Practical Emotional Structure by Jodi Henley


Writing Slices


PRACTICAL EMOTIONAL STRUCTURE promises a “plain English guide to the transformational character arc and emotional theory.” But there are two things wrong with this. First, Henley doesn’t seem to understand what transformational character arc means. Second, she really doesn’t understand what plain English means.

Henley starts with a chapter on targeting the audience. Of course consideration for the readership is important, but to put that before the concerns of story feels backward. Henley approaches market research in a very shallow way. She suggests you figure out the main emotional concerns of your target audience and then contrive a story around those triggers. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense for the story or not. As long as you can put a child in danger, make a family relationship break down, or put a heroine together with her one true love, all story considerations are secondary.

Henley’s big idea is that…

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5 Real Reasons Agents Are So Darn Picky

Interesting and informative!

Carly Watters, Literary Agent Blog

I think some of you swear when you say that line to yourself, but I’m keeping it PG on the blog. Really, why are we so #&$%(&-ing picky?

It’s not only the volume, but that has something to do with it.

We’re picky because we have to be. We wouldn’t be able to stay in business unless we were choosy about everything we signed up. So here’s the truth if you’re still wondering what happens at agents’ desks…

5 Reasons Agents Are Picky

1. Because editors are.

All we hear from editors is how much they have to read, how passionate they have to be in their editorial and acquisitions meetings, how much marketing and sales has a say in the books, and how they have to have a clear vision for projects they take on. So guess what, agents have adopted all those criteria too. It’s true, in this internet…

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5 Accomplished Authors Who Turned Out To Be Hoaxers

I present for your perusal this article from Cracked yesterday.

I have to admit, I’m a little conflicted.

On the one hand, ideally, writers should be honest about who they are. On the other, a good book is a good book, whether it’s a true story or not – and the reverse is also true.

Stories (especially ones purported as fiction in the first place) that suddenly go from best book this decade to most horrible trash ever written reveal more about readers’ bias than about their fraudulent authors. The identity of the author shouldn’t change what you think of their actual prose.

I’m reminded of the tragically short life of Thomas Chatterton. It was only after his suicide that those who had shamed him for being a hoaxer recognised that he was an immensely talented writer, who probably shouldn’t have told all those fibs about exactly where his manuscripts were coming from. (Spoiler: himself.)


The Death of Chatterton, 1856. Oil Painting by Henry Wallis.

Am I even close, here?

Entangled – Kathleen Cosgrove


Publication Date: June 6, 2015

Source: Available from Amazon.

Format: E-book

Length: 260 pages

Summary: When Southwest Florida crime-scene blogger Maggie Finn goes deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, a deadly catch plunges her into a sea of trouble.
Clues point to a marine park where she goes undercover, working as park guide in a shark costume. The cast of characters is one found only in Florida, at least in Maggie Finn’s kind of Florida. To complicate things even more, Maggie finds herself falling for a man who she suspects may be a murderer.
In a place where no one is who they appear to be, and nothing is what it seems on the surface, Maggie will have to keep her friends close and her enemies closer, if only she can figure out who is who, and untangle the web of deceit before she becomes the next victim!   (Source: Amazon product description).

Short Version: Surprisingly light-hearted romp, with an endlessly entertaining protagonist.

Longer Version: I picked this one up on a whim, and I’m extremely glad I did. This is the second in the “Maggie Finn” series and I haven’t read the first, but after reading Entangled, that may soon change.

On its surface, Entangled follows the premise of a lot of crime novels: discover the crime, investigate the crime, mounting danger, denouement. That’s not to speak negatively about it; in terms of its structure and effect, it does everything I would expect a novel of this genre to do, and it does it seamlessly, without drawing attention to itself.

Beyond that, though, this book is really a one-woman character study as we’re taken through the story by sixty-year-old blogger Maggie Finn. As she observes very early in the book, part of her journalistic skill is down to her not being afraid to be very annoying, and the way she tirelessly badgers both police and civilians on her way to solving the crimes at hand rings true (I’m thinking of investigative trash-journalism like A Current Affair) and is a lot of fun to read. Her observations of those around her seems always on point and, most delightfully, she’s almost always honest about herself – I’ve read novels in the past that infuriated me with the female protagonist having little else to occupy her mind beyond shoes and lipstick, but Cosgrove strikes a nice balance here, with an ageing woman who is realistic about her appearance but smart as hell and confident in her personality. There’s an ongoing quest for strawberry pie that’s quite funny because Cosgrove doesn’t overdo it. (In turn, the reader also craves pie.) Her crush, as mentioned in the synopsis, is also handled well – unlike some characters I’ve read, Maggie expresses her interest, but does not instantly turn into a pile of infatuated, out-of-character mush.

Secondary characters are for the most part nicely portrayed, too. Of note is Rose Shelton, Maggie’s Friend on the Force (and, if my intuition is correct, also her girl-crush). Their dialogue bounces beautifully:

“You say civilians like my granddaughter says Muggles.” [Maggie says].

“What in the hell is that?”

“You know, Muggles, non-magic folk. Didn’t you ever read Harry Potter?”

“I am a half-Mexican, half African-American woman making my way in a middle-aged white guy world, do you really think I have time to read kids’ books?”

“Well, he was kind of a detective; he had to track down Horcruxes.”

“You know I’m not listening to you anymore, right?”

Other characters aren’t all they could be, though this is no doubt somewhat due to sequel syndrome: Maggie’s daughter Megan is mentioned exactly once, appears for a paragraph, and is never mentioned again, though for all I know she has a larger role in the previous book. Another character, “Gator”, seemed to me to be a little stereotypically “shell-shocked Vietnam veteran” (completely with an ‘I’ll help you, lil’ lady’ attitude toward Maggie that drove me up the wall) One sequence dealing with his PTSD flashbacks makes for some very awkward reading. That’s a minor sin in terms of how much space it takes up in the book; the plot doesn’t hang on it.

And what of the plot? It’s always difficult to discuss murder mysteries without giving away too much of the plot, but on the whole I found the plot of Entangled pretty far-fetched, but didn’t mind one bit.

The term “beach read” is taken as perjorative by some people, but I mean this seriously: with the Florida setting and witty characters and fast-paced plot, take this one to the beach with you.

Is Online Life Real Life? Ask E.L. James. No, Ask Chuck Wendig

Thought Catalog

iStockphoto / EHStockiStockphoto / EHStock

One Big Gray (Not Grey) Area

Online is IRL.

It’s all real.

This is all really happening.

We’re all (mostly) really actually people. Not robots or bugs or swamp monsters.

It’s not a show, no matter how much we want it to be.

That’s the author Chuck Wendig, wrapping up what he seems to have thought would be his one post on the PR hair-tearer #AskELJames. But a funny thing happened on the way to today: Wendig wrote another piece, basically climbing down from his first one.

Confused? So are many commenters at his hugely popular blog site. You can see more than 100 baffled comments following his second piece here.

The incident seems to give us a chance to peer — granted, without much hope of seeing through it — into the big, gray area that online public discourse has become, so often wracked with hostility…

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