Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lessons from Aquamarine

This is a movie which is in our home library and I've seen it I don't know how many times. Aquamarine is the story about two teen girls who find a mermaid and are promised any wish if they can help the mermaid find true love (spoilers below). The lesson I want to talk about actually doesn't have much to do with the plot itself, but with a topic I've covered in previous "Lessons from" posts. Mainly, having your characters act age appropriate.

Most of my books have some sort of romance in them even if the main plot isn't a romance - a romance will most likely come in somewhere. With my first young adult fantasy, Horse Charmer, currently out, I've been brainstorming other young adult and middle grade stories. Something I noticed with Horse Charmer was that though the story is young adult because of the age of the heroine and a romantic element, my tone is more middle grade fantasy. The romance was very light and sweet - on purpose.

Lesson 1 - Aquamarine - The two girls, Claire and Haley, have a painful crush on the love interest, Raymond, but a much as they may gush and study him, they don't believe either of them will actually have him. When Aquamarine picks him as the man she wants to love - they set out to help her. The main plot is then launched. My favorite scene in the movie is near the end after they've helped Aquamarine prove that love exists and Raymond comes to talk with them. He gives each girl a kiss on the cheek. The girls are astonished and thrilled. Their first kiss from the boy of their dreams. It was an innocent kiss on Raymond's part - the girls are too young for him. But the point and power of the scene is it's innocence and it's "age appropriateness."

For those of us writing young adult and/or middle grade, I think this is a powerful lesson to consider. Sometimes a romance can be "innocent" and other times it won't be so innocent, but the great thing is we can utilize both methods to tell coming of age stories.

Friday, May 27, 2011

RWAOnline Workshop The Plotting Wheel

*** Permission Granted to Forward ***

RWA Online presents:

The Plotting Wheel
Presented by Becky Martinez and Sue Viders
June 6 - July 1, 2011 (Dates arranged so writers attending the RWA National Conference can still take this class!)

About the class:
Plotting a novel can be a daunting task, but no matter what method of plotting a writer uses, there are certain elements that need to go into any well told story. Don't get bogged down with a story going nowhere. This class illustrates how to tackle those various elements by using “The Plotting Wheel.” Learn how to build a plot from idea to satisfying conclusion by moving the story along using the spokes of the wheel.

The plotting wheel can help the writer make certain they’re headed in the right direction with their characters and that the story is moving forward through meaningful action, while building tension and making use of good pacing. The plotting wheel gets a story off to a quick start, props up the sagging middle and helps to insure a satisfying climax and conclusion.

Whether you’ve already written part of the story and are stuck with no place to go or just starting out, the wheel can provide some help to get you moving again. Even if you're a published writer, the wheel can help you tackle that next book and the next.

It even works for plotters who fly by the seat of their pants!

Join us for a fast-paced, but thorough explanation of a writing tool that can get your plot rolling without ignoring the main characters!

About Sue Viders and Becky Martinez:

Sue Viders is the author of more than 20 books, numerous articles and columns for both artists and writers. She is co-author of the book Heroes and Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes, which is used in many college and university writing courses and co-authored the book, 10 Steps to Creating Memorable Characters. Her latest writing book is an e-book titled The Fiction Writing Workbook, which takes writers from first idea through a completed novel. She also developed Deal a Story, an interactive card game consisting of 101 cards and six sections and is based on her Heroes and Heroines book.

She is a practicing artist, seminar leader, and educator with on-line classes both for writers and artists.

Becky Martinez is an award-winning former broadcast journalist and published author. Her latest book, Deadly Messages was published by The Wild Rose Press in February 2010 and was an Aspen Gold finalist. She has had several short stories published and contributed a short story to The Trouble with Romance, an anthology that was a 2007 New Mexico Book Award finalist.

She was also one of the co-authors of Ten Steps to Creating Memorable Characters, a workbook for writers. For the past six years she has been teaching writing classes, both online and in person.

For more writing help, please visit their website for writers,

Registration Period: May 23 - June 3, 2011
Registration Deadline: June 3, 2011
Fee: $15

RWA Online Chapter Members ONLY receive free workshops. No registration required for chapter members.
 Payment method: PAYPAL is recommended! Checks and money orders also accepted, but register early and mail your payment promptly. No person will be allowed in unless payment is received.

Format: Courses are conducted via online discussion (bulletin) board on the RWA® Online website (no email/Yahoo loops). Non-chapter members MUST complete both the workshop registration AND the discussion board login registration for access.
Instructions for login are presented after the registration page. The workshop is available for up to one week after the end date and a downloadable archive of the workshop will be available the week following the workshop.

Contact with questions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lessons from Back to the Future

I just rewatched Back to the Future with my daughter who had no idea what I was talking about when I made a BTTF reference. So, of course, I had to rent it for her. :-) I can't even remember how long it has been since I had seen it last, but it completely lived up to my memories of it.

The lesson I want to cover, which for some reason I didn't consciously remember about the movie, is layering

Wow, go back and watch the opening twenty minutes of this movie and notice all of the little details of visuals and dialogue which come into play later on in the movie. It's a feast for the eyes if you know what you're looking at. If it has been a long time since you've seen the movie, I would actually recommend you rewatch it twice so you can go back to the beginning and see all of the groundwork and layering the filmmakers did with BTTF.

Consider layering and hinting with your own work. Your reader might not consciously notice it in the first run through, but it will add richness to your story when those earlier references come together in a later scene.

In the opening sequence of BTTF, there isn't a single live person in the scene, it is a camera pan going over Doc Brown's house, but almost every single item the camera goes over will come into play later on and tells us a lot about the character Doc Brown. Small details which lead to a big pay off.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Horse Charmer Now Available

Horse Charmer is now live and available as an ebook at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Through Smashwords Horse Charmer will shortly be available through Apple, Sony, Kobo, Borders/Borders Australia, Whitcoulls, Diesel Ebook Store, and ScrollMotion.

Horse Charmer by Angelia Almos

At sixteen years old, Cassia would rather spend her days in the royal stables than in the royal court. But as the eldest child of King Robet and Queen Sarahann she obediently performs her duties as the Princess of Karah.

Her safe world changes forever when her father is murdered in the neighboring kingdom of Vespera. Cassia grapples with his loss as her mother prepares her for her new role as queen. Her first task - she must travel to Vespera to marry a prince she barely knows to fulfill the treaty her father signed just before his death.

Nothing is as simple as it seems with political intrigues and unusual powers shadowing Cassia on her search to find out who killed her father and why.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lessons from Penelope

Bringing back my series on Lessons from Movies. I love to study movies to improve my own storytelling. It's not that I don't learn from the written word, but as a visual learner I pick things up faster and easier if I see it.

Penelope is a sweet, sleeper of a movie. I vaguely recall it being released in the theater, but somehow missed it. I picked it up as a new release at the video store and was charmed from the opening sequence. The movie is a modern fairy tale and has a distinct magical feel to it. On to the lessons, beware, major spoiler as I am going to discuss the climax.

1) I love, absolutely, love that it is Penelope who breaks her curse and that her "prince" is unable to. In fact, none of the men who her mother shoves at her would be able to break the curse, because they can't look past her face to the person she is. It is only when Penelope accepts and loves herself for who she is - pig snout and all - that the curse is broken.

2) The second part of the climax is when Penelope goes to claim her love. Love the twist there as well. You go girl. The scene is played beautifully between Christina Ricci and James McAvoy. But my favorite part is the few seconds between the two kisses. Penelope pulls off her "Penelope" Halloween mask and Johnny/Max is slightly put off that she doesn't have the pig snout any longer. That split second of his reaction shows Penelope that though he might not have been able to break the curse, he did love her for who she was, pig snout and all.

For the first lesson, I actually considered this a lot for Mafia Secret. On the one hand, I wanted my heroine to stand up on her own and defeat the villain, but on the other my hero had to ride into the rescue. I wrote the scene both ways and chose....Well, you'll have to read it to find out. ;-)

I haven't had a story yet which includes the elements from lesson two, but I look forward to using it when I can.