How an Iceberg is a Metaphor for a Great Story

Icebergs. I was thinking about icebergs this week.  The movie Titanic came to my mind, dragging with it the factual research I did just because I love learning about real events. That and more flowed through my brain in a moment of time along with the metaphor for writing a great story.

In case you’ve never thought about an iceberg, let me explain its deception. What you see floating on top of the water is only a fraction of what lies beneath.  A great story should be like that. The first page expands to the first chapter and holds your interest. Then as you turn the pages you go deep below the surface and find out the unexpected, the hidden things. Those parts of the story that bring it to life and take you on the adventure.

The iceberg which the Titanic hit was unexpected. It appeared smaller in the dark than it was, and the tragic adventure awaiting those unfortunate enough to draw near became the fate of the passengers.

Now, I’m not saying our novels should make people regret they read it.  Rather it should surprise them. The first page is in the middle of the action. The reader sees the action and wonders why and what is happening. If we throw a lot of backstory in the first chapter, then it resembles an inverted iceberg where all the height and breadth of it is there for all to see. Classic authors like Jane Austin and Charles Dickens began their books in such a way, telling us the why of the story and revealing the characters’ personality before we enter the scene.

The part beneath the water line is what makes the iceberg such a formidable foe for a ship or submarine that gets too close. Keeping that thought in mind consider the reader who discovers more of the characters and the story theme with every turn of the page. Now they are drilling down below the waterline and discovering more things of interest. An iceberg contains remnants of times past in its frozen layers. Once part of a larger ice mass, it now floats free in the water. As the reader turns pages of a novel he will discover the connectivity of characters with their past, the evil behind the idyllic setting, or the seeming uncrossable chasm between two lovers.

The difference between the massive ice and a novel is the conclusion. The iceberg will over time dissolve. What a boring fate. In contrast, a novel concludes with loose ends of the story resolved and the theme played, hopefully giving the reader a feeling of satisfaction as they reach the end. Or even better, a desire to read more from the author.

A tip for keeping character details straight

 

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Keeping the details of your characters straight is easy wiht a character list

 

This past week I read a friend’s blog, and she mentioned whiles going through her story she found she’d changed the eye color of her character. I laughed. Then I found I’d changed a secondary character’s name after the first few chapters of my own WIP.  It’s easy to do when you’re a panster. Your writing is more organic, and you can forget some details in the creative moment.  I’ve started writing out character lists in a notebook and recently, after this recent name faux pas I rewrote it in Excel. Because there are times my notebook is on my desk and I’m writing sitting at the kitchen table.

Making the list

I know some of you out their chewing your nails at the thought of using Excel.

It’s so simple.

Open the template and add headings at the top.

Then fill in the column.

 

character list

Here is my list for my current WIP Note minor characters have less details.  This work has lots of minor characters because the story evolves around building a town.

 

My columns headings:

Name

Occupation

Hair hair and eye color

distinguishing physical feature

Their relationship to other characters i.e.. Someone’s mother or love interest.

A few friends keep more extensive lists based on backstory such as education and habits.

Make the list as detailed as you need to keep everything straight as you write.

I keep the excel sheet open on my laptop when I’m writing for easy reference.

If the idea of Excel still sounds too geeky for you organic types, you can create your own Word doc and categorize the characters to your liking.

If you prefer, create a hand-written page for your character that sits beside your computer or for those who are into retro—your typewriter.

Keep it handy

However you choose to create your character list keep it handy. You don’t want to kill off Jared in chapter 15 and he returns to deliver a message in chapter 32. (Unless of course it’s a ghost story.)  You want to be sure Serena’s blue eyes that glisten like sapphires when Juan first meets her don’t transform into chocolate orbs after he kisses her.

Note the different hair colors of my beautiful daughter. Make sure there is a reason your character has a hair color change.

If Juan has a scar, check your notes to be sure it doesn’t switch sides of his face.  Having the list handy will keep Serena’s waist length raven hair from morphing to blond for no logical reason by the books end.

Be professional

I’ve found these very errors in published work. A character named John was Joel. It was only one time, but it took me out of the story and nettled me for the rest of it. For the sake of future readers and to make your editor’s life easier and show the publisher you’re a professional keep a character sheet.

 

Do you have a character list? What do you put on it?

Meet Author John Theo Jr.

Today I welcome prolific  writer, John Theo  Jr. to Jubilee Writer. He’s going to talk about his latest release and the writing life. First, John tell us briefly about your writing journey.1

I started writing for fun in high school but did not take it seriously until after college. I worked on my own craft for a few years before entering graduate school where I received an MFA in creative writing. Since then I’ve published in non-fiction (magazines), taught writing at the college level, and had six fiction books published. My books vary as much as my interests. From young adult fantasy, murder mystery, government conspiracy, to dystopian sci fi.

Sounds like you have many genres you love and a vivid imagination. What’s your latest published project.

My latest release is Mission Trip, Genesis and Exodus. It is a sequel to 2016’s Mission Trip. To accompany the launch I’ve published a prequel novella, Clarke. Both are available online or at WWW.JOHNTHEO.COM

I’m always curious how authors do their research for their stories. How do you do yours

Writers have always been told to “write about what you know”. I know sci fi quite well as I spent many years of my childhood reading comics and watching sci fi movies. I utilized every “nerd molecule” of my being on this tale. Even though the book is set in the distant future I utilized a lot of current events. Science fiction is notorious for taking current events and placing them into a futuristic setting. One of the first (and arguably most famous) interracial kisses on TV was done in 1968 on an episode of Star Trek. At the time the culture barely noticed as it was technically “500 years” in the future.

Every story starts as a germ of inspiration. What inspired you to write your book?

Over the past decade Christians have become the most persecuted class of people on the planet (according to PEW research). US Christians are starting to see this persecution trickle in. For example, legal persecution of believers in the US has evolved into numerous church shootings. This got me thinking about the Pilgrims and their reason for leaving Europe in the 1600s to flee to the new world. Mission Trip is a “what if” story. What level of persecution would it take for Christians to flee the US, and where would they go? At its core, Mission Trip is a futuristic retelling of the Pilgrims story.

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Fascinating. I love the premise. A bold challenge to people of faith.  Now let’s move away from your book and ask when did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

I always had a creative side, but didn’t realized I wanted to tell stories until I was leaving high school and came to the conclusion I wasn’t passionate about much else.

Passion is a wonderful motivator for a writer. I always like to ask those who visit my blog what scripture resonates with them. What is yours?

A favorite life verse for me over the past few years has been Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

I have been through a lot of life changes over the past few years (mostly bad), which God has used for good in miraculous ways.

The verse in my novel that resonates with me the most is line at the end when the protagonist (Landon) realizes God performed miracles to save Landon’s son, but did not spare His own son. At this point Landon’s “arc” is complete and he has healed from his past trauma.

He had not spared His only son, but made a point to spare Landon’s. It was as if Landon fully understood the cross of Christ for the first time.”

Love the insight. John, if you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

There is a lot I would tell a younger version of myself about life, but as far as the craft of writing it would be one simple thing….find a mentor. This is so important, and could shave years off someone’s learning curve.

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

Ironically, no one in my life is a writer so no one really understands what it’s like to be a writer. Long story short, I am very self-motivated.

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

As of today, I would say non-fiction. I never thought I’d migrate from action, and sci fi books into non- fiction but I’ve become a huge fan of US History, especially old historical books for young adults.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I’d love to say at my desk at home sipping a cup of tea as the snow falls outside the window, but I have three energetic kids under the age of eight, so that romantic notion doesn’t exist. They are my “lovable efficiency killers”. I would say at work. My wife and I moved out of the hectic northeast to buy a small business down south allowing us to be together as a family more. The burst of small time I have in between customers forces me to by hyper focused. Some writers need three hour long windows to write in. Mission Trip, Genesis and Exodus was literally written in twenty minute increments.

 You are certainly driven to get words on paper. Bravo for you.

Tell us about your screenplays and other writing projects.

I’ve written multiple screenplays, but currently I’m marketing only two of them with my agent Pierre Rumpf.

Nicky and the Saint, A Christmas Story is a screenplay about the historic Saint Nicholas and a modern-day boy named Nicky, and how their symbiotic “hero’s journey’s” overlap. The trailer (or sizzle reel) is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMePOl_KK_Q&list=PLSogEOVpzTJHtXpPlfUJCNiO2Rs7a0Bnv&index=32

Christmas by The Sea is a straight up Hallmark Channel-esque romance set in a quaint New England seaside town. Unlike other made-for-television Christmas movies I instilled some comedy, and even a little action to broaden the audience base. The sizzle reel is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUtYScVghpI&list=PLSogEOVpzTJHtXpPlfUJCNiO2Rs7a0Bnv&index=2

Christmas seems to be a theme in a lot of my writing. I guess it’s the kid in me.

SERIES: This is the sequel to “Mission Trip”, Clean Reads Press 2016.

PURCHASE: https://www.amazon.com/Mission-Trip-John-Theo-Jr-ebook/dp/B078TCD3T8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515422663&sr=8-1&keywords=mission+trip%2C+Genesis+and+exodus

BOOK TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1LBjsWLBbY

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_tXTp-mEENYHe2Ex3LJeXg

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/search?q=john%20theo&src=typd

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=579062130

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

John Theo, Jr. has published numerous articles in New England based newspapers and magazines, and has taught screenwriting at the college level. Mission Trip, Genesis and Exodus is his fifth fiction novel and the sequel to 2016’s Mission Trip (Clean Reads Press). John holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA. For more information on John check out http://www.johntheo.com.

More About John’s novel Mission Trip, Gensis And Exodus

TAG LINE:

Can an imprisoned son and a redeemed technocrat rescue humanity.

BACK COVER BLURB:

Mission Trip, Genesis and Exodus is the sequel to Mission Trip. In 2077 doctor Kyle Faison remains trapped on the west coast of New America with a group of villagers he came to help. His father, Landon, races from their hidden underwater city to rescue his son. When Kyle goes missing Landon tracks him to the city of New Sacramento, where a charismatic leader holds him captive. Landon must find a way past an army of soldiers to reach Kyle before the onset of another nuclear war.

The origin of the underwater city known as the Atoll is revealed in a prequel flashback woven throughout the story.  In 2040, technocrat Josiah Saunders has wealth and power and invests much of his resources into life extension technology. He ruins countless lives trying to reach this goal. The combination of a hostile takeover by his competitor, and a failed assassination attempt, send Josiah fleeing into the subway system of New York where he is attacked and left for dead. The narcissistic man soon realizes God has other plans for him, but first he must be broken and rebuilt as a new creature.

 

BOOK EXCERPT:

The next morning, an explosion woke Josiah from his light sleep. The building moved slightly.

“Open daylight,” he said, throwing aside the silk sheets.

The tinted windows in the penthouse bedroom cleared, revealing the gray early morning skyline of New York. Nothing looked different. Had he dreamed of the explosion? A moment later, flaming debris flittered down outside the windows. Josiah’s stomach dropped, as if following the debris toward the street below.

The speaker on his data pad chirped. “Coming up to get you.” It was Ross. “We’re under attack. This isn’t a drill.”

Josiah panicked for a moment before he remembered all the reinforcements and safety measures the building had. It would withstand multiple attacks from a varied assortment of artillery and biological warfare. But why hadn’t the alarms kicked in? He threw on a pair of dress pants, shoes, and a sweater, and grabbed his tablet. He wasn’t going to wait for Ross. Before Josiah left the apartment, he glanced one last time out the living room window. There were two sparks of light a few miles in the distance. Trails of smoke followed the flashes through the early morning skyline.

The tablet in his hand spoke in a calm male voice. “Warning. Incoming rockets.

Wow! You’ve got my attention. Thanks for being my guest today, John. Those who love dystopic novels are going to love this one.

Reader, if this is your first time visiting Jubilee Writer and you’d like to read more interviews and writerly things, please subscribe before you leave and it will be delivered to your email as new posts appear.

 

 

Add Persistence to Your Writing Toolbox

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.

~Octavia Butler

 

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No matter what persist at your writing task. Do what is necessary to reach your goals.

 

 

After running across this quote I looked up the word persist online.  Webster’s definition is powerful.

Persist:  to go on resolutely or stubbornly despite opposition, importunity, or warning

 2: obsolete:  to remain unchanged or fixed in a specified character, condition, or position

3:  to be insistent in the repetition or pressing of an utterance (as a question or an opinion)

4:  to continue to exist especially past a usual, expected, or normal time.

goodyear

 

What a great tool to have in our writer’s toolbox. The definition reminds me of the inventor Charles Goodyear. A self-taught chemist, who used up all his financial resources, spent every waking moment and sacrificed his family in order to create vulcanized rubber. After years of failed experiments, he found the right formula when his concoction overheated and boiled over. The rubber that spilled on the top pf the stove is the basis for modern rubber used in tires, rain boots, watertight seals and hundreds of other products.

I am not advocating abandoning family in pursuit of publication. But his persistence is a measuring stick to encourage us all to keep pressing in.

Persistence is an attribute every successful author has. I know of none who wrote their first draft, published it and made millions. Even debut authors who hit the best-seller list took years writing. Not to mention, rewriting and shoveling out piles of disgusting prose to reshape their words into the masterpiece the public reads.

Our first draft is our babies. They can’t stand on their own. Too many adjectives, weak verbs and head hopping to make smooth transitions from scene to scene.

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Be persistent in maturing your newborn novel for publication.

 

Even final drafts, whether that is three or thirty go through rewrites based on the publisher’s requests. Persistence helps us read that manuscript one more time and find a creative way to satisfy the publisher.

As 2016 winds down and 2017 is just days away I think persistence is going to be my go-to attitude in every aspect of my writing life. Persistent in my time-management. Persistent in meeting deadlines. Persistent in continuing to learn the craft and in paying it forward as I promote other authors. Persevering in my marketing and finding opportunities to promote my work. (Not my strong suit.)

How about you? Is persistence something you’ve embraced or are you still working on it?

Be like Bull in Developing Your Characters

bull-posterThere’s a new show on CBS that parallels the writing life. Bull stars Michael Weatherly (NCIS) as a psychologist who specializes in trial science. The science of getting in the heads of jurors to help present a case you can win. Bull and his team take on cases of innocent people (of course I suppose trial science can be used to help the guilty get off.) and analyzes what is needed for those individuals to be found not guilty when the media and initial evidence points to their guilt.

Dr. Bull preps the defense counsel on what questions to ask during jury selection to find jurors who will be sympathetic to his client. After the jury is selected he hires people to be a mirror jury. Each juror’s personality, convictions, and worldview are matched to the real jurors to create a fake replica jury. Bull’s team have mock trails to discover what the outcome would be based on various scenarios.  What is in the background or character makeup of each real juror that could influence the verdict and how can they present the case and the client to these twelve to gain their confidence for a not guilty verdict. Fascinating stuff.

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As a writer, we create characters we want our readers to sympathize with. Otherwise, they won’t read to the end. We need to dig deep as we create our characters and find out what is their underlying motivation. They must be more than one-dimensional. If your heroine had an FB page what would she post? How are your hero’s finances and do your characters love their jobs? We need to get into their heads. Did the protagonist have a wonderful childhood or is there a family secret that taints his view of the world.

Bulls team digs into the background of each juror and based on that information creates a profile on how they would probably respond to various pieces of evidence and information shared during the trial. A recent episode was a malpractice trial. The doctor was a brilliant physician but an egotistical jerk. The patient was suing because a lifesaving hysterectomy prevented her from ever having children. She felt it could have been avoided. The sympathy of the jury squarely with the patient.

Challenge of winning over the reader

Of course, Bull’s team discovered the special machine used to do the surgery was the culprit that caused the excess bleeding that led to the doctor’s decision. The challenge was to get the jury to look beyond the doctor’s arrogance to be open to the idea the manufacturers of the surgical equipment were at fault. The doctor had to allow himself to be vulnerable on the stand. The dramatic scene with the doctor admitting he only has one talent—being  a surgeon—but he lacks people skills in every area of his life. It wins the jury to his side.

Our characters must win over our readers. The cranky old guy should reveal how much he misses his son who died in the war. The addicted mother needs to share with her daughter what pushed her over the edge. The fiancé admits his fear of being a father because his dad was abusive.

Keep up with social media and current events to create believable characters

Research into each juror helps Bull craft questions for the lawyer to bring the desired result. We writer’s need to know what our readers want. What questions are we seeing on TV and social media? What is trending? Those are the things that make for fresh plots. Things that address real or perceived needs. Settings and situations that make the reader curious. A friend of mine has her character building a tiny house. Another author explored negative mothering that left the heroine struggling with self-worth.  Reality shows are all the rage and those settings can make for interesting plot twists whether romance or murder. Again, the types of characters populating these settings draw the reader to follow your story to the end.

Each episode of Bull ends on a high note for the client and a takeaway lesson. Our novels need the same sort of conclusion. And if our characters are relatable to our reader the conclusion will meet the felt need. And just as I look forward to the next episode of Bull, your readers will anxiously await your next novel.

How do your characters mirror life?

How do you build character’s your readers relate too?

Subscribe to this blog in the right-hand column. Thank you.

 

 

 

Describing Acronyms while Writing Fiction

acronyms

At a recent critique session, the group was reviewing a chapter from my second unpublished novel, New Duet. Dan is a veteran, and while having dinner with Issy, he tells her about his truck being hit with an IED, mentioning his MOS while serving in the military. However, nowhere did I define what those acronyms meant. Defining IED (improvised explosive device) and MOS (military occupational specialty code) to my critique group help me realize I needed to make them clear to my reader. So within the dialogue exchange over dinner, Issy asked the questions one might ask in a casual conversation. Therefore, giving the definitions and making things clear rather than the archaic writing style of the narrator stepping in and saying, “Dear reader, let me explain what he is talking about.”

Obvious Acronyms

Some acronyms need no explanation. SWAT- everyone knows these are specially trained police in bullet-proof vests carrying assault weapons with particular skills to take down the bad guys. We know FBI, CIA, DEA. And every TV viewer now knows what CSI and NCIS stand for. Tests like MRI or CAT scan or CPR are understood either through experience or watching medical dramas.

Define so they stay engaged

Then again we can’t assume everyone knows. I recently ran across DIY. My mind went blank. But within the ad were the words do-it-yourself. Ah, sweet clarity. As writers, we should be familiar with the term WIP. But non-writers have no clue. Work in progress needs to appear somewhere in the same paragraph for clarity.

If you are writing about a specific trade the acronyms need to be defined once either before or after its first use. Otherwise, readers are confused and leave your story to google the mystery letters. Too many of those and you’ve lost the momentum of turning pages to get to the end at 2 a.m.

My example

As you craft your story, don’t forget to define terms within the story as quickly as you can without drawing the reader out of the story.  If a DEA agent comes to the door, don’t stop to give a brief history of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Instead:

“Men, are in position, sir.” The tall lanky DEA agent looked to Detective Marshall for confirmation.

“Tell the men to move in. Slowly. Don’t want to spook these guys.”

“For sure, they’ve given us the slip more than once. “The agent keyed his mike. “Move in, low and slow.”

“If they flush the drugs, our case is toast.” Detective Marshall kept his eyes on the third story window. Three guys sat at a table. What they were doing could not be seen from his vantage point. Fear moistened his collar. He hated dealing with drug smugglers. It always brought in the feds, and more hands in the pie could end badly.

“I heard from a guy in Vice over at Precinct 23 that these guys operate in four states.”  The young detective moved closer with the declaration. Marshall wasn’t in the mood to chat.

“Well, today it stops here.” Withdrawing his Glock from its holster, he moves in a squat posture toward the building.

Now in this less than stellar scene you get the idea. I have given you the information that the DEA is a federal branch of law enforcement that deals with drug-related crime. I’ve given the reader the needed info without stepping away from the scene.  Always give just enough to define the acronym but not so much as to drag the reader from the action.

What interesting acronyms have you run across? Do you have an example of how yuo defined an acronym while still moving the story along?

Please sign up for my blog I’d love to hear your comments on my posts. 🙂

 

 

Food, Food Glorious Food- How Much Should You Have In Your Novel

did you know Green Bean Casserole was created in 1955 by the Campbell Soup Company? Be sure you do before you place in on the table in your 1800s historical novel.

Did you know Green Bean Casserole was created in 1955 by the Campbell Soup Company? Be sure you do before you place it on the table in your 1800s historical novel.

There were no hamburgers in the 1870s.

I start this blog with that statement to make a point. Do your research. Otherwise you’ll be branded an amatuer by readers who know.  Googling the origin of the hamburger clearly shows it was served in the 20th century. My novel takes place on a ranch in 1870’s Texas. A ranch has cattle (duh!) But a modern American hamburger was not on the menu. Food in your novel may or may not be a central part of your plot but it can speak to setting. It is important whatever is served is authentic to the time period.

Although I don’t focus a lot on the food in my WIP, many scenes take place at the kitchen table. The housekeeper is Mexican and she often serves beans and tortillas as well as steak, eggs and biscuits. Evangeline, our heroine, although she has little interest in cooking owns a few cookbooks. In them you will find detailed instructions on how to prepare a roast in your fireplace, making all manner of baked goods from breads to cakes from scratch. Being of Irish and Swedish parents her taste in food is definitely not going to include chili peppers.

Food and setting

Because the setting is a ranch, beef is going to be served often. Although we can choose at the supermarket what cuts we prefer. These ranchers ate all parts of the bovine from the tongue to tail. Steaks for breakfast verses porridge. Cowhands need a stick to their ribs kind of meal for the hard work ahead.

This ranch has a chicken coop and a large garden so a greater variety of food is available. An orchard and berry patches are nearby as well. So, jams, jellies, preserves and pies would appear on the table.

There is also a dry goods store in a nearby town. One could purchase salt pork, dried beans, flour, sugar, crackers and possibly eggs, milk and fresh produce brought in from neighboring farms. This would be a good way to supplement their diet with things they can’t produce themselves.

Lots of Bread

Biscuits and bread take on different forms in historical. Baking powder biscuits as well as sourdough biscuits might be served. Sourdough is made with a starter. Bacteria in the air causes it to rise. The starter is scooped out and mixed with flour, salt and water an allowed to rise before cooking. It can be baked or fried. (I made some right from a Little House on the Prairie cookbook with my kids years ago. It is much heavier than yeast bread and very filling.) Yeast bread was a luxury. Sourdough starter could be easily taken on the trail traveling west rather than yeast which needs special care. The sourdough would rise even in a jostling wagon. Yeast bread referred to as light bread might be purchased from bakeries rather than made at home.

On the trail

On a cattle drive the trail cook may create stews, soups and pies from dried meat, vegetables and fruit. These take up less room in the wagon. Lots of fried potatoes, salt pork and beans. And coffee, coffee, coffee. If there were towns along the trail supplies could be replenished. Even so lots of flour and other staples filled the chuck wagon.

Food and characters

Recently I read a novel set in the Yukon during the Alaskan Gold rush. The Christmas meal in the far north was quite different. Salmon was the main course. Red beans and rice fixed Cajun style was also served. One of the characters had learned to make it while in Louisiana. That explained why a lady from Massachusetts would serve such a dish. It reminded the reader she was well-traveled. Food can give a lot of backstory without actually revealing backstory.

Food equals emotions

Unless, there is a reason to go into detail about what’s being served I avoid planning those menus. Food can be used to create mood or show emotion. My reluctant bride, Evangeline is not a great cook but she loves to bake cakes. Jake is surprised to find his new bride and not the housekeeper had made the delicious cake. The cake represented another change in Evangeline’s attitude toward marriage. The new bride Marty in Love Comes Softly by Jeanette Oke is determined to prepare something besides pancakes for her new husband. A hilarious chase scene occurs in the chicken coop resulting in the rooster getting his beak hacked off with her ax. Clark rescues her and presents the bird plucked and pot ready suggesting it might be better boiled with dumplings rather than fried. We learn how to prepare a tough old chicken while experiencing Marty and Clark’s budding relationship.

Menus

Know why you are sharing the menu and what purpose it serves in creating your scene. If the main character is a chef or a foodie then meal preparation and even recipes in the back of novels are important elements to keep the readers attention. A historical novel restaurant menu is going to be different from a modern one. No fast food and limited daily selection. Often the waitress told the customer the few items available. And others only had one choice for the day. It all depends on the setting.

Even homesteads consisted of simple menus often the same thing every day.

Food and Culture

Contemporary novels set in America can focus on the culture of the area, latest trends in food or ethnicity of the characters. Her in Aurora Illinois we have a large Hispanic population and many foods common to that culture are available in most grocery stories. I have eaten cactus and chicken mola (chicken in chocolate sauce). I have a daughter-in-law from Mexico and many Hispanic friends so my culinary experience has grown beyond American style tacos. My other daughter-in-law is from the Philippines and I have friends from Sri Lanka. There are several grocery stores that carry items to prepare their dishes. Red rice is a treat for my Sri Lankan friends and my daughter-in-law is very particular about the rice she buys. I had no idea there was something called sweet rice. Sushi is becoming popular almost everywhere. And now southern sweet tea (you know the kind that reminds you of Kool-Aid) is now a common selection at all restaurants even fast food. The Midwest she is a changing.

Get it right

My final thought on food in a novel. In true life settings get the menus for the restaurants and fast food places right. If the eatery is fictious be sure the menu is typical for the setting or serves a purpose in moving the story along. Comfort food like mac and cheese can set the mood to de-stress. While prime rib is definitely a date night.

As a writer how much detail do you put into scenes with food?

As a reader how does food in a story effect you?

Please share, I love comments and learning from my readers.

 

 

Writing a Novel From a Screenplay

I want to welcome Eva Marie Everson to Writer’s Patchwork today. One of my fave authors I am excited to do this interview. She has graciously agreed to let me pick her creative brain. Today I want to ask her how to write in reverse.  Eva Marie was given the opportunity to write Unconditional the Novel

Author Eva Marie Everson

which was released in conjunction with its movie counterpart Unconditional. Starting with a screenplay to develop a novel must have its own set of challenges. My readers are anxious to learn how you did it.

Have you ever converted a screenplay to a novel before?

No, I had not, but I had been teaching fiction courses using movies as a learning tool for years, so I felt I was up for the challenge.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face with this project?

I can’t say I had a “big” challenge. Of course I doubted ever so slightly that I could pull it off, but the more I wrote, the more I knew I could.

I know that Papa Joe was a real person and you had the privilege of spending time with him. How much more of his story is in the novel than we see on the screen? What was some background that you don’t get from the movie?

For example, I asked him about his illness and he was able to give me so much more detail. I asked him about some of the issues in prison; he graciously explained. And, I asked his wife Denise what drew him to her when they first met. I got to throw that in as well.

I suspect that Samantha Crawford is a fictious character created to help drive the theme.  The movie gives us a very visual back-story of Sam’s life.  Because she is a story book artist the use of illustrations is very effective.  The rain gave the viewers the feeling of sadness and loss.  I love how you were able to build that same feeling of loss differently though words.

Explain how you reconstructed the on-screen scenes to paper?

Mostly in tears! I realized after a while that Sam hates the rain because it was the rain that drove Billy out the night he was killed, so she blamed the rain. Even though she had written that wonderful story about Firebird, she couldn’t see the truth behind her own words. So, I made the rain a “character” of sorts. Also, I had just gone through a deep grief and was getting through the final stages when I wrote Unconditional, the Novel. So, I allowed myself to hurt to the very core of my being … and then, when I’d bled all over the keyboard, I started typing.

Are you a plotter or pantster and how did that influence how you followed the screenplay story line?

I’m both when I work on my own novels. This time, I had a plot. I was able to create some background — for example, how Billy and Samantha met, fell in love, why they didn’t have children — but the rest was from the brilliant mind of Brent McCorkle, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

Often when a novel is converted to the big screen lots of liberty is taken in order to tell the story in under two hours. How much liberty were you allowed to reverse the process? What kinds of things did you add?  

Well, as I mentioned, I added some back story to Sam and Billy’s life together and I was able to add some facts about Papa Joe and Denise. I’m also able to add setting. What people are wearing. What they can hear … smell… see… touch and taste. I only had to slip inside their skin.

When you write a novel from your own ideas you decide how your characters are going to look, mannerism and weaknesses.  Did watching the actor’s adaptations of the characters limit your creativity?

No, because the producers chose wonderful actors!

Did you add more details to the secondary characters such as Denise or Anthony?

Denise, yes. I called her and we talked for a while. There’s a scene when she and Sam are talking about how much she loves Joe … that came from my conversation with Denise. Little things Denise said and did came just from what I got from the real Denise on the phone.  I wanted to keep Anthony as much a mystery as possible–which is understandable when you see the movie or read the book. But I had fun with his apartment. Describing it. Knowing I had to get Sam out of the apartment quickly when “T” comes home unexpectedly while she is rummaging through his things. That one scene led me to ask, “How did she get out?” That’s when I came up with the back door … 🙂

What did you learn from this experience that added to your writing toolbox?

That I absolutely loved the whole process and that I’d do it again and again. I also learned what I am capable of doing in a short period of time.

 

Tell us about your latest writing project.

I just turned in the final book in the Cedar Key trilogy for Baker/Revell. This one is titled Slow Moon Rising (the other two are Chasing Sunsets and Waiting for Sunrise). I’m currently working on a novel for Abingdon called The Last Will in Testament, which is a new stretch for me because it’s a Rom-Com.

I loved reading Chasing Sunset and Waiting for Sunrise. Can’t wait for Slow Moon Rising and The Last Will and Testament. Thanks so much for visiting me today. May Jesus continue to bless your writing talent.

Follow Eva Marie Eversons’s blogs and website. You will find a lot of good stuff there.

My 1 Writer, 1 Day Blog: http://tinyurl.com/46ond24

My Southern Voice Blog: http://tinyurl.com/4lm2wn4

New Website: http://www.EvaMarieEversonAuthor.com