Listening to Your Inner Voice

May 29, 2008 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Meg, motivation, writer's block, writing | 2 Comments
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While I was on ‘hiatus’ (i.e. writer’s block from hell), I did a tremendous amount of work on personal growth and transforming myself into the person I’d like to be. You know, what you wish your obituary will say about you. Morbid, I know. During this time, I listened to numerous books on CD including Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, Joel Ostein’s Become A Better You, and Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret.

 

In addition, I finally read a book that had been gathering dust for years. It is by a group of life coaches and focuses on vision. One of the articles helped me when the words wouldn’t flow and inspired me to return to writing. Written by Claudette Rowley, a life coach I had met with when I had envisioned my own coaching practice, the article discusses the Five Pathways to Listening to your Inner Voice. I adapted Claudette’s words to my struggle with writing and thought I’d share them with you:

 

  1. Check in with your heart- Ignore your head, that inner critic or that logical letdown, and open your heart and soul. Your heart is the source of your creative energy and imagination. It’s the place where romance comes alive.

 

  1. Connect with your body- You know when your story is heading down the right path. You feel alive. Energy pulses through your fingertips and you worry the computer will blow up. The same goes for when you’re forcing the story- you become frustrated. Your stomach ends up in knots. The body has the amazing ability to tell you when your writing works and when it doesn’t. Listen to it.

 

 

  1. Allow your intuition to surface- Ever write a scene and when you reread it, you wonder where the hell it came from? This has happened to me often. The words flow like I’m in a trance and I don’t recognize the paragraphs the next day. I know I’ve written them (unless someone has tapped into my computer and kindly left the brilliant scenes for me), but they came from a different level of consciousness. Something greater than my forced cognition.

 

 

  1. Lock the self-saboteur in the closet- Learn to distinguish from the self-saboteur from the self-editor. The editor looks at the writing with constructive criticism- recognizing areas of brilliance and identifying ways to improve the scenes needing work. These ideas don’t come self-doubt or negativity, but encouragement to create the best story possible. It’s important that a writer knows when the inner critic has surfaced and to lock that destructive energy away.

 

  1. Identify limiting beliefs- We all have a belief system that gets us through the day. Unfortunately, sometimes these beliefs hold us back from reaching our goals and dreams. If you always find yourself inches away from the place you’d like to be, it may be a useful exercise to figure out if you have any values or beliefs that are holding you back. Identifying them allows you to become aware so you can change them.

 

Try to use some of these tactics in your own life and see what happens.

 

-Meg

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A Year’s Worth of Learning

May 28, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Posted in Bria, dialogue, editing, format, self-editing, Tina Ferraro, writing | 9 Comments

Somewhere — under the bed, behind a bookshelf, on a flash drive at the back of a drawer — you have the first draft of your first manuscript. Go pull it out.

No. Seriously. Go Pull It Out.

OK — If you’ve been following the Purple Hearts, you know I only began writing (again since college) a little over a year ago. Every time I turn around I feel as if I’m learning something new. I’m currently taking Margie Lawson’s ‘Deep EDITing’ course. Run as fast as you can to go take that class! Self-Editing is vital to success.

So, in an effort to see what I’ve learned, I pulled the first 10 pages of my first draft of my first manuscript. Pull yours out and let’s see, shall we?

1. OPENING: Amazingly enough, I started in the correct place – go me! Not as impressive, I opened in the wrong POV. I started in the POV of a secondary character watching the MC as a boy. It makes sense in a lot of ways BUT, it creates an incorrect view of who the story will be following and will easily confuse the reader.
2. POV: Since we’re talking POV, let’s look at that. Two Word: Headhopping (yes, I know that’s 1 word, but it’s a shout out to our girl Tina Ferraro!) I got dizzy following it. I’ve since learned how to pick out scene POV, stay consistent, and transition to the next one.
3. FORMATING: You’re supposed to format these in a specific way? Font? Margins? Spacing? WOW! What looked easy to read a year ago now looks like a train wreck of ink on paper. If you’re looking to see how to set up proper formatting, we did a post on it HERE.


4. TELLING: Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t as horrible as I expected. The opposite was actually true in many places – showing where I should have been telling. Sometimes, you need to just place a one line tell in there to keep the pace, flow and cadence of your story moving. I’ve learned a lot about how to balance that.
5. VAGUE: Just because something is clear to me, doesn’t mean it’s clear on the page. I’ve gotten a lot better at spotting those, at being a reader separate from myself as a writer when looking at my stuff.
6. PUNCTUATION: It’s true. Bad punctuation does distract from the story – no matter how good it is. Dialogue punctuation seems to be a specific problem the more people’s stuff I CP. HERE is a post on how to properly punctuate dialogue.
7. SENTENCE STRUCTURE: Often when trying to get the story on the page, my first attempt looks like this:

Brennid VERB. . . . He VERB. . . .DISCRIPTIVE SENTENCE. . .He VERB. . .She VERB. . .They VERB. . .


How boring! I had to move things around, shake them up and often make passive statements active. A great way to see your structure is to find replace your main characters’ names and “he” and “she” so they’re a bright, bold color. How many kick off a sentence? 

 

8. PASSIVE: Speaking of passive sentences – Not only does making your sentences active make the reader more involved and the pace quicker but it also forces a hard look at sentence structure.

So, that’s my first year Big Learnings. How about you? What’s changed in your writing this year.

Let us know so we can learn it too!
-bria

 

Reading is a Part of Writing

May 26, 2008 at 8:28 am | Posted in books, Jessica, writing | 2 Comments
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Have you ever read a book and thought to yourself that you could write a much better book than the one you just read . . . or couldn’t bring yourself to finish reading? As an unpublished writer wrestling with the frustrations encountered along the road to publication, I know we’ve all come across at least one of those published works that keeps us in the game no matter the odds of our success. If such a ‘poor’ book can make its way to the shelves, certainly one of our stories can break its way through, right?

Last week, we mentioned a blog entry posted by Kristin Nelson on how MILLIONS OF READERS ARE NOT WRONG. And I wholeheartedly agree with what she says in her post — there has to be something about that ‘bad’ (in our own completely unbiased and subjective opinions, of course) book that compelled an agent to represent it, an editor to buy it, and readers to read it. And instead of blasting the book for its faults, we can instead use the frustration to figure out what it was about that particular story to make so many people help bring it to light.

On the flip side, have you ever read a book that was just so good and perfect in every way that it made you feel like a fraud for even attempting to call yourself a writer? That after reading it you hope to someday rival the storytelling ability of that author? I’ve had a few of those moments these past few months, as I’ve read and enjoyed and wished I could write books like Liza Palmer, Eileen Cook, Virginia Kantra, and most recently Jodi Thomas.

Bria has told me over and over again that I needed to read Jodi Thomas but I hadn’t had the chance until this past weekend and now I don’t ever want to stop. On her web site, Jodi has an article for people like us — readers who hope to publish and someday rival the good storytelling ability of our favorite writers — and she shares the same advice once given to her . . . “If you work really, really hard you’ll make it.” In her article she goes on to share just how hard she had to work to become the writer she is. Her story is significant.

I often wish there was a secret blueprint to follow to make it. But I know this learning process – at times painful but nonetheless rewarding – is important for us all to go through. It is what will make us the stronger storytellers, business people, colleagues, and individuals we’ll need to be to survive the ups and downs of publishing, and we all need to arrive at our own process in our own way on our own time. And reading both good books as well as bad are good learning tools and motivators as we find our way, helping us mold and shape the kinds of writers we want to be.

So part of writing is reading — widespread reading not only in your genre but anything you can get your hands on. There is much to learn from all uses of words, in good writing and in bad . . . as much as there is in partaking in the act of writing ourselves.

I hope you find time to read good books and bad . . . but no matter what, keep writing! In the words of Jodi Thomas, “If you work really, really hard you’ll make it.”

-Jessica

Honorary Heartlette – Jessica Andersen

May 25, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Honorary Heartlette, Jessica Andersen, writing | Leave a comment
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June is a big month for our Honorary Heartlette, Jessica Andersen. On June 3, the first in her new single title paranormal series, NIGHTKEEPERS, hits the shelves. And we are so excited that she’ll drop by on Sunday, June 1, and guest blog for us!

We hope you’ll tune in – Jess is a great writer and excellent teacher and we can’t wait to have her join us!

Jessica Andersen bio: Since selling to Harlequin Intrigue in 2002, Jessica Andersen has written more than twenty science-themed romantic suspense novels for Harlequin; these novels have hit the category bestseller list and been nominated for Reviewers’ Choice Award and RITA Awards. Her first single title, NIGHTKEEPERS: A NOVEL OF THE FINAL PROPHECY, will be released by Signet Eclipse on June 3, 2008. The book kicks off a new dark paranormal series about a group of sexy warrior-priests who must reunite to save mankind in the final four years before December 21, 2012, when the Mayan long count calendar – and a fair bit of modern science – predicts the world will end. For more information on Jess, the books, and upcoming contests, see her web site at www.jessicaandersen.com.

What’s New in Publishing Blogs this Week

May 23, 2008 at 7:21 am | Posted in Blogs, books, publishing, writing | 5 Comments

Lots to share this week, so let’s get right to it:

Earlier this month we discussed why writers should mentor, here Jessica Faust starts a discussion on DEFINING AND HONORING WRITING MENTORS. What is a writing mentor . . . besides something we all hope to find? Check it out and chime in.

Laura Vivanco at Teach Me Tonight has an amazingly in-depth look at women, love, perception, romance and some hot button issues. Don’t miss this astute look at women and our desires as noted in her post, MY ROUTE FROM HERE.

If you haven’t found Joanna Bourne’s blog yet (or her book The Spymaster’s Lady), don’t walk, don’t run, SPRINT to both. Her blog covers amazing writing topics everyday and the book is a must read. If you question the importance of Cadence in writing, you’ll never wonder again. Start HERE by reading MORE OF THE BEST WRITING MISTAKES.

We all know YA is hot right now, Caren Johnson takes a look at a bunch of books and discusses what it is and why it works. For a continuation of THE YA DEBATE, click HERE.

Kristin Nelson addresses reader opinion — what it is and why it carries so much weight and what we can learn from them. Click HERE for her post on why MILLIONS OF READERS ARE NOT WRONG.

On the Agent in the Middle blog, Lori Perkins posts, ‘Writer’s Digest asked me to answer some questions for an upcoming article, but I missed the deadline (it was less than a week and I just had too much to do for you), so I’m posting my answers here. But do look for the articles when they run (and let me know when they do).’ To check out SOME ANSWERS FOR BEGINNERS, click HERE.

Deb Werksman, acquiring editor for Sourcebooks, posts some details on the Casablanca Authors’ blog on what she is looking to acquire and how to get your material in her hands. For more information on DEB WERKSMAN, CASABLANCA ACQUIRING AUTHOR, click HERE.

Rachelle Gardner, on the Rants and Ramblings blog, clears up any misunderstandings on EARNING OUT ADVANCES. If you have questions or want more information on this aspect of the sale, click HERE.

This week, Pro Blogger shared the 12 TRAITS OF SUCCESSFUL BLOGGERS. These traits apply to writers of all kinds, not just bloggers so we thought it was an appropriate one for this week’s Friday wrap-up. To see how many of those 12 traits you possess, click HERE.

The Kindle has taken over discussion on lots of the blogs we visit, and The Book Publicity Blog shared a resource this week on TIPS FOR KINDLE USERS. We thought we’d share this for the Kindle-curious. For more information, click HERE.

We love Elizabeth Boyle (check out her visit to our very own Purple Hearts blog) and this week she posted an interesting promotional idea that a number of authors can easily do. What a great way to promote not only your own book, but those of your friends! Check out her fun — and environmentally conscious — suggestion HERE.

Whew! That’ll do it for this week. As always, please share your other suggestions in today’s comments section. We’d love to see what caught your eye this week.

Have a great, long holiday weekend!

The inevitable question…what do you write?

May 22, 2008 at 11:16 am | Posted in Meg, writing | 2 Comments

Over the past few weeks, I’ve interacted with numerous writers who are new to the writing world- the vocabulary, the genres, the rules. This led to me to thinking that an explanation of some of these nuances may be of benefit to us all. An introduction for the ‘newbie,’ a reminder for the veterans and maybe something innovative for those of us in the middle.

This week, I thought I’d tackle genres since I’ve been asked a few questions about this subject (and it might help me understand what urban fantasy is). When we first started this blog, Jessica, Bria and I shared what we wouldn’t write and we listed numerous aspects of the romance genre. I’d like to expand on what was presented and give an explanation of each so that you can decide where your current ms falls and/or what you would and wouldn’t write. And I’m blatantly borrowing this from Wikipedia (my favorite online resource).

http://www.romancewiki.com/Romance_Genres (is it plagiarism if you cite your source?):

The Very Basics
Category romance (or series romance) is the basic girl meets boy, conflict ensues and then they kiss and make up. These shorter books (less than 250 pages) are published in clearly delineated categories, or lines, each month (and stay on the shelf usually for only a month). Each line has its own rules for the level of intimacy, subject matter and levels of sensuality so the reader knows what to expect and is not disappointed. Harlequin is a leading publisher of category with numerous lines ranging from Blaze (red-hot reads) to Steeple Hill (Inspirational line).

In contrast, single title romance novels are longer (around 350 to 400 pages) with no set rules as to when the hero and heroine meet. They are not published in conjunction with other novels. While these stories also follow the standard ‘girl meets boy’ outline, they have secondary characters and subplots to add layers and juice up the story.

A third type is the novel with strong romantic elements which does not feature a key romance in the storyline. While the lead characters may fall in love, this relationship is secondary to the plot or character development (but can still be lots of fun!)

Adventure romance vs. suspense
These two styles are often grouped together, but there is a significant difference in them – the soundtrack. Adventure romances have the Indiana Jones theme running through them – they have action, adventure, strong heroes and heroines. You can’t turn the page fast enough because you’re so caught up in the fast moving plot and energy. Think Suzanne Brockmann’s series on Navy SEALs.

Romantic suspense’s tune is the eerie, spine tingling music that makes you grip your teeth in anticipation. You turn the page to get to the next level of mystery or danger which is the key facet of the story. My favorites are Kay Hooper and Alison Brennan.

The World Building Genres:
The key to this subgenre is fantasy. To write this kind of story, you must have the ability to create an entire new entity whether it’s a new planet, time or character. Here are the current styles of romantic fantasies:
Paranormal covers imaginative characters or extra-human characteristics that can range from vampires, shapeshifters and werewolves to faith healers, psychics and ghosts. Success in this genre is not only about creating such characters, but about developing them so the reader believes they exist. In my opinion, the best in the business is J.R. Ward and her Brotherhood series.

Time travel involves one or more characters starting in one time and traveling in the book to another. It could involve a dream, hypnosis, concussions or a magical transport into the future of past.

Science fiction often blends with the futuristic so I’m going to lump these two together. Both are different from true fantasy as they deal with the plausible, and what could really happen when you base your ideas on proper scientific and logical consequences. Usually the worlds are other planets or space settings, but I may be overgeneralizing since I don’t read this genre. J.D. Robb’s In Death series is a great example of futuristic romance.

Urban fantasy has fantastic elements incorporated into a modern-day, urban setting like Boston or Paris. Often protagonists must navigate a fantasy world that coexists with the ‘real world’, and includes magical/paranormal creatures such as werewolves, fairies, vampires, or witches. Romance is usually a subplot to the issues arising from these blend of real and fantasy worlds. Dark urban fantasy contains the same elements as urban fantasy, but usually has serious leanings towards horror elements. Dark and bloody events can and do happen in these novels, and a happy ending is not a necessity. J.R.Ward would fall into this category.

Age defining romance
Chick-lit follows the trials and tribulations of women in their 20s and 30s as they navigate the dating scene, work settings and shoe shopping. While the romance structure requires a happy ending, the more flexible chick-lit structure allows for ambiguity. Bridget Jones’ Diary is a great example.

Young adult novels or YA tend to portray adolescents coping with tough life and developmental issues. Although originally, the focus was on innocence of first love, these stories have matured with sexual experience woven into the plotline. The target population is generally ages 12 through 18 and can involve any of the above subgenres as long as they are written under the caveat that youth will read them. YA can range from the fantasies of Harry Potter to Judy Blume’s coming of age novels. YA is a huge market and many of our favorite Honorary Heartlettes write YA- there’s no mistaking that Stephenie Meyer is one of my favorites. Middle Grade follows the same guidelines as YA, but the target audience is younger, usually 9-12.

Time involved romances
Contemporary romance is set in present time. The hero and heroine live and work in a world most readers understand, with modern conveniences and current social mores.

Historical romances are not set in contemporary times. I’m new to this subgenre and discovered that you don’t necessarily need a degree in history to understand what you’re reading, but an understanding of the time periods may be helpful. Here’s a quick breakdown of popular eras:
 Medieval 938 – 1485 AD.
 Georgian 1714-1811, but usually refers to the period of George III reign from 1760-1811
 Regency 1811-1820, but usually covers the period of 1795-1837
 Victorian 1837-1901
To elaborate on one of these periods, regency romance has its own rules on marriages of convenience, arranged marriages, nanny and/or governess romances. Although there is sexual attraction and tension, there is usually no sex between the unmarried hero and heroine and the writing is more formal or stylized. Jane Austen is possibly the most celebrated regency romance author, and Loretta Chase has quite the fan base as well.

Cultural romance
African-American romances tend to focus exclusively on relationships between African-American or black heroes and heroines, and are commonly set in urban areas. African-American romances are also sometimes referred to Multi-cultural romance, though the latter also includes all non-white groups. Interracial romance is also sometimes included in this group, though the term technically refers to romances between a hero and heroine of different ethnic background.

GLBT stories involve gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgendered people as the main characters. These stories can fall under any subgenres within the romance genre. A new subgenre within GLBT is Yaoi , a purely fantasized and highly romanticized take on male/male fiction. The relationships might have complicated plots, but the graphic action is designed to get the reader’s pulse pounding. Intensity is the key.

Range of Smut in the Sex-
 Inspirational romances celebrate traditional Christian values, though they can focus on other faiths and can be written as historicals or contemporary.
 Sweet romance has no explicit sexuality.
 Erotica focuses heavily on the sexual relationships between the characters and often pushes boundaries with multiple partners and kinky situations. Language can be graphic and sexual fantasies — often not considered politically correct in today’s romance novels — are enacted.
 Erotic Romance has a high level of sexual activity, but there are boundaries. The sex is within the context of the romance and the story can stand alone without the explicit scenes. But if you’re a reader of erotic romance, you wouldn’t want it to! Passionate Ink is a great site for more info on the differences of erotic fiction.

List of Lists for Writers

May 21, 2008 at 9:08 am | Posted in Bria, inspiration, motivation, writing | 5 Comments

I love lists. I love lists ALMOST as much as spreadsheets. And so, since lists are amazing, here is a List of Lists for Writers.

If you aren’t a member of stumbleupon.com, get in there. It lets you choose what themed pages you jump through and allows you to find things you never would have seen if you were just randomly searching.

Get ready to start bookmarking these!

19 Posts Writers Shouldn’t Ignore: Sharon at ‘Get Paid to Write’ put together a list of sites to help you promote your writing and yourself.

Techniques for Creative Thinking: Collectively, there are several hundred techniques published in books by Michael Michalko, Andy Van Gundy, James Higgins, Dilip Mukerjea and others. Techniques are like tools in a workshop, with different tools for different parts of the creative process. For example, there are techniques for defining a problem, exploring attributes of a problem, generating alternatives, visual explorations, metaphors, analogies, and evaluating and implementing ideas. HERE is a small selection of techniques.

The Top 5 FREE Software Programs Every Writer Should Have 52.novels.com put together this great list. I’ll admit, not the techno person I wish I was, but THIS sure helped me find what I need.

150 Resources to Help You Write Better – This is from OEDb (Online Education Database) I managed to kill an amount of time which shall not be admitted here with this website. I also sucked in a large number of the FlanTastics. It’s worth checking out.

Top Read Writing Information Article Listing: From ‘Writing Information’ – 100 must read articles for writers. Their tagline is “Articles To Hone Your Writing Skills To Perfection!” And they’re right!

List of Proofreaders Marks – Confused by what some of those little squiggles mean? Clear it all up HERE with the visual, the example and the explanation.

Top 10 Grammar Myths: One of my favorite sources, Grammar Girl, did a great Top 10 list. Check it out HERE.

Commonly Overused Words – When I was in fourth grade I had a teacher who took away the words ‘good’ and ‘nice’ from our vocabulary. We couldn’t write them. We couldn’t say them. We couldn’t think them (I’m pretty sure she knew when we broke this rule too.) So, I’m thinking of taking away a new word a week. This list should help – challenge your vocabulary with the list and its suggested replacement words HERE.

The Writinghood has a list of websites dedicated to words HERE: For the Love of Words: Seven Wonderful Websites Where Words Matter

Need resources for proper grammatical usage, citation formats, or paper writing. Check out Internet Public Library’s HERE.

Inkalicious does a “Writer’s Cheat Sheet” with lots of great boiled down summaries HERE.

Every tried journaling and not been able to get into it? Here’s Litemind’s 13 Tools to Making Journaling Work for You.

Every day a new reason to write/edit/live the dream. Start on Day One HERE and see where your at on Day 100.

50+ Open Courseware Writing Classes from the World’s Leading Universities —- Free learning! Enough said.

In the spirit of the list of lists, here is a post called DON’T (a list) at one of my favorite blogs, Ask Daphne. Before you write that query letter, check it out HERE.

Hope you found the list-list helpful. Do you have a favorite? Post it in our comments section! And then, Go Write
-bria 

 

Writing Basics – The Process

May 19, 2008 at 8:14 am | Posted in Jessica, writing | 1 Comment

We thought that we would perhaps use this week to get back to basics. ‘The basics’ are something I’ve been toying with for the past few weeks, reading about themes, myth, scenes, mechanics, etc.

And as I’ve looked to get back to the basics, I found this You Tube video that breaks the mechanics down to the barest bones:

I love this video because it touches upon all the parts of bringing a book to life, but I certainly don’t mean to suggest that going from idea to publication is as easy as just that. I’ve been talking to our friend, Barb, lately about the writing process – how each of us goes about tackling the stages as mentioned in the video above – and throughout our chat we both acknowledge that the creative process involved in moving a story from start to finish varies from one writer to another.

If you are still looking to identify the process that works best for you, here are some questions to consider:

– Are you compulsive about research or do you fact check as needed?
– Are you a morning person or more productive in the evening?
– Are you a creature of habit who needs certain things in place before you can get to work, or can you work just about anywhere?
– Do you ‘think’ better on paper or on a computer screen?
– Do you see your stories in a linear way, as in a movie that rolls through your imagination, or do you see bright, vivid chunks of your story in random order?
– Do you need a detailed map to get from one destination to another, or are you comfortable in winging it and correcting wrong turns as you proceed?
– Can you take advantage of periodic and spontaneous chunks of free time, or do you need to plan events in advance?

Your answers to these questions will help guide the process of your writing. Once you know when and how you work best, you can move forward with much greater ease and tackle all the steps as outlined in the You Tube video I shared. From story idea to publication . . . it doesn’t matter how any of us gets there, as long as we keeping moving through the process and never give up.

Keep writing!

-Jessica

What’s New in Publishing Blogs this Week

May 16, 2008 at 7:15 am | Posted in Blogs, books, publishing, writing | 2 Comments

In our ongoing quest of sharing new resources with you all, here are our findings for this week:

As many of us start to gear up for the RWA National Conference this summer, this post by Adina Kahn of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management on the DO’S AND DON’TS OF PITCHING offers great and practical advice for your pitch appointments. For more information, click HERE.

Jason Boog from The Publishing Spot has a great post this week on HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR WRITING. Think you’ve won the game when you get THE CALL? In many ways, the game is just beginning. For more insight, click HERE.

At Flogging the Quill, there is a SHOW VERSUS TELL CLINIC taking place. To join in the discussion or to submit your own questions, click HERE.

We know that a bunch of our readers write romantic suspense, so the blog, The Graveyard Shift, is one we definitely wanted to share. With blog categories such as evidence, police procedures, and prisons and jails, there are more resources and more information on this blog than we can summarize here, but as one example check out one of this week’s from guest blogger Defense Attorney, Jessa Lutz, entitled, THEY’RE NOT ALL MONSTERS.

And so as not to end on a ‘No Country For Old Men’ note, we wanted to share this fun resource as reported on the Writer Unboxed blog, called, OBSERVATIONS ON DECK, a book and card deck that offers inspiration in lots of ways. To get the scoop on this great writer’s gift, click HERE.

We hope you found as interesting a mix of helpful resources listed as we did. As always, please share any other posts you found helpful from the week in today’s comments section. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Have a great weekend!

What makes a character a character?

May 15, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Posted in character, Meg, writing | 3 Comments

Characters are a fundamental piece of the story. In my opinion, you can have a great plot, one that captures the reader’s attention and makes them stay up until 3am, cramped on a loveseat with a full bladder, just so they can get to the happily ever after or resolution of the killer. However, if you don’t have great characters to get the reader to care about what happens, then you may lose them before the black moment.

I’ve teased my good friend, Kristan Higgins relentlessly that her latest book, Catch of the Day, angered me because it caused me to lose sleep on a weeknight. However, as much as I loved her plot, it was my investment in the characters that made me burn the midnight oil. I wanted the heroine to find love, to get over her crush on the town’s priest and discover where her heart would find happiness. She was my new best friend and I needed to make sure she was taken care of before I went to bed.

Another example of great character development comes from my fantastic critique group (hello ladies!) when Sherry posted a chapter with a incredible cliffhanger. An explosion occurred that put two characters in jeopardy. Everyone immediately reacted to the possible losses, but more so for the dog than the man. Was her male character unimportant, no, but she had written the dog as such an integral part of the hero’s life. We all knew that the hero would never be the same without the four-legged mutt. He needed to survive and we didn’t want to deal with the emotions that would surface for us if we’d have to mourn his loss.

I struggle with character development in my own story. I love my characters, hang out with them often and worry that what I see in them translates correctly on paper. Am I capturing their sense of humor, their strengths, their funny quirks? Do I show enough of their weaknesses or losses so everyone else understands their motivations without making them whiny or pathetic? They are real people and I want everyone to love them as I do.

So how can we create characters that people cry out for and want with them at the next office party? I’ve tried the character worksheets to 3-D my hero and heroine, but find I can’t get in touch with them that way (Bria has many of them posted in yesterday’s entry). Instead, I have to develop my characters as I write and edit them. A flaw in my writing method, maybe. Something I’m trying to overcome.

I am also trying to figure out what I love about the characters that stay with me. What draws me in so that I pull out the book while waiting to pick up my kids at school? What qualities in the heroine causes me to miss my favorite show? Perhaps knowing what works in other books, I will figure out how to make mine as captivating.

So I challenge you- think of a favorite character and tell us what you loved about him/her. What drew you in? What capture your attention? What made you fall in love with him/her (or caused you to loathe them if it’s a villain)? Let us know so we can all learn how to develop characters that make the world lose sleep!

P.S. Check out my follow women’s fiction writersexchange’s blog: Lynn Romaine at Ecosuspense. Her latest entry poses the important question of character vs. story- which do you remember most clearly? Please leave a comment for her!

Meg

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