Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to start an epic story and giveaway

I'll get to the epic story stuff in just a moment, but first, let me tie it into a personal story.  February has not been a good month for me. One of my seven year old twins broke her arm (badly! - three pins needed to put it back together badly!) riding one of our horses because I DID NOT GET THE SADDLE tightened properly and it slipped on her. She had to have surgery (amazing scopic surgery without an incision, but still, SURGERY!) And then this Sunday, I caused a car wreck because I was driving off in la-la-land. No one was hurt, thank goodness, but still. A CAR WRECK. My car will be in the shop all week. Plus, a few other smaller things have happened that have made me a little blue this month.

NOT A GOOD MONTH (for my whole life, it seems like February has just been a blue month for me. Thank goodness it's only 28 days long). 

This weekend after my car wreck I was so blue that I didn't know what to do with myself. The same negative thoughts kept replaying. I couldn't even distract myself with a good book. So I'm just randomly surfing the internet trying to distract myself from all these sad, negative thoughts. And I check in at one of my favorite writing blogs, Adventures in Children's Publishing. They are doing a giveaway for the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, all three books signed by the author (the last book is coming out soon) and to celebrate, Martina Boone did a first pages analysis of Daughter of Smoke and Bone to show how to start an epic story (Daughter of S & B is SO VERY EPIC).

(You should definitely go sign up for that giveaway! It ends tomorrow!!!) 

It's been a year since I read Daughter, but as I was re-reading the first couple paragraphs that Martina was analyzing, not only was I enjoying seeing how to start an epic story, but I was totally getting sucked into the story again. Here's the first paragraph: 

Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark--in the dead of winter the sun didn't rise until eight--but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.
I immediately identified with the "no sinister premonitions". (I hadn't had premonitions how bad my day was going to be, either). I also loved how Martina pointed out how the setting sets the mood. Mondayness, Januaryness (I could easily substitute Februaryness in there!), ghostly. 

Martina sums it up perfectly: "those lines give you everything. Character. Voice. Setting. A hint of danger." Also a question... the character doesn't have any sinister premonitions, but by just telling us that we know that she SHOULD have sinister premonitions. Something is going to happen... what? what? something is going to happen in a ghostly dark Prague morning. I MUST KNOW. Especially since I already have an emotional connection to this girl. We're feeling the same Januaryish/Februaryish feelings. 

Then the next paragraph: 

On the riverfront thoroughfare, trams and buses roared past, grounding the day in the twenty-first century, but on the quieter lanes, the wintry peace might have hailed from another time. Snow and stone and ghost light, Karou's own footsteps and the feather of steam from her coffee mug, and she was alone and adrift in mundane thoughts: school, errands. The occasional cheek-chew of bitterness when a pang of heartache intruded, as pangs of heartache will, but she pushed them aside, resolute, ready to be done with that.

More atmospheric, moody, foreshadowy setting, and emotion. Really, the SAME emotion I was feeling (though for different reasons):  a touch of bitterness and heartache, those naggy "if only" thoughts that are sometimes so hard to chase away. 

Martina says the author "paints the descriptions of Prague with the brush of Karou's aching vulnerability. But she doesn't wallow there. Instead, she immediately sets Karou into heroic motion"... Now what got me thinking was that Karou's "heroic motion" was simply encountering her ex-boyfriend, the cause of her aching vulnerability, as he tries to charm her back into his untrustworthy arms, and she resists him. She doesn't give into the temptation.

And this may sound corny, but I knew right then that I could resist the whole "I'm feeling so sorry for myself, my life sucks, I'm an idiot" self-talk and I could face that I'd made some mistakes, but they didn't have to make me miserable or keep holding back with negativity. 

And then I immediately went to my book shelf and found Daughter of Smoke and Bone and completely enjoyed myself reading the first half of this book all over again. My story certainly isn't epic, like Karou's, but as readers we identify with characters on the small things, too. 

There's more to Martina's excellent analysis plus a photo tour of her recent visit to Prague. Go check it out! 

And share with me the last time you identified with a character right on the first page, what book was it???


  1. Sorry you've had such a lousy month, but I think we all have one and at least you've got it out of the way early on in the year. Blue skies ahead!

    Moody Writing

  2. Ah gee, I'm sorry! But thank goodness for books. Of course I can't think of the top of my head of a character with whom I've related to on the very first page, though I am sure there are many...but doubtless I will at midnight tonight and I'll try to remember to come back! (I love the fist half of D. of S. and B. lots myself!)

  3. Three pins and a car wreck! That a much deserved breather, my friend. I have this fisrt book but never finished it. Guess I should.

  4. Oh my gosh! This February sounds awful! Thank goodness it's almost over and hopefully March will start to bring the sun back (and NO MORE SNOW. Or ice. Or sleet.)

    I just finished DoSaB and DoBaS...like literally today haha. I love Laini Taylor's writing. She could write about sea cucumbers and I would read it. She's easily on par with Diane Setterfield for my favourite word smiths.

  5. Awesome. I do remember loving the language of that book, but it was a little too gritty for me. There was a story I read the other day that hit me for a moment on that base level. I think it was one of the Debt Collector series. But that was like, two days ago. Goodness. Am I supposed to remember that far back?

  6. What an awful month for you. :( But I LOVE when books do that to us. Sounds like I should read this one. (yes, I'm EPICally behind in reading!) heehee.

    I can't think of an example like yours, but I always identified with Anne of Green Gables. Sometimes bad stuff happens, but we can choose to transcend above it.

    Hope the rest of the month goes a bit smoother for you!

  7. So sorry for your misfortunes. May March be much better! I usually take longer than a page to connect with the character although the voice of a work pulls me in (or not) immediately.

  8. Gosh, Margo, I'm so, so sorry about your daughter, and the car wreck -- and the guilt, because if you're anything like me, that will linger long after everyone else forgets. But I'll offer you the same advice that people give me: don't hold on to it. Things happen. Thank goodness for wonderful surgeons and for the car wreck gods who kept anyone from getting hurt. And I'm so glad that Laini's wonderful writing was able to cheer you up! Sending you huge hugs!

  9. Oh, my gosh, Margo! You didn't tell me all that! My heart goes out to you because I know how'd I'd feel if I were in your place. The truth is though we all make mistakes as parents, as people. I'm so glad that your daughter and your family are safe throughout all that. ((hugs))



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