Tuesday, September 26, 2017

September Pass Or Pages Entry #2

It's time for the last Pass Or Pages reveal of 2017! We're so grateful to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. We hope you can find something to help you in your quest for an agent, even if you don't write middle grade!

Entry #2: THE FALLEN ORDER



Query:
One day, twelve-year-old orphan Nick finds a golden stone with a mysterious symbol in the woods near their foster home. [MLS1] After his twin sister Hazel vanishes later that night, the stone becomes the main culprit. [MLS2] Determined to find his sister, Nick treks to the local university in search of answers. It turns out their father had been a prominent archeologist [MLS3] who also vanished mysteriously while investigating ancient ruins in the Appalachian Mountains when the twins were infants.

Nick discovers his father had left behind a cryptic journal, which details a fantastic world of ancient gods and mythical creatures from millenniums past. With the help of a runaway thief named Scurvy, Nick deciphers the codes in the journal and embarks on a journey to Orbis, a magic realm accessible in ancient locations, including the Pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, and Atlantis. [MLS4] But a secret society of dark magic [MLS5] haunts the realm, kidnapping folks from Nick’s world—and the twins appear to be their next target. [MLS6] Nick and Hazel must find their father and escape before they, too, become trapped in the realm forever.

BEACON OF LIGHT: THE FALLEN ORDER is a 60,000-word MG fantasy told in multiple POV. The novel, in which the show Gravity Falls meets Rick Riordan's THE RED PYRAMID, will appeal to kids who enjoy fantasy with cryptology and mystery elements at every turn.
**********
Ben's Notes:
I’m intrigued by this, but I’m not a big fan of portal stories. If done right, they can be great. Mostly, though, they’re not well done, and I end up passing on them. This alone gives me hesitation on asking for pages, but the idea is intriguing enough to take a look at the beginning. However, more about the MC is needed in the query. What does he want?
 
Meg's Notes:
[MLS1]: Good opening line! My only (slight) red flag here is that tons of stories use an object as a launching point for the story (magical stone, necklace, etc.). 
[MLS2]How so? I’d like this cleared up a bit more. 
[MLS3]Do they not know/have a relationship with their father? If so, I think that needs to be clearer. 
[MLS4]Do you mean the lost Atlantis? 
[MLS5]You say magic/magical a lot in this paragraph. Consider varying word choice here. 
[MLS6]Do we know why? Or could we hint at why?


First 250:
On cloudy days, children were discouraged from playing on the hills near the foster home. Rising well above their surroundings, the tall, steep slopes were magnets for lightning in thunderstorms.

That never stopped Nick Beacon. On one particularly cloudy and windy evening in early March, he lay on the grass at the top of the tallest hill, feeling the cool breeze through his t-shirt. From there, he could see over the woods, which separated the foster home and the town of Hillsboro. He closed his eyes and imagined himself flying above the hilltops to someplace far, far away—away from the small town, over the forests and mountains, until he reached the rock-covered coast of Maine.

Nick had only been to the ocean once for a school field trip, but it remained his favorite place. There was something extraordinary about being at the edge of the world, and the distant lands that lay on the other side of the vast waters. He longed to travel to new places, like the adventurous explorers in movies.

The dinner bell sounded in the distance. With a jolt, Nick snapped out of his daydream and hurried back down the hill. He couldn’t be late to dinner again. The last time he was late, Mrs. Agatha had made him clean the entire attic as punishment. He swore he could still feel the cobwebs in his hair after two showers.
**********
Emily's Notes:
This is a bit similar to other things I’ve read. The writing felt a bit stiff.

Ben's Notes:
This is pretty good writing. It’s not something I’d immediately reject, but after sitting here thinking about it, it’s not something I would request either. I’d write the author a more personal note than a simple form rejection, tell him or her to keep at it and query me again in the future.
 
Meg's Notes:
Great opening! I enjoyed it. While the writing is great, I probably would not have asked for more pages because the story does hit a number of typical MG scenarios/tropes.

Results:
Emily: PASS
Ben: PASS
Meg: PASS

Monday, September 25, 2017

September Pass Or Pages Entry #1


It's time for the last Pass Or Pages reveal of 2017! We're so grateful to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. We hope you can find something to help you in your quest for an agent, even if you don't write middle grade!

Entry #1: LEGEND OF SMOK: THE LOCKET



Query:
Emmie’s at a crossroads.[MLS1] She’s questioning herself and starting to believe those who put her down when she receives a magical locket that grants desires. The locket was sent by the wicked Ms. Smok who lives in the realm of Dulsiafacit and is a trained, although imperfect, magic spinner.

The locket entices[MLS2] Emmie, her twin brother Jake, and her developmentally handicapped and blind sister, Stella, to come to Dulciafacit, where they find the house of Ms. Smok, who invites them in as guests only for them to wake up in her dungeon. Ms. Smok gives Emmie a choice: choose any magical creature she wants to turn into, become Smok family[MLS3], and get revenge against those who put her down[MLS4], or have Ms. Smok choose what creature she becomes and wipe her memory. Neither choice sets Emmie’s siblings free, so she needs to find another option. The only chance of escape for the siblings is to find and lean on the strengths of each other. They learn the hard way that what you desire, isn’t always what’s best for you.[MLS5]

“The Legend of Smok: The Locket”[MLS6] is a diverse MG Fantasy novel of 56000 words. This story is told from three third person points of view: Emmie, Jake, and Ms. Smok. Emmie’s sister, Stella, is fashioned after my real-life sister.
**********
Emily's Notes:

I found myself confused by the query. I would suggest re-ordering the query to focus on the sibling relationships. That they must band together to get out of a tricky situation. I have no reference point for Dulciafacit.
    
Ben's Notes:
Based on the query, I’d probably read the first few lines. I’m not sold on the story though. You give me a girl who’s bullied, but don’t tell me anything else about her. What does she want? Why is she the MC? Why does she go on this journey? Does the locket force her on the journey? Does she choose to go? What makes her a strong MC? These are all left unanswered, and it makes me feel like you don’t know the answers. If you do know the answers, and they are strong elements of the story, then revise the query to include them.
     
Meg's Notes:
[MLS1]: The first sentence in the plot summary not only needs to be gripping, but the conflict needs to be specific. I found myself wanting something more than a mention of ‘crossroads.’ What kind of crossroads? For example, is Emmie deciding whether or not to go to public vs. private school? In addition, how old is Emmie?
[MLS2]: How does it entice them?
[MLS3]: What does this mean/entail?
[MLS4]: Because we didn’t learn specifics about Emmie’s past (and the people who hurt her), this isn’t as impactful as it could be.
[MLS5]: While this is a great sentence, you typically want to end your plot summary on the stakes: what’s at stake for the character and the world at large?
[MLS6]: This should be in ALL CAPS, not quotes.

First 250:
She[MLS1] jumped as a colossal shadow grew on the sidewalk all around her and looked up to see what could have created it.[BG1] A majestic red bird streaked across the sky then swooped down towards Emmie. She gasped, dropped to the ground, and covered her head with her arms[MLS2], but the bird just[MLS3] landed on the tree next to her.

That bird looks familiar … like a phoenix I saw in a book, but I’d bet my favorite video game they didn’t really exist… did they?[BG2]

She looked around her on the street to see if anyone else noticed this bird that stood out like a sore thumb[MLS4]. A man across the street from her continued to water his lawn and bobbing his head to the tunes he was listening to, and cars drove by without stopping to stare.

This doesn’t make sense. Am I just seeing things?

“Hello, friend. Where did you come from?” she said as she walked toward the bird. He spread out his vibrant red wings and on his ankle, was a velvet band with a red gemstone.

“Someone already loves you. Who?” Emmie cocked her head to the side. You know, why hasn’t anyone seen a phoenix before. Do they just hide really well or did this one just come here from some other land? Why on Earth would they come to this boring town of all places? The bird flapped his wings and let out a soft trill.
**********
Emily's Notes:
I found myself unsure why the bird in the pages mattered.

Ben's Notes:
[BG1]: Not a very strong first line.
[BG2]: This is where I would stop reading, and pass on the book.

Meg's Notes:
[MLS1]: Start with Emmie’s name. 
[MLS2]: Is she very little (particularly, is she short)? It seems surprising to me that a kid would react like this.
[MLS3]: In general, try to avoid using words like: just, very, that, then, really.
[MLS4]: I found myself wanting a more unique simile here. 
 
The opening paragraphs are sweet, but probably not enough for me to ask for more because of the query. I felt that I didn't know enough about the protagonist or the specific stakes to be invested in the story. In addition, I think a few rounds of additional editing could improve the flow of the writing/scene.

Results:
Emily: PASS
Ben: PASS
Meg: PASS

Friday, September 22, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #35


In this flash fiction contest, you may pick any animal that strikes your fancy (but isn't that raccoon so cute?!). Horses, sloths, birds, mountain lions, rabbits-- take your pick! Entry due by noon on Sunday the 24th, with the winner announced later that evening. Rules can be found here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

THE WRITERS' BLOCK: Exercises for Overcoming a Creative Slump (#4: Character Wish List)

In this new series, Operation Awesome is providing exercises to help you break out of writer's block, or a creative slump. Too often, we get stuck with writer's block because we believe when the words don't flow organically, or when the sentences don't come out perfectly structured, or when the plot has holes, we've failed. Usually, it just means you're having an off day, and forcing yourself to write on these days can perpetuate the feeling of being stuck. It can really help to take a day off from writing, but that doesn't mean taking a day off from working on your book. These exercises will help you work on your book when you're not actually writing.

So, none of our exercises involve narrative writing, per se. Instead, they require you to think, daydream, talk to your characters, and CREATE. You can jot down notes as you go, or you can record yourself talking through the exercises, or you can keep everything in your head.

For Exercise #4, we're going to focus on CHARACTER DESIRE. If you read writer's craft books, websites, or blog posts, you'll hear the same question over and over: What does your main character want? It's the vital backbone of your story, because readers relate and commiserate with characters who deeply want something, and have to overcome obstacles to get what they want. The desire can be anything from a love interest to saving the world to winning a sewing bee. But your main character (and your antagonist) must want something, or that want must propel them into action.

Use a paper and pen, or a computer, and make a list of everything your main character wants. This should definitely include the want that makes up the main plot of the book (for example, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wants to go home). Then, take some time and brainstorm everything else your main character wants. Again, using The Wizard of Oz as an example, Dorothy's 'wish list' might look like this:

1) To go home
2) To defeat the Wicked Witch of the West
3) To bring the witch's broom to the Wizard
4) To protect Toto
5) To protect my other friends
6) To help my friends achieve their own desires (a brain, a heart, courage)
7) To avoid being kidnapped by the flying monkeys
8) To figure out a way out of the sealed room before the witch kills me
9) To not get blisters from walking miles in the ruby slippers (just kidding)
10) Others?

You can see that for a well-drawn character in a well-constructed narrative, the main character has many desires. It makes them more interesting and relatable to the reader, and makes it more understandable when they take action.

Once you've finished brainstorming your main character's wish list, turn to your antagonist and do the same. Does your antagonist want something deeper than to beat the hero? Dive into your antagonist's back story and see what you can come up with.


Did you run into any surprises while brainstorming your main character's and antagonist's wish lists?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Meet J Lenni Dorner in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6
Fractions of Existence - Book One of the Existence Series by @JLenniDorner
Amazon


If you read Operation Awesome regularly, then you're already familiar with J Lenni Dorner, blog contributor. Today, however, you get to meet J Lenni Dorner, debut fiction author! We are so excited for the release of J's first novel, FRACTIONS OF EXISTENCE. Congratulations, J. We hope it feels good to be on the other end of the interview questions. :0)


1- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Wordsmith, Lenni-Lenape, persevering, nemophilist, quirky

2- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

I once wrote using a twig dipped in blood.

Wow, that sounded creepy, didn’t it?

My bio-parents weren’t “grocery store” types. I grew up in a hunter-gatherer environment. We used every part of the animal. The first time someone asked me where I got deerskin pants, I looked at them like they were stupid. At that point in my young life, I had never met someone before who lived another way. Now when someone asks me something like that, I just laugh and shake my head. I’m just barely “civilized.”

Of the people you know, I’m the Daryl Dixon.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Writing was how I connected the life I was raised in with the life I was moved into. It’s how make sense of the world.

4- Would you share a picture with us of some of your rejected book covers?

REJECTED book cover @JLenniDornerREJECTED book cover @JLenniDorner

On a scale of 1 to 10, how terrible were those covers for an urban fantasy?


5- What are some of your short and long-term writing goals?

Short:


To get 50 reviews for this book.

Long:


To sell 90,000 copies of Fractions of Existence by September 2020.
To publish another fiction book by April 2018.
To write and publish the entire Existence book series.


6- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

Wend has some “Ugly Duckling” moments in this book. She has no idea what Xavier might see in her, and wonders if he calls her beautiful just to be polite. There’s a scene in a garage restroom where this feeling hits her. The truth is that Xavier sees who she really is, and that makes a real difference. Wend spends this book as a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, not that she’s aware of this reality. I think there are readers out there who have felt like outsiders in their own life until they discovered where they belonged. Sometimes you just have to find your people or your niche.

7- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

Sandi. She loves the characters. Heath is her favorite in this book. She's a friend and was the first editor of the manuscript.

8- What's with the "What-Are-They"? It's the name of your website and the title of the last chapter.

I've based these characters off of a legend an elder in my tribe taught me. There are a handful (with fingers to spare) of us who know this passed-down story. I created a video of words that may enter a reader's mind while reading this and trying to figure it out. In book two, the characters will have a discussion about the question.



9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Editing! It's interesting how finding the mistakes of others can make a switch go off in your mind. "Wait, did I do that too?"
The tool that made the biggest difference has been Grammarly. It's an extension in my Chrome browser, and an add-on in MS Word. I don't know how I lived without it. Grammarly doesn't just point out that something is wrong or might be wrong, it explains the reasoning behind it. For example, it pointed out that I was using the British version of a word. It also picked up on my using aloud instead of out loud. (Aloud is considered a more formal action. One reads a Bible aloud in church. This interview, however, you could read out loud to a friend.)

10- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

That would be the eyes. I highly suggest paying attention to Xavier, Heath, Jez, and Wend’s eyes. (Caleb and Jun have impressive eyes, too. But that doesn't come up in book one.)

11- How is Jun pronounced?

http://www.pronouncenames.com/pronounce/jun

12- #DiversityBingo2017 https://twitter.com/novelparadise/status/808828422700998656 Which squares does your book cover on the card?

  • MC w/ Underrepresented body
  • MC of Color in SFF
  • Contemporary World Arranged Marriage
  • Free Choice = Native American Author


13- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

I've always been intrigued that Dumbledore is protecting Harry on one hand, and shoving him, unprepared, into danger with the other hand (the one that wore the ring).
What? Ohhh... no one else has ever answered with a character that isn't their own. Sneaky sneaky!
My honest answer to this question is Heath. But, until book two, I can't even hint as to why, or which personality contradiction I'm talking about!

14- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to potentially benefit hundreds of other authors or readers?

I'm doing it already. Interviewing debut authors makes a huge difference. The more authors, the more books. More books, better odds a reader will find one to love. More readers means less illiteracy, and that means a better world for everyone.

15- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

If it's by one of my favorite authors, that's the easiest sale. But I didn't realize my other motivations until I started the "Down the TBR Hole" blog prompt posts on my blog. It turns out that I'm most motivated to buy any books about the Lenni-Lenape, and any books that remind me of my book or my characters.

16- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I am ALL about reviews. Those are the rings in my tree. Sure, some rings show years where the forest burned or insects attacked; but every ring is earned by a growing tree.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I self-published largely because I like having control. Urban Fantasy, all of Speculative Fiction, really, is hard to get agents interested in. Throw in that my book is lacking vampires, detectives, orphaned main characters, magic users, (and neither dragon nor shifter would be entirely accurate to describe Caleb)... and it's easy to see why agents replied, politely, by saying they didn't think they had the "right contacts" for my story. (And other similar rejections.)

I found a list with other clichés and tropes I avoided: renegade female loner, rebellious normal who “plays” with paranormals, and vigilantes/hunters/professional monster-fighters as the protagonists (mine are antagonists, and it's a religious sect…).

I considered throwing a disclaimer in the front of the book. "Warning: This Urban Fantasy isn't like the other ones."

18- What is one question which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I want to know what debut books you're looking forward to in the coming months!

19- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Once they were humanity's exalted protectors— now they are being hunted.


Xavier will weigh all human life against Gwendolyn's ignorant happiness. The good news is that her choice can blow his away.



Omnipotent beings find each other while playing an online game. Xavier has been searching for Gwendolyn, his true mate and the missing member of the Existence. Only if reunited can the group regain the rest of their memories and access all of their powers. Hidden in plain sight, disguised as humans, they help who they can, as best they can, when they can.

The Eyes in the Shadows, a religious sect, has been trying to free humans from the “prison” of life on Earth for millenniums. The Existence has always been able to thwart them… until now. They've discovered a way to end the world that no one will see coming.

Gwendolyn has her future all laid out. There is a plan. She knows what her parents want for her and how to get it. Then Xavier, a friend from a virtual game, makes her question everything. He's full of secrets, one being an understanding of her fear of the wind.

She tries to suppress her intense attraction to the mysterious and frustrating Xavier. She's engaged, after all, and the thoughts she's having aren't proper. Gwendolyn is swept into a whirlwind of secrets, danger, and forbidden attraction. She'll drive across the country in her beat-up old car, not knowing if he's is genuinely interested or just being polite. (He refuses to kiss her!) Gwendolyn's journey is full of self-doubt, sacrifice, and dark visions that invade her sleep. Will she uncover the truth about herself?

Fractions of Existence - Book One of the Existence Series by @JLenniDorner
Amazon


J is the Operation Awesome Team member who (usually) runs the Debut Author Spotlight on Wednesdays. (Thanks, Kara!)
The author attended Penn State.
J has won several writing awards, some which included publication in anthologies.
Learn more on the website:
http://www.what-are-they.com/

There's a giveaway! rafflecopter



Follow @JLenniDorner on Twitter please WhatAreThey is the Facebook fan page of @JLenniDorner — Please click Like and Follow! Follow @JLenniDorner on Pinterest please Follow and friend author J Lenni Dorner on Goodreads please

Thanks for this, Kara. Putting me in my own hot seat has been an interesting experience!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Using Power Words

As I was formatting the last round of Pass Or Pages posts, one comment in particular caught my eye. Agent Tricia Skinner noted on one of our entries that writers weren't ending their sentences with "power words." To see the example, check out this entry, comment TS2. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Well, as I was working on that post, I was mulling this idea over and over in my head. How could I use power words to my advantage?

Then I finished the post, and moved over to Scrivener to work on my WIP. As I was reading over the work I'd done the previous night, I realized that there was a perfect example (of what not to do!) right in my own writing! And because of Tricia's advice, I was able to fix the sentence to end on the power word. This is a great example, by the way, of how Pass Or Pages can help writers whether they write in the the featured category/genre or not. Let me show you how it helped me:

In my WIP, the main character hunts ghosts with her two friends. This brings her into the path of a boy she used to be best friends with, and the more she hunts ghosts, the more she sees him. Her friends encourage her to talk to him, so she finally works up the courage to send him a message. The night before this little scene, the MC and her friends tried contacting a ghost through a Ouija board, and the ghost laughed at them (in a scary way, not a cute way). That's all you need to know to understand this sentence:


I'm trying to emphasize that even though she hunts ghosts, talking to a boy she likes is way scarier for this character. This sentence ends with the qualifier "the night before." Is when the ghost laughed at her the important part? No, of course not. So I tweaked this sentence to end on the word that gives the sentence the most power:


It's such a little thing, but it makes a big difference. Using power words correctly to help your individual sentences have greater impact is definitely an advanced writing craft tool, but you can learn it and use it to your advantage. It just takes practice.

Do you have any examples of how you've edited to use a power word? I'd love to see them in the comments!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

THE WRITERS' BLOCK: Exercises for Overcoming a Creative Slump (#3: Favorite Scenes)

In this new series, Operation Awesome is providing exercises to help you break out of writer's block, or a creative slump. Too often, we get stuck with writer's block because we believe when the words don't flow organically, or when the sentences don't come out perfectly structured, or when the plot has holes, we've failed. Usually, it just means you're having an off day, and forcing yourself to write on these days can perpetuate the feeling of being stuck. It can really help to take a day off from writing, but that doesn't mean taking a day off from working on your book. These exercises will help you work on your book when you're not actually writing.

So, none of our exercises involve narrative writing, per se. Instead, they require you to think, daydream, talk to your characters, and CREATE. You can jot down notes as you go, or you can record yourself talking through the exercises, or you can keep everything in your head.

For Exercise #3, we're going to focus on FAVORITE SCENES. You know how there are certain scenes in books and movies that you read/watch over and over? They're so beautifully portrayed, or tons of fun, or they evoke an emotional response, or all of the above. Creating great scenes that keep readers turning the pages is a big part of writing, one that can take years to perfect.

But The Writers' Block isn't about craft - it's about brainstorming. So take paper and a pen, or your computer, set a timer for 20-30 minutes, and brainstorm at least ten scenes you want to see in your book. You can use a basic outline you might already have for your novel, or you can start from scratch. The main rule for this exercise is to brainstorm big, colorful, significant scenes. Nothing is off-limits here... do you want to send your main character to the circus? Into outer space, even though it's a contemporary romance? Do you want a scene where your characters get locked in a mall? Go crazy, knowing that all these scenes might not make it into the book.

Once you have your list of scenes, and you've eliminated the ones that you might write for fun, but might not end up in your book, put them in the order that makes the most sense. That might be chronological, or if you're planning a non-linear narrative, it might be the order that makes the most sense for character development.

Then, start thinking about how to flesh out the details between the ordered scenes. You'll likely need some transitions, some additional scenes, and to explore how your characters are getting from Point A to Point B.

Then, when you're ready, pick a scene, either starting from the beginning or choosing the one that seems the most fun, and start writing! The scene list is a great way to structure a brand-new story idea, but it can also help kick-start a project that has stalled.


Did you enjoy creating a scene list? What scenes did you add to your list from this brainstorming session that you might have never considered before?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pass Or Pages September 2017 Entry Form

We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for Middle Grade Science-fiction and Fantasy novels. The entry window closes at 6pm Eastern time on Wednesday September 13th. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Fanfiction


I am not a fanfiction reader. For me, I'm content with the worlds the original author created, and don't have any interest in reading another person's spin on it. But there are lots of people who are passionate about fanfiction, and love that it allows them to stay in the story worlds that they adore, long after the final book has been published. And that it totally awesome!

What I have found that I like though, are books about the fanfiction community. I've only read two, but liked them both immensely:


and


I'm actually getting ready to read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (sitting by my keyboard as I type this), which is based on a fanfiction story that Cath (the main character from Fangirl) wrote. I loved the snippets of Carry On that were shared in Fangirl, so I can't wait to dig into a novel inspired by fictional fanfiction. (okay, my brain is starting to hurt, lol!)




What are your opinions on fanfiction? Love it, dislike it, or write it?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

THE WRITERS' BLOCK: Exercises for Overcoming a Creative Slump (#2: Character Questionnaire)

In this new series, Operation Awesome is providing exercises to help you break out of writer's block, or a creative slump. Too often, we get stuck with writer's block because we believe when the words don't flow organically, or when the sentences don't come out perfectly structured, or when the plot has holes, we've failed. Usually, it just means you're having an off day, and forcing yourself to write on these days can perpetuate the feeling of being stuck. It can really help to take a day off from writing, but that doesn't mean taking a day off from working on your book. These exercises will help you work on your book when you're not actually writing.

So, none of our exercises involve narrative writing, per se. Instead, they require you to think, daydream, talk to your characters, and CREATE. You can jot down notes as you go, or you can record yourself talking through the exercises, or you can keep everything in your head.

For Exercise #2, we're going to focus on CHARACTERS. Specifically, getting to know your main character, the antagonist, the love interest, and any secondary characters you want, by using a Character Questionnaire. Examples of these questionnaires abound online, but you can keep this simple and see where your creativity goes with it. You won't use the bulk of the answers directly in your story itself, but knowing your characters well makes it easier to build fully-fleshed out people.

First, pick a character you want to get to know better. Use a notebook, think through the answers in your head, or talk to your character out loud (probably don't do the latter option in a public place). Ask your character the following questions, and see how much better you can get to know them!

1) Full name (including middle name, maiden name, aliases, etc.) Have you looked up the meaning of your character's name? This can also help inform personality traits.

2) Birthday. Have you looked up the astrological meaning of your character's birthday? This can also be an interesting way to add personality and life events.

3) Where has your character lived? One place? Many places? If many, why did they move? How did your character react to moving?

4) Family/upbringing: Two parents? One? None? Siblings? Other relatives that lived in the house when your character was a child? Pets? How did everyone get along? Were they rich/poor/in-between? Were the parents strict, easygoing, loving, neglectful?

5) School: What level of education did you character achieve? Were they an attentive student? Did they enjoy studying or hate it? What were their favorite subjects? Extracurricular activities? Did they have a lot of friends or were they a loner? What significant events happened during your character's school years?

6) Friends: Who were your character's friends as a child? Are they still friends? If not, why not?

7) Love interests: Did you character have relationships as a teenager? What happened to them? What is your character's current relationship status? Ever been divorced? Ever had their heart broken? Ever broken someone else's heart?

8) Travel: Did your character get to go to many different places? If so, why (business trips, vacations, moving, etc.)? If not, why not (money, etc.)?

9) Careers: What kinds of work has your character done? Are they lucrative? Did they enjoy them? Are they respected at their job? Did anything significant happen at these jobs?

10) Fears: What does your character most fear? Have they told anyone? What does this fear stem from? Does the fear impact how they live their life?

11) Hopes: What does your character want out of life? Have they told anyone? What are they doing to accomplish these things?

12) Physical appearance: What does your character look like? Hair color, eye color, skin tone, height, build, and also things like notable scars, tattoos, piercings, etc. Are they athletic? Clumsy? Graceful? Do you picture a celebrity or someone you know when you picture your character?

13) Voice: What does your character sound like? Do they have any notable auditory characteristics, like a barking laugh or a beautiful singing voice?

14) Social: Is your character an introvert, and extravert, or somewhere in between? How do they react in social situations? Would they rather go to parties or read at home?

15) Children: Does your character have children? Want children? Hate children?

16) Hobbies: What does your character like to do when not working?

17) Food and Drink: What are your character's favorite foods and drinks? Least favorite? Are there any memories attached to these preferences?

18) Music, movies, TV shows: What are your character's preferences for entertainment?


That's enough to start with. Have fun interviewing your character and try to apply what you've learned about them to their story!