Marcy Kennedy

How to Use Your Logline, Tagline, and Pitch to Create a Stronger Story

Most of us think of a logline, tagline, and pitch as marketing tools we write after we’ve written our story so that we can use them to land an agent or as our book’s cover copy.

We’re doing it backwards.

I’m at Writers in the Storm today with a post I’m very excited about and a special offer. Please come join me there for my post on How to Use Your Logline, Tagline, and Pitch to Create a Stronger Story.

Purple by Marcy KennedyDon’t forget I also launched my newsletter this week. My newsletter will only go out when I have news about new releases (in other words, novels, non-fiction books, and short stories), upcoming courses I’m teaching for writers, exclusive discounts for newsletter subscribers, and freebies. I expect it’ll only go out about once a month. You are not signed up for the newsletter just because you’re subscribed to this blog. All subscribers to my newsletter receive my short suspense story “Purple” as a thank you gift.

Twisted sleepwalking.
A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag.
And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

If you’d like to join the list, enter your information below.


I’m Most Interested In…


I’m Giving Away a Short Story

Purple Cover

Twisted sleepwalking.
A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag.
And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

That’s a peek at “Purple,” the short story I’m giving away starting today as a thank you to anyone who signs up for my brand new newsletter (which I’ll tell you about in just a minute).

“Purple” is a suspense, not the fantasy you might have expected from me, but I’ve chosen to use it as my thank-you gift for one very important reason. I wanted to give you the best I had.

Even though I wrote “Purple” back in 2008, it’s still my favorite piece of work. It’s also the story that I won the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Competition with that year. Because I wanted to be certain I was giving you something I was proud of, it became the obvious choice. I won’t be making it available any other way.

So let’s get the obvious questions out of the way about the newsletter.

If I’m already subscribed to your blog, am I also subscribed to your newsletter?

You’re not. The newsletter and the blog are separate, and I would never violate your trust by signing you up for the newsletter without your permission. If you want to be on my newsletter list, you’ll need to sign up separately.

So what’s the difference between the blog and your newsletter? Why should I sign up for both?

Well, my blog is what you’re used to. I post two to three times a week on science fiction, fantasy, and writing. Everything remains the same for blog subscribers. You’ll continue to receive my blog posts as always. No extra action necessary.

My newsletter will only go out when I have news about new releases (in other words, novels, non-fiction books, and short stories—and you will be seeing all three from me this year if all goes as planned), upcoming courses I’m teaching for writers, exclusive discounts for newsletter subscribers, and freebies. I expect it’ll only go out about once a month. If you want the newsletter too, you need to sign up.

Along with my new newsletter, you may have noticed that things look a little different around here. I want to thank the talented Laird Sapir of Memphis McKay who has been working hard behind the scenes to design this new site for me. I’m very excited to finally be able to show it off. Please bear with me as I finish unpacking. But if you’d like to poke around a little, I have already updated my online courses and editing services pages.

So there you have it. I’d love it if you’d sign up for my newsletter by putting your email in the box below and then share this post. If you enjoy the story, let me know 🙂

Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make on Facebook and How to Avoid Them

Lisa Hall-WilsonI have a very special guest to introduce to you today. My long-time friend, critique partner, and co-writer on my Amazon novel is here to talk to you about Facebook.

Lisa Hall-Wilson is passionate about making the world a better place one get-off-your-butt-and-do-something article at a time. She’s a call-it-as-she-sees-it truth teller and freelance writer, history nut, and dog-owning cat lover. She writes dark fantasy, makes Facebook a happy place for writers, and blogs Through The Fire because no experience is wasted when you share it to help others. She tweets, but Facebook is where she hangs out (www.facebook.com/lisawilsonwriter).

Take it away, Lisa…

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I can’t believe I’ve never guest-posted here before. *waves* If you hang out with Marcy at all, you know she loves Twitter. Twitter is her happy place. If I need to get a message to Marcy fast, I send her a Tweet. Facebook is my happy place.

How are your Facebook manners?

There are a number of unwritten rules about using Facebook to build author platform that writers indiscriminately break and abuse all the time. And they’re not trying to be rude, they just don’t know–they’ve been listening to traditional marketers, but I want to suggest a different way. A lot of the methods authors use to sell their books on Facebook feel like spam, are annoying, and aren’t effective. Here are my top 5 Facebook etiquette rules writers break (and yes, these have all been done to me):

#5 – Sending out mass private messages to all of your friends to announce your new book. After all 300 of your friends have congratulated you on your book release, your ego is puffed up and I’m ready to hurt somebody because my message box has exploded. If people have notifications from Facebook sent to their email, you’ve also inundated their email as well. And the only thing they can do is leave the conversation, and that action is made visible to everyone. Seriously, this is what a status update is for.

But not all my friends will see that status update. No, but here’s the reality. Not all of your friends WANT to read your book. Hard to believe, I know. Spamming them won’t help your cause.

#4 – Posting the same link to your Amazon page over and over. The squeaky wheel does not get the grease–they get ignored. Create a custom tab, write blog posts that offer value, and mention your book at the bottom of post. Facebook is not a great place to sell books. For writers, Facebook offers the most value in driving traffic to a blog or website, in building brand awareness, and creating community/tribe.

#3 – Requesting to be added as a friend indiscriminately. Privacy is super important to Facebook users, and getting friend requests from people they’ve barely connected with online is akin to what happened to poor Bilbo in The Hobbit when he opened the door and dwarves kept falling uninvited into his quiet, ordered, everything-makes-sense life.

If you send a friend request to someone who doesn’t have any, or many, mutual friends, Facebook will ask if they know you. They’ll honestly say they don’t know you, and you’ll be reported for spam, because to everyone on Facebook who isn’t a writer, friends are people they’ve met face to face. And I get how extroverts see this as just being friendly, but consider Facebook your shy, has-five-locks-on-the-front-door neighbor. Build a relationship first in groups, on blogs, and on public status updates. Don’t be that first date who suddenly grows an extra pair of hands on the dance floor.

And you know what? No one wants to feel like they’ve been friended just so you can sell them something. They’re looking for genuine, authentic interactions.

#2 – Creating a fake event about your book, and then force-inviting all your friends. It doesn’t really matter how subtle or crafty you think you’re being. It’s transparent what’s actually going on, and it’s spam. Force-inviting all your friends to someone else’s fake book event is also spam (and yes, this has also happened to me).

But wait, it gets worse. Events with no end date are my personal pet peeve because the spam just keeps coming…forever. Keeping those who have declined visible isn’t cool. You can’t even sneak out the back door to avoid hurting feelings. Traditional marketing says this is how you promote an event. Facebook users call this intrusive, annoying, and report you for spam. I get force-invited to fake events weekly. WEEKLY!

#1 – Posting too often. Blitz posting on Facebook is like having dinner with friends and there’s that one guy who keeps interrupting everybody and monopolizing the conversation. Yeah, annoying, right? How long before you just ignore them? Or worse, you avoid gatherings where that guy will be. Don’t be that guy. Sharing photos seems to be the worst offender, but it happens with status updates too.

Sharing too frequently monopolizes newsfeeds and hurts your Edgerank. When you post a dozen photos in a short period of time and you get 3 likes on each photo, it is less effective than if you posted the best one and got two dozen likes and comments. You’re undercutting your Edgerank.

Posting too often is a one-way highway to Facebook hinterland. Once you’ve been hidden, how do you reach that person and let them know you’ve reformed your ways? You can’t.

What other annoying marketing ploys do writers use on Facebook?

I’m doing a Facebook blitz this week to help promote my six-week class, Using Facebook to Build Author Platform. Yesterday I was on Jenny Hansen’s More Cowbell blog posting about how to drive more traffic to your blog with Facebook, and tomorrow I’m over at Jami Gold’s blog talking about whether you should have a page or use your profile to build platform.

As thanks for hanging out, I’m giving away a free written critique of a Facebook author/writer page to one commenter on each blog. Leave a comment on each blog to triple your chances of winning! Winners will be selected on Friday.

Marcy here again: I hope you’ll check out the newly released mini-books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series–Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster–both currently available for 99 cents.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

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Is Anger Always A Bad Thing?

The Hulk Bruce BannerBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Too often we’re made to think that anger is a negative emotion, one we should avoid because it’s weak or shows a lack of self-control.

You can see it in The Avengers in the way Dr. Bruce Banner is treated. His character is a personification of anger. If Banner gets angry, he turns into a giant green monster capable of breaking an entire city. 

When we first meet Banner in The Avengers, he’s working as a doctor in the slums of Calcutta. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff tricks him into coming to a deserted hut on the edge of the city. The hut is secretly surrounded by snipers just in case Banner loses control.

Banner ducks inside, and she steps out of the shadows.

“For a man who’s supposed to be avoiding stress,” she says, “you picked a hell of a place to settle.”

Banner turns around. “Avoiding stress isn’t the secret.”

“What’s the secret then?”

Banner doesn’t tell her how he’s managed to go a year without turning into the Hulk, and throughout the movie, that becomes the question.

The others either tiptoe around him, try to provoke him to expose his “secret,” or they take protective measures in case he does get angry. (Measures that include a giant cage that will drop him from the sky.)

We treat anger the same way in our lives. We block it off, pretend we aren’t angry when we are, or try to learn techniques and tricks to keep from getting angry.

But the secret isn’t to keep from becoming angry.

At the end of the movie, the Avengers line up to fight the alien army set to invade earth.

“Dr. Banner,” Captain America says, “now might be a really good time for you to get angry.”

Banner strides toward the aliens. “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”

Everyone thought that Banner had discovered some way to keep from getting angry and that was how he prevented himself from becoming the Hulk.

The truth was he hadn’t purged his anger. He’d learned how to control it. By the end of the movie, he’d even learned how to harness it and redirect it for good.

Feeling angry isn’t wrong. Anger is merely an emotion. Sometimes it can even be healthy if we’re angry over injustice or true evil. And denying it or hiding it won’t make it go away.

It’s what we do with anger that matters. (Click here if you’d like to tweet that.)

Do we allow our anger to hurt and destroy? Or do we channel it into righting wrongs?

It’s the difference between a father who goes out and murders the drunk driver who killed his only daughter and a father who finds a way to bring about stricter punishments for drunk drivers and establishes a safe ride program in his town. Both were justified in their anger. But one used it for evil while the other used it for good.

It’s the difference between saying something cruel back to a person who’s hurt our feelings and using that anger to remind us how not to treat other people.

It’s the difference between screaming at our spouse because we feel like they never help us around the house and letting that anger be our cue that it’s time to have a painfully honest talk about weaknesses in the marriage that we need to work on.

What do you think? Is it alright to get angry? Or should we work on trying to purge ourselves of anger?

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

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Related Posts:
Could You Be An Evil Person?
Is There a Cost to Hiding Our Mistakes?
What Does Your Behavior Say About Who You Are?

Allowing Your Characters to Have a “Wicked Sense” of Humor

Fabio Bueno AuthorThe last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about when to show and when to tell. This week I have a special treat for you. Debut author Fabio Bueno has stopped by to give us an example from his new book of how he showed how much a character had changed rather than just telling his readers she was feeling more confident.

Fabio writes young adult/urban fantasy/paranormal novels, including the award-winning Wicked Sense. He resides in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and kids. When not writing or reading, he geeks out with family and friends, solidifies his reputation as the world’s slowest runner, and acts very snobbish about movies. (His words, not mine 🙂 )

Take it away, Fabio…

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In Wicked Sense, Skye is a modern-day witch trying to find a powerful Sister in her high school. When the plot thickens, Skye must have a talk with her ex, Connor, who is in college. He had not been a good boyfriend, and they had had a bad break up. Now, she is going to the University of Washington to meet him. There, she finds Connor making out with a girl in the library. Still, Skye has to talk to him.

My original plan had her simply clearing her throat and letting them know she was there. This scene would later spark an internal monologue by Skye in which she would reflect and conclude she had moved on: she wasn’t interested in Connor anymore.

However, I thought clearing the throat would be too tame, an overused device. Skye had recently gone through some changes; her reaction should reflect these changes. A few options that crossed my mind:

– Skye makes a sarcastic comment

– She doesn’t mind seeing her boyfriend and comes back later

– She steps out and calls him on his cell phone

– Skye goes to the desk and asks the librarian for a book in that row; the librarian catches them and scolds them

I ended up writing the scene below, from Skye’s point of view:

Navigating the aisles, I feel like the books embrace me. I crisscross the rows until I zero in on him.

He’s being smothered by a redhead in jeans and high heels. It’s a long, slobbery kiss. They’re very much into it, their hands reaching places. That’s probably why Connor hasn’t sensed my presence yet.

As I’m about to clear my throat and help them avoid a public indecency charge, an idea comes to me. There are more entertaining ways of doing it.

“Connor!” I yell. My cry shatters the library’s stillness.

They disentangle, startled.

“How could you?” I continue, still loud. Someone on another aisle tries to shush me. “You leave me and the twins at home to suck face with this skank?”

The shushes die. The redhead looks at him. A couple of students stare.

“Skye, I—”

I don’t let him speak. “That’s why I slave every night, waitressing? Paying your tuition? And you’re here, still using that fake British accent to pick up girls!”

He shakes his head. The girl is now mad at him, not even caring about me calling her a name. More people gather around us.

“The twins don’t have shoes! And you know there’s one more on the way,” I say, touching my belly, adding a slight hint of quivering to my voice.

The girl slaps him. Hard. And struts away. She stops by my side to say something to me, but I close my eyes and raise my hand to silence her. She just leaves.

Mum has an Oscar, you know.

Connor pleads, whispering, “Can we take this somewhere else?”

My hands cover my eyes (because I don’t know how to cry on cue), but I nod. The crowd disperses.

After we leave the library, I start to laugh. Connor puts his hands on both sides of his head and looks at me as if he’s seeing me for the first time. I can’t stop laughing. Maybe it’s a release from all the tension of the last couple of days.

Wicked Sense by Fabio BuenoUp until that week, Skye had been tentative, shy, and reactive, but she was growing stronger and more confident. The scene SHOWS that Skye had changed, her new outlook on life, and how she had moved on. It even lets Connor get a little comeuppance. A few people mentioned that this is one of their favorite scenes in the book. I remember writing it at the library and laughing. And all this because I needed an alternative for “clearing the throat.”

One of the best advices about characterization I heard is: “What would this character do? What would only this character do? What would only this character do in this point of her life?”

I would add: let your character do her thing. It might not be your thing. But if she must do it, let her.

What’s the best piece of advice about characters you’ve ever been given?

You can connect with Fabio on his website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Click here to buy Wicked Sense in ebook format.

Click here to buy Wicked Sense in print.

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*Disclaimer from Marcy* The Amazon links to Wicked Sense are my affiliate links. Using them doesn’t cost you extra or take anything away from the author. It just helps me earn a few cents on sales, and everything earned goes to maintaining this blog.

Four Tips to Keep Readers Turning Pages

Author Linda HallWhat makes for a page-turner? If you ask award-winning novelist Linda Hall, it’s suspense. I invited her to guest post today to give you some tips on how to create suspense in your novel, regardless of the genre.

Since her first book, The Joshia Files, was published by Thomas Nelson in 1992, Linda Hall has written 18 other suspense and mystery novels. Alongside writing novels, she’s been the keynote speaker at conferences such as Write! Canada, part of the faculty of the University of New Brunswick’s Maritime Writers Workshop, and is a regular contributor to Deeds of Darkness, Deeds of Light, a blog that examines the murder mystery/thriller/crime fiction genre from the viewpoint of readers, writers, editors, agents, and librarians.

Take it away Linda . . .

Update: My apologies to subscribers who saw just a massive line of code in the emailed post. I made a mistake in how I placed the image into this post. It’s been fixed now.

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I’m pleased to be invited to guest blog today. Summer is coming, and summer means lots of summer reads for me. I’m currently in the middle of a Dean Koontz thriller, The Good Guy. This book is basically a “chase” book.

I admit it. I’m staying up too late reading it, and, being a writer, I’m constantly asking, “How does he do that? How is he making it so that I can’t put this one down?” The writer in me is doing a bit of analyzing.

Before we go any further I want to define a few terms.  To me, suspense is a technique, not a genre. Suspense needs to be a part of every bit of writing that we ever do from nonfiction to fiction to poetry to comedy. Simply put, suspense is that all important key ingredient that keeps the reader turning pages, no matter what she’s reading. News articles need suspense. This blog needs suspense.

It’s possible to write a thriller that has little or no suspense. I’m sure you’ve read some of these. The plot premise on the back of the book is enticing.

“With an idea like that, I can’t wait to get into it,” you say to yourself.

But then something about the book falls flat. Your interest wanes, and you keep putting the book down. Sure, it was a thriller, but the suspense was missing.

So, back to Koontz who is, in my opinion, a master of the suspenseful thriller. How does he do it?

1.   Right in the middle of the action, he switches points of view.

We are following along with The Good Guy and The Innocent Female as they ditch cars and buy food and attempt to figure out why The Assassin wants them both dead. They are behind the door and hear the bad guy right behind them, and then we switch into the bad guy’s point of view.

He doesn’t see them, doesn’t hear them. Whew! We can wipe our brow once more. But then he figures it out! And now he has them in his sights! There is no getting away this time! And then, Koontz switches into the point of view of the police officer who’s sitting at his desk at home, and it’s night and it’s dark and he’s and trying to sort it all out.

2.   He creates a multiplicity of problems, and the obvious solutions don’t work.

The Good Guy started off with one problem. Someone mistook him for a hit man and gave him a bunch of money. Then the real hit man comes into the bar. The obvious solution would be to dial 911–that’s what you or I would do, right? And The Good Guy is about to call the police, when he sees the guy drive away in a police car. The police are in on this? He closes his cell phone.

So, if you have your heroine wandering down into a dark basement in a storm because she hears noises, she better have a good reason for doing so.  Facing the same situation, you or I would run lickety-split to the neighbors and call the police. You have to make sure the obvious won’t work. If her child was in the basement, or her dog, that would be a compelling reason for her to throw caution into the gutter and go down there.

3.   He adds specks of doubt into his characters.

In this Koontz book, suddenly I am wondering about the Innocent Woman. What is her story? Why isn’t she forthcoming about her personal life? Why is her point of view conspicuously absent from the points of view that the story follows? Maybe she’s not the innocent bystander that I thought she was?

Try doing that. Or, if you’re writing from the first person, a way you could do this is would be to have your heroine  read an email or a letter, but keep the contents from the reader. Keeping small things from your readers will enhances the suspense even in your romance.

4.   And finally, he isn’t ever afraid to paint his characters into a corner.

Don’t fear this. Just do it. Something always turns up. The more corners you can paint your characters into, the better your reader will like it!

Who are some of your favorite authors and why? I bet it has something to do with the technique of suspense.

Want to connect with Linda in other places? Visit her website or her Facebook page.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

I hope you’ll check out the newly released mini-books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series–Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster–both currently available for 99 cents.

What Do You Do When You Reach the End of Your Rope?

Finding NemoBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Some of you might have noticed that two weeks ago I had a week where I disappeared from the online world. I posted on Monday morning, but didn’t reply to comments. No Wednesday writing post. I didn’t tweet, and popped on Facebook only once or twice, briefly, mostly in groups where I felt safe.

I had one of those weeks. You know the kind. Where if it can go wrong, it will.

I came down with a serious sinus infection the Friday before. Puffy face, teeth that felt like I had a mouth full of cavities, and pain bad enough I suffered through four sleepless nights. On Monday, we had to say goodbye to our seven-year-old Siamese cat after three days of rapid decline because there was nothing more the vet could do for her. (My pets are part of my family.) The rest of the week became death by a thousand paper cuts.

By the weekend, I ended up curled in a ball in our recliner sobbing over the death of a character in a TV show. I knew the death was coming. I was prepared for it. And I’m not the kind of person who cries over TV shows or movies. But my anger over the death of that character proved to be more than I could take.

When we have days, weeks, or months like this, it’s normal to want to pull the covers back over our heads and allow depression to swallow us up. We feel like giving up because nothing we do is going to turn out right anyway.

We actually need to do the opposite.

Almost everyone has seen the movie Finding Nemo, but in it, clownfish Marlin lost his wife and all his eggs but one in a barracuda attack. When his only surviving son, Nemo, is captured by a diver, Marlin sets out to find him and bring him home. Dory, a regal tang with short-term memory loss, soon joins in his search.

Marlin and Dory find the diver’s mask with his address on it. They need to find a fish who can read, but in the process of escaping from a shark, surviving a mine field explosion, and barely missing being crushed by a sinking ship, the mask falls into a deep, dark crevice.

Marlin thinks the crevice is too deep and too dark to find the mask again. All seems lost. He doesn’t want to go on anymore, because everything just ends in disaster. He’s given up hope.

Dory pushes her face close to Nemo’s and makes pouty fish lips. “Hey, Mister Grumpy Gills, when life gets you down, you know what you got to do?”

“I don’t want to know what you gotta do,” Marlin says.

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”

Later in the movie, when they have Nemo back and are headed home, Dory gets caught with a bunch of other fish in a fisherman’s net. Nemo swims in to help her encourage all the fish to swim down together and tear the net from the boat.

The other fish are panicking and start to give up when it doesn’t work immediately. It seems like Marlin will lose the only two fish who matter to him. Then he remembers what Dory said.

“Just keep swimming,” he yells at them.

The principle is simple but profound. When everything is going wrong, the best thing to do is to keep moving. Keep trying something. Just don’t give up.

Because if you just keep swimming, eventually things have to change for the better.

What do you do to get through the tough times?

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 Related Posts:
How Do You Deal With Grief?
Do You Need to Slow Down?

What Would You Trade to Look Young Forever?

Beauty of a Woman Blogfest 2013By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

In the movie 13 Going on 30, all the women were “thirty and flirty and proud,” but in real life, every woman I know has a meltdown when they approach the big 3-0. One of my cousins even launched a blog where she cataloged her attempt to do all the crazy things she felt she needed to do before 30. Thirty was old.

I’d never dwelled on my age before because I didn’t feel old, but lately so many people close to me have fretted over being a 30-something, I couldn’t help myself. As I stared at my face in the mirror after each of those conversations, I knew.

In a way, they were right.

The truth is the thirty-one-year-old me doesn’t look as good as the twenty-one-year-old me did. And as time goes on, that will get worse, not better. I won’t ever be able to go back to that girl’s face or her body.

I found myself wishing I could have a picture like Dorian Gray’s that would grow old for me.

Dorian is the title character in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian is an extremely handsome man, so handsome an artist friend has asked to paint him.

On the day the artist will finish the painting, Dorian waits with a much older gentleman named Lord Henry. Lord Henry tells Dorian he should enjoy his youth and beauty while he has them because those are the only things that matter.

“You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully,” Lord Henry says. “When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you, or have to content yourself with those mean triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats.” (Chapter 2, page 26)

Dorian can’t shake Lord Henry’s words, and when he sees his picture, he’s filled with despair because the beauty in the picture will last, but his own won’t.

“When one loses one’s good looks,” Dorian says, “whatever they may be, one loses everything.”

He claims he would trade his soul in order to have the picture grow old in his place.

Lord Henry’s lie—and it is a lie—is the same one society feeds us.

It sells us Botox, liposuction, anti-aging creams, and Spanx. It tells us wrinkles and grey hairs are things to cover up. It glorifies youth and irresponsibility and marginalizes the elderly, with all their wisdom. It believes a woman should never admit to her age.

And if we buy into the lie, it puts us at peril of the same fate as Dorian.

Because of the trade he made, Dorian stays young and beautiful, while his picture ages and grows grotesque with every year that passes and every evil Dorian commits. His outside stays beautiful at the expense of his inner growth and beauty.

Eventually, overcome with guilt for the murders, suicides, and other sins he’s been part of, Dorian stabs his picture, thinking that will free him. Instead, the picture returns to youthful beauty and Dorian, in death, becomes a withered, disgusting corpse.

Like Dorian, when we buy into the lie, we start to focus more of our time and energy and money on trying to match the unrealistic standard of beauty our society holds up for us to worship. We focus less on trying to cultivate the beauty we have inside.

And in the end, we’ll never win the battle against age. We’ll all die, and most of us will die old and wrinkly, saggy and age-spotted.

Instead of dreading it, fearing it, we should rejoice in it. The most beautiful woman is one who’s lived a full life.

I’m going to wear each new crinkle in the corners of my eyes as a badge of honor speaking to the hours I’ve spent laughing with friends.

I’m going to remember that my no-longer-perfectly-flat belly is because I’ve chosen to enjoy pizza nights with my husband, eat birthday cake and ice cream with my each of my elderly grandparents, and bake cookies for my parents.  

I’m going to treasure the dark circles under my eyes (the part of my age I hate the most) because it speaks to how deeply I love, to the nights spent lying awake trying to think of ways to help hurting friends or crying over deceased loved ones and pets. Deep love leaves deep marks.

So as much as I’d still like to have a picture like Dorian Gray’s, I’d never want to be like Dorian Gray.

Because external beauty is not the most important thing, at least not to me.

How far do you believe is too far to go in the pursuit of external beauty?

This post was written as part of the Beauty of a Woman blogfest being hosted by the truly beautiful August McLaughlin. Visit her blog tomorrow (Friday, February 22nd) to read a bunch of inspiring stories. My post for last year’s BOAW blogfest was The Lie of Helen of Troy.

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Four Situations When We Should Tell Rather than Show

When to Tell Rather than ShowBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Blasphemy! After my previous post where I gave four techniques to help you show rather than tell, how dare I suggest we should sometimes tell rather than show?! Won’t that lead to weak, flat writing.

I’m not recanting on what I wrote last week. When you come across one of the four ways that suggest you’re telling rather than showing, you should rewrite.

But times do exist when it’s better to tell than to show. In 2011, I had the privilege of being mentored by Randy Ingermanson (of Snowflake Method and Advanced Writing E-Zine fame) at a conference. One of the things I remember best is what he said about showing and telling—it’s all about balance.

In these four situations, telling is actually better than showing.

1) You’re Dealing with an Insignificant Fact

When he needs to decide whether to show or tell, award-winning science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer asks, “Will it be on the test?” In other words, when you take the time to show something, readers assume it’s important to the story. If you spend two paragraphs showing the snow and ice, later in the story you’d better have someone’s car slide off the road or someone near death from hypothermia. Otherwise, just tell the reader “It was snowing, and ice covered the roads.” 

2) During Transitions

Sometimes you just need to get a character from point A to point B without bringing the story to a grinding halt by describing it.

The next morning, Marilyn drove to Bob’s house.

We don’t need to see Marilyn drive to Bob’s house. We just need to know she did. We don’t need you to describe the sunrise or the morning traffic jam in detail to try to get around telling us she went in the morning.

Half an hour later, they arrived at the mountain summit.

If nothing eventful happened on the climb, if it wasn’t essential to the story for us to see them climbing, we don’t need the blow by blow.

Sometimes, narrative is the most efficient, best way to get the job done.

3) When Showing Would Bog Down Your Story or Confuse Your Reader

Sometimes the reader absolutely needs to know a fact that all the characters already know, and creating a scene to show that fact is going to slow down the story and feel forced.

For example, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, the first in the series about the colonization of Mars, depends on complex technological and biochemical ideas. Robinson can’t stop and create a scene every time he needs to give the reader a piece of information. The story would be unreasonably long and slow. He also can’t leave it out or the story wouldn’t make sense to readers.

Here’s an example with the telling element in red. Frank is pushing his arm into a special plastic.

[Frank] stopped breathing. He felt the pressure of his molars squeezing together. He poked the tent wall so hard that he pushed out the outermost membrane, which meant that some of his anger would be captured and stored as electricity in the town’s grid. Polyvinylidene diflouride was a special polymer in that respect—carbon atoms were linked to hyrdrogen and flourine atoms in such a way that the resulting substance was even more piezoelectric than quartz. Change one element of the three, however, and everything shifted; substitute chlorine for flourine, for instance, and you had saran wrap.

When you’re telling in a situation like this, make sure you do it in small bites and that you make it interesting.

(4) In Your Opening Sentence

This might sound crazy at first, but look at a lot of the strong first lines from bestselling and award-winning novels. You’ll see what could be considered telling. (Personally I prefer to call it compelling narrative.)

Rivka Meyers knew something was wrong when she bumped into a wall that wasn’t there. – from Transgression by Randy Ingermanson

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. – from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

He had the look of a man who was afraid that tonight would be his last on earth. – from The Forgotten by David Baldacci

Carla knew her parents were about to have a row. – from Winter of the World by Ken Follett

Telling isn’t always bad.

The trick with writing is that we have to learn the rules before we can break them, and when we break them, we have to be sure we’re breaking them because it makes the story better rather than because we want to be rebels, because we’re lazy, or because we think the rules don’t apply to us. The rules do apply to us, lazy writing is crappy writing, and there’s no value in being a rebel just for the sake of it.

What do you think? Am I right about the need to sometimes tell rather than show? Do you have a favorite author who manages to perfectly find the balance?

Image Credit: Via sxc.hu

I hope you’ll check out the newly released mini-books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series–Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster–both currently available for 99 cents.

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Do You Cling To Old Beliefs Too Long?

Jennette Marie PowellI’m honored to welcome another talented author to my site today for a guest post. I just finished reading her newest release, Hanger 18: Legacy, and she kept me wondering right to the end. (You can read my full review of the book on Goodreads or the book’s Amazon page–links below.) So now let me introduce you to the author!

Jennette Marie Powell is the author of several science fiction romance novels. A lifelong resident of the Dayton, Ohio area, she likes to dig beneath the surface and find the extraordinary beneath the mundane, whether in people, places, or historical events. While she has no desire to change the past, she enjoys learning about local history, particularly the early 20th century. Her preferred places to time travel are from her computer or museums. By day, she wrangles data and websites in between excursions to search for the aliens and spacecraft that legends say are stashed away on the military base where she works.

Take it away, Jennette 🙂

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Do You Cling to Old Beliefs Too Long?

By Jennette Marie Powell

There’s a lot to be said for having conviction in our beliefs, in being steadfast in our opinions, and consistent in our behavior. Many a politician knows the perils of being labeled a “flip-flopper,” and keeping one’s faith in the face of adversity is a hallmark of religious devotion.

But sometimes, beliefs need to be reexamined, and paradigms should be questioned. The trick is in knowing how to respond when our deep-set beliefs are challenged—do we dig in our heels, or do we allow ourselves to question, at the risk of being seen as one too easily influenced or not strong in our own faith?

This is at the heart of my new release, Hangar 18: Legacy. The heroine, Lisa Stark, is a programmer, used to dealing with logic and facts. But when she meets Air Force officer Adam Keller, several things seem “off” about him, chief among them an uncanny ability to guess what she’s thinking, to the point he can finish her sentences, even though they just met.

At first, Lisa’s able to pass off these instances as situational: “Of course he’d think that—wouldn’t anyone?” Sometimes, she blames herself: maybe she told him that bit of information, and simply forgot that she’d mentioned it. She can’t imagine that there’s any truth to the rumors that he has psychic abilities that allow him to see the thoughts and emotions of others.

Adam himself struggles with this as well. Given the risks it would entail if his abilities were common knowledge, he’s forbidden from confirming any of the rumors, even while he struggles with his own disbelief when an unfamiliar presences insinuates itself into his mind. He’s never believed the stories about Hangar 18 that say there are spacecraft and alien life forms from the Roswell crash stored beneath Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. But one of the aliens has awoken from hibernation, and if Adam doesn’t free him, the extraterrestrial’s telepathic barrage will eventually kill Adam. Only when Adam considers the difficulty that others, like Lisa, have regarding his psychic gifts, does he allow himself to think that maybe there’s some truth to the stories.

While Adam searches for the alien, a relationship develops with Lisa, whose software is key to releasing the being. But Lisa’s disbelief in Adam’s abilities persists, despite growing evidence to the contrary. Even when Adam decides he owes her the truth and confesses, she thinks he’s joking and laughs it off. When he tells her about the alien who’s telepathically communicating with him, she concludes Adam is nuts.

Hanger 18 Legacy Jennette Marie PowellBut he’s piqued her curiosity, and she follows him. Concerned that she’s put herself in danger, Adam confronts her with thoughts she’s never voiced—thoughts he’d have no way of knowing, unless he truly could read minds. Spooked, Lisa flees—right into a trap, where she finds herself face-to-face with something else she never believed in: the extraterrestrial being. Left to die, there’s only one way out–to put aside her long-held beliefs, and try to contact Adam psychically.

What about you? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve held onto an old belief or opinion for too long? Have you ever questioned such a belief, but changed your mind when confronted with evidence to the contrary? Any questions for me about the Hangar 18 legend, or my other books? I’d love to hear from you!

Hangar 18: Legacy is available in ebook and print form from Amazon. For more information, visit Jennette’s site at www.jenpowell.com/books/other-books. Review copies in other e-formats are available—contact Jennette if interested.

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*Disclaimer from Marcy* The Amazon links to Hanger 18:Legacy are my affiliate links.