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?
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