Braincandy for Writers Post #1

Hi all,

As I've mentioned in past posts, I'm away in Africa on holiday. My Zombie Crew will be taking care of stuff while I'm gone, as it's pretty unlikely I'll find Internet service in the Ngorongoro crater.

After they devour all the Jello brains I keep in the fridge here at The Bookshelf Muse, I'm sure they will prowl through my secret stash of super helpful links for writing to share with you. Who knows what treasures lie below?

The Grimace Project: Minute facial detail for the cardinal emotions. Great for figuring out an expression for anger, disgust, joy, etc.

Specialty Dictionaries: Need to know more about a specific subject like boats, wine, music, Oil and Gas, mythology, etc? OMG, awesomeness, right here.

ISBN: Looking for a book and want to know who published it? Is your book similar to something on the market and you want to see what other books are published on the same topic? Want to look up a publisher or imprint to get an idea of what they currently publish? Great way to research!

Glossary of Space Weather Terms: Thought I'd forget about my Sci-Fi friends, did you? I might not write it, but this resource can't be beat for terminology for all things to do with space conditions and weather patterns. Heliosphere, Plasma, Solar Flares, Solar Winds, Radiation Belts... Credible terminology = credible writing.

Titanic Phobia List: Remember those quirks, fears and tics that make our characters unique and interesting? Waiting here is a treasure trove of flaws and conflict pressure points for your character. Bogyphobia (Fear of bogeys or the bogeyman)...tell me that isn't a story waiting to happen! Or maybe you want to go for something a bit more juiced up, like Geniophobia (Fear of chins), Hylophobia (Fear of forests) or Pupaphobia (Fear of puppets). I could spend HOURS pouring over all these fears and come up with a dozen plotlines for each one. Good times, people. Good times.

Zombie's Pick: Frawsome (freaking awesome) Generators

Cuss-o-matic
Apocalypse Generator
Dungeon Room Description Generator

Look for Post #2 in a few days, and in the meantime, enjoy! If you want to pass these on, feel free to link to this post, tweet, etc!

While AWay the Zombies Will Play

Well guys, this is it--the big moment! My plane leaves in a few hours so I'm off to the airport. While I'm gone I hope you'll stop in for my series called BRAINCANDY FOR WRITERS. I've opened the vault for my massive list of resources and links and set loose my Zombie Crew. Who knows what amazingly unusual links and resources they will post for you?

Also, in each post I'll link to somewhere specific I'll be visiting in Tanzania. There will be lots of pics when I get back but it should give you a bit of an idea of where I am and what I'll be doing. :)

Thanks everyone for all the well wishes! Have a great couple of weeks!

Angela

The Positive Side of Rejection

I bet a few eyebrows jumped up at reading the title of this post. In fact, right now people are crossing their arms and expelling a bitter laugh or two as they recall the soul-eating, BP-oil-spill darkness that accompanied their last rejection. Something positive? What, it came in an email so no trees had to die to deliver it? Come on, Angela, get real.

Okay, first of all, saving trees is a good thing. :) But that's not what I mean. All rejections, paper or otherwise, have a positive side.

1) A rejection means you're in the game.

Lots of people talk about getting a novel published...someday. They cite the dream of holding a book in their hands (or on kindle) that will touch other people's lives. Well, talk is cheap. You, my friend, are not content with talking--you are a DOER. Getting an R means you worked your ass off to learn to write well and then took the leap to submit...something that should be celebrated!

2) A rejection means you believe in yourself and your work.

Unless you're a masochist, a rejection's cheese-grater-on-brain feeling isn't something one braves just for giggles. Everyone in this business knows publication is not for the faint of heart. When on submission, you lay yourself bare and say, "This is my work. I believe in it, and so should you." The fact that you are willing to take the rejection hit SHOWS how much passion you have. How many other people can say they feel passion for their jobs?

3) A rejection is an opportunity to learn.

Each rejection, even a form, is a chance to re-evaluate what you're presenting. Look at the materials sent to this agent or editor and put yourself in their shoes. Why did they pass on this? Is the query streamlined and voice-y? Does it contain a compelling hook? Is the writing solid in the sample you sent along--strong characterization, interesting premise, hooks to inspire the reader to keep reading through those first pages? Or are you relying on description or nice writing to pull them in and keep them going until you get to the good part on page 10?

Let's say you decide the query is solid and the writing sample's a shining monument to awesome. Ask yourself then if you targeted this person effectively. How much research did you do before hitting send? How well did you know their interests, their recent projects and authors' work? Did you see they take YA in a forum somewhere and so fired off a query, without checking current websites/blogs/interviews to really understand what projects they want most?

4) A rejection is a challenge to do better.

Writers are fighters. If we weren't, we'd choose some other profession with friendlier odds. Take the frustration over a rejection and challenge yourself to prove the Rejecter wrong. Turn a critical, honest eye to the material, evaluate, and PAY ATTENTION. Is there an above question that makes you feel a momentary flutter of doubt? If there is, chances are this is an area to focus on before sending your work out again. Let the fire of wanting to prove yourself be the motivation to strive for your very best. Don't settle for 'feeling pretty good about' any aspect of your work or query. Be satisfied only when you feel you have done everything in your power to ensure success.

Final thoughts

Rejections come with the territory, so try not to take them personally. Quality work and careful targeting are key, but it still comes down to a personal preference, something out of the writer's control. Submission is like marriage, and it takes time to find the right person who will fall in love with your work.

Make it your goal to feel confident about your work and the rest will take care of itself!

Setting Thesaurus Entry: The Gallows

Sight

A mob-like crowd, edging close to the stage, people holding baskets of rotten vegetables or stones, the local law enforcer (police/sheriff/lord/constable/official/captain etc), rope, noose, a block of wood or platform, trapdoor, wooden structure and steps. cross beam, supports, pulley for trapdoor, priest to deliver last rites, guilty prisoners in shackles, black hood, executioner, steps, many faces pulled in expressions of hate or excitement, only a few with disgust, people shaking fists and spitting, children climbing up on barrels or risers for a better view, spectators lining the roof of nearby buildings, faces pressed to windows, a courtyard area surrounded by buildings or with the prison close by, women selling wares to the gathered crowd (food, drink, etc), men close at hand with weapons of the era to prevent escape, bits of rotten produce littering the steps and gallows platform, perhaps smearing the accused's face or clothing before the law puts a stop to it

Sounds

The crowd cursing, yelling screaming, shouting, excited murmurs, the hard raspy breath of the prisoner, the drone of the religious representative offering last minute prayers or urgently requesting the prisoner repent his sins, confess, etc. The thump of heeled boots crossing the planks of wood, the dragging footsteps of the condemned, begging, pleading, crying, moaning, weeping, the official addressing the crowd, giving voice to the crimes the person had been found guilty to and the punishment, the thunk of the trapdoor opening or block of wood being kicked over, the creak of a taut rope, the snap of a neck or squirm and shuffle of fabric as the condemned chokes to death, the final exhale, the clump of cabbage or rotten apples bouncing across the platform, the whump of the body hitting the ground or into a waiting wagon bed after the rope is cut or released

Smells

Stale sweat, body odor, dried blood, dirt, dust, the smell of pine or aspen if the platform is newly constructed, weather (sunshine beating off the planks of wood, flowers being carried through the air, rain, etc), cow or horse manure, smoke, rotten produce, the foul stench of breath and fear inside a hood used many times

Tastes

Sweat, tears, spectators meals brought from home (bread and cheese, water, fruit, etc)

Touch

The pinch and rub of raw wrists against rope, shoulders pulling and painful at hands being bound behind back, the solid planks underfoot, each step heavy and full of foreboding, flinching at being touched or trying to avoid being hit by a projectile, the hard, digging grip of a lawman pulling you to the gallows, dragging your feet, swinging wildly side to side, trying to break free, pulling back as you're being dragged forward, jerking head to resist the noose, a shove to the back or side to keep you on route, sweat dripping down neck, chests and sides, taking the step up onto a block, flinching as the the weight of the rope settles around neck and then is pulled tight, tense muscles, teeth clenched, hands turned to fists behind back, chest heaving with frantic breaths wondering which will be the last, the sudden drop and weightlessness, then the final tug and jerk of dead weight and darkness.

Helpful hints:


--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

Marcy looked on, ignoring the satisfied shouts from the crowd. She expected to feel something more as the man who'd raped her swung from a length of hemp like rotten fruit too stubborn to fall from the tree. Hands patted her back and squeezed at her wrists before moving off, eventually leaving her alone in the dusty courtyard. In that moment she understood how much she had in common with the dead man--both had all the good life had to offer stolen from them. What justice was it that his reward was death while she had to remain in this world, living on with nothing but pain?

Example 2:

Halfway through a hot, stale breath, the floor gave way beneath Jess. For the smallest moment the jeers of the spectators faded and he was rewarded with an exhilarating memory of jumping off his uncle's barn roof with his cousins. A sharp, stiff jerk brought him back and as the rope choked off his breath he understood: no soft pile of hay waited to catch him this time.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

The mob crowded the gallows like hungry jackals closing in on a waiting feast.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

A yoke of guilt bowed the man's shoulders and sent his gaze to the ground as he approached the gallows. He didn't look up, not once, not even as the noose settled around his neck.


Symbolism Thesaurus Superstitions and Signs: Bad Luck Omens

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

A lack of birds
Animals running from a forest
Ominous clouds
Black rot on a branch, in a portion of a crop, a patch of ground
Touching or standing close to a lightning-struck tree
Comets (some perceive this as a good omen, others bad)
Climbing a tree during lightning storm
Snakes
Bats
Ravens & crows
Full Moon
Killing a ladybug or cricket
Killing a sparrow
Finding a dead bird in your path
Lightning strikes
Three butterflies on a flower
Standing on high rocks

Drinking water that holds the moon's reflection
Earth tremors
Five leafed clover

In Society:

Black cats
Walking under ladders
Spilling salt
Breaking a mirror
Opening an umbrella inside
Stepping on sidewalk cracks
Refusing a kiss under the mistletoe
Getting out of bed on the opposite side you went in
Buying/giving a person a wallet without putting money in it first
Giving a knife as a gift without also giving a coin
Killing an albatross brings bad luck to all on a ship
Putting your left foot down first when getting out of bed
Skulls
The number 13
Writing a person's name in red
Shoes on a table
Hat on a bed
Dropping a dishcloth
Counting the cars in a funeral procession
Bat flying in the house
Chasing someone with a broom
Cutting your nails on a Friday
Seeing a white cat at night
A bird coming to the window
Rocking an empty rocking chair
Friday the 13th
Curdled milk
Sleeping or singing at the table
Goldfish in the house
Wearing an opal if it isn't your birthstone
Changing the name of a ship or boat

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Bad Luck Omens. Some are more powerful than others. A black cat is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, curdled milk may not foreshadow Bad luck on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Honest, I'm Not Dead

Okay, for any of you who paid attention in school, you'll notice my one week unpluggage went on a bit longer than a week. *gold stars for you* I apologize for this--I did manage to get  the writing done I needed to *fist pump* but then had a few surprise relatives come to town, including my parents, which lead to a massive clean-the-house, buy-groceries-so-I-can-feed-them type scenario. Too, I'm tying up all loose ends to leave for our trip! (One week from today I'll be on my way to Africa! Can you believe it?)

Regular posts will resume tomorrow for a week and then while I'm away I will launch my BRAINCANDY FOR WRITERS link extravaganza, where I will share all the cool sites I've tripped on that are incredibly useful for us writerly folks. These will all be NEW links I haven't shared before, so definitely do swing by and check them out!

Thanks for all the well wishes and comments you left while I unplugged, and have a great writing week! :)

Bloggus Interruptus

Hi guys,

I'm self-imposing an unplug week for myself in order to get some writing done. I'll be sure to check in on your blogs when I return but right now I need this time to focus on my writing.

Have a great week!

Angela :)

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Superstition & Signs (Good Luck)

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

Clear skies
Mild weather
Ladybugs
Shooting stars
Rainbows
Dolphins
Elephants
Acorns
Eggs
The North Star
Crickets
A four leaf clover
Oak trees
Daisies
Fish

In Society:

Rubbing a Buddha's belly
Finding a penny
Horseshoe
The big half of a turkey wishbone
Finding a parking spot close to destination
Finding a meter with time on it
Red Chinese Lanterns
The number 7
Blowing on a set of dice
The gift of Bamboo
Wishing well or fountain
Circles
Dream catchers
Kisses
The Hand symbol
The power of three
Rabbit's foot
Salt tossed over shoulder
Throwing rice at weddings
Rain the day of the wedding
Couch change
Finding money in a pocket you forgot was there
Crossed fingers

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Luck . Some are more powerful than others. A four leaf clover is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, the presence or gift of an egg may not foreshadow Luck on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

*NOTE: This collection of good luck symbols is not complete, only some of the most common. Different cultures and parts of the world have their own luck totems.

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Courtroom

Sight

Gleaming polished wood (paneled walls, the bench, witness stand, chairs, tables, doors, lectern), small desk for the court reporter next to the Judge's bench (enclosed) & Court clerk, the bar (wooden railing or barrier separating the proceedings from the gallery (benches or theatre seats for the public), jury box off to the side, jury members headed by the foreperson, black-robed judge, bailiff standing at attention at one wall or near front to keep order, microphones, reporters, camera crews (in high profile cases unless closed proceedings), gavel, some courtrooms have bulletproof glass protecting the gallery or encasing the witness box, federal and state flags, clock, tagged bags of evidence, posters/slide shows/reenactments, crime scene photos, closed circuit television, desks for the plaintiff & Defendant, handcuffs, door leading to judge's chamber, wide central corridor in the gallery seating area for the witnesses to be brought down, windows are highly secure or there are no windows, files, paperwork, computers, monitors/projector/screen/ELMO/easel for presenting evidence, remotes, audio equipment, lawyers, witnesses for the defense or prosecution, family, friends, and the public seated in the gallery (wringing hands, clutching hands tight in front of themselves, holding tight to purses like a shield, taking notes, wiping at tears, covering mouth, nervously fingering jewelry at wrist and neck, arms crossed, stoic & tense postures, listening intently)

Sounds

Fans, whooshing air conditioning, gurgling pipes in the walls, traffic outside, sirens outside, shifting in seats, wooden chairs creaking, the rustle of papers, testimony being given, footsteps across the polished floor as the prosecutor/defence attorney addresses the court or questions the witness, throat clearing, coughing, sniffing, quiet sobbing, the clink of chains if the defendant is secured by handcuffs or ankle cuffs, feedback from the microphones, a creaky gate in the bar, the rustle of fabric, audio evidence (taped phone calls, sound for a security video, etc), whispering, the Judge's pounding gavel, lawyers speaking to the court, gentle tapping from the court reporter's box, reactive gasps at evidence or testimony, doors opening and closing

Smells

Light scent of treated wood (lacquer, polishes, varnish, etc), pine or lemon cleaner, air conditioned air, sweat, perfume, hair products & cologne all mingling in the air, stale or coffee breath from the people you sit near, paper, warm electronics (acrid plastic, metallic tang from projectors, etc)

Tastes

Water, tears, gum/mints/cough drops, dry mouth

Touch

Hard wooden seat, arms brushing against spectators next to you, gripping onto a crumpled Kleenex in one tight fist, fiddling with a key fob, zipper tab, watch, piece of jewelry, hands clenched tight, fingernails biting into pads of palms, rubbing at face, pinching the bridge of the nose, wiping at tears and nose, biting down on a lip, shaking hands, tense, rigid posture causing tight muscles and neck, walking down the aisle toward the witness stand, heat prickling against skin at feeling all eyes upon you, raising right hand to swear in, sorting through papers, files, etc. the cool touch of a plastic evidence bag, standing up and sitting down, clicking a remote to change an evidence slide or start a video feed, rolling a pen with fingers, jotting down a quick note on a legal pad, passing a note to a client or coworker, leaning over to whisper in another's ear, reaching out to cover the microphone to prevent being overheard, cold glass against palm as you take a sip of water, sweat dripping down back and sides in a stifling hot, airless courtroom, crossing/uncrossing legs, shifting in seat, crossing feet, putting hands in pocket to hold a cherished item to draw strength from, squeezing a loved one's hands as the verdict is read, head hanging in defeat, heaviness in shoulders for the convicted, a lightness in chest, breath and shoulders if exonerated.

Helpful hints:


--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

The court clerk called my name and I stood, swaying a little as the humid air caused a moment oflightheadednesss. One deep breath and I steadied enough to head to the witness stand, my heels making loud tocks against the gleaming floor. Lord above, why hadn't I chosen more sensible shoes? Were the jurors wincing as I was, praying I'd hurry up and cross this ocean of  tile? Poor Tom must be cursing the moment he asked me to come in and testify as his character witness.

Example 2:

The prisoner sauntered in, his orange jumper and the chains at his ankles doing nothing to dampen the bright smile on his face. The room froze and every eye was upon him: this monster, this horror of a man. In the gallery, women covered their lips with their hands and the men shook their heads. You could practically see the same thought run through each person's mind: how could he, or anyone, poison the drinking supply of a school?


--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

After three witnesses in a row were found in contempt of court, Judge Gilmore pounded his gavel against the sound block as erratically as a contestant on Canada's Worst Handyman.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Damning evidence aside, the accused's shoulders bowed under an anvil of guilt, and he refused to make eye contact with anyone. The jury had probably already convicted him on his body language alone.

Symbolism Entry: Danger

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:
Dark clouds
Shadows
Claw marks on tree bark
Broken trees, uprooted trees
Feathers scattered across an area of the ground
A patch of blood from a kill
Bones, carcasses
The smell of decay
Lightning
Thunder
Glowing eyes in the night
Moving shadows
Half-glimpsed movement from the corner of your eye
A branch snapping someone where out of sight
Animal howls (wolves, coyotes)
The sound of footfalls out of sight
The edge of a cliff
Rapids
Waves crashing into the reef
Deadheads in the water (logs)
Spiders
Spider webs
Snakes, scorpions
Rattling, hissing, growling
Heavy panting, snorting
A cry silenced
A shrieking, howling wind
Smoke
Fire
Shark fins
Blizzards

In Society:

Gunshots
Weapons
Bank alarms, fire alarms
Columns of thick smoke
Alleyways
Red light districts
Slums, projects, poorer neighborhoods (sorry hope the terminology causes no offence)
Knives
Groups of street-tough males
Barbed wire
Safety signs
Squealing tires
Yelling, shouting, swearing
Glass breaking
The edge of a building roof
Fire
Sparks
Downed power lines
Intense storms, tornadoes, high winds, etc
Red or yellow flags at the beach
Excessive tattoos/piercings/studded collars
Growling dogs
A child's scream or cry
A gasp
Police sirens
Car alarm going off
Symbols on products for explosives, poisons, corrosives
Explosions
An emergency broadcast system alert (TV & Radio)
The sound of footfalls from behind
Handcuffs
Prisons
Mental hospitals
Weak steps/platforms, signs of rot and decay on the wood
Gangs, gang colors, gang symbols (graffiti)
Armoured trucks, SWAT

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Danger. Some are more powerful than others. Footsteps following you down a dark alley is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, the presence of barbed wire may not foreshadow Danger on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

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