Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mice in nice dresses

I've been drawing mice again.  This picture makes me think of Asop's The Country Mouse and the City Mouse, though the fable has nothing to do with the characters I drew. 

It's amazing how much one can tell about a character by their clothes.  You probably know a lot about my mice already just from how they're dressed.  The story of Cinderella hinges on clothes -shoes in particular.  Puss in Boots is all about getting ahead by dressing right.  I don't know if clothes make the mouse, but the outfits sure can be fun to come up with.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A nifty link

I've been talking a lot about plot twists lately , then I discovered that Shanna Swendson, author of the lovely Enchanted Inc. series did a post on the subject.  She managed to put a lot of things into words that I'd been thinking, but hadn't figured out how to say.  The post is here.  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Overlooking the Ordinary

One of life's great lessons: don't pick raspberries in clothes you care about.  I'm covered in scratches and purple stains.  The berries are worth it, though; sweet and tart at the same time, with tiny little seeds that always get caught in your teeth.  

And what, you ask, do raspberries have to do with literature?  (Unless, of course, you're too polite to ask, or maybe you're too distracted by thoughts of raspberries with shortcake and milk to care whether I have a pertinent topic.)  

When writing descriptions it's easy to overlook the ordinary moments that make a world seem real and lived in.  Right now I'm thinking about the smell of sunlight and sweat, the tug of thorns on my skirt and the end of my braid, the moment when I lean too far over the brambles to snatch a handful of berries and stumble a little to keep my footing.  

Every June I pick raspberries.  I'm downright experienced -but I've never written a story where the main character goes berry-picking.  Or shells peas.  Or pits cherries and accidentally spritzes themselves in the eye.  Those things are all so ordinary that I don't think of them when I set down to type.  

There is nothing wrong with writing about what you find exotic: in my case, princesses, and dragons, and swashbuckling heroes in cool hats.  But you shouldn't discount everyday details either.  They just might be exotic to someone else.  After all, not everyone is lucky enough to go raspberry picking.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Plot Twists

Boy, last post I talk about unreliable narrators, and this week I prove unreliable.  Sorry about the two day delay. 

The subject of unreliable narrators got me thinking about plot twists in general.  One of the best plot twists ever (in my opinion) is the ending of Rob Thurman's science fiction/suspense novel Chimera.  The twist was completely unexpected because the narrator himself didn't know he was unreliable.  

Agitha Christie manages to bend her plots into pretzel shapes, partly, I think, because it's the nature of mysteries to keep the narrator in the dark until the very last chapter.  It's the same logic that Holmes used in The Case of the Dying Detective.  When a person (or narrator)  doesn't know something, he's less likely to let it slip. 

If the readers identify strongly enough with the narrator they'll feel the shock of the twist, even if they happen to be one of those very genre savvy people who (unlike me) can see a twist coming while it's still juggling bananas two miles up the road. 

The most important thing isn't taking the reader by surprise, it's finding out how this character reacts when everything he thought turns out to be wrong. 

That's the story.