Jayme Woods

Writer. Geek. Adventurer.


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Warm Bodies and Writing: The Importance of Secondary Characters

When I mentioned zombies in my last post, it was just to give my sister a hint about her birthday gift:

kayce's gift 3

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized writers can learn a lot from Warm Bodies. An entire post could be devoted to the differences between the book and movie, but for this post I’m going to focus strictly on the movie. Specifically, I’m going to focus on the importance of its supporting characters: Nora, M, and Perry.

At first blush, it’s easy to think the magic of Warm Bodies is all about R and Julie. They are, after all, the main characters. However, I’d argue it’s the characters around them who really sell the story and, in many ways, endear R and Julie to us.

***WARNING: SPOILERS***

Take Nora. Sure, she fulfills the stock role of sarcastic best friend, complete with zippy one-liners and a makeover scene for poor unsuspecting R.

makeover edited

But Nora’s most important scene, to my mind, is one of her very first, when R and his zombie buddies ambush Julie and company. Why does it matter? Because, later in the movie, when Julie tries to fight her way out of a zombie infested airport with nothing but a weed eater, we might ask ourselves: why now? If she’s such a fighter, why not fight earlier, when she was much less outnumbered? One quick pan to terrified Nora, cowering under a desk, and we understand.

Nora edited

Julie goes with R to save her friend. This sacrifice immediately makes her more sympathetic without compromising the tough-girl side that makes her so awesome throughout the rest of the film.

Much like Nora, R’s best friend, M, instantly ups the humor ante. He also lays the groundwork for the ultimate redemption of the zombies. One scene in particular always kills me. In it, M talks about regaining his memories. His mom. Summertime. Then, like it’s some profound revelation, he adds:

cream... of wheat edited

The first time I saw it, I died laughing. Let’s be real, I still do. But, as trivial as it sounds, this was a profound revelation for M. He’s been so lost for so long that he’s completely forgotten what it is to be human, right down to the tiniest (and most hilarious) details. It’s this reignited glimmer of humanity – something we’ve already seen blossoming in R – that allows us to forgive the zombies for the otherwise unforgivable things they’ve done. Like eating people. Which brings us to…

perry edited 2

I’m probably going to catch some flak for this (yes, I’m talking about you, sis), but in my opinion Perry is the linchpin of Warm Bodies. Our opinions of R, Julie, and their entire romance rest squarely on his shoulders. Why? If he’s too unlikeable, we’d never believe Julie would put up with him. She’s tough. She’s hot. It’s the end of the world. She’s got to be getting other offers. We have to believe she and Perry have something special enough to fight for. Even though Perry is broken and pushing her away, we see him in flashbacks being a boyfriend worth having, possibly the first guy to ever tell Julie he loved her.

BUT – and here’s why I say Perry could’ve ruined the whole movie – he can’t be too likable. As the audience, we have to believe sweeter than pie Perry is gone, replaced by an apocalypse-wearied soldier. We have to be able to forgive R for, well, eating him – and we have to believe Julie would too. Otherwise, the whole movie falls apart. Ten minutes later, when Julie’s falling for R, we wouldn’t feel warm and fuzzy. We wouldn’t want to root for them. We’d be outraged.

retail therapy edited

That, my friends, is the magic of supporting characters. Sometimes they cower under desks or muse about breakfast foods. Sometimes they get eaten. But through it all they hold the story together and, in the case of Warm Bodies, make it an incredibly fun ride.

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Now You See Me, Now You – OOH, CAKE!!

I like theme parties. A lot. So when my sister’s birthday rolls around I don’t play around. Our place has been transformed into everything from Hogwarts (complete with floating candles and boggart cabinet) to an Avatar Day celebration:

avatar

Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, and this year I had no clue what to do… until we went to see Now You See Me. For those of you who don’t know, Now You See Me is pretty much the best heist movie since 2003’s The Italian Job – only with magic! I’m a sucker for classic stage illusion, so this was pretty much the perfect movie.

Thankfully, my sister agreed, so I *finally* had a theme to run with. This is what happened:

****WARNING: SPOILERS****

table

That giant card in the background was inspired by my sister’s favorite part of the movie: Atlas’s opening trick. Shout out to the ladies at work, who gave me the tablecloth I used to make it! 🙂

Here’s a close-up of the falling money inspired by the Four Horsemen’s final trick (note: it’s been photo bombed by Beauty and the Beast):

falling money

You know that Canon commercial where all the photographers do crazy stuff to get the perfect shot? That’s pretty much how my sister looked when she snapped the picture above. Here’s another one from top-down (taken on her tippy toes from a chair) because she’s thorough like that:

falling money 2

Thankfully, what I lack in photography skills I make up for with baking prowess:

cake

Okay, not really. That’s from Costco. But it was seriously delicious. If I ever have to plan a last meal, I’m going to order a barrel of the chocolate mousse they put in the center. *drool*

Where was I? Right. The party.

Here’s the rose and note that greeted the Four Horsemen in that creepy abandoned apartment:

flower

Fun fact: not only can Jack Wilder turn playing cards into deadly weapons, apparently he also keeps them arranged in Fibonacci sequence:

cards

Again, not really. But it’d be really hot if he did.

Moving on. Here’s some Merritt McKinney swag:

merritt

Last but not least, here are some Minions. Everyone knows it’s not a party without Minions:

minions

Again, we’ve been photo bombed by a Disney character. That’s life in the fast lane.

So there it is. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SIS!! Love ya like a zombie loves brains…

And, yes, that might’ve been foreshadowing for my next post. 😉

Wishing you all a lovely weekend and a great big slice of Costco cake!


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If There Aren’t Photos It Didn’t Happen

It’s been brought to my attention that, for all its GIFs, my last post lacked something very important. Photographic evidence. So here it is!

Here’s me with my contract:

me-with-contract

I’m actually playing it cool in this shot. I was totally freaking out.

And here’s the real star of this blog post:

signing

My Lego Stormtrooper pen. Under the helmet, he’s actually Lego Han Solo. *swoon*

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!


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The Ridiculously Overdue Story of How I Got My Agent

First, a great big THANK YOU to Rach, Sara, and Chrissy for giving me permission to illustrate this post with their awesome GIFs. Because, really, who doesn’t like a GIF-tastic post?

Now, you guys may have noticed I’ve been putting off this post. Not because I’m not excited as heck about it. And certainly not as a reflection on the fantabulous Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services , a.k.a. MY AGENT!!! Let’s be real, just typing that still makes me feel like this:

brad alex dance

No, I’ve been putting it off because, not too long ago, I was on the other side of these posts, picking apart every word for hidden meaning. I was sure, mixed in with all those exclamation points, I’d find the secret handshake to Agentland. But here’s the thing. There is no secret handshake.

Don’t believe me? Here’s how it all went down:

I sent my very first query about four years ago. June 19, 2009, to be exact. The query itself was atrocious, and the manuscript was even worse. That’s right. Worse. Thankfully, my next manuscript was a little less horrible – and the one after that was almost good. It was so almost good I thought maybe it could be the ONE. Pretty much everyone who read it agreed. So I queried.

And got requests! Actual requests from actual agents! And I was all:

Austin & Ally Dance

Then the requests turned into rejections. Lots and lots of rejections. It was sort of like this:

sad kuzco

Which made me feel like this:

sad stitch

But only for a few minutes because then something really magical happened. One rejection came with feedback. Awesome feedback from an awesome agent (okay, agent’s assistant) who’d read the manuscript and believed in it enough to send something other than the dreaded form letter. It wasn’t an R&R – not by a long shot. But it was a start.

Needless to say, I went all Jillian Michaels on my manuscript. You know that scene in Close Encounters where the main dude attacks his mashed potatoes? Yeah. It was like that.

That’s when something else really magical happened. I entered Deana Barnhart’s Gearing up to Get an Agent contest. Not only did this put me in contact with lots of awesome writers, it also lit a fire under me to finally join Twitter. I’m not exaggerating when I say this was a game changer.

Did you hear that? Game. Changer.

I’ve learned so much by stalking – I mean, listening – to agents. Super casually, of course.

what the...

I’ve also met amazing writers I admire something fierce, including Brenda Drake, Krista Van Dolzer, Jen Malone, and Dee Romito. These ladies all deserve my eternal gratitude for their Pitch Wars feedback, especially Jen, who volunteered her sons as my first kid beta readers, and Dee, who taught me a new bad word… which I’d accidentally used as a character name.

awkward

Last but not least, I met a new critique partner named Brooks. That’s when things got really interesting. See, Brooks heard about Pitch a Partner, a contest run by the lovely Mindy McGinnis, R.C. Lewis , and MarcyKate Connolly .

The idea was simple: if you did a good enough job pitching your CP’s book, you got to pitch your own manuscript to actual agent-types. I hadn’t known Brooks that long, but I’d read his book and knew it was genius. So we entered.

Please note: I was still pretty new to contests, but I’d entered enough of them to know I was probably going to get silent rejections. A lot of them. So imagine my surprise when I oh-so-casually checked the blog comments for the (three-hundred and twenty-)first time only to discover I had a request! Then I got another one. And another. And I was all:

sue dance

By the end of the contest, I had four requests from rock star agents. My mind was pretty much blown. After that, I started stalking my email instead of the contest comments. Partial requests turned into full requests. And then one full request turned into a request for a phone call.

Confession time: I had no idea who Adriann was before I entered Pitch a Partner. Once she requested, I researched like crazy and realized she was essentially an agent ninja. Our phone call did nothing to challenge that assumption. Adriann’s editorial suggestions were spot on. She seemed to love my characters as much as I did. And, well, we just seemed to click. I know everyone says that, and it’s frustratingly vague. But there it is.

Let me be clear: even after all that, I didn’t realize this was THE call. I thought we were discussing an R&R – or that I was being Punk’d. In fact, I was so sure it wasn’t THE call that, when Adriann offered rep, my brain short circuited and I actually asked her to repeat it.

Yeah. That happened.

head desk

Thankfully, she didn’t rescind her offer, and I somehow managed to say I needed to be professional and contact the other agents with pages, blah, blah. But the little inside voice my head was already screaming:

i think you're in love

So I followed up with the other agents, which led to another epic staring contest with my inbox. During this time, Adriann sent a follow-up email that outlined her awesome vision for my book. I peppered her with questions (I don’t even want to admit how many emails this entailed). Most importantly, I spoke with her clients, who said things like, “She’s determined and professional and encouraging and smart,” “I couldn’t have landed a better agent,” and “SIGN WITH HER NOW, YOU FOOL!”

Okay, that last one might’ve been me. Needless to say, I accepted her offer, and I’ve been doing this ever since:

confetti leaves

So there it is. To everyone out there in the query trenches, if there’s any doubt in your mind, banish it! Four years ago, I knew diddly-squat about querying and contests and agents. I learned pretty much everything I know from falling on my face. Repeatedly.

ouch

When rejection makes you feel like quitting, you just gotta reply:

no can do

If I can do this, you can too! Never. Give. Up.

Whew! To anyone who’s made it this far, thanks for reading! Now go out there and show the world who’s boss!

way to go team