Tag Archives: Book Review

Books That Changed My Childhood

27 Aug

Announcements:

First, I would like to thank Between the Lines for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for a collection of wonderful awards, but second, I would like to thank the two latest reviewers of Take Me Tomorrow:

 The Modest Verge wrote, “The characters in this novel are just as complex, and just as complicated as The Timely Death Trilogy so if you enjoyed those characters you will love these. These are not just normal teenagers thrust into the unknown. These teenagers know that life can be upset in a single heartbeat. They know that lives can be irrevocably changed by the decisions or mistakes of a single person. This book is an adventure and I loved every single minute of it.” But you can read her entire review by clicking here.

Death on the Road focused on the genre in their review, stating, “It had a lot of action, was fast paced, discussed very serious things and made my first brush with YA dystopian fiction a pleasant one.” But you can read the entire review by clicking here.

Remember to send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com if you want me to share your review of Take Me Tomorrow right here on ShannonAThompson.com! If you want to check out the novel, click here. I would love to share your thoughts.

Books That Changed My Childhood:

This was actually inspired by Cassandra Clare’s video Books That Changed My Life. I started compiling a list when…well, like any avid reader would say, it got a little out of control, so I condensed it down to times in my life, and I thought it would be fun to show the books that changed my childhood. Why is this important? I’m a big believer in going backwards. For instance, if you’re a writer and struggling with writing, I think going backwards to a time where you only wrote for fun can help remind you why you love writing in the first place. (But that’s explained in my old post Sharing Childhood Inspiration.)

So I’m sharing my list by starting at the beginning and stopping around age 14. That being said, I definitely can’t share all of them. I am only sharing the first ones that pop into my head, and I think this list would change depending on my day (which I think is the neat part!) I hope you share your lists below, too. So check it out. :D

1. Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman – This is the first book I remember reading, but it’s also the first one I carried around…oh, just about everywhere. This might have been the first sign that I would be obsessed with books in the future.

 2. You Choose Stories: Scooby Doo Mystery – The amount of amazement I had for these was unreal. I could read and choose how the story went? I didn’t have to just read? Oh. My world changed. I loved reading these over and over and over again just to see how much one story could change from one event changing. This might have been the first sign that I wanted to be a writer.

3. Goosebumps by R.L. Stine – Oh, the delightful horror I had reading these books. These were actually bought for my older brother, but I had a habit of stealing his things, so I ended up reading these, too. And I’ve loved horror and scary stories ever since. I cannot wait for American Horror Story to begin.

4. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene – I obsessed over these books. I loved the books, the computer games, and pretty much anything else associated with them.

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5. The BFG by Roald Dahl – Again, my brother had an influence on this one. It was one of his favorite novels, and he gave me his copy to read. I had a house bed, and I kept this book in my shutters for years, constantly trying to figure out what I loved about it. Maybe it was the bone-crunching.

6. Dear America series – I had an entire collection of these books. I was obsessed. I could learn about history and be entertained. This was a new concept to me when I was younger.

7. Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne – It’s safe to say that Twister on Tuesday might have been the cause of my phobia when I was moving to Kansas.

8. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix – I felt like this was the first middle grade fiction book that didn’t hold back.

9. 1-800-Where-R–You series by Meg Cabot – Wait. So a girl gets struck with lightning and can find missing people? That’s…different…and totally awesome! Meg Cabot’s books definitely changed my perspective on fiction, specifically paranormal fiction and how unique it could be. She also includes badass women in her young-adult books. Who couldn’t like that?

10. Daughters of the Moon by Lynne Ewing – I’ve mentioned it once, and I’ll mention it again. I loved this series growing up. It was about four girls (the daughters of the moon) kicking ass, and it also revolved around mythology. Not only did this book further my obsession with the paranormal but it also reminded me of my favorite childhood show, Sailor Moon, and it reaffirmed my love for the type of fiction I grew up with.

Oh, how I want to keep going, but I’m probably stopping around age 14. Maybe I’ll continue this list with the books that changed my life as I got older. It will definitely include 1984, but that’s for another post. For now, these are the top 10 childhood novels that came to mind, but what about yours? Did any books you read as a kid influence your reading decisions as an adult?

~SAT

Various Stages of Writer’s Block

12 Aug

Announcements: 

The latest review of Take Me Tomorrow is in! Trials of a wanna-be-publisher writer states, “Take Me Tomorrow asks a lot of questions around thorny issues in today’s society without becoming preachy in its message…As I have come to expect from Shannon, this book is well-crafted, engaging and very well-written (pretty much a given for this author). While the genre may be classed as ‘Young Adult’, don’t let that fool you; Take Me Tomorrow is an intelligent and thought-provoking piece of writing and one I highly recommend you check out.” And I highly recommend you read her entire review by clicking here

Various Stages of Writer’s Block

Oh, the dreaded writer’s block. The horror of the static pen. The silence of untapped keyboards. The banging of your forehead against the desk.

We’ve all been there – some of us more than others – and that’s why we can all relate to it (and hopefully laugh at it). So I wanted to share the various stages of writer’s insanity.

Stage One: Staring (a.k.a. denial)

Oh, no. Oh, no. This is not happening. This cannot be happening. I have a deadline. An actual deadline! (Okay. So I set the deadline myself, but still!) I do not have time for this. I NEED to be able to write.

Computer Guy Meme

Computer Guy Meme

Stage Two: Pacing (a.k.a. panic)

Why is this happening?! ::breathes heavily for five minutes:: Okay. I got this. I will get through this. I just need to walk away for a little bit. Okay. Never mind. I need a drink. Drinking is good. Ernest Hemingway used to drink. “Drink write, edit subor?” Why can’t I write drunk? I can’t even spell! Oh, god. I’ll never be good at this.

Photo by Reddit

Photo by Reddit

Stage Three: Running away (a.k.a. more panic)

I just need to relax. How do I relax again? Reading! I love reading. I can tackle the TBR pile in no time. ::sits down with book:: Who is this author? Why do they write so…so perfectly? Why can’t I write like this? I’ll never write something this lovely. ::throws book across room:: I can’t read right now. Who am I kidding? I need to step away from the books. I know! I’ll go for a walk, and I’ll look at the stars. The stars are nice. ::goes outside:: It’s cloudy. Great. Of course, it’s cloudy.

Photo from addfunny.com

Photo from addfunny.com

Stage Four: Return (a.k.a. facing the problem; then, letting it go)

All right. ::sits down at computer:: What the hell is wrong with this manuscript? What is wrong with me? (Two hours pass, nothing changes.) ::finally puts computer away for the night:: I just need a break, a nice dinner, a good night’s sleep.

Stage Five: Acceptance (a.k.a. overcoming it!)

::wakes up in the morning after the worst day ever:: I feel rested. Why is my protagonist sitting in my computer chair? ::stands up and crosses the room. Protagonist types with one hand and hands you a coffee with the other as you stare over their shoulder:: “Oh! That’s what I did wrong.” I forced everything, but now it’s resolved. Writer’s block, you silly thing.

Photo from memorise.org

Photo from memorise.org

Time to sit down and write again.

~SAT

My 11-year-old self was a better writer

5 Aug

Announcements:

Tamara Morning posted the latest review of Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy, and you can read the full review by clicking here, but here is a small excerpt, “Ms Thompson has done a superb job of bringing both of her worlds to life, both the magical, and the mundane. Seconds Before Sunrise is an engaging read sure to appeal to fans of both fantasy and young adult, with a twist that makes it different from other novels in these genres.”

My 11-year-old self was a better writer

I have a confession to make. I am struggling. A lot. So much so that I was tempted to go to a thesaurus to find a synonym for “a lot.” (Okay. So not that bad. But I’m still struggling with my writing.)

You see, I’m in-between wanting to rewrite November Snow and getting my content edits for Death Before Daylight complete. From a publishing standpoint, book 3 of The Timely Death Trilogy should come first, but my little writing heart wants to ignore Death Before Daylight for two main reasons:

  1. In the first few chapters, a really controversial scene happened. That’s right. Happened. As in, not anymore. The original version is very different from the version coming out in the future, and I’m happy with this severe change. Even though I did cut out this controversial scene, there is a new scene, and I like the new one a lot more in the sense that it is more honest to the characters and the storyline. That being said, I feel as if I have killed off a character by cutting that original scene out, and I haven’t quite mourned it yet, so it’s hard to move forward at this moment in time. (But I promise I will.)
  2. November Snow is still my favorite novel of mine. There. I said it. I kind of do have a favorite child. Does that make me a bad parent? Maybe. That’s probably why I don’t have children. (Just kidding.) But in all seriousness, I have an urge to write in November Snow right now, even though my publication goal is to release that AFTER Death Before Daylight.

So where am I going with this?

Well, here’s the uglier confession: When I picked up November Snow, it terrified me. Yes. Terrified. I had to force myself to put it down, and it has been sitting on my desk all week. I have barely touched it until I picked up last night, which is probably why I’m writing this.

Why did it terrify me?

The story is controversial. It’s dark. It’s violent. And it’s honest. It forces me to face the facts. I’ve lost a part of myself in my writing. I used to write darker stories, and I want to continue to write them, but I’m afraid to now. There is no easier way of putting it. I have hesitations. I keep worrying about what my readers will think of me, what my family and friends will say. Even though I’ve always thought I have surpassed this, I think I’ve been lying to myself a lot. I keep coming back to that time in high school when classmates and teachers thought I was disturbed after they read November Snow. I keep reflecting on that judgment, but – even worse – I’ve placed that judgment on myself.

So I stopped writing my darker stories or I started censoring the more “twisted” moments. When did this start? I have no idea. I honestly don’t. I know it didn’t happen after November Snow, because I wrote that scene in Death Before Daylight that was very controversial, and I wrote a few more things I wish I could reference but I cannot yet (simply because they have not even been mentioned on this blog before, let alone published.)

But I did learn one thing the other day. I have two different types of censoring:

  1. Necessary – it needs to happen. A scene isn’t good for the story. It doesn’t mean anything. The characters never put it there in the first place. I did, which also means there isn’t a reason for it. (This is what happened in Death Before Daylight, so please don’t think that I’m censoring book 3 in The Timely Death Trilogy at all.)
  2. Unnecessary – this is my big problem that I’m currently going through. This is when I’m holding back the truth in November Snow because of various reasons. This is when my 11-year-old self – the girl who started writing this story – is sitting somewhere inside of me and screaming at me (or laughing at me, either one) because she knows I’ll get over it before I even know I’ll get over it.
I was twelve here, but close enough. :]

I was twelve here, but close enough. :]

I feel slightly insane right now, arguing back and forth with my past self. But it’s the truth. She may not have been grammatically correct. (Okay. So she desperately needed an editor.) Her prose may have been so poorly written that it makes me roll my eyes. But she was fearless. She was capable, and passionate, and raw, and she could care less what a reader or a classmate thought as long as she was true to the story. But me?

I am terrified.

I don’t want my female protagonist to be weak. I don’t want readers to think I’m white-washing my characters. I don’t want a reviewer to think my characters are sexist or prejudice or disrespectful or gratuitously violent. I don’t want the message to be misconstrued. But – most of all – I realized that I was so worried about these topics because I was afraid that a reader would reflect their thoughts of my novels onto what they think of me. I returned to what happened with November Snow: I don’t want the reader to judge the book like they are judging me. But I shouldn’t be worried about me when it’s truly about the story.

I find myself fighting these parts in my stories because of how someone might take me as an author when I should be more focused on just being true to the story. It’s never been about me. It’s about the story. If my female character is weak, well, then, she’s weak in the reader’s eyes (and she might, in fact, be weak.) But you know what? She’s a human to me. She’s real to me. And real people can be weak. Just like I have been recently.

It takes a lot to admit how weak we can be in order to become stronger, so I hope this helps me face the facts and begin to grow with my eleven-year-old self again, but I ultimately hope it helps writers who’ve struggled or might be struggling now. I hope every writer who struggles picks up their pens when they know they’ve dropped it somewhere along the way.

~SAT

Website Wonders

28 Jul

Announcements:

All day today, I’ll be on The Authors Show, a radio station, and I hope you check out the interview by clicking here. Share it around if you want!

But if you’re more into the reading side, Elaine Jeremiah wrote the latest review of Take Me Tomorrow, and you can click here to read her thoughts. She ends her review with, “On the whole I thought that this was an excellent book, gripping and exciting and well worth a read. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys an exciting, edge-of-your-seat, thrilling story.

Website Wonders:

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just plain awesome. Below, you’ll find all of July’s Website wonders categorized into these categories: For Writers, Publishing News, Reading, and Inspiration. Between each category is a photo. If you enjoy these websites, be sure to like my Facebook page because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

For Writers:

If Strangers Talked to Everybody like They Talk to Writers: “Cool, I always wanted to be a car salesmen. Maybe when I retire I’ll settle down and just work on selling that Buick I’ve had in my head for years.”

Periodic Table of Storytelling: This is amazing. The element Kni = knight in shiny armor, but my favorite is Bbw = badass bookworm

12 Useful Websites to Improve Your Writing: The Hemingway App is on here! But so many other great tools are, too.

12 Amazing Sites with Breathtaking Free Stock Photos: Bootstrap Bay: Perfect for cover artists or writers who want to pick out the artwork for their cover artist.

Diary of Purple Prose: A collection of beautiful words.

New York Times 50 Most Challenging Words: I loved chimera – an imaginary creäture composed of the parts of several different animals, wild or impossible idea.

From Writers Write

From Writers Write

Publishing News:

If I Stay Trailer #2: I just can’t wait.

J.K. Rowling has released a new ‘Harry Potter’ story online:

20-Year-Old Hunter S. Thompson’s Superb Advice on How to Find Your Purpose and Have a Meaningful Life: Fun fact, Hunter S. Thompson is the reason I became comfortable using my real name in publishing.

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Reading:

50 Signs You’re Addicted to Reading: Between book hangovers, book boyfriends, and book adaptations, this list is pretty accurate.

10 Books Guaranteed to Make You Cry: Two of my favorite novels are on here. One of my friends will never forgive me for giving her my copy of One Day, although – I have to say – that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of the only books AND movie adaptations to both make me cry.

55 great books under 200 pages: fun infographic

Two Anonymous Students Sneak into a Classroom Every Week and Literally Blow Everyone’s Mind: Since these were quotes, I thought this fit in the “reading” category more, but their chalk art is gorgeous.

31 Beautiful Ideas for a Book-Inspired Wedding: There you go, Buzzfeed.

I’ll make my own library :D

I’ll make my own library :D

Inspiration:

26 Real Places That Look Like They’ve Been Taken Out of Fairy Tales: Beautiful castles, striking country roads, and caves with built-in nightlights.

Fairytales Come to Life in Magical Photos: Trust me. Fairytale photos are one of three things: stunning, haunting, or both.

This Landscape Body Art Lit Up by Black Lights

It Took 126 Photos, but Scientists Finally Fit the Biggest Tree on the Planet into One Amazing Image: Yes. I’m obsessed with trees. But anyone can appreciate this photo.

 This Looks Like An Ordinary Park, But Look At What Happens When the Season Changes: This is something that would honestly be unbelievable in fiction but so amazing in real life! (Which is sad!) But oh so cool.

Hope you enjoyed these sites as much as I did!

~SAT

Happy Fourth! & Take Me Tomorrow News

4 Jul

This is one of those rare posts where my announcements are not separated from my post, and you’ll see why below:

Happy Fourth of July for everyone who is celebrating today! The past two Independence Days, I talked about how important the holiday is for The Timely Death Trilogy. For that reason, I wanted to share this review first. Live. Laugh. Read. said, “Minutes Before Sunset” is an absolutely stunning novel that completely messed with my emotions… Shannon’s depiction of love is like none that I have read before, sweet and without angst. Theirs is the love that you wish you could have.” But you can read the latest review by clicking here, and Minutes Before Sunset is only $3.89 here. It begins with Independence Day, so you can start on the same day the book begins.

I also wanted to share my latest interview by Marcha’s Two-Cents Worth. I explain how I find time to write, how AEC Stellar Publishing found me, and what was most difficult for me in Take Me Tomorrow. You can read everything I said by clicking here.

Special thanks also goes out to The Troubled Oyster for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. You may recall that I was nominated during my last post, but this is a new blog, and I’ve nominated three new blogs that I would love for you to check out: Allie Potts Writes, The Worlds of Tarien Cole, and Carl’s Corner.

You may have also noticed that I updated my progress bar on the right side of my website. Here’s the funny part. It is already outdated. I’ve received the ARCS, and I’m sending them to those readers who are interested in reading Take Me Tomorrow NOW – so feel free to email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I’m also taking interview and giveaway requests. (That’s right. I can supply YOU with three, free eBooks to your followers, so….I’ll be on my email on week.)

Although I’m celebrating Take Me Tomorrow, I’m also celebrating Independence Day, and I wanted to find the perfect way to express those two events. Below you’ll see a photo of my father. He’s been very supportive of me throughout my many years of publishing adventures, and I have dedicated Take Me Tomorrow to him for this reason. In fact, Take Me Tomorrow began as a simple conversation my dad and I had over coffee one afternoon – so today, I am sharing my dedication and acknowledgements from Take Me Tomorrow with everyone. You are in them, I assure you <3 

Thank you for your support, and if you’re celebrating, have a safe and fun fourth!

~SAT

My awesome dad

My awesome dad

Dedication:

To my father – for every chat over coffee, the words will never cease.

Acknowledgements:

My dedication says it all. “Take Me Tomorrow” was inspired by a single chat my father and I had over coffee. Many years have passed since that unforeseen afternoon, and my father supported me through every single one. Even though his psychic abilities couldn’t predict my future, he always believed in my publishing dream. For that reason, I want to thank him.

A lot of research was done for this novel, including hours of hunching over texts that morphed the story in a direction I never expected it to go, but my loyal team at AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. always believed in it. For that, I want to thank Raymond Vogel, Heather Hebert, and Ky Grabowski. Special thanks goes out to Clarissa Yeo for designing the cover of my dreams, even before I saw it.

To all of my readers at ShannonAThompson.com and beyond, thank you. I love and appreciate every moment you’ve shared with me – today and into tomorrow.

~SAT

Don’t’ forget to email me at shanonathompson@aol.com and add Take Me Tomorrow to your Goodreads shelf by clicking here. I can’t wait for the future!

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The Beginning of my Writing Process

26 Jun

First, thank you so much for all of your fantastic birthday wishes! I can honestly say that my 23rd birthday was the best birthday I’ve had. It was a perfect day. (I mean, I had mousse cake AND coffee. What isn’t perfect about that?) My Amazon rankings even went up! So thank you for your support, encouragement, and friendship. A little smile can brighten a day, but kind words can brighten the darkest life. Your words illuminate my existence.

Cue the dramatic piano piece. (Or trumpets. I think trumpets might work for this.)

So a few things happened the past few days!

Steampunk Sparrow’s Book Blog reviewed Minutes Before Sunset. You can read it by clicking here, and you can check out the award-winning, paranormal romance on Amazon by clicking here. (But it looks like so many of you checked it out on Monday! In fact, AEC broke their record for their best day of sales on my birthday.)

Other than that, I heard from my formatter at AEC Stellar’s Publishing, Inc. the other day. She hopes to have everything done by next week, so it looks like Take Me Tomorrow is still releasing this July. Yip-eee!

That’s why I’m writing this today: below you’ll find an accurate description of the BEGINNING of my writing process. My entire writing process is rather complicated, but I can cover the beginning because I kept a lot of the original notes (something I don’t normally do.) Call me superstitious, but keeping notes once a book has changed feels like something that holds me back from allowing the novel to grow into something new. So I hope you have fun! (You might even see some sneak peeks.)

First Step: The Spark of Inspiration

This is VERY unusual for me. Most of my novels, including The Timely Death Trilogy and November Snow, are based off of dreams, but Take Me Tomorrow was inspired by a conversation my father and I had in a Starbucks one afternoon. I was 19, visiting home from college, and talking at a hundred miles per hour. (Now – that is usual.) We were talking about drugs (legal and illegal) when we debated about futuristic drugs. What would they be like? What could they do? And that conversation was the spark of Take Me Tomorrow – a story that is grounded in the future where a clairvoyant drug has been released and outlawed. (I’ll explain why my father and I were talking about drugs in step four)

Second Step: That Spark Turns into a Flame:

As an avid reader and writer, I spend enormous amounts of time in bookstores. In fact, I began spending so much time in my local Barnes & Noble that most of the workers joked about paying me because they saw me helping customers so often. One night, while brousing the bookshelves, I found this postcard. (I apologize about the quality, but the postcard is four years old, and it’s taped inside the notebook I share below.)

postcard

I was attached. It felt like mine before I ever even touched it. And it felt like Take Me Tomorrow. Here’s the funny part. At no point in the book will you see these characters or this scene. I can’t tell you if it actually even exists, but I can tell you that it resonated with me in a way that even I cannot explain. I bought that postcard and I found my notebook.

Third Step: Feeding that Little Flame:

tmtnotenookTo the right, you’ll see the real notebook I used to write ALL of my original Take Me Tomorrow notes in. You should know that I have to have specific notebooks for each novel. I can’t write about four different novels in one notebook. Again, call me paranoid, but I feel like it disrupts the energy of creativity if I’m writing in Take Me Tomorrow, flip one page, and I’m in another book all together.

Fourth Step: My Flame Becomes a Giant Fire

I have a confession about my first three steps. I go through them all of the time, dozens of times, and I normally stop right there. Why? Because I find out that I’ve been fanning the flame instead of allowing my passion to keep it running. But Take Me Tomorrow is obviously one of the exceptions. It made it to step four because I am passionate about the story and the topic. Why? This is the dark side of the flame. I am VERY passionate about drug use. I want to clarify that I am not talking about me taking drugs – illegal or legal. I am just talking about understanding drugs. This has to do with my past.

My mother was a drug addict. She died from an overdose when I was eleven years old. One day, I will share more about this. But ever since I was old enough to understand, I spent days researching drugs – especially LEGAL drugs – and how they affect people. Much of this research will be in Take Me Tomorrow, and that research is the gas on the flame. To me, finding passion in the story and in the research is vital to writing my novels. I can admit that I want to share so much about my past in regards to understanding drug use, especially how my mother became an addict in the first place, but it might take me a while before I open up about it on here. It’s a very personal topic to me. But that’s also why Take Me Tomorrow is so important to me.

Fifth Step: Taming the Growing Fire

This is the last step in the beginning of my writing process. Once I have enough research on the topics I want to write about and symbolize, I begin growing the story with characters, worlds, graphs, and more. These maps, graphs, and notes include character profiles, height graphs, a calendar, moving maps, scene maps, past timelines, family trees, and more. Just so you can laugh with me, I added one of my beautiful maps below. (What can I say? All of my artistic abilities reside in my writing. I cannot draw.) This map is taken directly from Chapter Five and Chapter Six. And you can read a sneak peek right below that: (the entire novel is told by Sophia Gray.)

breakin

“You coming with or not?” he asked.

Miles shook his head. “There’s a cop right there,” he said. “It’s too risky, even for me.”

Broden checked his arm’s splint. “Wait in the car, then,” he ordered blankly as if he had expected Miles’ reaction. “Run if anything happens.”

Miles didn’t budge. “You’re going by yourself?”

Broden shrugged. “I didn’t come this far to leave Noah standing there, now, did I?”

“I’ll go,” I volunteered before the boys could argue. Both of them gaped at me, and I repeated myself. “I drove you two here. I think I have the right to go to − wherever you’re going.”

“Sophia,” Miles sighed. “You don’t want to.”

Broden lifted his hand to Miles, “She can come if she wants.”

“What if you guys get caught?”

“Then, we’re all in trouble,” he pointed out, “whether she’s waiting in the car or not.”

Miles mumbled curses to himself. “I can’t believe this.”

“Believe it,” I stated, marching over and pulling the black beanie off his head. “Now, give me your jacket.”

I hope you enjoyed this! Please add Take Me Tomorrow to your Goodreads shelf, email me at shannonathompson@aol.com if you want to review it, and I will share your review right here on ShannonAThompson.com!

As always, with all my love, I hope I can inspire and help you in your writing journey by sharing my personal journey with you. Please share your writing process below! Is it different in the beginning than in the end? Do you make maps first or during the writing? Do you make character profiles?

~SAT

Writing Tips: Introducing Your Characters

20 Jun

Special thanks to The Leisure Zone for reviewing Minutes Before Sunset: “A great read. I absolutely enjoyed reading it and it does take your imagination for a ride…This is a great leading book. I cannot wait to read the following books.” Click here to read the full review or click here to check out Minutes Before Sunset on Amazon, only $3.89.

Also, you might have noticed that my progress bar is updated on the right side of my website! I try to update it every two weeks, but I am really looking forward to the release of Take Me Tomorrow and Death Before Daylight.

People are obsessed with firsts: a baby’s first smile, winning first place in a race, your first love, getting arrested for the first time. (Okay. So maybe not that last one.) But we do like firsts, and I think it brings up a topic writers don’t normally talk about or even consider.

What are your characters’ firsts?

No. I’m not talking about their first steps when they were a baby. I’m talking about the first time they appear in the story, the first time they talked, the first time they laughed, the first time they really opened up and showed some depth to their created soul.

So I’m going to share some of my characters’ firsts as examples while I explain how important their first line can be. This might seem like a stretch for many but consider the popular phrase, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” But I really like the quote below, because I believe it applies to how your readers can perceive your characters’ first impressions as well:

quote-a-stunning-first-impression-was-not-the-same-thing-as-love-at-first-sight-but-surely-it-was-an-lois-mcmaster-bujold-214751

Characters are just like people except that we can decide exactly what that first impression will be. Maybe their first impression will be great and readers will consider loving them. Maybe everyone will hate them. You can do both, and that’s the beauty of it. You can even get really complicated and strive to have the reader love them while the characters hate them. But enough of my rambling. Below I’ll explain some first impression parts to consider with examples from Minutes Before Sunset.

First appearance:

This is important for the obvious, main reason: a first impression is largely based on how someone appears, how they act, how they think or talk. This “first appearance” can be an appearance a reader sees first or an appearance the other characters see first. Consider both of those moments carefully because you can set up how a reader might judge a character for a long time. For me – as a reader – I have become very confused when a character is introduced in a very violent or angry way when they suddenly become very nice seconds later. It’s like whiplash. Scenes like that make more sense to me when I already know the character. (I’m not saying it cannot be done. What I am saying is to approach first appearances with care.) Below are examples of characters appearing to the reader first.

In Minutes Before Sunset, Camille appears in the very first chapter. Although Eric is six, she is already his guard (and she is only nine!) We see her as soon as Eric’s father leaves him alone – and, unlike Eric’s father – Camille asks Eric is if he alright. This sets up their relationship as a caring one, but it also shows the responsibility Camille has to take care of the male protagonist. Fun fact: we don’t see Camille’s human appearance until page 21. I could go on and on about how their different identities appear at separated times, but she appeared as a guard first because that part of her life is more important to the story, to Eric, and to her.

First spoken line:

What a character says can define them just as much as what a character does. I find first lines to be good indicators on what we can expect from a character: are they funny? Angry? Bitter? Responsible? Yes, of course their personalities develop far beyond their first lines, but first lines normally happen at the same time as first appearances, which are usually important scenes, so first lines – by default – reveal extra insight, like if a character speaks with an accent or not. Moments like these then become defining factors. But I would say that you don’t have to take this literally. The first line doesn’t necessarily mean the exact first line. It can mean the first conversation they have.

For this example, I wanted to share a few first spoken lines:

Since I explained the first scene in Minutes Before Sunset, let’s look at Camille’s first line: “Eric.” Yep. That’s her first word. In contrast, Eric – as Shoman – first appears in chapter two, and his first line as a shade is “Camille.” One another’s names are the first things they say because it focuses on the depth of their relationship while insinuating how close they are on a regular basis. But if we wanted to look at Eric’s VERY first line – again, this line is spoken when he is six years old in chapter one – he simply says, “I’m fine.” It’s important to note that Eric is lying here, and lying later becomes a defining factor of Eric’s personality. On a lighter note, when we see Crystal – a side character – for the first time, she says, “Don’t answer that.” to Jessica after Robb begins flirting with her. Crystal’s first line not only shows how she can take the initiative, but it also shows her comfort with interrupting Robb, insinuating that their friends (or at least that they know one another.)

First time they interact with another character:

This can get tricky, because stories have dozens of characters and each one of them is going to interact for the first time eventually and – most of the time – it’s only the “first time” for the reader. Most of the time, characters have a past, so they aren’t speaking for the first time, but that’s also the point - the “first” conversation can show whether or not characters have a past as well as other things, such as a social ranking difference (sir, ma’am, etc.) and/or if their past is a good one. Are they friends? Are they enemies? Are they competitors? Do they talk or is this a rare instance? Considering these questions can help shape how one character approaches another one while also hinting to the reader about how they always interact – before and during the story.

In Minutes Before Sunset, we get to see two, very different types of first interactions. Since Jessica is new to Hayworth, the reader gets to be introduced to everyone just like Jessica does, but Eric isn’t new. Through his eyes, we see interactions that have history – a very dark history – and we see repercussions of that in his various interactions. For instance, let’s focus on the human identities in Minutes Before Sunset. Jessica first talks to Eric on page 36. They’ve been assigned as homeroom partners, and Jessica is trying to be amicable but Eric – obviously – does not have the same intentions. (Scene told from Eric’s perspective.)

“Hi,” she said, turning briefly toward me to smile. “I’m Jess.”

She laid out her hand for a handshake, and I pushed my chair against the wall. “I heard your name when Ms. Hinkel assigned you,” I said, opening the chemistry book left on my desk from the previous period. I was not interested in small talk.

Now – moving onto another scene to use as a comparison. Crystal – a girl who has gone to school with Eric since childhood – doesn’t speak to Eric until page 127, and the only reason they do speak is because Crystal is sitting in his seat. (If you haven’t read the books, spoiler alert: Crystal and Eric used to be friends until freshman year in high school until Abby – Eric’s previous girlfriend – died. Eric stopped speaking to everyone. Crystal and Robb take this very personally.) But here is the scene so you can see: (scene told from Jessica’s perspective)

“Hey.”

We both jumped, and our conversation halted as we turned around. In front of us, Eric stood inches away, and the teacher hovered behind him, crossing her arms.

“Er—Eric,” I managed, and Crystal stared.

“Hey, Jessica,” he said, turning his gaze to my friend. “Crystal.”

“Welborn.” She returned the acknowledgement with a cold tone. “Hey.”

His smirk faltered, and his lips thinned. “I hate to interrupt,” he said, swinging his hand over his shoulder to point at our teacher. “but I probably need my seat.”

Both of these “firsts” show Eric’s history as well as his emotional state, but the moments also reveal character traits of Jessica and Crystal. While Jessica wants to be nice at first, Eric isn’t interested, and the tension between Crystal and Eric is still present, despite the two years that have passed since Abby’s sudden death. However, this would be a good time to say that “first” interactions are just as important as how the characters continue to act and grow. Later in the story, all of these characters’ relationships shift dramatically.

So I hope you have a few places to start in regards to your characters’ firsts. You might even crack open a favorite book you’ve read just to see what those characters’ firsts were. They might surprise you. I know I had a few that shocked me.

Happy writing and reading!

~SAT

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