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Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Hero’s Journey: Writing Fiction with a Female Protagonist (ECCC 2014 Writing Panel Notes)


DonRocko and I have started going to Emerald City Comic-Con (ECCC). This year was the first time I realized there were also writing panels at the convention. And wow, was there ever some great stuff to attend! The next few sets of notes will cover what I'd hoped to get to sooner ... but such is life. *sigh* For a more detailed excuse, please see my first post of the year.

* * *

The Hero’s Journey: Writing Fiction with a Female Protagonist
Sharon Skinner, Jenn Czep
Moderator: Bob Nelson (publisher, Brick Cave Books)

“We are people first and gender comes after.” – Sharon Skinner

How does the Monomyth feed into the stories today?

The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell’s original monomyth
-          Feeds into our need for story and the way we tell story, relate to story
-          How it helps us to learn and grow
-          But Campbell was writing as a man at a time when all of our heroes were men
-          So his idea of the hero’s journey is still in many ways one-sided.

Call to adventure – takes you out of comfort zone
-          At some point you go into a new realm
-          Adventures, helpers, etc
-          At some point you succeed, and bring something back to your people

The Heroine’s Journey
-          Basic premise: the female’s inner journey is internal
-          More emotional
-          Not necessarily an adventure

What Matters Here
-          A hero’s journey needs both the masculine and feminine perspectives
-          The more balanced a hero’s journey is, the more satisfying it is
-          So it may involve internal journeys, yes, but also external journeys.
-          The most satisfying journeys encompass both the internal and the external.

BN: Jenn, Blackstrap is a female captain pirate at a time not known for female captain pirates. Want to talk about it?
-          JC: Not true. Piracy was not all men.
-          One of the first female entrepreneurial choices was piracy.
-          Women know how to run a business. But they weren’t allowed to own business, or have rank, unless they married.
-          But they had the skills, so piracy was an excellent option.

BN: Sharon, Kira comes from a very specific examination of the feminine hero. Want to talk about it?
-          Kira came as a character SS followed around
-          Her stories are very layered. A story, patriarchal norming, navigation of the established system and taking the system apart
-          Used Kira’s story for thesis in Master’s in Creative Writing
-          Fantasy and SF as resistant text for young people – resistant text that pushes back from the social messages youth are getting – gives young women a place to go

Audience Question: Resistive text: what you were reading years ago was male-based. Did that make it difficult to get inside the minds of your characters?
-          JC: started reading a balance – Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons
-          Also, reading male characters – you can relate to them, that sense
-          SS: Read a lot of Heinlein, etc, very patriarchal bases, male SFF – didn’t hurt her any, but didn’t clue her in enough when she wrote the first version of her book, The Nelig Stones. Fell into the female protagonist trap – where if you’ve been fed these messages all your life you write the female that needs to be rescued. But also still reads male character stuff. Nick Fury YA,

Audience Question: JC, when researching Blackstrap, did you have difficulty researching female pirates?
-          Yes and no. Western pirates, yes, but Eastern pirates had a wealth of information
-          Also, has a friend with a PHD in pirate history
-          Some of what the women historically did was crazier than the stuff she wrote

Audience Question: So what constitutes a strong female character?
-          A strong female character isn’t much different from her male counterpart
-          She’s someone who owns their own destiny by the end of the book
-          They have to own it and they have to be willing to own it
-          As a writer, write a character who can be tempered through the challenges of the fire they face.
-          Character needs to start in a place where they have room to grow and become that character they need to be at the end of the book
-          They have what they need to have, but need to be tempered by the fires of all of the obstacles they face
-          And the fire that tempers them is what makes them their own instrument to take on their own destiny
-          That’s the most satisfying – so what can grow into so they need to be at the end of the book

Audience Question: Do you need to be masculine to be a hero?
-          JC: Not the case at all.
-          Game of Thrones: Strong female characters are strong in every way a fem character can be strong. Even Cersei. A strong maternal character. Even if it means killing everyone else off. This is a strength women hold.

Audience Question: Masculine in the sense of being nice, instead of just being perceived as bitchy?
-          Sansa’s trying to fit into society, play by society’s rules with the cards she’s been dealt
-          About being in their environment, finding their way within the system – they can be disliked, but they’re doing what they can with what they have

Audience Question: Resistant texts – how do you write fem antagonists without parroting the bad guys in society
-          SS: Has a female character in Healer’s Journey doing what she thinks she needs to do to make her way in the world, but people hate her – what matters is that the character is real enough.
-          The key is keeping it real, and making your characters fully faceted individuals.
-          If an antagonist is too all bad, they can come across as not real. Make them real.

Audience Question: Sansa as a Strong Female Character – she has very little agency, everything’s directed by outside forces. Can you write a character who is strong despite choices being made by outside forces?
-          Can be done, but again, you just have to make them real
-          Ask yourself: whose journey is it really?

Audience Question: What typically do male authors get wrong from a female perspective, and can you think of any that get it right?
-          Joss Whedon. But he gets it all right.
-          Nowadays we’re seeing more male authors who are getting it more right.
-          Back, looking at comics, they’re not getting it right. 
-          Garth Nix – Sabriel – incredible protagonist
-          Neil Gaiman and Arthur Golden also get it right
-          Example of getting it wrong: CS Lewis – Perelanda series – “Now, because I’m becoming a real woman, I can give up my frivolous dreams and become a real mother.”

Audience Question: Do you find it harder writing internal strength, or external strength?
-          SS: It’s the balance of both matters. In the character arc, growth must be internal and external for them to become that instrument. Sometimes that means learning to swordfight, sometimes that means learning to nurture.
-          D&D books, not much internal growth – some readers like that
-          Some prefer emotional rollercoaster
-          She likes both.

Audience Question: Resistant texts – how to make a character likeable but strong – we also should read widely. Can you think of texts we shouldn’t read?
-          SS: Twilight. No real character arc. Prime example of this.
-          The Host – likewise, the character didn’t change.
-          Very escapist
-          This is a matter of taste
-          Mentor texts: You read widely, eclecticly, to learn how to do it well, and then you also read ones where you learn what NOT to do. Texts you can decipher and dissect. Go back and read those pages that teach you.
-          As a painter, you learn to copy the masters. As a writer, when she had to learn to write a battle scene, she picked several battle scenes from books she’d read and liked, then picked them apart for how they pulled it off. Copy the techniques. Example: George R.R. Martin gives an eagle view of the battle, then makes it personal.
-          Likewise if you get thrown out of the narrative when reading a book, think of it as a bad example, and *don’t* do that.

Audience Question: What do you think of writing trans* protagonists?
-          JC: Hasn’t written any, but it’s important to remember that the journey is still just as much about the internal and external journeys. It’s about being human first. Gender isn’t about what they are, it’s about who they are, so you can show what growth there is, and what character arc there is, regardless of who they are. It’s a different character arc for that person.
-          SS: It’s all about love. About being human, not being afraid to take that leap, especially when you’re going into a territory your character clearly knows, even if you don’t.

Audience Question: Exercise in gender perspective – wrote a scene with a male protagonist, then changed all the pronouns to female. The story completely changed. Is this how society views it? Or do you need to write men and women differently?
-          SS: When you’re writing a character, it’s about how effeminate or masculine you want your character to be, male or female, and the strengths you choose to give them. Not so much about gender as it is about their masc/fem sides of who they are
-          JC: The reader will read it in their own way. Pirate books – many of the characters go either way, and it’s not about sexual pref but more about power, and with one villain with a fem harem, it was about having power over others. But if she wrote that same character as male, it would be a flat character. But some will read it differently.
-          Sharon: We all see the word though our own lenses. As a writer we hope that our readers get lost in the world, but if our readers see it slightly differently.
-          Sharon: Human motivation is what drives us all. It’s all about motivation. You have to make sure the motivation behind what your characters are doing is what makes them real.

How to pull away from the tropes?
-          JC: One example: Cimorene – rebellious princess, but with mad skillz. Arya Stark, too.
-          SS: Take the trope and turn it on its ear.
-          Take the cliché character and change something drastically about them, give them some major skill or huge character flaw, an Achilles heel, and switch it up.
-          Character tests and sheets are helpful tools, but don’t let them run your life or tell you how to write or not to write.
-          The biggest tool is to write your heart out. If you don’t enjoy spending time with your characters, then you need to rethink what you’re doing.  But don’t let the rules and the tools get in the way.
-          Every book will tell you how to do it, but that’s just how the one author did it. We’re artists, first.

Messages to men when they grow up: about being strong, etc. But if you’re writing strong female characters, is it a challenge to write strong males?
-          Characters should balance each other out.
-          The difficulty was not in making the male characters weaker or the female characters overpoweringly strong – it’s about making them both strong in diff ways.
-          About being human, not about gender.
-          JC: Male characters aren’t necessarily unlikable if they’re very strong or very weak, but something should offer assistance to fem character. If they’re weaker, there’s got to be a strength within them that isn’t a physical strength. They could be mentally adept.
-          SS: Stumbled in allowing both male and female characters to be their own people – stumbled because didn’t want her character to have too much help, needed more tempering – want her to have a character arc.  Struggled with figuring out who’d the characters would be together, how their strengths and weaknesses would play off one another. Figuring it out now.

When writing trans* or intersex characters, or say aliens without identifiable sex or gender – How do you avoid problems  with them becoming just objects for traditional characters who bounce their gender issues off other characters?
-          SS: whatever issues they struggle with, temper them, put them through the fire.
-          Get back inside the head of your character and find out what that journey really is.

So what’s the key to writing a female hero?
-          SS: Butt In Chair. Make the person human. Whoever they are, whatever they are, make them human, as real as possible with strengths and flaws.
-          Make sure you throw lots of obstacles and challenges at the characters. Temper them as much as possible. Make them the sword they need to be at the end of the story.
-          JC: Pay attention to people. The realistic characters you’re surrounded by.
-          Characters are very much us, but also the people around us. If you know a strong woman in your life, pay attention to what makes them strong.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Beta-Reading Lifehack: Using a Tablet


As crazy as things have been, one thing that was important to me was to honour the commitments I made to beta-read. In one case, it was the next book in a published series for an established author. In another, it's my critique partner, whose latest WIP is filled with so much awesome that I can't wait to see her succeed with it. Both situations were time-sensitive. And after the move, with my life in as much disarray as it is, I needed to find a way to be able to keep those promises while not losing it completely.

Which led to a useful solution: putting it on my tablet.

Backstory: I have an iPad, but I'm a PC user. I particularly like using Microsoft Word, since that's been my program of choice for more than two decades and I'm fairly well-versed in its ... eccentricities. But the act of beta-reading can be draining, sitting at the computer and reading manuscripts. Especially at times like these, when my energy is low (see previous post). And I'm a huge fan of the Track Changes method of beta-reading, but the screen clutter can get to me sometimes.

So what's a girl to do? Yes, I know there are Word and Word-like programs for the iPad now, but like I said. Screen clutter.

Here's how I made this work:
1. Print the document to a pdf.
2. Load the pdf onto the iPad or tablet.
3. Open the document in the reading program (in the case of the iPad, iBooks).
4. Read and make notes by hand. Make sure the notes are clear enough that you can find what needs to be changed! I used page numbers and word strings.
5. When finished, go back to the original Word document, and add in the appropriate comments and revisions using Track Changes. Use the "go to" page numbers and search functions to further improve the speed of accessing the part that needs editing.

Why this works:
- Less fatigue and strain from sitting in front of a computer.
- Going through the whole manuscript and doing everything at once can be overwhelming, and take more time than it needs to, but this breaks it into manageable steps.
- Not making changes to the original document until you're done reading it can speed up the reading process.
- The second pass through the manuscript, even if brief, can help you see things in a different light, and even make comments about certain issues that you wouldn't have noticed until the first read-through was complete.
- The format change allows you to "see" the document in another way (so this can work for editing your own stuff, too).

So, there you are. That's what worked for me. I hope you can find it useful as well.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year!


"Those guys up there. They said they're not paying their rent."

It was the first of December, deep into the evening. Our landlord had texted us to let us know he'd be coming by ... two hours ago. By the time the knock sounded at our door, it was nearly our bedtime (okay, would have been nearly our bedtime if we were responsible adults) and we were honestly starting to get a bit worried. He's a nice guy. When he finally showed up, he was very distressed.

We live in a fourplex: two upstairs suites, two basements. We had the latter. And while we were reasonably happy with where we'd lived for the past seven and a half years, we knew the time was coming when we wanted a little bit more. Y'know, like a suite with ninety-degree angles. And a bathtub instead of just a shower. 

And while I secretly hoped a top suite would come available, it didn't seem like it was going to happen. Upstairs are a lovely couple who we get along with well enough that we feed each other's cats when the other is away. And Upstairs Next Door was a family that frankly, seemed pretty entrenched. Even if there were ... Issues. 

Yeah. Issues. Polite as I may be on here, you can be damn sure that those things will make it into my fiction. But now is not the time to dwell on drug dealers or obnoxious DJs, or people who threatened my friends for parking in "their" spot when in fact street parking is public.

So when Mr. Landlord came by late that night, he was panicked. And just like that, in part sympathy and part selfishness, we agreed to take the place.

By the fifteenth.

The next three weeks were a blur of packing, moving, feeding friends who helped us move coffee and doughnuts and then pizza and beer, then finally, unpacking. We are still not entirely unpacked, but by the 21st we kinda hit a wall and we needed to take a holiday break.

Which was great, because I came down with a nasty cold that still hasn't let up.

This whole moving caper came right on the heels of what is probably my last NaNo (long story). Which I successfully completed, in two weeks, because I came away from this year's SIWC with some important requests, and had to make some equally-important revisions before I could send stuff to agents. I also wrote a short story during Novemer, which felt so refreshing to do.

My point? The last few months have been insane. And that's not even factoring in Stuff. Which is still a problem because ... *mumblemumblemumblePeople*.

But one of my resolutions this year is to stop putting up with certain things in my life, and to make more space and time for myself. So I just wanted to say hi, Happy New Year, and yes, I'm still around. With hopefully some great things to share in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Social Media Smackdown (SIWC 2014 Notes)


Wow. So, I had an incredible weekend at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. Caught a few great panels, had some lovely experiences and conversations, got some great feedback on how to approach the second novel in a series, and had an excellent time pitching book one. I feel really good about things. This conference is so worth it, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

And since I've still got a huge pile of notes, I thought I'd get back to sharing.

Of all the panels, this one felt very timely, given certain current issues. Regardless, the discussion about social media is an important one, as it can be an important way for authors to connect with the rest of the world—but only if you want to.

* * *

Social Media Smackdown
Sean Cranbury, Sarah Wendell, Social Media
Moderator: KC Dyer

Sean Cranbury: Books on the Radio, Storm Crow Launch Series
Sarah Wendell: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Chuck Wending: Novelist; Blogger; Cowriter, Pandemic (short film)

What do you do for social media, and how does it take time from your day?
-    CW: Social media can be a time suck. 
Strategy 1: He focuses on writing; any blogging, he saves for the weekend. 
Strategy 2: He recommends Freedom to minimize internet distraction.*
Strategy 3: He gets up before his toddler, and gets writing done before he engages with social media. 
Note: He engages with social media because he enjoys it, not because it's an obligation.
* Or, if an internet connection is absolutely necessary, you can use Anti-Social, which is made by the same company and allows you to block only a certain list of sites.
-    SW: She runs a blog, and is greatly involved in community building, so she engages with people who talk to her.
Strategy 1: There are fans on Facebook who don’t like to leave Facebook; so she visits the people there too. She allows herself the reward of Twitter, but signs off when she's too busy
Strategy 2: So he tries to focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth; the brain switches between two tasks.
-    SC: Most of his day is spent online, between work and projects; much of his creative work is online, too.
Strategy: To be present, so he practices. Therefore, he’s online all the time

 Does your social media presence affect your standing?
-    CW: It does wonders, but is costing more these days because of the volume of traffic he gets.
-    CW: A writer’s career is very luck-based, but you can maximize your luck by “throwing pebbles”. And every pebble you throw has to be simply for the delight of throwing into the water and seeing the ripples. But sometimes the ripples touch each other. You never really know who’s going to read the thing you wrote. Therefore, his key rule is to be the best version of himself online.
-    SW: Follows people far outside the romance realm. The ripple effect does wonders.

About that Guardian article …
-    SW: A reader had an extreme reaction to a novel, and live-tweeted negative reaction; the author ended up stalking the reviewer and harassing, then finally wrote about it in the Guardian. Reactions have been mixed.
-    Catfishing: malicious use of a fake online identity (Goodreads accounts, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc) for bad behaviour.
-    Used for the purpose of establishing a relationship with another without the author knowing who they are.
-    How as a writer should we react with reviews and reviewers?
-    Some authors can’t take a bad review, but this can lead to unhealthy behaviour, such as the above example.
-    But negative reviews can lend legitimacy and help you find your non-audience. They can also help other readers, some of who will decide they want to read the book.

About Gamergate …
* Note: A fair and unbiased summary of the controversy can be found at Wikipedia.
-    CW: “About ethics in Journalism?”
-    Doxing: searching for and posting someone's personal information, particularly their home address
-    SC: Gamergate involved severe sexism and hatred online. Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency was a major target, though not the first.
-    CW: Briana Wu, Zoe Quinn – great positive voices
-    KC: Felicia Day recently spoke out about it. She was doxed within under an hour.

The Takeaway?
-    CW: All of this is about what you should and should not do as a writer online
-    SW: There’s a positive side to the internet, too. We can connect with people around the world. Hopefully the negative crap will die down soon.
-    SC: Lead by example. You can’t change these other people, so focus on what you can change. Show model behaviour, and as Chuck said, be the best version of yourself.
-    SW: You will make mistakes. Be able to own it and make genuine apologies if you do. People respect that.
-    SC: In the furious pace of the internet, it can be very easy to get rubbed the wrong way. The key is to not respond. Don't send that angry tweet, don't make some snide remark. If you get a bad review, let it go.
-    Spokeo: Allows you to opt out of sharing your personal info online.
-    SW: Protects the privacy of her kids by only tweeting about them with made-up names. She also doesn’t tweet about where she is to make it easy for people to find her in realtime. But she still has a plan and always tries to stay aware at all times. Being female with an online presence makes it more of a problem.

What are ways to increase social media use in our lives?
-    All: Don’t auto-followback on Twitter.
-    CW: That’s not the point.
-    All: Each form of social media has its own quirks.
-    Facebook pages aren't necessarily necessary anymore.
-    Ello: the newest, and still a very quiet, weird territory
-    CW: Social media strategy:  drives content back to blog, because he owns that space, controls that material.
-    SW: Tumblr: Has a lot of fun with Tumblr and talking to people of all ages, shares fandoms. Connects with people over passions they share, especially teens.
-    Pinterest? This reflects a trend in valuing the visual over the text, and Pintrest is a visual niche.

But what about the balance between visual and text in a blogging environment?
-    SC: You always need visuals. Pinterest and Instagram are good at sharing visuals.

What are Algorithms?
-    SC: Like invisible snakes, you’ll never be able to catch them
-    Amazon uses them as predictive for “Because You Bought...”
-    SW: Not always accurate. Increases community of readers based on human recommendation, not algorithms.
-    SW: Genre terms are too broad, so readers have generated more terms for themselves. Such as New Adul, which is about firsts (First-person intensity, like YA and Chicklit combined; a genre recreated in its own terms).

What Positive Connections Have You Made Online?
-    CW: Margaret Atwood has become a fan.
-    SW: Gets to sit next to CW; has been invited to writers’ conferences in Australia because of social media, the opportunity to meet readers around the world has happened because of that, too. She greatly underestimated how isolating it can be to be a romance reader and writer because of the ridicule and shame. Has so many friends because of connections made online.
-    SC: People are not a marketing opportunity. But he has made many connections from his work and gets invited all over the place. He even got invited to be on the Canada Council.

Suggestions for the audience? How do you make those connections?
-    SW: With social interactions online (even e-mail), there are three things that develop social currency: generosity, authenticity, and consistency. Be generous by sharing. Not just “buy my book”. And then when you spend your social currency, spend it well.
-    CW: There's a skewed view in publishing that you need to use it to promote yourself: Do not be a social media obligation, or blog or tweet just because your publisher told you to do so. Brands and platforms don’t work. Put the social in social media. It’s not a broadcast channel. You’re not meant just to talk, but also to listen. Be a fountain. Not a drain.
-    SC: Twitter is a listening opportunity. From people you’ve selected to follow. Don’t use social media unless you really want to. You follow who you want to and unfollow who you find useless, and thin out the herd as needed. It’s a listening post. Follow, watch. Follow people who are genuinely funny, like comedians. Like Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman.
-    SW: You can learn so much about things outside of the “traditional media” from social media. Plus if you’re learning from others and respond to it, you elevate the conversation. Also, don’t be a dick. The antidote to douchebaggery is knowledge.

What is Good Promotion?
-    CW: Promotion is not a dirty word on social media. It’s okay to promote yourself and your books. However, it’s not the best idea to do that as your only thing. Then it’s just noise. 1. Promote in a unique and original way every time. Be authentic and honest about it. Maybe mention something you experienced while writing it. 2. Don’t do it all the time. 10-20% max. 3. Talk about other people’s books. Be authentic about it. And people are more likely to check out your work if they’re checking other stuff. 4. Be positive.
-    SW: Have a policy. If you are angry or inebriated, maybe you don’t want to. Also, don’t forget yourself. It’s okay to talk a little bit about yourself.
-    SC: Don’t just talk about yourself. But when you’re out there and talking about things authentically, talking about books you like, helping the community – when you’re a good citizen, people will support you. If you do that, goodness will come back to you.
-    KC: Just remember: on Facebook, you are the commodity. But as a writer, linking to your blog on Facebook can be useful.
-    CW: Author pages are not so useful anymore, and it commodifies the page. And Facebook decreases the range you reach the moment you pay to promote a page.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Writing YA (SIWC 2013 Notes)

Green cherry tomatoes in my garden. Caption: Metaphor? Perhaps.

Yes, it's been awhile. Among the stuff I hinted at a few weeks ago, my laptop threw itself off a very high desk. No, really. And then, while waiting for hinge replacement surgery, the poor thing suffered critical hard drive failure. Gee, and after the last one melted down, here I thought I'd have more time with you, buddy.

At any rate, I have a shiny new laptop, a new energy for my writing projects, lots of hope for things ahead, and ... a metric tonne of notes. Including a few from last year's Surrey International Writer's Conference. Which, um, happens THIS WEEK.

I'm all excited and ready! But in the meantime, let's take a look at the great tips I got from one of my favourite panels from last year's conference: Writing Captivating YA.

* * *

Writing Captivating YA
Janet Gurtler

What YA Is (and maybe isn’t)
-    YALSA defines YA as 12-18 years old. “Young adult fiction books are published specifically for people within that age range. Crossover happens.”
-    YA fiction includes a teen protagonist and deals with issues of interest to teens. Coming of age, etc.
-    YA fiction is not a genre; it’s a market that contains numerous genres. How many of us can’t remember what it was like to be a teenager. How many of us still feel it in parts of our lives.
-    YA lets young readers know that they are not alone. Their experiences aren’t abnormal. Here are others out there like them and there are lots of options in front of them. (And you can still relate to those feelings as an adult.)
-    Be authentic – Teen readers can smell fake YA voices. Don’t preach. Try not to judge. Trust the intelligence of your readers. Dig into intense emotion. Use things from your life. Steal dialogue from the kids in the coffee shop. (e.g. the scene in the movie Young Adult) – don’t use small words, don’t dumb down, stay true to your characters. Dig into your emotions. Use your real life. When these emotions happen to you, remember them and note them. Listen to the teens around you and how they talk.
-    Teenagers deal with difficult personal issues every day – real or imagined.
-    There are so many things that happened in our personal lives that we kept secret as teens, but we talk about these things now.
-    Use real experiences that teens can relate to.
-    Keep an eye (or rather, ear) out for authentic language.

Why YA?
-    Teens have so many things going on in their lives, so many issues, so many firsts: first crushes, first loves, bodies changing, first time driving, intense friendships, breaking away from parents, making decisions on their own, belly laughs.
-    The teen years are an exciting time, but also stressful tense, and heartbreaking time. HOPE matters.
-    Anything is possible – the great thing about YA lit – there’s truly something for everyone. Every genre – romance, mystery, thriller, horror, realistic, science fiction, fantasy, and more – plus really terrific nonfiction for teens.
-    Books can be a tool for dealing. Or even for escaping.
-    Storytelling is fun.

Defining Voice (Author)
-    Voice is the way the story is told
-    Voice conjures up vivid, visual settings, and invites readers along for the ride. It engages readers. It sets mood for readers and helps to elicit emotions.
-    Book: Hunger games – great opening, great voice, shows different world, relationship with sister, mother, cat
-    Voice is very subjective – no one loves every book the same way.
-    Voice is about word choice and helps convey tone. Voice encompasses thinks like style of writing, sentence structure, i.e. short, choppy sentences – long lush prose (such as Maggie Stiefvater)
-    if it doesn’t feel right and you can sense it, it usually means you need to change it.
-    Voice is not only what you say, but how you say it.
-    Voice makes characters leap off pages and com alive in a reader’s mind.
-    Fantasy has a certain voice.

Audience Question: Word choice – how do you know if it’s authentic for your character?
-    You have to know this character.
-    Do exercises for this character. Know if it’s something they would say.
-    Trust your instincts. If you feel this is something the character will say, go with it. Explain your reasoning to an editor if need be. Trust your intuition.

Defining Voice (Character)
-    “Voice is the Way a character speaks. What will they say as well as how they say it.” – Ned Vizinni
-    How does your car see his world? A 15-year-old boy does not have the same reaction to events or the same conversations a 25-year-old would. The character won’t use the same words or have the same thoughts. Dialogue should be distinct to your character. You have to know them.
-    Who is your character going to become?
-    Weh we write characters it’s imp to try to be authentic to their voices. Characters likely do not share the same morals of the author or even the same likes and dislikes. Especially when we’re writing about teenagers. Sometimes your character can say or do things we may fully disapprove of. And that’s okay. (IF I TELL) An author’s experiences and beliefs might naturally flow into character and story, but learning to filter or rework them to suit a story or character, is part of the flow of conscious process of voice. As writers we need to understand our characters in order to convey their voice.
-    Character names – Character may take on their name traits. Billy vs. Tyler vs. Tiffany. Could bat off cliché by twisting this. Bad boy names? Editor may want to change it, too. How strongly do you feel about this name? Are you willing to change it? Connotations of the name? Chloe vs. Kara

Cultivating Character and Author Voice
-    Listen to your character. Turn off your moralistic compass. Don’t listen to your MIL or husband or priest or rabbi. Not when you’re making stuff up.
-    Relax. Think of someone you’re completely comfortable with and write to that person. (i.e. sex scenes!)
-    Read your work out loud, or download a free talking reader. She uses Free Natural Reader.
-    Try to notice things the same way that your character would notice them. It’s both a conscious and unconscious process. Great for noticing errors in voice, etc.
-    Try to notice things the same way that your character would notice them. It’s both a conscious and unconscious process.
-    The things that boys notice is completely different from what girls notice.
-    In I’M NOT HER, the main character Tess is an introverted artist. To convey this she tried to show Tess viewing the world the way she would as an artist. Tess staring at her sister in her hospital bed: Her cheek bones look more angular and her collarbones jut out from her blue hospital gown. I’d have to use different techniques to sketch her now. Her essence is changed. She’s less charcoal and more shading.” Another character might describe her completely dif. If Tess were a boy, might say “skinny and gross”.
-    Know what your character is proud of. Know their secret shame.
-    The secret shame makes them who they are. It’s still a part of who they are.
-    Eavesdrop. Spy. Stalk. Facebook. Instagram.
-    Write your story in a way that is comfortable for you. Write form your heart. Yours. Every person in this room has a writing voice.
-    Janet's book: Sixteen Things I Thought Were True – about a video that goes viral, part of the character's secret shame
-    If you don’t want swearing, don’t swear; but if you think it’s part of your book or character, keep it. You can have a conversation with the editor. Make it authentic to character.
-    If it reads like writing, get rid of it. They say voice can’t be taught. But it can be found. Practice
-    Trust your writing and trust how you want to write.
-    Don’t add things just because you think you can.
-    Get to know your secondary characters, too, so you can write them just as easily.
-    Exercise: Pick a character. Think about them. No matter how old they are now. Think back to when they were going to their first day of middle school (grade 7). What would they be carrying to school? Why would they be carrying it? It’s good to know who your character was at that age.
-    Now, what about high school, grade 10? What are they carrying with them now?
-    This tells you about who your character is and how they react to things.
-    Exercise: Think of a colour. Try to describe that colour without saying what the colour is. Hat does it remind you of? What does it smell like, taste like? This will show how you write naturally, what your voice is.

Ways to Captivate:
-    Don’t pander to your audience.
-    When writing voice, peel back the layers , get to the stuff that is nitty-gritty and embarrassing (Book recommendation: Ned Vizzini's It’s Kind of a Funny Story – great for boy’s voice)
-    Don’t open with unnecessary backstory. Readers don’t need to know everything about a character right away. Readers don’t need all the facts up front. Make them wait. Unravel a secret slowly.
i.e. Reaping mentioned on first page of Hunger games, but we have to keep reading to know what it is.
-    Sara Zarr: a master at this – enough to keep reading, but you learn slowly.
Secrets are okay.
-    Book: Emotion Thesaurus, Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisey (sp)
-    Negative trait / Positive trait thesauruses, too
-    Give characters really strong goals. Give the reader something to root for.
-    Even it it’s not part of the main plot. Character has to want something.
-    Give your character flaws. Real flaws.
-    Avoid plot too contrived or coincidental. Put in a strong foundation at the beginning of your book so that whatever turns on it is credible and rings true.
-    SHOW US. As an author, allow yourself to physically and emotionally feel the fear that courses through your body when the bully is coming for you. Put your character there. Where are they? What do they hear? See? Smell? What’s their reaction to stress? Hiccups? Laughter? Tears? Turning around and running?

Character pyramid: The lie the character believes about themselves. Core flaws resulting from that lie. Lesser flaws stemming from core flaws. Typical behaviours, thoughts, actions, and quirks stemming from that.

Audience question: Some names are overused, like Jack or Will or Luke. Should we not use them?
-    Do what works for you.

A list of some things to know about your characters
-    What DOES THIS CHARACTER WANT, NEED, MUST HAVE?
-    What’s stopping him/her from getting it
-    What is this character’s greatest flaw?
-    What do you know about this character that s/he would never admit
-    What music does this character sing to when you one else is around?
-    What is this character’s secret wish? Something they’ll never get but what they want?
-    Describe this character’s most embarrassing moment.
-    What is this character’s deepest regret?
-    What is this character’s greatest fear?
-    What is this character’s greatest hope?
-    Whom does this character most wish to please? Why?
-    Why is this character angry?
-    What calms this character down?
-    List the choices (not circumstances) that led this character to his/her current predicament.
-    Who depends on this character? Why?
-    Donald Maass recommends: Take your character, and imagine how they think another character will be in the future.

More Ways to Captivate
-    "Save the cat!" This refers to the moment early in the story that calls for us to sympathize with the protagonist. Does he or she really have to save a cat? Or something or someone? Nope. This is where the main character does or thinks something that reveals his true (good) character. It is important for us to invest in the character’s story and also if we’re going to be introduced to a character’s flaws. It‘s important to give a glimpse of the protagonist’s good side, so the reader can believe redemption is possible.
-    Start your story in the right place. (Hint: Probably not a dream sequence.) If you’re struck on where to begin think about the even that changes the world of the main character. An inciting event. You can either start with this change or start with what the character’s world was like BEFORE THE EVENT. You can show the old world first, but it should lead up to the change that propels the story into action.
-    Start either right when something is about to change, with a brief look at where this person is now, and then have the change happen
-    Once the reader cares about your character, and is invested in them, the we can find out more about the bad stuff they went through.