Declaration Statements

I have recently rediscovered how much I love it when a character in a movie/book/tv show discovers who they really are. It’s either a breathtakingly tragic moment or a moment of joyous celebration.

With discovering who they are, almost all of them nail down what their purpose is, and we all know that we love to know what their purpose is. To prove my point, please enjoy just a few of the declaration statements I thought of as I thought through this.

“I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

“I am Loki. Of Asgard. And I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

“I am Moana of Motonui. You will board my boat and sail across the ocean to return the heart of Te Fiti.”

“I am a Jedi.”

“I am that hero.”

“I am Groot.”

“I am Iron Man.”

“I am the President of the United States of America, clothed in immense power. You will procure those votes.”

Those are just some of them.

You’ll notice in the case of Loki, I added in a villain. (Don’t argue with me, for the sake of the Avengers movie, he was a villain.) This is because it’s not just the heroes who can have this epiphany moment.

In the case of Groot, it’s less an identity statement as it is that’s all he can say, but hey I couldn’t resist.

Declaration statements often come out in the heat of battle, or when they need to know who they are most. In the case of Inigo, he talks about saying that to the man who killed his father, but he never says it with as much conviction as when he finally meets him face to face.

The same goes for Moana (who eventually comes to the revelation — in song, no less — that “I am Moana!”). She needs to know that who she is, is enough to help save her people.

Declaration statements are fun and even more fun to use. I’m going to go try some in my newest WIPs. What about you?

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You’ve seen the Lego Movie, right? Or at least heard of it, I’m sure. Who hasn’t heard someone belting out “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!!”?

I ask because I’m here today to explain how Emmet is really a fantastically written character. Why, you ask? Let’s take a look at him.

Emmet is the perfect cookie-cutter citizen. He’s one of those clique-y, politically correct fit-ins. He says all the right things, wears all the right things, “likes” all the right things. His life is pretty perfect, at least to him, because he’s oblivious that everyone around can barely see him for his lack of originality.

In other words, Emmet’s little world doesn’t need help. Or, at least, he doesn’t think he needs help. This is how every work of fiction should start out. Your character believes their world is perfect. They’re content. They know what they want in life. Heck, they may even be in a successful relationship.

But is their life actually perfect?

Let’s find out.

One day, Emmet accidentally stumbles into a deep, deep ravine behind his workplace. This is only the first road bump. The second rude awakening comes when he wakes up in an interrogation room. He learns the no one remembers him. They all think he’s boring. Nothing special.

And that’s what characters are, until they go on their journal. Nothing special.

Emmet goes on this epic adventure, where he learns that he CAN do things. He CAN be special, if he puts his mind to it. Then, in an instant, his entire new world shatters.

Most of the time, in a book or movie, this point comes. Since the character is just starting to find themselves — REALLY find who they truly are — it only takes a slight shake to kill their dreams. In Emmet’s case, it’s fourteen little words thrown at him like a ton of bricks.

“As unspecial as I am, you are a thousand-billion times more unspecial than me.”

And you know what? Emmet believes it. Why? Because he’s doubted himself all along, and he’s just been waiting for someone to confirm his suspicions. He isn’t special, he’s just a nobody.

Most characters doubt themselves until the moment they’re put to the test, in Emmet’s case the moment he realizes he has to sacrifice himself for his friends to live.

Your characters should always have this epiphany moment, where they realize what’s most important to them. This is what makes them who they’re becoming. This is the moment of truth. And it almost always makes them even more awesome than they were to begin with.

So, you see, Emmet is a really well written character. His characterization shows us how to build a character up and tear them down in just the right way to make them who they’re meant to be.

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So, what have you learned from Emmet’s journey?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Making Emotions Real

“Sometimes, the saddest parts aren’t where the character is crying. Sometimes, the saddest parts come from when they’re trying not to cry.”

This quote has changed the way I write.

I realized, after reading it fifteen times and pondering on it for a long while, that whoever came up with this is absolutely correct.

I mean, come on! Have you ever been reading a book, going along and enjoying it, and then you realize there’s this one character who is constantly bawling? (Guilty as charged, I have so yelled at a character for crying too much before.)

If you take a minute to look at real people, you’ll find that (more often than not) they don’t want other people to see them cry. And, therefore, they hold back the tears and set up their “I’m okay” facade. Just watch people around you every once in a while.

We’ve talked about how people have “tells” before. Well, people have what I call “emotion tells”. Like a tick that could be a quivering chin if they let it. Some people’s noses turn red when they’re trying not to cry. (I know a few.)

People are emotional by nature, but many also have a pride issue. For some reason, society has told us that crying make you look weak, and therefore most people don’t want to give in to their natural emotions. Because they think it will make them look weak.

Recently, I was writing a story where a character blames herself for stuff that keeps happening to both her and other people. Because of issues in her past, she also has abandonment issues.

Sounds like it could go really mushy really fast, with lots of tears and “don’t goes”, right?

Wrong.

I’m telling you, I actually cried writing her most recent scene. A scene in which someone she loves says they’re leaving. How did she handle it? Not with begging.

She stoicly, listlessly stood there and listened to him tell her he was leaving. She even let him yell at her. All the while, she watched the floor and distracted herself so she didn’t cry. Because she wanted to. Badly. He left, she shut herself in her room. Then, and only then, did she allow herself to let go and let it all out.

And you know what? Because she had been holding it in, and the tension had been building around it, it made the entire scene that much more powerful. That much more moving. Enough to move a reader (and writer) to tears over this character.

Do you want to hear a reader say, “Oh my gosh, I loved your book so much! It made me cry!”? Then maybe you should consider employing the method of hold it in until it has to get out.

If people are all fundamentally similar, doesn’t that mean your characters wouldn’t want to gush all over other characters? If your characters are real, why would they spill their guts with no reasonable motivation to do so?

Ponder that this week.

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I wanna hear about the first book that EVER made you cry. Or why you haven’t ever cried at a book. Ready? Set. GO!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

4 Lessons About Writing From “Hoodwinked!”

For those of you who are now wondering what in the world “Hoodwinked!” is, I will explain. “Hoodwinked!” is not only fun to say, (go on, try it!) but is also an animated movie from the early 2000s. The premise? To learn the “true” story of Little Red Riding Hood, a tale distorted by time. (Let it be noted that I know a lot of people who don’t like this movie, but I happen to think it’s pretty awesome and will continue to like it despite protests.)

There are tons of lessons we can learn from fairytales themselves, but that’s a blog post for another time. In this case, we’re taking lessons from the movie loosely based on the fairytale. They are completely different. So…

#1 – No Character is an Island Unto Himself

It’s true folks, this movie made me sit up and see the light on that point! No character exists in his own little bubble. All their lives interconnect, even when they don’t realize it.

There are several characters in “Hoodwinked!” who, at the beginning, seem random and unessential. Until you start to figure out the story behind the story. Suddenly, you realize these characters aren’t random and they are very essential to understanding what’s going on in the Forest. They bring with them a depth the story wouldn’t have had if they had been left out.

So don’t underestimate those characters that just happen to show up for a brief scene. What if they’ve crossed paths with your hero or villain (or both!) in the past? What if they know more than they’re telling? Think about how their life connects with the other characters’ lives, then see what depth your story has just developed.

#2 – Nothing Should Ever Be As It Seems

“Hoodwinked!” has one major writing advantage to other kids’ movies. Nothing turns out like it seems.

That crazed axe murderer? Not a crazed axe murderer at all. Granny floating through the clouds? Logical explanation. A seemingly random avalanche? Not random at all.

When writing, we should remember that people make assumptions, and those assumptions are usually very wrong. Don’t let your characters figure things out too quickly. Let them assume what they just saw was something completely different than what it actually was. It makes for conflict, and conflict makes for a great story.

#3 – Villains Aren’t Always Cut-And-Dried, Sometimes They’re Cunning

I won’t give the spoiler on this one, but the villain isn’t who you think it is. He’s unassuming. He’s a friend. But, behind the scenes, he’s orchestrating everything to make it look like someone else did it.

Villains don’t always seek the attention. Sometimes they’re villainous because they DON’T want the attention. They want someone else to take the fall so they can pick up the pieces and make a profit. Think outside the box when it comes to villains. Let them be someone you don’t think a villain normally is. Surprise us by twisting the story around until the REAL villain jumps out and says, “You didn’t see that coming?”

#4 – Keith Is Not A Scary Name

“…And Keith… get a scarier name. Really, who’s going to be afraid of a guy named Keith? ‘Ooh, I’m so scared, it’s… Keith.’ ‘Everybody look out, here comes… Keith’.”

The longer you think about it, the more you realize he’s right. Keith is just not a scary name. Friendly, maybe, and totally hero-sidekick-available. But not scary. Because of this movie I now realize I can never name a villain… Keith. This is a very important lesson, folks. Be sure to give your villain a scary name like Gunter or Nash or Vadislev. Not… Keith.

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Have you seen this movie and will you fangirl with me? BONUS QUESTION: Can you spot the Marvel Cinematic Universe reference in this post?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You!

The Power of Prose

Words are magical.

I mean, think about it. With a simple turn of phrase, we can make people see exactly who, what, or where we want them to. With one carefully placed word, we can turn a sentence from sweet to creepy or vice versa. There isn’t much that our words CAN’T do.

I know, better than most, that this puts a huge weight of responsibility on our shoulders. What if we choose the wrong word? What if the word we pick isn’t strong enough? What if we fail to make it come across as we see it in our head?

All valid questions.

The answer is: we never know if we’ll have the desired effect until we let others see our work.

I know, it’s a Debbie Downer. But, the good news is that there are things we can do to make sure we get our point across exactly as we want it to come across. Let me ‘splain.

For those of you who write Suspense or Thrillers, you’ll want to know how to heighten suspense in your scenes. Thankfully, I have a pretty good idea how Suspense works, so here’s my number one suggestion to create the suspenseful scene you’re looking for. Ready?

Use short sentences.

That’s it. The shorter the sentence, the more clipped the feel of the scene. And don’t just use short sentences in your narrative, throw some into your dialogue as well. Fragments are welcome in a suspense scene, because it inherently tells your reader that something is terribly wrong. (Despite what people think, anyone who paid attention in English during middle school subconsciously knows their grammar.)

For those of you who write Romance (or any sub-genre thereunder), you’ll probably want to know how to show your readers how sweet one or the other person is without being super cheesy. So, my number one advice:

Use body language.

“In my writing? Really?”

Yes. Really. Over half of the ways people express how they’re really feeling is in their body language. Do they have a nervous tick? Do they have a habit of reaching to push the girl’s hair behind her ear? Anything like that can add loads of layers to a scene and, ultimately, a story. This is one of those instances where “Show, Don’t Tell” comes in really handy. Don’t tell your readers he likes her. Show them by his actions. Just like real people.

So, you romance writers, go plug in your favorite Rom-Com and take notes on how he shows he loves her.

For those of you who write Historical, you’ll want to know how to keep your facts straight.

Google.

There is nothing better. Oh, and for heaven’s sake, please find out if the words you choose for them to speak were actually spoken in your time period. Please. I’m begging you. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

For those of you who write Fantasy…

Okay, I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing for you. It’s all in your head. As I am not a fantasy writer, I can’t give advice on the subject, except to say pay attention to your plot holes.

So, advice for the day, pay close attention to your genre and READ, READ, READ!!!

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What genre do you write and what’s your favorite part about it?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Learning to Intrigue

I’ve struggled a lot while learning the craft of writing. A. LOT. And do you know what the hardest part is (for me, at least)? Catching and holding an audience. And, as I write romantic suspense, that’s kind of a problem.

So, here I am to tell you I’ve finally found the solution.

I have taken a lesson from the movies.

Let me expound. I found this solution for myself by thinking about what I want readers to feel like when they read one of my books. I sat down, I thought, thought, thought (Eh? Anyone? No?), and I said to myself “action movies”. You know the ones. The ones where you sit on the edge of your seat, bite your nails, and worry over whether the characters are going to make it out alive. And then, after I had nailed that down, I promptly sat down to marathon and take notes.

What fun tricks did I learn, you ask? Well, that’s why we have this blog post!

1. Keep the audience in the moment

This may sound like an impossible task, but it is accomplished by utilizing one simple tool. Withholding information. To keep in the audience in the moment you’re at, you only tell them what they need to know to understand the story thus far. Do not — I repeat, DO NOT — burden them with exposition. Keep them in that moment in time. Do not take them back in time. It is okay ON OCCASION to foreshadow something from the future, because we’ll need that in a minute.

Which brings me to point:

2. Foreshadow future events

Let me clarify. Not every single line of narrative has to foreshadow the future. Do not harp on people about how “If I knew now what I knew then” and “I would have chosen differently if…”! Just don’t. Foreshadowing is a tool to keep your readers/watchers guessing. If you keep using it over and over and over in an overt way, they’ll lose interest.

So, use subtle foreshadowing. That gun that has a tendency to jam. That squeaky door when you enter the house. That weird note the heroine gets at the beginning of the story. An “off” line of dialogue. Be creative. Be subtle.

3. Keep them guessing

I recently watched a new release where a character was introduced and we weren’t sure if she was totally evil or semi-okay. She was there to torture, but then she helped the hero escape. Everything she did could be taken for good or evil, and we didn’t know which way she would ultimately lean. You know what this did? It kept me guessing!

If your audience has seen the plotline before and knows that “Oh, hey, this is what’s going to happen next”, they’re a thousand times more likely to put your book down or turn off your movie. You have to keep them up in the air. Don’t solidify anything until at least the third act.

That isn’t to say don’t tell the audience anything. Give them hints, clues, snippets. They’ll read on.

Anyway, those are the major points I’ve learned while studying the action/adventure movie drama for tips. I hope you found them helpful, and I also hope if you have questions you’ll either comment or contact me. Here’s till next time!

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What are your thoughts on keeping readers hooked? I’d love to hear!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Memorable Moments

Memorable moments in a book or movie are the things that keep people talking about it for years to come. My family and I divide them into two (unspoken) categories. 1: Great Scenes. 2: Quotables.

Great scenes are those moments in a movie or book where no one is speaking, but awesome things are going on. It’s the scene from Up! where you learn Ellie and Mr. Frederickson’s entire life story without a single word. It’s the tear-jerking scene in Becoming Jane where she leaves her true love so his family won’t starve. It’s the scene in Sahara where Rudy smuggles himself back over the border.

Scenes that make you laugh, cry, or throw things. Yet they usually don’t say a word. They are completely visual.

These kinds of scenes are important for movies, but they are SUPER important for books too! If you don’t have something that’s going to capture attention, people will stop reading/watching. And no one wants that.

An example from one of my works-in-progress:

Arkin runs across the brown, rocky surface, heading for the ledge on which Boden stands. A warrior leaps for him, but Arkin draws his broadsword and cuts him down.

Several more follow.

Boden leaps from his ledge and lands deftly on the ground before Arkin.

Swords entangle. Armor creaks as they battle.

Colors flash in the air behind Arkin, sparking and subsiding, quicker with every second.

Boden drops to one knee.

A round, shell-like disc falls from Arkin’s belt and clatters on the rocks at the same time the colors behind him become constant.

Arkin is pulled backward, through the wormhole. A small, bug-eyed creature on the ground is sucked up as well.

How do you create a great scene like this? I don’t have one specific answer. I can tell you that it should be detailed, and use emotion! Anger, hurt, humor. Great scenes are often those that break the tension surrounding people in the story. On the other hand, they can also be the scene that turns someone down a mistaken path. Maybe they get too angry at that best friend who’s telling them their boyfriend is an idiot. Maybe they don’t like to be told what to do, so they do the opposite and it’s entirely stupid. Whatever you choose, make it pivotal. Make it something your fans will talk about for eternity.

Quotables are just that. Quotable. Lines that we sit around and spout to each other, discuss, or even throw into everyday conversation. Some examples from other’s work:

“Please be a secret door, please be a secret door, please be a secret door!” (Door opens from wall) “Yay!”

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“I’ve got some bad news about your boat sir…” (explosion noise)

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“You think you can mess with my mother?” (As he’s totally beating the crap out of his arch nemesis)

I’ll admit, these are kind of lines mixed with action, but that’s because those are usually the best. Exemplar:

Arkin presses the button on the toaster down, and Emma applauds.

EMMA

                     You made toast!

She hugs his neck. Arkin tosses his head back and laughs. The sound fills the entire apartment.

(Background: he doesn’t cook. Anything.)

Making something quotable is the fastest way to get people to tell others about your book or movie. Why? Because if it’s quotable, they’ll quote it. Then their friends will ask what it’s from, and they’ll get the answer “This awesome book/movie about (your plotline here). Oh my gosh! You haven’t read/watched this? You should totally read/watch this!”

I’ll give you, it’s hard to just come up with something quotable on the spur of the moment. Usually it arises from the situation in your story. Yes, it can be hard, but it’s totally worth it. So what are you waiting for? Go write something quotable today!

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I want to know either your favorite quotable or one you wrote yourself. Ready?… GO!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You