Two Steps Ahead or Two Steps Behind? Mystery or Suspense?

Two Steps Ahead or Two Steps Behind?by Amy Maida Wadsworth Whether you want to write a bona fide mystery with all the genre conventions or are just looking to weave some nail-biting suspense or an air of mystery into your romance or sci-fi, the key to snagging your readers’ interest is in filling them with fear. How you imbue a reader with fear or deep concern requires several strategies, but we’re covering the two primary considerations below. Let’s start with an example: As Sherlock approached 221B Baker Street, he saw splinters of wood where the lock had been jimmied open. He pushed open the door, slowly and silently, to let the dim afternoon light spill through the doorway. Cleaning supplies were strewn across the entryway floor. Someone had forced their way in—a man, who had scuffed his black-soled shoe along the wall on his way up the stairs. He had been dragging someone who snagged her sweater on a protruding nail—the woolen fibers, scratches across the steps where she had drag…

Heart of the West Writing Conference

This morning, I spoke at the Heart of the West Writing Conference, a conference for the Utah chapter of Romance Writers of America.  I was able to talk about one of my favorite subjects--Point of View and the Choice Cycle.

For those of you who haven't heard of the Choice Cycle before, it's a system that I've developed through years of study, writing, and editing to help writers keep a clear hold on point of view.  Clear point of view strengthens the reader's connection with the main character, and therefore makes them more invested in the story you're telling.  This emotional connection is key to sympathy, interest, and holding your reader's attention so that they won't put your book down. We read to feel something, after all, and readers will feel more if they are able to experience the point of view character's journey with them.

I won't go into detail about the choice cycle here, because I'm currently editing an e-book about the subject, t…

3 Steps to a Great Kissing Book

by Amy Maida Wadsworth Remember the opening scene in the film version of The Princess Bride? If you don’t, go refresh your memory, because it’s a great movie. (And if you haven’t seen the movie at all, warning: spoiler alert!) We’re going to analyze this fantastic little film in honor of  Romance Writers of America, since this week is the Utah chapter conference. So for all you romance writers, let’s dive into a favorite love story. It goes something like this. A sick young boy is sitting on his bed playing video games when his grandfather comes to read him a book. The young boy hesitates, pauses his video game, and looks at his grandfather like he’s hopeless. Grandad persists and begins reading about young Wesley and fair Buttercup. He reads how Buttercup realizes that when Wesley says, “As you wish,” he really means, “I love you.” It doesn’t take long for the boy to interrupt with, “Wait. Is this a kissing book?” Of course, he comes to find out that the story is much more than a kis…

Call it Like You See It! Exploring Narratives and Point of View

Call It Like You See It! Exploring Narratives and Point of ViewBy Amy Maida Wadsworth My husband is a football fan. And me? I generally enjoy football because it’s easy to fall asleep to on a Sunday afternoon. Last season, however, piqued my interest. The NFL’s referee union went on strike, and everyone—fans and players alike—complained more than usual about referee calls. My husband explained that inexperienced, scab referees were determining game outcomes with egregious calls. Of course, this makes an author think. A referee’s calls depend entirely on his point of view—his keen senses, what those senses observe, and how he applies his knowledge of the rules. Of course, a single referee is limited. That’s why a bunch of referees consult each other and use consensus to establish truth—or as close to the truth as they can get. What does that have to do with an author? Simple: A narrator’s point of view (POV) determines a story just as clearly as a referee’s point of view determines hi…

Superheroes and the Villains Who Make Them

Superheroes and the Villains Who Make Them (In honor of Salt Lake Comic Con) By Amy Maida Wadsworth I’ve always related to Spider-Man—not because I’m particularly brilliant or fascinated with arachnids, but because there is a side of me that often feels socially awkward, and it takes a mask (fiction, maybe?) to make me feel like I understand people and have some control over my environment. I also relate with underdogs. In fact, most of my favorite fictional characters are underdogs—the underestimated Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), the overlooked Julian Delphiki (Ender’s Shadow), and the pushed-aside Connor Lassiter (Unwind). Psychoanalyze that. Superhero stories have stood the test of time because all of the characters are relatable—they represent an accelerated, concentrated version of the everyday good guy. Iron Man is a wealthy playboy who seems cool and collected—but, deep down, he’s scared of vulnerability and loss. Superman wants to save the world—but realizes that in the…

Writing Classes and Private Coaching

I've had several people ask about writing classes recently.  Usually, I teach classes in elementary schools or as part of Community Education through various school districts.  Since I have decided to pursue my Master's Degree, I'm not currently in a position to take on 25 students at a time. So, I have set up the classes in a digital format, to be conducted through e-mail, much like a private coaching session.  Check out my page about writing classes for more information.

4 Steps to a Boat Full of Fish

Ever been hooked? It tugs at first—a niggling, intriguing irritation you can’t ignore. With a splash and a surge, suddenly you’re racing along, gasping for breath, and barely aware you’ve taken the bait. You’re dragged, compelled, forced to flip the page, consuming the story as if you’re starved. When it’s all over, it’s four in the morning and you aren’t the person you were before.  You’ve been on the ride of your life. It’s a difficult task to reel in readers this way, especially in our fast-paced digital world. The first 500 words (roughly the first page and a half) should be a sample of your absolute best writing, because they’ve got to get hooked before you can reel them in. (See the points below and try to tackle them all in the first 500 words of your next book. Even if you don’t leave them all in, challenge yourself to think creatively, to explore how it could be done subtly.) If your reader puts your book down, there’s a chance he may never pick it up again. On the other han…