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Smaug, Smauog or Smog?

Smaug, Smauog or Smog?

How does one pronounce the name of the most terrifying dragon in all of Middle Earth?  “Smauog” is enunciated by the characters in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films.  Is that Tolkien-approved correct or a writer-director’s whim?  The intrepid fans at The Land of Shadow went on their own quest for an answer, and what they discovered can be learned here.

Smaug_eye

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What Attracts Kids to Books?

Writer/schoolteacher Dianne K. Salerni gave her middle grade class some copies of some unfamiliar books.  What made them decide whether or not to read them?  Is it the first sentence?  The cover?  The summary on the back?  Find out at The Project Mayhem.

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The Emotion Thesaurus

One of the appeals of the children’s book community is that it offers support and encouragement to its members. Organizations such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and consultants such as Emma D. Dryden of Drydenbooks, provide valuable services to newbies and professionals alike.

EmotionTSCBWI-authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi offer tips on their blog, The Bookshelf Muse. They’ve also compiled The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, which offers alternative ways of describing emotions, so writers don’t have to get stuck on using the same expressions over and over. As they put it, “This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each.” Click on the links to learn more—then buy the book!

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Five Writing Industry Trends

Emma D. Dryden is one of those generous publishing industry experts who continually provide advice to writers.  In fact, she passes along info several times a day on Facebook.  Today she calls attention to a blog post by Jane Friedman, web editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review.  Friedman discusses “Five Industry Trends Requiring Every Writer’s Attention.”  Read about it here.

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22 Rules of Storytelling a la Pixar

Pixar Animation is well-known for their devotion to the craft of storytelling, as evident in such films as Toy Story and The Incredibles.   Months ago, (now-former) Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats tweeted a list of storytelling tips she learned at the studio.  These have since been posted elsewhere on the internet and no wonder:  they’re great tips!

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
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