Follow Friday - Run for Your Life

Veronica Rossi 2 Friday, April 01, 2011
Recently, the YA Muses offered some options for donating to help with the current crisis in Japan. For this Follow Friday, I'd like to bring the focus a little closer to home. Many of us have experienced cancer, whether firsthand or within our families or our circle of friends. When fellow Bookanista, Myra McEntire, proposed the idea of helping to raise funds for a cancer hospital, I was instantly on board.
Take a look at the below, which will tell you a little bit about the cause and the rules. You can also go to Myra's blog to learn more.

Charitable donations are a very personal thing. There are so many ways our hard earned money can help others, and lately our world seems to be breaking into pieces around us. Needs are many and great. The Bookanistas want to give back, so in the coming months, we're going to be looking for ways to pour into communities, both bookish and worldwide.

For the month of April, we've chose to spotlight Run For Your Life, an event that's raising money for a cancer hospital, largely because the framework is already set up (we'd like to keep it simple our first time out), and also because of personal connections to the cause. Most everyone has lost a loved one to cancer or knows someone who has.

To encourage you to donate, we're going to give away some sweet prizes! Here's how it will work:

1. Go to the Run For Your Life page.

2. Make a donation. $5 is suggested, but lower or higher is fine. (Also know that for every dollar you donate, you'll be entered to win a private, advance screening for twenty people for Breaking Dawn. The Bookanistas have NOTHING to do with that part - that's all Charlie Bewley and Summit Entertainment.)

3. Come back and fill out the entry form on this page.

We're trusting you to be honest about giving, and about the amount you give. Don't be a mamby pamby. Keep up our faith in mankind.

4. The Bookanistas will be giving away a selection of prizes (see list below). You will be entered one time for each dollar you donate ($5 = 5 entries). If you wish to be entered to win a specific prize, let us know in the designated section of the entry form.

5. We're following the guidelines set forth by Run for Your Life, which means this particular event will only be open to those in North America. Entries will be closed on April 30th, and we will contact randomly selected winners shortly thereafter.

6. Spread the word. Tweet, post the Run For Your Life logo (above) with a link to Charlie's site on your blog, or Facebook about the event, and receive an entry (one entry TOTAL for doing all or one of these things). Place a link/links in the place provided on the entry form.

HERE'S THE LIST OF BOOKANISTA PRIZES (this list WILL be added to, so check back):

A signed copy of WHITE CAT and a signed copy of RED GLOVE by Holly Black

A 50 page manuscript critique

A signed copy of MOONGLASS

A swag pack of POSSESS goodies and a query critique

A 50 page manuscript critique

A signed copy of AUDITION

A query and first chapter critique

A signed copy of LIAR SOCIETY and bookmarks

A box of ten mystery advance reader copies

A Dystopian Trifecta of Awesome - a signed copy of DARK AND HOLLOW PLACES by Carrie Ryan, a signed copy of MATCHED by Ally Condie, and a signed ARC of Elena's own POSSESSION


A signed copy of DEMONGLASS by Rachel Hawkins, a signed copy of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis, a signed copy of TORMENT by Lauren Kate, and a signed and annotated advance reader copy of HOURGLASS.

From Me:
A 50 page manuscript critique

Thanks all & have a great weekend!

Moonglass - A Bookanista Review

From Goodreads:
Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.
While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.
From Me:
Jessi Kirby hits it out of the park in this debut novel. Moonglass is a beautifully written story about a girl's quest to accept her mother's death. I loved so much about this book. Anna is a captivating character. She's honest and daring -- a very real combination of sensitive and tough. I would love to have her as a friend.
There's a sweet romance with a lifeguard but Anna's relationship with her father stole the show for me. These two were truly a joy to spend time with. Their love for one another was quiet and palpable and perfect. I also loved the seaside setting of Crystal Cove -- a place I'm determined to see someday, thanks to this novel. A fast and deeply felt read. My only complaint is that Moonglass wasn't longer!
Moonglass hits shelves in May.
Check out what the rest of the Bookanista's are chatting up this week:

Where do characters come from?

As we talk about characters, I've been doing a little soul searching about where my characters come from.  The truth is, I'm not quite sure.  Sometimes they seem to magically appear on the page and take over, eager to have their moment in the sun.  Other times they keep their secrets buried so deep, that it takes multiple drafts of a novel before I start to understand who they are.

So I've set out to answer the question of where my characters come from.  I imagine it's different for every writer, but I thought I'd share some of the things I've discovered so far. 

People you know.  With BANDIA, I started out writing a story that was based, in part, on my own tortured path to romance.  Although I was able to populate the novel with unique personalities, I quickly discovered that writing characters based on real people didn't work for me, because I could never really get inside their heads and know them as well as I needed to know them to write a novel.  I couldn't punish the characters the way I needed to either.  So I changed them.  First, I changed their physical descriptions and then I changed some key personality traits, quirks and backstory.  It's funny, but once I removed the real parts, the characters finally came alive on the page.  Take someone you know and then change them up a bit, creating a character that's fictional, but has layers.

People in nature.  These aren't people you know, but they are real people.  A character can be inspired by anyone, anywhere.  Maybe its the girl behind the counter at the jewelry store with the dragon tattoo snaking its way up her arm and too short hair, who never makes eye contact with her father the store owner.  Or the guy who's picture is on every other bus stop with an air brushed smile and fake hair.  Maybe its the guy who couldn't take his eyes off his date during dinner, but who flirted shamelessly with the waitress as soon his date went to the restroom.  Look around, the world is populated with people who come ready made with unique characteristics, interests and flaws.

The voice in your head. I'm not crazy.  I'm a writer.  With SPIES & PREJUDICE, the main character, Berry Fields, came to me fully formed.  I knew exactly who she was, where she came from and why she kept people at arms length.  She was a tough, hard-boiled private investigator who was more vulnerable than she realized.  She started talking and she would not shut up until her story was told.  Even then, she still pops into my head now and then, prefacing every revelation with an "okay."   

Stereotypes.  Don't shoot the messenger.  I am not advocating writing stereotypical characters.  But stereotypes are a good starting point when developing characters.  First, when you understand the common tropes and stereotypes that appear often in fiction, you can try to avoid them.  Sure, the mean girl cheerleader, geeky gamer and depressed goth kid are overused in YA fiction.  That doesn't mean you can never use them.  These characters are easily recognizable to your readers and may work well for minor characters, particularly when you don't have the luxury of showing a lot of detail about who this character is. And maybe your mean girl cheerleader has hidden depths?  Or a secret that sets the stereotype on its head.  Now we're talking...

Inspired by Plot.  A lot of minor characters are there to move the plot forward.  Don't feel bad for them, they serve a valuable purpose.  That doesn't mean that the characters shouldn't be three dimensional people who feel real, but often the plot will dictate their job, hobbies or reason for being in the scene.  Use that as a jumping off point.  The hotel employee who gets tricked into letting Berry into Lance's room?  She was inspired by the plot point.  But she also needed a motivation for wanting to help Berry, so I made her a hopeless romantic who's been unlucky in love.

Reflections.  You want to populate your novel with individuals, not a bunch of clones who all look and act and feel the same.  Minor characters should play off of the main character, with some opposite traits and reactions.  This gives the story some balance and allows the characters to play off of and influence each other.

Desires.  Some characters are defined by what they want.  In some instances when developing a story you will start with this desire.  Maybe you already have a main character and you know that the main character wants to discover the truth about a family secret.  Maybe you know that there is another character who wants to keep that secret buried at all costs.  That desire forms the base from which the character will start to form.

Relationship to other characters.  Once you have a core group of characters, other characters will start to fill in where you need family members, teachers, bosses, co-workers, friends, love interests, etc.  The relationship to the main character and the main character's backstory may provide the foundation for these minor characters, allowing you to understand and know them through the main character's eyes.

Tone and purpose of scene.  Sometimes, especially for minor characters, the tone and purpose of the scene will provide the starting point for developing a character.  Is the scene serious and sad? Is the scene funny?  Sarcastic or broad humor?  Once you know what you want to accomplish in the scene, the motivations and personality of the minor characters will often make themselves known.

I'm sure there are many other things that inspire and provide the inspiration for characters.  Where do your characters come from?

On Character

Katherine Longshore Reply Tuesday, March 29, 2011
"You're a role-player, you're an actor, and you've got all these different characters who you invent and who are there forever.  I must have a cast of thousands..."

So says Ian Rankin, author of the Inspector Rebus series in an article in the Guardian newspaper's Saturday Review.  The article is full of quotes by award-winning British authors from recordings done for the British Library archive, and in it, these authors explain their process, their motivation, their craft and their passion.  This week, we are talking about character so I wanted to share some of their thoughts on character interspersed with some of mine.  Their thoughts so echo my own that I got shivers -- I mean, really, I have the same thoughts as Hilary Mantel?  Imagine a fangirl swoon, if you will.

I start with Ian Rankin's words, because the last time we talked about character, I mentioned acting (though not necessarily method acting) as a way to get into character.  Even minor characters, as Rankin explains in the article.  "You just think about these people until they become real to you and you can inhabit their bodies, for a short space of time...only for a page or two, but a page or two is all you need."

I was reminded of this recently when I sent out a few pages of GIRL IN A DIAMOND COLLAR to the Muses and our friend Bret Ballou.  I wanted to get a scene just right, and sought outside feedback to make sure the characters worked well, and their motivations seemed appropriate.  Bret wrote back and one question he asked was, "What is William feeling here?"  I realized I was so focused on my narrator's feelings and reactions that I had somehow misplaced those of the character with whom she was interacting.  So I put myself in William's shoes for a bit, worked out his point-of-view, before returning to my narrator's eyes to describe what he looked and sounded like based on the feelings I had created for him.  It was a great reminder, and one I'll need often, I'm sure.  We mustn't leave our minor characters out in the cold.  We mustn't make them cardboard backdrops against which our narrators and antagonists play.  They, too, must be flesh and blood with real, achievable feelings etched in their expressions and words.

PD James echoes this in her quote in the Guardian:  "There's this duality of actually experiencing what your character is experiencing, at the same time with part of your mind thinking of the technique of bringing this alive for the reader."  Exactly.

And how do you create these characters?  How do you make them come alive for the reader?  This is what Penelope Lively, author of the Booker Prize Winning MOON TIGER and several other prize-winning novels, says:  "I'm very keen on dialogue as a way of defining character, so I often find that the notebooks fill up with passages of dialogue between a couple of character who...haven't even got names."  And she names them later when the characrters have revealed themselves.  Some of what she writes never gets into the novel, but the conversations are there, behind them.

Michael Frayn, author of the play NOISES OFF and the novel SPIES amongst others, says, "With characters, you are actually creating thier lives with them.  It does if they are speaking and leading those lives.  It's a very symbiotic relationship.  You're very much involved in leading their lives with them."  And do you, like me, find it hard to say goodbye at the end?  And I get a thrill out of being able to change the outcome of a situation.  Out of being able to help my character find the right words -- or destroy her by finding the wrong ones -- so say at the right moment.

And Hilary Mantel, author of WOLF HALL (which I think is probably the most brilliant Tudor historical ever writtten), says this:  "You have to create (characters) out of your own self...You really have to be prepared to live through them." 

I finish with Mantel's words -- they apply to character, to writing, to the very act of creation itself:  "It is just amazing what imagination can do -- what it can cause to happen in the real world, and every day I'm proving and exploring how strong the products of one's mind can be."  For a little while, your characters are real:  to you, to your reader.  They live, they breathe, their words have an effect you can't calculate when they go out into the world.

Musical Characters - by Donna

I've been traveling again this week, attending an educational conference in Los Angeles. Traveling, especially over the weekend, always throws off my writing schedule. I'm so close to finishing a complete draft of my WIP I can almost taste it, but my "real" job is definitely getting in the way. I feel constant pressure to spend any available time writing, but I also have to physically be at many work related meetings, and that is taking me all across the country these days. The result is the worlds, the "writing world" and "the everything else world," start to merge and blend so that one is indistinguishable from the other.

Saturday night was just such a moment. I took a brief break from my meetings and went to a wonderful performance of one of my favorite musicals, WICKED. If you're not familiar with WICKED, it's based on the familiar story of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but from the totally different perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West. The story is a fascinating interplay between what we think we know about the characters and the "truth" of who they are. It's a wonderful lesson in character study, with each witch portrayed as a complex blend of both good and bad. While it's an intriguing twist on the familiar, and the story of a unique friendship, the music is also amazing. When I woke up this morning and headed to my meetings for the day, I couldn't get the melodies out of my head.

All mixed in with my characters from my WIP, the music from WICKED began to inspire my thoughts about my own characters' development and I had an idea. My current WIP has an element of musical theater and, since I like the listen to music when I write, I thought I'd try a character exercise with the songs. I know music stimulates my brain creatively in different ways from text, so I made up my own playlist below. Each song helped me think through different aspects to my characters.

Perhaps you'd like to try it out, too. Listen to each of the songs below (they can be downloaded from ITunes) and then free write to answer the questions about your characters. Maybe you'll want to create your own playlist for your current WIP with your characters in mind. How might music inspire new insights into your own characters?

1. No One Mourns the Wicked.
What events in the past made the main character the way they are? How does their family define who she is? How do other people view her at the beginning of the story? How do they expect her to act? What do others believe about her?

2. Popular. Who is the antagonist? How does she interact with the main character? What characteristics in each bring about the conflict? How are they alike? How are they different?

3. I'm not that Girl. What does the main character want? Why can't she have it? Who stands in her way?

4. Defying Gravity. Where does your main character take a chance that will change everything? What pushes her off the ledge? Does the reader have doubt as to the outcome of this choice? How will this change impact other characters?

5. As Long as Your Mine. At what point in your story would your character want to freeze time? What makes that impossible?

6. For Good. How do relationships with other characters change the main character? How does she change the lives of others? Are there unexpected consequences of actions?
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