THE SEVEN PLOTS

“They” say there are only seven plots in the world. Not sure I believe that, but I do know that certain plot points are used over and over. The inept writer will use the tried and true while the bestselling author puts their own mark on it.

For instance, if a character gets sucked up into a tornado, they’ll die…unless they’re Dorothy from Kansas. A gunshot to the head means death, right? Not necessarily. Depending on where the shot enters and leaves the skull or the caliber of the bullet, a character could survive, though they seldom do without some kind of neurological damage. Think Harrison Ford in REGARDING HENRY.

I happen to love the cheesy SF “monster” movies on the SyFy channel. They all have the same plot and I don’t have to pay close attention which is handy when I’m doing something else like laundry or dishes. There is the creature, usually big and fast and constantly angry. They sweep through the landscape, killing every half naked female they can find. Their one good aspect is they always kill the greedy land developer/resort owner/mayor/whatever.

Never mind that most animals hunt only for food and usually don’t attack humans unless threatened or protecting their young. Never mind that most animals who eat large prey usually have to digest the first one before they eat another. Or that the law of aerodynamics make mosquitos 10 feet long unable to fly, though it is cool when they get squashed by the semi-truck.
In other words, those writers write SF stories with little science.

Even better SF movies often have problems. I loved the Mel Gibson movie SIGNS and bought into the entire plot, aliens and all, right up to the end. But as I walked out of the movie, the first question that hit me was how could water hurt the alien when breathing out atmosphere didn’t? Earth has a pretty moist atmosphere, even with drought and the aliens should have choked to death the minute they stepped out of their ship.

H.G. Wells understood that when he wrote WAR OF THE WORLDS. His aliens never left their ships; they sent their robots to do the hand to hand battle. But they weren’t protected from the bacteria in our air that their ships couldn’t or didn’t filter and that did them in. I LOVED that little nugget when I first read the story!

So, you intrepid authors, never mind whether your plot’s been used before; it probably has. It’s in the plot sections where you need to shine. Don’t have your heroine go down into the dark basement…unless she is fully armored and armed, ready to kick creepy person or creature’s ass!

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Judging Entries

With our Where The Magic Begins contest, I face good/bad/ugly.  No surprise what the good is, that gem of an entry that leaves you wondering why the entrant hasn’t been published yet. The bad is while reading, sometimes–I hate to admit–I don’t want to think that hard when I read a not so brilliant entry.

The ugly–I just want to bang my head against the screen. And it is those entries that remind me I was one of those. Without entering contests with patient judges, (and the one who told me my baby was so ugly that it needed to be drowned then burned) I wouldn’t have strengthened my writing muscles.

Judging entries–priceless!

(BTW: To that judge who was nasty. . .karma is a b*tch!)

Where Do You Stand?

Writing is a solitary business. No one can hold your hand as you sit at the keyboard and create your masterpieces. Yet we need others to help us along the way. Otherwise we’d go crazy.

I’ve said this before, but belonging to a writers group is important. Not just for the  moral support, but for help with your writing. We need critique partners to help us find plot problems, over used words, clichés (that I swear I don’t see when I write them), redundant words, excessive tag lines or just plain boring prose. Yep. It takes a village. IMHO, anyway.

But when it boils down to you sucking it up and sending your baby to an editor or  agent, you have to do it alone. Only you can make the decision to put your work out there, no matter what others have said to you, good or bad. You have to follow your  own gut.

No matter what we do in life, we ultimately have to stand on our own two feet and go  it alone. Even with a spouse, children, family and friends, we are responsible for our own lives, our own writing.

Polish those pages until you’re so sick of them you want to puke, then find the perfect market and send it out.

Stand tall, stand proud.

Your village is behind you. 🙂

Linda Trout

Routine

Sandee talked Thursday about being organized and finding order. Honestly, Sandee, considering the past year of your life, I’m happy you remember your name and current location!

I read a flippant comment somewhere about RoUTine. I like being in a rut. Nothing in my life goes as well as when I’m on deadline. I know what I need to do every day, and I do it. If there’s not a deadline looming, I am the Queen — nay, Goddess of Procrastination. My productive days go like this: I get up, have breakfast at my computer (oatmeal and coffee), play MahJong, check email (occasionally), read what I wrote the day before, then write new pages.

Any day I break that routine, I don’t stand much chance of accomplishing anything. Unfortunately, following the routine doesn’t mean I’ll accomplish anything, either. I may get lost in an endless loop of MahJong. The husband might lure me away with the promise of a meal out. I might go to the house for a cup of ice and wind up watching two hours of Cops and the George Lopez Show. I might need a nap. (Aw, heck, I always need a nap.)

But at least with the routine, I’ve got a chance at getting something done. That’s all a person can ask, isn’t it?

 

Friday Book Reviews: King, Fergus and Paretsky

Marilyn here. Today we’re adding a new Slut to our roster. Welcome Robyn Daniels, who’s going to share some of her recent reading experiences with us! Take it away, Robyn!

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Today we begin a new Friday book review. If you want a particular book reviewed please contact me. If you wish to review a book we ask that it not be your own work. Make review between 20 and 300 words. Scale between 1-5 stars with one being worst book you ever read. Five is for a best ever read. We reserve the right to edit reviews for length and content. The reviews are based on recent reads.

FRIDAY BOOK REVIEW

THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE by Jacquelyn King ***

The first book in the Grace Cassidy Bed & Breakfast series offers a slick little mystery. Grace’s intuition or instincts guide her to the solution. This reader looks forward to the next book.

Grace leads a sheltered life complete with the well-off lady naiveté’ until her husband and his secretary clean her out. This is a well written and comfortable book which begs reading sitting before the fireplace and sipping your favorite drink as you settle in for a cozy read. The characters were well developed and very likeable except one or two. Sam and Grace move toward their developing romance and mutual attraction.

I especially enjoyed Grace adapting to major life changes often defusing her stress with humor to stay the course

ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN (THE JOURNAL of MARY DODD) by Jim Fergus*

The basic premise for One Thousand White Women came from the Cheyenne Chief, “Little Wolf’s 1854 proposal” to trade 1,000 horses for 1,000 white women.  Chief Little Wolf understands the tribe needed to assimilate into a white world was the basis for this sensible proposal. From Chief Little Wolf’s historic proposal Fergus created this work of fiction. Fergus captures today’s politically correctness of the white society’s treatment of Native American and our nation’s shortcomings flagrantly disregarding treaty after treaty. Thus Fergus caricature and stereotypes of 1870’s America women slaps at deliberate.

Heroine Mary Dodd and the other brides are too one dimensional. Their boldness could step beyond polite society and be believable among the Cheyenne as so few of us know or understand that matriarchal culture. Granted the women who signed on to become brides did so for a variety of reasons. The writer’s stereotyping and clichés misses the opportunity to show the determination and fortitude of women. Omitted were the especially large number of Civil War sweethearts and widows who longed to be mothers. Writing about these marital sexual encounters, Fergus displayed no sensitivity to women readers. His characters were cardboard cutouts. When this book launched it did not do the business it now receives marketed to women’s book clubs. How sad we have missed what One Thousand White Women could have been.

BLEEDING KANSAS by Sara Paretsky****

Sara Paretsky took a departure from V.I. Warshawski and created a great novel which appears to have received reader fallout. The problem I suspect is that the private eye series is written in the first person and does not require concentration to ferret all the players. Paretsky weaves pre-Civil War Kaw (Kansas River) Valley and Lawrence, Kansas settlers into the lives of three founding families.

Jim and Susan Grellier with their teenage children Chip and Lara are modern farmers with solid values who still gamble on the crops the way it’s always been.

The fractured Schapens provide a religious perspective which I found frightening. The matriach actually blogs which goes against sterotype for the elderly. Her son is a mean deputy sheriff. Together they are raising his two sons, Junior and Robbie.

The Freemantle family once of great wealth have left the ancestral mansion standing empty for some years. A shirt tailed relative, Gina moves in to lick her wounds after a New York divorce. Her attempt to develop her interests catalyzes the story. Old diaries bind the past to present. Doomed young love raises the stakes. You can look forward to modern farm life, religion, Iraq War, and persecution in this read. Disclaimer: I believe Sara Paretsky may have taken artistic license to say KU was a hotbed in the 60’s and 70’s.

CONTESTS R US!

Or more to the point, I hate being on contests committees. All contests are dumb! All contestants are a pain in the a**! All contest entries look for ways to drive me crazy! I hate everybody!

*Sigh*

Okay, now that I’m over my temper tantrum, I really don’t hate contests. Or contestants or entries. Though there are some people who are alive only because I’m afraid to go to prison for life. But somebody explain to me why writers can’t read.

I mean, most writers admit they’re huge readers. But some of you can’t read instructrions? What part of putting the synopsis and the entry in one file is difficult to understand? Why is it difficult to understand that a contest deadline is the same as a deadline an editor might give you? Why do you send your entry form to the category chair instead of the contest chairman, despite it being on the contest rules who gets who?

Luckily, all the entries are here…finally. Susie Q. has sent along the judge list, so all I have left to do now is bundle up the entries and get them to the assigned judges. I wait to make sure they all get their entries. Then I get to do what I consider the best part.

Judge.

Sometimes it’s painful. The entrant sends in work that is no where ready to be sent to an editor. These entries need special handling. You have to give them contructive comments that will help them improve their writing, all without undercutting their confidence in their talent.

Most entries are a pleasure to judge. Some of the entrants are so close to selling, you can almost see the front cover on the shelf. A tweak here, a tug there, and you hope that you’ll see the entry entered in our published author’s contest, MORE THAN MAGIC.

But the real reward is that rare, not seen every contest, entry that litterally blows you away. The concept or characters or voice that makes you turn over the last page, looking for the “rest of the story”. I’ve had a couple that I actually wrote my email address on, telling them to let me know the release date so I can buy it.

Now, except for totalling up the scores when they come in, I’m free to do my judging and rest until next year?

Hmmm?

What?

What do you mean I’m the contest chair on the MORE THAN MAGIC contest?

Are you serious!!!????

Oh.

Hi, I’m Jackie Kramer, contest for the MTM contest. Let me tell all you published authors about….

What Happens. . .

the words don’t come?   For me, it has been a L-O-N-G dry spell–sorta. The brain never stops creating them, the body doesn’t sit long enough to comply. My close writing advisors suggested doing something else. I have. And it’s almost ready.