What’s in a First Sentence? In a Word: Everything

This is a guest post by Cindy C Bennett. Cindy lives in Utah with her high school sweetheart turned hubby of 25 years and two of her four kids. (The other two are still around, they just no longer live at home) She is the author of the new release from Sweetwater Geek Girl, a contemporary young adult novel. When not at her keyboard–which is rare–she can be found either reading, resting, or riding her Harley. Those are her “three R’s”. She feels very blessed and grateful for the opportunities life has afforded her so far. You can connect with Cindy online at her blog, on Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads. She also recently completed a blog tour.

Cindy would like to invite everyone out to celebrate Geek Girl’s release at the launch party Saturday, December 10th at Eborn Books, South Towne Mall,10450 S State St, Sandy, UT from 12-3 pm.

What’s in a First Sentence? In a Word: Everything

Cindy Bennett, LDS author, Local Utah author

Or maybe two words: almost everything. Why? In this crazy world of overly busy people who don’t have the luxury of down time like they used to, you have to hook them quick to get them to stay. Not to say that there aren’t plenty of books out there which start slowly then leisurely build. There are, particularly one very popular book series about vampires and werewolves which have since been made into an amazingly successful film franchise (is that clear enough?). Excepting the prologue (which does have a great hook) that book begins with a description of driving to the airport, the sky, and her blouse. Serious snooze.

However, those books had time to build word of mouth until they didn’t need that quick hook to pull readers in. If you have that same luxury, or if you’re an already established author with a loyal fan base, then you can stop reading now and go back to writing your slow-building novel. For the rest of us, read on.

I love to read. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. My life is very hectic. If a book doesn’t have me within the first few pages, I admit that I have a tendency to put it down and sometimes never get back to it. I used to be the kind of reader that stuck with a book to the bitter end, no matter how bad the book. I can’t do that anymore. I don’t have time. And I hardly think that I’m an exception to the rule. Everyone I know seems to be busy, busy, busy.

This is the first line of my Cedar Fort novel Geek Girl: “Think I can turn that boy bad?”

Geek Girl by Cindy Bennett, Contemporary YA, High school Romance, LDS Utah authors

Why did I choose to start there? Because I thought it was an intriguing question. Who is she, who is it she wants to turn bad, and why does she want to? My hope was that it would be enough to keep my reader reading until I could firmly entrench them in the story. Conversations are much more interesting to begin with over long, boring descriptions””as long as it’s not the middle of a conversation which will confuse your reader. The beginning of your book is an excellent place to use the clichéd but oh-so-true show not tell.

When you’ve typed the last page of your novel, and invisibly typed “the end” (because we all know you never do that in reality), go back to the beginning and see how good your hook is. You may not necessarily have to have an over-the-top amazing first line, but you’d better have a pretty attention grabbing first few pages, at least. Think of it as your (ugh!) query letter to your reader. If you lose them at the beginning, you just may lose them forever. And in the immortal words of Johnny Mathis (before my time! I’m not that old””yet) “. . . that’s a long, long, time.”

The ‘Art’ of Writing a Flawed Character

This is a Guest Post by Shannen Crane Camp.Shannen was born and raised in Southern California where she developed a love of reading and writing, completing her first (very) short story in the fifth grade. She continued to write throughout junior high and high school before finally deciding that enough was enough; it was time to be an author. She moved to Provo, Utah, to attend Brigham Young University where she attained a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and a very well received proposal from her fellow California resident Josh Camp. The two are now happily married and living in Provo. You can find heer online at her blog or on GoodReads.

Driving home from work today I was thinking about criticism I could receive once my book comes out. I realize this is an odd thing to think about but as the release date draws near my paranoid mind can’t help itself. I want to be prepared with an answer for any “˜Why did you do that?’ question.

The Break-up Artist by Shannen Crane Camp, LDS Authors, Utah Authors, Teen books, books for teens, clean romance books,One of the things that immediately came to mind is the fact that my main character, Amelia, is a bit self-righteous and clingy. I realize that’s not really the way you want to describe your characters but think about this: how boring would it be if she wasn’t flawed?

I think sometimes it’s hard for writers to write a character who can be unlikable. We want so much to make our characters perfect but how realistic is that? When was the last time you met a perfect person? Even though people will read the stupid decisions your character makes and say, “Why did they do that? Aren’t we supposed to like them?” they’ll eventually start to think, “I’ve made stupid decisions like that.” And pow! There’s your connection between the character and the reader.

No one’s perfect. Perfect characters are annoying, boring, and unrealistic. Flaws make us who we are and make us interesting so don’t be afraid to have your characters do unlikable things. It’s OK for them to make mistakes if there’s a purpose behind it.

Now this doesn’t mean you should make your characters make every bad decision they possibly can. That’s being untreatable on the opposite extreme. Just let them make decisions that they’re going to learn from in the end.

When writing try to ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Has my character made any mistakes in this story?
  2. Does my character somehow know everything that’s going to happen in the story and plan accordingly (your character probably shouldn’t be so perfect that they help the story along”¦ in fact you may want to make the story end up OK in spite of your character’s imperfections).
  3. And last, if I were friends with my character in real life would I think they’re relatable?Shannen Camp, Break-up Artist, Local Utah Author, LDS author

Whenever I’m writing a scene I’ll take a step back and weigh my options on how the situation should turn out. They can say something perfectly adapted to the situation that I, as the author, have sat and thought about for hours. Or they can make the decision that I would have made if I were actually in that situation and had only a split second to decide what I wanted to say. The outcome is usually much less eloquent than I’d like but it’s real. And sometimes real is more important than perfect.

So “˜self righteous Amelia’, you’re kind of annoying when you think you’re above everyone else, but you learn from it so keep making mistakes and growing. We’ll love you for it eventually.

Listening to the Voices in your Head—Character Building through Dialogue

This is a guest post by Melissa Lemon. Melissa began writing books and inventing characters as a young child and never stopped. Many of her book ideas have come from stories her children coerced out of her on the spot. Her first published book, Cinder and Ella is now available. You can also watch the trailer or visit Melissa on her blog.

One of the best ways for me to get to know my characters is to listen to them. No, I’m not schizophrenic, thanks for asking. Think about it, though. How much can you learn about someone by listening to them? (If you need to know the answer to that rhetorical question, go to a local restaurant, sit in a corner with a notebook and people watch.)

My books usually stem from a simple idea. I think on that idea FOREVER. Then I jot down a plot and think some more. And think some more. In those thoughts, I imagine the characters, what they think about, what they feel, what happens to them, and how they talk. A lot of the time I can hear a voice so clearly””I want to emphasize here again that I’m not schizophrenic””it’s like the character walked up to me and began a conversation.

Since I never know when these characters are going to make an “appearance,” I carry notebooks with me everywhere and keep one on my nightstand because I’ve learned they have no respect for my bedtime and need for sleep. These notebooks are filled with conversations between the characters in my various books. Then, when I’m working on actually writing the book and working through the plot and description, I plug in their pretty little voices.

Meet some of the Characters of Cinder and Ella:

Ella: “When do you think you’ll remember where we are?” Can you hear the sarcasm?

Tanner: “I’m so sorry.” Clumsy knight is written all over that, especially since he says it constantly.

Katrina: “Mother, I must have a new dress or I will never come out of my room again!” I think that one speaks for itself.

William: “Time is precious to a man who has many women to spoil and much wine to drink.” Drunken idiot. He hardly says anything worth listening to. And yet, there he is, in my head.

Maybe I am schizophrenic. I sound schizophrenic.

 

What are the voices in your head saying?

Eating Crow: How My Research Proved I Was Wrong

This is a guest post by Dr. Vaughn E. Hansen. Vaughn has taught graduate students at Utah State University, and served as a consulting engineer in more than 20 countries. Then a prophet sent Vaughn and his first wife Donell on a mission to England where unexpectedly they learned much about the earliest inhabitants of that land and we were able to publish Israel’s Lost Ten Tribes before Donell died 16 years ago. He has also written 50 technical bulletins and papers and co-authored a text book. Nine years ago, Vaughn and his second wife, Regina, were sent on a two year mission to western New York. Once again precious information came, and this publication Cumorah has now been published.

Cumorah: Great Lakes Region Land of the Book of Mormon by Vaughn E. Hansen, LDS books, LDS authors, Historical non-fictionI had to eat crow, before I was able to write this book about Cumorah. Eating crow is not a pleasant experience. Years ago I had published a book claiming that Guatemala and Mexico were the lands of the Book of Mormon. Then I had a soul wrenching experience while my sweetheart Regina and I were on a mission in western New York for two years. I discovered I had been wrong! The Book of Mormon prophets lived in the Great Lakes Region, not in Guatemala and Mexico. Did I have the courage and the capacity to admit my error? Did I have the capacity to assemble and to document the truth?

With that understanding and with a firm commitment, I began an intense effort to assemble and to publish the truth for those who would be interested. I began a most remarkable journey. I returned to the Book of Mormon, and collated 350 distinct scriptures about the land. Then we studied maps, reviewed archaeological reports and met with several archaeologists; at local libraries we read the reports written by early explorers; and traveled over the land visiting ancient sites, some very obscure. All of this information, including the 350 scriptures, fit the physical land features in the Great Lakes Region. This was startling, because the Book of Mormon is a 1,000 year record written by 14 authors.

Although we were very busy with mission responsibilities while living in the area, we kept a note book and pen in the car at all times noting sites, thoughts, and conversations with local residents. These notes were entered into the computer for easy reference.

Previously I had been in the Great Lakes Region of the United States several times over the years, and had acquired a sincere testimony of the precious spiritual experiences that had occurred in the Sacred Grove and at the hill Cumorah. But the increased understanding about the land of the Book of Mormon that came while on our mission in western New York for two years was very precious. Increased understanding came as we visited local museums that had artifacts dating to the time period of the Book of Mormon.

Needed information was gleaned from remarkable people.

We went to the Hill Cumorah and the Sacred Grove many times, and one day on that hill with 100 young missionaries, I testified that prophets had identified this hill as the location where the Jaredites and also where the Nephites had their final battles that destroyed their civilizations.

About nine years passed before my research was completed and accepted for publication. All of the information assembled confirmed that the land of the Book of Mormon was in the Great Lakes Region. This published document contains 350 scriptures about the land and shows a close correlation with physical land features in the Great Lakes Region. My journey was worth every piece of Crow I had to eat.

Some have asked “Why is it important to learn about the land of the Book of Mormon? Is not the purpose of this book to serve as “˜Another witness of Jesus Christ’?” My answer is yes! But then may I ask “Why are there more than 350 scriptures inserted in the Book of Mormon by the prophets about the land where they lived?” The answer to these questions is that scriptures about the land enrich the spiritual messages about Christ. Information about the land where these prophets lived provides the reader with an increased living reality with the primary spiritual message, and a tighter personal bond occurs between the author and the reader.

So join me as I share with you what the scriptures reveal about the land. You will enjoy visiting the land of the Book of Mormon.

 

Switching Perspective – Writing from the Opposite Gender’s Point of View

This is a guest post by Stephanie Worlton. We are hosting her today as part of her blog tour which runs through November 11th. Find out some perks about her blog tour on her websiteor watch the book trailer.

Stephanie was raised in the suburbs of Salt Lake City where she developed a love for designing, building, and ultimately creating pretty much anything she can get her hands on. Her love for design drove her to pursue an Architecture degree, her love of family pulled her home to be a mom. She is the proud mother of four amazing children whonoisilyshare her home with her, her very patient husband, their two dogs, and on any given day aplethoraof neighborhood kids – mostly teenagers.”

I’m not a boy, although occasionally I have a sense of humor like one. And, I’m not sure it’s a good thing, but I’ve been told I can be a bit adolescent like one too. Not really useful traits, I suppose, unless of course, I were to decide to write from the perspective of the opposite sex.

Which is exactly what I did in Hope’s Journey.

It didn’t start out that way though. The original plan was to tell the story solely from the perspective of Sydney – a 17 yr old girl. Yah, not exactly an original idea, I know. What I needed to do was tell both sides of the story, but how was I supposed to do that with a single, first-person narrator? Impossible. So, I tried a third-person narrative”¦ again, bad idea. In order to encapsulate the deep emotion and complex thought process of both main-characters, I needed to dive right into both of their heads.

So, I dove in”¦. and I dove deep. Here’s what I learned:

Research it out – Because I’ve never been a teenage boy, I had to depend heavily on those who currently are or, at some point, have been. I spent a lot of time observing and asking questions. (I’m sure there were people that thought I was a nut job!) And, because I wanted to show vulnerability and depth, this interviewing process was irreplaceable. The last thing I needed was to create a big, tough, pansy boy! I needed Alex to be as realistic as possible ““ a “fake” or “idealized” boy had no place in my story. He needed to be tangible ““ authentic to the point that even I had to believe his existence.

Consult an Expert – My amazing husband became my greatest male-psyche asset. We had many, many late-night conversations. I asked questions like how would you feel? What would you do? And a lot of other what’s, why’s, and how’s. Sometimes I’d write something only to be told that I’d completely missed the mark. There were other times that I wanted to make Alex do something or say something that would’ve made total sense to a girl, but as I was kindly reminded, would’ve been completely uncharacteristic for a boy. So, I edited”¦ and edited again.

Hope's Journey by Sephanie Connelley Worlton, Teen Pregnancy, lds romance books

Keep it organized – I was so intent on accurately portraying Alex that I never worked on his chapters and Sydney’s chapters simultaneously. I had to keep them separate ““ not just on paper, but especially in my mind. They had to have their own thoughts, their own voice, and even their own narration styles. My writing journal became priceless.

Writing from the opposite gender’s point-of-view is only as insurmountable as you let it be. If you’re open to input – and maybe even a little constructive criticism – it can be a very fun and eye-opening endeavor. I really enjoyed looking at things from a different angle and anticipate the challenge of writing from a male perspective again.