Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Swamp's The Happenin' Place

The swamp does seem to be where all the ACTION is today because Alligators is visiting three more great blogs. And that started me thinking about--of all things--writing stories.


I'm one of those writers who likes to start with characters, then figure out what their story should be. I'm a terrible plotter, so it takes me a while to start the story engine, and I guess that's why I  have to rewrite the beginning after I've written "The End." My beginnings are miserable in early drafts. They can put a couch to sleep, really.

When I do my final revisions, I jump between rewriting the first pages to rewriting further into the story, tweaking both until I get that engine firing on all cylinders from page one. What I've found is that a smoothly running plot is really all about bringing those characters to life on the page before I do anything else. To me the characters are where the real ACTION is.

I have a lot to say about this, but I'm going to start with one easy characterization technique, EXAGGERATION. I love this when I'm writing for kids, but I think it works for adult stories as well. Here's what I mean.


"Max towered over all the kids in the fifth grade and outweighed them by a bazillion pounds. He outweighed Josh by two bazillion." (The Aliens From Murrg, C. Lee McKenzie)

Sure Max might be big, but I wanted him to appear super big to the kids at school. The description is funny because it's impossible. It gives an idea to the reader that maybe this Max scares those kids, especially Josh, so there's a bit of plot hinted in this short characterization. I'm getting to the ACTION through the character.

"Girl, my fingernails could grow an inch just waiting for you." (High Hearts, Rita Mae Brown)

I loved this because how often have I waited for someone who is never on time, all the while wishing I had a way to express my frustration, humorously. Brown does that. I can see the friends in this scene, one tapping her foot, the other having just strolled up late again.

Do you use EXAGGERATION? Are characters your first entry into the story or do you try to figure out the plot first? I'll try to come up with another technique tomorrow and run it past you to get your take on what I do when crafting my stories. 

Now I hope you'll say hi to LM PRESTON whose newest book Flutter Of Love has just come out, but she's written several and here's another of her action-packed stories.

DARBY KARCHUT, who series is getting a lot of buzz and awards.




and DONNA MCDINE, who I've know since before I published anything, is going to host today and her interview is one I really enjoyed doing because I feel I've known her since I began this trip through book land. Hope you'll stop in and say hi to this award winning author who supports authors all the time. 



28 comments:

  1. I hadn't thought of using exaggeration like that. I've have to try it.

    I struggle with developing the characters, not plot. Funny how we all have different things to work through.

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  2. I haven't used exaggeration although I should. I always start with characters though.

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  3. I don't exaggerate, but I can see it's good to use in middle grade books because my kids love that stuff!

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  4. Exaggeration makes kids' books come alive, I think, and it makes kids laugh...at least the kid readers who live in my house. When my kids come across a line they find hilarious, they often read it aloud to me--and usually it involves exaggeration.

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  5. Many stories do seem to end up being an exaggeration of real life. :)

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  6. I like your metaphor, for me its a string of beads, I have some of them either fully realised or sketched then I sit down and try to join them all up.

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  7. I like exaggeration, espcially in my YA books because teens tends to exaggerate. You know...."I'm going to die i he talks to me..." hehehe

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  8. Depending on the story... yes, I've used exaggeration, it makes for humor.

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  9. Less obvious exaggeration is part of almost every narration, but the off the top sort belongs in certain genres, or even IS the genre, like tall-tales.

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  10. I sometimes use it, though mostly in dialogue--people exaggerate when they're talking all the time.

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  11. I'm tweaking my beginning again. It's the hardest part of the whole process, I think. Maybe I'll play with this exaggeration thing :)

    Thanks for the tip!

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  12. Exaggeration's fun to play with, and I like it when it's funny.

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  13. Congrats to LM and Darby.

    Those cars are seriously cool. Glad your tour is going strong, Lee.

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  14. I usually end up rewriting or heavily revising the first chapter after writing the last.

    Those are great examples of exaggeration. I've used that device myself.

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  15. Great post! I love using exaggeration in my books. My CPs have less of a sense of humor and keep trying to correct me -- like when you use "bazillion pounds" they'd say, But it couldn't really be a bazillion. Probably fifty pounds at most.
    But I'm so glad you get it! Yay Lee and ALLIGATORS OVERHEAD!

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  16. I like to exaggerate- in talking and writing. I appreciate its boundless hilarity- love the High Hearts line : ) ~ Jess
    http://thesecretdmsfilesoffairdaymorrow.blogspot.com

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  17. I love exaggeration! A character of mine happens to be pretty good at it. That and sarcasm ;)

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  18. Great examples of exaggeration! I think I may have caused a few people to watch their nails grow an inch on one or two occasions! Julie

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  19. good question and well, yes I do use exaggeration since Hurricae is the perfect candidate to use it for...thanks for the thoughts!~

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  21. I always start with my characters, and I love reading books that are character-driven. The plot is usually something I have trouble with later on, because it feels tangible to my mind, but I sometimes let my characters lead me astray.

    I don't often use exaggeration as a technique, but some of my favourite book use it; including Gail Carriger's The Parasol Protectorate.

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  22. Max was how big!?!? Yay!! Love your sample to illustrate exageration! It's fun and really gives a super image of Max!!

    Take care
    x

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  23. Hi Lee .. I certainly use exaggeration in my conversations ... especially when I'm animated ... out come the hands, the widening eyes, the eye contact .. the slow talk making sure everyone gets my point ... I don't do it in my posts ...

    But I love your examples .. and Old Kitty's - how big?!

    Great to read ... cheers Hilary

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  24. I like exaggeration too. My characters usually drive the story. Love the car pictures.

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  25. I'd have to say I don't have a pattern. Sometimes it's a plot, sometimes it's a character, and sometimes it's just a scene.

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  26. that's so cool to read about your writing process, and how you put together your stories. thanks for sharing!

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  27. Exaggeration with tickle my kids every time. I also hear them echoing the exaggeration as they talk to each other later.

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