Tuesday, April 21, 2015

4 Asking WHY as a Writer and a Reader - Guest Post by Liza Wiemer and a Fantastic Contest

I recently had the great pleasure and honor to read and blurb a book that was truly special and very unique. It's a book like absolutely nothing that I've ever seen before, and I can't wait for it to be published so the rest of the world can read Liza Wiemer's Hello?.

Want to know what I said about it?

"Brave, beautiful, and wholly original, this story about tantalizing connections and heartbreaking relationships will haunt you, fill you with hope, and leave you smiling." —Martina Boone, author of Compulsion and the Heirs of Watson Island series

Liza is having an amazing contest to introduce readers to the story. There's lots more about that and how you can win tons of great prizes at the end of Liza's guest post today.

But first. I have another great accomplishment to share with you. Lori Goldstein's Becoming Jinn releases today. Apart from the fact that I'm dying to get my copy in the mail tomorrow, I have to tell you that Lori is a First Five Pages Workshop alumni--both as a participant and as a mentor. Yes, you read that right. Lori worked her way through the three rounds of workshop comments and then snagged herself an agent and a publisher for Becoming Jinn. Of course, she also did a lot of other work on the manuscript and had a lot of other help, but that's exactly what it takes. We all help each other to succeed. That's what I love about the YA book world. Anyone truly can become a published author with the right combination of an idea, hard work, and perseverance. HUGE congrats to Lori!

And now back to our regularly scheduled program. : )

One of the most important questions we can ask as writers! 

By Liza Wiemer 

A year ago, I was talking with a nineteen-year-old about the five narrators in my upcoming novel Hello?. She asked, “Why did you use free verse poetry to tell Angie’s story?”

“Ahh,” I thought. “This is a smart question.”

I love when readers ask me why. It means they want to know my motivations, my thought process, my reasons for having a character behave in a certain way. The answer to her question is at the end of this article.

Out of all the questions we ask as writers—who, what, when, where, how—“why” is, in my opinion, the most critical to the story.

It helps us to dig deeper. To create richer, more interesting characters. To move forward when we’re stuck and to help us understand the world in which our characters exist.

Here are some questions to ask during the writing process: 

  • Why is this relevant to the novel? 
  • Why do I want to put a flashback here? 
  • Why am I using this specific word to describe this object, person, environment? 
  • Why would the character do this—or not do it? 
  • Why should he do a specific act, even though it’s out of character? 
  • Why am I including or not including the five senses? 
  • Why write this scene this way? 
  • Why am I not delving deeper into the characters’ motives? 
  • Why start or end the chapter or this novel this way? 
  • Why is your character keeping a secret? Lying? Cheating? Compulsive? Obnoxious? A bully? A great listener? 
  • Why not hold back and reveal this surprise or secret later? 
  • Why write what’s expected? Unexpected? 
  • Why did I fall into the trap of clich├ęs? 
  • Why kill these characters? Give them flaws? Destroy them emotionally? Build them up? Betray them? Have them fall in love? Abstain from sex? Seek intimacy? 
  • Why do you want your readers to love a character? Sympathize with him? Miss him? Care? 
  • Why is this character less developed than others? 
  • Why would my characters be unable to fulfill their goals? 
  • Why are they motivated to achieve their goals? 
  • Why does this scene feel flat? 
  • Why am I stuck? Or even better, why is my character stuck? 
Ultimately, asking and answering “why?” will help bring layers to the story. “Why” allows us to cut a beloved sentence or scene. It leads to those “ah-ha!” moments, the surprising moments when you discover something new, unusual, or shocking about your character. In turn, you now have the perfect environment to create a moment that’s completely unexpected.

And speaking about unexpected . . .

In Hello?, weaving together five distinct narrations was one of the biggest challenges I had ever faced as a writer. I DID NOT choose to write in free verse poetry format because it’s distinct and different. In fact, I hadn’t written any poetry since middle school and was highly dissuaded by talented writers from taking on this new skill. Honestly, when I first started writing Angie’s character, I didn’t know WHAT THE HELL I WAS DOING!

I didn’t care. Why? Because Angie was speaking to me in free verse poetry. It’s how she shows the world the inner part of herself. On the surface, it would have been easy for readers to see Angie as superficial and self-centered. Free verse poetry allowed her to reveal herself in a way she felt “safe.” Her secrets. Her hopes. Her failures. Her successes. For her, free verse poetry was a diary of her life.

As the author, it was critical for me to honor her voice. So I learned. I read free verse poetry books. I had a one-on-one hour session with a retired poetry professor to improve my cadence and structure. I wrote and wrote and wrote and revised and revised and revised. Most importantly, I stayed true to Angie’s voice and I kept the question “why” in the forefront of my mind.

Thank you so much, Martina, for the opportunity to share with your readers!


Liza married the guy who literally swept her off her feet at a Spyro Gyra concert. Their love story can be found on Liza's “About” page. Besides being a die-hard Packer fan, Liza is also a readaholic, a romantic, and a lover of crazy socks and rooftops. Hello? is her debut YA novel. She also has had two adult non-fiction books published, as well as stories and articles in various publications. She's a graduate of UW-Madison with a degree in Education and the mother of two sons.

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Hello? By Liza Wiemer
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
By Spencer Hill Contemporary

Tricia: A girl struggling to find her way after her beloved grandma’s death.

Emerson: A guy who lives his life to fulfill promises, real and hypothetical.

Angie: A girl with secrets she can only express through poetry.

Brenda: An actress and screenplay writer afraid to confront her past.

Brian: A potter who sets aside his life for Tricia, to the detriment of both.

Linked and transformed by one phone call, Hello? weaves together these five Wisconsin teens’ stories into a compelling narrative of friendship and family, loss and love, heartbreak and healing, serendipity, and ultimately hope.

To learn more about Hello? and to add it to your TBR: Goodreads

During the 1960's, Carole King released an album entitled Tapestry--a masterful weaving of story and song. A half-century later, author Liza Wiemer has mirrored that blend by wonderfully stringing together several forms of narration, one specific to each of her characters. Hello? is a truly remarkable and memorable story communicated in a superbly envisioned way. –Paul Volponi, award-winning author of The Final Four, Game Seven, and Black and White.

"A triumph of writing and humanity...the characters stayed with me long after I read the book." —Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of The Boy Most Likely To, What I Thought Was True, and My Life Next Door



Let’s bring this world a little closer together! Please join us in saying #HelloFrom wherever you are and spread good cheer across the globe. Students from Sturgeon Bay and Washington Island, WI, the setting for HELLO?, are following along.

To embed the #HelloFrom and mega giveaway video into your website post:

20 lucky people will randomly be selected from all over the world to win prize packages that include items inspired by Hello?. Many were purchased from artists/stores from Door Country, WI, the setting for the novel. 


  1. Thanks so much, Martina, for your fabulous endorsement and kind words! Loved writing this guest post! Congrats to Lori Goldstein for the book birthday of BECOMING JINN!

  2. Interesting story. Thanks for telling me about this book.

  3. Absolutely LOVED this post, cannot wait to read Hello :)


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