Sunday, May 31, 2020

LET YOUR CHARACTERS TELL THE STORY


by Jodie Renner, editor & author, www.JodieRenner.com
With all the high-quality, exciting fiction being published these days, it’s absolutely critical to captivate readers right away and keep them eagerly turning the pages of your story.
 The most effective way to really engage readers emotionally and bond them to your character is by using deep point of view to get up close and personal with your character, and at the same time, creating an authentic, compelling voice for your story, a fresh, original tone and style.
How do you do that?  First, create a strong, charismatic main character, then let that character share his or her story directly with us, with no intermediary -- or as little other narration as possible. 
The best way to create a compelling "voice" for your story is through the words, thoughts, attitudes, and reactions of your main character.   
Try to become your character(s) for the story. Make a conscious effort not to intrude as the author (or a neutral narrator) to tell readers anything or explain or describe things.  
Let the POV character for the scene show the setting, reveal other characters, and build the story world in his or her own unique voice, with attitude, using words and phrasing that are natural to their own personality and mood and their personal reaction to the situation at that moment.
Rather than writing neutral narration, take a tip from first-person POV and keep not only the dialogue, but all of the narration (observations and explanations) for each scene firmly in the viewpoint of the main character for that scene, colored by his or her background, personality, attitudes, and current feelings (emotional and physical).
Here are some concrete tips for engaging readers and creating a strong voice in third-person point of view (“he” or “she” instead of “I”):
~ Start with a compelling character that readers will identify with and root for.
Your main character needs to be charismatic and sympathetic enough to carry the whole novel, so it’s critical to take the time to first create a protagonist who’s intriguing and multi-dimensional, with lots of personality and openness; fairly strong views; and some baggage, secrets, vulnerability, and inner conflict. Then be sure to show his world and the events unfolding around him through his eyes, ears, and feelings, not the author’s, or that of an omniscient narrator.
~ Make sure the dialogue and thoughts are unique to that character.
Read your dialogue out loud to make sure it sounds like that character would actually talk, given their personality, upbringing, education, and social standing, as well as the current situation, how they feel about it, and who they’re conversing with. (We usually speak differently in a formal situation or to a professional than to a close friend or family member.)
~ Write the narration from the character’s point of view, too.
Take it one step further and stay in your character’s POV for the observations, descriptions, and explanations, too, not just the dialogue and any inner thoughts and reactions. It’s your character who’s moving through that world, reacting to what’s around him. Don’t describe the surroundings and what’s going on from a distant, neutral, authorial point of view – show the character’s world directly through her observations, colored by her personality, mood, and comfort level.
~ Don’t intrude as the author to explain things to the readers.
Even technical and other explanations should be presented (briefly) through the characters, perhaps in a sparky dialogue with disagreement and attitude.
Be on the lookout for where you step in as the author to blandly and dispassionately explain things to the readers, as if it’s nonfiction. Besides being a less engaging read, that approach yanks us out of the character’s mindset and world – and out of the fictive dream.     
Remember – show, don’t tell!
TIPS FOR KEEPING NARRATION AND DESCRIPTION IN THE VIEWPOINT CHARACTER'S VOICE:
Here are a few little techniques for livening up information-sharing and imparting it with attitude, from the viewpoint of the POV character involved.
~ Use stream-of-consciousness journaling.
To bring out the character’s personality in the parts where he’s thinking or planning or worrying or ruminating, not just when he is interacting with others, do some stream-of-consciousness journaling by him. Have him ranting in a personal diary about the people around him, what’s going on, etc. Also show his deepest fears here. Then use this wording to show his personality more in the scenes.
~ Write the scene in first-person first, then switch it back.
Write a whole scene, or even a chapter or two, in first-person narration/POV (“I”) to get the rhythm and flow of that person’s language patterns and attitudes, then switch it to third-person.
~ Write with attitude!
To bring the setting, scene, and characters to life, deliver those details through the viewpoint of the main character for that scene, in their voice and wording, with strong views and a controversial mindset that projects their current mood, physical and emotional reactions, and general attitude.
~ Impart info through lively dialogue.
Rather than intruding as the author to explain something to the readers, have characters arguing about it, or use a spirited question-and-answer dialogue exchange to inform the readers naturally, through character interaction.
~ Role-play.
Read your dialogue and narration out loud to make sure it sounds natural and authentic to your characters’ backgrounds and personalities.
To summarize, for an engaging “voice” in third-person, be sure to use deep point of view and stay in the POV character’s head in the narration, too. In a nutshell, bring your fiction to life by stepping back as the author and letting the characters tell the story.   
Readers - feel free to share in the comment section below a passage from a story you've read -- or written -- depicting a scene shown through the eyes, ears, attitude, and current mood of the character.
For more techniques and examples for bringing your fiction to life and engaging your readers, see Jodie’s book, Captivate Your Readers – An Editor’s Guide to Writing CompellingFiction.

For many more valuable tips, with examples, for writing compelling fiction, check out Jodie Renner's award-winning fiction-writing guides, Writing a Killer Thriller, Fire up Your Fiction, and Captivate Your Readers, available at all Amazon sites and elsewhere. For Amazon, click on the links below.

~ Fire up Your Fiction – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories  

~ Captivate Your Readers – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction

~ Writing a Killer Thriller – An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction

   Amazon.com   Amazon.ca   Amazon.co.uk

For information on Jodie's editing services, visit
JodieRenner.com
.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Capturing Your Character’s Character

by Trevor Atkins, historical fiction & children’s book author

After I posted a screenshot of the character sheet template I use to a Facebook writers group, editor and author Jodie Renner asked if I might provide a bit of my thinking behind using this tool. This article is the result. 



When developing the major characters of my stories, I can’t help but draw upon my experience both playing and running tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs). In such games, character creation is extremely important to the game. The players are the main characters in the collaborative story they will be experiencing together. Even when first coming up with their characters, they are already adding them into the narrative.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • Where do they come from?
  • When did they become the type of person they are today?
  • How do they mesh with the world around them?
  • Why are they here now?
This is a lot of information. Much of it, especially the technical aspects, is put into the character sheet template for whatever game we might be playing.

I use a similar approach for the characters in my stories. What follows is a description of how we can explore, decide, and capture a character’s character for a work of fiction in this way.

The Whole Iceberg

Premise: A reader wants a story that progresses believably with interesting and relateable characters. For that we need depth.

We might not want to detail a character’s whole life, their relationships, and all their decisions and goals in our actual story, but we need that insight to best understand how they will interact.

“What’s my motivation in this scene?”

To create a story, or to even write a scene in a story, we need to know our characters. We need to hear them talking, to see their body language, to know when they would tackle a problem and when they would run from it. We need to know:

  • What they look like, sound like, and act like
  • Why they are different from all the others (of the same archetype/stereotype)
  • Where they are from, and where they are going
  • How they change during the course of the story (and why)

As we generate this information, we will start to feel the need to organize it, to categorize it, to make it easy to reference. This is where our character sheet template comes in.

Using a Character Sheet Template

For each of our characters, we can complete a character sheet template in order to capture our understanding of them as a whole entity.

But first, it’s important to recognize that the template is just a tool to get us started. It’s not a rigid recipe or a set process. It’s not an automatic or automated solution. It’s a set of prompts that helps us define what we need to know about our character and a place to capture those ideas.

And a great thing about using a template as a tool is that we’re able to customize it to our preferences and needs. We shouldn’t complete a “found” template in its original form. We should feel free to re-label, remove, add, etc. as we feel necessary to make it our own.

In that vein, instead of just providing a template that you might find awkward, incomplete, or too complete, here’s an outline of the big categories and some sub-bullets you might want to address. And then you can make your own. 

External Description – How do others see them?


This part of character creation can be very mechanical. This is where we decide how our character presents themselves outwardly.

  • How they look – hair, eyes, build, distinguishing marks, clothing, etc.
  • How they talk – tone, formality, vocabulary, accent, swearing, catch-phrase(s)
  • How they act – attitude, mannerisms, habits
  • What makes them special – skills, abilities, knowledge, experience
  • What notable possessions do they have – weapons, tools, accessories, money (or access to), any special items (eg: ring with family seal). Note: They may or may not have these items on their person at all times. They may find them in the course of the story (perhaps after losing them at some point in their backstory).

From this information, we can also distill the one-line introduction for the character.

Internal Description – What are they thinking?


This part of character creation is very introspective. Here we decide how our character thinks and feels on the inside.

  • Reactions/feelings – how they feel/behave when presented/confronted with A, B, or C
  • Values/beliefs – how they make choices/decisions, moral compass
  • Psychology – personality type/traits, likes/dislikes, fears/desires, mental health, sense of humour
  • Relationships – feelings for others, established or blossoming
  • Goals/motivations – why they act the way they do

As we put together the above details, we will find ourselves thinking “they wouldn’t do that” for X, or “that’s *so* how they would react” to Y.

Why, it’s Backstory Time


The last part of character creation is the development of the character’s backstory. This is the “why” of our character. When combined with the above, this information is what will ultimately make our poor woodcutter (friendly witch, staunch sea captain, enigmatic gunfighter, [insert-your-archetype]) unique and compelling to write about.

  • Early years – where the character came from, family members/situation, what shaped or influenced the character’s beliefs and values
  • Recent past – what/who has influenced them to be where they are now, what are their immediate goals

This information will help flesh out our setting, identify additional characters and events, and enrich our story with plot threads.

How Much is Too Much?

“I want to write the story, not fill out all these character sheets!”

I hear you! In this article, I am sharing what information I would include when fleshing out a major character in a lengthier story. We don’t need all this information for every character. For shorter stories or lesser characters (shapers, influencers, supporting characters, and encounter characters), I even use a different version of the template with scaled-down the scope and detail. So how much is needed depends on you and what you are writing.

At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that each character is the main character in their own story. We might not be telling that story, but minor characters should still interact with, affect, shape, and influence others as real people. Knowing some details about them can help us make those interactions feel more authentic.

It is also important to note that a character sheet is not just completed at the beginning of our writing effort and then set aside to only be referenced occasionally.

What character springs to our mind fully formed and flush with details? We will capture what we can at the beginning. Then, as our writing progresses, we will learn more about them as choices are made, information is traded, relationships change, etc. – inspiring ideas in us which might become critical to our plot or serve to give it colour.

In summary: A character sheet is a great place to keep track of all these thoughts as our characters grow and evolve through our writing, especially if we feel a series coming on! 

About Trevor Atkins

With the help and inspiration of his daughter, Trevor is currently writing stories and designing/publishing educational tabletop and card games with a strong STEM component for elementary and middle-grade children.

Check out their children's comedy adventure "The King and Queen's Banquet: A Play in Three Acts" in softcover and e-book on Amazon.com, "The Bone Game" a card game that teaches the bones of the human skeleton on TheGameCrafter.com, and a number of free print-and-play math-centric games available through PlayGames2Learn.com

Also, visit http://silverpath.com and subscribe for news about Trevor’s upcoming ‘pirate-y’ historical fiction that tells the tale of a young girl as she learns the ways of the sea, bonds with her fellow shipmates, and then has to save everyone from a cursed pirate treasure!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Excellent Resource for Homeschoolers of Kids Aged 9-14

Since so many families are now forced to stay home, and a lot of parents are faced with homeschooling their kids, I'm offering a special on Childhood Regained - Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers, school editions. This cross-curriculum resource is excellent for developing skills in reading, writing, mapping, graphing, research, social studies, and social awareness, and includes fun, creative activities as well.





*SPECIAL FOR HOMESCHOOLERS, March-April 2020: 

Receive a PDF of the CHILDHOOD REGAINED - Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers, Canadian Schools Grs. 4-6 edition (11 stories + questions and activities) for $4 

or the Grs. 6-8 version (16 stories + questions + activities) for $5

and the accompanying teacher's/parent's guide for each (answers to questions and lots more info and activities) on PDF for only $3.

Or a FREE PDF of any one story plus study questions.  

Perfect for home printing of selected stories or reading on-screen.

Contact Jodie Renner at info(at)JodieRenner(dot)com or through Facebook messenger to get your copies.

Or purchase the print or electronic version of any of the school editions listed below, with links, and receive the teacher's/homeschooler's guide for FREE.

Childhood Regained – STUDENT EDITION, GRADES 4 TO 6. 6x9, 134 pages. ISBN: 978-0993700484. $10.95 Can. E-book is $2.86 Can. Eleven stories suitable for students aged 9 to 12. Also a glossary, comprehension questions, student activities, and more. Purchase this student edition (print or ebook) and contact Jodie Renner to receive the Gr. 4-6 accompanying teacher's/homeschooler's guide in PDF format for FREE.  
Print book on Amazon.ca    E-book on Amazon.ca.

Childhood Regained – STUDENT EDITION, GRADES 6 TO 8. 6x9, 220 pages. ISBN: 978-0995297005. $13.95 Can. E-book is $2.86. Sixteen stories and a poem, for students aged 11 to 14. Best choice when ordering class sets for middle-grade use.  Purchase this student edition (print or ebook) and contact Jodie Renner to receive the Gr. 4-6 accompanying teacher's/homeschooler's guide in PDF format for FREE.  
Print book on Amazon.ca     E-book on Amazon.ca

*Click here to read excerpts from the stories: 

Childhood Regained – EXCERPTS


CHILDHOOD REGAINED - SCHOOL EDITIONS


Childhood Regained – CANADIAN SCHOOLS EDITION. Trade paperback (6x9), 268 pages. ISBN: 978-0993700477. $17.95 Can. Includes all 19 stories and a poem. Best choice for use with a wide range of grades or for your school library. Add some of the thin teachers' guides (one free with each order of 10 books). Order quantities from Cobalt Books or CreateSpace Direct.  Print book on Amazon.ca   E-book on Amazon.ca

Childhood Regained – CANADIAN TEACHERS' GUIDE, Grades 4 to 9, 6x9, 102 pages. ISBN: 978-0995297012; $7.50 US, $9.95 Can. for print, $2.86 for ebook, or FREE with orders of 10 or more print books
Print book on Amazon.ca    E-book on Amazon.ca

Childhood Regained – Student Edition, Grades 7 to 9. 6x9, 184 pages. ISBN: 978-0993700491. $12.95 Can.  Print book on Amazon.ca     E-book on Amazon.ca

Childhood Regained – AMERICAN SCHOOLS EDITION. Trade paperback (6x9), 264 pages. ISBN: 978-0993700477. $13.95 US. 
Print book on Amazon.com     E-book on Amazon.com

For more info on this anthology and to read excerpts from the fascinating fictional stories that take place in South Asia, go to: 
http://www.jodierenner.com/books/childhood-regained-stories-of-hope-for-asian-child-workers/ or
 http://www.jodierenner.com/books/childhood-regained-school-editions/ 

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF THE STORIES

In the editions for grades 4 to 9, in mixed order here:
TREASURE OF THE MIND by D. Ansing
Thirteen-year-old Diya lives in rural India where she and her mother earn money doing mehndi—drawing henna tattoos on hands and feet for special occasions. When her mother falls ill, Diya agrees to work for a salon owner in the city, believing it is her chance to become a premier mehndi artist and send money home. In the salon owner’s home, Diya is no more than a domestic slave. She endures grueling labor and demeaning abuse, is made to sleep in a tiny windowless closet, and given only table scraps to eat. Diya asks to return home and is crushed when told she is the salon owner’s property, sold by her mother in a bonded labor agreement. Soon after, the salon owners depart for vacation, leaving Diya locked inside their house. Food runs out and she attempts to escape.
SANJAY’S MOUNTAIN by Steve Hooley
Nine-year-old Sanjay lives at the foot of Chomolungma, the mother of the world, Mt. Everest, in Nepal. When his father, a Sherpa guide on the mountain, is killed in an avalanche, his family begins to unravel. His mother leaves the family for a new husband. His sister is sold into the sex trade. And Sanjay is sold to the owner of a carpet shack in Kathmandu, where he works long hours tying the tiny carpet knots, hands bleeding. After much soul searching, Sanjay finds the courage to escape and begins the path to higher education and his own mountain to conquer.
WHEN THE RAINS COME by Caroline Sciriha
Nine-year-old Sita works with her father in a stone quarry in India. Her mother is ill and the family cannot pay for the medical help she so desperately needs. The only solution is to ask the quarry owner for a loan, but this means Sita’s brother will also have to drop out of school to work in order to make ends meet and repay the loan. When Sita averts a tragic accident at the quarry, she breaks her arm and will not be able to work for a number of weeks. How will the family survive?
BRICK BY BRICK by Kym McNabney
Anika, a twelve-year-old girl from India, is devastated when her alcoholic father pawns her off to a broker like some type of animal. If her mother had survived Anika’s birth, perhaps her father would not hand her over to a man she never met. Mr. Kumar, the broker, takes her to his brick-making yard, where she is forced to live in a cramped dormitory with others. Anika befriends Prisha, a worker in Mr. Kumar’s brick company. Anika works from sunup to sundown, never forgetting her brother’s vow to one day rescue her.
INVISIBLE by Sarah Hausman
Nine-year-old Sumeet leaves his home in a small village to go to work in a carpet factory in Kathmandu, Nepal. Hoping to help his family, Sumeet enters into a life of long work hours, hunger, and bullying from an older boy, Nirav. Alone and afraid, Sumeet meets twelve-year-old Ashna, who becomes his closest friend. Together, Sumeet and Ashna find ways to survive the factory life. But when Ashna falls ill, Sumeet isn’t sure he can make it alone.
THE GHOST BAZAAR by Barbara Hawley
Small and swift eleven-year-old Anha sells fruit in an illegal hawking zone near the train station of Mumbai, India. If the police conduct a surprise raid, Anha can bundle up her tarp and flee. Anha’s desperate family depends on the wages she earns selling fruit from the hot pavement. One fateful day, the vendors’ wares are ruined during a raid. A golden ring dropped on Anha’s tarp sends her on a hasty pursuit and she gets the ride of her life. In a city ruled by corruption and greed, a young girl’s honesty wins out, changing her family’s entire future.
SEEDS OF SLAVERY by Eileen Hopkins
Ten-year-old Daksha runs home from her school and finds her mother in tears. Mama tells Daksha that her father has left them. Daksha sees her father’s empty alcohol bottle of alcohol on the floor and smells the lingering odour of droplets that have soaked into the hem of Mama’s skirt. It is as if a whirlwind of dust blowing in from the cottonseed fields has crashed through her home, destroying her hopes. Daksha must travel to a big farm where she works alongside many other children sprinkling pollen on the white flowers of the cottonseed plants – pollen that is like magical fairy dust that turns the flowers into valuable cottonseeds. It does not feel like magic to Daksha.
RIVER OF LIFE by Steve Hooley
Twelve-year-old Joran lives in Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India, where pilgrims bathe in the sacred waters of the Ganges River. When both of Joran’s parents die in a boating accident, he is left with no family to care for him and totally at the mercy of the social service system. When a corrupt social service employee diverts him from the orphanage and sells him to Gari, the junkyard man, Joran is doomed to a life of welding broken auto parts. Joran descends into depression and considers throwing himself into the Ganges River, but fellow indentured servants give him hope as they use their resources and wits to devise a vehicle of escape, right beneath the nose of Gari.
SOME NIGHTS, I WAKE UP CRYING – by Patricia Anne Elford
Laila’s mother sends her, with their last coins, to the market for some fruit, lentils and rice. When a man bumps into her, her coins roll into the dust. Street boys grab them and run. Laila weeps. An apparently kind woman suggests Laila do a little job to regain the lost money, then takes her to a carpet factory. A rough man sets her to work, among rows of children, knotting, to make rugs. With only two brief breaks to eat and drink water, the children work 16-hour days. Twice, all of the children have to go down quickly through a trapdoor and huddle together silently in a horrible room under the floor, until the bosses call them back up. Laila worries. “Will I ever see Mama again? Will I be trapped here forever?
THE TORN CARPET by Caroline Sciriha
Thirteen-year-old Hari works as a carpet weaver in a factory in Nepal. Life is hard. He invents and narrates a fairy tale in order to raise the spirits of two other child workers—little Maiya and Laila, who is unwell. The fairy tale involves a cantankerous genie and Ali, who needs to repair a magic carpet. The genie and Ali fly to Nepal to find the carpet weaver who can mend the torn carpet. Fairy tale and reality mesh when an inspector calls at the factory.
DREAMS ARE FOR SLEEP by Tom Combs
An estimated 300,000 people survive as ragpickers in the dumps of Mumbai, India. More than a third are under the age of fourteen.
Meena is a nine-year-old girl who has never known any life other than squalor and scavenging to survive. Her sister was taken two years earlier and Menna’s mother has said it is best to forget her. Her sister’s memory and a wondrous story from the pages of a book occupy Meena’s thoughts on a sweltering day amidst the garbage of Mumbai.
NAMASTE, a poem by Fern G. Z. Carr
Sandeep, a young boy, is kidnapped by traffickers and forced to work in the Meghalaya coal mines. While Sandeep yearns to be faithful to the teachings of his father, lessons of thankfulness and respect, his life is in turmoil. How can Sandeep be grateful while facing hardships that no child should ever be forced to face? How can he be optimistic in his subterranean world as he is forced to crawl through rat holes fourteen hours a day? The arrival of an aid worker allows Sandeep the chance to resume his childhood and finally give himself permission to honour his father’s memory.
LIFE STUDY IN CHARCOAL by E.M. Eastick
Thirteen-year-old Sanjeev is smart and spirited. His twelve-year-old brother Rajit is an introvert with a consuming fascination for drawing. If Sanjeev can’t motivate his brother to work, they risk falling behind in their shared job of ‘distressing’ jeans with chemicals in the basement of a Dhaka garment factory. And if they fall behind, not only will the factory owner beat them, but he may throw the brothers out on the street.
When a fire starts in the factory, Sanjeev bravely helps other factory workers escape the blaze, but when he can’t find Rajit, Sanjeev is distraught and overcome with the guilt of believing that he and his brother are responsible for the fire. It’s only when Sanjeev learns the truth about the fire and his brother’s fate that he can let go of the past and look to the future.
INTAHARI: CONFESSIONS OF A SUICIDE BOMBER by Peter Eichstaedt
Abdul, a young Afghan boy of fourteen, is distraught when the Taliban closes the government-run school in his village. It’s the latest in a series of blows Abdul has suffered in his short life. His aunt was accused of promiscuity and stoned. His mother later died of heartbreak at the loss of her sister. His older brother was judged by the Taliban to be spy and executed. When Abdul is falsely accused of theft, the Taliban gives him a choice: Lose a hand and live a life of shame; or become a suicide bomber and die a glorious death. Out of this dangerous dilemma, Abdul forms a plan save himself and find the justice he craves.
FLOWERS by Hazel Bennett
Ria, a twelve-year-old girl, works in a quarry in India, where she is friendless and in permanent discomfort and unhappiness because the child slaves are overworked, underfed, and severely punished. They are powerless to rebel and fearful to escape. Finally, the children are rescued by police, who take them to a boarding school where Ria sees flowers for the first time. Elated by their beauty, she is encouraged to pick up the pieces of her life and find happiness, and gradually she learns to trust and reach out to others.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK by Rayne Kaa Hedberg
Dhaval is an eleven-year-old boy living in India with his mother and younger sisters in the slums. Their compromised situation takes a grim turn when his baby sister becomes ill and they can’t afford to take her to the doctor. Dhaval is faced with a difficult choice. Either he has to give up his relatively safe employment at the factory for a better-paying but hazardous job at the mine, or his sister could die without a doctor’s care. Being the eldest, Dhaval reluctantly decides to work at the mine with his friend. But what will happen once the mine starts to rumble?
FROZEN TEARS by Steve Hooley
Pramita, a ten-year-old Nepalese girl, is sold into the sex trade by her uncle, after her father dies and her mother leaves with a new husband. In her new home in New Delhi, all hope and emotion is lost. When she is transferred to a sewing factory by her owner to entertain the inspector and keep a crumbling building open, life becomes even worse as she fears for her life. Her brother Sanjay, whom she has not seen for eleven years and who is now a medical student, reenters her life with a plan for her escape. A daring attempt at switched identity and disappearance is prevented by the collapse of Pramita’s factory and a fight for her life.
MY NAME IS RAJ by Lori Duffy Foster
For years, twelve-year-old Sanjana has worked at a hotel in Mumbai, India, preparing food for rich people while her own body wastes away. She is not allowed to leave the building and she doesn’t dare try to escape. The city streets frighten her and she has nowhere to go. Still, the long hours, the cruel treatment, and the isolation were bearable until a few months ago when her best friend, a boy one year older, became sick. The cook deemed him useless and ordered him dumped on the streets. To protect herself, Sanjana vows never to love anyone again. And she keeps that vow until a small boy comes into the sweltering kitchen and into her life.
DREAMS OF ARSENAL by Edward Branley
Kunal is a thirteen-year-old boy from Chennai in South India. Sold by his parents to child-labor trafficker at age eleven, he was sent to Hyderabad, in central India, and forced to work in a tiny sweatshop, where children make cheap brass costume jewelry. His life goes from that of a farm boy to a slave, trapped in two rooms, with inadequate food, little exercise, almost no contact with the outside world. Kunal “escapes” from his situation by retreating into his mind while he works, dreaming of the soccer matches from England he listened to on the radio before he was sold into slavery. His dreams, along with listening to conversations on the street next to the sweatshop, help him cope. Kunal struggles to “fit in” with the other child-slaves, but always returns to his dreams, waiting for the chance to break away.
FUNNY DANCE by Sanjay Deshmukh
Ten-year-old Vijay’s parents work for a firecracker factory in India, while he and his younger siblings go to school. When his father is injured in the factory and unable to work for three months, the household cannot survive only on the mother’s salary, especially with the added medical expenses. She persuades Vijay to work for three months in a home-based firecracker unit. His father, meanwhile, is also diagnosed with a lung disease, which prevents him from returning to the factory. Vijay continues working, progressing in two years from cutting and pasting paper to the dangerous job of mixing chemicals to prepare gunpowder for firecrackers. His only escape lies in entertaining himself and the other children in stolen moments with his silly songs and funny dances.
RAJESH’S GARDEN by Della Barrett and Jodie Renner
Ten-year-old Anjali is eaten up by guilt for taking longer to fetch the water from far-away the stream the day her brother got thirsty and drank stagnant pond water instead. The contaminated water caused him to fall ill and die. The family lost their only son. Anjali, in a state of depression, ignores her chores and her beloved garden and drinks the pond water too. As she lies weakened and ill, a volunteer group from Canada that has adopted the village arrives to dig a well and build hand-washing stations and latrines. Two of them visit Anjali with other gifts that restore her will to live.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Don't Give Your Readers a Reason to Reject Your Novel

by Jodie Renner, fiction editor and author of writing guides, www.JodieRenner.com

Have your trusted friends or beta readers told you your WIP novel is too long, confusing, or just doesn’t grab them? Here are some typical “big-picture” weaknesses to watch out for in your fiction and correct before sending it to an editor, publishing it, or pitching it to an agent.
These types of glaring gaffes in writing, pacing, plot, or structure will bog down your story and invite bad reviews, which could sink your reputation as a novelist. Fortunately, they can all be remedied at the revision and self-editing stages.

~ Overwriting. Not enough self-editing will give people a reason to reject your novel

Today’s bestselling novels are mostly between 70,000 and 90,000 words long. Unless you’re an absolutely brilliant writer, and experts in the business have told you so, if your manuscript is over 95,000 words long, it definitely needs tightening up.
Cut way back on explanations and descriptions, and trim down long, convoluted sentences to their essence. Make every word count.

~ Meandering writing – the main story question / problem is fuzzy or buried.

What’s the protagonist’s main goal and fear, and his/her main problem? 
Continue reading this post on Anne R. Allen's award-winning blog HERE.
https://annerallen.com/2020/02/dont-reject-your-novel/





Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION,  CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized two anthologies for charity: VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories and Poems about Life in BC’s Interior, and CHILDHOOD REGAINED – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers. You can find Jodie on her Amazon Author Page, at www.JodieRenner.com, and on Facebook. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

WRITERS' CONFERENCES & BOOK FESTIVALS, 2020


List compiled by Jodie Renner, editor and award-winning author of writing guides; JodieRenner.com

If you know of any events anywhere in North America that should be added to this list, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

JANUARY 2020:

Jan. 17-20, 2020 - Annual Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway, Seaview Resort, New Jersey Shore (near Atlantic City). www.wintergetaway.com

Jan. 18, 2020 - Golden Ears Writers and Readers Festival, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada.

Jan. 18-25, 2020: Writers in Paradise conference, St. Petersburg, Florida. http://writersinparadise.eckerd.edu/

FEBRUARY 2020:

Feb. 8-9, 2020 - Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference, Los Angeles. https://www.scbwi.org/ny20-info/

Feb. 12-16, 2020 – San Miguel Writers' Conference and Literary Festival, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. www.sanmiguelwritersconference.org.

Feb. 13-16, 2020 - San Francisco Writers Conference, San Francisco. www.SFWriters.org

Feb. 13-16, 2020 – Savannah Book Festival, Savannah, GA. Free and open to the public. http://www.savannahbookfestival.org/

MARCH 2020:

March 12-15, 2020 - Left Coast Crime's annual mystery convention. This year it's in San Diego, California. http://leftcoastcrime.org/

March 14-15, 2020 – The Tucson Festival of Books, University of Arizona campus, Tucson, AZ. Free and excellent! http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/

March 26-29, 2020 - Sleuthfest, an annual conference for mystery, suspense, and thriller writers, Deerfield Beach, Florida. http://sleuthfest.com/

March 26-29, 2020 - Pathway to Publication, Writer's Institute, Madison, Wisconsin. https://uwwritersinstitute.wisc.edu/

APRIL 2020:

April 2-4, 2020 - The Las Vegas Writers Conference, Henderson Writers Group, Las Vegas, NV. https://lasvegaswritersconference.com/

April 3-5, 2020 – Grub Street’s “Muse and the Marketplace” Conference, Boston, MA.
Clickable e-resource
https://www.grubstreet.org/muse/

April 4, 2020 - "Create Something Magical" - Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference, Iselin, NJ. http://www.libertystatesfictionwriters.com/conference/

April 17-19, 2020 - Pikes Peak Writers' Conference, Colorado Springs, Colorado. http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/ppwc/

April 17-19, 2020, Chanticleer Authors Conference, Bellingham, WN.  https://www.chantireviews.com/chanticleer-conference/

April 24-26, 2020 - The Next Bestseller Workshop, Los Angeles. www.TheNextBestseller.com

April 25, 2020 - Michigan Writing Workshop, Livonia, MI. http://michiganwritingworkshop.com/

Apr. 30-May 5 - Ottawa International Writers Festival, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. https://writersfestival.org/

MAY 2020:

May 1-2, 2020 - Oklahoma Writers Conference, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. www.owfi.org

May 1-3, 2020 - Malice Domestic, annual traditional mystery fan convention, in Bethesda, MD. www.malicedomestic.org
May 2, 2020 - The Writing Conference of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA http://writingconferenceoflosangeles.com/

May 8-9, 2020, Lakefly Writers Conference, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. www.lakeflylit.org

May 9, 2020 - San Diego Writing Workshop, San Diego, CA http://sandiegowritingworkshop.com/

May 8-10, 2020 - Word on the Lake Writers' Festival, Salmon Arm, BC, Canada. http://wordonthelakewritersfestival.com/

May 15-17, 2020 - Creative Ink Festival for Writers, Readers, and Artists; Burnaby, BC, Canada. http://www.creativeinkfestival.com/

May 15-17, 2020 – Pennwriters Conference, Pittsburgh, PA. https://pennwriters.org/conferences/

May 28 - June 1, 2020 - Bear River Writers' Conference, Walloon Lake, Michigan. www.lsa.umich.edu/bearriver

JUNE 2020:

June 8-12, 2020 - West Texas Writers' Academy, West Texas A&M University, Canyon, Texas. www.wtamu.edu/wtwa

June 12-16, 2020 – Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, Lands End Resort, Homer, Alaska. http://writersconference.homer.alaska.edu/

June 13-14, 2020 - Dallas - Fort Worth Writers Conference, Hurst Conference Center, DFW Metroplex, Texas. http://www.dfwcon.org. Twitter: @dfwcon. 

June 15-19, 2020 - Write-by-the-Lake Writer's Workshop and Retreat, Madison, Wisconsin. http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/conferences/write-by-the-lake/

June 17-20, 2020 - Western Writers of America convention, Rapid City, SD.   http://www.westernwriters.org/

Clickable e-resource on Amazon
June 25-27, 2020 - Jackson Hole Writers Conference, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. www.JacksonHoleWritersConference.com

June 25-28, 2020 - Ochre Fest, Ochre Pit Cove, NL, Canada. A festival of books, music, art, food and culture. https://ochrefest.ca

JULY 2020:

July 7-11, 2020 – Master Craftfest, Craftfest, and Thrillerfest – International Thriller Writers annual conference, New York, NY. http://www.thrillerfest.com/


July 10-12, 2020 - Imaginarium Convention, Louisville, Kentucky. http://www.entertheimaginarium.com/

July 16-19, 2020 - West Virginia Writers' Workshop, West Virginia. http://english.wvu.edu/centers-projects/west-virginia-writers-workshop/s

July 29-Aug. 1, 2020 – Romance Writers of America Annual Conference, San Francisco. http://www.rwa.org/conference

July 31-Aug. 2, 2020 - Willamette Writers Conference, Portland, Oregon. http://willamettewriters.com/wwcon/

July 30-Aug. 2, 2020 – Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference, Corte Madera, CA. https://www.bookpassage.com/mystery

AUGUST 2020:

August 1-4, 2019Writers’ Police Academy, Appleton, Raleigh, North Carolina. http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com/

Aug. 2-4, 2019 - FAPA (Florida Authors and Publishers Assoc.) Annual Conference, Orlando Florida. https://myfapa.org/programs/

Aug. 6-9, 2020 - Cape Cod Writers Center Conference, Hyannis, Mass. https://capecodwriterscenter.org/conference-2/

Aug. 13-16, 2020 - Writer's Digest Annual Conference, NYC. www.writersdigestconference.com/

Aug. 14-16, 2020 - When Words Collide - A Festival for Readers and Writers, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. https://www.whenwordscollide.org/

Aug. 20-23, 2020 - Killer Nashville, Nashville, TN. http://www.killernashville.com/conference/

SEPTEMBER 2020:

Sept. 4-6, 2020 – Decatur Book Festival, Decatur (Atlanta), Georgia.   
http://www.decaturbookfestival.com

Sept. 5, 2020 - White County Creative Writers' Conference, Searcy, AR - http://whitecountycreativewriters.org

Sept. 15, 21, & 22, 2019 - Telling Tales Festival, 3 locations in Ontario, Canada. https://www.tellingtales.org/explore-the-festival/

Sept. 17-20, 2020 – The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference, St. Louis, Missouri. http://www.acfw.com/conference

Sept. 17-27, 2020 - Thin Air 2019 - Winnipeg International Writers Festival, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. https://thinairwinnipeg.ca/

Sept. 19-20, 2020 - Flathead River Writers Conference, Kalispall, MT. https://www.authorsoftheflathead.org/conference

Sept. 20-22, 2019 - Words Alive Kamloops, Kamloops, BC, Canada. www.wordsalivekamloops.com

Sept. 18-20, 2020 – Southern California Writers’ Conference, A Weekend for Words, Newport Beach, Calif. http://www.writersconference.com/la

Sept. 21-22, 2019 - Word on the Street, Toronto, Ontario,      
Canada. https://thewordonthestreet.ca/toronto/

Sept 25-26, 2020 – Alaska Writer’s Guild Conference, Anchorage, Alaska. https://www.alaskawritersguild.com/writers-conference

Sept. 23-27, 2020 - NINC Conference (Novelists, Inc.), St. Petersburg, FL. http://ninc.com/conferences

Sept. 23-27, 2020 - Kingston WritersFest, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. https://www.kingstonwritersfest.ca/

Sept. 24-27, 2020 - Pacific Northwest Writers Assoc. annual conference, Seattle, Wash. https://www.pnwa.org/default.aspx

Sept. 25-26, 2020 - Wine Country Writer's Festival, Penticton, BC, Canada. www.winecountrywritersfestival.ca

Sept. 27, 2020 – WORD Vancouver: Inspiring Words, Vancouver, BC, Canada. www.wordvancouver.ca

OCTOBER 2020:

Oct. 1-4, 2020 - Moonlight and Magnolias romance writers’ conference in Peachtree Corners, Georgia; http://www.georgiaromancewriters.org/mm-conference/

Oct. 3, 2020 - Boston Writing Conference, Boston, MA      https://thebostonwritingworkshop.wordpress.com/

Oct. 2-4, 2020 – Write on the Sound Writers’ Conference, Edmonds, Washington. www.writeonthesound.com.

Oct. 2-4, 2020  - South Dakota Festival of Books, Brookings, SD http://www.sdbookfestival.com/

Oct. 8-10, 2020 - InD'Scribe Write Like a Pro Conference, Peoria, Illinois. www.indscribe.com

Oct. 8-10, 2020 - Ozark Creative Writers' Conference, Eureka Springs, AR - http://ozarkcreativewriters.com

Oct. 15-18, 2020 – Women Writing the West Conference, Colorado Springs, CO. https://www.womenwritingthewest.org/conference/

Oct. 10-13, 2019 - Historical Writers of America Conference, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  http://historicalwritersofamerica.org


Oct. 15-18, 2020 – 19th Annual Florida Writers Conference, Altamonte

Oct. 16-18, 2020 – Emerald City Writers’ Conference (Romance Writers of America), Bellevue, Washington. http://gsrwa.org/ecwc/conference/
Oct. 15-18, 2020 – Whistler Writers Festival, Whistler, BC, Canada. http://www.whistler.com/whistler_readers_writers_festival/

Oct. 15-18, 2020 - Bouchercon 2020, World Mystery Convention, Sacramento, CA. https://www.bouchercon2019.com/

Oct. 19-20, 2019Boston Book Festival. http://www.bostonbookfest.org/

Oct. 19-25, 2020 – The Vancouver Writers Fest, Vancouver, BC, Canada. http://www.writersfest.bc.ca/

Oct. 22-28, 2020 - Ottawa International Writers Festival, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. https://writersfestival.org/

Oct. 22 - Nov. 1, 2020 - Toronto International Festival of Authors, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. hhttps://festivalofauthors.ca/festival

Oct. 23-25, 2020 – Surrey International Writers Conference, Surrey, BC, Canada. http://www.siwc.ca/

Oct. 25-27, 2019 -- Magna cum Murder Crime Writing Festival, Indianapolis IN http://cms.bsu.edu/Academics/CentersandInstitutes/EBBall/MagnaCumMurder.aspx

Oct. 23-25, 2020 – The La Jolla Writers Conference, Hyatt Regency, La Jolla, CA http://www.lajollawritersconference.com/

Oct. 26, 2019 - Books by the Banks Book Festival, Cincinnati, OH http://booksbythebanks.org/

NOVEMBER 2020:

Nov. 6-8, 2020 - The Next Bestseller Workshop, New York City. www.TheNextBestseller.com

Nov. 2, 2019 - Louisiana Book Festival, Baton Rouge, LA http://www.louisianabookfestival.org/

Nov. 2, 2019 - Rochester Children's Book Festival (authors and illustrators), www.rcbfestival.com/authors-illustrators

Nov. 9-15, 2020 - Kauai Writers Conference, Kapaa, Hawaii. www.kauaiwritersconference.com

Nov. 7-8, 2020 - Texas Book Festival, on the State Capital grounds, Austin, Texas. https://www.texasbookfestival.org/

Nov. 2020 – Sanibel Island Writers Conference, Sanibel Island, Florida. http://www.fgcu.edu/siwc/

Nov. 8-10, 2019The New England Crime Bake Conference, Woburn, Mass. http://www.crimebake.org/ 

Nov. 8-9, 2019 - Charleston YA Book Festival – YallFest: http://yallfest.org/

Nov. 16, 2019 - Baltimore Writers' Conference, Towson, Md. www.baltimorewritersconference.org.

Nov. 15-22, 2020 - Miami Book Fair International, Miami, Florida.    
http://www.miamibookfair.com/

DECEMBER 2020:       

(Not usually any conferences in December)