Week 1 Pop Quiz!

badge final 4x4-brighter heartNow that Week 1 is over, it is time to review what you learned and take a Pop Quiz. We know you’re all going to make scores that will make your teachers proud! So go ahead, take this quiz to see if you learned the basics during the first week of Kidlit Summer School! 

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  1. In Monday’s post, Julie Falatko  advises:

a) Trust your gut. If your story feels flat, even just a little, do what you can to make it more exciting.

b) Smash disparate elements together to make your story stand out.

c) Sometimes the best way to add humor is with an exploding sandwich of surprising and unexpected story elements.

d) All of the above

 

  1. In Tuesday’s post, Kami Kinard, suggests you:

a) Use the Rule of Three to set up your humor

b) Add a twist on the third beat

c) Try re-writing Goldilocks and the Three Bears

d) All of the above

 

  1. On Wednesday, Tom Angleberger explains that:

a) We should start with a funny idea and keep piling it on.

b)Writing funny books takes a lot of writing, drawing, revising, editing.

c) You have to be willing to let some ideas sail off into the sunset.

d) All of the above

 

  1. In her post on Thursday, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen suggested:

a) Be unexpected, logical, and reserved, and focus on the things that make you smile.

b) Laughter makes everything better.

c) Emotion can stand on its own, and it’s much better by itself than propped up by a faulty foundation. Be real.

d) All of the above

 

  1. On Friday, Megan Shepherd shared that: 

a) Readers may initially be drawn to a book because of the premise, but it’s relatable characters that will ultimately capture their hearts

b) There are several strategies for crafting characters that readers instantly care about, such as putting them in danger, making them likeable, or giving them a special talent.

c) While character building worksheets that list a character’s physical, social, and family traits can be helpful, they should be supplemented by putting characters in situations that can demonstrate these traits

d) All of the above

 

So how’d you do? 100% right? If you’re unsure, go back and check out the posts from Week One! This is an open blog test! (And you don’t even have to turn it in. Grade yourself and then pat yourself on the back!)

Now that you’ve completed your test, you can kick back and enjoy your weekend… or use the time to catch up on the KLSS posts! One of the suggestions we’ve had in the past is that folks have a hard time keeping up, so we’re trying to keep Saturday’s virtually free for you all to take a breather and do just that!

Tomorrow is the last day to register for Kidlit Summer School 2016! Click HERE to register.

1-2-3…Hehehe: Using the Rule of Three by @kamikinard plus a #Giveaway!

Humor sells. We’ve all heard that before. But how do we write something funny? As authors, making people laugh can be challenging. We can’t use physical humor and pratfall our way into chuckles like Chevy Chase. Neither can we rely on Amy Poehler-like wacky facial expressions to get the giggles. And, unfortunately, we can’t use inflections in our voices to hammer humor home the way Chris Rock does.

The only tools we have in our comic tool chests are words.  And that’s where the Rule of Three comes in.

Rule of three

The Rule of Three is a tool anyone – picture book authors and novelists alike – can use to

WISH_boyproject_comp (1)

Yes, the Rule of Three is used in this book!

evoke humor! There are multiple reasons to use this technique, and volumes written about why to use it. I’m going to focus on just one of them: using the rule of three to set up your funny moments. One of the most common mistakes I see when critiquing manuscripts is a tendency for writers to rush through the funny parts. They create funny moments, but don’t spend enough time preparing the reader for them. So the moment is gone in a blink, which doesn’t allow the humor to reach its full potential. The rule of three offers one way to fix that problem.

Employing the Rule of Three is like putting a pedestal under your trophy, a frame around your picture, or showing off your summer legs by accidentally tucking your skirt in your underwear.

Did you see what I just did there? That’s the Rule of Three in action. The concept is very simple, and it works. You are laying out a sequence of events so that when the big moment comes – that laugh-worthy moment — your reader is ready to fully appreciate it. This does not mean that they should be able to anticipate that moment!

The trick is to establish a pattern, and two beats are usually enough to do that, so that when you add your third beat – your twist – you break the pattern by offering something unexpected. Then you’ll be rewarded with a laugh, chuckle, or smile.

 

beats2

So how do you use the Rule of Three?

There are so many ways! Let’s look at a tale you’re all familiar with. An age-proven fairy tale that has been re-told as a picture book many times: Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This story uses the Rule of Three perfectly, and is therefore the perfect vehicle for humor. Don’t believe me? Ask Mo Willems, who won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award for his retelling of this classic a few years ago with Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.

In the fairy tale version, Goldilocks gets to experience three bowls of porridge, three chairs, and three beds, and each of these actions provides three beats, so there is opportunity for humor on the third beat. Then the bears come home from their walk and we see the Rule of Three used in dialogue. Papa bear speaks, then mama bear speaks, then baby bear delivers the unexpected punchline!

The original author made sure we were prepared to enjoy Goldilocks’ actions and Baby Bear’s punchlines by offering us enough beats to pull us in before the twists are delivered. So the story has been enjoyed for hundreds of years!

Try giving this classic tale a rewrite. Use its perfect Rule of Three structure to get used to delivering humor in three beats!

Now… how do I use the Rule of Three to create humor? the boy problem

When I want to employ this technique, I usually start by thinking of the funny moment – the punchline – first. Then I think backward to set it up.

Sometimes this is done by placing all three beats close together in a single sentence, like I did earlier. Sometimes I drop them in further apart like I did in this scene from my book, The Boy Problem, where  Tabbi is invited to the skate park by her crush and her best friend Kara is advising her to stay off of skateboards. (If you click on the image it should enlarge enough for you to read it.)

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You can even have your beats span several pages. I illustrate this in today’s exercise.

Whether you’re writing a funny story or a more serious one that includes a comical scene, humor is going to offer your reader something everyone loves: a feel good moment. So set that moment up, put a frame around it, then serve up the unexpected with the Rule of Three.

Head Shots from Carpe Diem 015Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Problem  and The Boy Project, which is being newly released in paperback July 2016 as part of Scholastic’s WISH series. Her poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in numerous periodicals for children and adults. In addition to her professional critiquing services, she is a SCBWI mentor, and often leads writing workshops at conferences and in schools. She is a co-founder of Kidlit Summer school. You can find out more about her by visiting her visiting her website  www.kamikinard.com, liking her Facebook Page, and following @kamikinard on Twitter.

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Kami’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

If you haven’t registered for #KidlitSummerSchool yet click HERE.

GIVEAWAY! Kami is giving away a TWENTY PAGE manuscript critique with a follow-up phone call or Skype session. If you are a registered Summer School student and would like a chance to win this prize, please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing. Good luck!

BONUS GIVEAWAY: To promote the paperback release of The Boy Project, Kami is offering another giveaway on her website. Click HERE for details. 

Don’t miss your chance to get perfect attendance! Leave a comment on this post within the first 24 hours. Moderators have to approve first-time commenters, so your comment may not show up immediately.

Week 1 Pop Quiz

KLSS 2015 BadgeNow that Week 1 is over, it is time to review what you learned and take a Pop Quiz. We know you’re all going to make scores that will make your teachers proud! So go ahead, take this quiz to see if you learned the basics during the first week of Kidlit Summer School! 

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  1. In Monday’s post, Janice Hardy reminded us that every scene needs:

a) Conflict

b) Goals

c) Stakes

d) All of the above

  1. In Tuesday’s post, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen gave us a recipe for Chicken Plot Pie. Her directions include:

a) Use the six main ingredients

b) Find balance

c) Turn up the heat

d) All of the above

  1. On Wednesday, Jen Malone gave us three ideas to help us start at the end. Those are…

a) Brainstorm words

b) Write a one sentence pitch

c) Expand to a writing a full query

d) All of the bove

  1. In her post on Thursday, Kami Kinard shared tips for using calendars as plotting tools. These include

a) Using post-it notes on desk calendars

b) Using colored markers to help visualize plot threads

c) Using symbols or initials to show secondary characters

d) All of the above

  1. On Friday, Tammi Sauer encouraged writers to 

a) Push yourself to try something new.

b) Ask yourself the big two-word question: “What If…?”

c) When you find yourself at a dead end, give yourself a detour.

d) All of the above

  1. On Saturday, Amy Fellner Dominy reminded us that

a) Plot comes from the character.

b) How we act/react creates story.

c) To put our characters in predicaments

d) All of the above

So how’d you do? 100% right? If you’re unsure, go back and check out the posts from Week One! This is an open blog test! (And you don’t even have to turn it in. Grade yourself and then pat yourself on the back!)

Kami Kinard: Plotting Daze: Planning Your Plots with Calendars and GIVEAWAY

We’ve received a ton of good advice so far about how to make things happen in your manuscripts! By now, you must be thinking about your character’s motivations and what they have at stake.

So today I want to concentrate on the WHEN of plotting — the passage of time.

If things happen out of order in a plot – at the wrong time – the plot won’t work.  The hero can’t vanquish the villain on the first page, we all know that. But it’s important that other events happen in the right order too.

You’re probably all familiar with this very basic plot chart. The one where the plot is like a mountain your character has to struggle to climb (only to topple from the pinnacle later).

Rising Action 1 - typed

You’ll notice the main character’s climb – the rising action – takes up the most space on the chart. This will happen in your book too. And it’s often where plots start to unravel. So let’s talk about rising action.

Rising action in a novel is like rising dough in bread baking. It takes time. If you don’t allow enough time for your dough to rise, it will fall flat. The same is true of your plot.

I had this issue with my current work in progress (WIP). For this book, I wanted the action to occur within thirty days. I wrote it that way, revised it, and sent it out to my critique partners. I was thrilled to find they really liked it!

But then they suggested we have a Skype conversation to talk about some “plotting issues.”  Whaaaaaaat?

Some of the action was happening too fast. The plot also had a few holes. Hmmmm. It seems I’d let a major character AND a major event fall through the cracks. In other words, I had been so excited about helping my character climb the plot mountain, that I hadn’t given my rising action enough time to rise. At that point the plot chart for my WIP was looking something like this:

Rising Action 2

boy projectI immediately knew which plotting tool I’d use to fix the problem: a blank calendar. I used blank calendars to help plot both The Boy Problem and The Boy Project. It was extremely helpful to be able to see at a glance how my main characters, Tabbi and Kara, were moving through those novels. Using calendars made it easy to ensure that weekend events, due dates for science projects, and interactions with other characters happened in the right order and at the right times.

I had also used this tool to plot my WIP to begin with, the one I was having trouble with now. But at first I’d started with a thirty day calendar. After the critique process, it was clear that I needed to stretch out the rising action. I needed to add more time to my plot.

For a project like this, a large desk calendar is indispensable. The larger sized squares make them a perfect canvas for post-it notes. When I was re-ordering pieces of my plot, I could easily mix around the sequence of events with post-it notes. Some events had to take place on certain days. These couldn’t be moved. I had more flexibility with others.  So I moved the conclusion further down the calendar, then stretched out the existing events, while adding a few more in order to fill in those holes my critique group pointed out. Below you can see the before and after calendars used for this project. I don’t know how I could have written, or revised, the manuscript without them!

Calendar - reduced, not readableWhen we start writing our books, we usually have a good idea of how to begin. And not long after that, we are able to see how our stories might end. But the rising action…. that’s the tough part. It’s hard to make our characters take all of the time they need when they could be reveling in the glories of our fantastic conclusions! Still, it’s important to give them time. Using a calendar as a plotting device is one one way to make sure you do that.

the boy problemTips:

  • You can employ this technique whether your story spans a year, a month, a week, or just a few hours. Using the table making function in Microsoft Word, create a calendar-scaled table, or a chart to accommodate any other unit of time.
  • Use different colored markers to indicate subplots so that you can see at a glance. This will make it easy to realize when you drop a thread.
  • Mark your calendar with symbols or initials to represent secondary characters. This way, you can keep track of  how often your main character interacts with them.

Head Shots from Carpe Diem 015Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Problem (Scholastic, 2014) and The Boy Project (Scholastic, 2012). Her poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in numerous periodicals for children and adults. A former public educator, Kami remains dedicated to teaching and often leads writing workshops at conferences and in schools. You can visit her at  www.kamikinard.com or atwww.NerdyChicksRule.com where she blogs with Sudipta.

Kami is giving away a TWENTY PAGE manuscript critique with a follow-up phone call or Skype session. If you are a registered Summer School student and would like a chance to win this prize, please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing. Good luck!

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Kami’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

If you haven’t registered for #KidlitSummerSchool yet click HERE.

Plotter vs. Pantser: Confessions of Two Novelists

Probably all writers have heard the terms plotter and pantser. But who are these people, really? 😉 And what is the real difference between them? You’ll find out as Rebecca Petruck and Kami Kinard explain their writing styles!

The Plotter: Rebecca Petruck

STNDespite the title, Steering Toward Normal was written with no direction. It started with two boys, sprawled into four boys and two girls, included the return of a long-absent mom, and stealing a pickup off a tow truck. I only found my way after eleven drafts and five on-and-off years. The novel I wrote while STN was on sub had a map and was “done” in three drafts and six months. So I’m a big fan of “the plot” now. Planning a plot in advance doesn’t have to be constraining. Instead, think of it like a bouncy house—it’s because of the walls that you can go wild and jump around like crazy. For me, a loose framework of the big picture creates room for me to let loose and see how the characters will react and what decisions they’ll make next. Sometimes, my plot points shift as I get to know the characters better and learn they wouldn’t do the thing that leads to the other thing. The beauty of discovering that early is I can rethink my plot before I write all the way to the end. A plot chart is much faster to envision, especially with friends, and it hurts a lot less to turn a page and draw new squares than it does to move 70,000 words to the trash and go back to a blank screen. For me, plotting not only saves time, it keeps my heart healthy, too!

  The Pantser: Kami Kinard

boy projectI admit it, I’m a pantser. This means that I don’t plot out my novels before I start writing. At least I haven’t yet! But I do have a general, meandering idea about where I want them to go. My novels always start with character, and I let that character lead me down the path into her story. You might say we take the novel journey hand in hand. Each novel starts with me at the keyboard typing fast and furiously as I get into my character’s voice. I think voice is the one of the most crucial aspects of writing to master, and I know that the voice of Kara McAllister, the main character in The Boy Project, contributed hugely to the sale of that first novel! When I’m typing, I find it important to try to think like my character would think and express myself the way my character would, always asking, “What else can happen?” This is how my words grow into novels. At some point, I stop to rest. I look back over my shoulder to see where I’ve been. I look ahead to see where the path might lead me. And if I think I need a map, I tip my hat to plotting by jotting down a few ideas of places I should visit before the journey’s end. Is plot important? Absolutely! But manipulating the plot, and getting it just the way I want it with enough conflict and character growth is part of the revision process for me.

Team Plotter or Team Pantser?

Decisions about whether to start with a plot, or develop character and voice first, are important parts of your novel journey! There is no “one way” to get it right. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you on Team Plotter, or Team Pantser?

Week 1 Pop Quiz

badge50Now that Week 1 is over, it is time to review what you learned and take a Pop Quiz!

While you’re reviewing, reward yourself with some Summer School Swag. In case you didn’t know, you can now get Kidlit Summer School swag from the PiBoIDMo Cafe Press shop! Neither we nor Tara profits from any of these sales, and in fact, $3.00 of every purchase goes to Reading is Fundamental. These funds will be used to purchase books for kids who need them. Thanks to Tara Lazar for making the PiBoIdMo shop available to us and thanks again to Zach OHora for creating the fabulous Kidlit Summer School logo!

Pop Quiz! Take this quiz to see if you learned the basics during the first week of Kidlit Summer School!

 

  1. In her post Walking Around in Your Character’s Shoes, Kathryn Erskine advises writers to think about:

a) the kind of shoes your character wears

b) how your character walks

c) where your character has walked before

d) how your character acts

e)All of the above

 

  1. In her post Do Looks Matter? Aimee Friedman asks authors to consider:

a) using physical descriptions to illuminate something deeper about character

b) not going overboard when adding physical descriptions

c) thinking about specific colors when painting a picture of your character with words

d) using the comparison technique to introduce physical traits

e) All of the above

 

  1. In her post Hug the Mean and Nasty, Kami Kinard indicates an author should think about these things when creating Villains (and antagonists):

a) giving them admirable qualities

b) showing their humanity through the eyes of a pet

c) helping the reader understand what motivates them

d) evoking sympathy for them

e) All of the above

 

  1. In her post, Let the Main Character Drive the Bus, Rebecca Petruck suggests that:

a) plot is what lays bare your MC

b) plot is the cattle prod that forces the MC to make decisions that reveal strengths and weaknesses

c) authors should look for actions their MC will resist

d) writers check out Save the Cat

e) All of the above

 

  1. In her post Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, You are Your Characters After All, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen suggests we:

a) look to ourselves to find qualities for our characters

b) look to our families to find inspiration for great characters

c) the best stories feature a main character who is a reflection of the reader

d) look past the surface appearance to see who your character is deep down inside

e) All of the above

 

  1. In her post, Dear Writer: A Letter Writing Exercise, W. H. Beck points out that:

a) It can be helpful to write letters from the point of view of our characters

b) letters give our characters voice

c) letters help us understand our characters’ motivations

d) Cecil Castellucci’s interview is helpful to characterization

e) All of the above

Kami Kinard: Hug the Mean and Nasty. Finding the Humanity in Villains.

Head Shots from Carpe Diem 005

You know those kinds of people who are so mean and nasty they make everyone else’s lives miserable? I’m talking about the back-stabbers, gossip mongers, cat kickers, boyfriend-stealers, and world-domination plotters. Those types? What do you DO with people like that?

You, the authors, should embrace them – bear hug style! They may make undesirable companions in reality, but these characters can be an author’s very best friends.

Why? The reason is simple. They add CONFLICT and create TENSION. And tension drives your story. It keeps your readers turning the pages. It forces them to root for the main character. You want this!

But creating believable villains is tricky. See, even the most rotten of villains shouldn’t be all bad. Your readers don’t need to like these characters, but they need to be able to relate to or understand them on some level.

 Villains need to have something about them that reveals their humanity, no matter how despicable they are.

Here are five ways to achieve humanity in your villains.

  1. Make us feel sorry for them. You can evoke sympathy for your villain in all kinds of ways. Give them a back story. Did they have miserable childhoods? Have they been heartbroken? Do people make fun of them for the way they look?
  2. Bestow endearing qualities upon them. Do they take care of an elderly aunt? Secretly donate to charity? Are they kind to caterpillars?
  3. Help us understand what motivates them. Are they trying to overcome unhappiness? Do they have something to prove? Do they want to impress someone?
  4. Give them admirable qualities. Are they attractive? Smart? Musically gifted?
  5. Show their humanity through the eyes of other characters, or even a pet. In Cassandra Clare’s popular City of Bones, the nemesis, Valentine Morgenstern has a group of followers called the Circle. Disney frequently employs the technique of giving pets to villains. For example, The Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid has pet eels, and Jafar from Aladdin has Iago the parrot. If this formula didn’t work, Disney wouldn’t use it.

Let’s take a look at a great villain from Harry Potter that you’re all familiar with. Lord Voldemort’s humanity is revealed in several of these ways.

 

  • harry potter 2He was an orphan, which evokes sympathy.
  • He is motivated by hatred toward the muggle father who abandoned him. He is also motivated by the desire to improve his skill until he is the most powerful wizard ever.
  • He was a very handsome young wizard who was particularly smart and skillful. These qualities evoke admiration.
  • Other characters hold him in high regard. These include his followers, the Death Eaters, his former professors, and his pet snake Nagini.

 

Notice that Rowling uses four of the five techniques listed above to show Voldermort’s humanity. But does she give him any endearing qualities? I haven’t been able to find any! Which brings me to this point: You don’t have to incorporate ALL of these traits into your villainous characters! Consider your genre. If there is a villain in your picture book, you may only have room to give us a peek into his humanity. Or you may use the Grinch method of creating a character that seems villainous on the outside, but has humanity waiting to burst forth from within.

 

the boy problemBoth of my books, The Boy Problem and The Boy Project, are humorous middle grade novels so I did not delve deep into the psyche of the antagonist, Maybelline, in them. I gave her a pack of admiring friends, so we could see her value through their eyes. Kara CoverShe is also considered cute and stylish, characteristics admired by many of her classmates. Yet she is vulnerable. We are able to feel sorry for her when she is dumped by her boyfriend in The Boy Project, and we see her insecurity in The Boy Problem. Whether or not you spell out all of these character traits for your readers, you should develop a good understanding of your villains. I know that Maybelline is as insecure as the next girl, and that her actions are motivated by a desire to stay at the top of the tenuous middle school social pyramid.

 

Maybelline purposefully ruins one of Tabbi's fundraising cupcakes in THE BOY PROBLEM.

Maybelline purposefully ruins one of Tabbi’s fundraising cupcakes in THE BOY PROBLEM.

She is one of my favorite characters, not because she is nice, but because she isn’t! Maybelline continuously creates conflict for my main characters Tabbi and Kara. Their learning to navigate around her is part of what makes them grow.  She is essential to their stories.

 

Where would the Harry Potter books be without Voldemort? Where would Peter Pan be without Captain Hook? What struggles would Katniss face without President Snow? And how many cases would Encyclopedia Brown really be able to crack if Bugs Meany moved away? We need the antagonists, the villains, the nemeses! So embrace them. Appreciate their plotting, scheming, mean and nasty ways. Thank them for making your story a story.

Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Problem (Scholastic, 2014) and The Boy Project (Scholastic, 2012). Her poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in some of the world’s best periodicals for children and adults. Kami also works as a teaching artist, and teaches continuing education writing courses for adults. She lives at the edge of the universe (or at least the United States) with her family and the world’s smartest dog. Visit her at www.kamikinard.com or at www.NerdyChicksRule.com where she blogs with Sudipta. You can follow her on Twitter by clicking HERE.

Kami Kinard is giving away a 20 page manuscript critique! To be eligible to win, just comment on this post before the end of #Kidlit Summer School.

 

Webinar tonight 9:00 EST. Details HERE!