Characterization


Characterization

By Natalie Bright

 

Creating well-rounded, believable characters.

During a snowy, lazy day of watching The Big Bang Theory marathon, I started thinking about the complex dynamics of characterization. The character traits go deep in this sitcom and play off this group of friends to compliment, define, and often times clash with each other.

Profiles

I began to write down the character profiles from the television show. This reminded me that well-rounded characters have good traits and bad traits, just like real people. There’s some things we really love about our BFFs, but there are other things that make us cringe. Real people are complicated. Folks have good qualities and bad qualities. They have issues from multifaceted pasts, or habits based on where they spent their childhoods.

Think about this: Real people have deep, dark secrets.

The way to avoid boring, cardboard characters is to make our fictional characters complicated too.

Character Study

Sheldon Cooper:      often times seems very rude

Inappropriate, no filter for what he says

Whiney, immature

We love him because: his endearing quality of a child-like innocence. He trusts his friends, does what his mother says, and loves his MeMaw. She calls him Moonpie because he’s yummy, yummy and she could just eat him up.

I think the characters of The Big Bang Theory are likeable because we can recognize in them the people that we know in real life. For a television series these recognizable traits are taken to the extreme to create believable fictional characters.

Heroes are not absolutely perfect. Give them a physical limitation, deep-burning issues from a past experience, or a personality mannerism that’s far from impeccable.

Villains aren’t all bad. Give them a loveable quality that readers can relate too, but take it to the extreme. Make them leap off the pages of your story. This past weekend I watched Silence of the Lambs again. I had forgotten how powerful that movie is. What makes us like Hannibal Lector? Why are we glad that he escaped prison?

Secrets: your characters must have a few secrets. Whether or not to reveal those secrets in your story is up to you.

Writing Exercise: Profile characters from your favorite TV show or movie.

My Dear Mr. Murphy


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

My Dear Mr. Murphy

By Nandy Ekle

 

First of all, I want you to peek in the window of this house. The owner is in his bed sleeping. He’s still and quiet, not even snoring. We’ll stand here for, oh, about a hundred pages and watch. Everything stays peaceful. His robe is hanging on the hook and the only thing on the floor is the dog, which also does not move a muscle. No sounds, no action, no chaos.

Now let’s go to the house next door. Look in that window and what do you see? Well the owner seems to be getting into bed. The bed is all ruffled, which means he’s been in bed and gotten up. His robe is in a heap on the floor at the foot as if he tried to toss it on the chair and missed. The dog is standing on four feet turning circles like, maybe, he’s been outside and come back in. We hear kids crying upstairs and the lady of the house stomps into the room with a scowl on her face and a wooden spoon in her hand. Her robe falls off her shoulders in a pile and she stomps past it. They both pull the covers up to their chins and he turns out the light.

We’ll stand here a few pages more and listen to them snore. Then we hear a phone ring, the dog barks, and childish laughter peals from the upper floor. Mr. and Mrs. both turn on their lights and roll out of bed. They reach for their robes and don’t find them. The dog jumps around wagging his tail as the two adults stumble to the foot of the bed and bump into each other while searching. He goes for the phone, which has rung two more times and she gets the wooden spoon and heads out the door; the dog jumps in the bed and immediately lays down and goes to sleep.

Which one of these homeowners is the most peaceful? Which one the most interesting? While peace, order and serenity may be wonderful in real life, your story needs conflict to be interesting.

Mr. Murphy has the perfect formula for story writing: Anything that can go wrong, will.”

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Reunion


Outtakes 188

Reunion

by Cait Collins

 

I’ve been fortunate to be associated with some very talented writers. Many are still trying for the big break, but they continue to work at their craft. Because of schedules, new places in our writing careers, or new locations, we don’t often see each other. It’s sad, but that’s the way of life. Recently we lost one of the talented writers.

I didn’t know DeWanna Pace as well as many of the writers and published authors in the Amarillo, Texas region. My association with her was limited to conferences and writer’s meetings, but I always believed there was something very special about her. She had this way of making you feel important. When she was talking with you, you were the only person in the room with her. She focused on the conversation and listened. Really listened.

DeWanna was unfailingly kind. She put other people first. I remember the day I was released from the hospital and found DeWanna sitting off to the side in the entry. I stopped to speak with her and learned her mother was being admitted. I asked if there was anything I could do. All she wanted was prayers. In return, she asked if I was visiting someone. I explained I had just been released. She offered to help me. If I needed anything all I had to do was call. Her own plate was full and yet she was concerned about me.

She was a great teacher. When she presented classes at writers’ conferences, her sessions were always well attended. She encouraged young writers. Even though her health was not the best, she kept her commitment to speak at the last writers’ conference held in Amarillo. It was important to her to pass on what she had learned.

This past Saturday, we celebrated the release of DeWanna’s latest book, The Daddy List, at a reception at Barnes and Noble. There was no book signing; just a meeting of people who had been touched by her generosity and talent. I found myself hugging my fellow writers and catching up on their lives and work. The passing of years did not matter; we were writers honoring one of our own. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.

Stay on Course


Stay on Course

By Rory C. Keel

In writing, most authors have a general direction for their story. However, a story will often veer off course and become confusing. While it is understood that part of the story is developed during the writing, subplots or irrelevant information should not take over and distract from the main story.

Causes that often affect the writer

  1. Personal or family difficulties – At times during our lives we experience various personal difficulties or family changes. A new baby welcomed into the family, a change in where we live or even the death of a family member can have a profound affect on the writer.
  2. Outlook of life due to the writer’s life changing course – Sometime our outlook and personal views on life can change due to social events or national emergencies such as a war or other national tragedy.
  3. Lack of prepared story research and material – With the many great ideas for a story there must be research. That one “Ah-hah!” moment will quickly run out of steam or fall off the track when we don’t prepare the material.
  4. A change of mind during the writing – This happens most often when we take too long to write. When time stretches over our story we begin to overthink our Idea and frustration sets in.

While the writer needs to allow flexibility for background and characters to develop, these things give fullness to the story and shouldn’t drive the direction of the story.

The good story divergence is the one that causes a change but still holds within the original framework of the story. The bad story divergence jumps out of the frame and pulls the story off course.

 

 

MANUSCRIPT BASICS


MANUSCRIPT BASICS

By Natalie Bright

A friend contacted me this past week with a question about her brother’s book. In a letter from a publisher, the editor requested a “single pane format”. I had never heard of the term. After some discussion, I finally pieced the puzzle together. He had submitted it in book format with two panes per page. Unfortunately, it’s a lengthy work and he has lots of cutting a pasting to do. There is good news–he has an editor willing to take another look!

Manuscripts should follow several simple formatting rules. Please share this blog with your newbie writer friends.

Here are the basic rules for formatting a manuscript to be followed when submitting your work to agents and editors:

Use a 1″ margin on both sides, top and bottom.
Double-space the entire text.
Indent fives spaces for each new paragraph.
Some agents/editors prefer a title page.
Don’t number the title page. Begin numbering with the first page of the text of the book, whether that be an introduction, prologue, or chapter one.
Place a header on each page, top right or left, which includes the following: title of your novel in all caps / your name / page number.
Start each new chapter on its own page, one-third of the way down the page. (control return for Word users)
The chapter number and chapter title should be in all caps, separated by two hyphens: CHAPTER 1—TITLE.
Begin the body of the chapter four to six lines below the chapter title.
Use a standard font, 12-point type. Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier is fine.
Follow me on Twitter: @natNKB

 

 

A New Perspective


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

A New Perspective

By Nandy Ekle

 

I have worn eye glasses my whole life. I’ve always been near sighted and in the past ten years or so I’m also had a touch of far sightedness. I’ve been wearing glasses with a far away and a close up. And if objects are too close, I take my glasses off and squint.

Since leaving my teen years I have not had to change glasses every year, but I can certainly tell when it is time for a new pair. And this week I got some new specs. It’s been a few years, but it seems the sight in one of my eyes has changed dramatically. Dark had become darker and the lights in the dark had become brighter and fuzzier. So my new “eyes” have corrected those things.

As I put them on, I noticed things I had not seen in a while (and hadn’t realized I hadn’t seen). I noticed the vibrant colors in some of the pictures around my house and my office. This was amazing because a few of these pictures were fairly new. I had seen them and liked them, but now I can really SEE them. I’ve also noticed that the world is no longer flat. Things actually have dimension.

Sometimes that’s what we need to do in our writing. We get wrapped up in our characters and the story they act out for us. We spend entire chunks of our lives looking at these words and this same old whiny girl in the same old scene. We devote so much to this world we’ve created that we forget what it really looks like. We need to put on a new pair of glasses, step back, and admire what it looks like when you can see the whole thing.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Wedge of Writing


One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.

–Stephen King

The Music Man


Outtakes 187

 

The Music Man

by Cait Collins

 

When someone says, “I’m a writer,” what is your immediate response? Perhaps you ask, “What do you write?” Meaning do you write poetry, science fiction, romance? But what if someone said, “I write songs?”

Song writers, or lyricists, are prolific writers. They pen some of the most beautiful works.

I can’t imagine not having musicals like Carousel. Camelot, Evita, Phantom of the Opera, Cats. And what about the songs of Neil Diamond, Enya, Gordon Lightfoot, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Simon and Garfunkel, and Taylor Swift.

Song writers are story tellers. Their works employ some of the same structure as a novelist or screenwriter would use. Think about it. A vocal piece has a beginning, middle, and an end. For example listen to a good old somebody -done –somebody-wrong song. It goes something like this. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, but along comes Mr. Heartbreak and the relationship starts to fall apart. Boy decides he loves the girl enough to let her go. Heartbroken, he watches her marry the other guy. In a three and a half minute song, you have a romantic story of love and loss.

Good song writing contains vivid images, scents, tastes, and touches. The Canadian Railroad Trilogy written by Gordon Lightfoot begins with images of majestic mountains, virgin forests, and builds to the laddies swinging hammers, and the first trains making their way across the country. Close your eyes when listening to a favorite song and “see” the words. View it like a movie short, and you will soon realize the enormous talent and craftsmanship of the writer.

Grizabella remembers a time knowing happiness in Memory from Cats. The Fiddler languishes If I Were a Rich Man. Evita begs Don’t Cry for Me Argentina. And the Phantom composes The Music of the Night. And we all remember the words. We sing or hum along with the singers remembering our own experiences and emotions. Long after the stage lights dim, we remember how lyrics touch us. The songs become a part of us. A tear slips down a cheek, or a smile softens features when we hear the opening notes of a beloved song. And the song writer takes his place among the select who call themselves “writers”.

Stockpile People


Stockpile People

By Rory C. Keel

 

A writer needs to have a stockpile of people. No, not like in the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but a file full of descriptions, characteristics and quirks of real people.

The truth is that all characters are based somehow on actual people. Think about it, even the characters you invent are based on elements taken from real people. The people you place on the page come from someone that you, as the writer, have seen or come in contact with, either personally or by hearsay.

The Gathering

To place these characters on your page, you must own them, every part of them the good, the bad, and the ugly. To do this you need to try and understand real people. Interact with them, watch them and observe their condition in life. When you finally know them, they are yours. Gather them up and stockpile them by writing them in a file. They will be glad to repeat their behaviors on the pages of your writing.

Roryckeel.com 

 

Query Letter Basics


Query Letter Basics
By Natalie Bright

1. Address your letter to a person; the right person.
2. How do you find the right person? Do your homework.
3. Research online: For agents you can find client lists, interviews with information such as what they are looking for and they’re favorite books, and agency information. For editors you can find interviews about what they want to see in their inbox, what they like to read, and what they like to see in query letters.
4. Keep the tone professional, not silly or stiff.
5. Begin with specifics: genre, word count completed, main hook.
6. Describe the elements of your story that will appeal to readers, the heart of your story, the essence.
7. Describe your life experiences as they relate to writing, but be brief.

Good luck!