Dance and Sing for Books!

Well, I hope you all had a chance to revisit your childhood over the holidays. I’m talking about the release of the new movie Mary Poppins Returns. Now I don’t usually post my thoughts about movies on my blog, but this one deserves some attention
I have to admit I was skeptical there was no way they could outdo the first. There is no way that someone else would play the role of the ultimate nanny and carry it off the way Julie Andrews did.original_1099048853
But boy was I wrong! I’m in love with the new movie it was everything I hoped for and more. The return of old characters, new characters, song, dance and Disney the way it used to be!
It felt like the movie was made just for me; the writer, the reader, the adventurer.

Big, big, big spoiler alert here!! If you haven’t seen, the movie, you may not want to read the rest of my blog. Or you can go ahead and read, I promise not to give too much away.
The original Mary Poppins had this beautiful scene where Bert and Mary took the kids on an adventure through pictures. They jumped into the paintings on the sidewalk, and the fun begins. Everything that you remember from that scene in the original Mary Poppins– keep that in the back of your head. Because in Mary Poppins Returns they took the same concept, but instead of jumping into pictures they made the emphasis on books.

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Books, books, books! There is a fantastic song, & dance number called ‘The Cover Is Not the Book’ and the song stuck in my head for most of the movie. You can even play it on iTunes.
I think for me as a reader and a writer it felt like the movie was calling out because of the accent on books. It is all about judging a book by its cover, and the lessons that it taught the Banks children through song and dance are excellent.
Now as a writer we know you can and should judge a book by its cover– because the cover is what sells your book. So don’t lose heart to that concept.
The movie was taking an old saying and giving it a new song and a fun visual concept. One that I hope will resonate with every child. Teaching our children to remember that each person is an individual and has their own redeeming qualities. Qualities that you can’t see by looking at a person until you get to know them.
So, thank you to the Disney Company, and the creators and writers of Mary Poppins Returns. You touched my heart and my soul, especially with that song and dance routine.

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PS  I have the soundtrack playing as I’m writing this, and I can’t stop grinning!

Victoria LK Williams

Go ahead-kill ’em!

Kill your darlings.

The first time I heard that phrase I thought it was awful. What kind of a sadistic person would deliberately kill a character you created that wasn’t an evil villain?
Your characters are like your friends. You know them inside and out. You’ve created them with distinct personality traits and flaws. Hopefully, you’ve got your readers to connect with those characters.But now some writing Guru has told you to kill them.

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I have to be honest, it took me a while to fully understand why you would do this. But now that I know, I’m not afraid to do it.
Having a murder in your mystery is pretty much a no-brainer. The reader usually doesn’t have a chance to get to know the victim, so you don’t feel any guilt having killed the character. But there’s more at stake when the characters have had a chance to become known to your reader.
Why would you put your characters in mortal danger? There are a number of reasons, but probably the most common is to build tension, or change the direction of the story. In a cozy mystery, it’s rare that a killing is random, there must be a meaning behind it. Keep this in mind and don’t go killing characters just for the sake of excitement. And a word of warning: you can kill the granny next door, but don’t kill her pet! For some reason, readers (myself included) get upset at the death of a animal. The animal can accidentally cause a death, but Fido or FeeFee must walk away unscathed.

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In the book I’m working on now, I was stumped. I had all the clues in place, the red herrings were planted everything was going smoothly. Yet, I was bored. And if I was bored, I knew my reader would be too. But there was this one annoying character…
Yes, I’ll admit, I killed her. This added urgency to the story. And it also explains some plot points.
Do I feel guilty about killing off my darling? Maybe a little. I think I had honestly hoped to redeem her and make her a little bit more likable at the end of the book. But not everybody can be redeemed, and not everybody can be liked.
No, I’m not saying go and start killing off your characters merely to build tension in your story. There are other ways that you can create the same tension without being murderous.
Something unexpected or harmful can happen to a character. Thrown for a loop, your characters will act differently than the reader is expecting. Use those unexpected events to build more tension or even to set up an explaination that must be answered by the end of the book.

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There, now I put some evil thoughts into your head as a writer.
Take a good hard look at your characters and decide whether you kill them off or just throw an unexpected twist their way.

Victoria LK Williams