All posts by katiemerkelwriter

Katie Merkel is a writer, actress, and teacher. She has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish education and a minor in German from Millersville University and is a certified Spanish teacher in the state of Pennsylvania. She has an associate’s degree in performing arts from Harrisburg Area Community College. She currently works as a Clerk Typist II at a local government agency.

You Can’t End a Sentence with a Preposition – Myth or Grammar Rule?

Hello everyone!

Prepositions 8If you’re like me, you were taught growing up that you should never end a sentence with a preposition.  Maybe you’ve also found yourself in a situation where you tried really hard to re-write a sentence so that it did not end with a dreaded preposition, but the result sounded weird and was barely comprehendible.  Can anyone relate?

Well, you might be shocked to learn that you may end a sentence with a preposition.  (I hear the gasps of disbelief and outraged cries from here.)  Before you decide I’ve lost my mind, and all sense of grammar, please check out the articles below.

Prepositions, Ending a Sentence With by Merriam-Webster.com

Ending Sentences with Prepositions by OxfordDictionaries.com

Can you end a sentence with a preposition? by Catherine Soanes (Oxford Dictionaries blog)

Ending a Sentence with a Preposition: Is it ever OK to end a sentence with a preposition? by Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl)

Warning, many people still believe that a sentence should not end with a preposition.  Use wisdom when applying your newfound freedom.

Happy writing!

Katie

Advertisements

Tension is Good for the Reader

Hello everyone!

Ever have a scene that just didn’t hold your readers’ attention?  How about an info dump you couldn’t eliminate because it contained vital information?

Janice Hardy offers some good tips for correcting both of these issues in her articles “Ready, Set…Where’s the Action? Keeping Informative Scenes Tense” and “Is a Lack of Action Really the Problem?”

When it comes to adding tension to a story, I personally am a fan of:

  • Argument 9two characters with conflicting opinions going head-to-head
  • no-win situations
  • point of no return decisions (especially when the protagonist has to choose whether or not to rely on someone who may or may not be trustworthy)

I hope Janice Hardy’s articles give you some good ideas for how to raise the tension in your scenes and keep your readers hooked.

Happy writing!

Katie

Is It Worth the Cost?

Hello everyone!

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.  […]  Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”
― Veronica Roth, Allegiant

thM7R5DEQIThink about your favorite book.  What does the protagonist want?  In the end, does he/she get it?  That question and answer give you the basic plot.

Now, here’s a deeper question: What does trying to achieve his/her goal cost the protagonist?  The answer to that question is what makes the story and/or character interesting.  In my opinion, the cost is essential to the protagonist’s growth.

untitledConsider The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Edmond wants to be a king, but by siding with the White Witch, he sacrifices his freedom, his family’s trust, and – without Aslan’s intervention – his life.

Now let’s think about The Hunger Games.  Katniss is willing to do anything to protect her sister.  When Katniss takes Prim’s place in the games, she sacrifices her own safety to achieve her goal.  Once Katniss is in the games, her goal becomes to survive.  Surviving the games costs her what little childhood innocence she has left, friendships, and her peace of mind.

By the end of the books, both Edmond and Katniss are changed.  Regardless of whether or not they succeeded, they have to live with the consequences of what they did.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to:

  1. Choose a protagonist you have already created.
  2. Ask yourself what your character wants.
  3. Decide what he/she loses or willingly sacrifices while attempting to achieve his/her goal.
  4. Write the scene where your protagonist either chooses to pay the price or realizes what he/she will lose even if he/she is not willing to lose it.
  5. Does he/she feel like the cost was worth it?  (I do not think this necessarily needs to be included in a book, but I as the author like to know.)

In “The Four Crystals,” the novel I’m currently editing, having each character risk, lose, or willingly sacrifice something of value has raised the stakes and made the characters’ motivation stronger.  It’s also required a lot more editing than I ever imagined having to put into the novel.  (In-depth editing is the cost of writing a novel worthy of publication.)

Happy writing!

Katie

Optimal Editing

Hello everyone!

When you set out to be a writer, the thing they don’t tell you is that you will spend most of your time editing.  And, whether you like it or not, editing is a time-consuming process.

This year, I have been focusing on editing my novel, “The Four Crystals,” but I began the editing process two or three years ago.  The biggest mistake I’ve made during those years was trying to take my novel from a rough draft to a final draft in one edit.

untitled

It didn’t end well.

What I have learned from reading other writers’ advice is to focus on one thing per edit.

I really liked the way Allison K. Williams broke down the writing and editing process in her article “Seven Drafts.”

The names of Allison K. Williams’ seven drafts are:

  1. The Vomit Draft
  2. The Story Draft
  3. The Character Draft
  4. The Technical Draft
  5. The Personal Copy Edit
  6. The Friend/Beta Read
  7. The Editor Read

I hope you find “Seven Drafts” by Allison K. Williams as helpful as I did.

Happy writing!

Katie

What’s in a Song?

Hello everyone!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love musicals, and Disney movies.  One of the reasons that I love them so much is because each song has a purpose: either to push the plot forward or give the audience some needed information.

Below are five functions that come to mind when I think of a song from a musical:

  1. table 2Setting the Stage: The song gives the background for the story or for a key part of the plot. (Examples: A Rumor in St. Petersburg from Anastasia, Alexander Hamilton from Hamilton, Façade from Jekyll and Hyde)

 

  1. time 8Passage of Time: I have mostly seen this done so that the audience can see a character’s childhood, but it can be used in other ways. (Examples: I Know It’s Today from Shrek The Musical, Lovely Ladies from Les Misérables, The Plagues from The Prince of Egypt)

 

  1. thQ5KBFDS2Exposition: The song explains something. (Examples: Tightrope from The Greatest Showman, Something Bad from Wicked, I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here from Annie)

 

  1. th73J0AYXLDesire: Expresses what the protagonist wants. (Examples: Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid, Santa Fe from Newsies, Much More from The Fantastics)

 

  1. Romance 1Love Song: There are many varieties of long songs.  Often a love song is a duet, but sometimes it is just one character expressing his/her love for another character.  It can also be the song in which two characters fall in love or finally realize that they are in love. (Examples: Can You Feel the Love Tonight from The Lion King, Jimmy from Thoroughly Modern Millie, I See the Light from Tangled)

Writing Challenge:

Choose a story that connects with you.  Now, try to write a song for one of the scenes or one of the characters.  Make sure that the song has a purpose, it cannot just sound pretty.

If you feel confident in your song writing abilities, increase the difficulty level by writing the song with a specific target audience in mind.  For example, the language Lin-Manuel Miranda used in Hamilton is very different from the language he used in Moana.  The reason is that Hamilton was written for an adult audience while Moana was marketed to children and their families.

Happy writing (and singing)!

Katie

What’s in a Name?

Hello everyone!

Developing a new character can be tricky.  Apart from asking questions to learn more about who a character is, I can’t say that I have a standard way in which I create one.

pencil sketch 7Sometimes, characters come to me with a look, personality, and name.  All I have to do is insert them into a story.  Other times, I’ll be writing a story and realize that I have a “role” that needs to be filled in order for the story to succeed.  When this happens, I usually have the personality and maybe even the backstory of the character in mind.  I just have to choose a name and look for the character.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create a character based off of a random name.

  1. Go to an online name generator. (If you want, you may specify gender, but let the computer decide everything else.)
  2. Create a character for the name you are given: backstory, personality, home life, family relationships, profession, the culture in which he/she lives, his/her role in society, his/her beliefs (religious, political, etc.), and anything else you can think of.

When you’re done, ask yourself whether or not your new character could fit into a story you’re already writing or if he/she is the inspiration you needed for a new story.

Happy writing!

Katie

*Special thanks to my friend, Taylor Bresslin, for having me do this character creating exercise at one of our writers’ group’s meetings.

Childhood Favorites

Hello everyone!

Ernie Gets LostReading was a huge part of my childhood.  Some of my best memories are of my parents reading to me.  When I was six and got lost at Disney Land, I knew what to do because of a Sesame Street picture book that my mom had read to me.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create a new story based off of your favorite picture book from childhood.  Do one of the following:

  1. Re-write the picture book as a story for adults.
  2. Take the moral or theme of the picture book, and write a different children’s story with the same moral or theme.
  3. Why was that picture book your favorite?  Identify element that made the book special for you.  Then, write a story that contains that element, but otherwise is unrelated to that picture book.

Happy writing!

Katie