fighting the inevitable

I came home from work the other day and my teenage daughter was holding a lump in her shirt. Before I could even comment on noticing it, she said, “Can we keep it?” I mindlessly set my keys on the counter and she pulled a kitten out from under her shirt…said she found it in a neighbor’s yard. Well, knowing the neighbors around us quite well, I knew none of them had cats. Ergo, no cats…no kittens…so a door to door, “Did you misplace a kitten,” was out. I knew what this meant. Hell, even my husband, who has been anti-cat throughout all of our life together was now parading on my daughter’s side. Is this kitten the most adorable, sweetest thing ever? Yes. Am I furiously allergic? Yes. So now my question is, after I take her to the vet, do I try to find her a good home right away, while she’s still little and most likely to be adopted? Or do I take stock in Claritin and hope for the best?

While this predicament gets to plague me for a while, it also makes me think how great of an example this would be for character conflict. Wanting something so badly even when your body is saying “um, no.” While this doesn’t apply to my current WIP, I will hold onto this for a future project. If for no other reason than a writing prompt. Feel free to imagine what you would do in this situation (and please share, because I’m really on the fence here!)

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James Patterson- Master Class

As I finish the last of the notes I took during this course, my one take away is…I finished an outline.  That is a first for me, so obviously this course helped.  I loved the way the information was presented via prerecorded videos on each topic.  James Patterson was so real and didn’t sugar coat anything, which made me laugh out several times.  It was just what I needed to get myself on track.

If anyone knows anything about me, they’d know that I’d been struggling to complete just one of my many works.  Just to be able to type “the end” and mean it would be a celebration for me, but that wasn’t how it was working out.  Call it being too hard on myself, call it poor method…whatever it was, I was drawn into my writing habit, the same one I’ve harbored for the last ten years, and there didn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel with what/how I was doing it.  So, I didn’t think a Master Class with a bestselling author would be the worst way to go about changing what I needed to in order to finally complete one damned story.

The end result?  I completed a coherent and believable outline-start to finish, no kidding!  Best thing I could have done for myself as a writer was push past the comfort zone of familiarity.  I mean I’ve always been a bit of a panster, and a bit of an outliner, but I’ve found with drafting a completed outline, that I still get to be both, it’s just that I have no reason to get stuck at 35K and not know where to lead my characters.

Also, if you haven’t heard, Mr. Patterson will be choosing one of his students to co-author a book with.  I believe the deadline is March 1st, but if you’re interested, you should probably check into it prior to that.

In the mean time, live well and write a lot.

 

 

Happy NaNoWriMo!

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To all of you who’ve decided to embark on this journey, I commend you and will totally support you! (look me up, hboland) I’m also insanely nervous about actually completing a novel in 30 days.

I encourage any writer who’s decided to commit to this to pay attention to the forums.  They’re a great resource for everything Nano and also the pep talks are pretty awesome.  Best of luck fellow Nano’s!

What is an old soul?

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And how can you use this to help with characterization?

I’m an old soul.  I’ve known this since I was in grade school…since I could conceptualize what a soul was…or at least that’s what I recall.  I related with my older peers better than I would ones my own age and always felt a gap with classmates.  I had many acquaintances that I befriended, but would always be slightly disappointed when they didn’t ‘get’ me.  This continued on throughout high school and still happens even now.  I’ve come to peace with the fact that many people will never ‘get’ me, but on different levels, I connect with almost every person I come in contact with on a superficial level…not a true friend level, but a kindness level that allows me to care without knowing every detail of their lives.  I do, however, feel a general responsibility for everyone in my life.   Like if they come to me for advice, I  look at the whole picture and hope that I advise them wisely.  “Wise beyond my years” was the term I heard the most…and that was from the elderly peers that I had contact with.  And of course, I knew how to suck up pretty good, so any elderly person pretty much loved me.

I know that the terminology for ‘old soul’ is supposed to be related to reincarnation,  but I’m not sure that’s why people end up being old souls or not.  I think it’s something you’re born with.  Much like others are born to be great athletes or others mathematicians…some people are born to be old. And they instill traditions from the past onto others naturally throughout their actions and conversations sometimes without being environmentally conditioned to do so.  Which I guess speaks loudly of some kind of past life interference, but who knows right?

I know that I am both an introvert and an extrovert.  I love being around people, yet I love being alone.  I need the balance of both in order to see the whole spectrum though.  I also find that I love historic facts…not textbook history, but old artifacts and their past history.  Family heirlooms and how these items came to the families they were past down to and what that means.  I respect everything.  I love listening to Sam Cooke, even though that’s probably not a trait of an old soul exactly…I think listening to soul music has got to be somewhere up there.

What is an old soul?

And more importantly, how can you use this to help with characterization?

I’m an old soul.  At least that’s the one thing I can identify with.  I’ve known it since I was in grade school…since I could conceptualize what a soul was…or at least that’s what I recall.  It started small, like only being able to relate with older peers better instead ones my own age and always feeling a gap with classmates.

I liked people, but would always be slightly disappointed when they didn’t ‘get’ me.

This continued on throughout high school and still happens even now.  I’ve come to peace with the fact that most people will never ‘get’ me, but on different levels, I connect with almost every person I come in contact with on a lighter level…not a true friend level, but a kindness level that allows me to care without knowing every detail of their lives.  I do, however, feel a general responsibility for everyone in my life.  Whether we are close or not, I still care.

I’m often times asked for advice.  When that happens, I  look at the whole picture and hope that I advise them wisely.  As…”Wise beyond my years” was the term I heard the most…and that was from the elderly peers that I had contact with.

If you look up ‘old soul’ you will most definitely find a reference to reincarnation.  That somehow the souls that have passed before you affect your genetic make up even before you’re born.

Much like others are born to be great athletes or others mathematicians…some people are born to be old. And they instill traditions from the past onto others naturally throughout their actions and conversations sometimes without being environmentally conditioned to do so.  Which I guess speaks loudly of some kind of past life interference, but who knows right?

All I know is that I’m the youngest of five and have never felt like the youngest member of the family due to the sense of responsibility I’ve felt for everyone.  I am both an introvert and an extrovert.  I like being around people, yet like being alone.  I feel like I need that balance in order to naturally see the whole spectrum.  I strive to respect everything around me.

The only other tidbit I can give is that I love soul music.  Sam Cooke especially.  Not that it’s a trademark of an old soul, but I would be willing to bet that anyone who claims they are one, does in fact, like soul music.

So how can you use this information when building character sketches?  How can this manipulate how your MC thinks, feels, and reacts?  Well, for one, old souls can be any person…so no matter what their stereotype is, the old soul will win out every time, so you have some freedom to play with those characteristics.  Old souls are grounded.  They don’t look to others to influence their own self worth.  If you create an old soul, you can have a mature character who may not always act mature, but sees the bigger picture.

I would be interested in hearing anyone else’s comments on the subject.  Or if they know of anyone who fits the bill to please share.

Character profiles

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Aside from the physical basics, the following are questions that may assist with an in-depth sketch:

-what is their motivation throughout the story- think of their motives at the beginning, middle, and end
-what are some traits you admire
-what are some traits that bother you
-what type of people do they like/associate with
-what type of a person do they hope/strive to be-does it always work
-what have they overcome in the past and how does that shape who they are today
-what are their accomplishments
-what are their fears
-are they popular or are they obscure
-do they play board games or sports
-do they watch movies or read or both
-would they rather eat a salad or a steak
-do they listen to music- if so what kind
-what type of a relationship do they have with their parents and/or family
-how do they treat others
-where do they live
-what’s their astrological sign
-what is their medical history
-do they have allergies
-have they ever been arrested
-do they have tattoos
-are they environmentally friendly
-do they have strong political views
-what is their spirituality
-are they gullible
-are they perceptive
-are they paranoid

Taking the necessary steps

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Today, I signed up at PubCrawl for a possible match up in search of a critique partner.  I have put off searching for a crit partner for over a year now due to my hectic schedule and how little time I was able to dedicate to my own writing, let alone someone else’s.  I have since learned to reign in a few things and pry open more space in life for this, proving to myself that I am ready to take the necessary steps to get my own WIP shined up and subbed out by the end of the year.  Wish me luck in connecting with the perfect critique partner!

If you too are in search of the perfect match for a critique partner, I urge you to check this out.

Critique Partner Connection — Time to Meet Your Match!

 

 

Something Beautiful

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Today, I witnessed something so moving, I just had to share. 

As I was at work, a vendor came in and commented on how festive the decorations in the office were.  We made small talk until the packages were signed for.  The driver had said the mini tree was great and that he’d like to find a similar one for his mother who is in a nursing home.  My coworker asked the driver to wait a moment and disappeared.  She came back a few minutes later, with a mini tree in a box, stating she bought it for her office, but was never going to use it and handed it to the driver.  The driver refused at first saying he just couldn’t accept it. 

She insisted and reluctantly, he accepted, and thanked her.  The tear jerker for me was the look of amazement in his eyes.  He just couldn’t believe it.  It’s not like it was an act of heroism or anything, but it hit home for him and that was enough to make me swell with pride.  My coworker wouldn’t ever admit this as anything more that just a normal day.  She’s just one of those people.  But witnessing this small act of kindness  made me feel blessed as a person and helped remind me that in the midst of other issues throughout the country, that humanity is alive and well…and something truly beautiful to witness!  I wish for everyone to be able to experience this and I hope you’re able to show kindness in return.  True selfishness does not have a price, does not come in a certain color, flavor, taste, or size.  It is a human action at its finest.  I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope that you find the joy the season brings!

When dialogue contradicts behavior

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As I drove home from work the other day, I came upon a construction crew working on a little bridge which filtered traffic down to one lane. I’d slowed to a crawl as the worker, decked out in a neon green vest, held a sign that said “SLOW” and so I proceeded slow. Then he started waving his arm to hurry me along. I crept past the narrow area between the half concrete wall of the bridge and the orange cones which bled into my lane(not to mention the man who was still waving his arm was only inches from my car) thinking why would he encourage me to speed up? For one, there wasn’t a car behind me and there wasn’t one waiting on the other side. For two, there’s a sign stating fines double in work zones, and most importantly, he’s holding a sign that indicates in big bold letters that I should slow my ass down. So why would I speed up? Didn’t make sense to me.

This contradiction brought to mind a correlation to writing, which most events and interactions throughout my day usually do. When I edit chapters or manuscripts for myself or for others, I search out these types of inconsistencies which can leave readers scratching their heads. One clear cut example of this I found was in an early draft (which makes sense) of a romance story. The problem for me was that the love interest’s behavior conflicted with his dialogue and as a result, he ended up seeming erratic and unbelievable.

This can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint in your own work because you’re already in your character’s head so it always makes sense to you, the author. A couple of ways to avoid this from the beginning is to make sure there’s clear motivation for each character, regardless of the role they play. Use a character sketch to document any obstacles they’ve had to overcome or positive and negative influences etc. If they’re not acting or reacting naturally, we need to know why. Give the reader a glimpse into their past. Something that would logically explain a contradicting behavior. There are many views on how you should utilize backstory, but any relevant point that can help your reader gain insight, increase sympathy, or make your character relatable, is a good thing.

I feel that creating characters with plausible behavior for the world they live in is a necessary piece of the writing puzzle. I know if I can’t connect with a character because their behavior/dialogue is confusing and unbelievable…*gasp*… I won’t read the rest of the story. And it truly breaks my heart to put a book down, so I really do give the benefit of the doubt and try get past it, but unfortunately, I can’t. If anyone else has pet peeves about reading a book that makes you walk away, please share in the comments.