Totally Random Q: Story Status Quo and Problem Clues

I’ve been listening to Ann M. Martin’s HERE TODAY on CD and I’m been intrigued by how Martin develops the status quo in her story yet also drops hints as to the story problem. For example, in the opening pages, when Doris, the MC’s mom, begins her supermarket sweep one of the onlookers remarks “She’s just so … so cheap.” At that point my ears perked up and I began to suspect that Doris Dingman was different. Now I’m curious to find out how this wacky mom is going to play into our MC’s problem. I’m drawn into the story.

I’m experimenting, in my own novels, with establishing the status quo and at the same time pulling my readers into my story. Sometimes we can follow Ann M. Martin’s pattern and drop hints to an eventual problem and other times we might jump directly into the problem to set the story in motion. In that case, we might have to rely on flashbacks or other tools to allude to “how things were” before the catalyst. Either way, we need to establish what’s different or why the story starts now.

So how do you do it? Do you open your story with normal? Do you drop hints of problems to come? Or do you jump right into the main story problem? Do you use flashbacks? I’d love to hear your thoughts on establishing status quo and pulling in your readers right from the start.

Totally Random Q: Busting through Bad Writing

So I’m staring at my latest work-in-progress and today I happen to be hating it — the plot, the voice, you name it. It all sounds like “blah, blah, blah” to me. I know every writer, even the bestselling author, experiences this. When the honeymoon of that first inspiration is over and you wake up to a rough draft that’s looking especially — um — rough.

I’m not going to trash the manuscript, yet, because, after all, yesterday I was in love with this same story. I know I have to get through it. And often that just means to keep writing. Uninspiring right? But I’m wondering if there’s a better way. Perhaps some tricks of the trade. Some exercises. Some diversions. Or even some inspiration to rekindle the romance.

So my question today is:

How do you get through your bad writing and get back to your good? What do you do when you hate your WIP but you’re not ready to throw it under the bus? What do you do to fall in love with your WIP again? I’m not a relationship expert so I’m relying on all of you.

Too Matchy!

So last Sunday in church I saw “Too Matchy” – a toddler girl dressed from head to toe in this outrageous red floral print from the bow in her hair down to her tights and shoes. My immediate reaction was, “Poor thing.” The girl wasn’t smiling. Okay she may have been just tired, or cranky or bored with sitting still, but looking at that overdone outfit I had to wonder if the bow on her head was digging into her scalp, or if the floral tights were itchy on her legs, or maybe the dress was just too much around her neck. I wondered too if anyone else thought she looked ridiculous if not completely uncomfortable.

Now I admit, I once dressed my girls in the wildest outfits. And I did subject them to a Velcro hair bow or two. Call in Social Services! But for the most part I opted for stretchy and soft over fancy and fussy.

Seeing little Miss Matchy reminded me of the value of perspective, especially with parenting. Time and distance truly grants wisdom – albeit in small doses – and some great writing fodder.

But when I ask “To whom did that amazing outfit matter most?” a writers’ reminder also surfaces. When we write for children, our stories must matter most to kids, not the adults around them. So even though it may be the adults buying the books, the characters, the voice, the theme – in essence, the story – must resonate with kids.

Thinking back to last Sunday, I suspect that “precious” matchy outfit mattered most to mom. And I wonder if little Miss Matchy pulled a Houdini and had those torture tights off as soon as she hit her carseat.

So yes, once again, I was daydreaming in church. But I’ll take it as a some kind of sign – spiritual or otherwise – that the two new babies welcomed that Sunday with the waters of baptism ─ were wearing only their diapers. Free at last!!