Sunday, November 12, 2017

New Steed, NaNoWriMo, Darkness & Light



It's been a whirlwind fall, which is my best pathetic excuse for the lack of posts. Okay, here's a better one: NaNoWriMo. I've 'won' NaNo before - completing 50k words in thirty short days with the yield of an utterly un-publishable manuscript but a heartily beefed-up writing muscle.

This time, my goal is more moderate. The plan is to simply write a little every day and to be kind to myself with the understanding that, for me, for right now, life is a balancing act of parenting, partnering, working, exercising, socializing and, of course, getting those letters on the page. At my current unspeakable age, I have learned that all of these are important and the trick is to pay a little attention to each in turn.

Behold, my October in pictures. Top right is my last outdoor ride before the rains began, at Seattle's Gasworks Park with my awesome new bicycle. On the left is a piece of the Berlin Wall on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Definitely worth the trip for both the incredible artifacts and the revelations betrayed by their curation. Case in point, this warning sign, reading, 'DO NOT TOUCH. Please help us preserve the condition of the Berlin Wall.' Might I add, Western graffiti and all, since the other (Eastern) side is cruelly pristine - a chilling reminder of the dark experiences of those trapped within.


And finally, because smiling, too, feels essential these days, a snap of me at the Tabard Inn on Capitol Hill, sharing a hug with a resident furry ambassador.

Sending warm writing wishes as the season grows cold!


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ah, Stephen Crane, we need you now...

A man said to the universe:
   "Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
"A sense of obligation."

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Chill-Weather Reads

                   One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns) by [Blake, Kendare]



This fall, my reading list is lush with worlds to which I can fly only via words and it feels so right to visit them while my cellular self snuggles by a cozy fire.

Where will pages take you this season?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Small Towns in Fiction: Place as (Un)Motivator

What is it about small towns and dark emotions? Having grown up quite happily in a small town, it never ceases to amaze me how places where there are more farm acres than cows accrue so many mythical attributes, particularly in fiction.

Is it me, or are small towns a sort of shorthand for certain tropes, such as...

  • social immobility
  • financial struggle
  • depositories of dark secrets
  • hotbeds of gossip
  • places with horrible high schools

I suppose cities have their own stereotypes involving gangs, Wall Street and high-rise apartments. And, Blue Velvet plus The Stepford Wives has certainly totaled up some assumptions about suburbia.

There's no denying that employing SETTING AS CHARACTER can be a powerful writing technique employed in books as diverse as Wuthering Heights and The Hunger Games. Beyond literature, it is instructive to break down cinematic examples of this strategy, such as Fargo, Breaking Bad, and Lost in Translation.


I recently read and enjoyed two novels set in small towns: PANIC by Lauren Oliver and ALL THE MISSING GIRLS by Megan Miranda. Though one book is an adult murder mystery and the other a young adult novel, both crossed into thriller territory and both are decidedly and critically set in SMALL TOWNS. In PANIC, the town is Carp, while in ...GIRLS, the setting is Cooley Ridge.

The thing that particularly struck me about the role of the small town in these novels was the nuance of its function not so much as a CHARACTER in the novels, although the small-town setting certainly contributed to the stories' tones, so much as the way PLACE functioned as a MOTIVATOR in the stories. In PANIC, characters make choices due to a desire to escape the town and other choices due to a sense that there is no way to escape. In ...GIRLS, the narrator's departure from and return to the town drives twists and turns of the plot, while a sort of social line is drawn between those who have left and those who have stayed in Cooley Ridge.

As you write your manuscript, it might be worth it to pay attention not merely to ways that place can set a tone or evoke emotion, but to ways in which place drives action. Consider:


  • Do characters' manners or other behaviors change due to place?
  • Does being in a given setting impact characters' value systems?
  • If a character had been absent from a given setting, how might your story--and your world--be different?
  • Is your place a starting point or a dead end?
  • How does the setting impact characters' sense of self?


In skilled hands, place can serve multiple functions without the need to complicate the story with extraneous secondary characters. It can be a rainy paradise or a rainbow-hued prison. It can drive a character to madness or lead a character to unexpected love.

Make a list of small-town settings from novels you have read. Do they fit the trope parameters described above? Does the author use the setting to do more than establish mood? What can your setting - be it small town, big city, or something entirely different - do for your writing?








Saturday, October 7, 2017

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY AT KCLS WOODINVILLE: CHARACTER with Lish McBride


SATURDAY, October 14, 2017

10:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library 
17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville 


Author (Pyromantic; Hold Me Closer, Necromancer; Firebug) and bookseller LISH McBRIDE returns to the Second Saturdays program to help you dig deep into character. Give fully-developed motivations to your characters’ actions. Make your protagonist more complex and your villain more compelling. A combination of discussion and writing exercises will help you refine this all-important element of your manuscript.


Lish McBrideThis workshop is free and registration is not required. For more details, click here.