My morning routine isn't complicated but it is necessary...at least if I want to function properly the rest of the day. After doing the essentials like letting the dog out before he kills me dancing around my legs and starting the coffeemaker, I boot up the computer. Email, checking MGC and The Naked Truth (the blog for Naked Reader Press) for comments, scanning the headlines for one of the local papers, checking the kindle boards for free book announcements and then the blogs. Somewhere in there is the first mug of coffee. Maybe, just maybe by the time I've done all this and have finished my second cup of coffee, I'm nearing something close to human.
This routine sets the tone for my day. That doesn't mean if I read something I don't like, I'm in a lousy mood all day. No, it's my jump-start -- and often inspiration for either something I decide I need to do for NR or for one of the blogs or for my writing. It's amazing the ideas that can come from headlines. More than that, if I miss one of these steps, I'm "off" for the rest of the day. Silly, I know, but there it is. Routine done, I can have breakfast, take my shower and begin the day without feeling like I'm out of step with the rest of the world. Well, no more out of step than usual. How about you? Is there a routine you have to follow for the day to seem "right"?
All of this leads up to my links for the day. The first is from agent Jennifer Jackson. In one of her Letters from the Query Wars posts, she listed some of the things in query letters that struck her as ironic. I won't list them all. Just click on the link to read them. However, there are a couple worth mentioning if only to remind you NOT to do them:
- Letters with no name in either the sender field or any of the text but wanting a personal reply. (So I'm stuck with Dear ihatekittens at yourISP dot com)
- Queries complaining about how mercenary and awful agents are while soliciting representation for new novel. Similarly, queries offering to pay fees or higher commission rates.
- A terse follow-up about how it's been 3 weeks since a query was sent but there has not been the courtesy of a reply... when the listed response time for the agent is 4 weeks.
- The characters in their heads won't shut up.
- The story keeps screaming to be told.
- They go a little crazy if they don't write. (Get mean if they don't write, whatever.)
- They neeeeeed to write. It's a sickness, a craving similar to what an alcoholic feels for his alcohol.
- They need the income than an established career has provided them.
- It's better than working for a living. (Said facetiously because, believe me, writing is hard, stressful, deadline-based work.)
The next link also comes from a guest blog for Lucienne. Diana Pharaoh Francis discussed the 12 Steps to Exciting Torture Program. Because I think these are so good -- and so entertaining -- I'm going to list them all. But please, go read the entire post and the comments that follow. Oh, and tell me what your first thought was when you read #11.
- Know your characters. Know what will make them feel the most pain—emotional stuff? Physical stuff? Mental? I know that thinking about someone messing with my eyes makes me cringe. What makes yours cringe? Find their soft spot, their weakness, and drill into it. If they have more than one, do more than one.
- 2. Get a villain who is willing to go the distance if you’re going to have someone doing the torture. You’re reader needs to believe that the torturer will in fact try to squeeze all the pain out of your character that can possibly be managed.
- 3. If it’s not a villain, better make the scene believable. Did mother nature take a sudden dislike to your character and dump her down in a ravine with a billion snakes and spiders? Are they crawling and squirming all over her, sliding into her ears and creeping through her hair? Are they puncturing her skin in delicate little burning bites that putrefy and swell? Are delicately dancing over her eyes and up her pant legs? Does she start to pant with the pain and find them invading her mouth?
- 4. If it’s not a villain, is it a situation? Is he suffering mentally watching something happen that he can never be part of? Is the love of his life going at it with another man in front of him? Is his mother publically saying she wishes he was never born? Is his sister killing herself with drugs and begging for money? Did his sister break into his house and kill his wife and sons because she was desperate for money? Is he going to have to hunt down and kill his own sister in return? (Ah, the sweet smell of torture—ain’t it grand?)
- 5. Make it last. Torture is no fun if it’s over with quickly. I mean, anybody can take pain for a short while. It’s the long drawn out pain that really hurts.
- 6. If you can, dovetail the emotional with the physical. It hurts a lot more when you are getting into their minds as well as their bodies.
- 7. Don’t go the easy route. Yeah, you can do the pull off the fingernails thing, yanking the teeth, or the cattleprod to the balls, but those are so cliché and easy. Same with rape. Those are too easy to fall back on, unoriginal, and they usually backfire with your reader. Especially rape.
- 8. Another form of torture is to attack what the character loves most. Dogs, cats, children, lovers . . . though if you have a pet/child torturer, you damned well better kill him with a lot of pain and violence. Such people, even fictional ones, deserve it. So sayeth I.
- 9. Make it worth the torture. I mean, you can’t be gratuitous. The torture scene has to have point in the story. Your reader has to care what happens to your characters and fear for them. So you’ll have to learn to beat up on the character you love the most.
- 10. Be careful of asking friends/family/acquaintances about how best to perform torturous activities. It makes them nervous. Really really nervous and you’ll encounter reactions like them backing toward a door, faces pale as they ask, “Um, why do you want to know how to pop someone’s eyeball out without smooshing it?” (hey, read my books. You’ll see why. Path of Honor).
- 11. Make your torture really real. Get the sounds, smells, tastes, textures and images right. I mean, did you know that when you’re eye pops out it itches horribly? Details like that lend realism that makes the scene truly come alive. (Oh, and when the guy doing it to you has bad breath, it’s all the worse for the poor victim. Just saying.).
- 12. Just when things look their bleakest, Make Them Worse.