But since we're in the thick of summer, all you writers out there, this sound is the cracking of a whip! Take advantage of the time you have, even if it's just a bit, to scribble some things in your notebook or tap away on your keyboard. Before you know it, the summer will be gone and you'll be back to your eyebrows in homework. :-) I know, sorry. Hate to remind you of it.

My challenge for you over the next 6-8 weeks is to really delve into a project you've been wanting to do for some time. Brainstorm that novel idea you have like crazy! Fill up pages with ideas for it. Write those poems that have been kicking around in your head. Fill some journal pages with thoughts about what's going on in your life right now. Write it all down, my friends! You will forget it, otherwise, and someday you'll be so glad you took the time.

If you're feeling brave, commit here and let us know what you'll be working on. Then, when school starts, give us an update and tell us how it's going for you.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Expository dialogue. What's that?

So you hear someone say that a book was full of expository writing, and you're not sure what they mean. Here's my simple explanation. I say simple because that's how I think. ;-)

There's a movie from the 80s called The Great Muppet Caper. Maybe you've seen it? Well, I'm old, I do admit it. There's a part in the movie when Miss Piggy is talking to her new boss, Lady Holiday. Lady Holiday is going on and on about her degenerate brother, Nicky, and Miss Piggy says, "Why are you telling me this?" Lady Holiday says, "It's plot exposition. It has to go somewhere."

What she's saying is this- the information about Nicky is stuff the viewer needs to know, and there's no other way for us to know it unless Lady Holiday talks about it. Would she, if it were real life, say that much to Miss Piggy about Nicky? Maybe or maybe not.

There have been books I've read in the past that have gone something like this:

(The two sisters, Mary and Ann, are talking about their mother's funeral.)

"As you know, Mary," Ann said, "mother hated roses. We cannot have roses at the funeral. When she was young, her brother, Humphrey, stomped on her rose bushes and told her that tending them was a worthless waste of her time."

I'm sure you can see the problem. (Besides the fact that Humphrey would have come out of those rose bushes severely wounded.) If Mary and Ann grew up in the same house together and had a traditional sister relationship, Mary already knows all that about their mother. Ann doesn't need to tell her. (The only reason I can think of that Ann would need to say that to her sister is if she's so scattered, nervous, sad, whatever, about their mother's death that she's just rambling to her sister. It would show that she's not thinking clearly or she's really upset.)

Sometimes in writing, it's tempting to put information that the reader needs to know into conversations between characters. Sometimes that's ok. Suppose Ann was telling a friend about the rose thing. That would make sense if the friend didn't know much about Ann's mom. Other times, though, it needs to go into the narrative. (The part of the story that's not dialogue.)

The reason some writers feel the need to put "plot exposition" into dialogue is because they're worried that there's too much narrative. We've all read paragraphs that have gone on forever, either with too much description when we want to get to the meat of the story, or too much backstory all at once. If a character is having a flashback, for instance, as a reader I don't want it to be a long one that will pull me out of the story's action.

One suggestion to avoid too much narrative is to intersperse it throughout the story. The reader doesn't need to know all at once every detail surrounding Mary and Ann's mother's dysfunctional relationship with Uncle Humphrey. In fact, if it's going to be an issue that comes into play later, it's information that needs to be spread throughout the story to keep the pace going and the suspense up.

So when you're writing dialogue, make sure you think carefully about the characters who are interacting. Ask yourself these questions:
* How well do the characters know each other?
* With the characteristics I've given them, how will they interact?
* Do I have them sharing useless information with each other, things they would already know?

Remember to avoid plot exposition in dialogue at all costs! Leave that to Lady Holiday and Miss Piggy. :-)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Writing Fundamentals- abbreviations and terms

The writing life is full of odd abbreviations and terms and you may find yourself what certain writing articles or websites are talking about. This is a list of basic abbreviations/terms you may come across as you pursue your writing career.

pov: Point of View. The angle from which a story is told.
mss: manuscript
manuscript: what you're writing
stet: an editing comment which essentially means, "I just crossed that out, but ignore my cross-out. Leave it the way it was."
sp: spelling error
protagonist: the main character of your story, the hero
antagonist: the character who is giving your protagonist a challenge/hard time. The villain.
setting: time and place of your story

In essence, a lot of this may seem familiar from your language arts classes where your teacher tells you about the elements of fiction. There are about a gajillion more, but these are the basics that came to mind as I was thinking about the most common things I've come across in my writing.

What things have you seen that you maybe didn't know about before? Anything you're wondering about? Share! :-)