Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hank realizes: It All Depends On How YOU Look At It

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:   It's "What We’re Writing" week! And I am coming around the writing corner (crossing fingers), to figuring out the end of WHAT YOU SEE.   Since I don’t use an outline, I won't know what happens until it happens. I mean, until I write it. Scary! And exciting.
And I have come to a revelation about endings.
Were you--like me--one of those people in high school who loved taking standardized tests? Oh, I actually looked forward to it. And I did really well on one called the Miller Analogies test.  Remember?  It was to see if you could understand how one thing related to another.  Word One is to Word Two as Word Three is to Word Four.
By analyzing the relationship of word three to word four, you have to figure out which of the multiple choice words was had the same relationship to the first word.
Puppy is to _____ as Kitten is to Cat.
a.    Wolf
b.   Dog
c.    Mary
d.   Husband
(I will pause, now, while you think about this. But you probably don’t need the multiple choice answers to figure it out. And yeah, you know the answer they want.)
But!  A writer--even if you choose the "correct" answer-- might think of other things. And my theory is—that’s what makes writers (and readers!) different. And special. And able to make stuff up.
For instance. What if Cat is a person? You could then think of a person who had a little dog, and it would be correct to say:  Puppy is to Mary as Kitten is to Cat.
 What if Puppy is a nickname? And that’s what you call your husband? And you also call your grownup cat “Kitten?” So, Husband could also be right.
And what if they meant—a big wild cat, like a lion? A wolf is kind of a big wild dog. So if you look at it that way, Wolf is right.
You could think about syllables, and number of letters, and well, what else?
An ARC of TBT to one lucky commenter!
And that’s what gave me goose bumps when I figured out the ending of TRUTH BE TOLD. I sat at my computer, staring at the screen, thinking: What would someone really do here? What would happen next?
And most important: Why.
And that is when an author has to start thinking about relationships. What one person means to the other, what one person thinks about the other—and how you could make those puzzle pieces of motivation go together in ingenious and surprising ways.
How does one thing relate to the other in an unexpected way? Not the first answer on the Miller Analogies test, but the most interesting one?
(Sidebar: Oh. I just remembered this.  Donald Maass told me once that given the analogies test, children matched Monkey with “Banana,” while adults matched monkey with “chimpanzee.” Adults chose what the subject was. Kids chose what the subject wanted. That, he said, proves kids are storytellers!)
Anyway. When I figured out the end of TRUTH BE TOLD (I will not tell you here, of course), I will confess I was by myself in my study, and I stood up, and applauded.
And I am hoping that happens with WHAT YOU SEE. And you know, um, soon.
Here’s a truly funny thing. When I was looking up examples of the Miller Analogies, here’s (hilariously) one of the first ones Google provided.
A. patent 

B. royalty

C. wage

D. interest
 Of course, now we know, the answer is (say it with me) ALL OF THE ABOVE. Because it all depends on our imagination.
And finally, good news about endings:
TRUTH BE TOLD just got a starred review from Library Journal—and part of the rave says:  “Packs a powerful punch...drop everything and binge-read until the mind-boggling conclusion.”
Reds, were you good at tests? Did you like them? And what’s your answer to the puppy question? An arc of TRUTH BE TOLD to one lucky test-taker! 
*******Oh, and PS! YOU ARE INVITED to the TRUTH BE TOLD launch party! October 7 at Brookline (MA) Booksmith. I will mail you an invitation if you ask in the comments!)  


  1. Hank, I loved loved loved the Miller Analogies Test. Just another way we're twisted sisters, right?

    What a wonderful way to describe your writing process--and besides that, this is a great book:) xo

  2. Oh, yeah, I was the one who loved the tests. Analogies are so much fun.

    Such great news about the wonderful, well-deserved reviews for "Truth Be Told." I'm already so anxious to read "What You See" . . . .

  3. Yup! I never doubted that, lucy! (And hurray. Thank you for everything.)

    And so funny.My mother was given a similar test, where they had say fifty objects.

    The psychologist told her: the more of these objects you can describe relationship for, the higher your score.

    As she told us the story, Mom said she paused, considered the objects, then she said: They're all related to each other, because they are all in the test.

  4. Never met a test I liked except for baseball tryouts. And I can't imagine coming up with a mind-boggling ending at the very last minute. It's impossible! You have to go back and dust up a few preceding events surely? Clever you are. But that's magic.

    Taking Truth Be Told on my vacation next week. I will report if my mind has been boggled.

  5. Wishing you the best of luck with the newest release, and I'm looking forward to reading it. Loved the analogies, too. You're right...authors see so much more in words.

  6. I would LOVE to attend your launch party! Unfortunately, work (and not living in MA)gets in the way. I'll be with you in spirit. I can't wait to read the book!Congratulations on the starred review!

    So it was called the Miller Analogies test? I didn't remember the name but I do remember taking the tests. They WERE fun, and sometimes it was hard not to laugh out loud at some of the possible answers!

  7. Jack, I cannot wait to hear about your boggle-level. (And thank you!)

    Yeah, that's the downside of real-life launch parties. So many people who I'd adore to come simply cannot be there. (But we'll be celebrating here at Jungle Red, so never fear. Fun and prizes on October 7!)

    There was also the Kuder Preference test, loved that. (Which turned out to be hilariously prescient for me.) (Hmm..thst's another blog.)

    ANd the Meyers-Briggs. What are you on Meyers-Briggs, Reds?

  8. Great news, Hank!

    Wish I could come to Brookline.... Will be there in spirit!

  9. I wish I could be there for the party also, but, alas ... California. However, we will celebrate in November for Bouchercon!

    I loved tests, but I'm a competitive soul (so I don't let myself compete, usually). And I love your perspective on the analogies and writing. It's all about different ways of looking at the same information.

  10. I was always good at taking tests. I'm not sure why, but I had a knack for not stressing out and being able to figure out the "correct" answer (in multiple choice) even if I didn't really know the material; for essay exams, I could easily churn out the required number of words, sometimes never saying anything of substance.

    As for Truth Be Told, you saw my facebook photo last night, Hank. I was holed up in my corner reading the book way later than I should have been. Loving it!

    It's killing me that I won't have time to read tonight, since I am going to the Sophie Hannah-Agatha Christie event in DC. But tomorrow is another day!

  11. The first word that popped into my head for the word "puppy" was "happy." I would love an invitation to your party. Not sure I can attend, but would love for you to mail me an invite. Let me know the best way to send my address. And I have always been great at taking tests and, like you, always looked forward to them!

  12. I liked the analogies test. But I love words. I probably would go with dog or wolf because I also really dislike cutsie nicknames and would never go in that direction.

    I cannot make Brookline. But a little birdie told me this weekend that you are coming to Pittsburgh, so I'll see you in December, definitely!

    On the Meyers-Briggs, I am an INFJ, which I think is less than 3% of the population.

  13. Ha ha! All of the above: my favorite answer. And can I just say, I scored 99% on the Miller Analogies test -- for some reason we had to take it to apply to graduate school.

    And Yay on the Library Journal star! And it is a big deal; they do not just hand out stars.

  14. I always did well on multiple guess tests, too. According to one I had to pass before I could be awarded my M A in English, I have a reading knowledge of French. Suuuuure I do. Just don't ask me to translate anything.

  15. Thank you, Hank, for clarifying this lifelong problem of mine. I get it now: I overthink EVERYTHING.

    As a kid (and still) I've always avoided the simplest route with those loaded words, "Yes, but what about...?"

  16. Yes, I was a good test-taker. I remember the Iowa Basics. My sister apparently just filled in the dots to make patterns down the page. :)

    Meyers-Briggs. I'm an ENFP -- "puppy-like". Ugh.

    I remember some kind of spatial relationship test in high school, can't remember the name, that I absolutely failed. Can you get negative scores? I think I did on that one.

  17. Your mom was one brainy lady! I can see where some of your huge braininess comes from! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  18. Hank, congratulations on the starred review! LOVE hearing about your writing process--how you don't know how it will end until you write it.

    And your mother--brilliant! I imagine I scored well on the Miller test, because like Kristopher, I could always figure out the answer they wanted. BUT, always felt the tests were stupid, because, as you point out, there are so many other ways of looking at the equation.

    'What We're Writing' week always reminds me about how talented the Reds are and why there's never going to be an end to my TBR pile. Yay!

  19. As I recall (it's been half a century), the LSAT was largely composed of questions like that. But there was a section where you had to fill in the blank in a sentence, and every other blank in the rest of the document depended on what you'd put into the first blank. Drove me nuts, because I could see where one could veer off and all the rest of the answers would be wrong.

    Please tell me, though, what is the possible connection between a patent (a short-term exclusivity given to someone who creates andis able to document a novel and not obvious invention or discovery) and an author (someone who creates a document of some sort or-- in copyright law-- someone who creates an original work of authorship and fixes it in some tangible medium of expression from which it can be read back).

    Maybe I've been a lawyer too long, but the only way I could see "patent" relating to "author" is if the author were wearing patent leather shoes, or using a patented can opener, both of which are pretty much of a stretch. Any suggestions?

  20. PS in my post above, "novel" means "new and not having been created by someone else already" (adjective) as opposed to a kind of book.

    And by the way, that's why one does a patent search-- to make sure there is no similar discovery/invention on record. Copyrights are different; the creation only has to be original with you, which means you haven't had access to someone else's similar creation.

    Copyrights, by the way, apply to all the arts, not just writing.

  21. Congrats on the starred review, Hank! And lol on the testing. I still have nightmares from college, and that was just a little while ago.

    I don't know how you pansters do it. I plot fairly tightly, but I'm always changing things as I go. I just can't move forward unless I have SOME sort of a plan. So kudos on the ending!


  22. Tammy, thank you! And your kind of competition happens at a hundred
    miles an hour, right? (Or faster?)

    Kristopher--that photo made my week. I adore it, and it;s a treasure. (It's a pic of him reading TRUTH BE TOLD. HoOw fabulous (and thoughtful) is that?)

  23. Congrats on the starred review, Hank! We're all excitedly waiting for TRUTH BE TOLD to launch.

    Your Google-supplied example of the Miller Analogies test illustrates how that kind of benchmark testing could be so hard on kids who were poor, rural, immigrants or really, anyone who didn't come from a strongly middle-class background. I've seen questions that were, ie, "Dingy is to yacht as ____ is to truck." Not very comprehensible to a disadvantaged kid in Kansas City.

    That being said, I've always had the same issue you have - I could always think of at least two of the answers that could be valid. So really, the trick is to figure out what the test authors deem "correct."

    Hmmm...could the authors of the Meyers-Briggs test also be the patent holders?

  24. Kim, hurray! And you can email me at h ryan at whdh dot com

    ANd Mary, yes! See you in Pittsburg! I was always an INTJ, until, hilariously, I started being in book world. A few months ago I took one of those tests again, just for "fun," and I was an ENTJ. WOnder what happened?

  25. Kathy Lynn--so funny! But I guess you figured it out, or at least knew how to fool 'em. Tres bien.

    And Susan D, yeah. The over-thinking thing is a PLUS for writers, exactly! (My Mom called my sister and me the "Yeah-But Kids," because we were always saying "Yeah, but..."

  26. PK, I am howling. The spatial thing. Yeah, what was that? Absolutely impossible. No idea. I'm getting a stomach ache thinking about it.

    Aw, thank you, Thelma. Another of her memorable sayings was "I'm not criticizing, I'm observing." (She WAS criticizing, just let me say. :-) )

  27. Yes, Julia, exactly. Even on the most basic questions:

    What color is a banana?
    a. Black
    b. Yellow
    c. Green
    d. Yellow with black speckles

    Depends, right?

  28. FChurch--thanks! We love these weeks, too.

  29. Ellen, I am still laughing. Patent to an author:
    patent shoes
    patent lie
    how do patents work?
    what if someone were killed over a patent? Or the theft of an idea?
    What could you find out by breaking into the patent office computer?
    Could a person be bribed into giving a patent, or denying one?
    Sadly, I could go on....

  30. (And thanks to all about the star. I am considering getting a Tshirt made of it.) (Maybe I could get a patent on it.)
    Now I am going to be thinking about that ALL DAY!
    And Ellen, there's no such thing as being a lawyer for "too long." I love how you think!

  31. Hank, congrats on the starred review!!!

    Reading about other writer's processes is SO interesting. I can't imagine starting a book and not having any idea how it ends. I call that brave!

    And I love your process. "But it COULD be..." Mine is "What if? And then if that, what would happen?" And we both come up with good stories, right?

    Can't wait for Truth Be Told! Can I get a signed copy in Boston???

  32. Hank, the introvert/extrovert thing for me always boils down to "how do I recharge?" And as much as I love being around other people, especially writers and readers, there are times when I say, "Leave me alone, please - I need my space." I think that keeps me firmly in the introvert world.

    That spatial relations test: I scored so low on it I didn't even register on the chart. My husband still teases me about my lack of spatial-relation skills.

    And Deborah Crombie what about when you've picked your killer and he/she says, "I didn't do it" and EVERY CHARACTER CURRENTLY ON THE STAGE refused to play the role of the bad guy? Yes, it has happened to me. =)

  33. Wait, wait. Mary Sutton! How do you make bold letters?

  34. You use HTML tagging (illustrated under the comment box). For bold use < b > your text < /b > (remove the spaces on either side. For italics, use < i > your text < /i > (again remove spaces). The < a > tag is used for hyperlinks (it's a bit more complicated): < a href: /a >

    Your tech tip for the day. =) Hopefully this comes through.

  35. Almost. After "href:" in the example above you'd type the URL of your link: http://jungleredwriters.com for example.

  36. I loved tests almost as much as writing, and I appreciate that they helped me get a National Merit Scholarship, without which college would have been very difficult. I did have to remind myself to give the expected answer because I could have made a case for most of the options. Disappointed to find that life is much harder and less predictable than tests . .
    As a teacher, I saw how difficult it was for students to cope with the anxiety and really dislike the increase in testing, stressing students and using up time for learning. AND waiting in great anticipation for the book!! Thanks for writing it! Hugs! ;-)

  37. Hank, the answer to virtually all the patent questions you asked (except patent shoes-- patent LEATHER shoes?-- on which, by the way, the patent has long run out) is "No."
    Patent lie? Not very interesting.
    How do patents work? Less so. Lots of money paid to lawyers who are also engineers.
    Unlikely that anyone would be killed over a patent. BY one (applied to medicine to keep it from going generic) maybe. But the legal side of it is so detailed that you'd be found out virtually instantly.
    Theft of an idea-- that's not in the patent realm, because patents are public record and you can't steal them, only infringe them. When they're still in the idea stage (pre-patent), then yes, but that's an industrial espionage thriller, different from patent.
    You couldn't find anything by breaking into a patent computer, and everything in the patent office is online (and backed up and dated and usually printed out).
    And no, you can't bribe someone into granting a patent (see everything is on line, above, and everything is subject to court review with public record). Ditto denying one.
    There is nothing quite so dull as patent law, although the ideas protected (for a relatively short time) by patents are fascinating.
    See, one can be a lawyer for too long!

  38. By the way, I rain on my own parade all the time. I had what I thought was a great idea for a story, but I did some quick research on line, and it turned out that the real world didn't function the way I thought it could. Anyone with any knowledge of the field could have shot all kinds of holes in the story. As a result, there was no there there.

    This is why I can't read most romances, by the way. When the heroine does something that a quick call to any lawyers' hotline could have fixed, but it is the basis for her whole bad-situation-turns-to-hot-romance-with-Mr. Hunk, I throw the book across the room. It's hard to root for a stupid heroine or imagine yourself in her place.

  39. Mary, thank you. You have no idea how much I've wanted to be able to insert italics in these posts. Italics!

  40. Ellen you are quite welcome. Always happy when my normally-useless techie knowledge actually comes in handy. =)

  41. No outline??? Hank, you're a brave, brave woman. I have to go hide under my outline now :)

  42. Congrats on the Starred review Hank in LibraryJournal I saw that and also the Top Pick from RT. Standardized, Essays, Multiple Choice, Fill in the blank I LOVED tests in school it was the raise your hand and participate part that I hated. It's why I ended up in drama in HS and participated in all the musicals to get over my shyness.
    Great Post Hank Can't wait to read it!

  43. Oh, Jenn I would kill for an outline. Just saying.

  44. OH, lookie! Thank you Mary!

    And Debbie aww.... (Yup, more to come on all that!)

  45. I took the California Achievement Test. And I was always very good at them. Of course my answer is Dog.

    I would LOVE an invite to your release party! I CANNOT wait to read Truth Be Told!!

  46. Stacy Green! HI! And I am envious of anyone with a plan. Seriously.I would kill for a plan. Can you come over?

  47. Kelli Jo--emil me your address at h ryan at whdh dot com!


  48. Love the analogies. Loking forward to reading TRUTH BE TOLD.

  49. I never got those Miller analogies! The way I thought they matched up were not the way Pearson thought they matched up. I don't know how I got into graduate school. According to the MAT I had zero ability in analytical thinking.

  50. Thank you, taurus! xo

    And Reine,some levels of intelligence cannot be measured by a mere test!

  51. Night, all! Winner tomorrow...such fun today! xoxo

  52. Loved these tests. I'm very literal, so the answer is Dog. That explains why I'm not a writer but an avid reader who is always amazed at where a writer's mind takes me! I appreciate all of you so much.

  53. AND the winner of the TRUTH BE TOLD arc is: PK the Bookeemonster!

    Monster, email me at h ryan at whdh dot com and tell me your address.

    And anyone who wants a snail mail launch party invitation--do the same!

  54. I always enjoyed the standardized tests, too. But as someone with a big imagination and a day-dreamer, I really wanted to make up my own answer/word than what I knew they wanted us to put down.

    Even now I would say Banana to Monkey.Or monkey to swing, or monkey to silly, or...

    Looking forward to the new book Hank!

    Jackie J. (:

  55. Thanks, Mary, for the lesson on bold and italics. I've been tempted to try it, but was always afraid my comment would just show up with a bunch of tags.

    Now, let's see what happens when I hit publish...