Tag Archives: Writers

Writer problems 

IMG_1896As writers, we encounter a lot of problems.  Probably the most talked about problem is when people ask us if we’re still writing (which, I guess is a good conversation starter, but is kind of frustrating because the emphasis is usually on “still“). :p

But there are lots of other ones like:

#1. Fearing and loathing editing.  Then guilt-tripping yourself about not doing it, because why not? :p

#2. Figuring out how to describe body placement and movement in a fight scene (or, let’s be honest – a sex scene).  This gets trickier if you have multiple of these scenes in your book and want to keep the language fresh.

#3. Hoping someone’s eyes don’t glaze over when you explain your story’s concept.

#4. Spell check hating your name or your characters’ names.

#5.  The conundrum of double spaces betwixt sentences – should I? Or should I not?  Or should I Google other people’s thoughts on it for the next…hmm 3 hours.

#6. Fighting the urge to tell someone that they’re acting just like one of your characters. Because it makes you sound weird and a little creepy.

#7. Missing your characters when you’re finished with your book.

#8. Your obsession with notebooks (Moleskin!!), pens (it’s so tricky to find a really good one), and/or typewriters.

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All Hallows’ Eve…of NaNoWriMo

Today, people will dress up in all kinds of costumes and go to parties and/or get free candy.  But writers…

Well, writers embarking on the adventure known as NaNoWriMo will eye the clock, fingers will be poised over keyboards or over a well-loved notebook, waiting –

Waiting for that month that embodies both a writer’s sprint and marathon – National Novel Writing Month, where writers will try to pen, type, or scrawl out 50,000 words in one month.

Crazy, you say?  Well, maybe.

Ill-advised?  Probably, considering it’s also the start of the holiday season.

Impossible?  Well, that’s where you’d be wrong.  Because every November, countless writers finish first drafts of novels this month.  So if you’re a writer, or a reader, this month can be pretty magical too.

And even though it’s very ill-advised, well considering I work full-time and am in graduate school, I’m going to through my pen into the ring as well.  Fun fact, while I’ve never actually won NaNoWriMo, I have used to to start, finish, and revise my novels.  But this year, I’m going to try to do the whole thing.  Because, hey, all those other years wee just practice. 😉

Happy Halloween, all and happy eve of NaNoWriMo, writers. 🙂

 

 

A to Z – Z!!! (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

ZZ is for Zoological 

Okay, work with me on this one.  Z is for zoological, which I am using to discuss how/when authors give human traits to animals in books/tv/film…and also sometimes on this very blog.

There are the typical attributes given to animals – dogs are loyal and cats are generally cranky.  But it’s equally fun (usually more so) when animals have their very own unique personalities and characters.

The beautiful thing about these kinds of characters, is that while we loved stories of animals having human traits as children, many of us never outgrew this love.  There are tons of stories that feature pets as prominent and developed characters – and they can be more than just campy or silly, they can be beloved characters.

There are also stories of pets playing a prominent role (with no fictionalized character development/internal pet monologues) in a person’s life.  I love these as well, and if book/movie/tv trends are accurate, a lot of other people do as well.  I even have one of my own –

When I left my ex, a little more than a year ago, I took my dog with me.  (Side note: She was a present to me from my ex when we were still newlyweds and since my ex was never a dog person, I was the dog’s main caregiver/trainer/person.)  So many people – family, friends, coworkers, and also random strangers – comforted and propped me up in my time of need.  I don’t know what I would have done without the so many wonderful people in my life (the kind things they did, the healing words they said, and the support that they lovingly gave) and I don’t think I can ever repay this debt to them.  I know I was and am blessed to have such amazing people in my life. 🙂

And my dog, though it sounds kind of silly to say, was also helpful in getting me through those hard times.  I remember the first nights after I left my husband – away from the home I shared with my ex for over seven years, without the sounds of someone sleeping next to me.  There are so many hard parts of going through any kind of divorce (whether someone pulls the rug out from under you or whether it was something that builds up over time)…and one of the worst things (there are a lot of them) is not being able to sleep because of the emptiness of a room at night.  But I was lucky.  When I couldn’t go to sleep some nights, I could listen to the sounds of Bella snoring softly from her pet bed or the sounds of her walking around the room.  Those noises were strangely comforting, especially when I moved into my own apartment, in reminding me that I wasn’t alone.

My dog even helped stave off depression – I never had to come home to an empty house (and had an enthusiastic greeter at the door), she took me for long walks several times a day (making me get fresh air + exercise), would drop her toys at my feet to play when I got too pensive, and was glad to cuddle on the couch when nothing seemed to be going right.

And that’s why I suppose pet and other animal characters are always so endearing – for the connection we have with them and how we can take care of them almost as well as they can take care of us (yep, I know super cheesy, but there it is).

Notable animal characters:

  • Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino in Bolt
  • Doug in UP!
  • Marley
  • Lassie
  • Flipper

A to Z – Y (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

Y is for Youth 

wordswag/pixbay

Many novels favor the young characters.

My genre (romance) nearly specializes in young heroines, aged from about 18-26 years old.  Heroes of this genre, however, have the luxury of being older, some as late as their mid 40s.

Why are so many stories focused on younger characters?

Maybe some of it has to do with the road to self discovery, loss of innocence (yes, that’s sometimes literal in romance novels), and bucking our family’s or society’s ideals of how we should be.

But authors shouldn’t turn their back on older characters and should use them for more than just guiding forces for the younger characters.  After all, characters – like people – don’t stop on the road to self discovery or stop facing down obstacles simply due to the aging process.  If anything, some obstacles can cause more turmoil when we’re older than when we’re younger.

I enjoy reading stories with characters of all ages and all backgrounds – as any character, regardless of their current lot in life, can be relatable and interesting…and more, they can have a story to tell. 😉

Y

A to Z – X (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

X is for (e)xtraterrestrials

This one may be sneaky and not really an “x” word, but I’m running with it anyway. :p

Aliens have been popping up in stories for quite some time now. But how do you write them?

Do you follow the same formula that writers have been following for ages – little green men, with dark eyes, who travel here on flying saucers? Or do you try for something different?

I think a story can be enjoyable either way.  The more interesting question is – do you give them an actual character complete with character development?

Aliens, historically, were treated as one of the many monsters in the monster sub-genre of horror or sci-fi.  This has changed recently, and I think it’s a good thing.  As a reader, I enjoy the development of all characters in a story – both the protagonist and the antagonist.  Though at the same time, there are several aliens in literature/movies/tv who are not developed characters and are still interesting and/or terrifying.

What works best?  Well, I’d say it depends on the genre, the story, and the author’s preference.

Notable extraterrestrials in moves/tv/books

  • Aliens in the Alien series – mostly monsters and not super developed, but still scary (with the exception of the Engineers in Prometheus)
  • Predators in the Predator series – again, not super developed and mostly monsters, but we do glean some information on them, like their moral code (not killing unarmed people or pregnant women) and that there is some tension between the different kinds of predators.
  • Most of the cast of the Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Thor, Loki, and Asgardians
  • E.T.
  • Reticulans (Mulder’s little green and gray men in the X-files)
  • Trafalmadorians

X

A to Z – W (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

Yep, my post is late and yes this means in a short time I will also post on my x word for the month….but hey c’est la vie.

W is for Wholesome

There are a lot of characters (a large majority in the romance genre) who are wholesome, pure, and innocent…when the story starts at least. 😉

But do you want your character to remain wholesome for the entire novel?  And can a character be too wholesome?

Alas, this is a choice that many authors have to make (assuming you don’t write children’s books).

I am more of a fan of multi-faceted characters, who have both light and dark within them.  I think the internal struggles of characters, and even characters that are anti-heroes and later become heroes, make for the most interesting/engaging/enjoyable stories.  I even enjoy romance novels when the hero starts off as quite the devilish rogue (like in the Devil in Winter) or has bad intentions.  Why?  Well, I like the brooding, the evolution of a character, and the war within the self…and so do a lot of other readers. 😉

 Notable Wholesome Characters:

  • Spiderman, except for those commitment issues 😉
  • The daughter in “Taken” – side note: OMG, watch this movie again and notice how overly childlike they make this teenager..the way she walks, the way she embraces family, even the way she talks.  This is a prime example of over-wholesomeness in a character which, in my opinion, should be avoided.
  • Many romance novel heroines, especially those from the historical romance sub-genre

W

A to Z Challenge – U (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

UU is for unreliable narrators

“Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see”

We know that there are people who lie and chances are, you know of a person who deals primarily in lies.  But for whatever reason, when we read books our automatic assumption is to believe the narrator (or at least mine is, but hey maybe I’m naïve).

How could we not trust our narrators?  They are our eyes, ears, and entrance into a world we cannot see.

So we listen to them and depend on them for information.  But we shouldn’t always.

Sometimes it’s obvious at the start that we’re listening to an unreliable narrator – the author gives us a smirk and a wink right away by revealing in a bit of dialogue with another character that our narrator likes to embellish or perhaps the narrator him/herself will tell us straightaway that they like to fudge the facts.

There are some stories where you begin to have a sneaking suspicion that the narrator isn’t on the up-and-up.  Then there are other stories where the unreliability of the narrator is key to the plot of the story, and so the big reveal comes either at the end or a big turning point in the story.

But the art of the reveal is key in these matters.  Do you want the readers in on the reveal halfway in and allow them to see the truth for the second half?  Or do you want the reveal at the end, and have them wondering if anything they’ve been told is true?

Tricky, tricky, methinks.

My feeling is that it depends on the genre.  My favorite genres, romance and women’s fiction (if they indulge in unreliable narration, which is rare), would let the reader in on it at least halfway through the story.  But if you’re writing general fiction/literature, drama, or mystery – you’ve much more flexibility on when/how you decide to reveal your narrator’s true nature.  But be careful – if you haven’t left at least a few breadcrumbs along the way, your readers could be hurt or annoyed that you didn’t give them ample information to figure it out. 😉

Unreliable narrators/characters (and ummm…spoiler alerts):

  • Verbal, The Usual Suspects
  • Amy, Gone Girl
  • Natalie, Running in Heels
  • Narrator, Fight Club
  • Pi, Life of Pi – though honestly, I like his unreliable version way better, which was kind of the point.

A to Z Challenge – T (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

T is for Tragic

Not all characters have happy beginnings, or happy endings for that matter – these are the characters, the tragic and tortured souls, who pull at our heart-strings for years to come.

I’m the kind of author who likes to give her characters a happy ending.  But some stories and some characters, are not meant to have them.  No matter how hard you try, some events are not meant to work out.

Roman Holiday,” for example, while not a tragic story, has a tragic component – a romance that was never meant to work out.

 Audrey Hepburn is a princess visiting Rome, who plays hooky from her duties and Gregory Peck is an enterprising reporter, who first plans on publishing an article with pictures on the Princess’ shenanigans but finds himself falling under her spell.

*Spoiler alert* At the end of the movie, Audrey returns to her role as Princess and gives a press conference, which Gregory Peck attends.  After making a brief speech to the crowd, she takes questions and of course takes one from him.  He coyly slips her photographs of her visit and then the press conference ends.  Audrey leaves the room and so do all but one of the reporters.  We’re left in the room with Gregory Peck, waiting for Audrey to come back and tell us she loves him.  But she doesn’t come back.  Because she can’t and it wasn’t meant to be… and that’s exactly what it’s like to have a tragic component or a tragic character in a story.  No matter how much you’d like it to work out, even when you’re the author, you know it can’t end any other way.

Notable tragic characters/tortured soul characters:

  • Julián Carax, “The Shadow of the Wind” (if you haven’t read this novel you should – it was so beautifully written and such an interesting story…but seriously tragic character, you’ve been forewarned)
  • The Punisher
  • Quasimodo
  • It’s not a character but it still made me sad, so I’m listing it – the romance in Roman Holiday

T

A to Z Challenge – S (WR)

It’s April again and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge and this year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge is characters and narrators.

SS is for side characters

They’re not the focal point of your story, they’re not even the dreaded enemy of your hero(ine), but like it or not – side characters are still important to most stories.

Why?

Well sir, they keep the story’s momentum going and often make the story richer in detail and life.  While the tension is ratcheting up (but you’re essentially in a set up scene for something really big about to go down) , you need to reveal the truth about someone, you want to give your character advice, or in the romance genre, while your heroine is being taunted and tempted (but not yet thoroughly seduced), it’s time to bring in the side characters.  

Oh side characters, you unsung heroes and heroines of plot, we honor you. 

Notable side characters:

  • Lydia (Pride and Prejudice)
  • Aunt May and Uncle Ben (Spiderman)
  • Silent Bob (though he is also a fun author insertion)
  • Dumbledore (HP series, all those fabulous quotes and plot devices he throws in Harry’s way are mighty helpful)
  • A heroine’s friend in any non-series romance novel.

R is for Rubes – A to Z (WR)

For the A to Z challenge, I’ve been examining different types of characters from books, movies, and television.

Perhaps one of the most endearing aspects of reading about a character is seeing a little bit of yourself or someone you care about within them.  It’s not a Mary Sue for the reader, but in many ways the most beloved characters of all time share similarities with the author’s readership and it allows the reader to form a magical bond to the character (that’s a big part of becoming beloved after all).

Sometimes readers share negative attributes with characters, often you see this in cautionary tales, meant to scare readers into whatever behavior the author deems appropriate.

And sometimes, even we authors see parallels between our own lives and characters that we love (whether we’ve created them or not).  Just like readers, sometimes these parallels are positive and sometimes they are not.

Rubes are naïve characters (sometimes foolish), who are often taken advantage of by all sorts in books – villains, twists of fate/plot, and even sometimes our own dear hero(ine).

We are all meant to take a turn as the fool in our own life stories and it was a year ago today that I realized that I had been cast in this particular role, probably for quite some time.

But I want to tell you something – something that all of we former rubes have learned:  you won’t be a rube forever – and if you let it, your time as the fool will make you wiser and will help you find the strength you never knew you had.