Jayme Woods

Writer. Geek. Adventurer.


Leave a comment

May the 4th Be with You

HAPPY STAR WARS DAY!!

My sister and I saw The Internship the other day, and we spotted her desk organizer, Chip the Desk-Bot, sharing the screen with none other than Mr. Dylan O’Brien. Hers is on the right:

stiles with robot

What does that have to do with Star Wars day? Well, apparently, Dylan O’Brien’s dream role is Han Solo. And Chip’s is Chewy. My sis knows these things. So I decided to do some (very rough) photo manip to make that happen because: (1) it’s Star Wars day, (2) the world needs more Dylan O’Brien and Chip the Desk-Bot, and (3) I like making dreams come true.

So without further ado, I present Dylan and Chip’s Star Wars photobomb:

Chip shot first:

chip shot first w text

Is this Leia chick strawberry blonde? Green eyes? Five-foot-three? No? In that case…

stiles dont care w text

A long time ago in a trash compactor far, far away…

trash compactor w text
That’s enough nonsense from me. May the 4th be with you.

Always.

Advertisements


4 Comments

When Life Gives You a Toilet Seat…

Today I may or may not have broken my toilet seat.

I may or may not have boxed it up, created a shipping label to disguise it as school books, and left it on my sister’s doorstep.

And I may or may not have included a note signed, “With love, Fred and George Weasley.”

hogwarts toilet seat 2

When life gives you a toilet seat, make… haste to wrap it up and give it to a friend!


6 Comments

Query Lessons from City of Bones

WARNING: I am not an agent or an expert of any kind. Everything that follows is based solely on my experience in the query trenches and my personal taste. If everyone wanted the same thing, we’d all be dating your grandmother, as the saying goes. What works for me may not be what works for you or for others.

Confession time: I’m the only person on the planet who still hasn’t read City of Bones. Before I saw the movie trailer, it was a few books down on my TBR list. After I saw the trailer, it got moved to the vague “whenever I get to it” pile where TBRs go to die. The movie just looked so dark and heavy. So not my cup of tea.

Fast forward a few weeks. My sister goes to see the movie. Loves it. Drags me kicking and screaming. After the end credits, City of Bones jumped to the VERY NEXT spot on my TBR list. I’m also now the proud owner of my very own stele prop replica:

Oh so shiny!

Oh so shiny! 🙂

That’s right. I now own merchandise from a movie I didn’t even want to see.

This got me thinking. Movie trailers can teach us a lot about querying. I’ve heard agents warn you should never, ever, EVER pattern your query like a movie trailer. If, like me, you wondered what that meant, watch the teaser for City of Bones:

Before I saw this trailer, I was loosely aware of The Mortal Instruments, its characters and premise, etc. For the sake of argument, let’s say I wasn’t. If my sister had tried to sell it to me following the structure of the trailer, it probably would’ve gone something like this:

Sis: Imagine this. A random dude murders someone in a really crowded conspicuous place, but no one can see it except Clary. Not even her hot bespectacled friend.
Me: Why? Is she crazy?
Sis: No! She’s just not a Mundane.
Me: What’s a Mundane?

Okay, at this juncture my sister and I both would’ve replied, “A Muggle.” In fact, that’s exactly how we did describe the movie to our dad. But since you can’t exactly say that in your query, the rest of the conversation may have gone something like:

Sis: A Mundane is someone who isn’t human.
Me: I don’t know, man. Clary looks pretty human to me.
Sis: Well, she isn’t! She’s a Shadow Hunter.
Me: What the heck’s a Shadow Hunter?
Sis: Shadow Hunters are half-angel, half-human warriors locked in an eternal battle against evil!
Me: Ooookay. So… why do they need Lily Collins?
Sis: Because she’s different.
Me: [does double-take at trailer] Was that Kevin Zegers?!
Sis: Focus! Clary’s got a map inside her head, alright?
Me: Why didn’t you just say that? [glances back at trailer] Does the map lead to Kevin Zegers?

If you don’t know why this is funny, you need more Air Bud in your life.

If you don’t know why this is funny, you need more Air Bud in your life.

Do you see where I’m going with this? This particular trailer got so bogged down in world building that it didn’t get a chance to showcase what made City of Bones awesome. When agents say not to structure your query like a movie trailer, I think this is partially what they mean. My first query was a mess because I was so in love with the world I’d created I wanted to shove all of its beautiful intricacies into my query. But guess what? All that world building didn’t need to be there. It just ate up precious words that could’ve been used to showcase what really mattered: why an agent should want to read more.

I’m reminded of an article I read a few weeks back, What Separates ‘City Of Bones’ or ‘Divergent’ From ‘Twilight’ or ‘Hunger Games’? Simplicity. The author, Scott Mendelson, gives advice that lends itself directly to queries:

“You’re selling a movie [in the case of a query, a manuscript], not a rule book on the fantasy world in question.”

and

“Don’t sell the rules of the game, but rather sell why the moviegoer [reader] would want to play.”

If I may be so bold, I think this is the cardinal rule of querying. I’m not saying you should be vague and cagey in a query. That’s just as bad as being overly specific. However, I think you need to be able to distill the bigger picture into a brief, snappy hook so that you can spend the rest of your 250-300 words, as Mr. Mendelson puts it, “teasing the actual adventure being offered [not just the world where the adventure takes place] or offering character beats that might make me want to spend time with these people.”

In the case of City of Bones, I might’ve said: “When Clary’s mom is kidnapped, she must venture into the dangerous world of demon hunting to get her back.” Boom. Is it more complicated than that? Yes. Is the scope of the world grander than that? Of course. But by simplifying the hook you give yourself room to show how grand and complicated your manuscript is. If the trailer for City of Bones had hinted Clary’s first love might just be using her to get the treasure map inside her head, I’d have been all over it. Hello, internal conflict and potential heartbreak! Throw in a tease about the conflict Clary might feel trying to choose between her old safe life (i.e. her funny, loyal, awesome best friend) and the rush of something new and dangerous, and I’d have been like:

Why, yes, this is Tinkerbell from Once Upon a Time.

Why, yes, this is Tinkerbell from Once Upon a Time.

The moral of the story? Conflict is key.

I’m not saying a simple query tweak would’ve sold my first manuscript. It was just as messy as my query. But if your manuscript is in good shape and you’re still not getting the responses you’ve hoped for, you may need to approach your world building with a wider lens so you can really dig into the specifics that make your book unique and engaging.

Still here? In that case, here are my last two cents: it is imperative to capture the tone of your manuscript in your query. While watching the trailer for City of Bones, I found myself thinking: Why so serious? The movie is actually very funny in places, which I love, but the trailer is all gloom and doom and weepy violins. Don’t do that.

Above all, don’t give up. You CAN do this!

Thanks to everyone who’s read and good luck to anyone in the query trenches. I hope this post helped a little.

Also, for hanging around until the end, here’s a hula dancing snowman. Enjoy:

Frozen snowman


2 Comments

Happy Sister’s Day!

It’s just been brought to my attention that today is Sister’s Day. My first thought was: How did I not know this?! I have the best sisters ever!

My next thought, as it often is, was The Goonies:

goonies brand edited

Poor Brand. As much as I love Mikey, I have to admit: Brand’s sort of missing out. Sisters are special things. You might fight with them – but never as hard as you’d fight for them. You can tell them anything without ever worrying they’ll spill because, let’s face it, you’ve got just as much dirt on them. Sure, when you split lemon meringue pie your sister might eat all of the lemon and leave you nothing but meringue…

GIF credit to the fantabulous Sara

GIF credit to the fantabulous Sara

…but she’ll also swap her Red Ranger card for your lame Madam Woe because she knows Red is your favorite. She’ll do your hair and makeup for your first dance – and your first photo shoot. And, if your sisters are as awesome as mine, they’ll sing “That Thing You Do” with you nonstop for the entire drive to Disney (sorry, Mom and Dad) because it really is that great a song.

So to all you sisters out there thanks for being awesome! And to my sisters: thanks for always being there, even when “being there” meant reading endless drafts of manuscripts and query letters and *gasp* notes to boys. Y’all are the best!


Leave a comment

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.


7 Comments

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!