Monday, October 28, 2013

The Winds of Change

In my last post, I warned you about my big thoughts that turn into ideas, which sometimes get messy. As I analyze the writing books I’ve been reading, it occurs to me that storytelling revolves around change. Yeah, I know that is probably a very elemental idea that surprises no one. I mean, without change, it remains status quo, stagnation, static. Nothing interesting or worthy of writing about. But what is it about change that intrigues us humans?

It has been my personal experience—and my observation of others—that we ultimately don’t like change. Yet we all desire it on some level. I think we would all like to be improved in some way. Yes, I know the mantras, ‘Love yourself as you are’, ‘It’s all about self-acceptance’, “Live in the here and now’. And yet why do we even have to be reminded of those axioms? Because we inherently desire change. We want better, or at least we want different. Unfortunately, it usually requires that the discomfort of status quo becomes more uncomfortable than the what it takes to change.

Stories revolve around change. Good stories revolve around BIG change. Why is big change so riveting? I think it’s like that strong impulse to gawk at a horrible accident as we pass by. We shudder to imagine being the one with such misfortune. It makes us uncomfortable, but for a moment, we consider how changed out little cosmos would be if it were us. Stories are like that, though not always with such morbid overtones.

Chinese Symbol for Change
Think about the big changes in your own life, the positive ones and those that left you bereft. What upheaval did it trigger? Was it a planned change, or one of happenstance? How long did it take to recover, so to speak, or do you still feel the reverberations of that change? Did it change just your circumstances, or did it change you?

This brings me to the point I’ve been thinking on a lot. Do people change? In the books I’ve been reading on the craft of storytelling, the character arc is intrinsic to the story. Some characters change minimally if at all, but they at least incite change in other characters. We want to see characters grow, learn lessons, and to change. We want them to do what we find so difficult. We are fascinated with the process, so fascinated that we don’t want them to change easily. We want a character to overcome big hurdles, either physically or emotionally. But that’s all good and fine in a made up story. We want to believe that people change, but in real life, do we really change? Is this question the reason why we are so taken in by watching characters change, because we are so stuck in our same old stuff?

Don’t get me wrong, I have witnessed some remarkable ‘changes’ in some individuals, that is to say, they have modified their behaviors and outlook if compelled, or even impelled by some internal motivation. But does our core self, that part of us that is formed into 'us' at a very early age, actually change? We may successfully overcome some weakness, but when put to the testusually by something that hits us out of the bluedon’t we still struggle with that weakness? When it comes to stories or real life, is ‘change’ just a matter of modified behaviors? I think perhaps trauma may change a person—rewire their core, but it seems that such a trauma would have to be severe. On the other hand, could something on the opposite end of the scale—some kind of an amazing positive event—likewise have the capacity to change a person’s core?

Not that the 'truth' regarding the matter of change is intrinsic to how my new story will develop. In stories, it’s all about illusion. I will put my characters through changes. Perhaps some will have their core altered, or some will simply modify behaviors—after all, sometimes, that’s as good as it gets. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blank Pages

It may come as no surprise to some of my readers that I was largely uneducated regarding story structure while writing my first four novels. If I hit on what looks like a preplotted story arc, I attribute it to intuition or gut feeling about how my stories should develop. Now that I have my recent works and also my backlist published, I’m thinking a lot more about how to develop a story—a new story.

I’ve been reading writing blogs long enough to come across a lot of terminology on storytelling. Character archetypes, character arcs, the three act structure, inciting incidents, building tension, climaxes, and the list goes on. Generally, I love reading how-to guides. I am a do-it-yourselfer from way back. But I want to know more than simply the mechanics of something—I crave knowledge of principles, those amazing gems of information that can be applied to so many endeavors.

A while back, I purchased a few books on writing. For a beginner writer, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman helped me clean up my writing, back when I was primarily interested in snagging an agent. I also enjoyed Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. But the idea of constructing a story—well, I had stories and they were already pretty well formed, so I put the other books, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Volger on the shelf. They seemed like heavier reading that I would eventually get around to.

In fact, I have finally gotten around to reading them, but with a very specific purpose—I have a few characters with some interesting history, but I have no story. I mean, I know there’s a story to be told about a young man whose mother is delusional—she believes her son is blind. But how to write it! I may be as delusional as my character to think I can pull this one off, but still ... Hmm … this story could take a while … so, I thought I’d work out my process of discovery here on my blog and make this space earn its keep. Unless of course I get sidetracked with something else … Be warned, I sometimes get big ideas, and they often get messy. Now, if I can just avoid Exploding Head Syndrome!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Portrait of a Protégé, sequel to Portrait of a Girl Running, Now Available!

I hadn’t intended to publish Portrait of a Protégé so soon after its prequel, Portrait of a Girl Running, but I ended up working on the publication process for both books simultaneously. Now that Girl Running is available, it seems prudent to have its sequel published and ready to read while the first story is fresh in the reader’s mind. And yeah, I just want these stories done so I can finally focus on other things.

While Portrait of a Girl Running has a Young Adult feel, Portrait of a Protégé can be properly classified as New Adult, since the main character, Leila, is twenty-two and finding her way in the adult world. Here’s the description from the back cover:
Four years after the close of Portrait of a Girl Running, Leila is twenty-two and living on a pretty little lake in New Hampshire. A new set of circumstances throws her into a repeating cycle of grief that twists and morphs into unexpected and powerful emotions. Leila must finally confront her fears and learn to let go while navigating the field of cutting-edge psychology, protecting herself from the capricious winds of Southern hospitality, playing in the backyard of big-money art, and taming her unruly heart. Even her ‘guardian’ has a thing or two he must learn about love and letting go.
Portrait of a Protégé focuses a lot on the question of how we define love, and when it comes to romantic love, where do we set our boundaries? Yes, I push a few boundaries in this story. While I’m not opposed to stirring ambivalence, I just hope my readers find it entertaining and maybe a little thought provoking.

If anyone would like a review copy, just e-mail me (bridget at jbchicoine dot com) and let me know which format you prefer.

Here’s where Portrait of a Protégé is available so far: Amazon (trade paperback); Kindle; Smashwords (all other eReader devices)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Portrait of a Girl Running, Now Available

Well, I didn’t expect to get Portrait of a Girl Running up and out for another few days, but Amazon tells me it is now available … so, I may as well share that news! It has been a long time in coming—’tis probably my favorite, perhaps based solely on it being with me for so long. And yeah, the protagonist is a young artist, so naturally, there is a bit more of ‘me’ in this novel—the artist, not the ‘young,’ hehe.

It's sort of a Young Adult, coming-of-age story but fits just as well in the Adult Fiction category with some romance.  Just to whet your appetite, here’s what it’s about:

All Leila wants is to get through her senior year at her new high school without drawing undue attention. Not that she has any big secret to protect, but her unconventional upbringing has made her very private. At seventeen, she realizes just how odd it was that two men raised her—one black, one white—and no mother. Not to mention they were blues musicians, always on the move. When her father died, he left her with a fear of foster care and a plan that would help her fall between the cracks of the system. Three teachers make that impossible—the handsome track coach, her math teacher from hell, and a jealous gym instructor. Compromising situations, accusations of misconduct, and judicial hearings put Leila’s autonomy and even her dignity at risk, unless she learns to trust an unlikely ally.
If anyone would like a review copy , just e-mail me (bridget at jbchicoine dot com) and let me know which format you prefer.

As it becomes available on iTunes and other avenues, I will keep you posted.

Oh, and Portrait of a Protégé should be 'up and out' within a couple of weeks.

Monday, October 7, 2013

UNCHARTED: Story for a Shipwright—Second Edition!

This is a case of ‘I have good news, and I have bad news….’ The bad, well, rather sad news is that my publisher of Uncharted, Rhemalda Publishing, has closed its doors due to some unforeseen events in the lives of those who ran the operation. Sad indeed, as they were a fine publisher to work with, and I hate to see any small press shut downespecially one who spent so much time and energy on my debut novel. The good news—as I choose to view it—is that I have received the ‘reversioning’ rights to Uncharted. This means I will be publishing Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright as a second edition under my own self-publishing entity, Straw Hill Publishing. In fact, I have already done so!

One of the consistent pieces of feedback I have received on Uncharted is that the ending is too abrupt; consequently, I have extended the final page—a bit more of a dénouement. Additionally, I have added an epilogue, a small bit about ‘The Island,’ and a Reader’s Guide. And yeah, the cover is slightly different. I doubt anyone will notice unless I point it out, but the ship Marlena is gazing upon now sits in the Atlantic Ocean where the shipwrecks of the story take place, rather than in the middle of Asia. Okay, yeah, I’m a tad OCD. And I added the subtitle, Story for a Shipwright, to the cover.

The new and revised version of Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright is now available as a trade paperback from Amazon, for your Kindle, and in various eBook formats via Smashwords.

I am also doing a giveaway on Goodreads, so if you'd like to enter to win a copy, head on over!

So that’s my immediate news. Within a week, I should be releasing Portrait of a Girl Running, and soon thereafter, Portrait of a Protégé!