Category Archives: Book Recommendations

Seven Books that Shaped Who I Am

Hello everyone!

The other day I had a conversation with sci-fi and fantasy author Olivia Berrier about the seven books that have had the greatest impact on us.  I was able to come up with two lists of seven books: seven that shaped who I am as a writer and seven that influenced who I am as a person.

Your challenge is to come up with a list of the seven books that have had the greatest impact on you.  Think about how and why they influenced you.  Then, send each author a short message letting them know what their book meant to you.  You will make their day!

To help you get started, I have included my list of the seven books that helped shape who I am as a writer.  (I cheated a little – If the series as a whole influenced me rather than a specific book from the series, I listed the title of the series.)

Cover of The Lion, the Witch, and the WaredrobeThe Lion, the Witch, and the Waredrobe by C.S. Lewis – This was the first story I ever fangirled over.  It established my love for allegories and fantasy worlds.

Cover of Flight of the EaglesThe Seven Sleepers Series by Gilbert Morris – It built upon the foundation Narnia had laid.  My love of allegories and fantasy worlds was solidified.

Box Set of The Inheritance CycleThe Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – The Inheritance Cycle showed me how to explore different belief systems in a fictional setting and introduced me to the idea that magic can have rules.  From a technical standpoint, I learned a trick for minimizing use of the auxiliary verb “had” when relating something that had happened before the story began.  (This only applies to books that are narrated in the past tense.)

Cover of The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – This book was my introduction to first-person narration.  It is my favorite go-to example for how to set your reader firmly in a world without having an info dump and for what information to include in the first chapter of a novel.

Cover of Bridge to TerabithiaBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – This book showed me that children’s books can cover difficult, real-life situations which young people sadly face but society often considers too mature to discuss with children.

Welcome to Camden Falls coverMain Street Series by Ann M. Martin – This series showed me how to grow characters over the course of several books.  It also demonstrated how to write about real-life, too-mature-to-discuss-with-children situations in a tasteful way.

Complete A to Z Mysteries book seriesA to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy – This series showed me how to structure a chapter book mystery series.

Happy writing!

Katie

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Developing Believable Protagonists

Hello everyone!

For me, the protagonist is what makes or breaks a story.  If I don’t like or relate to the main character, I won’t get on board with the plot.  I have stopped reading books when this happened.

The two crucial things to do are to make your protagonist relatable and to have him/her grow throughout the story.  Relatable characters are believable.

The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait ThesaurusTwo resources I like for developing believable characters are The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus, both written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.  The lists for each trait really help with developing realistic, multifaceted characters.

As a way of ensuring that my protagonist’s thought processes, voice, and reactions feel real, I often endow my main character with part of my personality.  For a more in-depth discussion about this method, which some authors view as problematic, read “Who me? Not I!” by Gail Carson Levine.  She includes suggestions for writing characters that are nothing like you and some writing prompts designed to help you avoid accidentally writing yourself into your protagonist.  My advice is if you choose to write yourself into your main character, make it an intentional choice.

Below are three things that I consider vital when creating a believable protagonist:

  1. Know what’s motivating your protagonist and let that guide his/her actions and responses (“The Wonder of ‘Why?’: Getting to the Heart of the Matter”).
  2. Make sure your protagonist is not perfect (“Character Flaws”).
  3. Show how your protagonist feels through facial expressions and body language (“Writing Books with Emotional Savvy”).

Happy writing!

Katie

Writing Books with Emotional Savvy

Hello everyone!

Recently, an author friend of mine, Olivia Berrier, recommended I get The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I followed her advice. At that time, I also purchased The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

Both books help writers to find different ways of showing, rather than telling, how the character feels.

 

Emotional ThesaurusThe Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

The front of the book has a section titled “Writing Nonverbal Emotions: Avoiding Common Problems.” The main portion of the book is the emotions thesaurus.

Each emotion spans two pages of the book and has the following sections:

  • Definition: a brief explanation of what the emotion is
  • Physical Signals: a list of physical manifestations of or reactions to the emotion
  • Internal Sensations: a list of internal manifestations of or reactions to the emotion
  • Mental Responses: a list of mental reactions to the emotion
  • Cues of Acute or Long-term Emotion: a list of different ways people react to feeling that emotion intensely or for an extended period of time
  • May Escalate To: the emotion(s) to which the featured emotion often morphs or intensifies
  • Cues of Suppressed Emotion: physical signals, internal sensations, or mental responses to trying to hide or hold in the featured emotion
  • Writer’s Tip: advice about writing emotions

 

Emotional Wound ThesaurusThe Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

At the front of the book are several article like entries. These offer advice about caring for oneself as a writer, defining what an emotional wound is, and raising awareness to how to develop and write about a character’s emotional wound.

In the thesaurus section of the book, the types of traumas that cause emotional wounds are broken into seven categories: Crime and Victimization, Disabilities and Disfigurements, Failures and Mistakes, Injustice and Hardship, Misplaced Trust and Betrayals, Specific Childhood Wounds, and Traumatic Events. Beneath each category are more specific events or situations. For example, two of the more specific situations listed under “Misplaced Trust and Betrayals” are “A Sibling’s Betrayal” and “A Toxic Relationship.”

Each event or situation resulting in an emotional wound spans two pages of the book and has the following sections:

  • Notes or Examples:
    • Notes talk about the event or situation and how it could have come about or impacted the character.
    • Examples sometimes contain the same information as a note and always have a list of causes or very specific events or situations. For example, two of the perpetrators/situations listed under “Being Bullied” are “A jealous friend or resentful classmate” and “Co-workers who were threatened by one’s status or prowess.”
  • Basic Needs Often Compromised by This Wound: universal needs that often are not met or not fully met when an individual has the featured emotional wound
  • False Beliefs that Could Be Embraced: a list of erroneous beliefs an individual might have as a result of the featured emotional wound
  • The Character May Fear…: a list of common fears for people who have the featured emotional wound
  • Possible Responses and Results: a list of ways people handle/respond (positively or negatively) to the featured trauma/emotional wound
  • Personality Traits that May Form: attributes and flaws that often develop as a result of the emotional wound
  • Triggers That Might Aggravate This Wound: a list of events, sights, or situations that might trigger the trauma/jab at the emotional wound
  • Opportunities to Face or Overcome This Wound: a list of situations or realizations that are difficult for the person who has the emotional wound

I hope you find these books as helpful as I do.

Happy writing!

Katie

Recommended Reading for Writers

Hello everyone and happy Father’s Day!

Due to additional job responsibilities, summer plans, and writing deadlines, I will be posting two times per month for the rest of the summer.

The more I write, the more I discover how truly essential reading is to developing one’s craft. There are two books which I believe every writer seeking publication should read and a reading strategy which, in my opinion, all writers should employ.

Book Recommendations

The Essential GuideThe first book is The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing: How to Write, Work, & Thrive on Your Own Terms by Zachary Petit. In his book, Petit offers advice on how to break into the freelance market, build a platform, write a professional query letter, conduct interviews, and more. Although his book’s target audience is freelance writers, much of his advice is valuable for those who do not wish to become a freelancer. In addition to being informative, Petit’s voice is very conversational and often humorous, causing the book to read more like a novella than a “how to” book. I highly recommend The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing to anyone who wants to write professionally.

Writer_s Market Deluxe Edition 2017Another valuable resource is the Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition 2017 (aka the writer’s Bible). It contains:

  • Writing Related Advice (i.e. how to write a good query letter, how to build a platform, etc.)
  • Lists of:
    • Literary Agents
    • Book Publishers
    • Consumer Magazines
    • Trade Journals
    • Contests and Awards

Other books which are similar in content, but geared towards specific genres are Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2017, Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2017, Poet’s Market 2017, and Guide to Literary Agents 2017.

Reading Strategy

Read in your genre. If you want to write poetry, read poetry. If your passion is science fiction, read all the science fiction you can get your hands on. Do you want to write short stories? Read short stories, especially ones printed in the publications you plan on querying.

The young adult novel I am currently editing, The Four Crystals, is an allegorical fantasy. Obvious books to read for this genre are The Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I hope you find these book recommendations and the reading strategy helpful.

Happy writing!

Katie