Friday, April 1, 2011

April fools and forgetfulness

Here's an April Fool's joke you can play on the resident writer in your family: Open the document containing their WIP and do a global find/replace to change the MC's name to Ghadafi. No permanent damage, mind you; just a little fun! (A global replacement of "he" to "she" could turn out some fun results, but it would be much harder to fix.)

Don't tell my kid this, because I'm sure they could get even more creative. And certainly not my husband, because he's been the victim of a few too many variations of my favorite prank:

He walks in the door to our home after work, in complete innocence, and I come rushing out of the kitchen wielding some sort of utensil, confronting him with "How dare you! I can't believe you did that! How could you DO that to me?" The look of shock and bewilderment in his face is priceless. He starts to stammer - "Whaddya talking about?" I start laughing. "Gotcha." He can't decide whether to look relieved or po'd.

As long as I don't over-do this prank he falls for it every time. I'd like to think you couldn't fool me more than once with the same thing, but I'm not so sure. I hate how forgetful I am. For instance, I learned this great bit of writing wisdom at a conference last summer. And promptly forgot all about it.

Okay, hold on to that thought because I'm working toward a point here... but in my usual round-about scenic-route way. (Drives my husband crazy: "that route will take us at least an extra hour to drive!" Me: "but we've never gone that way before. There'll be new scenery!")

Last week I participated in Brenda Drake's Show Me the Voice blogfest and shared my first 250 words and read everyone else's 250 words - what a great experience! Literary agent Natalie Fischer says of voice: "don’t be afraid to let parts of yourself shine through into your characters; those voices become the most real. Explain your character through your unique view of the world, and you can’t go wrong."

So I wrote four different versions of my first page, playing with voice, throwing things at my MC and seeing how'd she react, putting a little bit of myself into her reactions. I had a crit partner read them over and pick out her favorite parts. I picked my strongest version and posted it, and then tweaked it based on some more great feedback during the blogfest (THANKS, commenters!)

I was pretty happy with the results. I still am. BUTTTT... I was blown away by the twenty finalists and especially the three winners. They showed their voices, oh yes. They say this business is subjective, but it was still clear to me that the three winners had something special that stood out. I started picking them apart, trying to figure out what made them so compelling. Then I realized one thing the three winners had in common. That THING I'd learned about last summer and promptly forgot.

Character-driven action. All the characters were doing something (not just reacting). None of the characters actually said anything out loud, though they gave us great voice through their thoughts (and nothing wrong with dialogue in the first 250, of course, lots of the finalists had it). But they also gave us their voice through their actions.

One character visits a graveyard to pine over her loss, and starts her visit by kicking the gravestone.
Another smokes secretly in a bathroom to deal with grief because hugs don't do the trick for her.

"Explain your character through your unique view of the world, and you can’t go wrong." Hmmmnnn...need to remember that one, along with the once-forgotten character-driven action tip.

I'm going to write to Microsoft (and Scrivener) and tell them to add a new feature to their software: random messages that pop up as you're writing to help you remember important tips!

What would you have your document software help you remember? And what's your favorite April Fool's prank?


  1. Great twitter pitch!! I like that it's a mega twist on the genie in the lamp 3 wishes type fable!! Yay for you!! Good luck!!!

    Oh I can't do april fool's jokes on anyone - I tend to always look guilty when I try! Instead I fall for them - like this morning - my paper had an article about them publishing an edible issue of the paper and of course I believed it!! LOL!!

    Enjoy your day!! Take care

  2. I love the idea of writing tips popping up in Word. As long as it doesn't interrupt the actual typing, that would be awesome: reminders to include all the senses and go deep with the POV and have your character act more than they react. That'd be pretty sweet. And I like your twitter pitch, I instantly know who the MC is and what the conflict is (hello, caught between rival genies with phenomenal cosmic powers), plus I get an idea of genre. Nicely done!
    - Sophia.

  3. Lol, what a great way to tease your husband! I wouldn't be able to keep a straight face. I'm no good at tricks because I can't help laughing!

  4. Love the twitter pitch! And I agree about those openings from the winners. They were compelling :D

  5. Nice pitch! I want to know more about the main character though.

  6. I love your jokes! I've never been very good at them.

    And I think your pitch is great. I definitely want to read it!

  7. Cool revamping of an old tale. Just promise me when they make it into a movie robin williams doesn't voice both genie's

  8. I like the pitch, it makes me laugh (but I'm not sure if that's what you are going for). I do agree more about the main character would be good. Good Luck!

  9. I'm so gullible I fall for pranks from my other half almost every day... so when April's fool comes around I get a break. :-)

    I played a little bit with your pitch. I hope it helps, but it's ok if it doesn't.

    "A genie in a lamp is one thing, but Sidain finds 2 genies, mortal enemies, who give her a whole lotta trouble instead of her 3 wishes."

    Happy Friday!

  10. Loved your pitch - it definitely makes me want to know why there are 2 genies in her lamp, why they're mortal enemies, and what kind of trouble they will cause Sidain. If not a Twitter pitch, however, I'd want to know Sidain's goal and the stakes.

    I wrote a genie book once upon a time. Very different from yours, but I still think it's cute and hope to come back to it some day.

    I don't do pranks because I can't keep a straight face. I'm the kind of person who laughs hysterically at jokes before I can get to the punch line. Very sad.

  11. I love your logline! Sounds like a fun story. And after reading stories, entries that I love - voice comes down to great writing and connecting with the character. And that doesn't happen with vague writing and poor craft.

  12. I have a April Fool's prank ideas on my blog too. :)

    Like the pitch, but was wondering if there was a better play on words you could do with the numbers.
    A genie in a lamp is one thing, but Sidain finds 2 genies who are mortal enemies, and instead of 3 wishes, she gets 2 (headaches?)

  13. I'm so bad at April's fools jokes. I just hope I make it through the day unscathed. :D Good luck with all the contests. I think they are a great experience for winners and participants alike.

  14. I love the voice in your pitch. It instantly tells us the book is going to be fun.

    I tried moved the wording around a teeny bit, see what you think:

    A genie in a lamp is 1 thing, but when Sidain finds 2 genies who are mortal enemies she gets a whole lotta trouble instead of her 3 wishes.

  15. Agree with Kristen J. and Jen that it would be nice to know a little something more about the main character. However, excellent voice and humor in the pitch. love the idea of playing with the numbers to capture that even more.

    Good luck!

  16. "A genie in a lamp is one thing, but Sidain finds 2 genies who are mortal enemies, and instead of 3 wishes, she gets a whole lotta trouble."

    I love the 1, 2, 3 construction and the setup is stellar. I'd read this book. To conserve words, you could get rid of "whole." Honestly, though, I think it's perfect as-is.

  17. Both were good, but version two is definitely the best. I really love this except for "is one thing." I don't know why, just that it sounds a bit weaker then the rest. I mean, a genie in a lamp is pretty amazing for most people. Then finding two, who are mortal enemies! That really is more trouble than a Greek tragedy. I love this idea. You did a great job with the pitch!

  18. I like the first version better. Best of luck!

  19. Your book sounds so much fun :) I prefer the first version.

  20. Great pitch, and the book sounds fantastic! My only suggestion would be to maybe simplify a little. The voice is awesome, though; don't lose that!

  21. Great post! So much great information here. I haven't read all the finalists from Brenda's contest but I plan to. I prefer you first pitch, unless there is a Greek mythology element to the story.

  22. I love the voice- especially the second one. Fun!

  23. Oh WOW! My vote goes for the second, but both are equally exciting. You definitely crammed a lot into the 140 characters - I'm jealous!

    Best of luck :)

  24. Stories about genies are pretty cool. I'm excited for you :)

  25. I am always amazed by a writer's good voice:) I still am not sure I found mine but working on it!

  26. I love the first twitter picth. I think it works and the humor is well done. Good luck :)

  27. Omg that prank is so diabolically genius. And hilarious. And cruel. Depending on the kind of day I'm having, a nervous little creature like me would probably have a heart attack if I opened my WIP to see it tampered with. :D



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