Excerpts

Writing Craze

book_and_featherAs some of you know, I have begun taking online classes in pursuit of my MFA in Creative Writing. This endeavor has pushed me to write a LOT this summer. The summer is half gone, but I have written a chapter of Aloha Spirit, started a new flying horse book, written a short story and created four separate scenes. That doesn’t count the articles, chapters, and workshop postings I’ve had to read and thoughtfully comment on. It’s exhilarating. Required classes when I used to go to college always consisted of some really dull, or dully presented, subjects. Now, however, I am immersed in something I absolutely love to do–write! So today I thought I’d post a bit from Aloha Spirit:

On May 12, 1939, we board the Matsonia, one of Matson Lines’ finest ships. Every color is vivid, from the green rim of Punch Bowl on the hill above the city to the sapphire ocean below. On the pier, brass instruments flash in the sun as the Marine band in their white uniforms plays Aloha ‘Oe, Queen Liliʻuokalani’s beautiful song of farewell. Hawai’ian girls hula nearby, their hair twisted with white pikake that gives sweetness to the air. Family and friends wave smiling goodbyes, their clothing adding dots of color to the scene.

Behind the joyous leavetaking, green palm trees sway behind the Royal Hawai’ian Hotel, also known as the Pink Lady. Waikiki’s pale cream sand stretches toward Diamond Head, majestic as always above Honolulu. On the white ship, I am so covered in fragrant leis, orange and purple and yellow and pink, I can hardly breathe. It seems like every flower in Hawai’i has given its life to send Manley and I off in style to the World’s Fair in San Francisco.

I turn to wave toward Pearl Harbor, out of sight beyond Hickam Field, in farewell to Earl, who couldn’t get away from his new job. I imagine seeing past Hickam Field, its gray runways, planes, barracks, quonset huts, and jeeps, to Pearl Harbor with its American navy ships. Over there everything is drab and businesslike.  

The smokestacks with the big blue M belch dark clouds. The ship churns water as it pulls away from the dock. Honolulu fades until I can’t make out the Pink Lady. All eyes fasten on Diamond Head, the last view of home. In keeping with tradition, we throw leis overboard as we pass the extinct volcano as a promise that we will return to the islands. We watch until Diamond Head fades to purple distance and blends into the ocean.

About Writing

Foreshadowing – a writing device sometimes misused

Another guest post! Today I’m reblogging a post by one of my fellow horse story writers. So exciting that she mentions my own books in her article! Thanks, Connie!

by Connie Peck

A while back I was involved with a fairly tough critique partner who wrote in a vastly different genre than I. He was writing a 200K suspense/murder/mystery/drug & mind control novel while I was writing a simple horse story for fourth graders.

His biggest beef about my writing – foreshadowing. And of course real danger for my main character, an eleven year old girl who had a telepathic connection to her pony.

It was not a good fit.

My biggest mistake was that I let it get under my skin. But I eventually got over it. Then I did some research. For one thing, after re-reading some of his chapters, I recognized that his foreshadowing technique was actually almost pre-telling what was coming. I’m really not sure what category that falls into. Okay, so if a character, say a law enforcement officer, is approaching a potential bad-guy-hideout and slips the safety strap off his pistol, I’m going to look forward to a possible gun-battle. However, if the cop loosens his revolver, saying to himself “I’m sure I’m going to need this because this guy I’m after is crazy and I know he has an arsenal of weapons in there.” Well, that’s giving it away and since I know for sure what’s coming, I may just skim to see what’s next. (No that author didn’t write those words, that’s only an example. And he did get an agent.)

I did more reading.

A well-known children’s author who has won all sorts of rewards did the same thing in the first chapter by actually telling what the stakes were and how bad it could be right there in black and white. Instead of me looking forward to what might happen – be it good and wonderful, happy and funny, scary and adventuresome, I was no longer curious. I already knew. Sadly I couldn’t find the energy to keep reading. It was already told how dangerous it would be to approach the only means necessary to solve the big problem.

The best text for learning the technique of foreshadowing from both a writer’s perspective and a reader’s is THE LOTTERY, by Shirley Jackson, way back in 1948. And it still stands as the benchmark. Only a few glimpses, solitary items, which don’t really seem to add to the story – until the end.

What is foreshadowing? It’s an element in the story that you have no idea is there until the danger rises its scary face, or until the funniest thing in the world occurs. (Not all stories need to have death, murder, and mayhem involved to be really, really good.)

Foreshadowing is a passing glance at a picture on the wall, which may turn out to hold some secret vital to the outcome. And after dancing all around that non-remarkable painting, the reader is delighted to discover the clue hidden there. But if the author overstates the presence of the art, the reader will become frustrated when the MC doesn’t see it, or become bored with the whole story, and toss it in the corner without finishing.
horse
In my children’s book, LEGEND OF THE SUPERSTITION GOLD, which is my third Black Pony book, I dedicate a chapter to putting shoes on the pony, while dropping information about the upcoming trail ride along with a few stories about the Lost Dutchman Gold. Why the whole chapter? Well, it’s short and full of horsey stuff. Plenty of dialog between Annie and the pony. A humorous dismissal of the legends by the farrier (in my opinion one of the strongest pieces of foreshadowing in the book). AND every single element in that first chapter is seen again – several times. Not only that, the shoes themselves become in integral part of the plot. But you don’t know that until you read further.

My second chapter is dedicated to a pair of spurs and how they come to be in the possession of the main character. The spurs once belonged to Annie’s grandfather. Her uncle has very little success in using them and passes them to her. The connection won’t be noticed until mid-point of the book, but will be totally understood at the climax. But you never will know that until you get there.

Other bits of foreshadowing include Annie looking at hieroglyphics – and feeling a strange presence. Midnight warns her a few times that ‘The Others’ are nearby as well. True, I have a rather slow chapter where the whole thing is dedicated to a few of the stories, which anyone can google, about the haunted Superstition Mountains and its hidden treasures. But, they are all seen again. Besides, to at least a few of us, those stories are juicy and wonderful.

But, if at any point in the story I would have written ‘X is about to happen’ you may not have been interested anymore. Why do I point out that riding in the soft sand of a dry wash could be dangerous? Because a flash flood is coming! That was likely the most telling foreshadowing in the whole story.

I’ll never say that I’m anywhere near as good at foreshadowing as Shirley Jackson, or in fact dozens of other authors out there, but the fact remains. You will never know what part of a scene foreshadows the coming event until after that event has occurs and it all comes together in a satisfactory ending.

A few examples of books using foreshadowing from Goodreads include, THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker, published by Random House; Mo Willems’ THAT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA; Though this next one has mixed reviews because of adult content, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger, is pegged as a great book for foreshadowing.

One of my personal favorite authors is Linda Ulleseit, who writes a series of The Winged Horses. You know something is up when an outsider falls in love with a filly, and there is dark talk of a long forgotten village, but you don’t know what it is until it happens. And you know something is about to happen when a young rider is torn between a soon-to-be barn leader with an attitude – who will do anything to win, and a timid rider who has a fear of flying, but you are blown away by what happens – and you didn’t see it coming, until you read it again, and again, and again. (Yes, I read it that many times.)

Goodreads has more if you wish to look them up. Of course mine is one of the best (in my opinion). http://tinyurl.com/p6wm6kf

How well to you foreshadow the events in your story? Do you let it all out before it happens, or drop invisible hints that show their glory at the end?

I’d love to hear your stories and examples.

About Writing

Historical Fiction

rdgpastToday Sarah Johnson’s blog, Reading the Past features an article I wrote. It details the preparation and writing of Under the Almond Trees. It explores the question all historical fiction writers face–how much fact and how much fiction do I include? Click on the picture to the right to read my article. Please leave a comment!

About Writing

Interview on NaNoWriMo Blog

October always means it’s time to prepare for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Since my NaNoWriMo novel was published last summer, the Office of Letters and Light (a.k.a. the people in charge of NaNoWriMo) interviewed me for their blog. Here is the link to the interview, which includes tips for getting ready to write novels this November as well as the story of my own novelling experience.

THE OFFICE OF LETTERS AND LIGHT BLOG

In hardback: Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

About Writing

Satisfaction With Your Own Writing

Students, journalists, novelists–in fact anyone at all who writes–experience that moment when the piece is done and you never want to look at it again. NaNoWriMo is no exception. While I have completed 50,000 words on my new novel, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER, it is far from complete. I typed the last word on November 29 and I haven’t looked at it since. My students feel the same way. They have written more on one assignment than they ever have in their lives, and they are sick of it.

The initial excitement of tackling a novel has long since faded to hard work. Now that it’s completed, they are proud of it but unwilling to revise and edit. As we all know, those are key steps. And I am not going to read thirty-one unedited novels! So the question remains, how do I fire their excitement once more about this project?

Professional cover artist Tirzah Goodwin is helping me this year. She has agreed to provide each student with a free custom cover for their novel. We can print the cover and attach it to the student’s work, and Tirzah will feature the covers on her website. So do you want to see them? Check out A Clever Whatever, her blog site.

If you’re a current student of mine, oooh and ahhh over your cover, then get back to revising and editing!

On my Kindle: Here, There, and Otherwhere by Phyl Manning