Book Therapist Picks: Leaper

I haven’t laughed out loud on an airplane for a long time. Seriously — I know it’s scary when the person next to you on a plane bursts into hysterical laughter. So, I try and avoid it. It helped that I was mostly sitting next to my husband on our recent trip home from Cancun when I was reading Geoffery Wood’s first time novel Leaper, but still, I know that my sudden hiccups of hilarity made a few people wonder just what, if anything, I picked up from Mexico.

Fear not, I’m a good girl, I am. But I do love a funny book, and when it is rife with great dialogue, I can’t help it but read out. Which I did. On the plane. Basically, Leaper is a Urban Myth novel about a guy who — Leaps. Like Quantum Leaps (A show I love) but through space instead of time. For example, the book opens with him on an acupuncturist’s table when he suddenly leaps into his ex-wife’s garage. He doesn’t know how, or why, (and the ensuing scene with his ex will produce tears of laughter), and he spends the rest of the book trying to figure out how and why to use this skill, and where God fits into the picture. Imaginative and thought-provoking, the BEST part about this book is the dialogue. It’s crisp, with few dialogue tags, and exactly what good dialogue should do — help the reader see the characters without having to pad it with too much description.

Consider this tiny excerpt of crisp dialogue:

“Meg, can I tell you something?”
She puts her hands on her hip, drops her chin. “If you tell me you love me, I swear, I’ll crush your collarbone with that brass lamp.”
I have always feared that heavy brass lamp.
“Just listen. Okay, Meg? Listen to the whole thing till I hold up three fingers, and then you’ll know I’m done. three fingers. Like a Boy Scout. Okay? But listen to the whole thing before you choose how to hurt and destroy me.”
She stops blinking.
“Like a Boy Scout. Okay?”
Her nostrils flare.
“Good. I’ll take those flared nostrils as you saying the letters O and K.”

And it goes on. Hilarious! If you’re looking for a book rich in dialogue and witty writing, this is the one to get. Enjoy!

073436: Leaper: The Misadventures of a Not Necessarily Superhero Leaper: The Misadventures of a Not Necessarily Superhero
By Geoffrey Wood

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Prescriptions: Listen To Me! The Black Moment Week 3

Welcome back! I hope you and your character and still talking to each other, now that you know his deepest fears, greatest dreams, and know how to hurt him!

Because today, we’re going to talk about how to put all that knowledge together to create THE BLACK MOMENT.

What is The Black Moment?
The Black Moment is that place in the book where everything hits a crisis – both internally and externally. It’s the point of change in a book and can be the most powerful scene if done right.

How do we find that black Moment for your Character?
It’s easy…and Hint #3: Find their hiding place.

Where do you derive your security? Hopefully, for all of us, it’s in the strength of God and trusting in His love for us. But not everyone has that strength of faith, and most of us can admit that when we are broadsided by life, not all of us go running to the Bible or Prayer first. Maybe you call your mother. Or exercise, Or maybe dive into the refrigerator. I tend to gather in my children and batten down the hatches. Maybe you go home, curl up on the sofa with the Lifetime Channel, or take long walks. Maybe some of us run from our problems, others charge in like a bull and try to organize or control our way out of them. For one person I know, every time she broke up with her current boyfriend, she’d call the first boy she ever loved, tracking him down across the country. Yikes!

What is your security? Going back to my book, Happily Ever After, and taking a look at my handyman Hero, Joe, I’d say he has a history of leaving. Hitting the road when the going gets tough. He trusts only himself, and when life hits the skids, he packs up and goes in search of new beginnings, leaving the old dangling like threads. He’s got a lot of loose ends. Defining your character’s security blanket – the one he reaches for before he finds salvation or even that new lesson in life – will help you craft that climactic moment of choice, and bring him to that AHA! moment where everything changes. At some point in the book, Joe will have to confront his tendency to run, and make a choice…will he continue, or will he stay planted. And if he does, it’ll change his identity.

In Dr. Kimball’s case, he’s been on his own so much, his greatest fear is that no one will ever know the truth about this wife – even more than his freedom, he wants her murderer caught. So when (The Big Dog) offers him this opportunity, he’s face with his greatest dream happening, or losing everything by betrayal. If he surrenders, he’s risking his freedom, and facing his greatest fear – going to jail and never solving the crime. If he doesn’t trust, he’s risking his dream.

You have to bring your character to this point of choice, where his competence is at an end, his identity is threatened, his security is calling him, and his purpose is dangled before him at great risk…NOW you have the elements of a story that will stay in the hearts and minds of your readers!

So, go on…ask your character…When the going gets tough…what do you do?

Next week we’ll talk about putting it all together!

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Frustrated? Confused? …Dreaming of the day when an editor calls and says, “I MUST publish your book?” Don’t laugh — it could happen! It does happen – all the time – and you could be next! What’s holding you back? Flat characters? A Saggy plot? Lackluster writing? Let the Book Therapists help. We believe that deep inside every troubled story lies a deep-seated problem. But it’s not beyond hope… Your book simply needs therapy. Stop by MY BOOK THERAPY and…get published!

Self Therapy: Simplify and Focus!

Why can’t readers just be inside my brain? That’s the problem, isn’t it? Trying to help the reader grasp a scene without giving them too little information, or also overwhelming them. So often, I have my cast of characters, and I want to throw everybody into the first scene, treating them as old friends (which they are to me), without remembering that my reader hasn’t met them yet. Here’s a scene of my recent book, Reclaiming Nick. I wanted to portray Nick as the hero he is…but with all the players in the scene, it became clunky, and hard for the reader to follow. Let’s take a look. (My comments are in italics)

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When the lanky form of Saul Lovell walked into the Watering Hole Café, dragging with him the remnants of the April chill, Nick Noble knew that his last hope of redemption had died. (SMW: I don’t know why, but I felt that this sentence needed a beat. Also, I wanted to pinpoint what time of year – early April or late April. )

Nick didn’t have time to deal with the arrival of his father’s lawyer. Not with one fist wrapped in the collar of Stinky Jim’s (SMW: Stinky Jim sounds like a caricature, let’s dump that) duster and a forearm pinning his cohort Rusty to the wall.

“We were simply offering to buy her lunch,” Rusty snarled.
“I’m not stupid. I know exactly what you were offering.” Nick motioned for the girl (SMW: because there are so many names, esp. in this first scene, let’s focus on just the main players) to move away from the pair as he upped his pressure against Rusty’s Adam’s apple. “It’s okay, honey. They’re just fresh from riding fence. You go home now and say hi to your folks from me.”

He didn’t comment on her low-cut shirt or the way it seemed to have material missing at the waistline, either. And a run into Miles City (SMW: ditto on all the places referenced in the first chapter. Focus on where they are, and why it is important) for looser fitting pants might be in order. He’d have to swing by the Carlisle place tonight, warn Erma and Bill (SMW: cut out this name, and just put in the place holder – her parents) about their daughter’s recent bent toward trouble.

Only, that wasn’t his job anymore, was it? He had to stop thinking like a cop before it landed him into more hot water.

She glanced at Rusty, as if hurt, then turned on her boot heel and flounced toward the door, followed by her best friend, blonde and dangerous Carla Wainwright. (again, cut out the names to make it smoother)

Nick didn’t like the way Stinky watched them leave. “If I see you within ten feet of them, I’ll run you all the way back to Rapid City.” (SMW: Now I’ve mentioned both Miles City AND Rapid City…and they’re actually in a town called Wellesly! Too confusing)
Stinky shoved him away, and Nick let go, not interested in swallowing one more whiff of day-old whiskey breath.

Now, let’s look at the changes I made to smooth it out:

When the lanky form of Saul Lovell walked into the Watering Hole Café, dragging with him the remnants of the late April chill, Nick Noble knew that his last hope of redemption had died.

Nick didn’t have time to deal with the arrival of his father’s lawyer. Not with one fist wrapped in the collar of Jim’s duster and a forearm pinning his cohort Rusty to the wall.
“We were simply offering to buy her lunch,” Rusty snarled.

“I’m not stupid. I know exactly what you were offering.” Nick motioned for the girl to move away from the pair as he upped his pressure against Rusty’s Adam’s apple. “It’s okay, honey. They’re just fresh from riding fence. You go home now and say hi to your folks from me.”

He didn’t comment on her low-cut shirt or the way it seemed to have material missing at the waistline, either. And a run into Miles City three hours south for looser fitting pants might be in order. He’d have to swing by her parents’ place after closing tonight to warn them of their daughter’s recent bent toward trouble.

Only, that wasn’t his job anymore, was it? He had to stop thinking like a cop before it landed him into more hot water.

She glanced at Rusty, as if hurt, then turned on her boot heel and flounced toward the door, followed by her blonde best friend.

Nick didn’t like the way Stinky watched them leave. “If I see you within ten feet of them, I’ll run you all the way back to the border.”

Better, huh? Rule of thumb – only name the characters and places essential to the scene, streamlining it so that readers can capture the conflict, and aren’t bogged down on names that they will only forget. (Because the point is for them to remember — the hero!)

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Frustrated? Confused? …Dreaming of the day when an editor calls and says, “I MUST publish your book?” Don’t laugh — it could happen! It does happen – all the time – and you could be next! What’s holding you back? Flat characters? A Saggy plot? Lackluster writing? Let the Book Therapists help. We believe that deep inside every troubled story lies a deep-seated problem. But it’s not beyond hope… Your book simply needs therapy. Stop by MY BOOK THERAPY and…get published!

Ask the Doc: Raising Tension by creating Peripheral Stakes

My bad — as I was getting into my cab yesterday on my way home from Dallas, I hollered at my Book Therapy cohort, Rachel, to blog about Dr. Notes, forgetting that Tuesday was Drs. Notes day– and yesterday was Ask the Doc — so, sorry for that switcharoo!

I taught four workshops at last weeks American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference, and then spent all day Sunday brainstorming with my crit partners. One of the most common questions that surfaced had to do with keeping tension tight on every page. Someone said, “I have a main plot, with lots of tension, but the story seems to slow in the middle to almost a standstill. How do I keep that tension increasing on each page?

Great question. And one solution: Create Peripheral Stakes.
You remember last week in Dr’s Notes how I talked about the balance between Stakes and Goals for keeping tension high. Another way to keep the reader turning pages is to put pressure on other parts of the pov character’s life through raising the peripheral stakes.

While I was in Dallas, I rented “Die Hard or Live Free” the latest in the Bruce Willis saves the world saga. Basically, bad guys have taken over, through the internet, all the transportation, finances and utilities in the US, and if they succeed, the entire world as we know it will collapse. But, if that isn’t bad enough, (because after a while, we as the reader get immune to the larger stakes), the creator chooses to bring it home, to make it personal by having Bruce’s already estranged daughter kidnapped, her life threatened.

These are peripheral stakes. By putting pressure on Bruce to save his daughter and abandon the quest to save the world, we now have a twist that re-engages the reader into the storyline. Another great example of peripheral stakes is 24. Notice how, at any given point, Jack has two or three other issues to deal with, on a personal level, along with saving the world? Maybe something to do with his daughter, or Audrey, or his family. All of these raise the stakes by making it harder for him to complete his task.

Look around you — each one of us has people and things we care about in a widening circle. This is our periphery. What is the worst thing (within reason) that could happen, right now, to someone or something in your periphery that would derail your own quest in life? Now ask, “What is your character’s periphery?” Pick someone or something in his periphery and create trouble. Something that could potentially divert your hero’s attention, or even damage him. As he races to solve this peripheral problem, of course, the larger stake is affected, and worsens. And your reader is at the edge of their seat.

Peripheral stakes. Just another way to keep that story tight.

See you tomorrow when we take a look at some of my writing mistakes and how to fix them!

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Sign up now for our monthly, Book Therapy blog feed and get:

5 Secrets to a Best-Selling Novel

Frustrated? Confused? …Dreaming of the day when an editor calls and says, “I MUST publish your book?” Don’t laugh — it could happen! It does happen – all the time – and you could be next! What’s holding you back? Flat characters? A Saggy plot? Lackluster writing? Let the Book Therapists help. We believe that deep inside every troubled story lies a deep-seated problem. But it’s not beyond hope… Your book simply needs therapy. Stop by MY BOOK THERAPY and…get published!