Discovering a Story Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘writing’

Writing Exercise – Creating a Non-Cliché Character

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I’m taking classes for my Master’s in Creative Writing. This is one of the writing assignments in my textbook. I decided to give it a try and see what I came up with.

 

Here is a list of ten random items:

  • withered poinsettia;
  • business card;
  • dusty radio;
  • silver locket with inscription;
  • bottle of herbal medicine;
  • auburn hair dye;
  • fortune-telling cards;
  • jar of sharpened pencils;
  • brand new laptop.

Invent a character who owns these things. Write up to 250 words about the character, incorporating some of the objects into your description.

Anderson, Linda. Creative Writing.

A character with these belongings…. I can’t help but have a rather eccentric figure in my mind when I read ‘fortune-telling cards’, ‘auburn hair dye’, and ‘dusty radio’. But at the same time that seems too cliche. Is that really a bad thing? What is wrong with being cliche? Maybe they are too familiar. Maybe they are too close to home.

Now I’m challenging myself to push beyond the cliche. The brain struggles. The cliche is so easy. It is screaming at me with neon arrows pointing to itself. How can I ignore it? But I must for the sake of quality creativity. Who am I kidding? Why not use the cliche with a little bit of a unique twist? That’s creative.

My character is a woman about thirty years old. Nope, make that about fifty. She has found herself facing her mid-life crisis. For years she has been the straightlaced wife of a banker, weekly hair appointments and the obligatory pearls. Now she feels she has missed all the fun things. After watching a movie about a gypsy, she longs for such an adventurous life. Moving out of her mansion, she gets a small apartment downtown and leaves her husband to enjoy the country club.

Focused on getting everything right to be the perfect Bohemian, she neglects basic housekeeping duties which don’t come naturally to a former rich lady. The plants don’t get watered. The dusting doesn’t get done. She is too busy focused on the more important things such as new business cards announcing her as a palm reader. There is the new laptop as well since so much has to be done online in today’s world. Her research has led her to buying the right tools such as fortune-telling cards. She also wanted to look the part so she dyed her dark hair auburn. She has a jar of sharpened pencils ready to take notes as she scours the Internet for more tips to be the best in her field. But she didn’t leave the silver locket she had gotten from her husband on their first anniversary. That she will not give up.

Is she too cliche? Or is she a part of us trying to get out?

The Need for Cheering Fans in Every Author’s Life

cheering-1031743__180Authors need a cheering section. Anyone striving for a goal needs one to keep surging forward. Know an author? Then get into their cheering section.

Let me tell you how my fans have helped me. I’m in the middle of writing a very large and intricate story. I shared a chapter at a time with a couple of my fans. Their comments helped to push me on to the next chapter. I wanted to give them more because they were enjoying it. I’ll finish the story and do my best because of them.

When an author feels alone in their writing, they become stagnant. They might take ten times longer to get something written than if they had a cheering section. That hurts. We don’t want that. We want them to be productive and happy.

So, become a cheering fan!

How? It’s really easy. Ask them on a regular basis how the writing is coming. Don’t ask them this every single day unless you are really close to them and can follow their moods. Why? Because if they are stressed, pressuring them about the writing might make it only worse and actually stop the writing flow. Not the intent of being a fan!

Get to know the characters. Ask how Joe Doe is coming along with his adventure or Jane’s romantic exploits. While the author might not give out extreme details as they are writing, they might share a few things and also get inspired.

Authors need to feel that people want to know what they are writing about. They want to know that there is excitement for their work. It is what drives them to keep writing. Even through the interactions of their fans, ideas for the story will emerge. They get inspired and write even more.

Ask them the status. Tell them how excited you are. Talk to others about it. Get the hype going. It benefits everyone in the long run.

 

Learning my Target Audience

tiro-160574__180This is very hard for me to be precise with. My stories cross genres and audiences. I am driven my the story. It is not uncommon for me to have a story that is directed to young adults in the works while I am working on a mystery novel for adults. So I have to step back and reassess my writing.

I look at the genres I write: suspense, romance, mystery, historical, and a little bit of everything else. A common thread in all of them is a sense of mystery and suspense. Every story I write reveals a little bit of these. So it logically shows me that I tend to write more toward the suspense/mystery audiences. I will focus on them for this piece.

According to the Genre Characteristics chart, mysteries are “Imaginative stories dealing with the solution of a secret, problem, or crime, and involving suspense or intrigue” that involve “suspense…cliffhangers… foreshadowing…detective stories and spy novels”.

My target audience wants to sit on the edge of their seats. They don’t want the story to flow slowly and at a pace to easily put them to sleep. They want to have to turn the next page to find out what is going to happen next. They expect loose ends from chapter to chapter. They want questions to create bring about more questions. The target audience wants hints dropped that could lead them down a multitude of paths. The stories have to follow a certain pattern, but the pattern also opens a small window of flexibility to keep their imagination targeted.

It is a good thing that I love to write cliffhangers. In fact, I like to end books in a series with a cliffhanger. The result has been bad reviews from people who cannot stand to end a book without everything tied up in a nice little bow. That is okay because others love it. They are the target audience.

Too often, I have reached out to the wrong audience. I have focused more on avid readers who read a variety of genres instead of the ones who read that specific genre. I need to redirect my focus to those who like what I like to write.

 

Works Cited:

 

“Gene Characteristics”. Eastern Illinois University. Web. 12 February, 2016.

 

When Your Family Isn’t Behind Your Writing

monkeys-1187571__180Being a writer is not a bed of roses. You don’t have all day to write. You don’t have immediate success. You don’t have everyone you know supporting you. That includes the family that loves that you. Sadly, too many authors find that the ones who support them the least are their family members. They either might ignore your writing or they try to tear you apart. Yes, too often your family is your most toxic stumbling block.

One author has her family asking her when she’s going to find a more productive hobby other than her writing. She has several books published and brings in a couple of hundred dollars a month on book sales. Her own, grown children refuse to talk to her about her writing. They think it is a fad that will die out though it has been going on for several years. Her best supporters can be found online and most have never even been met.

Another writer has her closest family members telling her she is foolish to continue writing. While she has a full time job that is not writing, she is making headway in a successful writing career. But her family is not with her as she hasn’t won the New York Bestseller slot yet.

My family is a mix. Some family members read my writing, but they refuse to tell others about it. Some read it and want more but never say anything more until a new book comes out. And then there are those who turn their nose up at my work. They’ve quickly let me know that my writing doesn’t interest them. Funny how one of them think she has supported me more than anyone. Not! My own children have never read my work and my husband has only read one chapter. Now, they do support me in giving me time to write and letting me bounce ideas off them. But it is the ones who want nothing to do with my writing that hurts the most. Oh, well.

So, what do you do if you find yourself in any of these situations? You find a support team outside of your family and move on.

Most of best supporters can be found online and halfway around the world. They are people in the same position as me who cheer me on. I cheer them on. Our support really helps each other and produces more work. They have become my family. Remember that family doesn’t have to be blood related. They are those who come around you during the good times and the bad times and are always there for you.

Who is your family who supports you?

Authors Show Poor Educational Background

apple-256263__180I do quite a bit of editing for other authors. These authors write every genre. But I’m also finding that most have very poor educational backgrounds. They don’t know the basics of the English grammar.

Too often, I look at a piece I’m editing and shake my head. What was this author thinking? What they wrote is nearly gibberish. A second grader writes better English. Yes, these are the authors of our day. Again, shake my head.

Who writes and doesn’t know that you put a comma after, or before depending on location, a name when used as an address in dialogue? Most authors don’t. I had one argue with me. She said that she had never heard of doing that before. Not even in school? Nope. How about in the books you read? Well, she reads only those written by people with as little education as her. Again, shake my head.

Another author kept mixing past and present tense. As I tried to correct them, the author protested. Said I was messing with her voice. I pointed out the basic grammar rule. She called me a liar because she never heard that in school.

I was in a group and noticed a post by a fellow author. It was two examples of formatting. He asked which one was right. One was clearly wrong as it broke most rules. Some paragraphs were indented and some were not. Dialogue had it’s narrative that was to be with it in a separate paragraph, including the dialogue tags. One author pointed out how that one was the correct one. When we pointed out the issues, she said that dialogue is not supposed to be in the same paragraph as what the characters say. What? I reminded her that dialogue is what the characters say. She began screaming at me (virtually) and said I was wrong. Her publisher had told her that what characters say should always be in paragraphs by themselves. Then I was told off and reported for attacking her. Yep, I have no idea what I’m talking about.

One author continually wrote either sentence fragments or run on sentence. I pointed them out. She said what are those, she had never heard of them. I explained. Then she said, “How do I fix them?” Really? And you’re a writer? I don’t think so.

If you don’t know the basic grammar rules, please don’t try to write a book. Learn them. Learn how to use them in your writing. I don’t want to discourage anyone, but then don’t argue with anyone what what is obvious you know nothing about.

Familiar Settings Allows Readers to Connect with Characters

window-1050098__180Karen Russell’s “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” really got my attention. I can’t say that it was the setting that drew me in. I think it was the unique concept of the story itself. But the setting was intriguing. It was set in our world a few years back but crossed over into a mythical world that we assume doesn’t exist. In the story, it does. Werewolves exist just in the woods, yet they find a home in ours. I couldn’t resist this story over the others I read in my assignments. It gave me a hint of real world mingled with the myth.

The setting is familiar to me as a reader. Instead of putting me into a world where the furniture is alien to me as well as the buildings and people, everything the writer describes I have or have been around, aside from an actual werewolf. While I enjoy watching science fiction movies, I don’t like to read them as much because everything is too alien to me. In Ms. Russell’s story, I am comfortable in the setting. I can focus on the characters and their development and not worry about understanding the setting.

I tend to write scenes that are more contemporary because of the familiarity. Yes, I have dipped my fingers into fantasy, but I still draw upon settings that are nearly commonplace in that genre so that my readers won’t have to feel alien when they read them. I want them to feel at home in the settings. I also need to feel at home and tend to stay with familiar things to me.

As a reader, I think we take the setting for granted too often. But when you look at the piece as a writer, you look at it differently. You evaluate it differently. I look at Russell’s work and can see how the author put the setting in a way that I could focus on the characters who were extremely unique. The setting was not detailed in her story. A bedroom was a bedroom. Look at how the author’s first paragraph of the story:

At first, our pack was all hair and snarl and floor-thumping joy. We forgot the barked cautions of our mothers and fathers, all the promises we’d made to be civilized and ladylike, couth and kempt. We tore through the austere rooms, overturning dresser drawers, pawing through the neat piles of the Stage 3 girls’ starched underwear, smashing lightbulbs with our bare fists. Things felt less foreign in the dark. The dim bedroom was windowless and odourless. We remedied this by spraying exuberant yellow streams all over the bunks. We jumped from bunk to bunk, spraying. We nosed each other midair, our bodies buckling in kinetic laughter. The nuns watched us from the corner of the bedroom, their tiny faces pinched with displeasure.

From this, I see how the familiar setting means less description on where they are is needed. I don’t have to focus on a familiar dormitory room would look like especially run by nuns. That is familiar to me through other pieces of literature, film, and what I have seen in real life. But the girls are new to me. This leaves the author more time to focus on describing their actions so I can actually see them and begin to relate to them.

I had a friend tell me that one of my stories lacked description. She wanted me to spend paragraph after paragraph describing this living room they were in. I wanted to focus on the people and events. I see from this that the little description I had was enough. It allowed the reader to finish filling it in while focusing on the parts that are not as familiar and giving the characters time to shine. Venturing into other settings that are much more unfamiliar to the reader means more description is needed.

 

Works Cited:
Russell, Karen. “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves”. cisyeo. Web. 27 January 2016.

Market Your Book by Creating Character Connections

connect-20333__180A great way to market your book is to get people to connect to your readers. Ones that have read your work will be wanting more. Ones that haven’t will be highly curious. That’s what marketing is all about.

How

One very successful self-publishing writer found other people who had the name of her characters and connected with them on social media. These people found it cool that their names would be in books.

Another young author went shopping and tried on clothes her character would have worn. Pics were taken and then posted on social media.

One author had her character taking pictures and posting them online with comments that only the character would have said.

Likable Characters

When there is a likable character, people want to get to know them better. These are great ones to connect with your readers and expand your readership. But….

the other side of the coin can be even more fun.

Evil Characters

I tend to love to get closer to evil characters. They have such depth and aren’t nearly as totally evil as you might think. One author had a very interesting character who we pegged as bad. But a short novella about him had us seeing him in a different light. He was the one I wanted to get to know better.

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