Category Archives: Writing

Creating Characters

“Stories have a power, a magic all their own. Consider the fact that the actions, thoughts and feelings of people who have no existence in reality can make you laugh, make you weep. That’s the art and that’s the magic.”
―Denise Rossetti

My favorite books are not those with crazy plots or dramatic scenes.  While those don’t hurt, I love them because I love the characters.  They were written so that it made me care about what happened to them.  A connection was made, and I was hooked.

To be able to connect with characters, a writer must be able to express their complex emotional side.  Boring characters will make even the best plot fail.  If you want to create a memorable to story, you have to create memorable characters.  No way around it.

Most of my ideas for a story begin with a character.  They are born in my imagination and slowly begin to grow.  I begin to question who they are, where they’re from, and what they need.  From that, a story forms and my words breathe life into them.

Sounds easier than it actually is.  For me, it’s a long process to get from character to story. Some people help build their character by creating a profile or conducting an interview with their fictional friend.  I’ve never been a huge fan of doing that.

I ask myself a few simple questions to get started and build from there.  

  • How old are they?
  • Where are they from?
  • What is their home life?
  • What personality type are they?

 

Once I figure out the answers to those questions, I move on to my favorite part.  Research.  Age, setting, family and different personality types all contribute to building a believable character that readers can connect to.  After I have the building blocks of my character laid out, I know how they will act and where to take their story.

I have a notebook FILLED with different character sketches, personality types, body language… You name it, I’ve researched it!  If you’d like a copy of any of them, let me know.  I’d be happy to send them to you or post them here!

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Sticks and Stones

“Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” —Nathaniel Hawthornes 

 

I’ve been reflecting on the power of words lately.  I remember reciting the familiar phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” as a child and feeling confident that I would be much worse off with broken bones than damaged feelings. 

I now know how wrong that silly taunt is.  Words can heal, hurt, unite, destroy, inspire, educate, offend, encourage, degrade…Their meanings change over time and from person to person.  

As a writer, I pay close attention to the words I choose to write and carefully edit them before I’m satisfied with my choice.  I admit, shamefully, that I am not always so careful with the words I speak on a daily basis.  I’m working on it.  

Are you?

 

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To Write…or Not to Write

The dishes need washed.

Laundry needs to be folded.

It’s too sunny to be indoors!

My computer sucks.

Just 15 more minutes on Pinterest…followed by 15 more. 

If only I had a decent office.

I’ll get to it tomorrow…

Lately, I have been using every excuse in the book to avoid writing.  I sit down at my computer with the best intentions and before I’ve even touched my manuscript I’ve come up with something that needs to done RIGHT NOW.  

My husband appreciates my new found love of tidying up the house, but I can feel myself loosing sight of my goals.  The initial rush I had from the excitement of writing my first book has worn off and now I’ve realized, “Oh, shit!  This is really hard.”  

Hard, but worth it.  

Anyone else in the same boat?  How do you rekindle your motivation? 

 

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Revision Massacre

My helpless novel is currently sprawled around me in tiny, bloody pieces.  It’s been hacked, chopped and ripped to shreds.  The remnants are scattered about in no logical sequence, leaving me staring at the mess with bloody hands.  

I’ve accepted the fact that it was bound to happen some time.  It was basically dead to begin with.  Luckily, even as my inner critic tells me it’s not worth saving, I still feel a slight heart beat.  Like a surgeon carefully and methodically saving a life,  I’m determined to piece it back together, stronger than it was before.  

There is one slight problem.  This surgeon never went to medical school.  For the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to mash the mess together with out the proper tools and hope it miraculously comes back to life.  The harder I tried, the worse it got leaving me overwhelmed and my beloved characters begging me to save them.  

I knew I had to change my plan or risk destroying it even further.  

First, I had to take a step back and regain my focus.  Because I wrote the first draft so quickly, it’s filled with inconsistencies and serious structural problems.  

Next came the tedious task of reading it from beginning to end (no matter how painful), figuring out the problems, and plotting out a new, detailed outline.  I had to remind myself to trust my instincts and not be afraid of making big changes, which I did.  I added characters, removed characters, and changed a major part of the plot.  What I was left with, was an organized system for putting the pieces together.   

My manuscript still remains in critical condition, but I can finally look at it with out a sense of dread.  

How do you approach the revision process?  Do you find it daunting or exciting?

 

 

 

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Why we write

I’ve always been curious as to why writers write.  What drives them to the computer or notepad to carefully craft out a story and painstakingly choose each and every word?  It’s a question that has been asked before to writers of all kind.

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Some famous authors have confessed the reasons why they write:

“The only thing that makes me crazier than writing is not writing,” Sara Gruen

“I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money.” Mary Karr

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad,” Lord Byron

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” Ernest Hemingway

“Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I’m writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is.” Anne Rice

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Sometimes I’m not sure why I write, and other times is so clear that I can’t keep myself away from it.  I write to sort out my thoughts, to find myself, to create, and because frankly it’s a sick obsession.  I love being able to string a series of words together and feel something after I read it.  That feeling brings me back to writing again and again.

We all have different reasons for writing.  What’s yours?

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“The years are short…

…but the days are long.”  

Normally, that saying is switched around, but today this is more appropriate.  I read this a couple of years ago, while sifting through a book on happiness.  While the rest of the book left my mind in about a week or so, this has stuck with me.  I try to remind myself as much as possible to live in the moment, let go of the past, and stop worrying so much about the future, but none of that really meant anything until I had my baby.  

That 5lb 13oz bundle of joy of mine, turns ONE tomorrow!  Never has a year felt so short.  It has definitely been one of the most difficult years of my life, and like a clique mommy, I admit, I could never imagine the amount of joy he brings to me every single day.  

Of course, my first year of parenthood I decided to start my novel on top of trying to figure out how the hell to raise a child.  While I sometimes feel guilty for reading over my manuscript instead of playing with the little one on the floor, I also have to give credit to him for giving me the “push” I needed to actually follow my dreams. 

I want my son to be proud of me and grow up knowing that he can be/do anything he wants in this life.  

For that reason, I write.  I dream, and I write some more.  

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Deadline…PAST DUE!

After a brief lack of motivation at the beginning of January, and taking care of a sick baby for the last week and a half, I am so far behind on my novel.

In most areas of my life, I have to set deadlines or else nothing would get done.  Seriously.  My mind is usually buzzing a million miles a minute so it helps me prioritize and actually cross items of off my ever-growing to-do list.

I knew I would either have to stick a deadline on my writing or watch it end up in a pile with the rest of my half-assed, unfinished project.  After sadly realizing how much work I still need to do to turn a messy rough draft into an even coherent story had me bowing my head in shame and questioning my approach.  Luckily, I didn’t let it get me down for too long.  I am so determined to turn this dream into a reality, that I had to come up with a better game plan.

I originally dove into this novel head first and naively believed that my passion for writing would carry me through.  Right now you are probably laughing at my stupidity or giving an acknowledging nod, because you too thought it would be a piece of cake.

“Sure, I can get the revisions done in a month and off for reviews and onto an agent right after that!  I wrote it in a month, why not right?”  I can’t believe I ever thought that was a “realistic deadline!”  It was insane.

I instantly whipped out my trusty planner, favorite pen and started jotting down an ACTUAL plan that won’t leave me feeling like a failure, totally overwhelmed, or submitting a horrible novel just because I want to meet a “deadline.”  … hopefully 😉

I thought I would share a couple of key points I came up with in case anyone else was in the same sinking boat:

  1. Set realistic, SMALLER goals that are attainable. –  After admitting to myself that writing isn’t always fun and it certainly isn’t always easy, I have a better idea what kind of time I need to create something that I’m proud of.  It’s important to know your own personal limits to avoid getting burned out and discouraged.  
  2. Schedule, schedule, schedule –  Plopping down at my computer or notes when ever I felt like it, clearly wasn’t getting me very far.  After work, taking care of a very energetic baby boy, cleaning the house (this is where my husband would laugh), and what ever shenanigans is going on at the moment, the only thing I want to do at the end of the day is relax… Solution?  Write in the morning when I have energy and focus.  I also have to write every day or I fall into the habit of saying, “Oh, I’ll write tomorrow…”  Try to find time that fits naturally into your schedule, whether that means writing daily or every Tuesday at 3:00 am.
  3. Measurable accountability – People always say if you want to accomplish a goal, tell others about it.  I am new to the writing and blogging world, so I don’t have many write buddies (yet!) so for now, I have given my husband a general idea of my goals so he can help motivate me to keep going.  We usually sit down every Sunday and talk about what we have coming up in the week, so I decided to add a “novel update” to review my progress.  He’s not a writer, so I expect some interesting conversations.  The more people you have in your cheering section, the better so reach out to people you know will help you to keep reaching for the finish line.
  4. Remember why you write –  There have been so many occasions when I have stared at the computer screen  and wondered what the hell made me think I could write a book!  With out fail, as soon as I pick up a brilliant novel, I’m reminded how much I love writing.  It sounds cheesy, but isn’t reading a really great book the best magic trick around?  I love being about to care so deeply for a character or story that I’m instantly lost in another world.  That is what brings me back with renewed faith in myself.  I want to spread a little of that magic!

If you have any other tips that keep you self motivated  or if you could use some writerly support- I would love to hear!

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Voices in my head…

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This sums up how I’m feeling today. My characters are shouting all at once while I try to capture everything they are telling me before it’s lost. It’s left me feeling a little crazy…and tired.

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A taste of my novel…

I keep waiting for the day when I no longer see her. Fifteen years after her death and my mother is still as easy to find now as she was then.

I close my eyes, and there she is; dead, wrist perfectly slit, soaking in a tub of her own blood.

Red.

I feel her  buzz relentlessly around my head, like gnats on a sticky, hot summer day.  She’s there, happily swarming aggressively around me until I can no longer breathe.

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