Oct 16, 2015

Blog Tour: How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don't Have a Clue by Jess Keating

Hello, my foxy friends! I'm very excited for today's post, because Jess Keating has stopped by again! She's the author of the very adorkable My Life Is a Zoo series, which is one of my favorite Middle Grade series. It includes How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied, How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel, and the latest installment, How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don't Have a Clue. (Say all of those five times fast.) To celebrate the release of her latest funtastic book, Jess is here to talk about voice, which is something she does spectacularly well. I'll tell you about all three books--because you want them, trust me--and there's a giveaway of all three books, which you should so totally enter, and I promise you won't regret it.

The Lens, the Thorn, and the Gold: Writing Real Voices for Real Characters         

Voice. It’s one of those concepts that I think all writers can point out when they see it, but it’s infinitely harder to describe finding it. To me, voice is my favorite part of writing (and reading!) any story. There are characters whose voice I love so much, I would literally read their grocery lists with gleeful abandon. In my opinion, you can’t separate voice and character. But how do you actually create a voice that sounds realistic? To me, the answer lies in knowing three things: the lens, the thorn, and the gold.

Say what? I know. It all sounds like a King Arthur quest or something. A quest for voice! You’re never going to instantly know your character's voice. It does take practice (sorry!). But by sorting out these three things, you’ll be well on your way to a voice that starts to take over, hopefully telling the story for you.

The Lens: Every character (and every real person!) has a lens through which they see the world. What experiences have they had early on that influence their general worldview? Are they pragmatic? Hopeful? Wounded? In my books, animals and science form the lens that Ana looks through. She uses animals and observations to help sort out her feelings, and they help situate her in her own life. But your character has their own lens, informed by their own experiences. Nailing this down will help you find the realistic ranges of the tone of voice you need.

The Thorn: This is the thorn in your character’s side. Their weakness. Their faults. Their (wrongly interpreted) view of themselves that bleeds into every situation (especially the negative ones!) that they encounter. You can find your character’s thorn by asking yourself: what do they fear? There is a reason they fear this, and that view of themselves is the nugget you’re looking for. The information from the lens and the thorn together will tell you not only what they would say in certain situations, but also their motivations for saying it. This leads to our last point...

The Gold: Here’s the good stuff. The gold is what makes them push through all the obstacles you’ve set up for them. What does your character want more than anything else? What makes them go up against their thorns? That is the gold. Make sure to go deep here. Harry Potter, for example, wants to defeat Voldemort. But more than that, (and before all the problems in Hogwarts escalated) Harry just wanted a family. Knowing your character’s gold helps you determine realistic, layered, and nuanced actions and reactions. It also reveals their grit, and that’s a powerful thing to readers.

Using the lens, the thorn, and the gold will not instantly help you nail down your character’s voice, but it will definitely get them talking. With enough time, they may never shut up!

TitleHow to Outfox Your Friends When You Don't Have a Clue
Author: Jess Keating
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publishing Date: October 6, 2015
Pages: 320
Goodreads Amazon Barnes & Noble
What would middle school be like if you lived in a zoo? Just ask Ana Wright, star of the hilarious, award-nominated My Life is A Zoo series that combines first crushes, friendship fails...and pack dynamics.
Surprise! Ana's long distance BFF is finally coming back to visit. But with her purple hair and new attitude, Liv is barely the girl Ana remembers. This new Liv probably thinks a birthday party at the zoo is lame. Maybe if Ana has a super-secret sleepover instead, she'd never have to introduce Liv to Ashley, former enemy and now Ana's best-ish friend. What could go wrong?

And don't miss the first two books in the series, featuring crocs, sharks, new and old friends, family, and plenty of shenanigans!

TitleHow to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied
Author: Jess Keating
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publishing Date: June 3, 2014
Pages: 288

What would middle school be like if you lived in a zoo?

Ana didn't ask to be named after an anaconda. She didn't ask for zoologist parents who look like safari guides. And she definitely didn't ask for a twin brother whose life goal seems to be terrorizing her with his pet reptiles. Now, to make matters worse, her parents have decided to move the whole family INTO the zoo! All of which gives the Sneerers (the clan of carnivorous female predators in her class) more ammunition to make her life miserable-and squash any hope of class tennis stud, Zack, falling in love with her. Ana tries to channel her inner chameleon and fade into the background, but things are changing too quickly for her to keep up.

TitleHow to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel
Author: Jess Keating
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publishing Date: January 6, 2015
Pages: 304
Goodreads Amazon Barnes & Noble

Ana Wright's summer just got terrifying. She's finally getting used to living in a zoo (no, seriously—she lives with her family in an actual zoo), when she's assigned to work in the new shark tank. With her worst enemy. Forget about sharks! Ashley is the ultimate predator. And after Ana's favorite croc peed on Ashley's shoes, she's probably out for revenge.

This can't be good.

“Why is everyone acting so weird today? Dad even said we were celebrating something today? Is that what all your texts were about?”
He shook his head, but Daz could have angel wings and be playing the harp on a cloud and he still wouldn’t look innocent.
“No reason,” he said. The mischievous glimmer in his eyes set my teeth on edge. Nodding to my door, he smiled again. “Go ahead. Go on in!”
He might as well have been telling me to hop into a live volcano at this point.
I peeked back at my door, inspecting the knob for any telltale signs of Daz prankery.
Hidden insects?
What was he up to?
“You didn’t let one of your snakes loose in my room again, did you? I told you, I am not going to keep helping you find Oscar if you’re dumb enough to set him loose in there.”
He giggled and closed his door mysteriously. “Good luuuuck,” he said from behind the door.
I frowned, giving myself a pep talk. I will not live in fear of my brother. I will not live in fear of my brother!
Cracking my door open, I sniffed inside. It might seem weird, but there was no way he was going to get me with a skunk again like the Great Stink of ’11.
My room smelled normal from the outside.
But when I yanked my door open, my heart fell into my butt.
“Oh my God,” I breathed. My ears began to tingle, and my vision began to do swirly--whirlies. “You’re kidding me!” I steadied myself on the door frame as I gaped at her.
It wasn’t a reptile staring back at me.
Instead, it was a girl with bright eyes, clunky boots, and fingerless gloves.
A face I hadn’t seen in months!
“You’re actually here!” I yelped.
Liv—-as in, the Liv, my lifelong best friend who I hadn’t seen since she moved to New Zealand—-uncrossed her arms and wiggled her fingers in the air. “Surpriiiise!
“What are you doing here?!” I fumbled, kicking my dirty socks out of the way to reach her.
“Is that any way to greet your best friend?” Liv stood up from my bed and scrambled over to me, giving me a giant hug. She smelled like strawberry body spray and licorice.
“Sorry!” I said. “I’m just so surprised to see you! I mean, look at you!”
I didn’t mean to be staring, but I couldn’t help myself. She looked so…different! Not bad different, but not at all like the Liv that moved away six months ago. Her face was thinner, like her cheeks had lost their squishiness, and her chin had gotten a bit pointier. A knitted, wooly hat was tugged down over her ears.
When she was here, she used to live in jeans, T--shirts, and cardigans. You know, typical geeky girl stuff. But the girl in front of me was wearing tight black pants, a black long--sleeved shirt layered with a T--shirt from some band I’d never heard of, and a clunky pair of black boots that easily made her two inches taller than me. She looked like the kind of girl that cardigans would run away from in fear. Some sort of inky, dark lip gloss made her teeth look extra-white every time she smiled.
“You’re so tall!” I sputtered, stepping back to take another look at her.
And you have chesticles now! I didn’t say that part out loud.
She beamed. “Dad said I’ve grown over an inch since we left. It must be the fresh New Zealand air.” She spun around, yanked off her hat, and twirled around like a ballerina, with her dark purple--streaked hair whipping around her.
Purple hair?!
“Whoa!” I said, reaching out to touch a lock of it. “Your parents actually let you dye your hair purple?!” I tried to picture straight--laced, cut--the--crusts--off--your--sandwich Mr. and Mrs. Reed letting Liv do something so outrageous. They wouldn’t even let her wear tinted lip gloss until she was twelve!
She grinned. “They didn’t let me, but it’s kind of too late now, isn’t it? So awesome, right? Leilani has purple hair too, but hers is more magenta--y, like hot purple. Mine’s called Violent Violet,” she said, like that explained everything.
I swallowed.
Violent Violet.
My best friend who stops to pick up ladybugs from the side of the road so they don’t get stepped on had Violent Violet hair.

Jess Keating is a zoologist and the author of the critically acclaimed How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied. Jess is also the author of the playful nonfiction picture book Pink is for Blobfish (Knopf Children’s, 2016). She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves writing books for adventurous and funny kids.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Which animal would the zoo book about your life feature?

1 comment:

I've been having s-to-the-pam issues, and I wasn't thrilled with Disqus, so sorry about the CAPTCHA!