Monday, May 30, 2011

The Event

I've been thinking about the point in a story that makes you decide that you love it, or not. Sometimes it might happen on the 1st page, while other times it might be on the 400th, and no matter how many other little things happen during the tale, you can look to that one scene - The Event - that makes or breaks the story for you. I'm reading Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, and I just the read a sentence that made me love the book. Just one sentence. Isn't it amazing that only a few words can have that effect. I think so, and even though I don't know how the story ends, I will love the book no matter what because of The Event.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Learning Styles and Reading

This is a topic that came up with my current VCFA advisor based on an essay I wrote.

Although their are many different smaller sub-groups, most people can agree on three major learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.

According to a resource I found online here, when reading:

Auditory learners will identify with anything that they can repeat aloud, or images that evoke sounds or noises that they can relate to their own experiences.

Visual learners are attracted to written or spoken language rich in imagery. This one is pretty self-explanatory.

and Kinesthetic learners learn by doing.

In my essay, I argued that Kinesthetic learners could get quite a lot from reading books that take them through a process. 1st person present tense is ideal for these readers. Something that makes them feel in the action.

My advisor wasn't so sure. I'm not so sure anymore either. Are there any books that are right for kinesthetic learners?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Are Happy Endings Always Better?

There is a case for happy endings. They're everywhere.

Sometimes, even I pick up one novel over another because I am looking for the predictable ending it will give me. Loads of genre fiction is like this. I might read a police procedural to catch the bad guys with the protagonist, or I might read a piece of high fantasy because I know that my warriors will defeat the forces of darkness. Most story arcs need a resolution. It is necessary to give the reader a chance to digest the subject matter. The peaceful closure at the end of these stories mentioned above makes me feel good because in general, this type of resolution works.

But, while happy endings as resolutions help create a smooth and easily-understandable novel, I think that an open-ended, uncomfortable finish can be more attractive to the reader in that it leaves us wanting something more. I'm searching for those right now. Something that makes me think.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The subject of colloquialisms came up on the 'writing craft' section of the Vermont College student message board. Most people agree that using too many slang terms can distract the reader, but it all about finding a - and here's that word again - balance.

For instance, a character in my story might be from Medford, MA, in which case they would say something like this:

"Yorhh rootin' foh the Shahks against the B's? Ah yoo seerious, kid? Yoo bettah take it down a notch befoh yoo get smothahd."

That's just a quick example, and other terms could be used to make it even more confusing for an outsider. Some would say that the above sentence is completely unbelievable, but is this any better:

I walked into the rink with my Sharks hat on. Gino spotted me right away. "You're rooting for the Sharks against the B's," he said, his think Boston accent in full force. "Are you serious, kid? You better take it down a notch before you get smothered."

Some would say, yes, the second example is a million times better, but is it really? Would the first person narrator really stop to acknowledge that someone he clearly knows has a thick Boston accent. Probably not. It would just be normal.

You see, a lot goes into these decisions. Who's narrating and in what tense? What's the context? How far along is the story? etc.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Rainy days are wonderful for reading.

Just bought two brand new releases from some VCFA grads:

Flutter by Erin E. Moulton

Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith

note: Erin actually grow up a mile or two from my wife, and she got married at the same place that we did. Hopefully I can someday add published author to our list of connections.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oh Yea!

Yep, I'm even saying it in that annoying Macho Man voice. Packet Four is in the books. Only one more to go before I get a little break prior to the next residency.

<------- I'm flying high!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Dream Control. It's something that I've realized can be done. I'm working on it, and I'm getting better at it. I don't mean that I can lay down at night, think about something, and then make myself dream about it, but rather that I can sometimes stay in that weird place between waking and dreaming. In that place, I am sometimes able to steer the actions of the dream, thought, adventure, whatever you want to call it. This is an exceptional tool for my writing as I tend to dream up ideas and characters. To be able to be apart of that and have some stake in what is happening is an amazing thing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Character Tags

I just finished The House With a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs. His protagonist, Lewis, is a boy that cries any time he is insulted/scolded. It was somewhat annoying, but it did serve as a consistent character tag.

My advisor wanted to us to think about character tags anyway, so here is a quick list of things that might be cool to use in future stories:

- A teenage boy that only wears argyle socks.

- An old man that wears his hat backwards.

- A young girl that carries around a tape recorder.

- A small child that relates everything that happens in her life to scenes from movies released prior to WWII.

- A boy with a deep, deep voice and a fierce handshake.

- A girl that walks her pet rabbit around town on a leash, as if it were a dog.

- A teenage boy that works out as much as possible. He's been known to drop down for a push-up set standing in line for a sandwich.

- A girl that gives everyone a nickname as soon as she meets them.

- A man that counts every step he takes on his left hand. If you look close enough, you'll see his fingers moving.