Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How’d You Think of That?

Guest Maven Stephanie Rowe
Welcome Guest Maven and Mave Fave, Angie Fox! I "met"Angie online a couple of years ago through my local chapter, Rose City Romance Writers. Though Angie lives in St. Louis, she's a long-distance member of RCRW after winning our Golden Rose Contest. I look forward to the day when I can meet Angie in person! Here's Angie...

We all want to make our books as unique as possible. It’s about grabbing the attention of that busy agent or harried editor, making it so they absolutely must stop what they’re doing and sit right down with your submission and – of course – ask for more. Through three unsold manuscripts and (yay!) the sale of my series to Dorchester, I’ve developed a few techniques that help me keep my quirky paranormals fresh. Hopefully, they’ll work for you too.

The Character Push

In the beginning of The Accidental Demon Slayer, the heroine’s long-lost grandmother shows up and – whoops – locks the heroine in her bathroom with an ancient demon. I’d pushed the situation, but the grandmother was too nice. My critique partner called me on it and, blast her, she was right. I sat down and brainstormed a few pages of alternate “grandmas” before I hit on an idea I loved – a Harley biker witch grandma who hurls recycled Smuckers jars full of home brewed magic. One character change and the book became a lot more fun to write.

The Mini-brainstorms

Sometimes, the first idea isn’t the best idea. Mini-brainstorms during the writing of a chapter always help me see if where I’m going is where I want to be. Sometimes, I go back to my first idea. Other times, after I’ve forced myself to come up with a page full of alternatives, I find I like a new idea better. It works on big plot points, but just as well on little details. Like when my heroine discovered a werewolf cemetery. It could have looked like a creepy, old cemetery. Or I could push it harder and make graves round, with the inscription “Never backed into a corner.” It’s not a huge detail, but it helps readers experience my heroine’s world.

The “Chill Out – This Doesn’t Have to Count” Brainstorm

Sometimes, when a chapter just isn’t working, I have a hard time making the (often necessary) massive changes, because I don’t know if I’m going to make things better or (gulp) worse. But one day, I borrowed a technique from my days as an advertising writer and lo and behold, it works on fiction too. I made a duplicate copy of the impossible chapter, and then went to town on changes. By letting my brain loose on a “throw away” chapter, I freed it up to stop thinking about “How am I going to get my heroine out of the love scene and ramped up for hell?,” to “Hmm…pillow talk. This is a good time for the hero to admit he wasn’t one hundred percent honest with the heroine at the start of the book. Now the heroine can get so mad that she dumps his boxers in the ice bucket, throws his pants off the balcony and almost goes to hell without him.”

Brainstorming is all about freeing up your mind and your creative energy. You get to surprise yourself, and feel the rush of excitement as you hit upon new ideas and new places to take your story. Because when you’re fully engaged in the story, pushing your characters harder, waiting to see what’s around the next bend – chances are, you’re audience will feel the same way.

Angie Fox is the author of The Accidental Demon Slayer, coming from Dorchester this summer. Right now, she’s hard at work on the sequel.

Note to Keira Soleore: You won Tanya Michaels' signed book when she guested two weeks ago, sorry we didn't post that before now! Email us to get your book!


Jackie Barbosa said...

Great tips, Angie! I especially love the idea of writing the "throwaway" chapter to shake loose creative ideas. Great technique (and one I might have to use today, lol).

Thanks for blogging with us and congrats on the upcoming release.

Bill Clark said...

I made a duplicate copy of the impossible chapter, and then went to town on changes

Cool idea! Mad Ave comes to a word processor near you!

Angie Fox said...

Thanks, Jackie. And sorry you have to use that throwaway technique today (grin). Actually, I'll be using it too. It's a great way to free your mind while still being a literary packrat.

Darcy Burke said...

Angie, I love this post so much. I'm going to do a brainstorming exercise next time I storyboard. After I figure out the GMCs and turning points, I'll brainstorm things that can happen between those turning points - not in a linear fashion on the storyboard, but as a pre-storyboard activity. Then I'll have this great list I can use as I storyboard and then write. Thanks!!

Carrie Ryan said...

Awesome post and great ideas! I love how it's about trying to push things -- give the reader the unexpected (even in the smallest ways). I really do think that makes a huge difference. When I read contest entries I feel like that's one of the biggest things I see lacking -- pushing things, going beyond expectations!

Gillian Layne said...

Angie, these are brilliant. It's obvious, but I'd never realized it before; when I went back and checked out some of my favorites, I realized it was a spattering of small, vivid details that made the story sing.

Great post!

Angie Fox said...

That's true! As soon as I started doing it, I also started seeing how a lot of authors I admire have been doing it for years. Yet, it seems like it's one of those things that's easy to neglect if you're not actively thinking of ways to push the story harder.

Keira Soleore said...

Darcy, I've been off in la-la land this past week. So I just ran into the announcement of winning Tanya Michaels's book. w00t!! I can be reached via keira (at) keirasoleore (dot) com. Super thanks!

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