Monday, January 25, 2010

How'd You Think of That?

I've got a huge treat for you today! Angie Fox is here. You probably remember her debut novel, THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER, which hit the NYTimes list. I've talked her into sharing a few of her tricks of the trade with us. Trust me, if you're a writer you want to know what this smart, talented woman knows.

My blog is yours, Angie!


We all want to make our books as unique as possible. It’s about grabbing the attention of that busy agent or harried editor, making it so they absolutely must stop what they’re doing and sit right down with your submission and – of course – ask for more. Through three unsold manuscripts and (yay!) the sale of my series to Dorchester, I’ve developed a few techniques that help me keep my quirky paranormals fresh. Hopefully, they’ll work for you too.

The character push

In the beginning of my series, the heroine’s long-lost grandmother shows up and – whoops – locks the heroine in her bathroom with an ancient demon. I’d pushed the situation, but the grandmother was too nice. My critique partner called me on it and, blast her, she was right. I sat down and brainstormed a few pages of alternate “grandmas” before I hit on an idea I loved – a Harley biker witch grandma who hurls recycled Smuckers jars full of home brewed magic. One character change and the book became a lot more fun to write.

The unexpected additions

It’s also important to be open to unexpected characters. When I sat down to write my series, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But when Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer and there are some very scary, very angry creatures on her tail, she takes comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’

I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where Lizzie can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard). It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, Lizzie can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier. I ended up having a ball with it. And as an added bonus, Pirate can say and do things that my heroine can’t.

The mini-brainstorm

Sometimes, the first idea isn’t the best idea. Mini-brainstorms during the writing of a chapter always help me see if where I’m going is where I want to be. Sometimes, I go back to my first idea. Other times, after I’ve forced myself to come up with a page full of alternatives, I find I like a new idea better.

It works on big plot points, but just as well on little details. For example, in A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, Lizzie finds a mysterious egg-shaped stone. I had no idea what it was, but decided to play with it. Turns out, it was a dragon egg. The egg hatches and Lizzie’s dog, Pirate, decides he has a pet. It made me smile to think of a pet owning a pet. Lizzie is not happy about that. She has enough going on and doesn’t think her dog needs to own a pet.

So she tells Pirate to find a new home for Flappy the dragon (Pirate named him, not Lizzie). So Lizzie is battling evil people and losing track of what Pirate is doing. He keeps promising to find a new home for the dragon, but instead Pirate is hiding the dragon, and loving the dragon and teaching him tricks. Every time Lizzie realizes the dragon is still there, it’s gotten bigger and bigger and, well, it’s just one more thing she can’t quite control.

The “chill out – this doesn’t have to count” brainstorm

Sometimes, when a chapter just isn’t working, I have a hard time making the (often necessary) massive changes, because I don’t know if I’m going to make things better or (gulp) worse. But one day, I borrowed a technique from my days as an advertising writer and lo and behold, it works on fiction too.

I made a duplicate copy of the impossible chapter, and then went to town on changes. By letting my brain loose on a “throw away” chapter, I freed it up to stop thinking about “How am I going to get my heroine out of the love scene and ramped up for hell?,” to “Hmm…pillow talk. This is a good time for the hero to admit he wasn’t one hundred percent honest with the heroine at the start of the book. Now the heroine can get so mad that she dumps his boxers in the ice bucket, throws his pants off the balcony and almost goes to hell without him.”

Brainstorming is all about freeing up your mind and your creative energy. You get to surprise yourself, and feel the rush of excitement as you hit upon new ideas and new places to take your story. Because when you’re fully engaged in the story, pushing your characters harder, waiting to see what’s around the next bend – chances are, you’re audience will feel the same way.

(Emily popping in here!) Angie Fox is the author of A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, a new release from Dorchester. (Don't you just love her covers?) And she’s giving away a copy right here. Just take the quiz, inspired by Pirate and his pet dragon. What Supernatural Pet is Right for You? Post your answer below and you’re entered to win!

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Angie! I'm off to take your quiz! (And if you're in a quiz taking mood, why not pop over and take my STROKE OF GENIUS quiz! What kind of Genius are YOU?)


Carol L. said...

Looks like I'm the first Angie and Emily. My supernatural pet is Frodo the talking dog who has the most adorable little face.
Your books are on my TRL Angie.Thank you ladies. :)
Carol L.

Carol L. said...

Emily I took the Stroke of Genius quiz and it turns out that I am a Social Genius. Pretty accurate :)
Carol L.

EmilyBryan said...

Looks like I need a talking dog too. Instead of a whining terrier who can spell. No joke! Mack the Wonder Dog knows 0-U-T, P=L=A=Y and if you want to see him cringe under the bed, just say, "b-a-t-h!"

EmilyBryan said...

Yay for being a Social Genius, Carol!

J said...

My ideal pet is Nostra, the psychic cat.

EmilyBryan said...

Hmmm. Are you a cat person, J? I'm a dog lover and Angie's quiz picked up on that.

J said...

I am more of a cat person, so it worked for me too. The series looks like great fun. :)

Angie Fox said...

Thanks for having me this morning and I love your quiz! Don't know why, but I'm such a sucker when it comes to quizzes.

Angie Fox said...

I've adopted Frodo the talking dog and am also an artistic genius. Who knew?

Janet Kay Gallagher said...

Hi Angie and Emily
Angie-Enjoyed meeting you at the book signing at Borders in Springfield last year. Loved your line-"Geriatric Biker Witch Grandma!" Bought both books and loved them. Who knew such a serious subject could be so funny. Laughed my way through both.
Would love to win the new book. Is it her sister? As the second DS?
Emily- have my SOCIAL GENIUS link on Facebook,thanks.
My TALKING DOG(Loved this idea) is a small,Keairn Terrier(Cute Ears)Golden Brown named Kung-Foo, called K-Foo
it has special powers,can jump straight up at least five feet high,and bite enemy in the face or closest exposed area. Running jump is higher. Also can turn invisable on my command, or as needed. Other talents to be discovered as we move along.
Have a great day.

Donna Marie Rogers said...

Hi Angie! Thanks for a such a incredibly helpful post. :-) I remember a few years ago you finaled in the Fab Five (I was the WisRWA conference chair at the time), and took 1st place. Now you're a NY Times bestselling author! That's amazing!

I'm a day late, but I would love to win a copy of your book, so I figured I'd give it a try. *grin*

My ideal pet is Nostra, the psychic cat. LOL I hope Nostra gets along with my 'psycho' cat, Sunshine (who should've been named Cloudy Day...LOL).

Angie Fox said...

Hi Janet! It was great to meet you. I remember your reaction when I explained about geriatric biker witches. Glad to hear you enjoyed the books!

A Tale of Two Demon Slayers is about what happens when a piece of Lizzie's magic is stolen and used to create an evil version of her. Her double has all of her powers, and none of her hang-ups or confidence issues. It was a fun book to write.

And I like the idea of an invisible dog! Well, until he starts getting into trouble and you can't find him. ;)

Angie Fox said...

Hi Donna, The Fab Five Contest was a true gift. In fact, I recommend it to everyone I know because the comments from your contest helped me polish up the first chapter of The Accidental Demon Slayer so that it was ready when an editor read it. Thank you!!!

And glad you're ready to add a psychic cat to your family. I'm sure Sunshine will approve once she realizes all the things she can get away with once she knows the future.

Hot Ash Romance Novels said...

Oh. my. God.

I read this at the exact right moment! Angie, I read your first Demon Slayer book (An Accidental Demon Slayer) and loved it. Your imagination is wild and terrific!
The way mine used to be.

Emily's my critique partner and she knows how I've been struggling with my current WIP. It's nearly finished, and for some darn reason, Thalia-the muse of comedy-just deserted me! (Wait til I get my hands on her! Grrr.)

Everything you said struck a chord with me. I can't wait to employ your method for impossible chapters. (Can they ALL be impossible?)

Anyway, Thank you! A million times, thank you. Now I have to go fix everything before deadline 2/15! Emily, help!


Hot Ash Romance Novels said...

Oh! And my supernatural pet is Nostra, the Psychic cat. I think mine will be a male since he'll be living with the witch who likes to walk around naked.

I have my own male cat, (who insists on watching me shower) I have instant inspiration!


Your ideal pet is Nostra, the psychic cat!

Sure, cats are smart, but yours can see the future. Literally. Treat her to some cat nip, or perhaps a nice scratch behind the ears...and maybe she'll let you know what else is in store.

Unknown said...

My pet would be Smoky, the phoenix! This would be a great pet I am sure! I love your books Angie and thanks for sharing them with us today!

Angela said...

Squeee! I got Nostro the Psycic cat. I just hope my familiar, Spirit, doesn't get too bent out of shape and understands it's possible for them to work together. I don't see that happening, though. Spirit is so spoiled.

Great to see you again, Angie. Now where did I put that book last June? Hmm Maybe Nostro can find it.

Angie Fox said...

That's great, Ashlyn. Glad to help you pin down that muse. It can be tough, can't it? Especially with those pesky deadlines looming.

Angie Fox said...

Thanks Virginia and Angela - glad to hear you're enjoying the series. :)

Janet Kay Gallagher said...

Hi Angie
Got the Adopt a Talking Dog on my Blog. I thought it would link to your site, it did not. Did I do it wrong?

Linda Henderson said...

My supernatural pet is Nostra the psychic cat. What's funny is he looks just like a cat I used to have. And he was a very special cat. So if I were allowed pets, Nostra could come and live with me. I haven't read any of your books yet, but they sound wonderful. I will be on the lookout for them.

seriousreader at live dot com

librarypat said...

Have read a couple fo excerpts from your books and they tickle me. The sceen in the airports is great. Nothing like having to throw up your hands with the adults in the group and giving up.
I look forward to reading your books.
librarypat AY comcast DOT net.

EmilyBryan said...

Good Tuesday morning all! I was--gulp!--without internet access from about 9:30 AM till my DH got home from his class last night. Comcast is being phooey, at least in our unit. So I'm sorry I wasn't able to respond to all the comments. (Though even with internet, I have no idea how to repond to that last one! Any idea what language it is in?)

Janet--Thanks for posting my quiz widget!

Ashlyn--You know you're a fabulous writer! It's gonna be fine. Talk to you later today.