August 2009 Archives

Modern-day Retelling - Beastly

beastlycover.gif"Unexpected Changes" chat group chats mix in with Kyle's side of the story in Beastly (HarperTeen, 2007) by Alex Flinn. This book is not just a modern day Beauty and the Beast. Though it is that, too, with a character having to examine the darkness within. It's also a story about being abandoned by parents and new friendships. There's even some humor. And don't you just love the cover?

The story will be made into a movie for release in 2010! But read the book first.

Read more about this young adult author at her website:

HummingCover.JPGI love it when I discover a new author with multiple books. I started with reading The Humming of Numbers (Holt, 2008) by Joni Sensel. To Aidan, living creatures hum different numbers. He doesn't think his gift is from the devil, but since he's a novice in Celtic Abbey, he doesn't dare mention it. A girl is brought to the monastery for punishment. She hums eleven. Aidan is fascinated as he's never met someone who hums of more than ten. His fascination gets him in trouble and he's put in charge of Lana, who some accuse of being a witch. The Viking raiders come. To rescue the captives, he and Lana get caught up in a scheme which uses both of their talents. I enjoyed Joni's story very much, and found myself wondering what number I hum. (This is a YA title.)

FWQCoverSmall.jpgThen I moved on to The Farwalker's Quest (Bloomsbury, 2009). In this believable fantasy world, 13-year-olds face a test to see which trade they belong to. Ariel believes she'll become a healer liker her mother and Zeke, a Tree Singer like his father. But after she finds the telling dart and the Finders show up, Ariel fails the test and is labeled Fool. Both she and Zeke end up on an unwelcome adventure where Ariel discovers her true trade. I'm pleased to say Joni has written more in this world - The Timekeeper's Moon comes out next March, and she's at work on a third!

Joni (pronounced Johnny) Sensel lives near Mount Rainier in Washington state. She volunteers as Co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI Western Washington, does corporate writing, and was one of the members of the debut writers, Class of 2K7. Go to for more info.

The Story Ladder or Novel Timeline

If writing an outline before you create your story is not for you, perhaps a story ladder would be a good choice.

Keeping track of where and when things happen can make sure you don't end up having Monday happen twice in one week in your story. It also can help you strengthen endings and beginnings of chapters. Plus when you make a change in a story that necessitates a change earlier on, it makes it easier to find the appropriate scene or place.

You may want to write a few chapters before creating it. Or you may use it as a mini-outline to write from. Following are several samples.

story ladder.jpg

Going back over my story ladder for one novel, I added a column for main plot and subplot, which let me see how balanced the story was. I've also added codes or columns so I can see how often I mention a character trait--this helps me not forget some mannerism or habit that should be ongoing. Or perhaps it helps me keep track of something in the character's setting which is important either to the plot or to the character.

Sometimes the summary shows me that not much happened in a chapter. I can then ask myself do I need this scene? Is it moving the story forward? Do I need to strengthen it or combine it with another chapter? Is it in the wrong place?

Page numbers and/or word count show the lengths of my chapters. If most of them are a consistent length, except for this one long one, perhaps I consider breaking it into two chapters.

Use a story ladder as a tool for what YOU need to keep track of in your story. For a mystery, you might want a column for clues, so you know when you've revealed what. If you're writing a novel with multiple viewpoints, you may need a column to indicate whose viewpoint each chapter or section is in.

A story ladder or novel timeline can be helpful when you have to create a synopsis, too, since the basics are already gathered in one place.

Voice is the personality conveyed

Voice is the personality conveyed through the way the story is told, no matter what point of view.

Jennie Dunham

The author of a novel

The author of a novel is not synonymous with its narrator.

John Green

But what does it mean

But what does it mean to find one's voice? It means breaking down the barriers that keep you from telling your own truths.

Kim Griswell