Monday, October 31, 2016

Six Ways to Hook Your Reader!

I visited Write it Sideways and found a great article by Suzannah Windsor Freedman on how to hook your reader from the very first line. Hope this comes in handy for any writers out there!
Although I consider myself an avid reader, I must admit I have a short attention span when it comes to getting into books. If you fail to grab my attention in the first few lines, I start spacing out.
Most readers are like me. Most people don’t want to spend the first 50 pages trying to get into a book.
Here are a few things I find annoying in the first lines of a story:
  • Dialogue. Nice somewhere on the first or second page, but not in the first line. We won’t know who’s speaking or why we should care.
  • Excessive description. Some description is good, but not when it’s long winded. Skip the purple prose and opt for something more powerful.
  • Irrelevant information. The first few lines of your story are crucial, so give your reader only important information.
  • Introducing too many characters. I don’t like to be bombarded with the names of too many characters at once. How are we supposed to keep them straight when we don’t know who’s who?
The last thing you want to do as a writer is annoy or bore people. Instead, try one of these 6 ways to hook your readers right off the bat:
(N.B. One of the easiest ways to check out the opening pages of nearly any book you want is with the ‘Look Inside!‘ feature on

1. Make your readers wonder

Put a question in your readers’ minds. What do those first lines mean? What’s going to happen? Make them wonder, and you’ll keep them reading.

2. Begin at a pivotal moment

By starting at an important moment in the story, your reader is more likely to want to continue so he or she can discover what will happen next.
  • “It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she’d been told.” ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
  • “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” ~Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
3. Create an Interesting picture

Description is good when it encourages people to paint a picture in their minds. Often, simple is best so it’s the reader who imagines a scene, instead of simply being told by the author.
  • “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” ~Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca
  • “She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.” ~Michael Ontaatje, The English Patient

4. Introduce an intriguing character

The promise of reading more about a character you find intriguing will, no doubt, draw you into a story’s narrative. Most often, this is one of the main characters in the book.
  • “I was born twice: first as a baby girl on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” ~Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

5. Start with an unusual situation

Show us characters in unusual circumstances, and we’ll definitely be sticking around to see what it’s all about.
  • “They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.” ~Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked
  • Last night, I dreamt that I chopped Andrew up into a hundred little pieces, like a Benihana chef, and ate them, one by one.” ~Julie Buxbaum, The Opposite of Love

6. Begin with a compelling narrative voice

Open your story with the voice of a narrator we can instantly identify with, or one that relates things in a fresh way.
  • “As I begin to tell this, it is the golden month of September in southwestern Ontario.” ~Alistair MacLeod, No Great Mischief
  • “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” ~Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
No matter how you start your book, keep your readers in mind. What will make them want to continue reading? What will potentially make them put down your book?
How does your favourite book open, and what makes it so compelling?
 Thanks for visiting and have a great week, and thank you, Suzannah Windsor Freeman, for a great article! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Citizen Kane

Last week I listed some of my favorite political movies. This week I thought I'd focus on one in particular, Citizen Kane, considered  to be one of the greatest, if not THE greatest movie ever made! I love the story, the acting and the cinematography.

William Bayer, in his book The Great Movies, says, "Citizen Kane is a version of Faust, the story of a man who gains the world and loses his soul... Orson Welles has said that Citizen Kane is a 'portrait of a public man's private life,' and that may be the best summary of all."

Bayer explains that Citizen Kane is about William Randolph Hearst, not literally, of course, but in the form of a fictionalized fantasy produced with the intention of exploiting public interest in a controversial man... One of the most delightful things about Citizen Kane is the way it uses Hearst against himself. Citizen Kane exploits him the way his papers exploited everyone else. Citizen Kane is yellow journalism. It sacrifices the truth about Hearst for the sensational aspects of his story."  

Never seen the movie? Here's some information from Wikipedia:

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American mystery drama film by Orson Welles, its producer, co-author, director and star. The picture was Welles's first feature film. Nominated for Academy Awards in nine categories, it won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles. Considered by many critics, filmmakers, and fans to be the greatest film of all time... It topped the American Film Institute's 100 Years ... 100 Movies list in 1998, as well as its 2007 updateCitizen Kane is particularly praised for its cinematography, music, and narrative structure, which were innovative for its time.

The quasi-biographical film examines the life and legacy of Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles, a character based in part upon the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Chicago tycoons Samuel Insull and Harold McCormick, and aspects of Welles's own life. Upon its release, Hearst prohibited mention of the film in any of his newspapers. Kane's career in the publishing world is born of idealistic social service, but gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power. Narrated principally through flashbacks, the story is told through the research of a newsreel reporter seeking to solve the mystery of the newspaper magnate's dying word: "Rosebud."

Here's the synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In a mansion in Xanadu, a vast palatial estate in Florida, the elderly Charles Foster Kane is on his deathbed. Holding a snow globe, he utters a word, "Rosebud", and dies; the globe slips from his hand and smashes on the floor. A newsreel obituary tells the life story of Kane, an enormously wealthy newspaper publisher. Kane's death becomes sensational news around the world, and the newsreel's producer tasks reporter Jerry Thompson with discovering the meaning of "Rosebud".
Thompson sets out to interview Kane's friends and associates. He approaches Kane's second wife, Susan Alexander Kane, now an alcoholic who runs her own nightclub, but she refuses to talk to him. Thompson goes to the private archive of the late banker Walter Parks Thatcher. Through Thatcher's written memoirs, Thompson learns that Kane's childhood began in poverty in Colorado.
In 1871, after a gold mine was discovered on her property, Kane's mother Mary Kane sends Charles away to live with Thatcher so that he would be properly educated. While Thatcher and Charles' parents discuss arrangements inside, the young Kane plays happily with a sled in the snow outside his parents' boarding-house and protests being sent to live with Thatcher.
Years later, after gaining full control over his trust fund at the age of 25, Kane enters the newspaper business and embarks on a career of yellow journalism. He takes control of the New York Inquirer and starts publishing scandalous articles that attack Thatcher's business interests. After the stock market crash in 1929, Kane is forced to sell controlling interest of his newspaper empire to Thatcher.
Back in the present, Thompson interviews Kane's personal business manager, Mr. Bernstein. Bernstein recalls how Kane hired the best journalists available to build the Inquirer's circulation. Kane rose to power by successfully manipulating public opinion regarding the Spanish–American War and marrying Emily Norton, the niece of a President of the United States.
Thompson interviews Kane's estranged best friend, Jedediah Leland, in a retirement home. Leland recalls how Kane's marriage to Emily disintegrates more and more over the years, and he begins an affair with amateur singer Susan Alexander while he is running for Governor of New York. Both his wife and his political opponent discover the affair and the public scandal ends his political career. Kane marries Susan and forces her into a humiliating operatic career for which she has neither the talent nor the ambition.
Back in the present, Susan now consents to an interview with Thompson, and recalls her failed opera career. Kane finally allows her to abandon her singing career after she attempts suicide. After years spent dominated by Kane and living in isolation at Xanadu, Susan leaves Kane. Kane's butler Raymond recounts that, after Susan leaves him, Kane begins violently destroying the contents of her bedroom. He suddenly calms down when he sees a snow globe and says, "Rosebud."
Back at Xanadu, Kane's belongings are being cataloged or discarded. Thompson concludes that he is unable to solve the mystery and that the meaning of Kane's last word will forever remain an enigma. As the film ends, the camera reveals that "Rosebud" is the trade name of the sled on which the eight-year-old Kane was playing on the day that he was taken from his home in Colorado. Thought to be junk by Xanadu's staff, the sled is burned in a furnace.
Citizen Kane is a masterpiece and a great movie to watch any time, but especially during the political season! However, don't multi-task while watching! Pay close attention so you don't miss any of the details significant to the story, as well as the brilliant cinematography.
Have you ever seen Citizen Kane? If so, what are your thoughts?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Great Political Movies

November 8th is right around the corner so be sure to get out and vote! In honor of election day, I'm listing some of my favorite political movies:

Citizen Kane
The Manchurian Candidate
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Meet John Doe
The Ides of March
All the President's Men
His Girl Friday
Seven Days in May
All the King's Men

I don't know about you, but I've had enough of radio and television ads for all the candidates, but I never tire of a good movie!  What are some of your favorite political movies?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Scrumptious Beef

A few years ago I found the cookbook Fix It and Forget It at Half Price Books. I think I paid less than five dollars for it, and what a great investment! It's filled with lots of great recipes for crock pot, including this one, Scrumptious Beef. It sounds fabulous and EASY, which I love! I'm not a fan of cutting and chopping, so for the one chopped onion, I'd use 1 cup of pre-chopped frozen ones. They're a real time saver. Hope you enjoy this!

Scrumptious Beef

2 lbs beef, cubed
1/2 lb mushrooms sliced
10 1/2 oz. can beef broth
1 onion chopped
10 3/4 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
3 T dry onion soup mix

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH 3-4 hours. or LOW 7-8 hours. Serve over hot cooked rice.

If you're looking for comfort food, I think this would hit the spot. Speaking of which, do you have a favorite comfort food? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 3, 2016

20 Writing Tips From Fiction Authors

For all the writers out there--published, aspiring and everything in between--here's a great article from iUniverse that I thought would be worth sharing!

Writing success boils down to hard work, imagination and passion—and then some more hard work. iUniverse Publishing fires up your creative spirit with 20 writing tips from 12 bestselling fiction authors.

Use these tips as an inspirational guide—or better yet, print a copy to put on your desk, home office, refrigerator door, or somewhere else noticeable so you can be constantly reminded not to let your story ideas wither away by putting off your writing.

Tip1: "My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt." — Michael Moorcock

Tip 2: "Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you." — Zadie Smith

Tip 3: "Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution." — Michael Moorcock

Tip 4: "In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it." — Rose Tremain

Tip 5: "Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever." — Will Self

Tip 6: "It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction." — Jonathan Franzen
"Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet." — Zadie Smith

Tip 7: "Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 8: "Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear)." — Diana Athill

Tip 9: "Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." – Anton Chekhov

Tip 10: "Listen to the criticisms and preferences of your trusted 'first readers.'" — Rose Tremain

Tip 11: "Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 12: "Don't panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends' embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there's prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too." — Sarah Waters

Tip 13: "The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can't deal with this you needn't apply." — Will Self

Tip 14: "Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!" — Joyce Carol Oates

Tip 15: "The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 16: "Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful." —Elmore Leonard

Tip 17: "Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong." — Neil Gaiman

Tip 18: "You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished." — Will Self

Tip 19: "The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter." — Neil Gaiman

Tip 20: "The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’" — Helen Simpson

Even famous authors sometimes have a tough time with writing; they also go through periods of self-doubt. Despite this, they always manage to come up with the goods. So take a lesson from them and stop putting off your writing plans and get started on your publishing journey today.

There has never been a better time than now to realize your dream of becoming a published author. Let your voice be heard and let your story be told. Never let your passion for writing wane. 

I think all of these tips are wonderful, but 4, 5 and 9 are my favorites. Which of these do you like best? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!