Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Elizabeth Kirke: Christmas For Authors

Hello and Happy Holidays! I’m Elizabeth Kirke and I write the Young Adult, urban fantasy series, More than Magic. I’ve recently started watching several TV shows and they’ve gotten me thinking about the keys to successfully writing a book.
I’m a million years behind, but one of these shows is Dexter. That show is the ultimate example of a character who isn’t strictly good or strictly evil. I mean, come on, he’s a serial killer who basically only kills other serial killers. Looking at it from a character development perspective, it’s brilliant. Dexter is exactly the sort of character you want to read about. He wouldn’t be the ‘hero’ if he was just an evil guy who went around killing people. The reader has to feel empathy for him, on some level. How can you root for the main character if he’s all evil? But, the fact he battles his violent desires and turns them to good – a dubious good, but hey, he tries – makes him appeal to the watchers.
When you create characters, it’s very boring for the reader if everyone is Good or Evil. You need a balance. Now, they don’t have to be serial killers, but you need your goodies to be multi-faceted, in some way. Something about them has to be interesting enough to keep your readers turning the pages.
Of course, once you get the grasp of making characters, they need a good plot. And you never know what will inspire you. In the last week I’ve seen some of Sleepy Hallow and the first episode of the new show, Atlantis. You may recognize the name of both of them. Classic tales, given new modern takes. There are dozens of re-tellings of Sleepy Hallow and hundreds about Atlantis. Yet, both shows have new twists and I’m totally hooked. 200-year-old, modern Ichabod Crane fighting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Okay by me! Jason, Pythagoras, and Hercules teamed up in Atlantis? Awesome! Brilliant ideas, from simple concepts. I also recently saw a preview for the new Frankenstein movie with…gargoyles? I can’t decide how to feel about that one, but I’m sure I’ll see it.
I’m not saying you need to re-write old tales, but that you never know what will inspire you. The setting for my first book, aboard a cruise ship, was inspired by a cruise that I took during college. Watching Sleepy Hallow makes me want to write something historical and Atlantis made me want to write another ocean book. While watching Ender’s Game the other night (a good movie, but moved too quickly and lacked crucial character development from the book, fantastic special effects though) I started thinking about Sci-Fi plots.
It’s important to jot that sort of thing down. I always have a notebook on hand (hooray for smart phones too) so that I can scribble things. Some are plots, book titles, character names, bits and pieces of dialogue, etc. If you are a writer, or want to be one, make sure you always have something to write ideas on!
Last, I notice that these shows are full of intertwining plot lines. It’s usually some sort of conflict or bad guy. If you want to write a series (trust me on this one) it’s really hard to just take your characters, no matter how awesome, and move them to another book without any sort of conflict that carries over. It’s great to tie it all up in a neat package, but then, when you’re ready to write the next adventure, it’s harder to figure out where to take things. If you intend to write a series, take the time to plan out where it will go after the first book and be sure to plant the seeds before you take it there.
Next time you sit down to watch a TV show, take a moment to see what catches your interest. Why are you watching it? What do you like? And why are you going to watch the next episode? It might just make you a better writer!
Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings! I hope they’ll help some of you out. Now, if you came for something a little more exciting, here’s the summary and a little peek from my first book, Semester Aboard.
College student Jen Maddox is a few days into her summer study abroad program and has loved every moment. She just left Mexico and is back on her cruise ship campus, ready to sail to Panama. Everyone tells her that the experience will change her life, but none of them realize just how right they really are.


    One night Jen goes out on deck and encounters five other students. She knows Charlie from one of her classes and he's a funny, friendly, regular guy. Picture-perfect Dani and his gorgeous wife Mariana live right down the hall from Jen. And she has seen TS, who's built like a truck, around the ship and recognizes the cute, but quiet Thomas as well.


    Then Jen sees something that isn't humanly possible. Jen would have thought that it was all a dream, if not for the fact that Charlie, Dani, Mariana, TS, and Thomas are making every effort to cover it up. Suddenly, the five of them are everything but normal and Jen is determined to figure out what they're hiding.


    When she does, her life really does change. Jen expected to spend her summer studying the cultures of Latin America, she never dreamed she'd learn about a magical culture instead.


But Jen's childhood fantasy come true is about to turn into a nightmare; there's something on the ship. Something dangerous. Suddenly, everyone on board is threatened by a creature that Jen never even believed existed. Jen and her new friends might be the only people who can stop it!


    Now Jen has to learn everything she can about her new world before it kills her. And her friends. And maybe everyone on the entire ship.


I pulled a sweater on over my pajamas, hung my ID card strap around my neck, and slipped out of the room.  I made my way down the corridor to the door that led outside.  For the first time since getting on the ship I had to keep one hand on the railing.  The halls were well lit, even though it was the middle of the night, and it was almost disconcerting to step outside into the darkness.  But the moment the cool, damp wind hit my face I felt better.  I hadn’t been seasick since our first night, but sometimes I felt nauseous if I stayed in our room too long.  Being out on the deck always helped.
    I had assumed that I’d be the only one crazy enough to go out in the rain in the middle of the night, but to my surprise I wasn’t.  There were people on the other side of the deck.  It was too dark to see them well, but the lights from the deck above us illuminated them a little.  One of them was Charlie.  He was standing under the overhang where Deck Five extended out above Deck Four.  He was just wearing a t-shirt and jeans and I shivered in sympathy.  A guy I recognized, not surprising since we all lived on a ship, was sitting on the bottom steps of the outdoor stairway that led to Deck Five.  He was probably a football player back home or something.  He had shaggy, dark brown hair and a fairly large nose.  I’d heard a few girls giggling about him, but I didn’t think he was that good looking.  I wasn’t sure what his name was.  Another guy was sitting in a chair, probably pilfered from Deck Five, with his back to me and his feet up on the rails.  Mariana was near him, wearing only a bikini top and a short skirt.  I couldn't believe she wasn't cold.
    "I didn’t scream!" she said.
    "You totally did!  You freaked out!" Dani laughed.
    It had been too dark to notice Dani until he spoke.  My jaw dropped in shock.  Dani was sitting on the railing of the ship.  Messing around on the rails was one of the first things they’d told us not to do when we got on board.  Even sitting on them in the middle of a calm day was suicidal at best.  But to sit there in the middle of a stormy night was nothing short of a death wish.
    "I was not!" Mariana cried.
    "You were all like, 'Oh, Danio, save me Danio!'"
    "Well, I...I-don’t be such a jerk!"
    As Mariana spoke she spun to face Dani and shoved him hard.  Dani’s laugh turned into a yell of surprise and he tumbled backward off of the railing!  I gasped in horror.  Every second now was critical.  If someone went overboard we were supposed to immediately throw them a life preserver and then run and tell a crew member.  But not a single one of them did anything!  The one in the chair uncrossed his legs and recrossed them with a different one on top.  The guy on the stairs threw back his head and laughed!  Charlie quickly stuck his head over the railing and then pulled back and shivered.  It was as if Dani hadn't gone overboard at all…


Here’s a link to More Than Magic on Amazon


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