Premise and Momentum

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I want to share an exercise with you all that recently helped me better understand drama, momentum and stakes. I’m part of a workshop and we did this exercise in my last class. It really opened up my current work in progress. I hope it helps you guys as much as it helped me!

 

This is an exercise by Bill Johnson, it is NOT MINE! I simply want to share his wisdom. I’ve reworded a few things, but I take no credit. Here is a link to the full essay, which I highly encourage you all to read. Everything below is just a brief overview.

Each character needs to have their own stakes and they all need to be somehow connected in order to drive the story forward. How do you do that?

To create drama, the writer needs to make the reader care about what is going on. That is easier said than done. The best way to do that is to convey
1- What is at stake in the world of the story
2- What is at stake for the individual in the story
3- What is at stake in each individual scene
4- How the outcome of individual scenes and character goals move the story forward.

What’s at stake in the world of the story (the premise) needs to be connected to each character’s personal stakes. If there is drama that the character isn’t emotionally attached to, then the characters can come off as mechanical, acting only to advance the story. If a character doesn’t have forward momentum then they aren’t necessary, not matter how funny/sweet/ wonderful they are. They only interrupt forward movement.

How do you test this? EASY!

1- What is the premise of your story/ book?
2-What is at stake for each of your characters (even the minor ones!)
3- What is the main thing in the way of each character?
4- Locate one scene or character that does not advance the plot and cut them! Your story will open up!

48042-Book-NerdI cannot describe how great this exercise was. Surprisingly, the hardest part for each of us in the class was figuring out what our premise really was. How can you write a book if you don’t know exactly what  you are writing about? Writers tend to do that more often than you’d think, especially in the beginning. It is easy to think your premise is something it’s not. For example, I though my premise was ” Revenge on the bay guy” but after some digging I realized my premise is “Revenge takes more than it gives you”. That is a premise I can craft a meaningful novel around and build characters with.

Good luck guys, and keep writing!jessica grace kelleyt signature

 

The Publishing Industry is Subjective

If you are a writer who’s ever pitched a novel, or simply googled insight into the publishing industry, chances are you’ve heard this before.

I know I’ve heard it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve even accepted it. But it wasn’t until this past week I truly understood it. The following experience gave me a different view on those words.

About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to judge the first round of a writing contest. It was a simple “answer these questions, see if you qualify, and you can judge” sort of thing, but I was still looking forward to it. I couldn’t wait to see what the contest process was like from the other side! I opened the entries with excitement, read through them, made notes, and instantly attached to a certain story.  A week later I reread my samples, focusing on the technicalities and quality of writing. I carefully considered, tried to provide helpful feedback, and sent my judged files back to the contest coordinator with a sense of satisfaction. My judgments were fair. Every score I gave could be justified (at least by me!).

But here’s the crazy thing-

I didn’t give my favorite story the highest score.

Why? Because technically, it wasn’t the best. The highest scoring story flowed better. The sample was flawless. There were no mistakes, no awkward phrasing, and no grammatical errors (that I picked up on). It was simply  well written.

However, something about the second ranking sample spoke to me. The characters grabbed me, and the story drew me in. I wanted to read it.

What’s really puzzling is if I were to summarize the story lines, the highest ranking book had a better plot. More happened. It moved at a quick pace. But there was something about the second place book I loved. I don’t know what it was. I can’t explain it. It simply connected with me.

As I ponder this experience  I’m blasted with an understanding I thought I previously grasped, but obviously didn’t.

The love of a book is subjective.859697

My judging experience opened
my eyes to a new side of things. I’ll probably need to reread this post in the future to remind myself, but I finally understand. If  I were an agent, I wouldn’t have requested a full for an arguably well written book, simply because it didn’t speak to me.

This taught me how important it is to find people who connect with your work.  If my writing is good, and I constantly strive to improve my craft, eventually I will find the right people to help me get my book out there. A big part of success is commitment.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. jessica grace kelleyt signature

Until then, I’ll keep writing

 

 

 

House of Kings

Come to me, you beautiful book!

house of kings

 

The House of Kings cover nails the series vibe with the sultry, mysterious vamp king and the strong, beautiful Alivia dominating the front.

I hate spoilers, so I’ll just give a little overview of the excitement level in this book. There’s death, Kings and lost love. Lies and speculation snowball into heartbreaking danger and threats.  Old flames die off, then disappear, then come back, and new flames shine … brighter? There’s love, lust, temptation, and did I mention the heat in this book is smoking?

Damn-hot-fanning-

But House of Kings is also full of sticky, bitter, complicated angst. Alivia’s heart is shattered into a hundred little pieces, which gives her a few scars. she finally wakes up as her new self, which awakens parts that are vicious and flawed. It was hard to see Alivia struggle, but I also think it was necessary.  Characters need flaws in order to create depth and show growth. I think Alivia is going to be redeemed in the next book, along with another key character that might of made some mistakes too…

But no spoilers!

King Cyrus is such an interesting character. I love the dark guys. Raheem is sexy walking, and Ian is, well, he’s Ian.

I do want to warn you. Keary likes to cut a story off at a high stake point. She wants to guarantee her readers come back, and she is a pro at carrying out her mission. As much as I loved the book and the ending, the suspense is not fun. The ending is a sharp drop off a helluva tormenting cliffhanger.

So, I’m ready for the next book. When is the release date?

Does anyone know?

I need to know!

4.5 stars for Keary Taylor’s House of Kings! As much as I loved this book, I think some of the supporting cast could be fleshed out a little more. I received an ARC from the Author, and I am so happy I didn’t have to wait as long to read this book!

But now I need to wait longer to read the next one. I see a downside there, but I’m not complaining!

Grab your copy of House of Kings here!

 

in dawn and darkness

Review of In Dawn and Darkness

in dawn and darkness

I have been waiting for this book.

I love this series. Ellison is probably best known for her Frost Chronicles, but in my humble opinion her best work is The Secrets of Itlantis series. The books are set in a beautiful futuristic fantasy world deep under the ocean, and there are several different cities and cultures that are wonderfully woven together. The book’s main character, Aemi, is flawed (like all good characters are,) but determined. The series has victory, loss, romance, a little comedy, and most importantly a lesson. All of the elements of a good fantasy novel are there. Of course, any decent YA Fantasy book should have all of these elements, so what sets this book apart from the eighty others I have read this year?

The writing.

I love authors who are poetic. I don’t want books to tell me it’s raining, I want them to show me how each raindrop cascades down the glass pane, leaving a trail of sparkling drops behind. I want beauty. I want quotable lines. I want the mundane to sound amazing.

Kate Avery Ellison is a pro at this.

The story is well woven, the plot is thick, and the pacing is on point. None of these things are spectacular, but they are good. The characters have their own personalities, and surprises are revealed as the story moves. It is a solid piece of work. But what sets it apart from other books is Kate Ellison’s specific style of writing.

The book isn’t perfect, which is why I am giving this book a 4.5 start rating. There are a few editorial errors, and parts of the ending seemed rushed. I think the romantic tension could have been more defined. However, the final chapter of this book gave the readers great closure, and the beautiful writing and creative world building make up for the small amount of typos. As far as the romance? Well, I always want more. That flaw is probably my own.

Overall, I loved it! I will be recommending this series to people, especially now that I know it remains strong to it’s end.

To purchase your own copy, click on the Book cover!

4.5/5 Stars!
4.5/5 Stars!