Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Difference a Master Love Triangulator Makes

Any writer (and most thoughtful readers) will tell you that characterization plays a huge role in drawing the reader into a story. Finding characters that you can picture clearly in your mind and feel like you know can transport you into the world of a story more deeply than any other element of the story (in my opinion!). 

Today I want to talk about the role that great characterization plays in crafting a love triangle. Now, this is not going to change the opinions of those who do not like love triangles in general (trust me, I get it, I'm the same way with cliffhanger endings!) but I think we can all agree that an incredibly deep characterization of all the parties involved in our triangle enhances the story they star in. One of my favorite examples of a love triangle that brought the characters to life for me is Jenny Han's Summer series

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 For me the biggest turn off in a love triangle is an uneven level of characterization. You know the type*: 
Source: Pinterest
 1. Well characterized girl MC
2. Almost-as-well characterized, and obvious meant-to-be love interest, boy #1
3. Poorly characterized, doesn't-stand-a-chance-but-might-get-a-kiss-or-two boy #2

*Not naming any names here or talking about one particular example, this happens in a number of books.

The thing I love most about Jenny Han's Summer series is that each and every character in the book is well crafted. Everyone from the main characters that make up the love triangle to their supporting family members to the random old man that lives down the way feels real to the reader. Reading these books feels like taking a summer vacation with these families and by the end of the series you feel as though you've been vacationing with them for years.

Source: TUMBLR

How does this enhance the love triangulation? Simple. Because the boys are so realistic, each with his own strengths and weaknesses, there is honestly no clear winner in the war for Belly's heart. In their own ways, BOTH boys are her perfect match which makes the experience of watching their relationship grow and change that much more intense. And for the reader, the many reasons to both love AND hate both of the Fisher boys makes the series that much richer, because as we can truly feel the pull that Belly feels in both directions and the bittersweetness of having to make a choice.

This experience is enhanced further by the amazing job Han does of bringing Belly to life. This is a girl who is at THAT POINT in her life. That point where everything changes and those boys she's been crushing on for what feels like FOREVER finally realize that she is, in fact, a girl. And over the course of the trilogy, you get to watch the Belly you got to know so well in Book #1 grow and change and make mistakes that bring back that feeling of being a teenager again. And because you feel like you know her, you feel all of those moments right along with her.

Source: TUMBLR

So the moral(s) of the story are:

A. Go and read (or re-read) Jenny Han's Summer series immediately. You're welcome. :)

B. To create a truly heart-wrenching love triangle, get to know all of the players and what they want individually. Give the reader reasons to love both of the love interest choices. And most of all, breathe as much life into all of the characters in your story as you can, because the characters people remember most are the ones that feel like old friends, long after they've closed the book.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: World-Building in Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Writers learn about writing from reading books. That’s why everyone tells us to read! And most writers who have read The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor love it. Not only is the prose something remarkable, the whole story excels because of fantastic world-building. World-building in a piece of literature—especially when it’s a sci-fi or fantasy genre—is arguably the most important thing in storytelling.

The world-building (and pacing of the world) in DoSaB is so good because it reveals the world slowly in a way that both offers information to the readers and withholds it at the same time. How do you decide what to tell readers and what to hold back?

I don't really know the answer to that. But I do know four things that Laini Taylor did in DoSaB that helps her create this well paced, well built world. I could talk about them forever (and have! This post used to be 14 page paper!) but I'm going to pull out one example for each of these things and maybe, you'll figure out a way to use these techniques to build your own world.

1) Offer enough information

Taylor’s fictional world is layered, which basically means each minor detail is built and expounded upon as the novel progresses. This layering works extremely well because it provides enough information to build the world, tells the reader what’s happening, and moves the story forward without throwing all the cards on the table. Example:

“What was Brimstone up to this weekend?” asked Zuzana.
 “The usual,” said Karou. “Buying teeth from murderers. He got some Nile crocodile teeth yesterday from this awful Somali poacher, but the idiot tried to steal from him and got half strangled by his snake collar.”
 “How do you make up this stuff, maniac?” Zuzana asked, all jealous wonderment.
 “Who says I do? I keep telling you, it’s all real.”
“Uh-huh. And all your hair grows out of your head that color, too.”
 “What? It totally does,” said Karou, passing a long blue strand through her fingers.

I like this conversation because it introduces three of the minor elements that are relevant throughout the book. Really, I found six throughout: chimaera, hair, wishes/teeth, portals, angels, and tattoos. Each of these things are introduced in passing, but end up having more importance later. It’s a layered connection. In the opening pages she’s offering up just enough information—that there are wishes, that someone is a chimaera creature who collects teeth, that Karou has blue hair.

Summary: You can introduce the minor things happening from the beginning without revealing what the purpose truly is upfront.

2) Offer frequent reminders

I won't use all the ways Taylor presents frequent reminders of her minor elements, but trust me: there are many. Taylor implements this technique by not allowing more than a few pages to pass before mentioning some element of the story. These elements are the six listed above: chimaera, hair, wishes/teeth, portals, angels, and tattoos.

These reminders keep everything fresh in the reader’s mind, while adding layers to the story and the world she is building. This reminder technique helps the reader follow Taylor into the transition of the third technique where Taylor solves an old mystery before presenting a new one because she’s steadily been mentioning these questions contained in a single word: chimaera, hair, wishes/teeth, portals, angels, and tattoos.

Summary: Remind me again and again so I don't forget--but don't beat me over the head.

3) Solve an old mystery when presenting a new one

There are many examples of this technique in the book. The biggest component of this story is the tie between wishes and teeth. Taylor offers plenty of specifics about the power of wishes without actually explaining how wishes are traded—or what they’re really used for. The reader knows that Karou gets scuppies (a wish denomination) from Brimstone for helping with errands—and that tooth-traders come into the shop to trade teeth for gavriels (more powerful wishes), but the weight is not fully felt until we learn of the most powerful wish, a bruxis.
A bruxis. That was the one wish more powerful than a gavriel, and its trade value was singular: the only way to purchase one was with ones own teeth. All of them, self-extracted.
This minor mention of the ‘bruxis’ and the removal of teeth makes a parallel between wishes and teeth and shows the reader that wishes come with consequences, and that the more powerful the wish, the more dire the consequences. In three lines, the mystery of wishes has been solved. Then, very quickly, Taylor introduces a new mystery because Karou goes into the chimaera world and discovers the mark she bares on her hands covering the bodies of the dead. By giving the answer to one of the story’s mysteries, but then revealing a larger connected mystery, Taylor keeps the story moving and the reader invested in what is happening.

Summary: Don't give me too many unanswered threads. Instead, introduce something and solve something one at a time. Especially if your story is complex.

4) Repeat details even after they have been fully explained

You ever hear that saying about forgiving but not forgetting? Well, this is kind of like that. Just because you've forgiven someone doesn't mean you can forget. Likewise, just because something has been explained doesn't mean it's not worth remembering. In fact, chances are, it should be remembered. By repeating explained details, you can influence all the things the reader does not know, and help the reader grasp the details better by drawing parallels and providing reminders.

Taylor uses many subtle conversations by bringing them full circle to help build the world. Her use of seemingly innocuous foreshadowing occurs many times throughout the text. This technique allows the world-building mysteries throughout the four sections to be seen as one cohesive and intricate plot. Taylor’s techniques also allow her to introduce what seem like new ideas, but are additional details that build upon smaller crumbs left throughout the novel.

By presenting and answering all the mysteries she does, Taylor is creating the foundation for the larger plot of the story—which is the truth of Karou’s identity. Once the foundation (chimaera, hair, wishes/teeth, portals, angels, and tattoos) is laid, the truth of Karou’s identity makes complete sense because all the elements work together.

Summary: Don't let us forget what we already know, so you can wow us with how things work together.

Obviously there are hundreds of ways to build (and reveal) a world. This is just one example--and it definitely won't work for everyone. But I think there are elements that are very relevant and at the least, you can learn some new approach. Now, go read this book. I even wrote an actual book review here, if you need more convincing. It has a lot to offer writers--and readers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Let's Talk about Books

It's that time again! We get to share what we did or didn't do last week---and what we want to do this week. As always, feel free to chime in and tell us your goals.

Danielle: So, last week I wrote one chapter. Which doesn't sound like much but man, I was in pain. I did read a lot of books. This weekend I wrote another! Now I want to edit that chapter and write another new one. Only two more chapters stand between me and this huge chapter point in my WIP. I want to be at that point before I go to London in two weeks. I love this story so much and it's a lot of fun to dive into.

Patricia: This week was more of the same for me, brainstorming and percolating (aka procrastinating). I worked on an editing project for a good chunk of time and then at the very end of the weekend got down to some writing. It wasn't an amazing week, but definitely better than weeks where I've gotten no writing done, so I'll take it! Positive thinking, FTW this week!

Cindy:  Over the last week I spent a lot of time brainstorming on my new WIP, but not a lot of writing. I'm hoping that will change this week, but I was able to get a good chunk of critiquing done, which was nice. My goal for this week will be to write 1K each day for the new WIP. And I'm with Patricia, positive thinking FTW!

What are you up to this week??

The next two weeks on Tangled, we're going to talk about BOOKS. I know I know--it's exciting. Because we're all writers here but even more, we're book lovers. There's no better way to learn about writing than by reading. So we're going to review a book. But instead of gushing, we're each going to talk about a certain technique in a book and how it works/what we learned from it. It should be fun!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Save Your WIP: Fix Pacing Problems

One of the worst pieces of feedback you can get on your WIP is that the pacing is off. Sometimes (rarely) that's an easy fix. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. There are several things that can hinder good pacing in a story. It could be empty dialogue, scenes that are too long and drag out well past their importance, and even lack of a good setting.

Fortunately, these things can be fixed, even if they do take some work.

Let's start with dialogue. It's important because reading page after page of internal thoughts and settings is booooring. But also boring is dialogue without any exposition. Here's an example:

"Hi, Sally. How are you?"

"Hi, Mark. I'm good. How are you?"

"Good. Good. Life is good. I'm so glad to hear that you're good."

"Well, it was nice to see you."

"And it was nice to see you."

"Okay, bye."


Your eyes probably glassed over within a second of reading that dialogue. Why? Because 95% of it was unnecessary. It's repetitive, and well, seems to serve no purpose at all but to keep the characters talking. It's empty and painful to read. Don't do this. And if you do find yourself doing this, stop it. Delete it. Ask yourself what part of that dialogue is really necessary. Also, adding bits of imagery into the dialogue can really help to break it up. What are the characters doing? Is someone staring out the window? Taking a bite of food? Are they holding hands? Provide some sort of setting to the scene. (There is more on this below.)

Now, let's take a look at (too) long scenes. The best example I can think of here, is a fight scene, or a book that reads like one gigantic fight scene. You know the ones. There's a fight scene within the first 30 pages of the book and they just don't ever seem to end. The character finds him/herself constantly in battle and they just. never. seem. to. end. Even if the writing is well done, I can't take much of this. There needs to be some kind of build-up.

If the character is continuously repeating his or her actions throughout the story, it becomes boring and doesn't move the story along. It reads as more a placeholder and can turn a reader off very quickly. Don't get me wrong, fight scenes are important and they can certainly add action to a story that may be lacking in that area, but each scene in the book needs to hold some weight. There needs to be an altering moment in the scene, something that lets the reader know why this scene was important. If it doesn't appear to have a purpose to reader, it's just empty wording.  Ask yourself: Why is this scene important? What does my MC learn from this scene? What does the reader learn? Could my story stand without this scene?

And now, let's set the scene. This (in my opinion) is one of the easiest fixes when it comes to pacing. Every story needs a setting. Every scene needs a setting. The setting can make or break a scene. If your reader can't read a scene and then tell you where the character(s) are, then you might have the problem of creating a bunch of white rooms. White rooms provide the reader with no context as to where the story is taking place and can really damage the reading experience. Each time you sit down to write a scene (or when you're revising and you're reading one) try to visualize where your character is and what he or she can see. Write that down. Write as much as you can. Look up images online to get ideas for how to describe the forest/room/closet/pool they are in. Maybe even sketch it out. You don't need ten paragraphs describing the scene, but a line or two here and there can really help set it up.

Obviously, these are just few examples of how to fix pacing problems in your story, but I hope they've helped you. Happy Writing!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Save a WIP: Tension

Last week (or 2 weeks ago really) Danielle wrote a post on tension and how lack of tension can kill your WiP. Today, I'd like to give my thoughts on how to increase/add tension to your WiP. Keep in mind these are just my thoughts and what I do. I'm not, like, The Master of Tension, or anything. :) [Bear with me, this might be a long post, but hopefully it'll be helpful if you read it!]

For me there are two types of tension that I look at when I'm writing.

The first is story-based tension. This is when you need to think about stuff like the stakes and conflicts that your character(s) have to deal with. What are the things that matter most to them and are the obstacles in their way high enough to push your characters after their goal and keep the reader engaged?

I don't know about you, but I love it when I'm holding my breath, itching to turn the next page of the book I'm reading to find out how in the world this character that I've fallen in love with will overcome to this crazy obstacle! (I'm assuming you like books like that too!) I get so bored when reading a book if the tension is just...lacking. Who wants to read about a character whose main obstacles are something I could overcome blind folded with one hand tied behind my back? Kinda boring, right? So, if the goal of your character is this amazing thing (which let's hope it is!) then make the stakes for them to achieve it just as intense as the goal or more!

Two other story-based ways to increase tension are foreshadowing and having a timeline. Adding in little hints of foreshadowing can really increase tension/suspense to areas that might be lacking and can keep your readers engage. And adding a timeline, like a countdown, to when your character has to have something done by automatically adds tension to the story because some terrible thing is going to happen by the deadline if they don't succeed and that terrible thing looms over the character the whole time. Now, that's not to say let's all just go crazy adding in random foreshadowing and deadlines. You don't want to confuse your readers, so make sure your story calls for those aspects before putting them in--and the only person that can know for sure if you should do that is you (or, ya know, you can seek advice from your crit partners too if you have them)

The second type of tension building that I look at in my stories are the technical aspects of my writing. How can the way I string together these words amp up tension? (I especially focus on these tension builders during action scenes.)
  • Word choice: (especially with action verbs) Punch up your word choice. Instead of saying "He took my hand and pulled me away." You could say, "He grabbed my hand and yanked me away."
  • Short/choppy sentence: This is a technique I use a lot during action scenes. Keeping your sentences short and sometimes choppy increases that tension your looking for. Action scenes aren't the the time for overly flowery writing or lots of backstory/information. Keep those for other areas where you want the tension to cool down and give the reader a breather.
  • Character action: What are your characters doing? Are they all lazing about (is lazing word? it is now). When you're in an intense situation, your body is probably reacting to it, right? Let your characters' bodies react too. Are they tapping nervously, running, fidgeting, taking a swing, ect. The list goes on and on. Don't forget to let them react.
  • Dialogue: 1)I am a greedy withhold-er of information when it comes to my dialogue. My character's questions get ignored or cut-off. They get answered in a roundabout way that doesn't actually give them any info. I love keeping my characters (and readers) questioning. They don't always need straight-forward answers to their questions. That'd be kinda boring, wouldn't it? 2)Maybe your MC wants something from another character w/out that second character knowing? Something like this can add underlying tension to a conversation that would be seen as a plain old innocent conversation to the 2nd character. 3) Just about any dialogue that is expressly confrontational will add tension to the conversation. Just make sure the scene calls for a convo that aggressive like that before you throw it in.
  • Scene/Chapter endings: The best way to end a scene/chapter, I think, is to make your reading tearing the page to turn and see what happens on the next one. Don't end your chapters with a nice little wrap-up or ya know, your character peacefully falling to sleep. Stuff like that halts tension. And when that happens, I generally want to do what that character is doing...set the book down to curl up and take a nap too. Instead, keep your readers begging for more and staying up late to read that next chapter!

Keep in mind you don't want action, tension, action, tension, action, tension and nothing else in your story. Your readers still need scenes that slow down enough to give them a breather too and give them necessary information as well. You have to learn to balance scenes and, for me, that's something that I've only started learning after lots of practice. (But all that plays more into pacing, so I won't really get into that right now.)

Also, because I don't want to leave it out and I love it so much, how about a short note on sexual tension, too? You ever read a book where you're yelling at the love interest to Just Kiss Her Already! Yeah? Me too. But as much as I love it when they finalllllly do kiss...sometimes (most times) the build-up is what is actually better. All the almost kisses, the glances, the "innocent" touches, the flirty dialogue, or the awkward crap I like you and don't want you to know moments are what MAKE that scene when they finally kiss so great! Right?! Well, guess what? It also adds lots of tension in the characters' relationship. It makes the readers root for them and keep reading until that final moment when those two crazy kids finally kiss--or more, depending on how racy you wanna get ;)

Here's a snippet of a scene in my own WiP with some sexual tension. (Uh...keep in mind this is my first draft, so it's not amazazazing! or anything, but I hope it shows what I'm talking about with the tension aspect. This is a scene shortly after the 'love interest' thought my MC might have been dead.)

He stops walking and looks down at me with an intensity in his eyes that makes my pulse throb faster. His words whisper against my skin. “You can’t imagine how glad I am that you’re back.” I lick my lips, tilting my head up. He draws nearer, until I can almost taste his lips on mine. Suddenly I’ve never wanted anything more than to know the flavors of his mouth. The fear of how a kiss might change our friendship is nothing compared to the yearning building inside me.
“I thought—” Declan’s voice breaks as he cups my face, gaze searching. “I thought I lost you.” His lips part, eyes close, and I follow, leaning my body into his.
I can feel his warm breath mingling with my own, his mouth almost on mine, when a scream rips through the moment, tearing us apart. I jerk back. My head whips around. I look [down the corridor] just in time to see a large shape charging at my little sister.
So now that I've written my longest post ever (thanks to everyone that made it through all that), I hope this helps you with knowing how to add that necessary tension to your stories so you can keep your readers screaming for more!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to Save a WIP: Getting Stuck in a Corner

Last week, Kristi Cook told us how she tends to write herself into a corner. Today, Kathleen Foucart tells how she writes herself out of the corner!

I have tried being a plotter. I buy books on structure, I fill out beat sheets and read copious blog posts on plotting. In my head, these are the tools I will use to write faster first drafts. There’s just one problem: my writing-brain won’t cooperate.

I think part of this is based on the fact that I don’t consciously “pick” my next WIP. My last two projects started from me typing the wrong sentence in another WIP, realizing it didn’t fit there, opening a new document, and having a completely different character & story come pouring out. I’ll know nothing of the plot. All I know of the MC is what happening in that particular sentence that I’m writing. The stories I have a plan for prior to writing tend not to get written.

Now, what I do isn’t entirely “pantsing.” Once I’m in the thick of the book (usually after about 10,000 words) I have a better idea of what’s going on, where I need to take the MC and what their “ever after” will be like. This is also where things start to go wrong-- because I want a pretty draft. Who doesn’t? Who wants to write things they’ll just cut? So I start to plot. And that’s where I stall out.

Let me be clear here: I’m talking about a first draft. I don’t edit recursively (much) because for me that’s a sticky trap of perfectionism that added at least a year to writing my MFA thesis. I might fix a few typos, a name I changed, etc., but generally, IMO, a first draft is for going forward.

So what do I do when attempting to plot stalls out my brain? I write myself into corners. I write total crap. My characters sit around drinking coffee and eating cereal. I once sent characters towel shopping (FWIW I didn’t finish that particular book). I’ll let the characters lie around and talk, or send them into the forest with no idea how they’ll get back out. I realize that to a lot of writers, this sounds insane. Why would I do that to myself?

I’ve finally come to admit that I’m both a pantser and an over-writer. I write huge first drafts because my brain needs connecting scenes, random dialogue, learning how my characters take their coffee or when they get up in the morning. I need to write myself into random corners-- be they boring corners or “oh, crap, how the hell am I going to get them back out of that???” corners. I can edit out those scenes in the next draft (something I’m working on now, actually), but to make the connections my brain needs to create a cohesive story, I have to have them there to start with.

Basically, this quote sums up how I’ve come to view my first-draft process:

“...I discovered that if I trusted my subconscious, or imagination, whatever you want to call it, and if I made the characters as real and honest as I could, then no matter how complex the pattern being woven, my subconscious would find ways to tie it together -- often doing things far more complicated and sophisticated than I could with brute conscious effort. I would have ideas for 'nodes', as I think of them -- story or character details that have lots of potential connections to other such nodes -- and even though I didn't quite understand, I would plunk them in. Two hundred pages later, everything would back-fit, and I'd say, "Ah, that's why I wrote that.” ~ Tad Williams
So if you’re a fellow pantser, take heart. Writing yourself into a corner will not necessarily kill your WIP. In fact, it just might save it. Who knows where your imagination will take you if you let it off the leash? It could be to the perfect answer your subconscious has been working on the whole time. (And if not, you can still edit brilliantly!)

Kathleen Foucart is a YA writer on the path to publication. According to last count, she owns 2,460 books in an 1100 square-foot house that she also sharse with her husband and Great Dane. She lives in Southwest Virginia, has an MFA in Children's Literature from Hollins University and went to undergrad at Virginia Tech. You can find her on her blog and on twitter.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday means...

It's time again to check in about our writing goals from last week and what we want to accomplish this week! As always, chime in and let us know what you're up to!!

Danielle: Well, I have this weird hand/arm thing going on--which started pre-retreat and is really bad now. It may be carpal tunnel, but we're not sure yet. Boo. Lots of unhappiness. So I didn't write a lot. I did manage a post (killer!) and an edit of a really big scene from last weekend (win). This week, I'm so busy and have a schedule full of appointments that I'll be lucky if I write anything. But soldier on!

Christina: So someone needs to yell at me. I only wrote about 2k last week and it wasn't even because I was busy or anything. I just got lazy this week. No other excuse really. I did get some crits and reading done for CPs though. This week I really want to stick to getting some writing done. I have today and am planning on getting a good amount of writing done-hopefully. Anyway, someone yell at me if I don't hit at least 4k this week!

Check out how these ways to kill and save a WIP and join us as we continue on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Story Makes Sense Now!!! ....Goodbye Hot Gypsy Boy's Sister Who's a Half-Dragon Viking Princess in Love with a Fire-Breathing Pirate

Last week, Patricia told us the story of the time-traveling viking pirate and the last shape-shifting dragon's daughter. It started out as this simple idea: a young girl’s journey to discover the parents that abandoned her when she was a baby. And then it morphed and escalated into this mess of wibbly wobbly timey-wimey overplotting!  By the end of her story, the whole idea was overcrowded and lost in the unneeded subplots.

So what do you do when you are faced with wibbly wobbly overplotting? You have to unravel it. My plan in this post is to show you how to do that. Hopefully, by the end, you'll be able to tell when you've over-plotted and have an idea on how to figure out the important stuff. This will keep you from doing it again--or at least being aware of it. (Note: This is just my opinion and one approach so it may not work for everyone, but Patricia's one my CPs so we do this all the time!)


There are some tell-tale signs that you've over-plotted your WIP.  The biggest way you can tell if you've over plotted: start writing. If you find yourself frequently stuck, due to being overwhelmed by complexity, that's usually a good sign. I mean, if your story looks something like this in your head---How would you even know where to start? Over-plotting 101.

Ways to combat over-plotting:

Talk it out.

This is the most accurate way to tell:  Finding another real-life person to talk to about it is best--because they'll usually tell you when they're lost. Either it will be a glazed over look in their eye, a fidgeting, or a point-blank "I'm so confused" to let you know it's too much. If you don't have a real-life person, you could always record yourself talking about your story. I bet when you're listening to it, you'll be able to see a little more easily that there's too much going on.

Write it out.
Not in story form, just in notes. Grab a piece of notebook paper and write out the story from beginning to end, with a new thing on each line. This will allow you to see the whole story plan and avoid a mess like the one above. Plus, at later suggestions, you can refer to this plot list. You could also use index cards, if you'd rather have those than a single paper. In fact, if you wanna go really crazy---do both. Seeing everything laid out will allow you to re-group things as you start cutting subplot points.  

Draw it out. 
Some people are really artsy (or just like markers!) and if you're one of those people, you can draw out your story. Think flow charts or stick people or cut outs from magazines or lots of really colorful words. It doesn't matter what "draw" means to you. Just make your own chart. Get a really big piece of paper and go to town. if it starts looking like above, then it's too much.


What the character wants and what stands in the way of him/her getting it.
I once saw a tweet, way back when I first started reading agent blogs, that said: Every query would be more successful if it told me who the protagonist is, what she wants and what stands in the way of her getting it.

Since that day, I always think about this exact thing. Before any project is started--and especially when you're trying to figure out the plot of a novel--you must know these three things. Who is the MC? What does the MC want? What stands in her way?

In our example: MC is Girl (we'll call her Sam). Sam wants to find her birth parents and learn why they abandoned her as a baby. So far, so good. But then we get to question three: What stands in her way? Everything! Vikings, pirates, dragons, long-lost cousins five times removed who breath fire and have tea with pirates.

Ridiculous. That's the part you have to fix. Once you know these three basic elements of the story, you can move on to the next one. 

Elevator Pitch. (aka. one sentence)
Ah, this is a term we love to toss around in the publishing industry--and basically speaking (if you don't know) it's a sentence. It's a single sentence that encompasses your book. The theory is you meet someone in elevator and you have only the distance of a few floors to tell them about your book in an intriguing way. This is the elevator pitch--the one single line that is your story. I know, it seems ridiculous that this is an expectation, but the elevator pitch is very important for agents, readers and even, when you're an over-plotter, your story.

How so?

Well, this is the story at its most basic, most simple and intrinsic point in time. So, especially when you've identified the other two steps here, it will continue to give you focus. If the story trails away from this sentence as the "theme" of the story (meaning the overarching and unending motivation of the story) then you will know. But you have to know this sentence.

(Note: Motivation can change within a story. Example: Girl can now want more answers about hot boy's life, but they have to stem from her original motivation (finding her family) and/or add to her overarching story--otherwise, you are telling a different story. Each motivation presented must be supported and reached in some way before moving on to another. *Think of a series, where each motivation is a new book but there's something in common happening in each book. The Hunger Games is a great example of this idea*)

Query letter summary
Okay. This is my favorite. (I'm sick.) A query is basically a simplified version of a book jacket. There are usually no sub-plots mentioned--and if there is then it's only a hint. It's the three things we just talked about, only with more emphasis on the second and third part. it clearly sets the conflict, the goal and the obstacles in two or three paragraphs. Seriously. Go pick a couple of your favorite books and study the book jacket. I'll wait....

Now. Write your own.

This isn't something you'll query---do not do that! But it is something that can guide you. If you already know who the MC is, what she wants and what stands in her way, then it should be no problem to start developing a bigger story. The purpose of this early "query" is to create a structure that will keep you on track. Then, when you're writing later, you can make sure it's all still working together.

I know, this may seem confusing. Write three sentences and then one sentence and then a couple paragraphs? Maybe it's weird, but when you're so bogged down by too much plot you need to get it simple again before you can start to repair and rebuild a story. But you definitely shouldn't do the summary step until you've figured out the main plot, because when you start tossing subplot into the mix it can all get messy. It doesn't mean the salad will taste better just because there are more ingredients,


Ah....subplot. How do I guide in this? Well, I'll be honest. No one except you and your story can tell you what subplots to add/get rid of (aside from agent or an editor, but that's a different story.)
How do you choose when they're all so CUTE???
 The best help I can give here is a list of questions to ask yourself and your characters. Hopefully, they'll help eliminate some of the unneeded plot points. 
  • Which subplots are moving the story forward? 
    • Subplots run parallel to the story. You must be all be working together to get the same place or you'll never get anywhere.
  • Which subplots are most relevant to the MC and her goal? 
  • Which subplots are driven by internal conflict vs external? 
    • With my last WIP, I outlined this in blue vs pink index cards. It's good to know what conflicts/subplots are being done to your character and which are being done by your character. Its a random thing, but it's important to know where the story happens more--internal or external--and which element carries varying weights.
  • Can any of them be deleted/combined/substituted without losing an aspect of the story? 
    • Say you have a character who wants to win find a treasure and the MC is in the way. And you have a character who wants to steal the MC's magical aura. And a character who wants to save everyone. Why not combine all these into the same person? Deleting/combining/subsituting scenes or characters or subplots can be all you need to save a WIP. Of course, with something like the example Patricia gave us, it's only the start.
  • How many subplots do you need?
    • This varies with each author and each story. I have a rule of thumb that only lets me plan for three. Why? I'm a pantser (usually) and when I know I need to figure out three subplots, I do. But when you write more and more things can pop up. It's good to have less to start, so if you wanted to take on one or two of these other elements, then you could. But beware, because that's how we get to where we were in the beginning.

  1. Be aware it's a problem. Awareness is the first step to recovery. 
  2. Find people who will tell you the truth.
  3. Read A LOT of books. Craft books, fiction books--any and everything. Take notes. Mark the pages. Sticky note your problem areas. Use the experiences to learn.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you're stuck. People love sharing opinions.

Fixing a WIP that's been overplotted is not easy work. It requires sacrifice. But it means the difference between killing a WIP and saving one. Sometimes, like the heroine in our story will learn, it's better to say goodbye to the hot gypsy boy's sister who's a half-dragon Viking princess in love with a fire-breathing pirate...and just search for her parents who abandoned her with a ragtag team of friends on a summer vacation in Europe. Too bad for the hot boy....

Are you an over-plotter? How do you combat this? Have you lost stories to over-plotting?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Please sir, may I have some more (confidence)?

This post is going to involve a lot of pictures and quotes… because I am CONFIDENT that other people have expressed things about confidence way better than I ever could. It also contains a ridiculous amount of ALL CAPS. ;)

I don’t know about you guys but I spend MANY a day doing the exact thing that Cindy talked about here last week. Making excuses that aren’t true (“I don’t really want this anyway”) to help myself feel better about the fact that I’m letting FEAR of the unknown block my path to SUCCESS.

And today I want to talk about two types of confidence: internal confidence and external confidence. Having a healthy dose of both will save not only your writing but pretty much everything you do. Please know that, for me, almost every part of this post falls into the “SO MUCH easier said than done” category. 

Some days you just wake up feeling like it’s not going to be ok. Some days you start out feeling like it’s  all going to go your way, but then you start writing, and the words just aren’t coming and you dissolve into a puddle of “I SUCK AT THIS”.  The only way to battle both of these moods? Internal confidence; you must have confidence in you. 

Whether you believe it or not, THESE are the times you have to look at yourself in a mirror and tell yourself that YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR! That feeling like all the world is little black rainclouds? IT’S A RAINBOW WAITING TO HAPPEN! That feeling like you suck? IT DOES NOT KNOW WHAT IT’S TALKING ABOUT. But…? NO BUTS, YOU. ARE. A. ROCKSTAR

Then there are the days when you take your writing out of the cave and into the world. And this type of confidence is a little bit trickier because you need to project that you believe in your ability to succeed without SHOVING your belief in other people’s faces.

Whether you are showing your work to critique partners, querying agents, or sending a new draft to your editor, it is important to make sure they know that you are proud of what you are sending out it into this world. Do you need people to believe you think it is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT? Of course not, and that’s ok because in all likelihood it’s not. But hopefully it is YOUR best and if it is you should be proud and own it! 

So let’s make a pact! To tell ourselves we are AWESOME, to remind each other we are AWESOME, and to show the world just how AWESOME we really are!

Now I want to hear from you! What is the most amazing thing you've done in your writing this week? this month? this year? What is the thing you are BEST at? What do you do to combat anti-confidence attacks?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hagrid! Alice! Finnick!... Save me!

Happy Valentine's Day! Since one the topics that frequently comes up when talking about WIP problems is flat secondary characters, today I'd like to share some LOVE for everybody's favorite sidekicks and adversaries.

Top of your head....someone says, "Make a list of "great" secondary characters" who do you think of? (You really can make a list. I did.) Here's a few from my list, which includes TV and books.

Hagrid (Harry Potter)
Finnick (Hunger Games)
Bobby (Supernatural)
Alice (Twilight)
Mickey Smith (Doctor Who)
Matt (The Vampire Diaries)
Magnus Bane (Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices)
Ethel (Downton Abbey)

Each of these characters are very different, but they all serve the same purpose. Let's make a list of what some of those common threads are. (You could even, if you wanted, make an individual list for each character.) I'm only going to use a few here too.
  • Bring some sort of conflict to the story 
    • Maybe this "conflict" is personal within the character's own arc. Maybe it's in direct opposition of the protagonist. Maybe it's more that it's a past reflection of the protagonist. Perhaps this character knows something that the protagonist doesn't or knows how to get what's needed. Whatever the purpose, a secondary character usually brings conflict. My main thought on this that every character is a person with his or her own wants and desires, and since he/she is a person, he/she is flawed to some degree/has something to offer--be that good or bad.
  • Offer support for protagonist
    • How does a secondary character add conflict and support? Well, two ways. One, there can be just a character who is conflict (antagonist) and one who is support. BUT even an antagonist needs all these things I'm listing. Plus, whatever is happening, it's happening in support of the protagonist's story line. What does that mean? Well, if I used Voldemort as a great secondary character, he would still fall under all these points I'm listing here. He's clearly the antagonist, but he's adding conflict--which ultimately builds Harry's story. Without Voldemort, we wouldn't care about Harry Potter. Thus, he's offering support for the protagonist.
  • Have complexity
    • Can you always predict/understand what a secondary character is going to do? Like...take Finnick or Mickey Smith. Can anyone say they new (insert Finnick spoiler here) when he did it in Catching Fire? Or can anyone say they new Mickey was going to show up when he does and do what he does/how he does it? I don't think so. I think our characters should be complex enough to surprise us.
  • Have motivation beyond the main character's goals
    • Again, this ties into above where he/she is her own person. This can add to the subplots and conflict and push the story in new directions, but I think it all needs to be very clear.
  • Have their own story arc
    •  This is the most important piece of all this. Every character must have a story arc. If all the things before this point are reached, then the arc builds itself. But if there is no arc for a character, then why does the character exist? What's the purpose? Does he/she need to be in your story? Because if they're not adding anything to move the story along (which is what arc does) then why are they there?
One of penultimate examples in TV. Each one: story arc.
This is not, in any way, all encompassing. And honestly, I know I'm not the only person who talks about this. In fact, check out these three posts about secondary characters: 1) how they add depth to protagonist 2) how they add to a story and 3) 3 questions to ask a secondary character. Characters are something I'm learning more about while I'm watching all the TV and revising a novel.

Characters matter. Everyone from Harry Potter to Voldemort to Bellatrix to Mrs. Norris (the cat). Make sure you're using them effectively.

Did you make a list? Who are some other secondary characters you've come up with? Do they (or the ones that you're writing) follow these "guidelines"? What are some other things that make great secondary characters?

Monday, February 13, 2012

How To Save a WIP and Check In

Hello again! *waves* It's Monday! Here's what we were up to last week and what we want to do this week.
Danielle: Cindy and I were on a writing retreat with some of our other friends. It was awesome and very productive. I kept working on my new WIP and wrote 10k over the weekend. Now, I'll spend the week polishing that some that and working on crits for friends--as well as sleeping. I'm really excited about the work I did and where the story is going!
Cindy: Had the most amazing time at the writing retreat Danielle just mentioned. My goal was to write 6K over the course of the weekend and somehow, miraculously, I was able to actually accomplish that goal. I'm so very excited about this new WIP and after such a great weekend, I'm ready to keep writing.

Christina: So last week I said I wanted to get between 4-8k done and, yeah, I didn't get that much written. I wrote about 3k though. I didn't have the weekend to write because I was so busy, so that's part of why I didn't get as much done. This week, I am gonna try to actually get 4-8k written! (hopefully closer to 8k)

Patricia: This week was a tough one for me, a variety of things kept me from writing (some tangible, some in my head). I did get my outline finished, so not a total loss. Here's hoping that next week is better for my book. :)

This week starts a new segment--6 Ways to Save a WIP. Over the last two weeks, we each shared a struggle, and now we're going to talk about fixing those issues. Check out the issues we'll be addressing.

What are you doing this week?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Confidence: The Ultimate WIP Killer

You may not agree, but for me, the ultimate killer of a WIP is confidence. Lacking confidence can destroy a manuscript before it even gets written. Before I began writing my first official WIP, I had plenty of ideas, but lacked the confidence to write them.

Sure, I masked the lack of confidence with other excuses like, "I don't have enough time to write" and "I don't really want to be an author", but in the end it all comes back to confidence. I didn't have any. I didn't believe in myself or my ability to tell a story. I made up reasons for why I could never be a writer and almost believed it. It wasn't until my husband gave me a little nudge that I finally realized that I'd never know unless I tried.

Turns out I just needed confidence. Huh. Who knew?

So when you are writing and hit that brick wall and step away from your WIP for a day or two or even a month, don't let yourself believe the inner doubt. You can do it. It's not easy, but it'll be worth it.

And you know what they say, right? Fake it until you make it.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Problem with Pacing

So I have this problem with pacing. When I start a WiP I usually have at least some of it plotted out (like the beginning). And I'll write out the chapters that have been plotted all happily and feeling like I'm doing great. Then when I get to the end of those chapters, I get a little stuck.

I end up just writing, free flowing with whatever comes out, which isn't a bad thing really. Words are getting done and all that. The problem comes when I'm just adding scenes in that aren't really moving the plot forward or helping develop my characters, scenes that slow my pacing down. They're just there. Still not too bad a thing in a draft. Stuff like that can still help you flesh out and learn more about your story and characters.

The real problem with me and pacing comes in during revisions. Because those scenes I wrote (those ones that don't help my pacing, that don't really add to the story) become very dear to me. I pour my time and effort into them and love them.
I love them so much that I don't want to get rid them. I never want to let them go.

So I hold onto them simply because I like them. I don't see how they slow down my pacing, how they halt the action, how they ruin the sequence of events that need to happen.

I only see how they make me smile or tear up and the time and effort that it took me to write them. And I don't want to see that--them--just disappear.

I did this with my last MS. I knew there were scenes that I had to take out. But I didn't. I kept them through various rounds of revisions. Eventually though, I realized they weren't helping my story. That I was cheating my writing and my readers by keeping scenes that only bogged down the pacing. They didn't help.

It's still something I have to work on even though I know about it. One of my CP's told me about a technique to help maintain good pacing. It's a scene/sequel method and it's been so helpful. I'm so glad she told me about it. It's a template for chapters, using an alternating patter for 'scene chapters' then 'sequel chapters.' In short, scenes have a goal, conflict, then disaster.
Sequels show the reaction, dilemma, then resulting decision.

I'm also working on my plotting too--on taking the time to actually flesh out a plot. It's hard because I'm more of a panster, but I think I'm slowly getting better at it. My goal for my next story is to have a full plot planned out before I start writing.

So what about you guys? Any of you have difficulty with pacing like me? Check back next week when we share ways in which we fight these problems and save our stories!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beware: Corners Can Kill by Kristi Cook

Beware: I’m a dangerous sort of writer—you know, the kind who dives headfirst into a new WIP without really stopping to plot it out ahead of time. I’m usually way too excited about the shiny new idea and the characters I’ve created to figure everything out in advance. Instead, I plunder on, curious to see where the story takes me.

Don’t get me wrong, I usually have the basics figured out—who my characters are, what they want, what’s keeping them from getting it. But the specifics? They’re still off in the ether, waiting for me to pluck them out.

This wasn’t the worst problem back when I was writing stand-alone or loosely related historical romances. Mostly, it meant that my synopses very rarely matched my finished books. If I wrote myself into a corner, plot-wise, it was generally pretty easy to get myself out of it over the course of a single book, especially when the ultimate resolution was always a happily-ever-after.

But now that I’m writing a YA series? Yeah, now it’s a problem. Instead of a single book’s plot to work with, I’ve got to juggle multiple plotlines, as well as an over-arching, series-long conflict and resolution. And here’s the thing—if I over plan where I’m going with the multi-book story arc, I get bored. But if I under plan, I risk writing myself into some deep, dark corner that I won’t know how to get myself—and my plot—out of.

I’ll admit it: I’m reckless. I toss stuff out there, hoping that I’ll eventually figure it out. When one of my critique partners—one who is a very careful plotter—read my first draft of MIRAGE, she said, “I loved plot point Z! I can’t wait to see where you’re going with that!” Problem is, I have no idea where I’m going with it. How scary is that? When I confessed this to her, she declared it “gutsy.” Gutsy? Or stupid? I’m still not sure.

This is a serious problem for me as a writer. It’s risky. I introduce characters before I’m one-hundred-percent sure of their purpose. I add in subplots with just a vague idea of where they fit into the overall picture. I send action off in one direction without really knowing how I’m going to pull it back in.

Yeah, it’s scary. It’s intimidating. On the one hand, I think the mysteries in my books are generally more organic to the story, rather than overly manipulated and contrived. I think it keeps readers guessing. For example, “Is this character ultimately good, or bad?” As a reader, it’s hard to figure it out, if the author herself doesn’t quite know yet. And I like to think that, somewhere in the back of my mind, I do know all the answers, even if I’m not aware of them at any given time.

But on the other hand, I know that every single time I go into a book unprepared, I risk finding myself boxed into a little plot corner with no way out. And isn’t that an awful way to kill a WIP?

Kristi Cook is the author of Haven and it's forthcoming sequel, Mirage. A transplanted southern gal, Kristi lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.

You can follow her on twitter @KristiCook and her books are available to order here and pre-order here.

She also stopped by for an interview once, which you can read here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Check-in

It's Monday again, and a bit of sad one here in Boston since the Patriots are not the victors. (Also, kinda funny on my end to see grown men that upset about it.) This week we'll be continuing our "Six Ways to Kill a WIP" segment, and we hope you join our discussion. 

Since it is Monday, it's time for a check-in where we share what we accomplished last week, what we want to do this week and all the things standing in the way.

Christina:  I got quite a bit done this week. About a total of 5k words which is about 2 and a half chapters for this story. It really doesn't feel like I did that much. I'm a bit shocked actually. I kinda felt like I was distracted by all the shiny things (*cough*pinterest*cough*) on the internet. But that means I met my goal and some for last week! Yay! I also finished plotting out the last 10 chapters completely too. So my goal for this week (and until I finish this WiP) is at least 2-3 chapters a week. Which would probably be between 4-8k words. I'm really hoping to finish this draft in March!

Cindy: Pretty much the same as last week....Revising.

Danielle: It's so funny because for weeks I have been stuck between this chapter I wrote and where I thought the story needed to go. I had no idea why I couldn't progress, and even debated whether or not I should tell this story. But then, something happened at work on Friday. I can't even tell you what it was. But I knew the story. I spend the weekend plotting it out (all twenty-four chapters!) and wrote two chapters. I now have 9K done in the first four chapters and I can't wait to keep working on this story!

Patricia: This week brought heartache when I realized I was stuck in writing, had a headache where I couldn't move, and then a miraculous cure for both when I figured out the plot of my book! I spent a good chunk of the weekend (though not as much as I would have liked... grumble boring super bowl grumble) fleshing out the plot scene by scene. It still needs a little work, but by the end of this week I aim to be writing and knocking out this first draft!

What are you working on this week??

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sample Crit

Today we have our first same crit to go over! Yay! Remember, this is just one opinion and is meant in the most helpful, constructive way. The intentions of these posts are to help writers!


The original sample text

Davi had heard the whispers of the kingdom.  He had felt it, too—a stirring in the air, telling of the return of legends long feared.  It all came down to the sightings: a glimpse of a wing here, a dark shape darting across the sky there. 
In this, Davi was one step ahead of everyone else.  He knew what they didn’t.  He dared to speak the word they were afraid to even think.
He hid in the shadows of a small house, crouching precariously on a barrel by the window.  The window was open just a crack, but it was enough to let the voices of the two  men inside drift through. 
“It’s true, isn’t it,” the first man said, his voice familiar to Davi. 
“Is what true?”  The shorter man kept shifting his hands uncomfortably, nervous.
“The rumors.  About the—”  The taller man leaned closer to his companion.  “—the dragon.”
Davi froze.  That voice.  Gold Flames, he’d hoped he would never have to hear it again. 
“Oh, those?  Yes, they’re true.  I saw it myself.”  They spoke of the dragon as if simply mentioning it would summon it there, fire and all.
The first man turned his head slightly, allowing Davi to see his features.  He was older—mid-fifties, maybe—and had dark brown hair that was turning gray to match his cloak.  That confirmed it: Lord Avion, a man Davi knew all too well, was up to something.  “What direction did it fly?” he asked.
 “North.  It was a shimmery blue, with eyes like great sapphires.”
Davi ran through his mental list, counting on his fingers.  It had to be Pyrina, he decided.  She preferred the towering mountains and snow of the northern regions, from which she got her name.  What was she doing here?
“North,” Avion repeated.  He leaned back into his chair, deep in thought.
There was a long pause.  The shorter man continued to fidget restlessly.
Davi, too, was beginning to grow impatient.  He didn’t have all night.
Finally, Avion spoke.  “You must follow it, then.”
Follow her, Davi corrected silently.  Follow her.
“I want some information,” he continued.  “Where did it come from?  Is it safe?  Are there any more?”
Davi nearly laughed aloud.  Were there any more?  That was the whole point, to collect eggs and keep them safe.  The goal was to keep dragons from going extinct.  The man had no idea…
The shorter man sat up straighter.  “Yes, sir.  I can do that for you.”
“Good.”  The two men stood.  The shorter man moved toward the door.
“I’ll take the North exit, then.”
Avion nodded, but lingered inside.  After his companion was safely outside, he reached reverently for a red velvet bag on the shelf.  Gently, he pulled out a stunning stone, a dark, sparkling emerald green.
Both Davi and Avion caught their breath.  It was, in a mysterious, even dangerous sort of way, beautiful.  It glowed softly, lighting up the dark room.  The light seemed to shift, as if something was living inside, although when Davi focused on it, it appeared still.
From the second he saw it, Davi knew exactly what it was.  

My commented version and notes
Davi had heard the whispers of the kingdom.  He had felt it, too—a stirring in the air, telling of the return of legends long feared.  It all came down to the sightings: a glimpse of a wing here, a dark shape darting across the sky there.  (This is all very mysterious and it sets the mood very well, but… yes, there is always a ‘but’, it tells the reader/agent/editor nothing and it’s a tad bit passive.
Side note: Here’s a harsh fact about sample pages: the judgment of your novel is based on your sample pages alone and the first word, first sentence, first paragraph has to the grab the reader. While this does that in the mood sense, it’s passive.
In this, Davi was one step ahead of everyone else.  He knew what they didn’t.  He dared to speak the word they were afraid to even think.
Dragons. This is good. Got right to the point. Dragons!
He hid in the shadows of a small house, crouching precariously on a barrel by the window.  The window was open just a crack, but it was enough to let the voices of the two men inside drift through. 
“It’s true, isn’t it,” the first man said, his voice familiar to Davi. 
“Is what true?”  The shorter man kept shifting his hands uncomfortably, nervous. Here, you don’t need uncomfortably (watch the adverbs) and nervous. They are the same. Pick one.
“The rumors.  About the—” The taller man leaned closer to his companion.  “—the dragon.”
Davi froze.  That voice.  Gold Flames, he’d hoped he would never have to hear it again.  Why? Needs more here. Not the whole story, because I’m sure it plays into the plot/suspense or you would’ve explained it, but it needs a bit more to get me wondering why and you want the reader wondering because they will continue to read.
“Oh, those?  Yes, they’re true.  I saw it myself.”  They spoke of the dragon as if simply mentioning it would summon it there, fire and all.
The first man turned his head slightly, allowing Davi to see his features.  He was older—mid-fifties, maybe—and had dark brown hair that was turning gray to match his cloak.  That confirmed it: Lord Avion, a man Davi knew all too well, was up to something.  “What direction did it fly?” he asked.
 “North.  It was a shimmery blue, with eyes like great sapphires.”
Davi ran through his mental list, counting on his fingers.  It had to be Pyrina, he decided.  She preferred the towering mountains and snow of the northern regions, from which she got her name.  What was she doing here? So apparently he’s not afraid of drags? Which doesn’t match the ominous tone of the first paragraph. Good introduction of Pyrina though.
“North,” Avion repeated.  He leaned back into his chair, deep in thought.
There was a long pause.  The shorter man continued to fidget restlessly.
Davi, too, was beginning to grow impatient.  He didn’t have all night.
Finally, Avion spoke.  “You must follow it, then.”
Follow her, Davi corrected silently.  Follow her.
“I want some information,” he continued.  “Where did it come from?  Is it safe?  Are there any more?”
Davi nearly laughed aloud.  Were there anymore?  That was the whole point, to collect eggs and keep them safe.  The goal was to keep dragons from going extinct.  The man had no idea… Who’s goal? Davi’s? The man? Frosty the snowman? Clarification needed here.
The shorter man sat up straighter.  “Yes, sir.  I can do that for you.”
“Good.”  The two men stood.  The shorter man moved toward the door.
“I’ll take the North exit, then.”
Avion nodded, but lingered inside.  After his companion was safely outside, he reached reverently for a red velvet bag on the shelf.  Gently, he pulled out a stunning stone, a dark, sparkling emerald green.
Both Davi and Avion caught their breath.  It was, in a mysterious, even dangerous sort of way, beautiful.  It glowed softly, lighting up the dark room.  The light seemed to shift, as if something was living inside, although when Davi focused on it, it appeared still.
From the second he saw it, Davi knew exactly what it was.  (Well, hell’s bells, I want to know what it is. So a great ending right there.)
Okay, I’m going to break this done into the: good and the not so good.
  • The good
You obviously know how to write. You have a good handle on grammar, which is really, really good. I You also know how to set up a mysterious air to the writing and that makes a reader want to know more. And that is awesome. So you are off to a wonderful start.
  • The not so good
Not enough is given in some areas as noted above. You need to know when to tell more to hook the reader and when to leave them waiting. The whole saving eggs needs to be clarified. Also, I have no idea if I’m reading a YA or Adult novel. The voice doesn’t go either way, so you may want to work on voice so that I can read the first couple of paragraphs and know what I’m reading.  My only other concern is the adverb use. I’ve went back and highlighted the adverbs just so you can see how many ‘ly’ we have.

All and all, this is a good sample that needs little work. Hope this helps!