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The Truth Project by Dante Medema

Oh, the beauty of fall. Cozy evenings, apple cider, orange leaves.

Speaking of orange leaves, check out this beautiful book: The Truth Project by Dante Medema.

As pretty as the cover is, it doesn’t do justice to the story inside. It’s THAT good.

The Truth Project follows Cordelia, a teenage Alaskan poet struggling with the age old question Who am I? as she accidentally stumbles across a family secret when her Genequest results reveal the man who raised her isn’t quite the man she thought.

Best of all, it’s written in verse. An entire book written in poetry!  Check out this sample from the first page:

I am obsessed.

Before I go on, I need to admit something: I’m one of those DNA kids. You know, the people who accidentally find their biological family online? Yep. That’s me.

Because of my experience, Cordelia’s story hit me in one of the softest, most protected parts of my heart. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much. Maybe.

But really, I think my love for this novel is a testimony to the beauty and rawness of Cordelia’s emotional arc. Verse novels are hard—I’ve written a POV in verse, it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve tackled—but in The Truth Project, Cordelia’s story isn’t held back by the unconventional format. Instead, the story is better because of the verse. Every word holds weight. Every line has a punch. The pages read like the wishes we’ve all made in our quietest moments—heartfelt, tender, and authentic.

Despite my obvious emotional attachment to Cordelia discovering her DNA surprise, there were other parts of this book I loved just as much. Sana, Cordelia’s best friend, is an absolute firecracker in all the best ways. The complex relationship between Cordelia and her sister, Bea, is relatable. Kodiak Jones, the bad boy love interest (is he really a bad boy though?) is my favorite love interest this year.

Yeah, I said it. My FAVORITE. Kodiak Jones deserves a fan club.

The best part of this book is the way it leaves you. Happy, a little bruised, yet warm and fuzzy on the inside. Positivity is something we all need, especially this year, and this story is a tough journey that ends with Cordelia in a gut-wrenching, yet better place.

If you’re looking heartwarming story that’s got something new to offer, read The Truth Project. As I give this book five stars, I wish I could give it more.

Keep writing everyone,

In my writing toolbox: Scene Card worksheet from Story Genius

Today I’m going to share one of my all-time favorite plotting tools: The Scene Card Worksheet from what I consider one of the best writing how-to resources out there, Lisa Cron’s Story Genius.

Check out her incredible worksheet:

This is a quick snapshot from my own copy of Story Genius. I made my own worksheet, compatible with Microsoft Word and Google Docs, in about 10 minutes, which I am happy to share, just reach out!

You know what truly captured my attention when I first saw this worksheet? It’s so simple. Many worksheets tackle an entire plot line at once, or have fifteen steps for each scene. This is the first worksheet that I’ve thought workable for any short story, chapter, or novel, no matter the genre or age range. To this day, it’s my most frequented tool in my writing tool box.

Before I go on, here’s a quick breakdown of Lia’s terminology.

“Alpha Point” is Lisa Cron’s term for why a scene exists and what it needs to accomplish. In a nutshell, it’s what happens on the page, also known as the main plot point.

“The third rail” is Lisa’s equivalent to what I call “the heart of story”. It’s the reason the events happening on the page matter personally to a protagonist, and how each specific event changes or enforces their world view.

Cause and effect. This point is pretty straight forward, right? Something happens, and it makes something else happen. But when we start digging into a draft, it becomes obvious that there can’t be explosions for no reason. Everything that happens must relate to your character’s internal struggle, directly impacting what they want (or think the want) and what they need. A plot has to get in your character’s way, keeping them from their ultimate goal. The question is, is each scene doing what it needs to do? The answer is often found by examining these four questions:

  • What happens?
  • What’s the consequence?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What does the character realize because of this event?
  • And so, what happens next, and why did this scene lead the character to that decision ?

The first time I used this worksheet, I’d been working on my opening chapter for weeks. Even though I had fire, weapons, and an interesting lead, the events were falling flat. Once I took a look at the bottom of this worksheet, the third rail, I immediately realized my blunder. Yes, I had a fire. Yes, I had cool weapons and character with a cool job. But why did this fire, on this day, matter to this lead? As soon as I broke down the scene into this worksheet, I found my weak point and had the chapter polished by the end of day.

This worksheet helps me avoid hitting the “delete” button far more frequently. It saves time, lessens stress, and makes the drafting process, well, not easy, but easier.

I can’t recommend this method enough. But remember, if it doesn’t work for you, there’s a method out there for you somewhere.

Keep writing,

Big Book News: I Have an Agent!

GUESS WHAT: I Signed with Christa Heschke at McIntosh & Otis!!!!!!!

*TEARS OF JOY*

Christa loved my latest crossover fantasy, HEX OF THE KILLING CROWN, with its morally grey characters, complicated sibling relationships, enemies to lovers romance, and twists galore.

This journey has been one heck of a ride, and it’s just beginning. I’ll share the full story of how I got my agent very soon, but for now, I’m going to celebrate.

Keep writing everyone,

How to Show Emotion on the Page: The Cheat Sheets

Feelings are hard, in both reality and writing. This isn’t a ground-breaking concept, but stay with me.

Characterization is heavily rooted in emotion. Physical traits and personal history can help mold a vivid depiction for a reader, but what really tells an audience about a story’s protagonist and counterparts is how individuals react to situations. Those reactions are portrayed through emotion.

See? I have a point.

Characterization is only one aspect of what makes emotional reaction so key to the creation of a good story. If you ask someone, “what makes a good book?” how the book made them feel is probably going to be embedded in the response you receive.  In order to achieve this connection, the feelings of a novel’s cast need to transfer from paper to the reader. When your protagonist cries, readers need to feel pain. When your antagonist triumphs, readers should have an overwhelming desire to punch the jerk in the face (or make out with said person, depending on your writing style. I lean toward the latter).

All this mumbo-jumbo above is great to know, but how do you achieve it? That’s a question with a mile long answer. There are books written on the subject (check out a few here.) I’ve read one or two, but  when it comes time to write I’m not going to dig out my copy of Emotion, Tension & Conflict and look up the best way to convey “She felt sad”.

Warning: “She felt sad” is the worst route to take. Avoid at all costs. Please.

This leads me to the purpose of this post.  I have a confession. I’m a cheater.

I don’t take the time to dive into another book while writing my own. I use cheat sheets. These sites below help pinpoint frequent mishaps writers make, and help spark ideas.

Cheat Sheet For Writing Emotion

This is a fantastic list of emotional actions. One of the best lists I’ve found.

37 Ways To Write About Anger

Spoiler alert! This one focuses on the infuriating side of things!  Still, a great resource for when your character’s are feeling furious.

The Wheel of Emotions

(I’ll just stick it here to make things simple.)wheel-of-emotions

 

100 Words For Facial Expressions

Because you can only use “She grinned mischievously” so many times. Or not at all. In fact, don’t use it, use this list instead.

Tips On Effectively Conveying Character Emotion

This article does an incredible job of demonstrating how to put all of the above charts and tips to use. Show versus tell in reality! Woohoo!

I hope these links help you as much as they’ve helped me. Feel free to other links in the comments below. In fact, I encourage it. Thanks for sticking with me through this surprisingly long post (it’s like I’m a writer or something).

Until next time,

Premise and Momentum

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I want to share an exercise with you all that recently helped me better understand drama, momentum and stakes. I’m part of a workshop and we did this exercise in my last class. It really opened up my current work in progress. I hope it helps you guys as much as it helped me!

 

This is an exercise by Bill Johnson, it is NOT MINE! I simply want to share his wisdom. I’ve reworded a few things, but I take no credit. Here is a link to the full essay, which I highly encourage you all to read. Everything below is just a brief overview.

Each character needs to have their own stakes and they all need to be somehow connected in order to drive the story forward. How do you do that?

To create drama, the writer needs to make the reader care about what is going on. That is easier said than done. The best way to do that is to convey
1- What is at stake in the world of the story
2- What is at stake for the individual in the story
3- What is at stake in each individual scene
4- How the outcome of individual scenes and character goals move the story forward.

What’s at stake in the world of the story (the premise) needs to be connected to each character’s personal stakes. If there is drama that the character isn’t emotionally attached to, then the characters can come off as mechanical, acting only to advance the story. If a character doesn’t have forward momentum then they aren’t necessary, not matter how funny/sweet/ wonderful they are. They only interrupt forward movement.

How do you test this? EASY!

1- What is the premise of your story/ book?
2-What is at stake for each of your characters (even the minor ones!)
3- What is the main thing in the way of each character?
4- Locate one scene or character that does not advance the plot and cut them! Your story will open up!

48042-Book-NerdI cannot describe how great this exercise was. Surprisingly, the hardest part for each of us in the class was figuring out what our premise really was. How can you write a book if you don’t know exactly what  you are writing about? Writers tend to do that more often than you’d think, especially in the beginning. It is easy to think your premise is something it’s not. For example, I though my premise was ” Revenge on the bay guy” but after some digging I realized my premise is “Revenge takes more than it gives you”. That is a premise I can craft a meaningful novel around and build characters with.

Good luck guys, and keep writing!jessica grace kelleyt signature