SCOUT’s 2017 Hunting Expo
SCOUT’s 2017 Hunting Expo will be taking place on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at the Apple River Event Center. You will not want to miss this wildly popular event! There will be Product Demonstrations, Deer Mount Scoring by Wisconsin Buck & Bear, Raffles, Giveaways, Gun Raffles, Bow Raffle, Wild Game Feed, Cash Bar, and incredible Vendors to stop by and see.
The JDC area is getting amped for this event and can’t wait to proudly display and chat about their Hunting successes from this year already. Check out a few photos below that were sent in to us local hunters:
If you are interested in being a Vendor, please see the Vendor Registration Information forms below, or you can contact us firstname.lastname@example.org. Hurry, spots are filling up quick!
Writer’s Workshop – Session 4
by Erin Keyser Horn
In the last three installments of Building Blocks of a Writing Style, I talked about voice, characters, and plot. This month I’ll discuss the fourth building block: Themes.
I admit—I never liked analyzing themes in high school English class. I just wanted to enjoy the story, not presume to understand what the author meant to convey. I still believe that a good story is first and foremost; but if you can work in some powerful themes, all the better.
Themes can be tricky. Go overboard and you’ll sound preachy. But without any themes at all, the story is just fluff. How do you know if you’ve nailed the themes? Your editors and test readers will tell you.
Why are you writing this story? What message are you hoping to get across? Remember that people read for connections, to feel something. If your themes resonate with readers and stay with them after they finish reading, then you’ve done your job well.
Four things to keep in mind about themes (with Harry Potter references, as always):
Use symbols and metaphors to convey themes. This works on two levels: author level and character level. The author will choose appropriate symbols throughout the book. For example, a snake is a common symbol of evil, and talking to snakes is a common trait of Slytherins (even the name Slytherin sounds evil). Character-level choices are seen in actions and dialogue. Hermione is always referring to things she’s read in books. You won’t hear Harry or Ron talking the way Hermione does. This is just one aspect of Rowling’s character development, and it serves the double purpose of labeling Hermione as “the smart one.”
Raise themes from different angles and POVs. Some common themes in stories include friendship, family, love, and home. Themes become deeper when you find different ways to explore them. We can compare Harry’s miserable life with the Dursleys to the way he misses his parents but finds friendship at his real “home”—Hogwarts. Or we can compare Harry to Hermione, who also grew up in a Muggle home, but she had loving parents.
Compare both of them to Ron, who has a big magical family with little money but lots of love. All these connections and comparisons are like a web that makes the story stronger.
Show theme via plot, not in a preachy way. The four Hogwarts houses represent courage, loyalty, wisdom, and ambition. But you won’t find Rowling’s characters preaching about this. Over time they just prove—through their choices and actions—how each fits in well with his or her appointed house.
Reinforce themes on all levels. By levels I mean physical, mental, emotional, and maybe even spiritual. A good example of this is seen in the fifth Harry Potter book, The Order of the Phoenix, the darkest of the series in my opinion. As Harry’s connection to Voldemort grows, it starts to take a toll on Harry. He’s tired, grouchy, and stretched to his breaking point. Though the book is borderline depressing, it vividly shows us the torment Harry goes through.
I’ll probably be learning about themes for the rest of my life. Which is good—every author needs to keep discovering and growing. Check back next month for another writing workshop!
Writer’s Workshop – Session 3
by Erin Keyser Horn
Last month in Building Blocks of a Writing Style, I talked about how much I love creating characters. This month I want to discuss another very important building block: Plot.
Writers are broken into two main groups: Plotters and Pantsers. You can probably guess the difference. Plotters strictly outline their books before writing a word. Pantsers discover their plot as they go through the process of writing the rough draft.
My advice is to strive for a happy balance (this advice applies to most things in life!). I suggest you outline your book beforehand—HOWEVER, be open to plot changes that will occur to you while you’re writing. You’ll suddenly discover that the story makes more sense if the character does this instead. Go with the flow. Yes, it will mean rewriting and re-plotting. That’s okay—the story is getting better.
If you’re writing a series, I suggest doing a rough outline of the whole series before you start book one. Again, things will change, but it’s not a waste of time. You don’t want to publish book one only to realize that you wrote yourself into a bad corner for the rest of the books.
More than one way exists to structure the plot of your story. I won’t teach you all the ways, but I will talk about my favorite, the three-act structure. Here is how you can break your story into three acts:
Act 1: The first 25-30% of the book. The point of Act 1 is to set the stage, to let the reader know what is “normal” for the main character. Then we feel the shift from normal when something odd happens. The character has to make a decision—stay in normal life, or pursue this new direction. Act 1 ends with the character’s decision, the point of no return.
Act 2: The middle 55-60% of the book, by far the largest act. The character experiences increasing struggles, both good and bad. Act 2 ends with a fork in the road—a final difficult decision.
Act 3: The last 15% of the book, from the fork in the road to the rising climax, and then a short resolution at the very end. Act 3 is when we truly see how the character has grown and changed during the course of the book.
It’s not enough to simply have a three-act structure. You need to be constantly diligent about the pacing of the story so it doesn’t grow stagnant. Keep that tension throughout to make it a real page-turner. Here are a couple things to check for:
Does your first chapter introduce character and conflict, immediately setting the tone of the story? You don’t have to start with action in the first paragraph, but don’t wait too long. Use page one to ground the reader, and then jump into the exciting stuff. No chunks of backstory allowed!
Does every scene in the book have some type of conflict? My editor always tells me to delete a scene if it doesn’t have a point. The scene must either advance the plot or the character arc. If it doesn’t, then cut it from the book but save it as “Bonus Materials” on your website so readers can enjoy it later.
Let’s return to our analysis of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I didn’t write it, obviously, so I’m just speculating here. But this will give you a rough idea of how the three-act structure works.
Act 1 shows us Harry’s “normal” life in the Muggle world. The inciting incident—the first real action—occurs on p. 27 when Harry talks to a snake. That doesn’t happen every day, right? Weird things continue to happen. Act 1 ends when Harry goes to King’s Cross Station and enters into a magical world. NO GOING BACK NOW.
Act 2 brings us all the events at Hogwarts, growing in intensity as Harry, Ron, and Hermione pursue the mysteries of Snape, Quirrell, and Voldemort.
Act 3 begins around p. 265. The students have just finished their finals, and Harry has a realization about Hagrid and the three-headed dog. Dumbledore isn’t at Hogwarts, so Harry and his friends have to decide whether or not to do the job themselves (the fork in the road). Their decision leads to action, leading to the climax—p. 295 when Harry fights Quirrell/Voldemort. After the climax, only fourteen pages are left to explain the resolution and tie up loose ends.
Hope that helps! Check back next month for another writing workshop!
Writer’s Workshop – Session 2
by Erin Keyser Horn
Last month I talked about the importance of your writing voice in Building Blocks of a Writing Style. This month I want to discuss the second most important building block: characters.
Yes, I really do believe that characters are more important than plot (a sneak peek at next month’s topic). This opinion of mine often gets me in trouble with my editor, like the time she asked me what the plot of my book was. I told her, and she said, “No, that’s your character arc.” Oops. Obviously you need to have a plot in addition to a character arc. But if we don’t care about the characters, we won’t appreciate the beauty of a well-conceived plot.
I wrote the first draft of Eyes of Lightning in 2007. I had a few people, including my teenaged nieces, read the second draft in 2008. My plot back then was awful, and I still had a lot to learn about the writing craft. Fast forward three years—my nieces were still talking about my characters as if they were real people. When characters stay in your head and heart for years, you know they’re keepers. So I rewrote the story to give it a good plot, but I kept the characters the same.
How do you create unforgettable characters? Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Character charts. Not everyone fills out character charts, but I love them. Do a search online to find a chart that appeals to you. If you don’t know all the answers right away, that’s perfectly fine. Some of the answers you’ll learn as you write the story, some answers might change when you discover something new, and some just aren’t relevant. But time spent delving into your characters is never wasted time.
2. Inside-out analysis. Let’s pretend your character’s name is Sally. Try writing a page from Sally’s point of view, as if she’s describing her life to a stranger. After that, think about the people in Sally’s life—her parents, siblings, love interest, enemy, boss, random person on the street, etc. How would each of those people describe Sally in one word? Or in several words? Now you’re really starting to know Sally inside and out.
3. Dig deep. It’s fun to give your characters quirks, but if they’re too quirky, they won’t seem real. Give them at least one deep quality we can relate to. Don’t forget to ask the deep questions about their biggest goals, darkest fears, and strongest motivations.
4. Create a character arc. Your protagonist has goals, a purpose in life. Dangle those dreams in front of her like a carrot so she can get a taste of what that life would be like. Then one-by-one, things begin to go wrong—usually through the character’s own mistakes. At the climax of the character arc, she faces her darkest moment. She has to reach an epiphany and make a choice. At the end of the story, we see how the character has changed and grown.
The better you know your characters, the easier it will be to predict their actions, and thus a whole plot begins to emerge.
Let’s do a quick analysis of a book most of you have either read or are familiar with: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. On page one, we find out what the Dursleys’ greatest fear is—that someone will discover their secret. J.K. Rowling explores all her characters, not just the main ones.
By page twelve we know that Harry’s parents are dead but he himself could not be killed by Voldemort. This accomplishes two things:1) We now have sympathy for this baby boy who has lost his parents; 2) We know there is something special about Harry because he lived when all odds were against him.
We gain more sympathy for Harry as the book goes on. He lives under the stairs, tolerates the Dursleys, and owns next to nothing. And we soon learn more ways that Harry is special—his lightning bolt scar that everyone recognizes, his unique choice of wand, the Sorting Hat fiasco, his aptitude with a broom, etc.
Harry is humble, the exact opposite of Draco. He’s smart, but not a genius like Hermione. He’s interesting, but not as funny as Ron. He’s not ugly, but also not so gorgeous that we’re jealous of him. Rowling created a well-rounded, realistic character that we sympathize with, admire, and root for.
Now—get out from under Rowling’s impressive shadow and create your own characters! Then check back next month to learn more about plot!
COME BACK NEXT MONTH FOR SESSION 3 WITH ERIN!
For more from Erin, check out her website at http://erinkeyserhorn.com/
Writer’s Workshop – Session 1
by Erin Keyser Horn
Have you ever wanted to write a short story, or maybe something longer, but you’re not sure how to hone your writing craft? I would love to help. This article is the first in a series: Building Blocks of a Writing Style.
I think the most important building block is voice. It has nothing to do with your vocal cords and everything to do with how your words leap off the page. Some people believe that voice is synonymous with writing style. I’m of the opinion that voice is just one aspect of a writing style.
Voice = attitude + personality + thought/speech patterns + a variable quality that’s hard to define
In the book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott said, “And the truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice. If it is wrapped in someone else’s voice, we readers will feel suspicious, as if you are dressed up in someone else’s clothes.”
Voice is probably the trickiest thing for beginning writers to learn. It’s incredibly important but nearly impossible to teach. Voice can make or break a story.
Now that I’ve properly scared you, let me give you some hope. There are certain things you can do to find your voice, kind of like singing lessons for writers:
- Decide what makes your writing unique. Is it your characters, plot, themes, word choice, use of punctuation, or a combination of the above? Find that ideal writing style you’re passionate about. Then milk it for all its worth.
- Describe unoriginal things in an original way. A sunset. Falling in love. Losing a loved one. Think about the thousands of times people have written scenes like this. How will you write it in a way that makes you stand out in the crowd?
- Take risks to be different. Experiment with different tones and styles until you find your stride. Don’t be afraid of alienating your readers—you’ll only do that if you use someone else’s voice. Erica Jong said, “If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
- Find the right perspective. For each story you write, you have to decide whether to write in first person point of view or third (or the very rare second). Try writing excerpts of the story in different ways until one narrative clicks for you. Which method was easier to write? Which result is better?
- Find the right tense. Should you go with past or present? Past is the norm, but present tense is becoming more popular. As with perspective, try both ways to see which one is a better fit for the story.
- Evolve with each story you write. Yes, perspective and tense can change from one story to the next. But some things never change. You brand yourself as an author, and readers will begin to expect certain things from you. So let yourself grow and evolve, but stay recognizable—stay true to yourself.
For an example of a very distinctive voice, check out books by Tahereh Mafi (starting with Shatter Me).
It might take a while to find your voice, but once you do, you’ve traveled far on the path to becoming a better writer. Don’t stop now! In the next installment of this series, I’ll talk about characters. Until then, work on finding your voice!
COME BACK NEXT MONTH FOR SESSION 2 WITH ERIN!
For more from Erin, check out her website at http://erinkeyserhorn.com/