“Make it blue.” – “No. It stays green.”

Nothing spices up a good character interaction like a little disagreement. Conflict in the obvious can be instrumental. For example, the first sentence I wrote was a disagreement. “No Joe, I don’t believe in superheroes.”  In one sentence, I established a contrast in opinion between two people. The conversation goes on and is the introduction to the story and the speaker’s journey.

A well-done argument is not always easy to do. Especially if the subject matter is a personal point to be proven by the writer. To be convincing they will have to be able to see the other side of the argument. To be able to portray the conflict evenly. Perhaps they come to agreement, perhaps not. Realistically people are not as bending as you might think. The stodgy set in their ways true believer is not going to come around in one conversation. When I create a disagreement, it is like a mini story in its own. Whether it is resolved within the conversation or throughout the story doesn’t matter. It needs to have a reason and resolution. That doesn’t mean one side is vindicated, it could mean it results in a divide between friends or allies. It could lead to them becoming enemies or better friends. For every great conflict, one side is right and one side is wrong in the eyes of the beholder. It’s all about perspective.

Debating is a great way to get a good grasp on how to see things from the other side. If I want to pick a fight or argue intelligently, I take the time to research what I’m opposed to. I prepare to fight for what I’m against. It is interesting and fun.

Silly or serious. Good or bad, disagreements give characters depth, a glimpse into their personality.

There are subjects I don’t touch such as real politics (including war), religion and the judicial system. They are in the hot topic category and unless that is what my book is about, I don’t like to make them a point of heated contention between characters. This can alienate a reader if I’m one sided, if I can’t be objective I leave it be. I’m writing to entertain not bludgeon my readers with my opinions or beliefs.

I’ll start by listing the pros and cons of the subject matter so I can give both sides proper ammunition. I’m careful not to make it about personal tastes and more about beliefs.  Fighting over cream in coffee is petty and unless it is key to the story or character development, it’s not interesting.

Sasha tilted her head and cracked her neck. She worked for hours on this layout and green was the best option. It suited the product, the point and looked awesome. “I’m not changing it.”
“It should be blue.” Valery crossed her arms. “The soap is yellow; green just makes it look ill.”
Sasha put her hands on her hips met Valery’s eyes. “Soap can’t look ill.”
“Make it blue. I like blue better.”
“No. I like green it’s staying green.”
Valery tilted her head. “Do both, let the client decide.”
“No” Sasha shook her head. “It stays green end of story.”
“Fine, you’re on your own with this one Sasha. Good luck.” Valery stormed out of the office attempting to slam the door. It eased closed. The boss installed the hydraulic door closers after he got tired of the hot tempers of his staff. Sasha looked at the screen after her friend was gone. It looked fine in green.

That was a generic argument with little substance, reason or resolution. They are bickering like children who just want it their way. How about a little backup for Valery and a reason for Sasha.

Sasha tilted her head and cracked her neck. She worked for hours on this layout and green was the best option and she loved green. It’s what the client wanted, it suited the product, the point and looked awesome. “I’m not changing it.”
“The background should be blue.” Valery crossed her arms. “The soap is yellow, green just makes it look ill.”
Sasha put her hands on her hips met Valery’s eyes. “Soap cant look ill.”
“Blue is a contrasting colour. It will draw the focus to the product first then the words.”
“No. I like green. It’s staying green.” Sasha looked at the screen. The words were the first thing you noticed, that was what she intended.
“Sasha, I love the style, layout and the font is perfect, but the attention is the soap, not the slogan. One change, just the colour.” Valery tilted her head. “Do both, let the client decide.”
“No, it’s staying green end of story.”
“It will be the end of the account fi you can’t be flexible. Do both.”
“I like the green, I like that the slogan comes first. That was the point they are rebranding not selling the same thing over again.”
“They are selling the same old thing. Your job is to make it more noticeable, fresh and new even though it’s not. Green is what they did before, that is just a darker shade of the same thing that didn’t work.”
It was a risk to use blue, the client asked for green; Sasha was giving them what they wanted. “It stays green.”
“Fine have it your way. You’re on your own with this one Sasha. Good luck.” Valery stormed out of the office attempting to slam the door. It eased closed. The boss installed the hydraulic door closers after he got tired of the hot tempers of his staff.
Sasha looked at the screen after her friend was gone and reached for the mouse. “What would it look like in blue?”

The point of this conflict was to open Sasha’s eyes to being flexible and taking chances. Her character development grows fast from here. By taking a risk and going against the grain, she finds her flair and confidence for thinking outside the box. Her friend Valery always saw Sasha’s potential so pushed her.

Conflict doesn’t have to be controversial or in your face yelling. It can be subtle too.

Cal clenched his jaw as he watched Gael count the cash and tuck it into the little black folder.
Gael stood grabbed his jacket and turned to Cal. “You’re turn next week.”
“Next week.” Cal shook Gaels hand and smiled as he walked away. Turning back to the table he slipped ten dollars into the folder to cover the tip. “Cheap bastard.” Cal nuttered as he left.

This could be left as is, or it could come up later as crappy karma for Gael or even good karma for Cal. They might end up in a heated argument and Cal might toss this thrifty selfishness as ammunition for something greater. Bottom line Gael is cheap and thoughtless for the server who worked hard. Cal being the too honest detective, couldn’t just leave it be. Subtle tension or conflict of interest is my favorite way of building up to a fall out or fight.

My advice about conflict
Subtle or explosive it should have an impact and a point to the story or characters.

-Sheryl

Oops! What did I just say?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Disagree
Yellow

The rejection letter

A few months ago, before I had any idea what to do, I sent out some queries to Literary Agents. At the time I was more curious to see what would happen. I did not expect anything from this.

The consensus regarding submissions is that it takes 8-10 weeks for a Literary Agent to accept or reject you. If they are interested they contact you, if not you don’t hear back. You can’t contact them after submitting a query.

Some of them sent an auto responder email to let me know they received my query and would get to it at their “earliest convenience”. A few even gave an exact timeline.

Four weeks in and nothing. No surprise, my query letter was a joke and my synopsis lacked flow. Not to mention my work was still riddled with those pesky little filter words. Week 7 however yielded a response.

I got a rejection letter. I was so excited. Yes excited. It didn’t bother me in the least that I was just rejected, I deserved to be for being so ill prepared. The letter was what I presume, a standard cut and paste rejection. There was nothing personal in it whatsoever. What was written made me laugh. Here it is.

Thank you for submitting your query and giving me the opportunity to consider your work.  Unfortunately, in today’s increasingly tough publishing market, I cannot offer you the support that you need for your project.  

Though my limited time precludes me from recommending other specific agents, a good place to start would be the Association of Authors’ Representatives website.

Please do not allow this letter to discourage you.  Many best-sellers have been passed on numerous times prior to being successfully published. 

I wish you the best of luck finding an enthusiastic agent and publisher for your book.

Sincerely,

Yes, it is true many bestsellers have been passed on; this is why I didn’t even entertain disappointment. The last bit made me chuckle. I wonder, do they realize they just suggested they are not an enthusiastic agent?  They did to me. They can’t offer the support needed or enthusiasm. I understand they get hundreds of applications a day (Or so I hear) so I didn’t take the cut and paste personally either.  I also didn’t go into this expecting anything. So an actual rejection is something.

Overall, it was a kind letter with encouraging words. The next time I submit queries to Literary Agents (Hopefully that will be soon) my expectations will be higher, much higher. Those rejections had better be personalized.  😉

My advice about rejections.
You will get them, what you do with it is what matters. Take it in stride don’t let it drag you down or toss you into the pit of doubt and surrender. Learn from it if you can. Easier said than done, I know.  Oh and it’s probably a good idea to wait until you are actually prepared and ready before trying. Unless like me, you do it for curiosities sake.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.png

Synopsis, a pretty word for stripping away the petals, leaves, and thorns. They just want the stem, what holds your story together and brings it from the soil to the sky.

I found that there are 2 main types of Synopsis; the long and the short.

  1. Short Synopsis is 2 pages double spaced. It reveals everything of importance. This is what everyone means when they ask for a synopsis or short synopsis. This is what to submit with the Query and sample pages to the literary agent or agency.
  2. Long Synopsis is 4-6 pages doubled spaced with more detail. It also reveals everything of importance, but more of it. The long is a special request and will be asked for specifically.

Opinions everywhere and no one agrees. There are many opinions out there on how to write one, what is expected and what to show. There are even books written on how to write a synopsis. The gist of all the advice and samples I found is to keep it an active read, not to just drone out a monotone report of how the story goes.

  • Don’t write it in first person.
  • Make a point form list of major events to work with.
    • Make a sub point of any minor events that affect major plot.
  • Choose which characters to present wisely. This was tough for me the story is about a group of people, focusing on one main and her support character. However, one other person is very important to a major plot turn. I chose to work all three in.

So I sat down and started my synopsis. It was painful. Two pages fills up quickly and then some. The first draft I wrote was a whopping 5 pages long and hated it. I tried again a few more times and didn’t like any of them. I started over and got one to 3.5 pages. I liked that one’s direction so I worked with it to bring it down to two pages. Edit, revise, edit again and it’s done. Well, not really done, it’s dry and lacking personality or excitement.

Now because I feel I’m truly stuck on my synopsis and it’s very important in the process of seeking out a Literary Agent, I’m getting help. I am going to pay for professional consultation on my Synopsis, query letter and first 50 page submission. I will share this adventure and both the Synopsis and Query letter once they are perfected. Depending on how brave I am I may post the before and after.

I have bashed my head on the wall over this for many weeks. I can write a story, but to strip it bare and leave just the bones? I am struggling with it not sounding like someone’s reading a blurb on how to test and treat garden soil for alkalinity. My decision to get help on this doesn’t mean everyone will need to.

 

My advice about writing a Synopsis.

Write it, leave it alone for a day and revise it. Like pricking your fingers on a thistle you must pull barehanded. If you don’t let them heal between attempts and revisions you’ll have a bunch of holes in your fingers and your synopsis will be a bloody mess. At least that’s what I learned. I do recommend getting second and third opinions on what you wrote for your synopsis. (Assuming they have read or don’t mind complete and total story spoilers)

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved