Q is for Questions #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

Today is the letter Q, which is for Questions. A good way to get to know your antagonist is to conduct a character interview. This fun exercise can give you a lot of insight into your antagonist, and the better you know him/her, the easier it will be to bring them to life.

You can either get someone to ask you a list of questions or play both the interviewer and interviewee. But all responses should be done as if you are the antagonist. This means that their word choice, manner and attitude should be reflected in their answers.

The key is to ask open-ended questions so your character has to elaborate beyond a simple “yes” or “no.”  So instead of asking, “Were you scared when you were kidnapped?” ask “What was going through your head at the moment you were grabbed?”

Try to stick with questions that will benefit your story. You want to uncover the goals and motivation of your antagonist. And you might just uncover some of their soft spots too.

Need help coming up with questions? Here is a website that lists 50 Questions you can ask your antagonist.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

9 Questions to Consider When Choosing your Novel’s Setting

Last week, I gave a recap of some of my posts about writing various scenes in your novel. But before you can write a scene, you need to know where your story is set.

The setting is the location where the events of a scene take place. This could be Las Angeles, a farm in Iowa, the White House, on a space ship, on another world or any of a thousand different places.

Selecting the right setting can have a significant impact on your story. Choosing where a story or even a scene takes place can add suspense or excitement to a theme. Changing the location of a scene can have it going from flat to intense.

Here are some questions you might want to consider as you determine the setting of your story.

Do you want a real or fictional setting?

eiffel_tower_postcard-01verChoosing a real setting can be easier because if it is a place others already know, they will bring their own knowledge and visuals of that place with them. You mention Las Vegas or Paris and even those who have not been there can imagine the lights and sounds of the Las Vegas strip or picture the Eiffel Tower.

But a fictional setting can give you the freedom to do whatever you want. You are not restricted to established governments, customs or landmarks. You don’t have to worry about accuracy as you are the one designing your city, country, or world.

Where are your favorite places?

If you love a certain place, you probably know it well. Your passion for it will certainly spill over into your writing and help create a feeling of familiarity and realism.

What mood do you want (or need) the story to have?

If you are writing a romance novel, you might pick a bright sunny beach but that same location won’t work for your vampire novel. The setting can enhance the mood or it can give all the wrong signals.

What location would enhance your story’s theme or conflict?

If you are writing a romance, picking one of the most romantic cities in the world may work well. And if you are writing about a war, your setting most likely will be in a war zone. But if you find our love story lacking conflict, try setting it somewhere else – like in the middle of a war.

Will your story span over more than one location?

If you are writing about life in a small town, your story likely will take place just there. But other works take place in multiple locations, which means more research (or more time creating those places).

What elements must your setting have?

Certain genres might require certain things. If you are writing about a war-torn country, then your novel most likely will be set in that country. If you are writing about vampires and werewolves, you will need dark alleys and possibly a forest.

What settings are common in your genre?

If most novels in your genre are set in a common place, it is a pretty good indication that readers will expect and look forward to this setting. This doesn’t mean you can’t go against the norm and try something new but doing so may alienate some readers.

How will your setting influence the story or your characters?

Knowing your location, being on familiar ground can be good for your character, but it can also be interesting to throw them into the unknown. Also, a hostile environment can add more conflict and tension to your novel. Where things happen changes everything. Don’t always go for the usual. Consider changing up where events occur. It might make all the difference in your story.

Getting your child talking about their day

Every day when I pick the kids up from school, I typically ask how their day was. I sometimes get the grumble of “fine” or “good,” and sometimes I get a brief few sentences about something that happened. “Emily cried at lunch today” or “I have an art project due.”

But parents are well used to receiving the first one-word response. Sometimes you have ask a bunch of follow-up questions just to get your kid to give you some information about what happened during their day. And even then you may not learn anything new.

On the second week of school, our principal sent out a link to a post with 25 ways to ask your child ‘How was school today?’ without asking that exact questions. The principal said he had not only been asking his own kids these questions but also asking the students at school, and it had resulted in some interesting conversations.

The questions looked good, so I decided to give it a try. I copied them into a Word document and then printed them out. I cut them into strips, so I could randomly draw a question and ask the kids.

Lexie was very excited to answer the questions and always wanted to do more than one. Jase, on the other hand, didn’t seem as thrilled. He actually suggested doing away with the envelope of questions.

I think Lexie’s favorite question was “If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?” She mentioned a trouble-making boy from her class. Jase couldn’t think of anyone he wanted gone.

But neither one of them could tell me what their teacher would say if I called her up that evening to ask about them.

While it was an interesting experiment to do for a few days, we have already misplaced the list of questions (or perhaps Jase followed through with his threat to make them disappear.) We are back to asking each child at dinner (as we eat at the dinner table) about their day. They always come up with something to tell us.

And if is something particular is bothering them we may not hear about it at dinner time, but you know that they will begin talking at bedtime. It seems to be their favorite stalling technique. Most often we let them voice their concerns and offer some advice. But if it is truly late, and we know it is just a stalling technique (such as the “I am scared about wolves”), we typically cut them off and tell them to get to sleep.

Either way whether it is at dinner or at bedtime, I am glad the kids both know they can talk to us about their day or things that they are concerned about. And I will keep the website of questions bookmarked so I can return to it and maybe bring back the questions if they decide to go back to one-word answers.

Questions, Questions,Questions #AtoZChallenge

Qjpg“Are we there yet?”

“How much longer?”

“Why does that man have dark skin?”

“How was the Earth created?”

“Where do babies come from?”

“Why can’t I drop Lexie over the side of the railing?”

Kids are filled with questions. Sometimes it feels like they have an endless supply. Some are easy questions – Can I have a cookie? And some are hard – “Why do people die?”

We recently took the kids to Dallas for Spring Break. I can’t tell you how often we heard “Are we there yet?” and “How much longer?” It made the drive seem so much longer.

Of course, there are always those questions that parents don’t know how to answer. Lexie recently asked, “How the Earth came to be?” Now I know some parents might say God created it. And that could have been the simple way out but not for us. It turned out to be a question that couldn’t easily be answered while driving in the car.

Plus when answering, you have to think about how much your child can understand of the answer. This especially holds true for the inevitable question of where babies come from or how they get in mommy’s tummy. You kind of just have to feel out how much your child wants to know.

You can start by giving a short answer and see if they accept that, or if they have more questions. The main thing is not to overwhelm them with information that they don’t want or are not ready for.

Another technique would be to ask them what they think the answer to the question is. This can always lead to some hilarious answers but can also give you an insight as to why they are asking the question.

Check out this website for 9 commonly asked questions and how to answer them.

Abstract red colored neon lights with the word Why uid 1647863Of course, one of the most common questions asked is “Why?” So every time you give your child an answer they say, “Why?” (Or in the case of my niece “how come?”) This can be a frustrating thing where you want to go “Just because” or “Because I said so.”

There is simply no way to stop kids from asking questions. And really asking questions is a good thing. It is the way they learn. I just wish that they would sometimes wait to ask their questions. Such as asking, “Why is that person fat?” when you are standing in line next to said person.