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Posts Tagged ‘Terrible Minds’

Chuck Wendig, author of the addictive, raunchy blog Terrible Minds wrote recently about story elements that keep the pages turning.  It got me thinking.  When I read, what is the #1 most important thing I look for in a book?  What will keep me engrossed way after it’s time to stop and cook dinner?  What will keep me up late at night, leaning close to the bedside lamp?

Well…there are a number of things that I value in a book.

Really beautiful writing, for instance.  Or maybe a fast, twisty-crazy plot.  Classic genre tropes given new life are a favorite, as are classic genre tropes done really, really well.  Darkness, danger, and protagonist imperilment can hook me, as can books that combine a romping story with a larger message.

But the one thing that will grab me, pull me in, and drag me along – no matter how many of those other elements are lacking – is a compelling character.  I’ll read just about anything that features a great character.  If I care about the protagonist (or the antagonist, or even a prominently featured secondary character), I’ll follow them through a sea of bad writing, cliched plotlines, dragging narration, or message-less brain candy — anywhere, just as long as I can get more of their thoughts, words, actions, and reactions.  Show me the world through the eyes of someone interesting.

Give me Anya Balanchine in all these things i’ve done, Augustus McCrae in Lonesome Dove, Tyrion Lannister in the Songs of Ice & Fire series, Samwise and Gandalf in LOTR, Jane Eyre, or Humbert Humbert from Lolita.  Give me Chess Putnam and Sookie Stackhouse.  Hell, they don’t even have to be human.  Give me Fiver and Hazel in Watership Down.  Give me good characters and I’ll read every last word you have to write about them.  That’s a promise.

So, that’s it for me.  Characters.

How about you?  What element do you find the most compelling when you read?  What do you look for in a good book?  Do tell.  Writers everywhere want to know 🙂

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Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  Today I’ve got a full docket – I need to finish my lecture on the Zapotec and I want to start plotting out some revisions to ABSENT (2nd draft, here I come!).  I also have to work my bi-monthly shift at the Park Slope Food Co-op (something I like about as well as scraping poop off the bottom of my shoes).  I’m also working on a new short story set in a steampunk version of 1830’s Florida…

Snippet from the screen: “The dusk crept in and wrapped itself around Elizabeth.  It shrouded the scrub brush of the Seminole swamplands, and with it came a great Charon transport machine, clanking and groaning across the battlefield to collect the dead.”

On the iTunes: Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top (cause, you know, HELL YEAH!)

Out the window: Rain, and more rain…and still more rain.  It’s worse than the supposed “hurricane” last week.  Le Sigh.

In my mug: I have (gasp!) run out of my favorite tea (Numi Chinese Breakfast) and have resorted to a combination of Assam leaves and Irish Breakfast blend to achieve sufficient taste and “wake the hell up, Suri!” zing.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone (especially on such a rainy day): For those you working on synopses or queries, check out Chuck Windig’s 25 Things series on the self-same topic.  Or, over at Practical Free Spirit, you can read along as Amy Sundberg considers whether or not outer space has become an outdated topic for SciFi. Finally, I’ve recently started following K.C. Woolf’s blog.  She writes about travel, writing, and health with both passion and compassion.  Check it out.

Alright.  I’m off to do a little work.  Wish me luck, and share your goals for the day in the comments.  Pretty please?

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Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  with exactly a week to go before I leave for the field, I’m powering ahead in a last ditch effort to try and finish the first draft of ABSENT before heading south to Honduras.  I estimate I’ve got to write around 5K per day to meet this goal, and, in all likelihood, I will not make it.  Most probably, I will fail spectacularly.  Still, gotta try!

Snippet from the screen:

“Davis smiled at them genially enough, but his curiosity was clear.  His eyes lingered on their jeans and T-shirts.  “Where did you say you were from again?”

“We’re Americans,” Reid said.

“Ah.  Americans!”  Davis nodded as if this explained everything.”

On the iTunes:  at the moment, I’m listening to “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum.  But 3 minutes and 57 seconds from now, it’s anyone’s guess.

Keeping me company:  Well, my good-for-nothing cat is supposed to be lounging nearby, looking adorable, and occasionally allowing me to pet and feed him…BUT he’s opted instead to snooze on top of the refrigerator and utterly, completely ignore me.  Ungrateful cuss.  I’d include a photo, but since it’d just be of one of his ears barely visible above the cabinet edge, what’s the point?

Out the window:  it’s a beautiful, sunny day in Brooklyn and I’m enjoying the air conditioning while it lasts (it’s 96 degrees and 2,000% humidity in Honduras right now, and the village we live in while excavating is a 100% air conditioning-free zone).

In my mug:  Numi Chinese Breakfast tea

A little procrastination never hurt anyone:  first, you can head over to my archaeology blog and read up on my field project in Honduras.  Then, check out Chuck Wendig’s 25 things to know about writing a novel – funny and true.  And, if that ain’t enough for you, my dear, insatiable reader, mosey on over to Query Shark for a little truth smackdown.

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Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  One word for you all today: NOVEL.  Must finish the first draft.  Now that summer’s rolling along and I no longer have even the minor time pressures of my day job, I’ve decided to enforce a daily word count.  1500 a day and not a word less.  Most days I’ll get more, but if I don’t force myself to do at least this much I might get swallowed whole by the gaping maw of excuses (e.g. “I’ve got all the time in world,” “I’ll start writing after I view every Netflix watch-instantly movie from the 1980’s,” “Maybe I should clean out my closet/bookshelf/pantry/magazine rack again?” “Oh! Is that the ice cream truck I hear?”).  So, the novel and at least 1500 words.  Go.

Snippet from the screen:  “Dinner was a blur; Nick barely knew what he ate.  Music rolled over them in waves, crashing gently across the room.  He drank bourbon.  She had champagne.  They talked, telling each other stories about their lives, sharing secrets, leaning in across the table.”

On the iTunes: Rolling in the Deep, by Adele

Keeping me company: Mr. Ramses has been shunning me lately.  Whenever the hubby is out of town (as he is now), it becomes abundantly clear that Ramses prefers him vastly and actually might even hate me.  He appears only to imperiously demand food and play time (then looks at me disinterestedly once I actually get the toys out), or to bite me.  Good times around here, folks!

In my mug: Ceylon tea, slightly over-steeped and a little bitter.  But who am I kidding?  Of course I’ll drink it all.

Out my window:  95 degrees and sunny, as if God had taken a magnifying glass, held it down towards Brooklyn, and said “ROAST LITTLE PRIMATES, ROAST!”  The window A/C units are gasping like marathon runners in the final mile and it’s only 9am.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone: (except, as noted above, me).  But, nevertheless…  Check out Chuck Wendig on when to quit writing over at Terrible Minds.  It seems sleepless nights as a new dad have only spurred him to more humorous heights.  Or, if you prefer something a bit more serious, the lovely Mary Robinette Kowal has joined the team at Writing Excuses; go listen to their latest podcast on creativity.

Better yet, head to the comments and tell me what you’re up to today, what links you’d like share, or how blisteringly hot it is where you are.

Then go write.  Seriously.

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I’m a busy bee today, so I’ve put up a few links to distract you from whatever you’re supposed to be working on.  Never say I don’t do my part.

The SFWA blog on putting a price tag on your ideas (or not).

Chuck Wendig on how to avoid starvation and death as a writer.

Some advice for bloggers from Kristen Lamb.

A new Writing Excuses podcast on making the reader feel fear for your characters.

Have some great links of your own to share?  Post ’em in the comments…and happy procrastinating, my dears!

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