October 19, 2016
Hello Readers! Welcome to our Tour Stop for
McGrave’s Hotel by Steve Bryant
presented by Tantrum Books!
We have Steve on the blog today sharing some
writing words of wisdom!
Follow the rest of the tour by clicking on the banner above,
and be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
It’s 1936, and nearly twelve-year-old JAMES ELLIOTT is a bellhop at McGrave’s Hotel, there a year since the night his parents died while on a spy mission into Nazi Germany.
JAMES craves a goodbye message from his parents, but is distracted by troublesome guests who require his help.
Assistance with locating a missing and priceless mummy, wrangling mutant spiders, and attaching the head of a bridegroom is just the kind of hospitality guests have come to expect while at McGrave’s hotel where guests are dying to check in.
But over the course of one frightful evening, James will team with Death’s daughter to fight Nazi sympathizers, monsters, and the undead in this riveting, deathly, historical adventure story unlike any you’ve read before.
McGrave’s Hotel by Steve Bryant
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Tantrum Books
Seven Things I Know Now About Writing
- Highlight your heroes. Who are your favorite writers and how do they do it—make you love the girl, investigate the crime, fear the monster? Whatever effect interests you, get out your yellow highlighter and identify only those words that contribute to that effect. You may be surprised at how few words were actually necessary. My copy of The Great Gatsby bears the yellow glow of the words that make Daisy Buchanan so fascinating to men, even seen through the eyes of her cousin. One of the most desirable women in literature is painted with a precious few brushstrokes.
- “You don’t like every show on television. Don’t expect everyone to like your show.” That quote is from Paul Daniels, Great Britain’s most successful television magician. He and his wife Debbie McGee were household names in England before we had ever heard of David Copperfield, David Blaine, etc. Applied to writing, Paul’s sentiment is comforting whenever one has to deal with a rejection slip or a critical review. Whether it’s my own stuff or that of someone else I admire, I always feel sorry for the poor guy who didn’t like it, didn’t find it wonderful, sorry that he didn’t “get it” and experience the joy I felt when reading the subject material. Some poor guy passed on Harry Potter. (According to legend, twelve passed!)
- Use note cards. Lots of note cards. I fell in love with note cards on my first high school term paper, on J.D. Salinger. Note cards can be a combination story board and detailed outline, eminently adjustable: you can rearrange them, modify them, delete or add them, even count them to see if enough is going on. Or color them! I recently learned that screenwriters Robert L. Baird and Paul Briggs used green note cards to track the emotional beats of their movie Big Hero 6. Anyplace in the story that didn’t warrant enough green cards needed work.
- Pick a viewpoint and stick with it. You have two choices. If you can write convincingly in first person, go for it. Your character can be the next Bella Swan or Holden Caulfield. Your second choice, one that allows broader strokes of narration, is limited third-person. A case study that handles this POV brilliantly is Martha Grimes’s Dakota. Most of the book follows the POV of the amnesiac Andi Oliver, until a sniper is hired to kill her and the POV alternates between him and her, chapter by chapter. When the two meet and (spoiler alert) become friends, Ms. Grimes sticks, amazingly, with the sniper. Very subtle, very well done. (And yes, there are other viewpoints, but you are unlikely to sell them. Stick with these.)
- Don’t dismiss Syd Field. Mr. Field revitalized screenwriting with Screenplay’s three-act Beginning/Confrontation/Resolution paradigm. I love his Plot Point 1 that spins the action around in another direction (Bam! Ilsa walks into Rick’s.) and Plot Point 2 that spins the story into the resolution (Rocky bounds up the steps, ready at last to fight Apollo Creed). The paradigm works for virtually every movie you have ever loved and can work for your story.
- Early in your story, deploy a surprise word. F. Scott Fitzgerald opens “Winter Dreams” with “Some of the caddies were poor as sin and lived in one-room houses with a neurasthenic cow in the front yard …” I’m always trying to stick that cow into every story I write. It’s a way of splashing a little water in the reader’s face and saying, “Hey, this is something different.” It doesn’t have to be a word: it can be a startling metaphor, or a simple description. Just something fresh. Penelope Fitzgerald opens the gate of angels with cows in a windstorm: “Two or three of them were wallowing on their backs, idiotically, exhibiting vast pale bellies intended by nature to be always hidden.” Try it yourself. It doesn’t even have to be a cow.
- Listen to the podcast The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith. Each morning, walking laps in the gym, I pick up a wealth of writing tips from this resource. As Jeff begins, “My agenda is simple. Each week I plan to bring you in-depth insight into the creative process of storytelling.” Each week Jeff screens a movie and interviews the screenwriters for a studio audience. Learn the behind-the-scenes secrets of all your favorite recent movies (Godzilla! Frozen! Big Hero 6!) and apply the techniques to your writing project. At the very least you will pick up not only a tolerance for but an enthusiasm for revision.
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