Q: I have been working on set up for my middle grade novel, structuring it by switching points of view between main characters. One thing I'm struggling with is working out the timeline so the reader is aware of flashbacks. I could do flash back memories, but then there will be a ton of flashbacks...
-from author Melissa Yeoman
A. Think of the flashbacks as memories each character has. The character exists in the present story and may see or think of something that sets off a memory. Think of your own flashbacks. As you go back in time, you relive the scene in your mind. In the same way you can have book characters go back to a moment in their memories, then "show" the scene as it took place back in time, as if the action is unrolling before the readers' eyes. Do not describe the scene, "show" the scene -- have the characters speak words in dialogue as the action is taking place.
You can introduce the scene in a paragraph as a thought by one of the characters. For example: "Lael remembered her mother telling of her trip to see Evylyn. It had been a warm night, they had been gathering nectar, and her mother had said, "I was your age..." and then you write out the scene as if it is happening in the present. Have the character see and think about what is happening as if it is being experienced for the first time. After the flashback scene, you can have something pull the character "back to reality," like a loud sound or someone asking a question.
Another flashback technique would be to have the character think a "direct thought" about a memory or scene, so that only part is revealed. The memory or scene could be shown slowly over the course of the story. ("Johnny learned more than he wanted that night. The drive in the car, the time on the beach. ..." Then a new paragraph signals the reader we are back to the main story. "He wouldn't go there. He switched lanes and pulled into traffic...) If you find you have "too many" flashback scenes, see what can be condensed. Does each flashback serve a purpose to further the story? It can be fun to experience the same scene through the view of another character, so don't be afraid to reshow a scene. But use the different scenes to provide insight on each character. What motivates each? Show different perspectives, such as one character might say something that could be completely misunderstood by another character. Hope this helps, and happy writing!
Think of the revision process as an inverted triangle, attacking it in four stages, from macro (plot, big stuff) to micro (nitty-gritty grammar, fact checking, the works).
The top of the triangle, includes: major character arc (primarily for a series), motivation, setting, theme
Top middle: minor characters, subplot, pacing, questions
Bottom middle: chapters, scenes, timeline, continuity
Bottom, the point of the triangle: language use, dialog, sentences, grammar, fact checking
Make each a separate pass (depending on preferences). Focus on one stage individually until completed, then move on to the next stage.
Use “Intuitive” revising
What does he/she want?
What stands in the way?
What can they do about it?
What are their core values? In the face of adversity
Plot Summary: A Mad Lib: What happens if/when/after ________ a _________ must _______ or risk/while risking ______ (during ____).
Filling in the blanks: What happens if/when/after the inciting incident event, possibly a result of action of main character, a protagonist, brave boy/girl mustmain action character is doing in story or risk/while risking stakes. What will happen if character can’t do/risk/happen (during post-apolyptic future, 16th Century England, high school).
Building Block Questions:
What’s the ticking clock? Timeline, events in story that have to happen by ____ or else ____.
What’s the big reversal?
What sacrifices must the protagonist make?
from Featured Author, Christa Kinde
Kim: One of the things I appreciate and enjoy about your writing is your literary style. What are some traits in your writing you would describe as unique to you?
Christa: Style is a tricky thing to pin down. So many little things play a part in the patter and flow of sentences. For instance, I’ve always been a word nerd. I think in big words. Since I don’t want my editors to scold me, I’m forever searching for simpler ways to say intransigent and lugubrious. I don’t do bleak or gritty. Foreshadowing is a must. Biblical allusions sneak in, and I’m a firm believer in plausible Happily Ever Afters. I recognize my writing voice, but the emphasis changes with the story and its protagonist. Perhaps my most unique “trait” as a writer is the pleasure I take in both short-form and serial storytelling. I combine both every weekday when I add a chapter to the ongoing Threshold Series companion stories on my blog. It’s a fun challenge for me since every installment is exactly 100 words. It’s a small gift for my readers, whose enthusiasm is such an encouragement.
Kim: You say you started writing on a whim. What do you mean by that?
Christa: Writing was a surprise God had waiting for me. While I thought it was a fine thing for Anne with an ‘e’ and Miss Jo March to chase their literary ambitions, I had none of my own. The only reason I majored in English at college was because I liked to read. It never occurred to me that God might be able to use my nose-in-a-book tendencies down the road. Looking back, I blame goofy letters to a good friend for setting me on the path to authorship. In my efforts to brighten her day and make her laugh, she saw potential.
She: “You should write.”
Me: “I thought that’s what I was doing here. Is my font size too tiny?”
She: “You should write stories.”
Me: “Well, I’m already a writer. I have this freelance Bible study gig.”
She: “Try fiction. I’ll read it. And I’ll be brutally honest.”
Me: “And this is incentive … how?”
That "whim "? Her name is Simone, and The Blue Door is dedicated to her.
Kim: You have a unique perspective on the publishing industry, being married to a former publisher. How has that helped you?
Christa: Patience, because I know the pace of publishing. Sympathy, because an editor’s responsibilities are staggering. Gratitude, because there are only so many slots in a publishing plan. Initiative, because there are creative ways I can work with my publisher toward our mutual goal. And a long view, because publishers are always thinking several quarters ahead.
Kim: How about influences? What were some of your favorite books growing up?
Christa: Writing begins with reading, and for me that meant a wide range of classics, comics, fantasies, mysteries, science fiction, and coming of age stories. I read so many books that I developed a sense for story. And a distinct taste for what I consider “good.” Now, I write the kinds of books I love to read. Favorite authors run the gamut, everything from Shakespeare and C. S. Lewis to Anne McCaffrey and Max Lucado.
Every Encyclopedia Brown mystery
Janette Oke’s prairie romances
J. R. R. Tolkien
Orson Scott Card
Gail Carson Levine
And I’ll always love Sherlock Holmes, especially the Mary Russell books by Laurie R. King.
Kim: How old were you when you began writing?
Christa: I was thirty when I discovered a practical outlet for my dual degrees in Bible and English. I’ve written more Bible studies and devotionals than I can count. By the time The Blue Door became my fiction debut, I’d turned forty. That qualifies me as a late-bloomer.
Kim: You mention on your blog, “I’m up at 5:30 when I’m serious about writing.” What are some of your other writing disciplines? Did you establish your routine over time? How has it evolved?
Christa: My writing routine has definitely changed over time. Non-fiction was easy to pick up and put down, but fiction redefined my life. Now, if I don’t write every day, I get twitchy. And I know the point when everything changed. On January 1, 2012, nine months before The Blue Door came out from Zondervan, I decided to have one last fling. I’d always wanted to write a story using a dictionary’s Word of the Day as my daily prompt. So I did. For 366 days (it was a leap year), I wrote and posted chapters to my blog. My ever-looming deadline forced me to set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. Before long, I woke before it went off. Most days, I still do. All that daily writing added up. In my case, to well over 300,000 words. The Galleries of Stone trilogy has since been published under my maiden name (C. J.M Milbrandt).
Not only did I have a wonderful time reconnecting with old friends and meet new ones, I left PENCON 2018 feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and inspired. I also realized how editors need support and networking just as authors do, especially freelance editors. The writing and editing lives are solitary in nature, and attending conferences in one way to get your name out there, make connections, and receive continueing education in your craft. I highly reccommend PENCON 2019, taking place in Nashville! Watch for updates as I post them in regards to this wonderful conference (including the roundup of ABA titles with faith-based themes). I also highly reccommend the Christian Editors' Network, another branch of the Professional Editors' Network, where I was honored to talk abll about kids' books! Happy May!
-Kim, May 18 2018
On Writing, with Christa Kinde
All Stages of Editing
Over 30 Years in Publishing