What’s that Smell?


What’s that Smell?

Natalie Bright

Using the five senses to draw readers into your fictional world is probably something you’ve heard before.

THE SMELLS OF CHRISTMAS

What better time of year brings back more memories than the holidays? Last week the owner of our local Mexican food restaurant shared the memories of his grandmother’s kitchen. She lived in a small house, and kept plastic over the windows for added insulation against the cold winter wind. The smells from her tiny kitchen were overwhelming when he stepped inside. Flour tortillas, sizzling beef, cinnamon, sugar and hot chili peppers. As he described the scene it was almost like I was there. I really miss my grandmother’s kitchen too.

HIGH SCHOOL TIME WARP

About a month ago I was reminded how powerful the five senses can create emotion. I walked into my son’s high school band hall. BAM! It was as if I’d been transported through time.

The sensory overload swept me away. The dusty smell from feet taking countless steps on a carpeted floor. The scent of sweat, with 100+ bodies in one room. A few notes from a trumpet. The solid clank of a locker door. A scale of notes by a clarinet. The constant, unending chatter of young voices.

My heart beat a little faster and my throat closed. My eyes actually misted over. I froze. In my mind’s eye I was back there; the Dimmitt High School band hall. The faces of the Bobcat marching band floated through my mind. If we could only go back to those moments for one day. Would you? I certainly would. I would revisit every sight and sound and horrible smell, and I’d go armed with a notebook this time. I’d write it all down to keep that moment forever ingrained into my memory.

A band director snapped me out of my time warp. “Can I help you?” he asked.

I just stood there, gripping three cases of goldfish snacks. “They go around the corner. First door to the left,” he said.

My journey down memory lane was done. Reality crashed around me.

EMOTION IS A POWERFUL THING

There was one other time when a smell overwhelmed me with emotion. My father has been dead almost fifteen years. He owned a welding shop and I hung out there most every day. Several years ago, I toured a huge plant in New Mexico that made natural gas circulating systems as part of a work related field trip. The entire back portion of the plant was a welding room. I walked through the plastic stipes covering the door into a personal meltdown. The smell of heated metal was overwhelming. My eyes filled with tears and it was all I could do to not sob uncontrollably. My father had suffered a long, slow battle with cancer. He had died at home and the visual image of paramedics carrying his body out of the house will forever haunt me. I have no idea what our tour guide said. We took a slow walk through the space and I honestly did not know if I would be able to hold it together.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS

How powerful our emotions can be when something triggers those memories. Think about how this kind of sensory overload might be for your characters. Create a history for them and then bring them crashing back into reality. The memories can be good, or sometimes that smell might recall something horrific.

KICKING THINGS UP A NOTCH

A children’s author, in describing her process, explained that she makes one final pass of her manuscript to add sensory images. Wish I could remember who said that and give credit, but it was one of those invaluable tidbits I picked up at a writer’s conference. At the point her story is solid, she adds even more sight, sounds, and smells which bumps everything up a notch. The reader can’t help but be immersed even more into that fictional world.

May the sights, sounds and smells of the holiday inspire you!

Merry Christmas!

Nataliebright.com

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LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS…Or They May Abandon You Forever


LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS…

      Or They May Abandon You Forever

By Natalie Bright

My novel about a 14 year old boy set in the Texas frontier is a typical coming of age story, which involves him finishing the job of delivering a wagon load of goods after his father died. Ben has a run in with outlaws, is shot by a Comanche arrow, gets lost in the wilderness; just your typical Wild West adventure. The young Comanche brave would not leave me alone. The only thing I could do to get that kid out of my mind was to write key scenes in his viewpoint. I realized I liked him and instead of being my antagonist, the story changed. I inserted Roving Wolf’s scenes where they belonged in the already finished book. I now have two protagonists who become friends.

LESSON LEARNED

Here’s what I learned from that experience: you don’t have to write an entire book chapter by chapter in that exact order. For some of us, Point A to Point B is not how our mind works when it comes to creative fiction.

Don’t be afraid to explore those flashes of imagery in your brain. It might be a piece of dialogue. Maybe it’s a minor character that keeps nagging you about a scene you left them out of. It might be a place that flashes in your mind, and then poof, it’s gone again. You know someone was there and something happened, and you have to write it before you learn why that place is important. For me, it’s like an explosion in my head. The imagery of that character is so alive. Sometimes it’s a conversation that seems so vibrant and real, it can’t be ignored.

TALKING CHARACTERS

Some writers say that their characters never talk to them, and usually it shows in their stories. Their characters are flat, lifeless, with no personality. When you take the time to dig into your character’s head and heart, then their personality will become real. When they are real to you, they’ll be real to your readers.

DIG DEEP: HERE’S HOW

If your book is in 3rd person, rewrite several scenes in 1st person POV. Free write, in your character’s POV, about their childhood, favorite things or people, life experiences, greatest fears. The deeper you dig, their motives, desires, angst will become clearer. That protagonist will begin to tell you even more (truth!). I know, it’s a creepy, strange and glorious experience, so I wouldn’t mention it to your non-writerly friends. I promise, one of your characters will pop into your mind out of and tell you something wonderful. Keep in mind, that the majority of the things you learn about your protagonist and antagonist during this process will not make it into your manuscript. When you’re character is faced with a conflict, you’ll know exactly how he or she will react and that’s what endears them to your readers. We learn more and more as the story progresses.

Don’t be afraid to give your characters the attention they deserve. Allow them to tell you their secrets. Just make sure you’re taking notes.

Book Authors and Sales Tax


Book Authors and Sales Tax

By Natalie Bright

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Members of the Texas High Plains Writers enjoyed an informative talk by accountant Dan Brown with ———at the May meeting in Amarillo.

One of the questions that we talked about, which we didn’t have time to fully discuss, involved collecting and paying sales tax for your book sales. Below I’ve listed a few blogs and websites with great information which will help clarify this very confusing issue.

SALES TAX

Ø Note that if you’re selling your self-published book through a dealer at a trade show, or an Internet retail entity such as Amazon.com or bn.com or a publishing service acting as a retail entity (such as Blurb or Lulu.com), the retail entity making the sale is responsible for collecting sales tax. “Sales Tax Facts for Book Authors” at publishing.about.com

Ø You may think that you are paying the appropriate sales tax because you pay the tax to the printing company when you purchase the book. But that tax is only for your purchase price, not the actual selling price. So unless you sell the book at your cost, you will have a sales tax obligation. “Sales Tax Responsibility for Authors” at writeyourlife.net

Ø Reimbursement for books sold through Amazon is considered a royalty and is not subject to sales tax. However, if you sell books through your website, at a book signing, or after a public speaking engagement, sales tax should be included if those books are sold within your state. “Sales Tax Responsibility for Authors” at writeyourlife.net

Ø There are exceptions: 1. selling to someone other than the end user. Generally, states only tax sales on the final user, so if you are selling your books to a bookstore or retail store for resale, you do not charge them sales tax. [NOTE: Most retail outlets expect the ability to add a 50-60% markup above your price. If you quote them a price too high, they may not be able to carry your book in their store.]

2. Selling to a nonprofit organization. In some states, nonprofit organizations are able to obtain sales tax exemption. These organizations should provide you a copy of their sales tax exemption certificate from their state.
3. Selling to out-of-state customers. Usually, you must collect sales tax from customers that live in your state.
Ø The best thing about publishing your own book through Amazon Author Central is that you are not the seller of record. This means you are not responsible for collecting the sales tax on the books you publish. Blog.taxjar.com

Ø Nexus is having a presence in the state which indicates which state you should be submitting sales tax to. Your “nexus” is the state in which you reside and do your business, however every state is different.

Ø Let’s say you’re selling your own book and you spend the summer selling your book at festivals across five states. Some states consider making a single sale in the state to create sales tax “nexus”, while others do not. Many festivals, book stores, etc. will have a bookseller on hand to sell your books for you. This generally includes collecting the sales tax. In that case, you would be off the hook for collecting sales tax. blog.taxjar.com

SELLING BOOKS

Being an indie book author these days can be daunting, but take a deep breath and consider the big picture. The opportunities for reaching readers today is truly amazing. Take off your creative cap and slip into your owner/entrepreneur mode.

Here’s a few more things to consider:

  • · If there is a hosting retail store at the book festival you have a booth at, absolutely take advantage of their ability to handle your books for sale. Be aware that they probably have a zillion things to do for the event. You can be persistent yet professional, but make absolutely sure your books have been ordered. I know of authors who have shown up to events to find they have no books to sign because the order was never placed. Do you leave or should you stay and hand out swag? It’s a horrible situation.
  • · Every state is different. In Oklahoma for example, a representative of the Oklahoma state taxing authority might collect tax there at the book festival. A form will be provided for you to complete and sign.
  • · I sell books at my cost to clubs and organizations because I figure it’s the least I can do after they’ve fed me, paid a speakers fee, and then sat through my talk. I consider the invitation to be a great opportunity to build connections with readers. This kind of networking is invaluable, plus I don’t have to collect sales tax.
  • · Seek out sponsorships for your books. There might be nonprofit organizations that will purchase a case of books for special events. Suggest that your book would make a great table decoration with one at each place setting. Ask for a copy of their tax exemption certificate and attach it to the invoice that you’ve prepared for them.

I hope this helps you. Business is done. Go write now, y’all!

Don’t Be Fooled: Writing is HARD Work


Don’t Be Fooled: Writing is HARD Work

By Natalie Bright

Without a doubt, writing is the hardest work I’ve ever done. I was remembering the other day about the other jobs I’ve held in my lifetime. Waitressing comes in at a close second, but physical labor doesn’t exhaust me the way an intensive brain workout does.
Writing a story forces you to dig deep emotionally. You can’t hold back for your character’s sake. They deserve all that you have, and so do your readers. The roller coaster ride of emotion in finding the right words can leave us drained.  We’re writing straight from the heart.

On the other hand, there is the practical side of writing which involves marketing, promotion and selling your novels. This is a totally different mindset.  The WordsmithSix Critique Group has been meeting together for almost six years, and I completely trust their wisdom and suggestions in regards to my work. As much as I love them however, there are times that I may not choose to do anything that they say. This side of writing is ruled by my head. As the creator, you alone, must know what’s best for your writing career.

From your heart, you create stories that feed your soul.
From your head, business must be business.
Two completely different notions that now more than ever, today’s authors must embrace and understand if they want to be successful. How crazy is that? Writing is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

Write onward!

A NAME


A NAME

By Natalie Bright

Stuck. On a name.

Actually, I don’t know his name which is why I can’t write the story.

Drat!

All of the components are there: setting, beginning, middle, and in my opinion, a brilliant ending. The story plays out in my head in vivid color, but what is his name? I have no idea.

As writers, we understand the importance of a great name. Fictional character names can inspire countless generations (Superman, DC Comics) and generate millions in promotional material (Charles Schulz’s Snoopy). We love those serendipity moments when a character’s name arrives like a gift out of thin air. Author David Morrell spoke at a writer’s conference about being extremely frustrated and stuck on a name for his character. His wife encouraged him to take a break and handed him a locally grown apple. The name of the apple variety was “Rambo”.

My character is quiet, yet very strong, and determined for all of his twelve years of experience. He’s not shy, but he’s not the life of the party either. He works hard and he loves horses. I can see him clearly. What in the heck is his name?!!

CHARACTER NAME RESOURCES

  1. School Yearbooks. I start with my son’s Jr. High yearbook. This is a modern story and there’s no better way to know what kids are being named than to glance at names in today’s world.
  2. Google It. Next I go to the life-changing resource that is Google (how did we survive before?). I’ve searched baby name sites for several days and jot down a page of possibles.
  3. Consult your Names Notebook. Whenever I meet someone with an unusual name, I make a note on my phone or whatever scrap of paper I can find, and then add it to my Names Notebook. Sometimes in conversation someone will tell me that their family has unique names, and they’ll jot them down for me. Also in my notebook are names of family members gleaned from Ancestry.com. Thanks to my Uncle’s genealogy work, it’s become a great source for ideas.
  4. Pinterest has some interesting links for names lists, like most popular, most unusual, most underused, ancient names, etc. You can find some of these on my Board “I Write” under @natbright on pinterest.com
  5. Still writing with character named ‘boy’. The search continues…

Where do you turn for inspiration and ideas to name your characters?

 

 

NEW YEAR WRITING GOALS


NEW YEAR WRITING GOALS

“The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.”
Richard Peck

 

It’s a New Year for writing goals dear WordsmithSix followers!

As I think about my writing goals for 2016, the above quote from the award winning playwright and children’s author Richard Peck really speaks to me. What it says to me is that writing is more than just a “mind” exercise. We grow and improve each day. Every story we finish and submit, or shove into a desk drawer, is a lesson in grammar, character development, and plot structure. The hardest part is to keep pushing ourselves forward.

The year 2015 was sluggish for me. I’ve got two middle grade novels and a picture book out there that’s not garnering much interest. We’ve put one novel “on the back-burner” as my agent suggested. To keep busy during “the wait”, I’ve been researching and writing nonfiction articles for magazines, submitted work to several anthologies, and posted tons of blogs for various sites. I really kept on task .

Is the purpose of my writing just to keep busy? This isn’t writers block. I’ve got loads of fiction ideas in various stages of completion. What I’m lacking, I’ve decided, is heart. The heart to stay with one writing project, make it the most phenomenal story I can, and see it to the end.

Quality, NOT Quantity.

As I stare at the 2016 goals sheet, I’ve decided to forget about striving for daily word counts and endless list of contests to enter. Instead, I’m considering what are some of my weak points that I can improve upon in the New Year? How can I write the best book of my abilities and then, make it even better?

Who knows if my work will ever be read in 2016, other than by my WordsmithSix critique group? So many things in this business are beyond our control. I want a new project that will remind me of how fulfilling and fun writing can be. Which unwritten book will I come to every morning with excitement? Which story spark can’t be ignored?

Once I have the answers to these questions, that’s the spark I’ll write on the goals sheet. That’s the one I shall pour my heart into.

 What about you? What’s your writing goals for 2016?

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
William Wordsworth 

Wishing you a blessed and productive New Year!

 

Designing a Compelling Synopsis


Designing a Compelling Synopsis

The following outline was a handout at a class by author DeWanna Pace, who was an amazing teacher. Not only can this be used to write a synopsis, but I’ve found it helpful to provide a big picture view of your story and plot line. This will keep you on track and help you reach the end with your main characters goals and motivation still in mind. It’s so easy to lose the overall structure of a story sometimes and get lost in words that are going nowhere. The story has to keep moving onward with every scene and every section of dialogue pushing the reader to the end.

The opening hook/logline:

Who is the main character:

Ordinary world for the main character:

Trigger event/inciting incident:

Motivation:

Conflict:

Goal:

Conflict:

Genre consideration:

What she learns:

Goal:

Outcome:

Motivation for her:

Conflict/resolution/ending/results:

DeWanna provided these additional tips for romance writers: beginning/jolt into action; complication/conflict; work place/historical setting; kiss; fight; realization of being in love; love scene; self-knowledge/changes in character; and HAPPY ENDING.
If you are writing romance use basic fiction matrix and overlay the romance/love story plotline.

WHY WRITE?


WHY WRITE?

By Natalie Bright

 

It’s a question I’ve asked myself a gazillion times. Would life be easier if we ignored the voices in our head? Or, maybe not. It’s a delightful dilemma, this world inside a writer’s head, and then I found this great quote on Pinterest:

“Why Write? Why should we all write?

This is what I recommend:

Purchase a small notebook. Post-its. Colorful pages. Plain paper. Hold a pen. Pick a word and see where that word takes you.

Because you store everything in your body: the gorgeous, the ugly, the painful, the ecstatic. It’s all there locked away in your cells where memory, tension and confusion remain day after day, waiting to be set free.

You don’t have to show it to an audience or your spouse or your children or even yourself again. But when it’s written down as a list, as a paragraph or poem or story, you can go to bed with a greater understanding of yourself, of the world, or even of both: yourself in this world.

And at the very least, you know all those things are out of your body. Writing is essentially becoming free. It all begins with a world.”

-VICTORIA ERICKSON

 

 

 

THE SYMBOL OF ROYALTY: PURPLE


THE SYMBOL OF ROYALTY: PURPLE

 By Natalie Bright

The color of robes for kings and wizards, making you think of wealth, spirituality, and the world of fantasy. If purple is your favorite color, you are probably a free spirit, compassionate, supportive of others. Your feelings run deep and people come to you for help.

The dye for purple was rare and very costly to produce, therefore only rulers could afford it. Queen Elizabeth I forbad anyone except close members of the royal family to wear purple. In modern times, it can designate things of high quality or superiority like cosmetics or Cadbury’s chocolates.

Write deeper using purple:

Lavender lilac orchid mauve plum fuchsia magenta

I like to write with a lot of emotion and a lot of power. Sometimes I overdo it; sometimes my prose is a little bit too purple, and I know that.

G. Bissinger

 

THINKING WHITE


THINKING WHITE

By Natalie Bright

Wholesome and pure white. In its most basic sense, white includes and equal balance of every color of the spectrum, expressive of both positive and negative aspects of all colors.

It’s reflective. Think about competent and sterile, and a doctor’s lab coat.

White can be sad and lonely, cold and isolated, empty.

White:

Snow, milky, marble, cream, ivory, porcelain, oyster, pearl, silver, platinum, bone, bleached

White is the color of the page that is waiting for you. Write on!