Sunday Dragon Con events

I am taking a few days off to chase the upcoming solar eclipse, so I won’t be posting my next first-paragraphs until I get back. Instead, I’ve go my Saturday events for DragonCon, today. If you can only go to one day, Sunday is a good one Check out that amazing panel at 7:00 pm. Dude, I am in heaven.

But please post yours! You guys have been posting some amazing stuff.

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SUNDAY
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Title: Creativity 101
Description: Keeping your creative energy bristling with ideas isn’t easy. Try these concrete tips and ideas to boost your creativity.
Time: Sun 11:30 am  Location: Embassy CD – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Janny Wurts, Kim Harrison, Lucienne Diver, Nancy Knight, Ali Fisher, David Macinnis Gill)

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Title: Autograph Session
Time: Sun 1:00 pm  Location: International hall South 1-3 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Patricia Briggs, Faith Hunter, Chloe Neill, Kim Harrison)

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Title: An Hour with Kim Harrison
Description: Audience Q&A with the best-selling author of The Hollows series, the Peri Reed Chronicles, and the Madison Avery series for young adults.
Time: Sun 04:00 pm  Location: Regency VI-VII – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Kim Harrison)

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Title: From the Beginning: The Evolution of the Urban Fantasy Protagonist
Description: The authors on our panel have played a vital role in the advancement of the urban fantasy genre. We’ll discuss how these seminal characters have developed and changed over time, all while continuing to influence the field.
Time: Sun 07:00 pm  Location: Peachtree Ballroom – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Patricia Briggs, Laurell K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison)

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Intro new characters, first-lines

Apple

From my own tree. First year of a good crop!

It appears as if we have a large group participating now, so I’m going to have to ask you all to please keep your show-and-tells to a reasonable length. I know you want to show more so you can get to the good stuff, but that is EXACTLY why I only want to see the first two paragraphs or so. If you can’t get to the part that makes you excited in a half page, you need to rewrite to get it in the first half page

Today, I’m going to showcase a character introduction. It is a first paragraph, and it’s in his POV, which can be tricky as the reader is starting cold–just like a first chapter, first paragraph. It has all the constraints and needs of the beginning of a book, but since the reader is invested (hopefully) already, the first few lines don’t need that heavy hook and can focus on setting more, or personality.

Chapter Nine
SKINS

The pencil’s eraser bounced in a repetitive rumble one Formica table. Realizing he was doing it, Mickey set the pencil down with an exaggerated slowness. “Maybe next week,” he said into his cell phone as the pencil rolled across his sketches. It was headed for the edge, but his quick reach for it failed, and it hit the floor to fall into the RV’s tiny stairwell, totally out of reach.

Frowning, Mickey scrubbed a hand over his two-day stubble and looked up, his unfocused attention going to the RV’s tiny window over the sink as Jack droned on about his financial responsibilities and the consequences of avoiding them. “Jack. Listen to me,” Mickey tried again. “Maybe next week if I can find something. It’s not that I don’t want to give the bloodsucking troll her monthly feeding, but there’s nothing left.”  Grimacing, he threw last-night’s empty cup-of-noodles across the narrow RV, an instant of satisfaction flashing through him when it made the trash.

What I’d like to point out here is that almost everything is in present tense. It is happening NOW. Before you post, take a look at what you have and see if you can move things into present if everything is being looked at in the past. A reader becomes attached far faster if they’re reading about something going on, instead of what happened yesterday and how they feel about it. Put in some movement to ground the reader, and make sure that whatever makes your eyes sparkles gets into that first half page.

Also, I’d like to plead for some pity from you. I’d like to keep this going for a few months more, aiming for two posts a week. But for that to happen, I’d ask that you only post one piece and maybe a rewrite of something previously submitted per blog post. Chit chat is great and welcomed, but only one first-paragraph per blog post please.

You guys are the best, and I hope we can keep each other motivated for a few months more before school kicks in and everyone goes back to work.

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Keep sharing your first paragraphs!

As was pointed out to me, I forgot about chapter seven. Hee, hee. Sorry. But it happens when you drop back and add a chapter you weren’t planning on and everything moves forward. The chapter I added actually goes before six, and I added it because I got tired of putting out clues and decided to do the reveal I wasn’t planning on until chapter twelve or so. I wanted to own it. Go big or go home, and all that jazz.

But before I share it with you, I want to tell all of you who have been putting your chapter’s first paragraphs out there, Bravo! I know that some of you are used to sharing your work and have thicker skin, but some of you are first-timers, and I’m trying not to bruise you while still nudging you into picking up more tools to make your work stand out. I love words and the patterns they make, and I know it’s hard. We have all levels of skills here, but every single one of us begins writing crap. (laugh) I have three years of exceptionally crapy crap carefully, and lovingly, tucked away.

One thing I’ve noticed is that with a lot of you, there’s a lot of telling me what has happened in the few hours before the action really starts, presumably somewhere on paragraph three or four. Sometimes, it’s necessary, but trying to put too much in front of the action tires the reader and cheats you of a chance to connect your reader with your main characters. If you think you are guilty of this, and trust me, I am, go back and find out what’s important in the first few paragraphs, and put that right up front. Start with the pop, whether it be a thought, action, or place setting, and work backward adding all the other stuff you skipped as you go along. Take your time and show us. It’s a chance to flesh out the world and characters. Slow. Down.

I guess what I’m saying is that while we perceive and process information by peripheral stuff and moving in, don’t write that way. Give us the gut feeling, then move out. It will naturally ground your reader in the character and action.

If you’re not sure what I mean, try starting with dialog. It naturally pulls you into action. And if you don’t like it, throw it out. Nothing is ever really wasted.

So, bouncing back to a previous, added chapter:

Chapter five
SKINS

The heat of the noon sun cut off sharply as Sam left the drive and slipped under the old-growth trees. It took several more steps, careful in his flip-flops and with that glass of water, before he got past the tangled cluster of vegetation at the edge and the humidity vanished to let the cool of the forest envelop him. His path suddenly easier, Sam followed his intuition as he looked for Fenix.

But his thoughts, as he moved ever deeper into the silence, were on Natalie: the way her utter exhaustion had vanished in the excitement of discovery, the dirt on her chin, herself covered in grass and flushed from exertion. She’d looked marvelous, and a pang of loss suddenly struck through Sam. It wasn’t fair. Now that he knew he was going to live long enough to have the time for a relationship, he wasn’t “allowed” to have one.

As you can see, I am breaking my rule of trying to start with dialog, but the action in the first paragraph is taking place as the reader reads it, not in the past. We don’t see what happened a few hours ago until the second paragraph, and even that is tied back to the present with Sam’s pang of loss being actively felt, followed by his thoughts.

I also give you a good grounding in what the day is like, and that it is in fact, day. There needs to be at least one reminder every page until it’s well set. (sun, shadow, birds song, etc.) I remind you he’s in flip-flops, and therefore his slow movements are because of twigs and sticks. I don’t really have to tell you about them because anyone who’s been walking in the woods with flip-flops knows.

And most important, when he gets past them and moves faster, the reader will naturally relax, pulling them deeper into Sam’s character. Manipulating the reader this way is tricky, but wow, it has a lot of impact when done well. What I’ve got here is kind of middling, but it’s there.

Your turn!

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Chapter Eight. Show me your first lines!

Hope you all had a productive weekend and have something to share. If you’re going to DragonCon, my tentative schedule is up at the website. Events

I’m up to chapter Eight, and back in Natalie’s POV. It’s the first chapter of a new day, which necessitates a bit more finesse. I can’t just jump right in with action as I like to without first telling the reader that this is a new day, either by hinting that it will be at the end of the last chapter, or putting enough clues in the beginning of this one that it’s easy to figure out.

Nat is alone, which makes it hard to get dialog in there. To get around that, I have her think something instead, and then the phone rings. Starting with a ringing phone is actually a no-no, but since the call is not a “life-changing moment” or being used for tension, I can get away with it.

Nat punched in the guest key code at the gate, her attention lifting to the fifteen-foot stone wall that surrounded the entire multi-acre compound as the black ironwork slid back and granted her access. She couldn’t help but notice that the mature trees had been trimmed away from the wall with nothing overhanging. To keep things in, or things out? she wondered as she drove through, her Jeep’s tires popping on the road’s gravel before hitting the smoother, new pavement of the long, winding drive.

Her phone hummed, and seeing it was Larry, she scrambled for it. “Hi, Larry,” she blurted before he could say anything. “You can not cancel on me today. I have to have that tree out this morning.”

So, I’ve showed you mine. Show me yours!

P.S. The bunny is tiny. He still has his white star!

 

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29 days to DragonCon, and counting

29DaysI’ve only named one of the dragons I’m taking to the con, because the other I’m giving to the auction. She’s got four toes on each hand, and glorious gold wings, and someone will be taking her home after she spent her first summer soaking up the vibes in my office, listening to the click clack of keys and splashing of the fountain.

I’m up to chapter six in my summer WIP, SKINS. My page count is at 55, and I’m a little embarrassed to still be introducing characters, but it is here that we finally meet Victoria, one of antagonists and a ghost from Fenix’s past.

Again, I break my goal of trying to start with dialog. We’re in a ways into the story, and that gives me a little more flexibility, and dialog begins in the one after this. It is admittedly description heavy, but I’m describing something that no one has ever seen, and I’m hopeful that keeps the reader refreshed and reading even as I drop in hints as to where we are. I’ve also used a technique where I start the paragraph with one feeling, (a lyrical description with long sentences that float) and ending it with a vulgar word to shock the reader and wake him or her up, not with the word itself, but in that it follows such lyrical sentences. This technique also gives the reader a good indication of the character herself, lyrical, but inclined to be blunt.

Six

The right shade of blue didn’t exist in her palette, no matter how much or little red she mixed in. Victoria knew to the bottom of her soul what color an updraft had, but duplicating it with earth-based pigments was impossible. The swirls of differentiating air masses over London were stunning from her high-rise office, from the cool river holding a hint of sinking red to the breath-stealing, almost transparent white streaming up from the sun-soaked buildings. That she couldn’t properly capture it was an ever-present thorn. Frowning, Victoria added a tinge of white to make it passable, but as she layered it on the canvas, she still thought it looked like shit.

There you have it. Now show me the first paragraph of the chapter you’re working on. I’ve been enjoying seeing your work!

 

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Chapter five, first paragraphs, Show Me!

I hope all you weekend warriors had some time to spend in your “other universe” and got some words on the paper. I’ve been enjoying seeing little slices of your work this past couple of weeks, so I hope you keep pushing forward along with me.

Today I’m posting the first few lines of chapter five in my WIP, SKINS. I’m back in Fenix’s POV, and it is a slow start. I originally had a one-line of dialog to begin it, but the setting is a little unusual, and I felt that dropping back and bracketing it with a little description help the reader get settled faster.

Chapter Five – SKINS

Debbie had been right. Her assistant knew what she was doing, the woman’s fingers working his foot with a firm, professional strength. Even so, Fenix could not seem to relax and let go. Yes, she was good, but she wasn’t Debbie.

“Are you sure you don’t want any music, Mr. Fenix?” she asked, and Fenix stifled a sigh, muffled as he lay face down on the massage table with his head in the cradle. Not only wasn’t she Debbie but she would not shut up.

Your turn!

And when you’re done, check out my list of fav fantasy reads at Goodreads! How many have you read? https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/984-author-kim-harrison-s-favorite-fantasy-series

 

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How’s your summer writing going?

Bunny

I’m up to chapter four in my WIP (SKINS), and because I miss my writer’s critique group, I’ve opened up the blog for you guys to share your own first paragraph on a chapter by chapter basis. Hopefully we will keep each other motivated until we get our rough drafts done.

I have been so impressed with the skill showing in the first lines that you have been sharing with me. It only goes to prove my thought that there is no wrong way to write, except perhaps not to. I hope you keep it up! And because I know summer is busy, don’t hesitate to post when you can, and don’t sweat it when you can’t. 🙂 This is supposed to be fun, right?

Chapter four brings me back to Nat’s POV. It’s not one of my more exciting first-paragraphs, but it does tie back to my first paragraph of chapter three where Fenix thought about “her being down in the kitchen” and here we not only see “her,” but hear in her own POV about “her leaving the kitchen.”

I’m hopeful that this tie between the two chapters is enough to give it some oomph. Admittedly, it’s not that effective, but we are a ways in. On the plus side, I tried to start with an active action instead of passive, got a reference to the season, weather, and her job in there to help reset the world/scene, and a bit of curiosity-based tension with the noises from the woods ceasing when she showed up and a promise to stay out.

Chapter four

Nat’s gaze kept returning the nearby woods as she walked the site and placed her flags for a rough reference: red for perennials, blue for annuals, and orange for woody plants. It was quiet in there now, apart from the buzzing rattle of an early cicada, but there’d been all manner of snaps and pops of breaking branches when she’d emerged blinking and cool from the kitchen with a generic plan in hand. It was all Nat could do to not cross the drive and step under its cool umbrella to investigate, regardless of her promise to keep herself and crew out of there.

Share away! Quick, like bunnies!

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