Monday, December 16, 2013

Party On! Novel Matters' Holiday Guest List

We're collecting our beaded chiffon evening gowns from the cleaners in preparation for the coming holiday season. Each of us has drawn up a guest list of authors--living or dead--to invite. We have our reasons for each inclusion, of course. Be sure to share who you would invite to your holiday party.

New Year's Eve is a quiet affair at the Hill house. Our farmer genes have gone into overdrive, so once the sun sets, well...But if I were to stay up long enough to welcome in 2014, here's who I would want to pass the popcorn with:

William Shakespeare. I lugged the complete works of Shakespeare around for 4 1/2 months to attend class with a dry-as-dirt professor. I imagined Will sitting at the back of the class, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. First and foremost, I believe Will was an entertainer. If people didn't come to his plays, he didn't have a job. Secondly, the man was a genius. He contextualized pressing questions within the iambic pentameter of his writing. I want to know if we go overboard sometimes with our interpretations. Now, if his naysayers are correct, and Will did not write the body of work we attribute to him, would the right and true author please RSVP immediately?

Emily Dickinson. I would be terribly shy in her presence, but once I gained her confidence with literary conversation, I would ask about her writings to the "Master." Were her steamier love poems written about him? Although a recluse, men did orbit in her sphere. Was there someone else? Yeah, you're right, I want to gossip with Emily. It is a party, right?

Steven King. Things might get a little boring, so I'll invite Steven, too. A live one. He has a lot to say about writing. A bit of a taskmaster, though. He might get us to dip our quills for a fresh start of writing for the new year. If that doesn't work, I'll ask, "Steve, could you tell us a story?" Of course, we would all stay awake to see the new year in. First, because the story would be enthralling. Second, because we would be afraid to close our eyes.

Heading my guest list would be Charles Dickens. I've been a fan for many years. I remember years ago getting a biography on Dickens, and it took me quite a while to gather the nerve to read it. My hesitation came from not wanting my image of him destroyed. Happily, I liked him even better after reading the biography. He would be an extremely entertaining guest.

Harper Lee would certainly be on my guest list. I know I've written about her before, but I would actually have two sets of questions for her. The first set would be geared toward the young Ms. Lee: what was it like to write a story like To Kill a Mockingbird as a young white woman in Alabama? What were the immediate repercussions? What, if anything, did it cost you? The second set of questions would be for the elderly Ms. Lee: At the time that you wrote Mockingbird, did you ever envision the changes that would ultimately take place in civil rights in your lifetime? And why, oh, why, did you not continue to publish your writing? I know I'd not be the only one to sit at her feet and listen to her answers.

And difficult as it is to narrow the list, I'd invite Suzanne Collins to talk about her amazing series, The Hunger Games. I'd like to ask about the inspiration for the novel series, and whether she's ever second-guessed herself regarding the love triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta.

William Shakespeare. I’d invite him too and share him with Patti. For one thing, I’d like to know if all that we attribute to him came out of his brain. Then I’d probably swoon and need to be resuscitated.

Charles Spurgeon. I have spent years of my life telling God “thank you” for this man’s incredible scholarship and insights. I’ve been reading The Treasury of David for over a decade, in fact. I can’t believe how much is crammed into that book. And if I could meet Spurgeon, I would wait on him hand and foot for the entire evening. The stories I’ve read of the depression he suffered during his last years breaks my heart, and I would love to make it up to him.

William Faulkner. I want to be him when I grow up as a writer. Sheer genius, and I’d tell him so and then leave him alone, which is what I think he’d want.

Corrie Ten Boom. I actually met her before she departed this life. But I’d like to sit quietly with her and let her tell me stories of her life.

Joyce Carol Oates. She’s still living, so I guess she might actually accept my invitation. (In my dreams.) She is brilliant and prolific in many genres. After I read Black Water, I thought she was the bravest novelist I had ever read.

Agatha Christie. A woman who loved both Egyptology and mysteries!  My kind of woman. And I’d want to know where she was during those 10 days in 1926.

Bonnie, Debbie, Katie, Patti, and Sharon. Truly, I would love to sit down with the most true-hearted writers God ever created. 

Latayne, I so agree. You all top my list!! One of these days we'll all be together again!

Anne Rice. I am currently reading her memoir Called Out of Darkness, A Spiritual Confession and I would love to hear firsthand about her journey back to relationship with Christ.  I know that since she wrote this book, she became disillusioned with the church, and I would like to talk with her about that, too.

Ray Bradbury. No surprise here - he would be top of my list. He captured my writerly imagination in my senior year when The Martian Chronicles was assigned reading.  I wrote him several times in his later years to tell him how his words had moved me to become a writer.  After he passed away, I was glad that I had not put it off.

Daphne du Maurier.  I think I read all her books growing up.  Her female characters were strong and self-reliant, or in Rebecca's case, grew to be so.  Her stories didn't fit into any one genre, and I think I was drawn to that. She never wrote with a formula and her endings weren't always neatly tied up. 

I agree with Latayne, we Novel Matters writers need another retreat. The last time we all met together was 2009. We're overdue.

My Christmas dinner party. I've actually thought about this often over the years with the guests changing on a regular basis. There are writers whose work I love. There are writers whose stories are so fascinating (by virtue of truth or myth) I want to include them at the party in an attempt to squeeze out the true story. There are questions I would ply certain writers with that have nothing to do with their work (Hey, Edgar, why did you refuse to drills and classes at West Point? And who brought roses to your grave every year?), and there are writers who I would invite simply because I want to listen to whatever they have to say, whatever they say. You can see how torturous this is for me to publish a definitive list. I'll call it a guest list in process. I'll be rearranging the name tags for all my life. Still, here are some thoughts:

Marilynne Robinson. I promise you I don't know enough about reform theology to keep up, but I'd like the chance to try.

Chaim Potok. Because we need a counterpoint to Robinson, and because I firmly believe they would bond over the pate and I would take notes.

Alice Munro. I'd give her a break from all the Nobel talk. Instead we'd talk being Canadian, and the subtle and not so subtle differences between Eastern Canada and the West. Our conversation would roam wide as the nation. And, because it's Alice, I'd bring up the role of women but not feminism, the way men understand the turn of the leg, but not misogyny.

J.D Salinger. Enough reclusive living, already. I'd invite him to confirm my suspicions of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after The Battle of the Bulge. I'd serve him chamomile tea and he wouldn't have to talk if he didn't want to, but I'm certain Marilynne, Chaim, and Alice would draw him out and there would be a great healing for him and for the world.

Louisa May Alcott. She was her family's main source of income and so she learned to write fast (she wrote at least two works, Eight Cousins, and Little Men, in six weeks), and the stress was enormous. Addicted to morphine, and suffering from depression she eventually had to rent a room away from home just to be able to sleeps without the aid of drugs. I think she would sympathize with Salinger, and would benefit from the administrations of Potok and Robinson. Alice Munro would hold her hand and listen for hours and together they could carve out a better way.


Novel Matters wants to thank each and every one of our readers for making 2013 a Carpe Annum year. We've shared some amazing accomplishments, published books, and survived NaNoWriMo together. We have learned from each guest on the blog. It's been a wonderful year and we look forward to 2014 with you. We have some MAJOR ideas cooking, but, because they are still in their infancy, we will hold off revealing any details. What we can tell you is 2014 holds great promise and great reading.

Thank you so much for being a part of the Novel Matters community. We love this place where honesty, hope, and love mix together with ease. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a blessed and healthy New Year.

We will see you back here in January!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Be Brave and Experiment On


 Bonnie's year end round up was a terrific way to draw our 2013 Carpe Annum to a close. So much wisdom and brain power in the same writing space! If you’re like me, one piece of advice stood out and made you say Oh, yes! Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of it and/or why had I forgotten it?  

While all of our interviews shared amazing insights, this statement by Julie Cantrell caused me to palm-smack myself in the forehead: 
 I’m begging you… write as if no one will ever read it. That’s the only way you’ll find your true, original voice and feel free enough to reach the level of honesty readers really crave.”  
This is a powerful statement with many possible implications. I’ve been here before, and I’ll bet you have, too. 

How would I know whether or not I write in my true, original voice? 

If I don’t have it, how can I be sure when I find it?

How free do I want to be? Am I willing to go to that level of honesty?

What if no one likes the one and only original me?

Some of these are legitimate concerns and some are just plain whining with old-fashioned avoidance mixed in.  Ahem.
We all want to be the best writers we can be, so we gird our loins and wade into the fray. To start the process, we could read aloud a passage from one of our manuscripts, shutting out the voices criticizing our words and refusing to wrestle with the real or imagined expectations of friends and family. This is not easily done.  We could write this one short passage over several times, allowing ourselves to be more fearless with each attempt. After all, we've promised ourselves that no one will ever read it. We can afford to write with abandon in private.  Repeat after me: "I have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

If we find our true, original voices, will we have the courage to use them? We writers are sensitive creatures. Will we expose ourselves to criticism if our true voices aren’t what others expect?  Or will we find that readers click with our honesty and devour our stories?  

Think of the most honest, original voice you’ve enjoyed reading. Was it safe? Was it like all the others? I’ll bet it kept you engaged and made you crave the next book.  Wouldn’t it be great if readers said that about our stories? The possibility makes it worth taking chances on ourselves.

Do you have the courage to find your true, original voice? We’d love to hear about your progress. Be brave and experiment on.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Carpe Annum Interviews Year End Round Up

We declared 2013 Carpe Annum—Seize the Year! It was our way of encouraging you as an artist/writer to find your own path, listen to your inner iconoclast, and to be set free to explore your true writer/reader/human self. We invited a handful of writers and other publishing industry folks on the blog throughout the year to talk about writing, not writing, publishing, not publishing, and everything that goes on in between.

We’re thrilled to have them all back today, visiting from all over North America. It’s a bit squishy in here (next time, we’re booking a larger space!), but no one minds. Let’s eavesdrop on the conversation:

Bonnie Grove: One more seat for Don Pape, please. Could we have Lesley and Tosca scooch together? Thanks. Mind Arthur Slade’s feet. He has enormous feet. Pizza’s here! Christa Allan, could you tip the delivery person? Everyone here? Great. Let’s get started. Are books dead?

Don Pape (Publisher): We have seen through digital a real devaluing of intellectual property. Once we would buy a project with a reasonable advance and sell it for $15 in the hopes of recouping your investment. Now that consumer is wanting that same property – nah they demand – at $2.99 or heavens, free! 

Nicci Jordan Hubert (freelance editor) I suggest that although the medium may change, the relationship between authors and readers will never change. There is no “end of books.” Books will live forever, of course, whether they’re read on paper, an iPhone screen, futuristic computer-glasses, or perhaps some kind of cool osmosis process.

Bonnie Grove: With publishing changing daily, how does great fiction happen? How does the great stuff get out there into the hands of readers?

Don Pape (Publisher): Nothing changes – a Really Great story!! Whether it is historical, contemporary – a really great story well told, amazing fully developed characters. And please, not another “in the tradition of Left Behind” or “Gresham-like” – let’s be original please!!

Chris Fabry: I can have a great publishing plan, a brand people recognize, and all the “right” industry choices made, but if I don’t have a good story, I don’t have anything.

Julie Cantrell: Characters. For me…it’s all about the characters. And I do consider the setting a character. 

Nicci Jordan Hubert: If you really want to be a successful writer, there are no short cuts. Okay, if you’re related to a celebrity, you’ll have an easier time getting published, but for the rest of you… There is only one path to becoming a good writer: Reading lots of good books. Studying the craft of writing. Practicing writing a lot. Self-editing ruthlessly. And seeking out honest feedback.

Bonnie Grove: Feedback. Okay writers, dish about feedback. There’s all kinds, the helpful feedback you can get while working on a novel (and unhelpful), and then there’s the painful feedback that comes after the book releases.

Tosca Lee:  You know, I remember my first one-star review. My heart started thudding. I felt anxious, defensive, and mortified. But my anxiety has ebbed with time. A few months ago I saw a one-star review that said Demon was "written with the deftness and wit of an inebriated three year old." And I remember thinking, "Who would give alcohol to a three year-old??"

Arthur Slade: I was more concerned about reviews at the start of my career and would take them more personally. But now, with the advent of Amazon and Goodreads, I actually get a kick out of the bad reviews. Sometimes they can be quite creative (my favourite had a line that went something like “I had to drink a Coke while I was reading Dust in order to stay awake”). The only time I am frustrated by reviews is when they say something that is truly false about the book. Oh, plus my mom always says the books are good.

Bonnie Grove: How does a writer move past bad reviews/feedback? Especially in this day of Amazon and Goodreads. Everyone is a critic.

Chris Fabry: I no longer see my stories as for some mass audience out there. Each story is for an individual reader. And each story is for me.

Julie Cantrell: “Whatever you do, don’t waste your scholarship to study writing. You’ll be lucky if you ever publish a greeting card.” –  My 12th Grade English Teacher . It took me ten years to get her voice out of my head. I didn’t write a thing for an entire decade because I was foolish enough to believe what she said as truth.

Lesley Livingston: I was an actor for years before I was a writer. I’m so very used to criticism (good and bad) and rejection (yay auditions! Bleh.) that it all pretty much just rolls off my back by now. It’s not always easy and sometimes I read a review and mutter unkind things but the truth is, if you’re going to believe the good reviews, you’ve got to believe the bad ones, too. It’s just what you said—opinions. Once the book is out there, it’s no longer just yours. And everyone who reads it has the absolute right to there opinion of it. (No matter how wrong they are!! Ha!)

Chris Bohjalian: I don’t dare read the reviews on Goodreads or Amazon or I used to. I wrote an essay once for the Washington Post about my old addiction to reading the way anonymous people would eviscerate my work. But now, in the interest of my mental health, I give the reviews as wide a berth as I can. They can really screw up a sunny day.

Tosca Lee: I think just realizing that readers’ responses are a reflection of where they’re at. It’s not about you. It’s about what resonates—or doesn’t—with them right now. For me, I know that any time I choose to get offended, I’m the one who suffers.

Bonnie Grove: What keeps you going on rough days? None of you have thrown in the towel, and you’ve all reached wonderful success as writers. Is it going according to plan?

Christa Allan: In the beginning of my writing life, my path reflected the opening of Genesis. It was without form and full of darkness. I doubt I knew a path existed or even cared. So delirious with joy over my first contract, I didn't think beyond it. Sort of like being more prepared for the wedding than the marriage, you know?

Chris Bohjalian: I was simply hoping to write a novel after (finally) selling a short story. I amassed 250 rejection slips before I sold a single word.

Arthur Slade: Long ago, a fellow writer said it’d take about ten years to get published. She was wrong. It took me twelve. 

Ariel Lawhon: The only things that matter right now, today, are the words on the page in front of me. That’s what I can control. And I will never find joy in this profession—much less write another book—if I can’t enjoy the actual process of writing. So I have to touch the story every day. Even if it’s just a word or two. The only way to stay sane is to write.

Bonnie Grove: Share a bit about your writing process.

Chris Fabry: Writing was the path to freedom. If I could write through this devastation, if I could allow the pain I was going through to inform the story, my readers would connect with the character on an even deeper level. And I would find a measure of solace in the process.

Christa Allan: My process: Hooray! NYT Bestseller idea, write reams of brain urp on yellow legal pads, write three chapters, call my BFF and scream, "I don't have a novel, and why the hell did I ever believe I was a writer?"; go back to legal pads, write to the middle, make charts and graphs and index cards while consuming coffee, Coke Zero, chocolate, popcorn, Mike&Ikes ; write, stop and make more notes and consume any combination or all of the above foods, write...continue until "The End." I doubt that process has a name or that I'll be able to turn it into a writing book.

Bonnie Grove: Advice to writers?

Christa Allan: If I didn't pursue my dream, regret would pursue me.

Julie Cantrell: I’m begging you… write as if no one will ever read it. That’s the only way you’ll find your true, original voice and feel free enough to reach the level of honesty readers really crave.

Lesley Livingston: That’s the whole thing with carpe-ing. The act of seizing is a willful act. You pretty much just have to do it. Write. You can’t edit a blank page. You can’t revise an empty screen. The lion’s share of writing is re-writing. Get the words down. Then put them in the right order. For me, it comes down to writing every day. As much or as little as I can, but every day. If I’m away from the story for a day, it takes me twice as long to get my head back into the game.

Ariel Lawhon: Everything changed for me when I realized that if I wanted to have this job—and I did, I still DO—then I had to sit down and write a novel. I knew that if anything were to come of this dream it would spring from a finished novel and nothing else.

Arthur Slade:  Don’t expect it all to happen overnight. It’s such a cliché, but write every day and always look for ways to improve your craft. Writing is like working out for a Triathlon. I’ve never done one, but they look hard and you have to train hard. Writing is the same. It takes training. And tea breaks.

Bonnie Grove: Thanks so much, everyone for sharing your wisdom with us this Carpe Annum year. Let’s all crowd in for a group picture! Mind Arthur Slade’s enormous feet.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Confessions of a Reality Music Show Junkie

Hello, my name is Sharon and I'm a reality music show junkie.

I didn't begin watching American Idol until its fourth season, and I only did so at the urging of my daughter Deanne. She talked and talked about it. So when the fourth season began I decided to give it a try. My husband Rick was in the library/den reading and I was in the living room watching the season opener -- laughing like crazy at some of the truly bizarre contestants trying out. It was very entertaining, but I didn't figure I'd last more than a week or two watching the show. But an odd thing happened. My laughter drew Rick into the living room, wondering what in the world I was watching that was so funny. He made the mistake of sitting down on the sofa "for just a minute or two," and that was that. By the end of the show we were both hooked. I haven't missed an episode since that night -- thanks, of course, to DVR, and he only misses when he's out of the country.

Season 4 is the year Carrie Underwood won. She was our pick from the start.

Season 5 gave us Taylor Hicks -- again, the one we picked from the beginning. His harmonica-playing audition totally won us over.

We picked Jordin Sparks in season 6; but season 7 brought disappointment to me when my personal favorite, David Archuleta, came in second. I did like David Cook, who ultimately won, but I loved Archuleta. Besides the two Davids, I was a huge fan of Jason Castro that season. His performance of Cohen's "Hallelujah" is still my all-time favorite for any song, on any season. And Jason has a big role in my next-to-be-released novel, The Color of Sorrow Isn't Blue.

Season 8 had me nervous, because I was not a fan of Adam Lambert -- though my mother-in-law loved him. Go figure. And I was happy that Kris Allen won.

Season 9 gave us Lee DeWyze, who we liked but wasn't sure he'd win.

Season 10 saw the first real division between Rick and me. He was all for Scotty McCreery, who won. Me, not so much.

Season 11 was won by Phillip Phillips. He too was the one my husband and I picked from the first show of the season. We loved him, and saw him in concert this past summer, with our daughters, their husbands, and some of their friends. Oh yeah, he opened for John Mayer who has an even bigger role than Jason Castro in The Color of Sorrow. Do I detect a trend here?

Season 12 I really wanted Kree Harrison to win. I love her sound. But I was happy that Candice Glover won. She truly is an amazing artist.

Besides American Idol, I'm also a fan of The X Factor. And after a few false starts, I've become a fan of The Voice. They're a distant second and third to AI, but the thing I really like about The X Factor -- besides the honesty of Simon Cowell, who I miss a lot on American Idol -- is that The X Factor gives older contestants an opportunity that the other reality music shows don't. I cry often when I watch The X Factor, because I so deeply relate to the struggles of those who have persevered for so many years, and finally have a platform for their art. I'd give so much to have such a platform as a writer. I spent years trying to get published, and once I did get that first golden contract, I had such high hopes for the future of my writing career. Needless to say, it hasn't turned out the way I'd hoped. Not yet anyway. But I keep pressing on.

When I hear young contestants, 15, 16, 20 years old, say things like, "I've waited all my life for this." "I've worked so hard to get here." I laugh and think, you don't have a clue. Not. A. Clue. But when I see the older ones, who really have worked long and hard to get there, I respect them so much for the hard work, and I cheer them on with all my heart.

Will Champlin, one of the contestants on this season's The Voice, made a statement early on in the competition. He said something to the effect, that win or lose, he can't stop singing. It's at the very core of who he is. That so resonated with me. An underdog, Will has made it to the semi-finals, and I wish him the very best. Because I so get where he's coming from. Like Will, I say of myself, win or lose, contract or no contract, I won't stop writing. It's a talent God has given me, and I'm compelled to use it. Reluctantly -- and I do mean that -- I give it back to Him to do with as He pleases. And I watch with tears those whose races I so relate to. I cheer them on and I cry some more, thankful for the encouragement their perseverance gives me.

And I write.

What motivates you to keep at whatever drives you when it would be so easy to give in to discouragement?

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Writer's Happy Place

I'm in that happy place, where my new story is following me into the shower, nudging me awake, and the characters are driving to the post office with me. I've done some pre-writing, deciding important things like what the hero desires, what her great need really is, and what moral failing may undo her world.

And now...scenes are flying at me. I'm opening doors in a labyrinth of my mind's making and discovering new worlds.

I'm grabbing pen and paper to, hopefully, capture an idea before it's lost forever. 

I'm not a literary giant by the world's standards, and sometimes the pressure to produce and succeed gets to me. That's where I was the other day, asking whether or not writing was the best way for me to invest my life. Surely, there are more noble pursuits. Aren't there?

And then the story starting snowballing on me. I tingled a bit. Hours of time flew by as if I'd been sedated into a beautiful dream. Oh, I thought, this is why I write. 

Writing is mystical, make no mistake. We step into a deeply spiritual, satisfying place when we create, even when the creating is hard, and it does get hard. I feel God's good pleasure when I write and create. (Cue the Chariots of Fire music.) That will be reason enough to push through this story. 

I better make a note of that.

So where is your happy place? How do you get there? If you find yourself in a dark corner, is it possible to release yourself? How do you hold onto the ideas that fly at you at inopportune times? High five?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Grabbing Katy's Gauntlet

So, Katy threw down the literary gauntlet on Monday to describe an emotion without naming it. Of course I have to try!  See what you think, and add to it or revise it-- or try it yourself.

Was it only justice, he wondered, that ground so slowly and so exceedingly fine?

He began keeping a list of remarkable things. Or he thought he should keep a list of remarkable things, but each day he found there were fewer.

He noticed, but did not write down, how on Thursday he considered stepping out in front of a blue truck that sped in front of him as he crossed the street. But he did not write it down, because it did not seem worthy of mention. It was not the teary result of a long process of “what am I ever going to do.” In fact, it seemed at the moment quite pragmatic. It was not even a calculation of the logic. Perhaps it was an instantaneous and irresistible lining up of the pluses and minuses of it all as if even calculation had life and sentiment? No, he decided, it was just a coolness of breeze across his face and the thought, “Well, what if. . .”

Friday he did write something down. He realized that for the first time in his life, love songs were meaningless; like meat stewed too long and all that was left was its pale structure and clinging fibrousness, but whose flavor was long ago surrendered to its surroundings.

But then on Saturday, what he had written down seemed empty, and he could not summon up those feelings again. Perhaps, he dared to hope, that was remarkable. 

Perhaps, he thought, the list was not such a good idea.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Writing About Emotions... or Why You Have to Go Through Stuff

Blessed is the writer who has lived through some stuff. And the more stuff - the more milk spilt, hopes dashed and hearts broken, the more battles fought and won or lost (no matter), the better.

Everything is material. What else would you write about?

Someone once said (and if you know who it was please do tell) that a writer should not write that it started to rain, but should instead give the reader the sensation of getting wet.

Because of course, you tell stories not to relay facts (not even fictional facts) but to arouse sensation. Your reader picks up your book hoping to feel something. Don't disappoint her.

When it rains, let her feel her hair slick against the back of her neck, chilled to ice by every gust of January wind across the pond she just climbed out from.

Better yet, let her fear that no one will hear her call for help, no one will come to rescue.

Just never say that she is afraid.

Frighten her.

You are a writer. You have ways to do this.

Into the Skin and Into the Water

You realize, of course that every character you have ever written, or ever will, is you. Even the one modeled after someone you know is you, because that someone you know is interpreted by your assumptions and biases, and those are formed by your experience.

This is an advantage. You understand abandonment, and mind-numbing grief, and anger, and fear.

Want to know what your character does with her fear? Close your eyes. Find the experiences that inform your writing of her, and climb through them beneath her skin. What do you feel?

Fall into the pond with her, and climb back out onto the sheet of ice that cracked beneath your feet. Call for help, and listen to the rustling of the cedar branches and the call of a crow strutting along the bank. Try to stop your teeth from chattering so you can call louder. What does your body do now? Does it arch its back to give the call a greater force? Does your voice squeak at the end because your throat has constricted? Does your chest shudder from some sick feeling  beneath your ribs? Try calling once more. A little louder.

Do you hear anything?


Never Say Never Say Never. 

The climb into your character to observe sensation and movement is a powerful tool to help you write about emotions, but it is not the only tool. Sometimes a well-placed reversal can leave your reader questioning why a character would do something he thought she would never do, and the answer he comes up with can be powerful.

Your character swore, all through the novel that (one) she hated Mr. Mandex next door who backed his truck over her dog two years ago, and (two) she would never enter the forest for any reason, not since she was lost there for three days when she was a child.

So on page 214, when your character stands on her front step still holding the note and the silk scarf he handed her just before he got into a car with his children to drive to the home of his daughter where he would live out the rest of his shortened life...

And on page 215, when a gust of January wind lifts the scarf from your character's hands and flicks it end over tassel across the fallow field into the forest... When she hesitates a long moment before charging across the field, pauses a moment more, and then follows the silk scarf into the forest...

You don't have to say much. The reader understands something important, whether she knows what the note says or not.