Friday, July 15, 2016

Writing for a young adults audience

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Teens are passionate readers, many falling in love with their favorite characters and often loving to hate the antagonist. It's these types of emotions that I hope to elicit from my readers, but just how does an adult write realistic stories for teens? We get to know our audience and then create compelling stories with characters they can relate to.

First, let's discuss character. The main character's age of any novel depends on who they are and what conflicts they'll face along the way. Getting to know your protagonist is the first step in developing them as a person. Below are a few writing exercises I've used to bring out my main character's personality and innermost thoughts:
  • Have your character write a letter either to you or to a supporting cast member in the story.
  • Write about your protagonist. This can be anything: a big event in her life, how she spent summer vacation, a typical day. What you write may not end up in the story, but it will help you get to know who she is as a person.
  • Create character sheets that not only includes basic features (age, color of eyes, etc.), but notes fears, allergies, likes and dislikes. Answer questions like “I love my mom, but …” “My dad always…” “I wish…” and “If I could change one thing…” (For more tips on character sheets, click here.

Now that you know your character, you need to focus on voice. Voice is everything in a teen novel, because if your characters don't sound like teenagers, you're going to lose your reader's attention. So what is voice? It's word choice, style, and reflection. It's seeing the world through a teen's eyes. To help bring out your character's voice, bring things back to them. For instance, a character may comment on a poster they have hanging in their bedroom: "I can't believe I still have that unicorn poster on the wall." Or they may notice that a person's eyes are the same green as their grandmothers.

To improve the authenticity of your character's voice, visit places where teens hang out. Observe their actions, body language, and speech. Take a notepad with you and jot down what they do and say. Okay, this may seem a little creepy, but as writers, we watch people all the time anyway. (If you're not, you should be!) Besides, I'm not suggesting you sit across from them with a notepad and pen like you're directing the scene. Blend in. Have a cup of coffee and a book in front of you. Wear headphones with no music. Attend high school sports, plays and other events that are open to the public. Be where teens are and your characters voice will benefit from it.

And when talking about writing for a young adult audience, I can't forget to mention plot. The first thing I'd like to say on this is...

Hook is not plot. Hook is what draws your reader in.
Plot is what carries your reader from page one to the end of the book.

How do I develop plot? I think about what is important to teens the same age as my protagonist. Then, I ask myself if the conflicts make sense to a person this age, and I remind myself of the following:
  • Teens are complex.
  • Include inner monologue in all my scenes.
  • It's okay for things not to be black and white. There can be gray areas in young adult.
  • My character should grow during the course of his or her story.
  • Don't be vague. The story can't be absent of details.
  • Write from the heart, because if I don't my readers will know.
I hope you found some of my tips helpful. If you have any tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Checking in


We've reached the halfway point of 2016. I figured this was a good time to check how I'm doing on my goals. I'm happy to say I finished the first draft of one WIP. I'm really excited about this book. It's my baby, and while I say this about my other books, too, the characters in this story are the ones who got me hooked on writing. They've grown and changed over the years, and so has their relationships and the intricate details of the plot. This version is a fresh look into their exciting world. It's all new with lots of fun, magical, and sometimes dark things happening. Next up: polishing the manuscript to smooth out the rough spots and really make it shine.

I've done okay in the patience department. My fingers are still crossed that my agents finds a good home for the novel she has. And I have a few other projects in the works. 

How's your writing coming? Are you on track with your goals? Enjoying the summer?

Thanks for stopping by!

This has been an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. It's where writers share their thoughts, insecurities, and encouraging words. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and our co-hosts for keeping IWSG going. If you would like to know more about the group, just follow the link

Friday, June 10, 2016

Who's Who? Keeping track of the cast.

The best books have interesting characters with unique personalities. It's a writer's job to keep everyone straight, or her character will all start to look and sound alike.

To keep track of my characters, I create character profiles for my protagonist and the supporting cast. This starts with a brief biographical sketch of the characters that includes age, occupation or grade level if a student, hair/eye color, any other pertinent description evident in the story, relationship to other characters, etc. Next, I get to know them by developing their back story. And while I may not always know the intricate details of what brought each character to where they are when the book starts, I know the highlights of their lives. After all, a person's past helps to shape who they are today.

Below is the character profiles for Madison Riley, the brave, loyal, and sometimes impulsive protagonist in the Embrace Series. It's my go-to sheet whenever I can't remember the small yet important details that set her apart from her friends:

   Madison Elizabeth Riley 
  • 16-years-old / Born in March
  • Junior in HS
  • Naturally curly chestnut-brown hair / hazel eyes like her mom's
  • Has her mom's high cheekbones and fair complexion
  • Book 1 drinks hazelnut lattes. Book 2 pumpkin spice lattes. Favorite cold drink, Nantucket Nectars Lemonade
  • Madison is a loyal friend, a positive person, and she's always there for her closest friends. She depends on Kaylee and Josh more than she realizes. She avoids conflict and hates change in her life. She has a good relationship with her father and brother.
  • Her magic tastes like chocolate covered strawberries when fueled with positive emotions and copper when fueled with negative emotions. Her fear tastes like rotten strawberries.
  • As the series progressed, I added even more detail to this list.
  • I also add notes based on character interviews Madison participated in.
I repeat this for the supportive cast, listing their quirks and strengths and making it easier for me to keep track of my characters then and now.

Do you create character sheets? If not, how do you keep track of your characters?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Book Blitz & Giveaway: The Midnight Sea by Kat Ross

The Midnight Sea by Kat Ross 
(Fourth Element #1) 
Publication date: May 10th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult


They are the light against the darkness.

The steel against the necromancy of the Druj.

And they use demons to hunt demons….

Nazafareen lives for revenge. A girl of the isolated Four-Legs Clan, all she knows about the King’s elite Water Dogs is that they bind wicked creatures called daevas to protect the empire from the Undead. But when scouts arrive to recruit young people with the gift, she leaps at the chance to join their ranks. To hunt the monsters that killed her sister.

Scarred by grief, she’s willing to pay any price, even if it requires linking with a daeva named Darius. Human in body, he’s possessed of a terrifying power, one that Nazafareen controls. But the golden cuffs that join them have an unwanted side effect. Each experiences the other’s emotions, and human and daeva start to grow dangerously close.

As they pursue a deadly foe across the arid waste of the Great Salt Plain to the glittering capital of Persepolae, unearthing the secrets of Darius’s past along the way, Nazafareen is forced to question his slavery—and her own loyalty to the empire. But with an ancient evil stirring in the north, and a young conqueror sweeping in from the west, the fate of an entire civilization may be at stake…

3 signed copies of Kat's first book, Some Fine Day.
(US and CAN)

Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.

Keep in touch with Kat

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

It's a ghostly project update #IWSG

Hi everyone!

It's hard to believe it's May already. I hope 2016 is proving to be a good year for you.

To all my cyber-friends who participated in April's A to Z Challenge, congrats on making it through the month. I know it's not only fun, but a lot of work.

April was a busy month. I finished the first draft of my latest work-in-progress and revised my MG ghost story based on feedback I received. I'm excited about both. I'll be getting the ghost story line edited before it goes out on submission. This way I'll know it's as polished as it can be. And I'm going to try my best to step away from my WIP and use that time to flush out another idea I had. As far as insecurities, I've stuffed them in a box for now. I think it's best to focus on positive things, don't you?

Did you participate in the A to Z Challenge? How was it? How's your writing coming? Do you take breaks between drafts? How long do you wait to dive into revisions?

Thanks for stopping by!

This has been an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. It's where writers share their thoughts, insecurities, and encouraging words. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and our co-hosts for keeping IWSG going. If you would like to know more about the group, just follow the link above. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Feeding the Imagination through Research

Research isn't just about fact finding. It’s about discovering the perfect little detail to weave into a novel or some obscure tidbit of information that can add a unique twist to characters, places or plot. Research feeds the imagination, and that’s a good thing no matter what you’re writing.

For better or worse, a lot of my web browsing is on the paranormal: witchcraft, demons, angels, faeries, you get the picture. If someone were to look at my browser history, they’d think I’m working on a way to break through the delicate fabric of the veil to be able to open a door to another realm or that I’m trying to raise the dead. I assure you, I’m not. But my characters are and have.

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I often scour the internet or search through books to find little known nuggets of information that I can add to my novels. Like tricks to seeing faeries or that cinnamon helps with concentration. And did you know the hierarchy of demons is as complex as the one for angels?

Once I know the lore, I add my own unique and intriguing twists. The magic in my paranormal romance/thriller, EMBRACE, has a taste and a feel that those who possess the Powers recognize. The taste of chocolate covered strawberries kiss Madison Riley’s tongue when she draws upon positive emotions to fuel her magic. Whereas she feels as if she sucked on a mouthful of dirty pennies when her powers are fueled with negative emotions. The scent of vanilla and spearmint fill the air when Isaac Addington draws upon hope and courage to cast a spell, and the strong stench of metal saturates the air if he draws upon jealousy or anger.  The witches in the Embrace Series also have to worry about their powers colliding, causing a shock much like static electricity. Not a good thing when you’re new to the Powers and very much wish to get close to your witch boyfriend.

Witchcraft isn’t the only lore I’ve shaped to my needs. The demons in my books are often good and bad. Most have once been human and no matter how many centuries they’ve spent in Hell, the remnants of what it means to be human remains with them. My angels are as loving and understanding as they are fierce and a force to be reckoned with. Both creatures from Heaven and Hell have complicated pasts that lead them to make difficult and often surprising decisions.

That’s the thing about the supernatural—there are so many ways to add your own twists to known myths and lore to come up with original stories. Done right you’ll keep readers turning the page, guessing who to trust, and trying to unravel the mystery right along with your protagonist.  

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For those who are curious about how to see faeries, there are spells a witch can cast to grant you faerie sight. If you’re short a witch, then you’ll need a stone that has a natural hole in it. One hollowed by a river or spring works best. Looking through the center will grant you faerie sight. But beware: faeries can be mischievous, vindictive, and evil.

Do you enjoy research? What fun facts or tiny detail have you found that added to your character or plot?