Tuesday, April 5, 2011

David Holt, Master Storyteller and Musician

Four-time Grammy winner, musician, storyteller, David Holt
David Holt--Grammy award winner, professional storyteller, folk musician--has mastered the skill all children's writers seek.  He knows how to inspire children, captivate them, and leave them begging for more.  If I could harness the literary equivalent of David Holt--simultaneously playing the banjo and the harmonica, flat-foot tapping, and singing the catchy tune of a knee-slapping folk song--well, I'd have a best-seller. 

If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing David Holt live, or at least hearing his music, check out his website.  You can learn about his shows, appearances, storytelling, and the history of Southern mountain music.  He even has a video on how to play the spoons! And, if you are looking for some fun music that will put you in touch with your inner child, try "Blackeyed Susie", "I Got A Bullfrog", and "Ain't No Bugs On Me".

The storytelling, exaggeration, repetition, and rhythm of such folk songs are great reminders of what children love to hear when stories are read aloud to them.  I love when another medium inspires me to write.  Have you seen anything that inspired you lately?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Three Things

As promised in the previous post about first lines, here are the elements I think make a first line work.  First, do I get a sense of who the character is from the first line?  I am looking for hints and clues of personality, demeanor, stress or tension, anything that gives me the feeling that, although I am reading a work of fiction, this character is believable and real.  Second, do I get a sense of conflict?  The first line does not have to describe a life or death struggle at its most critical moment.  It could be internal struggle.  It could be a sense of inevitable conflict that I know must soon unfold because of the personality, demeanor, stress, or tension I detected about the character.  Third, am I filled with questions after that first line?  Not questions like, "What is this person talking about?  It makes no sense!"  But, rather, questions like, "Why is the character happy they are imprisoned?" or "What does the character fear will happen to her father if she tells her secret?" 

If the first line intrigues me with an interesting character, sparks my curiosity about a conflict that character faces, and leaves me with questions I must have answered, I will read the next line of the story.  And if each paragraph unfolds more of the same three elements, I will read the entire novel.

How about you?  What first lines have you read and loved?  No posting bad ones here unless they are your own and you want to laugh about it.