Monday, September 24, 2012

Just Say No To Melodrama

Today I am excited to welcome Becca Puglisi, one half of the awesome blogging team at The Bookshelf Muse and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Chracter Expression.  For today’s post, Becca will be sharing an excerpt from The Emotion Thesaurus.

Just Say No To Melodrama

If all emotions were of average intensity, they’d be easier to describe. But emotions vary in strength. Take fear, for instance. Depending upon the severity of the situation, a person might feel anything from unease to anxiety to paranoia or terror. Extreme emotions will require extreme descriptors, while others are relatively subtle and must be described as such. Unfortunately, many writers make the mistake of assuming that to be gripping, emotion must be dramatic. Sad people should burst into tears. Joyful characters must express their glee by jumping up and down. This kind of writing results in melodrama, which leads to a sense of disbelief in the reader because, in real life, emotion isn’t always so demonstrative.

To avoid melodrama, recognize that emotions run along a continuum, from mild to extreme. For each situation, know where your character is along that continuum and choose appropriate descriptors. Just as extreme emotions call for extreme indicators, temperate emotions should be expressed subtly. The indicators for intermediate emotions will lie somewhere in the middle.

It’s also very important that your character follows a smooth emotional arc. Consider the following example:

Mack tapped his thumb against the steering wheel, one arm dangling out the window. He smiled at Dana but she just sat there, twisting that one loop of hair around her finger.
“Worried about your interview tomorrow?” he asked.
“A little. It’s a great opportunity but the timing’s awful. There’s too much going on.” She sighed. “I’ve been thinking about cutting back. Simplifying.”
“Good idea.” He nodded along with the radio and waved at the biker who thundered past on his Harley.
“I’m glad you agree.” She faced him. “I think we should break up.”
His foot slipped off the gas pedal. The air grew heavy, making it hard to breathe. The car veered toward the middle line and he let it drift, not caring whether he lived or died.

Unless Mack has a psychological reason for doing so, he shouldn’t jump from placidity to depression in a matter of seconds. A realistic progression would be to move from contentment to shock, then disbelief, and finally to grief. Done thoughtfully, this emotional arc can be shown with relatively few words:

“I’m glad you agree.” She faced him. “I think we should break up.”
His foot slipped off the gas pedal. “Break up? What are you talking about?”
“Mack. We’ve been headed this way for awhile, you know that.”
He gripped the steering wheel and took deep breaths. Sure, things had been rough lately, and she kept talking about taking some time, but she always came around. And she’d definitely never uttered the words “break up.”
“Look, Dana—”
“Please, don’t. You can’t talk me out of it this time.” She stared at the dashboard. “I’m sorry.”
His insides twisted. He darted a look at Dana, but she was curled against the window now, both hands resting easy in her lap.
He gaped at her. They were totally breaking up.

Make sure that your character’s feelings progress realistically. Map out the emotional journey within the scene to avoid unintended melodrama.

All of this is not to say that real life doesn’t produce extreme emotion. Birth, death, loss, change—some situations call for intense responses that may go on for awhile. Many writers, in an admirable attempt to maintain believability, try to recreate these events in real time. This results in long paragraphs or even pages of high emotion and, inevitably, melodrama. Though real life can sustain this kind of intensity for long periods of time, it’s nearly impossible for the written word to do so in a way that readers will accept.

In these situations, avoid melodrama by abbreviating. This method is often used for other real-life scenarios—conversations, for instance. Small talk is left out to keep the pace moving forward. Mundane tasks are also cut short, because the reader doesn’t need (or want) to see the entire car washed, a piece at a time, while Bob ponders a problem at work. In the same way, extensive emotional scenes should be long enough to convey the appropriate information, but not so long that you lose the audience. Write the emotion well, develop empathy in your reader, maximize the words that you do use, but don’t overstay your welcome.

Becca Puglisi is one half of The Bookshelf Muse blogging duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with 75 different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion. The Emotion Thesaurus is available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords, and the PDF can be purchased directly from her blog.

For anyone who would like to read the book review I posted for The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Interview with Maggie Lyons

Joining us today is Maggie Lyons, author of Vin and the Dorky Duet, a middle-grade adventure story.

Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

World traveler, spy, concert pianist—just kidding! Actually I do love traveling and once got as far as the beautiful and fascinating land of Ethiopia. A very long time ago I enjoyed an extremely brief career as a very unofficial spy for the British government and, in my student days, I managed to quell my stage fright enough to give a handful of public performances as a classical pianist. That was in the United Kingdom where I was born.

After my curiosity was piqued by the streets paved with gold in the United States—well, that’s what they tell foreigners they’ll find over here—I gravitated to Virginia where I threw myself—not literally of course—into editing and writing nonfiction, mostly for adults.

I discovered the magic of writing for children a few years ago. I’m having so much fun with it, I can’t imagine why I didn’t start doing it long before. When my son was small, I enjoyed reading him stories at bedtime as much as I had enjoyed listening to my parents reading stories to me in my childhood.

It’s no secret that children who read and listen to stories develop a strong foundation for their emotional well-being as well as for the intellectual and social skills they’ll need as they grow up.

Did I say “grow up”? I’m not sure I ever did grow up because I still find the world of children’s stories absolutely fascinating. Writing them gives me all I need as an excuse to raid the stacks at my local children’s library.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I wonder if the writing bug is a cousin of the bookworm? It’s probably a speed writer because it writes with six hands. Hmm …

I loved words as a child—reading them and speaking them. I didn’t write them with any sort of relish until I got my first real job as program annotator with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC, which allowed me to peruse the music stacks at the Library of Congress and—privilege of privileges—bring the books home. I luxuriated in the pleasures of researching and writing about European and American composers, a favorite subject of mine.

Why did you decide to write stories/nonfiction books for the children’s market?

Children’s literature has always fascinated me. My parents read bedtime stories to me when I was a child and I read stories to my son when he was small. All I needed was an excuse to borrow books from the children’s library, and declaring myself to be a children’s writer did the trick. Studying the work of great children’s writers gives me the chance to indulge my love of that enchanting mix of innocence, escapism, imagination, and humor that bubbles out of children’s literature.

What is your favorite part of writing for this group? What is the greatest challenge?

I love playing with words but writing something somebody enjoys reading is a challenge.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

It’s about a seventh-grader who reluctantly goes on a mission to introduce his sister, Meg, to a boy she has a crush on. Since Vin doesn’t actually know this boy, he has to dream up a game plan to meet him and introduce him to Meg. That’s when the mishaps pile up and things don’t turn out quite as Vin expects.

What inspired you to write it?

My love of music—Vin plays the trumpet—and challenges, or perhaps I should say the idea of challenges.

Has getting published changed how your family/friends treat you?

Not yet.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

The e-book is available at:
MuseItYoung section of MuseItUp Publishing’s bookstore:

The paperback is available at:
Halo Publishing International at:

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

My Facebook author page is:

The e-book of Vin and the Dorky Duet is available at the MuseItYoung section of MuseItUp Publishing’s bookstore; Amazon and other outlets listed on MuseItUp Publishing’s home page. The Vin and the Dorky Duet book page at Amazon is at:

The paperback is available at Halo Publishing International:

What is up next for you?

Launching Dewi and the Seeds of Doom this coming October.

I’ll announce the release dates of the e-book and paperback versions on my website and Facebook author page.

Do you have anything else to add?

Check my Facebook page and website for the latest news.

Thank you for spending time with us today, Maggie. We wish you much success.

Thank you for inviting me. I don’t know about your readers, but I’ve had a lot of fun.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Vin and the Dorky Duet by Maggie Lyons

Vin and the Dorky Duet

By Maggie Lyons

Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing

                 ISBN: 978-1-77127-073-1 (eBook)

Publisher: Halo Publishing Int.

                 ISBN: 978-1-61244-091-0  (Paperback; 93 pgs.)

Genre: Children's Chapter Adventure Book

Cover Art by Suzannah Safi

About the Book:
A twelve-year-old boy named Vin, goes on a mission - reluctantly.  He doesn't share the optimism of the knights of old who embarked on impossible missions without a doubt they'd succeed.  When magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths and other disasters erupt, Vin comes close to packing in the whole ridiculous business.  He calls it Operation BS, his code name for a mission to introduce his sister to a boy she has a crush on.  He doesn't want to play matchmaker, but Meg's promise to reward him with a David Beckham autographed soccer jersey is a decisive incentive.

My Thoughts:
Vin and the Dorky Duet has it all.  Adventure, embarrassing situations, tall tales, magnetic compost heaps and man-eating bubble baths.  Add to that an average boy, a plotting older sister, an unsociable nerd and a few other quirky people.  What do you get?  A hilarious page-turner that will draw the reader into the story at page one and keep them there all the way to the end.  

I thought it was a fun book to read.  It's the kind of fast-paced story that middle graders and tweens will enjoy reading.  The characters are fun, easy to relate to and the dialogue is realistic.  I couldn't help but laugh when reading the embarrassing situations Vin finds himself in.  I look forward to reading more by this author.  Perhaps there will be more adventures with Vin?  One can only hope.

I recommend this book for all middle grade and tween readers.  This would be a great addition to classrooms, libraries and bookshelves at home.  I also recommend Vin and the Dorky Duet for all adults who are still kids at heart.  : )

Maggie Lyons was born in Wales and brought up in England before gravitating west to Virginia's coast.  She zigzagged her way through a motley variety of careers from orchestral management to law-firm media relations to academic editing.  Writing and editing nonfiction for adults brought plenty of satisfaction but nothing like the magic she discovered in writing fiction and nonfiction for children.  Several of her articles, poetry and a chapter book have been published in the children's magazines Stories for Children Magazine and knowonder!

Author's Website:

Author's Blog:

You can find out more about Maggie Lyon's World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

To learn more about the World of Ink tours visit

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Muse Online Writers Conference

October 8 - 14, 2012

This is a week long conference that you don't want to miss.  There will be workshops, chats, lots of great information, and pitch sessions with publishers.  Did I forget to mention that it is free?

Click on the above link to learn more about the conference and be sure to sign up.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Join MuseItUp Publishing in Celebrating Their 2 Year Anniversary

MuseItUp Publishing will be celebrating their 2 year Anniversary on October 1st with lots of cyber food, cyber drinks, door prizes, etc.  Come and meet their authors, editors, and cover designers that day.  To give you a taste of what's to come, anyone who likes their  Facebook page at: will receive a FREE ebook of their choice from their bookstore.  Like their page, then send a PM with the following info: your name, email, date you liked their Facebook page, and the ebook title you are choosing as your free prize.  It will be sent to you within 24 hours.


MuseItUp Publishing believes in their authors and staff and now they want you to have an opportunity to meet them on October 1st. Deadline for the FREE ebook is September 25.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Couple of Links to Check Out

As I work at getting caught up on my blog reading and get back into a writing routine, I thought I'd take this time to share a couple of links.  I hope you find one or more of them helpful.

Twilight Times Books 2012 Contests

Medical Scene Writer

The Savvy Book Marketer


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