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Michelle4Laughs: It's in the Details


My Query Kombat Team for 2015

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 30 May 2015 · 11 views

The time is finally here! Time to release the Kombatants onto the unsuspecting public!

The choice was hard. Each of the hosts agonized, weighing this query against that 250. There were so many great entries. Of course, making it into a contest is no indication of the quality of your query. Many people who don't make it into contests find agents the tried-and-true way, by querying. (Ahem, me.) Thanks to everyone who entered and everyone who made the Twitter party so fun!

To those who didn't make it into the tournament, you donned your armor and dared to dreamed of victory. You boldly walked into an arena filled with 245 gladiators, and you didn't so much as flinch or break a sweat. There are none braver than those who try, fail, and try again. I'm begging you to be brave, because all you need is talent and drive. Luck and success will follow. Don't give up. Don't doubt yourself. And...if you do, tweet me. I'll find an army to come and lift your spirits if I have to.

You will succeed. All you have to do is believe in yourself.

To those who made it--CONGRATULATIONS! Out of 245 entries, you made it into the top 64. You bit, you clawed, you bled, and you MADE IT! I want you to take to Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Wikipedia, Dictionary.com...I don't care. Celebrate! And do it loud. And in the midst of your celebration, I want you to help me lift the spirits of those who didn't make it. Use the QueryKombat hashtag to connect with and celebrate your fellow slushies. Tweet your sagest query advice, or that quote that kept you going when you were down and out, or your grandmother's secret tapioca pudding recipe ('cause everyone love tapioca!). We're more than a community; we're a family. So spread the love.

We don't have any fancy brackets to showcase the match-ups. In fact, the match-ups for Sunday aren't really finished yet. Kombatants must wait for Sunday to find out who they will face.

Now for my picks for the contest. To see Mike's and SC's picks, check out their blogs. Kombatants don't miss the rules on judging and commenting included at the bottom of this post.


Orphan Red
Guilt by Association
Greek Gods are the Best Kind of Trouble
Four Month Plan

Young Adult:

I Kissed a Ghoul
Stellar Twins Kickin' it Cosmic-Style
Broadway Baby
Best(iary) Western
Elephants Never Forget
Tiara Thief
Brain Gourmet
Teenagers Make Poor James Bond Substitutes

New Adult:

No Such Thing as a Coincidence
Twin for the Win

Middle Grade:

Musical Mirror Mayham
Librarians, Curses, and Mysteries
A Spicy Caper
A Sparkling Wildflower AMong Giant Stinky Weeds
Father verus Friends


Lila's Smiling Quest
Super Lynn's Super Fan

Important Information for Kombatants:

The first round will start on Monday, June 1st on all three blogs. We will try to post all the match-ups by 8:00 am EST, but please don’t rush to comment for reasons we will spell out under the judging section.

There will be 64 Kombatants (including my Free Pass winner) and these will be paired into 32 posts for the first round. Yes, we will try to match age categories  and genres together. This will totally depend on numbers. As you can imagine, we received a much lesser number of NA entries and a much greater number of YA entries. We’ll do the best we can to make the match-ups fair, but we are not limiting our Kombatant picks by requiring so many numbers of each age group. We are picking what we think are the best entries. 

In the event a Kombatant has to drop out of Query Kombat there will be two possibilities. If they drop out before the first round begins, they will be replaced with an alternate Kombatant contestant. (Alternate Kombatants will not be announced beforehand. We don’t want people hoping someone drops out. We may announce them after the contest ends.) If a Kombatant drops out after the contest has started, their opponent automatically advances to the next round. Any Kombatant that receives an offer of representation will please notify us so we may withdraw them. Receiving a full request or partial is not grounds for withdrawal.


Our fantastic judges will give their votes under their assumed nicknames in order to be able to vote honestly and freely. Go here to see the nicknames they have chosen. The voting for the first round will take place from June 1st until June 4rd at 8:00 pm EST. (For more information on the dates of the other rounds go here.) The winners of the first round will be announced on June 4th.

Judges will vote as follows: VICTORY to Kombatant nickname  Then they may give more information as to why they voted that way. How much feedback they give is completely up to that judge. There are a lot of entries to read and a lot of rounds to go through. This is a long contest. But we’re sure the judges will do a fantastic job of sharing their thoughts.

To prevent favoritism, the judges have agreed not to vote on match-ups where they are close friends to a Kombatant or where they have beta read or critique partnered. Due to the length of this contest, judges have been assigned to rounds and may decide not to vote in all the rounds. 

In the event of a matchup vote tie, we'll call for more judges, then the round host will cast the tie-breaker vote if necessary. 

Now here comes the unique and important part!  We would like the judges’ votes to be easily located. Therefore, we are asking the judges to place their votes as a reply to the first comment in each match-up post. As soon as all the match-up posts are live, the round host will go through and made a first comment. Something like: This comment is reserved for judges’ votes. Please do not reply to this comment unless you are a judge. Then the judges can do their thing and leave their votes as replies to that comment.

BUT in order for this to work, people cannot rush to comment. The hosts have to have time to get the first comment up on all 10 or 11 posts of the first round and subsequent rounds. No matter how excited you are to share your feedback, please give the host time to get the first comment done before you comment. Any other first comments but the hosts’ will be deleted.

We understand that everyone is human and votes may not end up in the proper spot. All judges’ votes will count no matter where they end up.


Due to the nature of the head-to-head competition, commenting is a delicate subject. We don’t want feelings hurt. We don’t want people to go away angry. 32 people will be knocked out in the first round. That is brutal. And like any contest of this nature, the results will be subjective. Wonderful entries will be eliminated. Because not everyone will be seen by an agent, we do want to allow commenting as that may be the only feedback a query and first 250 entry will get.

Therefore, especially in the first round, we want a ton of comments. And we want those comments to be super constructive and helpful. In other words, be specific. Don’t just rave about a Kombatant’s entry like a fangirl/guy. Tell us why you liked it. Mention things like the query set out the mc’s motivation and stakes clearly, the query had a super voice, the query was confusing because…, the pages really showed the mc’s personality because…, the page felt flat because…, the concept was unique because…

Please no cheerleading comments in the first round or second round. (Friendly cheerleading will be allowed in the final rounds.) In the early rounds, if you want to cheer on your friends and CPs, do it on twitter. Try and give equal time to both Kombatants in a match-up. Don’t let someone be left out. If you see a match-up that isn’t getting many comments, we ask that you jump in and do your stuff.

We don’t want this contest to only be about fun and agents. We want all the entries to get helpful advice to make their queries and page stronger. Please remember this and be kind and thoughtful. Writers are amazing people. They go out of their way to help. We are sure we can count on you.

Enough preaching. Here are some more commenting rules:

We would like each Kombatant to give feedback on at least 6 match-ups.You’re on your honor system here, we won’t be monitoring this. We’ve got enough to do. (lol!)  We’d also like each person who entered Query Kombat to leave at least one comment on a match-up, but feel free to do many more! And please we ask that Kombatants who are eliminated, come back and leave comments on the next round. We still want to hear what you think.  We need you to make this contest a success!

Kombatants, please don’t comment on your own entry, whether that is to thank people or to explain/rationalize your entry. There will be so many comments that we ask you to wait until the last day of voting to offer thanks or congratulate someone, or leave any other type of comment on your own entry. If you want to thank people before the last day of voting, twitter is the place.

We are counting on there being no hard feeling comments. If there are, they will be deleted. We warned you’ll need a thick skin and it’s true. But we believe this can be done in a friendly manner.

Getting knocked out of the contest or not getting picked is no indication of a story’s quality. After all, we only have snapshots to go upon. All the hosts are very excited for Query Kombat to start, and we hope you are too. Feel free to leave us questions in the comments or just shout out your excitement. Follow us on twitter for more updates. 



Judge Nicknames for Query Kombat 2015

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 29 May 2015 · 10 views

Since the kontestants get to invent amazing nicknames, naturally the judges want one, too! Plus it lets them vote with more freedome. To recognize our wonderful judges and know the vote is legit, here is a list of the nicknames they have chosen:

Library Junkie
Ice Ice Outpost
Jamie Blythe
Dire Wolf
Romilda Vane
Jackie Jormp-Jomp
The Trickster
Judge Valkyrie
Mrs. Pollifax
Scott Pilgrim
Princess of Llamas
Regina Phalange
Sally Sparrow
Felicity Porter
Hot Lunch
Sir Coffeeton
Princess Buttercup
Bookalicious Mama
Mallory Pike
Mid-size Car
The Praetorian
Dr. T.J. Eckleburg



Cover Reveal for LIBRARY JUMPERS

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 28 May 2015 · 19 views

This has been a long and winding road for Brenda Drake and I must say the wait was totally worth it. This is one of the best covers I've seen all year! Sign me up!

Library Jumpers
Release Date: January 2016
Entangled Teen

Summary from Goodreads:
Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.
Jumping into some of the world's most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik's world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Pre-Order Links:

About the Author
Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at schooluntil her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up is of hereccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. so it was only fitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda's not writing or doing the social media thing, she's haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment). 

Author Links:
 photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png  photo iconfacebook-32x32_zps64a79d4a.png

Cover Reveal Organized by:



New Cover Art for DARK PARADISE

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 27 May 2015 · 30 views

It's not often a publisher gives you not one cover reveal but two! I'm so excited for my CP, Angie Sandro. With her fourth and fifth books releasing soon, Grand Central has given her a whole new look! Both are beautiful! Here's Angie:

Hi all, it's a big day. I'm excited to reveal my fabulous new covers. First up, I have the amazing new cover for DARK PARADISE (Dark Paradise, #1).

To say that I love my original cover would be an understatement. I thought it was gorgeous. I never expected to anything could compare to how I felt when I saw it the first time.

Until I opened my email and saw this... Oh. My. God! (Yes, I cried, and I'm not ashamed)

(Dark Paradise, #1)
Angie Sandro
Grand Central Publishing/ Forever Yours

Is this love affair their destiny? Or is it doomed?
Paradise Pointe, Louisiana, is far from idyllic for Mala LaCroix and Landry Prince. Haunted by strange visions, the pair are drawn together by a mystery concealed beneath the polite facades and the murky swamps of the Deep South.

Landry had a crush on Mala all through high school, but now — up close and personal — he is starting to suspect that the rumors of witchcraft and hoodoo are true.

But he can’t let his doubts tear them apart because the reckoning is coming. As Mala struggles to conceal her powers and avoid the curse that has struck generations of LaCroix women, Landry will have no choice but to face his own demons. Both of them will soon be caught up in a web of deceit that reveals the dark side of Paradise.

 In honor of the new cover, DARK PARADISE will be on sale June 1st- 28th for .99 pennies. How cool is that?

As if revealing one cover isn't exciting enough, I also have the pleasure of sharing the cover for my new novel, DARK EMBRACE (Dark Paradise, #4).

I loved writing this book. It was so much fun getting into Dena's head. Poor girl had a hard time of it in the first three books. I thought she needed a chance to tell her own story.

I love this cover. It totally captures Dena's spunky attitude. My girl's a fighter. 

Waydene "Dena" Acker was trapped and tortured in purgatory until her cousin brought her back from a living death. Sanity is a fragile precipice she navigates daily, desperate to hide the fact that she came back wrong from her family and friends. Because now she can see a black aura hovering around the bodies of the living. And her vision heralds their impending death. 

Ashmael, a living conduit to the underworld, is drawn to what light is left in Dena's dimming spirit. After years of being alone, he has finally found his soul mate, but she's suffering. Torn between doing his duty by freeing her from the agony of her earthly body and needing the solace of her existence, Ash is determined to help her find peace. However he can. Even if it means letting go of his one shot at a human existence.

DARK EMBRACE (Dark Paradise, #4) releases on July 14, 2015. A blurb and pre-order links should be available on May 25th.

Buy links for DARK EMBRACE


Angie is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DARK SACRIFICE and DARK REDEMPTION, Dark Paradise series #2 and #3, are available now.



Angie Sandro was born at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Within six weeks, she began the first of eleven relocations throughout the United States, Spain, and Guam before the age of eighteen.

Friends were left behind. The only constants in her life were her family and the books she shipped wherever she went. Traveling the world inspired her imagination and allowed her to create her own imaginary friends. Visits to her father's family in Louisiana inspired this story.

Angie now lives in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an overweight Labrador

Author Links:



Query Kombat Submission Window

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 22 May 2015 · 46 views

The submission window will open on May 22nd at 5:30 PM Eastern time and close in ONE hour. Repeat: YOU HAVE ONE HOUR TO ENTER ONLY. The window closes at 6:30PM.

We will have email confirmation. If you don't receive it within an hour of submitting your entry, contact us via twitter and let us know. Kontestants will be revealed on May 31th, and the tournament will kick off on June 1st.

ONE ENTRY PER PERSON ONLY. No cheating and using other email addresses.

IMPORTANT: The Query Kombat team reserves the right to disqualify any entrant at any time for any reason. If an entrant is disqualified before the agent round, an alternate will take its place. If an entrant is disqualified after the agent round, the opposing entry will automatically advance to the next round. The only time we will ever disqualify an applicant is if you say or do something to blemish the spirit of query contests. Query Kombat is supposed to be fun…

So none of this!

In order to enter the contest you MUST follow formatting guidelines, and submit during the contest window. All entries that follow said guidelines will be considered.

In the event that we receive more than the available 64 spots (this is highly expected), Michelle, SC, and I will savagely attack the slush pile in attempts to build the best team. We will pick (and announce) three alternates in case a submission is disqualified.

Entries should be sent to: QueryKombat (at) gmail (dot) com. The email address has changed from last year. Be mindful of that.

Formatting guidelines:

Font: Times New Roman (or an equivalent), 12pt font, single-spaced with spaces between each paragraph. No (I repeat: NO!) indentations.

Subject line of the Email: A short, unique nickname for your entry [colon] your genre (audience included). Do not skip this step or your entry will be deleted. (ex. I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll: Adult Erotica)

For the nickname, make it as unique as possible so that there are no duplicates. These will be the names used in the tournament (or an abbreviated version if it's too long) so keep it PG-13 and try to have it relate to your story in some way.

In the body of the email (with examples):

Name: Michael Anthony
Email address: myboyfriendwasbittenbyashark (at) gmail (dot) com.

Entry Nickname: I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll
Title: Eunuchs and Politics
Word count: 68K
Genre: Adult Erotica


Your query letter here. Do not include your contact information. Do Not include your bio or comps. But include all the other paragraphs.

I FELL IN LOVE WITH A KEN DOLL tells the harrowing story of Barbra B. Doll, a US senator who goes against country, family, and the Illumaniti to be with an amateur surfer with no genitalia.

First 250 words:

Don't include the chapter title, and please, don't stop in the middle of a sentence. DO put spaces between paragraphs.

For PB follow these directions but send only 50 words, including art instruction.

All queries submitted are FINAL. We will not edit them in any way, shape, or form. Please read, reread, and rereread your submission before you hit send.

Because the immense amount of work ahead of us, the tournament will be hosted on three separate blogs. In order to enter the contest, you MUST following Michael's and Michelle's blogs, and have signed up for SC's monthly newsletter concerning the 'Write Inclusively' campaign.'

Good luck and may the odds ever be in your favor!




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 22 May 2015 · 13 views

Today's the day! The Query Kombat window opens this evening at 5:30 pm EST. You have one hour to enter.

Let the fight to the death begin tonight! See you then.



Query Questions with Peter Knapp

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 21 May 2015 · 38 views

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

Peter Knapp with Park Literary Group is joining us today to answer some questions about his query slush.

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?

No, not really. There are a few windows, such as the last couple of months of the year or in August, where it might take a little longer to hear back from agents because they’re travelling or otherwise busy, but even if you send a submission while an agent is travelling, it will be there when he or she gets back.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?

Absolutely not. If it’s littered with typos or errors, that’s more problematic—but, let’s be real, no one is perfect.  

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?

If the query is in a category I represent and it’s a genre I’m interested in, I will look at the sample pages even if the query is weak—I’ve seen a number of very strong manuscripts where the query letters weren’t perfect. That said, I look a lot faster when the query letter grabs my attention—a great query letter gives me momentum as I head into the sample chapters.  

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?

I check all of them.

Do you keep a maybe pile of queries and go back to them for a second look?

Yes, sometimes I will flag queries where the letter and first page interests me to go back to so that I can respond quickly to the ones that are more obviously passes for me.  

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?

Yes. If the prologue is necessary to the manuscript, then it should be included. If you think you can send the sample pages without the prologue and not lose anything, there’s a good chance the prologue is dispensable and should just be cut from the manuscript entirely.  

How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?

They can be helpful, as they show the author knows the genre s/he is writing in, and when the comp titles speak to me, I definitely take notice. That said, they’re not essential—and if you don’t have great comp titles, it’s fine to send a query without them. 

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?

The most important thing is the manuscript pitch. If you want to and can naturally add a line or two that shows your personality or voice, that’s great—but keep it short. Occasionally I will receive a query letter where the personal bio or “chit-chat” is needlessly longer than the actual pitch, which always makes me wonder…

Writers hear a lot about limiting the number of named characters in a query. Do you feel keeping named characters to a certain number makes for a clearer query?

Yes. A query is meant to cut straight to the heart of the book, so if we’re suddenly pulling in second cousins and great aunts, it’s going to both get a little confusing and it also probably means the pitch isn’t quite focused enough. Stick to the core characters and relationships.

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?

Titles often change, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Take is seriously—give the book the title you think it deserves—but don’t worry that an agent will reject it because they don’t like the title.
Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?

Unless you are a rising internet star—for example, an up-and-coming vlogger with 600,000 followers—it’s unlikely that your social media platform will be what tips the scales in your favor when I’m reading a submission. Certainly, you don’t need a social media profile to get an agent or a publisher. I will often encourage my authors to try social media out, not just for marketing purposes but also because there’s a great community of writers online, and it can be helpful to join that conversation. But each author is different, and not everyone gravitates towards social media; that’s okay.

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive?

It’s fine to include links. In fact, I prefer links to be somewhere in the query letter. If I read and like a submission, I often then look the author up online to see what else they might have going on; including links makes that research a lot easier.

 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?

A short one. I often get, “I am an active member of SCBWI and this would be my debut novel.” Something like that is just fine.

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?


What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?

Humor, horror and bittersweet books, for both middle grade and young adult.

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 

Movies: Stand by Me; The Talented Mr. Ripley; We Are the Best; Land Before Time; Whisper of the Heart; BoyhoodSunset Boulevard; many, many movies with Meryl Streep; many, many movies with Greta Gerwig (most especially, Frances Ha).

Books: Anna Kerenina; Never Let Me Go; Netherland; The Thing About Luck; When You Reach Me; The Age of Miracles; Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage; Faithful Place; Let The Great World Spin; The Invention of Hugo Cabret; Acceleration; and many, many more…too many to list!


Peter Knapp joined Park Literary in 2011. Previously, he worked as a story editor at Floren Shieh Productions, consulting on book-to-film adaptations for Los Angeles-based movie and TV entities. His clients include Melanie Conklin (Counting Thyme , Putnam/Penguin), Soman Chainani (author of the New York Times bestselling The School for Good and Evil series), Brenda Drake (Library Jumpers, Entangled Teen), Will Walton (Anything Could Happen, Scholastic), Lucky Keating (Dreamology , HarperTeen), and Anna Michels (26 Kisses , Simon Pulse), among others. He is always on the lookout for talented new authors to bring into the Park Literary fold, so please be in touch.



Query Kombat 2015 Essentials

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 20 May 2015 · 41 views

Query Kombat 2015 is rolling in this weekend (ahh!!) and we thought it'd be a great time to go over the essentials.

Can you submit to Query Kombat 2015? If you pass these three criteria, you can!

  1. Your submission must be PB (50-word instead of 250), MG, YA, NA, or Adult (so, basically, any age category). Completed and polished.
  2. You must be following Mike's blog, Michelle's blog, and you must be subscribed to my #WriteInclusively monthly newsletter.
  3. Your submission cannot have been in the agent round of any contest within the last year, except if you were in Secret Agent or were an alternate for Pitch Wars.
  4. You may enter #TheWvoice and #QueryKombat. 
That's it! We know there has been some back-and-forth on Twitter, but this is the final decision. If we decide on any changes (which is pretty unlikely, but hey, you never know) come back to this post for any updates.

Also, this contest, although VERY FUN, is a big huge time commitment. Please consider supporting the contests and Michelle's blog! (She doesn't like to brag about how much work she does but she does a LOT - she's taken off work for some contests.)

That's it! Have any questions? Comment below. But biggest question: ARE YOU EXCITED?!?!



Adding Conflict To Your Writing

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 20 May 2015 · 33 views

Conflict drives a story. It's what makes the excitement. It provides the obstacles for your character motivation. It's what makes you care as a reader. Without conflict, you've got nothing but dull words on a page. Who would want to read a story where everything was happy and good?  Where everything went the main character's way? It might be nice to live, but not so entertaining to read about.

Without conflict and tension, readers will yawn. It needs to be ongoing and in every scene. There are many types of conflict and the smart writer includes all of them into the page. If you only build in one type, you'll still have a dull story.

Conflict Based on Plot This is the main drive to your manuscript. It's Harry trying to deny Voltemort. It's Frodo and Sam journeying to Mordor to oppose evil. It's Bella falling for a vampire and doing everything to make that work. 

It's the driving conflict that moves the story. Without this, well, you haven't got squat. It's what blocks the main character from achieving their motivation/goal. Usually it's the conflict you build the rest of the story around in the planning stages. 

But ... plot conflict alone isn't going to get you far. You need much more.

Internal Conflict  This is the doubt and worry going on in your main character's head. The feelings of insecurity. The fear that paralyzes. The indecision that makes each major choice the main character faces a dilemma.

Imagine a character so secure in themselves and so decided in their ways that they never have doubts. Then picture a big boring Mary Sue, because that's what has been created. That's not the way humans work. They hesitate. They debate. They feel guilt and nerves.

This kind of conflict can come out in internal thoughts, actions (how the character responds to things), and even with dialogue. 

Character arc is all about bringing that character around and fighting through their inner conflict.

Whenever there's a big moment, and indeed, in the SLOW moments of a story, add some internal conflict in your main character and you've increased the tension. Not only that, but you've given the reader a way to connect with that character. (Why Harry worries about death just like me.) 

Don't forget the internal conflict.

Conflict between Characters  Your character is part of a big group working together for a common cause. They should all just be best friends and braid one another's hair, right? Hold hands and sing together. Never argue. Always be in agreement.


Even allies disagree and a smart author knows this. It's Harry, Ron and Hermione splitting up in the middle of the story. It's Boromir trying to take the ring from Frodo. It's disagreement large and small between allies or enemies or even casual strangers your main character meets.

Every character in your story should have a separate and distinct motivation. Sometimes those motivations are going to clash.  

Have a spot where the plot lags and not much is happening? A set up chapter before the big stuff gets going again? Throw in a little of this sort of conflict with another character and you've added enough interest to keep readers going until the big stuff happens.

Physical Non-Plot Conflict  Life is full of small annoyances. A train stopped on the tracks. A boo boo on your knee from falling down. A car that won't start at the wrong moment. A broken fingernail on prom night. They don't have anything to do with your story line, but they create conflict (and delay) for your main character. These sorts of occurrences can also add interest to the story and become a side plot.

Any obstacle to the main character can become a test of personality. Testing personality is your job as an author. Make things hard for your main character. Who knows they might step up and become a hero. 

So when you are editing and reading over your work, check for conflict. Is there a section where tension is missing? Throw in some of the lesser sorts of conflict to supplement your plot. Put pressure on your main character. Your story will benefit.

Have I forgotten anything? What's your favorite type of conflict to add when things are dull? 



Fling off the Filtering

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 20 May 2015 · 21 views

If I have one pet peeve in writing, it's the overuse of filtering. I'm running this post again for those who may not know what filtering is all about and why it should be avoided. Perhaps it can help when you're cleaning up your first 250 words for contest season!

Filtering is exactly what its name implies. It is running an observation through your point of view character instead of giving it straight to the reader. It’s pretty easy to spot but can be harder to remove. What happens is you’re having the character share the action with the reader instead of putting it directly before the reader. It’s like a stage direction that shouts ‘look here.’ If you have words like ‘heard, saw, watched, looked, realized, knew, understood, seemed, and felt’ then you have filtering. Here’s a heavy example:

She heard the gunshot and dropped her book. It felt like her stomach twisted and dropped into a hole. She knew that her mom had taken matters into her own hands. Going to the window, she saw smoke rising from the rifle crimped against her mother’s shoulder, and she watched as dozens of blackbirds scattered from the cornfield. It seemed Mom had gone over the deep end.

So what’s so bad about filtering? First off, it adds to your word count. Those words are unnecessary, and they won’t help your cause with agents. It makes the writing look sloppy instead of sharp and concise.

Second, it’s like twirling your head in plastic wrap, or putting a swimsuit on your kid, covering him with a towel, and adding a parka to top it off before you go to the beach. You’re coating your writing in layers. Those words create a distance between the reader and your character. They filter and slow down the pace, adding a layer to separate readers from getting close to the action. Everything you write, unless you use third person omniscient, is coming through your point of view character. What filtering does is poke the reader in the eye and say ‘hey, don’t forget, my character is here.’ It can be especially annoying if you write 1st person as you want to exclude as many I as possible.

Most of the time, it isn’t necessary, though there are exceptions. Rarely, there are times when you do want to draw attention to something, such as the fact that your character is in a dark room so you focus on her hearing.

Another exception is if you are switching point of view character when starting a chapter or scene and want to make sure the reader catches the character change. Then you may filter just to get the characters name into the writing sooner.

Here’s how the paragraph looks without the filtering:

The pop of a gunshot made her drop her book. Her stomach twisted, as if it fell into a hole. Her mother had taken matters into her own hands. At the window, smoke rose from the rifle crimped against her mother’s shoulder while dozens of blackbirds scattered from the cornfield. Her mother had gone off the deep end.

Try writing without filtering words and see how much more vivid and fast paced your writing becomes.


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