My fabulous critique buddy Suzanne recommended a book to me a few months ago. I am sorry to say that if she had recommended it to me sooner I might be as brilliant as J. K. Rowling. But over the past couple weeks, I’ve been making up for lost time.
Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole is one of the best craft books I’ve ever read. Most craft books throw out the same old cliches and give you some sort of trite exercise that is the equivalent to a teen magazine quiz to see if he really loves you or sorta likes you. Kole not only pulls examples from contemporary and traditional works of children’s fiction, but she crafts the book so it’s almost a manuel to break down your own novel. In one edit, you can remove yourself from several of the levels of publishing slush and rejections.
Every day, I’ve been doing an exercise out of the book to edit and trim my newest MG manuscript that I’m about to query publishers. Every writer struggles with show versus tell. For me, it’s even harder. As an artist you’d think that I’m resplendent in imagery but it’s really hard for me to pair words with the images in my head and vice versa.
So today’s exercise was to take common emotions and write a cliche and a unique way to show that emotion. I definitely fall in this trap, so my taking is below. I’d love to see what you come up with–feel free to link up below! (The cliche is in bold, the unique in italic.)
Anger: He stamped his foot and clenched his fists. ”No!” he shouted.
His face flushed, a spiderweb of veins pulsing under his skin. A rumble, winding deep from within, exploded from his lips. ”No!”
Happiness: Bella grinned and clapped her hands.
Her eyes flicked open. Like a switch, joy illuminated from her once-dull skin, crinkling the skin around her eyes and creasing the corners of her cheeks with a final tuck of a dimple on either side.
Love: From the moment she walked in the room, Jim couldn’t tear his eyes off her.
He felt her before he saw her. The sweet scent of her perfume carried her through the crowd, her swagger both an invitation and warning. Her eyes met his and glittered as her lips broke in an uncharacteristic grin. For of all the men in the room, he was the only one who got the joke.
He was the luckiest man int he world.
Despair: She burst into tears.
She hit her knees and screamed her name, crumpling into a ball. Crushing her child’s sweater in her hands, she turned her tear-streaked face toward the sky. ”Please, God, no!”
Impatience: ”Hurry up!” he yelled, shifting from one foot to the other. ”We’re late!”
First his toes tapped, then his leg jittered. Moving swiftly from one tile to the other, one hand jingled keys while the other pulled his zipper up and down the loose sweater around his shoulders. ”We’re late,” he reminded her, never tearing his eyes off the clock.
Hunger: Her stomach growled.
She knew she was in trouble when the idea of throwing a piece of cheese over the round table and crunching through it like a wooden pizza sounded better than waiting for her lunch date at Le ‘Sur.
Anxiety: Megan bit her nails and chewed on her lip.
Her hands smoothed up and down her thighs, so fast she was sure the jeans would spark into flame.
Relief: She exhaled, her shoulders drooping. ”Thank goodness!”
In a single second, the iron monkey that had been grasping onto her shoulder blades since she heard the news released her. She could breathe again. ”Thank goodness.”
Boredom: Rolling his eyes, Tim groaned and stretched. ”There’s nothing to do.”
First, he tapped his foot. Then, he clapped one foot next to the other. Then the other foot to the first foot. He jiggled his legs and twisted his fingers and spun in his chair. By the time the door had passed him for a third time, Tim had concluded things weren’t going to get any better.
Amusement: Bonnie giggled. ”How fun!”
The giggles poured out of her, sprinkling the room around us like confetti at New Year’s. It was impossible not to smile back as she squealed, “We must go! How fun!”
Stay tuned, Invisible Friends! A new Mama Kat tomorrow!