Thursday, May 27, 2010

Characters and Their Hats

" was the kind of hat that would be worn by someone who not only thought but also came to conclusions of an important and vital kind."
~Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

The right hat complements a character. It gives the reader a clue to the inner workings of that character. Will the little freckled lad shove a baseball cap on his head before running outside to play? Is the femme fatale's satin cocktail hat black or maybe even purple? Is Curious George's human companion the man in a big yellow hat?

Aside from all the characterization-useful-writing device mumbo jumbo, hats are super fun! Don't forget, readers want to have a little fun. Douglas Adams' detective character, Dirk Gently, habitually wears a round dark red hat with a very flat brim.

 "As a hat it was a remarkable rather than entirely successful piece of personal decoration. It would make an elegant adornment, stylish, shapely and flattering, if the wearer were a small bedside lamp, but not otherwise." ~Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

In Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, the reoccurring image of the green fedora that smells like cigars is interesting, fun, and holds symbolism . Wearing the hat, in this case, signals the character's personal growth and new found confidence.

"Some hats can only be worn if you're willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you're only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you. This hat was one of those, and Charlie was up to it." ~Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

How about your characters? What hats are they wearing? I have one who wears a tweed cap. Sometimes he spins it on his finger or holds it on his head when he does one-handed cart wheels.

Cool website on hat history.

How about a brand new leopard skin pill box hat?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Towel Day

Happy Towel Day!

Yes, it is Towel Day, all you Douglas Adams fans. You know who you are. You're the ones with one or more copies of The Hitchhiker's Guide on your bookshelf. You're the ones who notice when the number 42 appears anywhere. You are the ones who smile when you read Don't Panic in large friendly letters.

So, listen to some Procol Harum ("The Grand Hotel" inspired The Restaraunt at The End of the Universe) or some Cold Play ("42" or "Don't Panic"). Sling your towel over your shoulder, mix yourself up a pan galactic gargle blaster, crack open your favorite D.N.A. book, and enjoy the day. :)

Some Fun Links:
Towel Day site to network with other D.N.A. lovers
Douglas Adams (official site)
Towel Day Algorithm March (super fun!)
My Towel Day Vid from a couple years ago
Our super old Towel Day vid

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our Characters and Their Pets

Pets are an integral part of the lives of many real life humans. We should consider giving some to our characters. Let your novel's shopkeeper have an old orange tabby cat. Maybe the college student keeps a fish tank. Allow your ex convict to tell his troubles to a beagle/terrier mix named Missy B.

Pets can liven up a scene with little dialogue or show the humanity (or lack of) in a character. Remember how we all felt looking at poor Max after the Grinch tied the horn on his head and forced him to pull that heavy sleigh?

In movies if a guy shoots his enemy's dog, we know he's the villain. That's a cheap trick, but it works. As soon as a character's cruel to an animal, we hate him.

But even a gruff bank robber who just shot the teller can gain at least a bit of our sympathy if he feeds a stray cat or dog. If the animal has an injury, like a hurt paw the robber has to wrap up, so much the better. But as I said, it's a cheap trick. In a movie, the audience will be all, "awwwww," but a novel reader will probably smirk a bit and expect a bit more to sway her toward the robber's side. But the "poor animal" is still a good tool for a novelist to keep in the old writing tool box for that added touch.

Animals can symbolize something about their human companions. Think of Gandalf 's horse, Shadowfax- truly the lord of all horses. He was too wild to be tamed, faster than wind, and good, loyal, and wise. However, at no time did he appear as anything other than a horse. In other words, their relationship never became silly.

Our characters can be close to their animals, provided it doesn't become overly cutesy. Unless of course you're doing so on purpose. That could be quite humorous, actually, if done well. As a kid, I enjoyed Mr. Ed reruns.

Animals can serve as symbols, props, and minor characters all at once. Let's look at Harry Potter's owl, Hedwig- (named after the patron saint of orphans, by the way).

She serves to link him to the magical world while in Privet Drive. Sometimes she carries letters to his magical friends, but most of the time she's caged- symbolizing his own entrapment. For the writer, she helps set the scene and/or mood- Harry can voice his thoughts, telling her he's sorry he can't let her out. Sometimes we're told how dirty her cage is. She'll pace on her perch. Clap her beak in annoyance like a white feathered (haired) old grandma type making *tsk tsk* noises.

In Deathly Hallows, her death seems to be part of Harry's rite of passage into adulthood. He's no longer the little orphan boy. He's leaving his aunt's house for the last time. Leaving her protection. Leaving the protection of the patron of orphans.

All of that with just a little snowy owl who doesn't even talk.

But most of our characters' pets will be your average cat or dog with the occasional bird or fish tossed in. Don't forget to feed them, give them water, and interact with them. They'll bark at the door (well, the dogs will) and they'll respond to other characters. I think the biggest mistake we can make is to stick a pet in a scene and then forget about it for the rest of the scene or the rest of the book. Don't annoy the reader with the little beast, but a doggy loving reader will remember Jane had a poodle and will wonder why little fluffy was never mentioned again after chapter one.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I was just tagged by J.L. Jackson.

Here are the rules: I must answer the following questions five times each and then tag five people to do the same.

Where were you five years ago?

1. Here in California
2. Not writing fiction.
3. Homeschooling my then 13 yr old and I think I was homeschooling on of my step daughters too at that time.
4. Raising four-year-old twins
5. In a kinda busy nutty place

Where would you like to be in five years?

1. On a long motorcycle ride with my husband
2. Living somewhere not so dang hot in the summer
3. Seeing all of our kids happy and well adjusted
4. Published
5. More fit

What is on your To-Do list today?

1. Finish cooking dinner
2. Tidy up the kitchen
3. Dishes
4. Read to the kids
5. Write a little- I hope

What snacks do you enjoy?

1. Coffee
2. Donuts (but I hardly ever indulge)
3. Pickles and hot peppers
4. Popcorn
5. Toast

What would you do with a billion dollars?

1. Pay off the house
2. Buy my husband that car that he wants- can't remember the name. Bad wife!
3. Set aside some money for each of our five kids
4. Invest or some other wise thing so husband can retire and we won't accidently lose it all (He's the finance guy, not me. Can you tell?)
5. Buy a lot of books and a cool antique pocketwatch
Who I've Tagged: (sorry if you've been tagged already and I wasn't paying attention)

1. Karabu Creation
2. Burning Zepplin
3. Struggling to Make It
4 Men Are Dumb And I Should Know
5. Medeia Sharif

Electronic Publishing - Plug Into The Future

When my husband told me years ago that books would grow obsolete. I shuddered. He said humans will eventually simply insert a chip into our brains. "Corn or potato?" I asked. He didn't laugh.
The Matrix films plug a person into the computer, but it's the same idea.
Brain chips haven't caught on, but my local family owned bookstore is shutting its doors, as are so many others. Sure, many are ordering paper books on Amazon, but electronic books are catching on. You can read giga-zillions of the classics on your computer, Kindle, iPhone, iPad, the... er... i...thingie (I'm sure I forgot something.) More and more writers are beginning to see the wisdom of self publishing electronically.

While watching the video of the unveiling of the iPad I got very excited about the possibilities in ebooks. You could have clickables- embedded images that get larger, video, audio- the mind just spins! Of course adding images, videos, and music you didn't create to your book will cost you. And people don't want to pay much for an ebook. I've been reading blogs and articles- looks like two bucks is about it.

I think consumers feel that if they don't have a shiny new *thing* in their hand, they don't want to fork over the dough. I mean, we've all paid more than two dollars for a used book, right? Well, some of these ebooks are self published by the author, and people are paying the author about a $1.50 for a novel. But that doesn't mean you can't make money. Between sheer volume and repeat customers, you can succeed as a novelist this way. Well, maybe. Other's have.

Here are some useful links:
Smashwords- which will convert your book to various electronic formats and help you distribute it. It's not good at fancy stuff, just text. This looks like I could actually do it.
How to make your book into an ebook and software. This looks technical.

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