Why? Why? Why? A very important question authors should be able to answer

Abstract red colored neon lights with the word Why uid 1647863Why are they doing this? Why are they going there? Why? Why? Why? No that isn’t my four-year-old asking the questions. It is my husband as he read drafts during the writing of my trilogy, The Elemental.

And his questions, while annoying sometimes, did help during my revisions to make it a better story. Every author needs to know the why of their character’s actions. Rarely do people do something without a reason. And yes, that reason may only make sense to them but at least there is a reason. And the reader should understand – or somewhat follow the logic behind your character’s actions – or they may become confused and begin to question your scene or even your whole novel. Once they become distracted from the story, they may decide this book just isn’t for them.

I am now in the beginning stages of planning my next novel. And the new question is not necessarily “why” but “why now?” By this I mean, why is THIS story happening now?

I write fantasy so if you are going to have a quest where the hero finds the sword (or spell or amulet) that will allow him to defeat the dark lord and save the world, don’t you have to know why the story is taking place now? If the dark lord has reigned a thousand years why would he be defeated now?

I am making up that story line which of course has nothing to do with the novel I am working on. But really, you do need to decide why your story is happening at this instance.

If you are writing a crime novel, the why actually might be a lot of the story.  If you are writing about an abuse victim who fakes their death and starts a new life or kills their abuser, you have to wonder why now? What happened that led them to that point right now verses two years or even six months ago?

Of course there may not be an answer in some of these instances. And if your character has cancer, there is no answer to why this happened now. But often there can be a reason why. Why did the murder take place now? Why did the heroine quit her job today after months (or years) of slaving away at a job she hates?

Part of this covers what spurs your protagonist into action but on the grander scale of things, I am looking at why that event occurred and why at this instance. And maybe it really doesn’t matter in other genres as much as it seems to in a fantasy novel.

If a kingdom has been without a king or in a period of peace or unrest – why would now be the time for a hero or villain to rise? The answer to that may not be obvious, and the reader may never know the full answer but like knowing your character‘s history or building your own fantasy world, a lot of what you write is in the details. In other words, the author needs to know why.

Verifying info you find on Internet

As I write posts for my blog, I sometimes skim through the Internet checking to see what others have posted on the same topic. This leads me to alternate views or reminds me of information I want to include in my post.  The danger of doing this is that you could be looking at a post that is years old – or just a few months old.

I know you are wondering why a few months might matter. Well, things change rapidly nowadays. Reading a post on Facebook or Amazon KDP that is a year old could have information that is no longer correct. So whether you are reading something on publishing or marketing (or something for your blog) you need to make sure that information is still relevant.

There are a few things you can do to verify the info. The first and best option would be to check the source. If you had a question on Facebook, check their help section. There you might find that a personal page is not the only option to allow readers to connect with you. They can also subscribe to your personal profile if you set it up that way. (This allows them to receive your public posts in their news feed like a Facebook Page but you only have one account to maintain.)

Another option would be to verify the information with someone in the industry. This is where writers groups are beneficial. Talking and sharing information with other authors is a great way to find out which marketing techniques are working, how they have handled problems, and to stay current on industry topics.

woman professional stuffing computer in garbage uid 1088444Now this advice of verifying information is also important in writing your novel. If you are writing a modern-day story that includes technology in it, then you need to use as up-to-date information as possible because within a few months of publication, your “high tech” operation may already be out of date. In this case, it would probably be best to interview someone with knowledge on your topic rather than rely solely on something printed in a book or even on the internet. If you are using an internet site, you may want to research the writer or organization to determine if they are a well-known and respected authority on the subject.

The internet can be a wonderful resource but remember that not everything posted is accurate – even if it was at the time of the post. Verify all your information before making any decisions or using information in your writing.

Explaining cancer and chemo to the kids

cancerTwo weeks ago, my friend revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I immediately offered to help her out any way she needed. For the purposes of this blog, I will call her Pat since I am not sure she wants me to announce to everyone on the Internet that she has cancer. I know, I know, it isn’t very likely that you could recognize her from this, but it just feels better to give her an alias.

Originally, Pat was supposed to start chemotherapy right away, but it has turned into a hurry up and wait type situation. Now this is a friend whom my kids see several times a week as we walk with her kids (boy/girl twins who are the same age as Jase) to and from school. (We don’t see her daily as she is the bread-winner of the family and on most days, it is her husband walking with us and the kids though Pat joins us two mornings and one afternoon each week.)

Anyway, since the kids do see her several times a week, I felt it necessary to discuss with my kids some of the upcoming changes. I thought the discussion might be as hard as the death one that I had with Lexie back in November, but it proved to be easier than I thought.

I spoke to each kid separately. I didn’t really explain to either of them what cancer is but concentrated on the fact that the doctors would be treating Pat in order to make her better but that the treatment would be rough. We talked about her not feeling well and that the twins might be coming over to our house more often. (We had already had them over while she met with the oncologist.) And we talked about her losing her hair which according to her oncologist should happen within a week of her starting treatment.

The kids seemed fine with what I told them, and I encouraged them to ask me any questions they had – now or as time went on. Of course, I am really unsure what will happen. I have never known anyone who had Chemo. My dad has been diagnosed with cancer twice. He first had prostate cancer where he received radiation for about a year. His appearance never changed, and we don’t see him all that often for them to notice any of the other side effects like being tired.

This summer my dad was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The kids knew he had surgery since I went and sat with my mom at the hospital. But being kids, they really didn’t understand. All they knew is that their other grandparents came to play with them while I was away. In this instance, the only thing we told them was my dad’s voice would be scratchy and rough sounding from the surgery for a few months. Though they did comment on that when they say him, they never did ask any other questions.

So I guess we will see how things go with Pat. I am sure the questions will come, and we will answer them with straight-forward responses. And I am sure Lexie, who is still obsessed with death, will bring up that subject again too.

Today’s Featured Author: Sarah Jae Foster

Today I am pleased to have Sarah Jae Foster, author of Broken Identity, on my blog.

Interview

About her book

How did you come up with the title Broken Identity?

I wanted something thought provoking and if you know what Mona struggled with, Broken Identity fits beautifully.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

If I said yes, I could be in big trouble with them! No, I did not. <grin>

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

Well, Mona is my favorite. I actually liked and disliked Brian throughout the story. I had to be careful when I wrote his POV, to not have an attitude towards his apathy.

About the Author

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

I conceived the plot for Broken Identity by sitting in a bookstore and “what if” thoughts kept coming at me. Such as: what if a Christian woman had an affair? What if the man was younger than she? What if she were labeled a cougar? What if this is too much for Christian readers? I’m not opposed to gritty or controversial stuff, so I dived in and came up with Broken Identity. And as you may know, it takes place in a bookstore with a café’, just for fun!

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I begin writing after I create (for weeks) characters, setting and scenes in my mind. Before I finish for the day, I write a sentence or two of thoughts on the next scene, it helps me get started the next day.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes. It is a western series and I’m having so much fun with it! I’m writing book three currently, and the first in the series is to be released March 1st. It’s called Three Hearts, One Town.

Just for Fun

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Swedish Fish candy.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Definitely!

What book are you reading right now?

Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz

Book Description

Broken identityA Christian woman has an affair. It’s a betrayal beyond mention. She stands to lose everything. Mona Leigh Anderson, a good mother and even better wife, is unaware that her tidy and sheltered world is going to explode into a thousand pieces. And by her own hand, she launches the grenade of destruction. Brian Anderson is a principled man, a leader in the church. Never in all his days did he believe his marriage could come to such a heart-rending testing of his faith, although this is exactly what he’s about to endure. Damaged by deception and infidelity, Mona and Brian seek to repair the mistrust between them because that is the right thing to do. But can they fall in love with each other again, wholeheartedly and without reserve? Can they truly let go of the past and of the most egregious of marital sins, and survive in this world of seduction?

Author Bio

Sarah Jae is a Christian, a wife, and a mother, wholeheartedly yet imperfectly, loving God since she was a child. She wants to share stories about characters with faith who mess up big time due to the seductions in society. In doing so, she’s willing to take a risk and be on the cutting edge of writing for the inspirational market, sharing what’s in her heart and in the world today.

She can be found on Facebook.

You can buy Broken Identity at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Writing the opening scene of your novel

The horse’s hooves thundered across the ground. Tosh dug his claws into the saddle as his back legs threatened to slip off. A firm hand pressed against his side, pulling him closer toward the young man behind him. Feeling safer, Tosh leaned out to see the terrain up ahead. He blinked his eyes in disbelief at what he saw.

You can’t be serious.

“We can make it,” Nolan said, speaking directly into his mind.

Tosh looked up at him, but Nolan wasn’t looking at the ravine. He was looking over his shoulder at the three men on horseback chasing them. Tosh caught a glimpse of a hefty man with a red beard leaning forward, urging his mount to run faster. He clearly was gaining on them. Tosh looked at the ravine before them.

It is too far for her to jump.

“Ah come on, Tosh. She’ll do just fine.”

Tosh sighed. Nolan rarely listened to any advice he gave him unless it coincided with something that Nolan already wanted to do. Knowing there was no way and no time to change the young man’s mind, Tosh curled up against him. He dug his claws deeper into the saddle and wrapped his tail protectively around his body. He felt Nolan lean forward as the mare’s hooves left the ground. He closed his eyes, counting the seconds until he felt the mare land on the other side. She stumbled slightly, and Tosh opened his eyes to see a small section of ground at the ravine’s edge fall.

CIMG1036And thus begins my short story, The Search. I started with an action scene to draw the reader in. And that is the point of the beginning of your story. You want the reader to be hooked and want to keep reading.

Of course, it isn’t always easy to start with this type of scene. And if you start with an action scene, the reader might be confused on what is happening. They don’t know who this character is and have not built any connection to them.

When I first started writing Summoned, I had trouble deciding where to begin the story. I ended up re-writing the beginning countless times. I originally started with Lina’s first view of the city and then later changed it to them arriving at the city’s gate. Finally, I moved it to her having a dream, something that plays an important role in the story. Here is the beginning of Summoned.

The young woman tossed in her bed, muttering softly. She rolled over, her long honey-colored hair covering her pale face. Her fingers dug into the mattress. She shook her head as she sank deeper into the dream.

The yellow light cut through the dark. Her eyes stayed focused on it as it flickered before her like a hundred candles dancing in a soft summer breeze, growing brighter as she neared. As she walked, her hands reached out, touching the smooth, cold stone wall. That alone should have warned Lina something was not right. Even as her mind called out that this was all wrong, she continued down the hall toward the light and toward whatever was calling her.

No one called out her name. No, the calling was unspoken but strong. The urge to respond to it consumed every part of her. She knew she must obey. What was calling her and why were unimportant to her now. All that mattered was she must go.

As she reached the end of the hall, Lina paused. The bright light hung above a curved stone staircase. She lifted her hand, shielding her eyes. She wished she could block out the light. And the calling. Then she saw the doorway to her right. Without thinking, she opened the door, slipping into the dark room. She heard low voices coming from the adjoining room. She tilted her head as she listened but the words were too soft to understand. She moved toward the room, pausing in the archway. What she saw next made her tremble with fear. Her hand flew to her mouth as the cloaked man before her turned. Suddenly, the floor trembled. The walls began to tumble and the floor collapsed beneath her. She saw her hair swirl around her as she fell. She opened her mouth, a scream on her lips, yet nothing came out. She pressed her eyes closed as she waited for the impact she knew was coming.

If I wanted to start with more of an action or suspense scene, I could have started with the gypsies kidnapping her which happens at the end of the first chapter, but I wanted a little more introduction of my main character. Of course starting with a dream is not the best way to begin a story unless you let the reader know right off that it is a dream. (Starting a novel in a dream without letting the reader know it was a dream is listed as one of the worst ways to begin a novel – but then again so are prologues which I used in each installment in my trilogy.)

There are many different ways to start a novel and many websites describing those ways. (My least favorite is having a long description of the scenery Endless description is #2 on the 7 worst ways to begin a novel – the link is above.) For 12 ways to start your novel, check out this website that illustrates those ways with the “100 Best Lines from Novels,” as chosen by the editors of the American Book Review. But the most important thing is your story must start with a strong opening scene that hooks the reader.