Monday, January 26, 2009

Fill in the blanks

In which we play Mad Libs with your story.

I'm on a Rick Riordan kick. Last week I read the first installment of the 39 Clues series. This week, I read The Sea of Monsters, the second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.* If you were a Harry Potter fan and haven't checked out Percy Jackson, you gotta go find it. It's not the same kind of fantasy, but it has all the adventure and humor plus Greek mythology. And the chapter titles are the best ever, including my number one chapter title of all time: "We Hail the Taxi of Eternal Torment."

I stand in amazement at Riordan's ability to get to the point. No drawn out introductions, no "character building" scenes that go nowhere, and absolutely no question what his characters' motives are. And the goals are tangible, not "I want my mother's approval." We all want our mothers' approvals, and that need certainly drives our choices, but it can't drive your whole plot. Or most likely your plot will go nowhere. It's okay for your character to have this kind of internal motivation, but she needs an external, tangible goal too.

So, here is your challenge this week. Fill in the blanks in each of the following sentences. You can't put more than seven words in each blank. No excuses, no "oh, my book is different," and absolutely no purely internal or emotional answers.

1. What my character wants most of all is ___________________________.
... to get back to Kansas.

2. In order to get it, he/she has to ________________________________.

... convince Oz to help her.

3. The first step to achieving what's in #2 is to _______________________.

... get to Oz without being killed.

4. If my character isn't successful, the tragic and terrifying result will be _________________.
... never seeing her family again. Or, having to live with munchkins. Or, having that darn song stuck in her head forever.

Can you do it? No, seriously. Just try it.

* If you go to the Percy Jackson website, by the way, you can hear RR read the first chapters of each book.
p.s. Sweet cover image by John Rocco. Man, that guy is everywhere. I LOVE his work. Plus I sat next to him at Adam Rex's seminar in LA this summer and the under the breath comments were hilarious.
p.p.s. ALA awards going to be announced in four minutes. Stay tuned for rants and raves.

6 comments:

C.R. Evers said...

fun! I'll have to try this!

Christy

Amber Lough said...

1. What my character wants most of all is ___________________________.
... to pay back the Queen of Sheba.

2. In order to get it, he/she has to ________________________________.
... make money in the frankincense trade.

3. The first step to achieving what's in #2 is to _______________________.
... join a camel train.

4. If my character isn't successful, the tragic and terrifying result will be _________________.
... his family's frankincense trees being burned by the Queen's army. Not to mention humiliation and death by rotting in prison.

Jacqui said...

Christy, report back.

Amber, I love it. Clear, precise, measurable goals. I can't wait to read it!!!

Jill Corcoran said...

How do you read so quickly? Maybe that is why I mainly read pb.....I can read 10 a day and feel accomplished:)

Mary Witzl said...

I did it!

1)...be like everyone else.

2)...go against her mother's wishes.

3)...make friends with a boy.

4)...endless toil in the garden from hell.

Looks like teaching monosyllabic kids for the past couple of months has helped me become more economical with words.

Jacqui said...

Mary, looks good! And "endless toil in the garden from hell" is an awesome line!

Jill, I skim sometimes. Don't tell. But I'm not sure I get great reader points when half of what I read is written for nine year-olds!