Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So I Got Some Writing Advice From Author Holly Black

I recently got to sit down and talk to the amazing, best selling author Holly Black. It was a truly wonderful experience. Unfortunately, just by touching her sphere of amazing, I didn't automatically turn into a princess, a pixie, or a celebrated author, but I did get some good writing advice.

And since I've got this blog about writing, I figured I'd share some of that advice in hopes it helps some of you too.

I couldn't find any good pictures of Holly on the Creative Commons, but she has a great book titled White Cat, so I went with a picture of a white cat instead:

Photo credit to olavgg

Set The Scene With Description

Pull back and describe the scene before plowing headlong into the action or conversation. This description gives the reader her footing. Use this description to set the mood for the action that is about to happen.

Ex. Is this an ominous scene? If so, emphasize the shadows and the towering buildings or reaching branches.

Photo credit to Jyrki Salmi

Describe Through the Eyes of Your MC

Use description to show what is important to your character and what her station in life is. How your character sees the world can tell a reader a lot about her.

Ex. Is your character obsessed with clothes? Well, then she'll notice them. If she doesn't have the clothes she wants (maybe b/c her family doesn't have the money for them) she'll notice this and bemoan her fate.

Photo credit to Solarbotics

Follow The "Want Line"

Your main character (and, really, every character) should always have something she wants. It should be evident in almost everything she says/does. If everything your character does is aimed toward achieving her goals (even if those goals change), you amp up the tension and the reader wants to keep reading. Also, when the character does NOT get what she wants, it makes the scenes more interesting and builds sympathy.

Ex. (Sorry, this gets a little long, but it's a fun example.) Say your character's main goal is to have a sleepover at her house. For whatever reason, this hasn't happened, but now it's on the verge of happening, and she is SO EXCITED! The character's initial goal is to host this sleepover, which is sure to be the best sleepover ever. But then the book's plot gets in the way, everything goes to hell, and the sleepover's off. Her goals shift, but if you can later echo back to that goal, it adds a lot of interest. Maybe later everything is only getting worse, but it just so happens that she's having a sleepover with a friend while they plan to escape this hellish nightmare that they've landed in. And on some level she's actually still a little excited about finally getting to have that sleepover. That's payoff.

Not sure why, but I love this photo.
Photo credit to Tim (and Julie) Wilson

The Big Reveal

It's always nifty if you can add a Big Reveal.

Ex. "Luke, I am your father."

Photo credit to Stéfan

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Editing My Painting

So, last week, I posted my Dead Leaves Painting (much more accurately titled Autumnal Leaf In A Forest, but that's just far too long). And then I pretended to pull writing advice out of the painting process b/c this is meant to be a writing blog. Well, this week I'm leaving the writing inferences up to you.

I finished my painting! Now it's titled "Dead Leaves and Live Cats." I didn't want any mistakes about whether or not "dead" also described the cats. Ugh. That sort of painting would NOT make a great wedding present for my doctor friend (or most anyone else).

I figured it might be fun to see the middle stage and the finished (edited) stage side by side. To be perfectly honest, it's fun for ME to see them side by side, so that's what we're gonna do.

Stage I:

Analysis: too flat, too much white space, too unfinished looking. It really just needs a little more work to feel finished. (The poor lightning may confusing things, but anything that's not brown, black, orange, or gray is pure white).

Stage II:

Analysis: Done!

I added some black/gray into the background to make it look like a foggy forest, and it really did give the little wavy tree shapes in the background more depth. And, of course, I added in the two cats.

The doctor who the painting is for really loves her cats. She may or may not have hired a pet therapist to council her and her fiancé's cats into getting along better. Hey, she's a doctor. She can afford it.

All I really needed was a little more atmo and a little more paint to make it look finished. The cats are just pure bonus. There are definitely still things I'm not happy about with the painting, but I now think it's Wedding Gift worthy.

I'm sure there's writing lessons there. I'm just too busy staring contentedly at my painting to pull them out.

And, Camilla, another bonus is that the cats add scale and make it seem much less likely that the rocks/sticks are piles of poo! Although I did love that you were critical of my husband's (helpful) criticism and then go one to tell me about the poo problem. I swear, the people I surround myself with just cannot help but mock me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Painting Dead Leaves

Did you know it's actually rather hard to find a cool picture of a skeletal oak leaf? Specifically one that's decayed away into a skeletal version of itself but still shows the overall shape of the leaf.

Because that's what I intended to paint, but then I couldn't find any really good pictures (I really would have liked one still attached to a branch), so I went with a more autumnal leaf instead: 

I was painting this last night when I should have been writing my post for this morning. Consequently you did not get a post this morning.

(Side note: "consequently" is a rather awesome word, isn't it?)

The purpose of this particular painting is to have a nice, personalized wedding gift for a doctor who can afford to buy anything she really wants. I've been consulting with my husband, and I don't think this painting is really quite to "Wedding Gift" status yet. As my husband says, "Too much white space." I concur.

So now I've got to figure out how to add a lovely background without mucking up the foreground. And, because this is a writing blog, let's pretend like I've actually been talking about writing the whole time:
You can come up with a very pretty picture, but sometimes you need to put in that extra time and effort and comb over your work to improve it in just the right places.

Unfortunately, with a painting, if you screw it up, you can't just press "undo" and start over. Well, you can start over, but it's a rather annoying form of starting over that involves sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper.

Thus concludes my Philosophical Musings On A Dead Leaf. Tune in next week for more random jibber jabber.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Have I mentioned that I finally said to myself "Dammit, I AM going to Italy!"? And then I booked my flight.

I've been getting so freaking excited about it, and this week, just to tantalize myself, I've just decided to post pictures of some of the things I'd like to see:


The Pantheon!
(Photo curtesy of Moyan Brenn)

The Colloseum, of course.
(Photo curtesy of Moyan Brenn)


(Photo Curtesy of Dimit®i)


El Duomo and all.
(Photo Curtesy of Martin Sojka)


(Photo curtesy of Tobi Gaulke)

And, the FOOD:
(Photo from fs999)